Incarnation: on the Virgin Birth

For this Christmas week I thought it appropriate to post some theological quotes on the mystery of the Incarnation. The quotes are taken from a book I’m browsing by Oliver Crisp called God Incarnate: explorations in Christology in preparation for teaching a course on Christology in the New Year.

Today – the Virgin Birth

In a fascinating, if at times a bit torturously complex, chapter, Crisp argues that while the Virgin Birth is not necessary in order to hold to Chalcedonian orthodoxy, it is a very ‘fitting’ way for the Incarnation to occur.

In this he broadly follows Anselm (if for different reasons) who argued for the fittingness of the Virgin Birth based on 4 arguments:

i. God had never before created a human being via Virginal Conception

ii. As the curse originated with a woman (Eve), so it is fitting that salvation proceeds with Mary

iii. Mary’s place within the history of salvation rebuilds the hope of women

iv. As Eve was created miraculously from Adam without sex, so it is fitting that Christ’s human nature is created from a virgin, Mary, by miracle.

Now while Anselm’s thinking may not strike us as particularly persuasive, Crisp agrees that the Virgin Birth is fitting for different reasons:

A special birth signals the fact that it is a divine person taking on human nature, not the beginning of life as a new individual, as a normal process of human generation from two human parents might suggest … What the traditional doctrine provides … is a signal, or marker for the Incarnation that preserves the uniqueness of this event without explaining it (it is, after all, a divine mystery). On the one hand it ensures there is no ambiguity about the conception and birth of Christ. He was not born as a result of an indiscreet liaison out of wedlock, nor did he begin to exist at the moment of his conception only to be ‘co-opted’ or ‘adopted’ by the Second Person of the Trinity … On the other hand the traditional doctrine of the Virgin Birth points to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is the second person of the Trinity. It is the pre-existing person of the Word of God who assumes human nature in addition to his divine nature at the Incarnation. And this unique event is marked by the mode of his conception and birth. God Incarnate, 99-101.

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