Thursday, December 15, 2011

Albert Molher and the Virgin Birth

Albert Molher has an article on the Virgin Birth. He defends it. This is a good thing because the doctrine is true. But he goes further. He says one must beleive it to be a Christian.
Now, even some revisionist evangelicals claim that belief in the Virgin Birth is unnecessary. The meaning of the miracle is enduring, they argue, but the historical truth of the doctrine is not really important.
Must one believe in the Virgin Birth to be a Christian? This is not a hard question to answer. It is conceivable that someone might come to Christ and trust Christ as Savior without yet learning that the Bible teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin. A new believer is not yet aware of the full structure of Christian truth. The real question is this: Can a Christian, once aware of the Bible’s teaching, reject the Virgin Birth? The answer must be no.
The problem is that  Albert Molher does not have the authority to define who is Christian and who is to. He is responding to Nicholas Kristof writing in the New York Times who says the very opposite. Some people think he has a lot of authority as well. In the protestant world everyone has authority and if everyone does then nobody does.

The doctrine is sometimes called the Priesthood of All Believers. Really it amounts to the Papacy of All Believers. Everyone has the authority to define the Christian faith for themselves. But the bible says in Ephesians 4:5 that Christians all have one faith. How can we have one faith unless we have some way of defining that faith that we share? We can't. Molher sees this. He says:
What are we to do with the Virgin Birth? The doctrine was among the first to be questioned and then rejected after the rise of historical criticism and the undermining of biblical authority that inevitably followed.
So the question is bigger than the Virgin Birth. If Christianity cannot say definitively that this doctrine is part of the faith then the same can be true of  any other doctrine. Molher gets that. But he cannot offer any more than his own opinion against the opinion of Kristof. They both make arguments. How can anyone be sure who is right? How can we say the Christian position is Mohler's position and not Kristof's?

Mohler does his best to appeal to tradition. He identifies Kristof with liberal theology and secularism. This is code for Evangelicals. He is basically saying these guys are not part of the Evangelical magisterium and I am so listen to me. An indirect appeal to authority. It is indirect because Molher does not believe in appeals to authority. As a protestant he rejects the doctrine. But without it Christianity is unworkable. So they kick it out the front door and slip it into the back door. They try to have it both ways. All Christians are equal but some are more equal then others.


  1. It's like Fr. Richard John Neuhaus said when describing his own conversion from Lutheranism to Catholicism: "The question is one of authority." And C.S. Lewis in a private letter said something to the effect that the main problem wasn't submitting to all that the Catholic Church had said, but submitting to all that the Church *might* say. They both recognized the essential issue-- does the Catholic Church have legitimate authority to teach? I think most Protestants don't recognize the centrality of that issue. Even if they're dimly aware of the problem with their own source of religious authority (the Bible is 100% trustworthy but was compiled in the 300's and abridged in the 1500's by authorities that weren't 100% trustworthy), they've never dreamed that the Catholic Church has a solution. When I was Protestant I didn't even know that the Catholic Church claimed to have any more authority than any other denomination.

  2. Good to hear from you Rachel. Are they letting you on the net from your convent or are you out?

    You are right that most protestants don't frame the question in term of trust. Can I trust God to protect the Catholic Church from serious error? At the end of the day we have to trust someone. Why is so hard to believe God would provide us with that someone?