I have been reading a book entitled “Why We’re Not Emergent”, by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, and I am actually enthralled with the book. These two young guys, who should totally be into the emergent movement, are actually very into conservative orthodoxy. The thing that stands out to me, though, is a passage they took from one Rob Bell, the author of “Velvet Elvis.”
In the passage, Bell basically sets out to challenge the necessity of the virgin birth. He compares it to the mystery cults of Dionysus and Mithras, and basically is stating that whether or not Jesus was born of a virgin, isn’t his way still the best way to live? Now, I agree with him that the Jesus Way is the best way, but let’s get serious here. First of all, let’s all take a moment and really look at this mystery cult thing. First, they were popular WAY after Christianity. Second, let’s look at both Dionysus’ and Mithras’ birth accounts. First, Dionysus was saved from his mother’s burning carcass by Zeus, who impregnated Semele the same way I impregnated my wife. He sewed the child, wait for it, IN HIS THIGH, and the child gestated there. And the parallelism is totally absent, by the way. Dionysus was born of a mother and a god via intercourse. Jesus was born of the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit filling her.
Now, for Mithras. Mithras emerged totally formed from a rock. Yes, rocks are virgins in that they are not capable of intercourse, but come on! This is ridiculous. For someone who considers themselves to be a leader (well, emergent voices don’t consider themselves leaders at all, which is why some of them are screwy), you can’t go around speaking as a voice people respect when you yourself have not put enough scholarship into the matter to know for yourself.
Second, his casting aside the virgin birth obviously shows no knowledge of scripture. Here’s the short of it: God promised David an eternal throne for his descendents. Jeconiah was the last king of Judah before the exile. God through Jeremiah proclaimed that Jeconiah was to be marked as childless, and none of his seed would sit on the throne of Judah or Israel or anything else for that matter. So, while Jeconiah’s bloodline still had legal claim to the throne, they never did possess it again. Joseph was from this bloodline. God used Mary, who was a descendent of David through his son Nathan, as Jesus’ mother and used Joseph as his adoptive father. As legal firstborn of Joseph, Jesus was the rightful legal heir. Without having Jeconiah’s blood in His veins, He qualified by God’s requirements to be King of Israel. Besides, either Jesus was born of a virgin, or He was conceived out of wedlock. Seeing as how Messiah was to be a sacrificial lamb, that wouldn’t work, because He would then be blemished.
I agree to some extent with Rob Bell. Yes, Jesus’ way of life is a far preferred way, but you can’t throw out sound doctrine. Truth and Grace are inseparable.