Heidelcast 192: What Must A Christian Believe? (10): “Conceived By The Holy Spirit, Born Of The Virgin Mary”

This is episode 10 in the series, What Must A Christian Believe? In this episode we are considering the third article of the Apostles’ Creed. The late and apostate Episcopal Bishop, which apparently did not disqualify him from holding episcopal office in the Episcopal Church USA, John Shelby Spong, once declared, “The virgin birth is no big deal.” Holy Scripture and the holy catholic church beg to differ. In the third article of the creed we confess, “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” In this episode we tackle the biblical and ecumenical doctrine of the virgin birth. By this we understand that the Holy Spirit mysteriously overshadowed Mary and thereby God the Son took upon himself true human nature.The historic Christian view is that this was in fulfillment of the prophecy given by the Spirit through the prophet Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). Notoriously, in 1952, the Revised Standard Version translated the Hebrew noun (עַלְמָה) for virgin as “young woman.” The New English Bible followed suit in 1970 and the NRSV did it again in 1989 but the overwhelming majority of English translations use virgin. There is a reason for this. The LXX translation, made during the inter-testamental period (3rd to 2nd cent BC) used the noun παρθένος (parthenos), which the New Testament authors also use. The rationalist critics think that they know what can and cannot be so they rule out virgin a priori but we may be thankful that God the Spirit did not consult them when he inspired the New Testament authors to interpret Isaiah 7:14 for us because they clearly intended us to understand that Mary was a virgin, i.e., a young woman who had never had sexual relations with a man, when God the Son took on a true human nature in her womb. Ps. Yes, I realize I said “2020.” Let us consider it a charming idiosyncrasy.



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Show Notes

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  1. Dr Clark, in what measure we are free in our attempts to find idealistic, spiritualistic ways of re-understanding (not as a biological miracle) of this event? And what is about other NT miracles?

  2. Dr. Clark, but what will happen to our faith, if we are trying to interpretate the miracle recordings as a messages about unusual natural phenomena, directed by Providence? This can be a helpful crutch for those with little faith, and who see miracles as a stumbling block.

    • Ihor,

      What is your only comfort in life and in death?

      It is not that you were able to satisfy the demands of the Modernist rationalists, to make the faith “reasonable” or credible to autonomous Moderns. It is that you belong, body and soul, in life and death to Jesus Christ. Which Christ? The Christ revealed in holy Scripture, the same Scripture that reveals that he is true God and Man, yet one person; the same Scripture that reveals that he was crucified and raised from the dead. Jesus will not stay within the closed Modernist universe. He is Lord.

      What three things are necessary for you to know that in this comfort you may live and die happily?

      First, the greatness of your sin and misery, second how you are redeemed from all your sins and misery, and third how you are to be thankful to God for such redemption.

      That’s it. That is the faith. Jesus IS an offense to Jews and stumbling block to Greeks. The gospel is foolishness to them but it is still the gospel.

      We interpret the miracles of Scripture, with the church, as Scripture would have us do. We give no quarter to the Modernists because they will have us deny the faith and deny our Savior and how can we deny him who lived for us, died for us, was raised for us, and is coming again for us? Let it never be.

      Remember Polycarp, when the Romans demanded that he renounce Christ? He refused to give an inch. He refused the mob. So must we.

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