Newsweek offers up its annual Christmas cover story on Jesus this week, focusing on the virgin birth. Author Jon Meacham trots out the usual array of liberal scholars to try and debunk the historicity of the event, but (perhaps in a nod to the new power of the red states or simply because, according to their own poll a huge majority (79%) of Americans believe the virgin birth took place) tries to give at least a semblance of balance to his report. He even says that the simplest explanation for such belief is that it actually happened. However, when he tries to close the piece with some deep inspirational thoughts, it all falls apart.
A man with no human father, a king who died a criminal’s death, a God
who assures us of everlasting life in a world to come while the world
he made is consumed by war and strife: Christianity is a religion of
perplexing contradictions. To live an examined faith believers have to
acknowledge those complexities and engage them, however frustrating it
may be. "We are in a world of mystery, with one bright Light before us,
sufficient for our proceeding forward through all difficulties," wrote
John Henry Newman, the great Victorian cleric whose intellectual
journey led him from the Anglican priesthood to the Roman Curia. "Take
away this Light and we are utterly wretched—we know not where we are,
how we are sustained, what will become of us, and of all that is dear
to us, what we are to believe, and why we are in being." The Christmas
star is just one such light; there are others. Whatever our
backgrounds, whatever our creeds, many of us are in search of the kind
of faith that will lead us through the darkness, toward home. In Luke,
the angelic host hails the Lord and then says: "on earth peace, good
will toward men"—a promise whose fulfillment is worth our prayers not
only in this season, but always.
First of all, they are not contradictions, they are paradoxes. There is a big difference. We certainly must engage and understand these difficult themes in the biblical story, but we need not approach them as if they cannot be philosophically reconciled.
Secondly, as right as Newman was in saying that without the light of biblical truth and the hope of the Christmas story we are lost, that is how wrong Meacham is in saying there is more than one light. How can there be more than one truth in this area? If Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit and was who he said he was – namely the One True God of the Universe – and if what Jesus said about the nature of reality and the way of salvation and peace is correct, then by definition every other truth claim about reality that contradicts Jesus is false.
Jesus said he was the only way to God: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) These statements are either true or false. Either He is to be believed or not believed.
There is no murky middle ground where all faiths can be considered equal. To think of Jesus as being one of the ways, one of the truths, one of the lifes is just bunk. If Meacham truly wants peace, he will realize that.