Notes to Pilgrims #4
Unlike the other major world religions, the miraculous claims of the Bible cannot be excised from Christianity without effectively stripping it of its power, relevance, and message. You can demythologize Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, or even the New Age Movement—say that all the supernatural stuff are just symbolic, make-believe, metaphorical, or highly creative ways by which the ancients illustrated their morals and ethics. You can distill their teachings to the pure form of just principles and propositions, and you’d still essentially have the same religion. But you cannot do this to Christianity. Deny the miracles or say they were legends and the gospel ceases to be Good News.
This is because the main difference between Christianity and other religions is that the Christian message is not primarily a set of principles to live by. In other religions, you can strip them of their miracles and still have their teachings remain intact. Take for example the birth story of Siddharta Gautama. Tradition has it that immediately after his birth, Siddharta stood up, took seven steps forward and spoke some enigmatic words about himself. Now one could easily dismiss this as a legend or a myth and there won’t seem to be any loss to the Buddhist faith and message at all. Sure the tale lends added credibility and import to their message, but even without it the Buddhist teachings of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path remain the same. One could be a follower of Buddhism while at the same time rejecting the miraculous in Buddhism. But the same could not be said of Christianity. The Christian Gospel needs the miracles to be true.
Consider what the Bible says regarding the birth of Christ, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18) Mary’s pregnancy was a miracle. But why is this important for the integrity of the Christian message? The virgin birth is one of those things that, if true, make the rest of the Jesus story (i.e. the gospel) possible. Among other things, it ensures that Jesus is not a son of Adam since He actually came to fulfill what Adam by His disobedience failed to do. Jesus came as the last Adam, living the perfect life that God required of all people and enduring the perfect death penalty for the sins of the people He came to save. But this would all have been useless if He was simply a man born of sinful human parents. Jesus had to be fully human so that He could be our substitute but He also had to be fully God so that He would not sink under the full weight of God’s just wrath. Without the virgin birth, the good news that Jesus came to redeem lost sinners by His perfect life, death, and resurrection, would not be good news at all. We need the miracles because it is through supernatural means that God by grace saves sinners in Jesus. Without the miracles, there would not even be a Christian message to speak of since the Christian message—the gospel—is about that grand miracle by which God send His Son on a rescue mission to earth. It is by believing this greatest of miracles, and not simply following a set of rules, that the sinner finds salvation by God’s grace.
—Pastor James (firstname.lastname@example.org)