While reading through the Christmas texts in the Gospel of Luke last week, I was reminded again of the importance that these passages place on the Virgin birth. That is, the Bible clearly declares that the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, happened in a miraculous and unique manner. No other conception in human history happened in the way described like this:
“And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:34-35).
That got me thinking about how the doctrine of the Virgin birth comes under attack annually, even among those who identify as Christian—especially so among those in mainline denominations. In speaking with a friend of mine who has previously served in mainline churches, we got to talking about how even Muslims have an opinion about the Virgin birth—an opinion that may surprise you.
I asked her to type up her observations about these things and she did so for us.
“Christmas Confusion: Muslims believe in the Virgin birth, while some Christians do not”—by Carmen Fowler LaBerge
While the airwaves are filled with the refrain of the Christmas song “Mary did you know?”, the person of Mary, the circumstances of conception, and the nature of her child, Jesus, are sources of deep theological division.
- Evangelical Christians and Muslims agree that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. But Progressive Christians and Jews reject that.
- Some Eastern Christians and Roman Catholics venerate Mary. But Protestant Christians and Muslims reject that.
- Evangelical Christians, Roman Catholic and Eastern Christians believe that Jesus is fully God and fully human, the God-man. But Muslims, Jews and most Progressive Christians reject that.
No wonder the world is confused about Christmas.
Many Christians are surprised to learn that Muslims revere Mary, the mother of Isa. In Islam, Maryam, is considered one of the most righteous of women. She is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran and the Quran gives Mary much more attention than does the Bible’s New Testament. But the Quran also explicitly rebukes the worship of Mary (Quran 5:116).
Consistent with the teaching of the Bible, the Quran says that Jesus was born miraculously to a chaste and virtuous virgin by the will of God without a human father. The Quran and Bible also elevate Mary above all other women. But then the Quran and Bible diverge as the Quran states that neither Mary nor her son were divine. And while Christians agree that Mary is not divine, the divinity of Jesus is essential to the Christian faith.
It seems that Muhammad was exposed to a perversion of Christianity wherein the Trinity (tri-unity) consisted not of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit but of the Father, the Son and Mary. Muhammad represents Christians worshipping Mary as the third member of the Trinity in Quran 5:116. Historically, there is no record of Mary being referred to as “mother of God” prior to the fourth century A.D. but Muhammad’s revulsion to the idea reflects his conviction that God has no offspring. Muslims, therefore, reject the very idea of Christianity’s Trinitarian God.
For the Christian, if Jesus is not divine then we are fools most to be pitied. If Jesus is not both fully God and fully man then He cannot fully satisfy the human need for redemption from both the power and penalty of sin. The Christian’s hope of a life worth living now, free from sin’s power, and the hope of a life with God forevermore, free from sin’s penalty in death, is dependent upon the nature of the baby born to Mary in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
Understanding our own faith is essential. Understanding the faith of those who reject our faith is also essential.
So, in this Christmas season as you ponder what Mary did and did not know, ponder as well what you know about the baby born in Bethlehem.
How do you know what you know about Jesus and why do you believe what you believe?
Muslims have an opinion about the Virgin birth—an opinion that may surprise you.