Seeing the story of the Virgin birth as myth

02 November 2006


Sir, - Please allow me to answer the criticism made against me ( Out of the Question, 17 February; "Heresy corner", Diary, 10 March), as regards seeing the story of the Virgin birth as myth ( Out of the Question, 13 January, to which I contributed).

This is not heresy, but a valid way of interpreting the Virgin-birth story, as the House of Bishops' carefully balanced book The Nature of Christian Belief (1986) clearly states.

First, the book says that "Western popular culture today has adopted a greatly over-simplified view of language." The book rebuts the view that "only so-called factual statements convey objective truths, while metaphor, poetry, symbolism, and suchlike refer solely to ideas existing in the mind."

Second, the book states that some members of the House of Bishops hold such a symbolic way of interpreting the Virgin-birth stories.

Third, it states that "in the ancient world the mother was thought of simply as a vessel to contain and feed the child. It was the father alone who contributed all the human material that would develop into the future person."

Fourth, it states that "it needs to be clearly acknowledged that those who feel compelled to regard the Virginal Conception as symbolic legend rather than history may do so in support of belief in the Incarnation, and regard the symbol of such a conception as pointing to an unquestionably objective divine reality."

Finally, the book clearly states that both ways of interpreting the Virgin-birth story can be legitimately upheld within the Church of England, and both ways express, and point to, the divine nature of Jesus.

Please let this be the end of the matter.
St John's Vicarage
2 St John's Avenue
Morecambe LA3 1EU

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