“The mystery of the Virgin Birth is the basis of the mystery of the resurrection”

The Virgin Birth cannot be understood in abstraction from the triumphant consummation of Christ’s life in his resurrection, for it is there that the mystery of his Person is revealed. In fact the birth of Jesus of the Virgin Mary and the resurrection of Jesus from the virgin tomb (wherein no human being had ever been laid) are the twin signs which mark out the mystery of Christ, testifying to the continuity and the discontinuity between Jesus Christ and our fallen humanity. Just because the incarnation is not only a once and for all act of assumption of our flesh, but the continuous personal union of divine and human nature in the one Person of the incarnate Son which he carried through our estranged estate under bondage into the freedom and triumph of the resurrection, it is in the resurrection that we see the real meaning of the Virgin Birth, while the Virgin Birth has much to tell us about the resurrection. These are then the twin signs testifying to the miraculous life of the Son of God within our humanity, the one at the beginning and the other at the consummation of the earthly life of Jesus. Both these acts are sovereign creative acts of God’s grace in and upon and out of our fallen humanity, and in the full sense they are one continuous act that includes the whole historical life and work of the incarnate Son. Both these miraculous signs tell us that here within our fallen existence God has acted creatively and redemptively in such continuity with us that we may share in it, but in such discontinuity with our fallen humanity that we may all through sharing in it be liberated from our bondage and decay and corruption and sin to a new life in a new humanity. The birth of Jesus tells us that God acts in Jesus Christ in such a way that the birth does not fall under human power, under the arbitrary forces of human history, or under the causal determinisms of this world, but that in his birth God the Son freely, sovereignty and redemptively enters into them from without. The resurrection tells us that the life and Person of Jesus are not held under the tyrant forces of this world, that though he was born of woman and made under the law, Jesus Christ was not dominated and mastered by our fallen flesh and its judgment, but is triumphant over it all, in achieving his redeeming purpose of reconciling our humanity to fellowship with God.

We can look at it another way. The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ points to the mystery of God’s self-revelation, that God reveals himself within our fallen life, that in his revelation or self-unveiling God veils himself in our humanity. At the birth of Jesus the mystery of Christ as true God and true Man is inserted into our existence and is necessarily veiled, veiled because inserted into ‘the flesh of sin’, as St Paul called it (Rom. 8:3). The resurrection of Christ points to the fact that God unveils himself, reveals himself within human life. Here the mystery of God is resurrected out of our flesh of sin, out of our death and corruption and is unveiled in its glory as true God and true Man in perfect union. The empty tomb points to the revelation of the secret of Christ and as such is the authentication of the Virgin Birth; it is the unveiling of what was veiled, the resurrection out of our mortality of what was inserted into it and recreated within it. But such a resurrection: of true Man and true God points back to the Virgin Birth of Jesus as a union of true God and true Man. The humiliation of Jesus began at Bethlehem and reached its climax on the cross, just before his glorification in resurrection. The new life began at Bethlehem and reached its unveiling in the resurrection. Thus the mystery of the Virgin Birth is the basis of the mystery of the resurrection. By the mystery of the resurrection the mystery of the Virgin Birth becomes effective and understandable. Here we have a closed circle; to deny the Virgin Birth involves a denial of the resurrection, and vice versa.

Thomas F. Torrance

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3 Responses to “The mystery of the Virgin Birth is the basis of the mystery of the resurrection”

  1. For me the virgin birth belief is of no consequence. There is no denying that Jesus is of God not of humanity so I don’t need miracles to convince me of that. The virgin birth idea signifies that He is of a purity of which no human can birth. I adhere to the doctrine of resurrection of His spirit not the body and that we “in Christ” will also rise in spirit and don’t need miracle of risen flesh to believe in Resurrection or of the Embrace at the End of Times. I think a resurrection of sorts is available to each of us when we submit to the governance of the Holy Spirit. As for a Second Coming(despite scripture) He is in our midst now and always and we need not wait for that alleged chariot from heaven. This is why the cross in vacant in Protestant churches: we celebrate the risen Christ and that is in no way to diminish the Crucifixion and suffering Christ on the cross.

    Certainly my ideas seem heretical to traditional Christian thinking and I write not for debate or argument but merely to note that my faith is as strong as is it is with those who disagree and I am a Christian despite statements to the contrary. Merry Christmas and may we remain brothers in Christ despite these relatively insignificant(in my opinion) details.

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  2. Raul P. Enerio says:

    Because of our sins and my fallen nature that I can see and experience God’s love and divine Humility. I believe in the Triune God!

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  3. Mina says:

    The Virgin Birth as taught by St. Athanasius and St. Cyril of Alexandria points to the fact that our origins are transferred from the “seed of man” to the “seed of God” so to speak. In other words, the Virgin birth (along with Christ’s baptism and Resurrection) all point to our engrafting into the adoption of the Godhead. It is necessarily literal, that it may be true and literal in us as Christians.

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