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Hewitt Vox Blogoli VI

December 14th, 2004 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

If you are visiting from Hewitt's site, then you have by now read the Newsweek piece on the veracity of the Incarnation. I won't bother repeating the systematic destruction of Dr. Mark Roberts. If you haven't read it yet, read it now. Roberts is rightfully ruthless (points for alliteration, Hugh?) in his criticisms of the Newsweek piece. I am looking forward to reading the rest of his thoughts.

However, here are a few of my own. Meachem's bias is obvious, but here are some manifestations that haven't been pointed out. He writes:

Summoning the weapons of history, apparently pinpointing time, place and circumstance with epic eloquence, Luke writes: "And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed..."

Notice the interesting commendation of Luke's rhetorical ability. Not surprisingly, Meachem repeats this sort of language later on:

There is, of course, no way to know whether Luke's story of the heavenly host announcing Jesus' arrival to the shepherds really happened; one has to believe in angels, and explain away the fact that the Gospels fail to note any ensuing communal or individual recollection of this spectacular birth, one witnessed by the rustics (in Luke) and the Magi (in Matthew), in the years of Jesus' public life. Yet the language never fails to captivate.

If you'd rather have John, then try this:

The latest and most philosophical, John's (circa 90), links Jesus with God at the very birth of the universe ("In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God") with a grandeur and force that renders the details of Jesus' earthly arrival irrelevant. *

These quotes are indicative of perhaps the most basic problem of Meachem's piece (and liberal theology), namely, that faith has nothing to do with facts. Not surprisingly Meachem writes, "If we assume, for the sake of argument, that the virginal conception is not a fact but an article of faith, there are other explanations for Matthew's and Luke's Nativity accounts." Pray tell, what is an "article of faith" if not a proposition that the believer takes to be a fact? I am not sure what I believe about the "virginal conception" if I don't believe that it is what it says--namely, a conception by a virgin. Meachem has effectively sundered faith from facthood. The rhetorical excellence of the Gospels remains, but without factual basis, they may as well be placebo's for those more gullible then the enlightened liberal theologians.

Yes, I know I didn't exactly answer the question. Can I still play?

*No one is going to deny that John's language is grandiose. It is hard to find a more beautiful or compelling passage than the prologue to his gospel. However, to suggest that the "details" are irrelevant ignores that John also wrote (alas!) that the very same Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Whose curiousity about how that happened would not be piqued? Certainly, if John thinks it happened, then the details are not in any way irrelevant!

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.