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Thread: The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ is a "Bizarre Claim"?

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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ is a "Bizarre Claim"?

    Opinion | Reverend, You Say the Virgin Birth Is ‘a Bizarre Claim’? - The New York Times - I stumbled across it when I was looking for something else.

    Nicholas Kristof interviewed several people on how little of traditional Xian theology one can believe and still call oneself a Xian. I look at that and I think: is it really that hard? Jewish atheists, Hindu atheists, and philosophical Buddhists have no trouble being atheists inside their religious traditions.

    He interviewed Serene Jones | Union Theological Seminary the head of that school for Protestant pastors.

    About Jesus Christ's resurrection, she says that we can't know for sure whether or not it happened.
    But that empty tomb symbolizes that the ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed.

    For me it’s impossible to tell the story of Easter without also telling the story of the cross. The crucifixion is a first-century lynching. It couldn’t be more pertinent to our world today.
    Then about the crucifixion,
    Crucifixion is not something that God is orchestrating from upstairs. The pervasive idea of an abusive God-father who sends his own kid to the cross so God could forgive people is nuts. For me, the cross is an enactment of our human hatred. But what happens on Easter is the triumph of love in the midst of suffering.
    That's very far from traditional Xian theology.
    God is beyond our knowing, not a being or an essence or an object. But I don’t worship an all-powerful, all-controlling omnipotent, omniscient being. That is a fabrication of Roman juridical theory and Greek mythology.
    Another big departure. It also means that "God" cannot be described in any meaningful way. But she then goes on to do so.
    The God of Easter is vulnerable and is connected to the world in profound ways that don’t involve manipulating the world but constantly inviting us into love, justice, mercy.

    ...
    For me, the message of Easter is that love is stronger than life or death.
    SJ considers it much more "awesome" than the claim that JC spent three days in a tomb before rising from the dead and departing from it.

    Then this zinger.
    I find the virgin birth a bizarre claim. It has nothing to do with Jesus’ message. The virgin birth only becomes important if you have a theology in which sexuality is considered sinful. It also promotes this notion that the pure, untouched female body is the best body, and that idea has led to centuries of oppressing women.
    So she believes that Jesus Christ was conceived in the usual way. I wouldn't be surprised if she also believes that he was 100% human.
    I don’t believe in a God who, because of prayer, would decide to cure your mother’s cancer but not cure the mother of your nonpraying neighbor. We can’t manipulate God like that.
    So prayer is pointless, at least in the sense of requesting favors from deities and other such entities.

    As to what happens to us when we die,
    I don’t know! There may be something, there may be nothing. My faith is not tied to some divine promise about the afterlife. People who behave well in this life only to achieve an afterlife, that’s a faith driven by a selfish motive: “I’m going to be good so God would reward me with a stick of candy called heaven?” For me, living a life of love is driven by the simple fact that love is true.
    She is sure, however, that nobody will be subjected to eternal punishment.

    She also suspects that we are due for another Reformation, the original one being when the Protestant churches split off from the Catholic church.

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Her perspective is not especially unusual for a modern theologian, especially not at Union, which is known for hosting quite a range of students and faculty from the very orthodox to the entirely skeptical. Their more liberal wing has driven progressive Christian thought for well over seventy years now.

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    I read somwwhere there was a sect where married men and women lived apart and called the women virgins' even though married.

    Whoever Jesus was in real life to be born a bastard or of unknow heritage would have been scandalous. A family narrative would have been needed.

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    Super Moderator Bronzeage's Avatar
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    Ms. Jones has presented a straw man argument, in which she states her understanding of Christian theology and then declares it all stupid.

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bronzeage View Post
    Ms. Jones has presented a straw man argument, in which she states her understanding of Christian theology and then declares it all stupid.
    Dr Jones.

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    Contributor DBT's Avatar
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    As far as I know the born of a virgin claim is a mistranslation of a word that is better translated as maiden or young woman.

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    Super Moderator Bronzeage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bronzeage View Post
    Ms. Jones has presented a straw man argument, in which she states her understanding of Christian theology and then declares it all stupid.
    Dr Jones.
    When I sing me and Dr. Jones, we got a thing going on, it doesn't have the same lift.

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    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    I quite like a few ideas attributed to someone called Jesus. I could probably, if I wanted to, call myself a Christian nowadays just on that basis and nothing more.

    Or alternatively I could call myself a Christian just by going into a church every Sunday.

    I probably wouldn't even need to believe Jesus existed.

    I don't think the entrance criteria are all that onerous these days. Falling numbers, waning influence, lax standards, an almost endless variety of flavours to choose from, and all that. If a strong and unified Christian theocracy ever starts to gain traction in future I'd expect things to tighten up again. Persecuting heretics could make a big comeback at some stage.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 01-25-2020 at 12:21 PM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bronzeage View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bronzeage View Post
    Ms. Jones has presented a straw man argument, in which she states her understanding of Christian theology and then declares it all stupid.
    Dr Jones.
    When I sing me and Dr. Jones, we got a thing going on, it doesn't have the same lift.
    It does to me. Intelligent women turn me on, especially doctors.

    Interesting woman. Feminist. Progressive. Social activist. Troubled life. Adversity (as well as privilege). Beneficiary of years of psychotherapy. Single mother. Not sure if she's on tinder or not but if she was I'd swipe right. Probably, from what I've now read, using theology to try to float her own boat (and as far as I can see not denying that) but not in a bad way, more like in an admirable way. I would prefer less woo, or better still none at all, but that's just me.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Never heard of Serene Jones, but she's clearly the kind of theologian for whom Liberty University is the oppositional counterweight. And she's probably like a lot of closeted 'social Christians', the ones who like the moral messages they hear in sermons but harbor doubts about the supernatural paraphernalia of Faith.
    I've always read what DBT asserts above: the NT writers garbled the translation from Isaiah and made 'young woman' into 'virgin'. Also that the earliest gospel narrative had no birth narrative whatsoever for JC, but that by the time of Luke, it's so elaborate that we even have an airy poem composed by JC's mom, who remember was a tradesman's wife in the back hills.
    But somehow her poem was remembered and archived.
    Not surprising at all that a growing religious cult centered around a deceased charismatic figure would use the divine/human hybrid plot, a plot found in mythologies around the world.
    My curiosity is piqued by Genesis 6:4, concerning the Nephilim or 'giants' or 'fallen angels' or 'supernatural beings', depending on the translation, who had children with the daughters of men. Isn't this a possible antecedent for the NT virgin birth, in the Bible? Since scholars can't agree on what the Nephilim were, who knows what the intent of the writer was, but it sure sounds like supernatural beings getting a bunch of hill women preggers. But the Genesis writer drops this plotline like a stone, so we never find out if the Nephilim were stay-at-home dads or if the kids knew how to tase a fig tree. (Since the flood comes later in chapter 6, maybe they all just got killed off, Nephilim genes notwithstanding.)

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