Advent IV: Weighing the virgin conception

Today’s New Zealand Herald ran this image and its accompanying story about an Auckland church’s (St Matthews’) new billboard. I’m not really interested here in engaging with the controversy around the offensiveness or cleverness or otherwise of the image, or about how I feel about its defacement some five hours after it was erected. I am interested, however, in taking up the image’s and St Matthews’ (both St Matthews in fact, the apostle’s and the Auckland church’s) invitation to enquire about the Christmas event of Mary’s virginal conception, and about the Church’s ongoing proclamation of that event as part of the Good News for which it exists to bear witness.

So here’s my response to that invitation: The miracle of the virgin conception is a judgement against the possibility of the creature producing its own word of revelation and reconciliation. It is a judgement against us thinking that we can know God apart from God’s initiative, and that we might save ourselves apart from God’s bloody intrusion into our situation. It is the proclamation of God’s gracious and free decision to be God for us, to unveil for us, to reconcile us. And it is the proclamation of God’s gracious and free decision to save us, and that by becoming personally involved – literally enfleshed – in the deepest depths of creaturely experience. This is why it is Good News. In PT Forsyth’s words, ‘The Virgin birth is not a necessity created by the integrity and infallibility of the Bible; it is a necessity created (if at all) by the solidarity of the Gospel, and by the requirements of grace’. (Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind, 14).


  1. sorry jason…my coffee had not set in yet when i posted…i read it on the huffinton post…i read both papers online each morning and i apologize for the confusion…here’s the link…

    right after i had read it, another friend of mine emailed me the link…i appreciated what you wrote about it…especially considering context…peace


  2. Ah come on Jason, surely you have something to say about this hilarious billboard erected for such a brief time… where’s your compassion for Joseph, let alone this ill-fated erection.


  3. Jason, I think everything you said so well could be said about the Incarnation in itself – – without having to include the means of conception. And please know that I believe in the pre-existent divinity of Jesus. I’m only questioning how the virgin birth needs to be connected to it.

    I have your good page on my favorites and have been visiting ever since I found your post on Alfred Ernest Garvie during a Google search. I am studying Garvie’s writings.


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