Why is the virgin birth important?

We held our monthly Muslim-Christian dialogue last night. It just so happens, in the run up to Christmas, our Muslim friends are also tonight celebrating Mawlid. This is the festival remembering the birth of Mohammad. So, tonight, we will be talking about the births of our two respective primary prophets.

One of the issues we have touched on before, and which I will revisit again, is the purpose of the virgin birth. Muslims also believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, so there is no need to discuss whether it happened or not. What they do not have is a credible, theological reason behind its purpose. As far as they are concerned, it is simply another miraculous event that acts as proof that Jesus was a prophet of Allah.

Christians, however, do have a specific theological reason for the virgin birth. It is essential if we are to uphold the impeccability of Christ. That is, the doctrine that the Son of God could not sin.

If Jesus had been born the same way as any other man, he would have been born with the imputed guilt of Adam (cf. Rom 5:12). He would have been counted legally guilty due to the federal headship of the representative of the human race. This would make it impossible for him to impute his righteousness to the elect because he would already be legally guilty.

What is more, he would have been born without the ability to obey God. He would have inherited a sinful nature and suffer from the problem of Total Depravity. The problem of Total Depravity means that all of our faculties are corrupted as a result of our sinful nature. The only solution to this issue is to be born again (or, ‘born from above’) by the Spirit of God.

The virgin birth provides the only way for Jesus to avoid both the imputed guilt of Adam and the problem of Total Depravity. The Bible tells us he was born of a virgin, conceived by the Spirit. This means he had no earthly father from whom he would inherit Adam’s imputed guilt and was, from birth, born of the Spirit meaning he had no sinful nature.

If the virgin birth did not happen, Jesus could not be impeccable. If he was born as any other man, he would inherit the guilt and sinful nature of any other man. If he had such a nature, not only would it have been possible for him to sin, it would have been impossible for him not to. If that were the case, he could not impute his perfect righteousness to us for he would be both legally guilty and himself a lawbreaker.

As if that of itself wouldn’t undermine the entire gospel of grace, what is more, it would lead to the unconscionable conclusion that God himself could sin. That would mean God is not essentially good. That would mean God, in his sovereignty, is the author of sin. It would render the entire gospel of salvation meaningless. Worse, it would mean the worship of God is potentially evil of itself as we would be worshipping an essentially evil being and doing his bidding.

If the virgin birth isn’t true; God is potentially evil and Jesus (and, by extension, God) is certainly sinful. Jesus cannot impute righteousness and thus is incapable of saving anyone. All who worship God and serve his glory are serving his inherent evilness. In essence, Christianity loses any value whatsoever.

Paul rightly said if Christ has not been raised then our faith is in vain. But if he wasn’t born of a virgin, it’s also rendered pretty futile. That’s why it really does matter.