“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 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. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”Luke 1:26–38, ESV
The virgin birth has been one of the highly disputed doctrines of orthodox Christianity. The spectrum of dispute is wide, from those who deny the teaching to those who have carried it all too far. They have made Mary divine, in a sense, and she becomes a mediator between man and Christ. The announcement from the passage above has become, in the Roman tradition, a prayer to Mary:
Hail Mary, full of grace, The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, Pray for us sinners, now and in the hour of our death. Amen.
One of the most famous versions of the Ave Maria was composed by Franz Schubert. Classical in style, few have not heard its melodious verses.
Ave Maria! Maiden mild! Listen to a maiden's prayer! Thou canst hear though from the wild; Thou canst save amid despair. Safe may we sleep beneath thy care, Though banish'd, outcast and reviled – Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer; Mother, hear a suppliant child! Ave Maria Ave Maria! undefiled! The flinty couch we now must share Shall seem this down of eider piled, If thy protection hover there. The murky cavern's heavy air Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled; Then, Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer, Mother, list a suppliant child! Ave Maria! Ave Maria! stainless styled. Foul demons of the earth and air, From this their wonted haunt exiled, Shall flee before thy presence fair. We bow us to our lot of care, Beneath thy guidance reconciled; Hear for a maid a maiden's prayer, And for a father hear a child! Ave Maria... You can listen here.
Does Mary deserve such treatment? Yes, and No. Luke specifically quotes Gabriel who says to Mary, “You have found favor with God.” It is important, though, that Mary does not claim to have deserved such favor. Neither does Gabriel suggest that God is blessing her for her good heart, or her good works. This is pure grace and clear election. The birth of our Savior was repeatedly prophesied from the fall of man. That Mary was chosen to be the vessel for the fulfillment of the promise had not been revealed. Even Isaiah 7:14 does not provide a hint. The closest we have is the very first promise of a Savior in Genesis. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15, ESV) In this sense, Mary is the offspring of the woman through whom sin entered the world. This is not a good recommendation for the work she will perform, but it is a prerequisite.
So, the two extremes within the church should be checked. Protestants should not shy away from the honor with which God graced Mary. Catholics should stop praying to her and making her a mediator. There is only ONE: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5, ESV) There is no justification for elevating her beyond God’s blessing or denying her an honor distinct from other women.
The Creed comes straight to the point, “I believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who was born of the virgin Mary…” Nothing more and nothing less.
It appears to me that faith is quite simple, but we make it far more complicated than it has to be. “You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:24, ESV) Can we really claim to be better than the Pharisees? We often don’t want to believe what God has said without knowing how such a thing can be possible. We want to know why God chooses to do something. What was going on in the mind of God? Oh, the sin of testing God and his Word. Seeking greater understanding is good. However, going beyond what God has revealed is not. If God wanted us to know more, he would have said more.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary. Now if we want to know how a virgin could conceive without mating with a man, the phrase just before says that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost. This is essential doctrine. It goes to the heart of the two natures of Christ Jesus clearly revealed in the Gospels.
Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:24) We recognize the material wealth of the young man to who Jesus is speaking. But is it possible that there may be other kinds of wealth that can have the same effect? To suggest just one, how about the wealth of education and knowledge? Even the above saying of Christ has been picked apart by so called scholars so that the eye of the needle does not mean the eye of a needle. Supposed scholarship has denied the authorship of many portions of the Bible. It has convoluted the historical Jesus. It has said that virgin does not mean virgin. Scholarship tends to ask questions then seek evidence to confirm their presupposition.
True scholarship is good. Scholarship in this sense means to collect all of the evidence possible and let it speak. There is a reason theology has been called the Queen of the Sciences. Theology combines the disciplines of all studies and finds what is truth or not using the foundation of the Hoy Scriptures. The Bible is the beginning and the end of our knowledge. Not so with humanism.
Our medieval ancestors understood theology to be the queen of the sciences. Her twin sister Sophia (the Greek word for “wisdom”) was also venerated in the discipline of philosophy. It was hard to tell the two beauties apart, but together they once ruled the many domains of human knowledge. Philosophy and theology departments today, however, are increasingly irrelevant backwaters in the modern university, engaged in seemingly solipsistic debates. If they want to reclaim exalted status in the university and society, they would do well to embrace Big History as the primary “revelation” and the Great Matrix of Being as foundational knowledge.Grassie, William, Metanexus Institute, The Queen of the Sciences, Huffington Post: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-queen-of-the-sciences_b_2876470
This is scholarship? It is nothing more than a humanistic approach to materialism. Such scholarship begins with a denial of Theology (the study of God) and substitutes the mind of man. Wealth is often viewed as power. Power either comes from God or it comes from man. If the former, power is regulated by the Law of God. If the latter, there is no meaning. God is the only meaning as he created all there is. Those scientists who are honest may not believe in the Creator God, but they know they cannot scientifically deny him either.
…the Fall was a claim by man to define good and evil autonomously, in terms of himself. It was a claim to the power of meaning, the power to define, to be the yardstick in terms of which reality is to be judged. All things are made relative to autonomous man and his will as the principle of definition. Because meaning and definition are made relative to man rather than God, they change as man changes. Situation ethics makes morality relative to man, because man is the new absolute and the source of all definition. In Scripture, ethics is relative to God, who is the source of all meaning, and man, as a creature, must conform to the absolute law of the absolute God. The power of meaning in Scripture belongs entirely to God who is the only source of definition and interpretation, and the only source of power. According to David, “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God” (Psalm 62:11). Moreover, with respect to all powers within the universe, they are derivative. According to St. Paul, there is no power but of God: “the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1). Not only power but also meaning is derivative. The God who created all things is the only source of their meaning and interpretation. God Himself is beyond definition.Rousas John Rushdoony, The Death of Meaning, (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2002), 93.
What does this have to do with the virgin Mary? The autonomy spoken about it the quote above is to be independent of God. The church would be foolish to deny that there are those within her who have sought and grabbed this position of power over God. They can be found among those who oppose the doctrine of the virgin birth. Likewise, they can be found within the ranks of those who elevate Mary to give her greater status and honor than that which God bestowed.
Therefore, I don’t know how, but I do know why Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. God has revealed it, and anyone who cares to become a true scholar of the Word of God can know it too.