Saturday, December 10, 2016

How You Can Know That The Incarnation of the Son of God Was a Historical Event

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Hebrews 2:3-4 "how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will."

Note to reader: A more thorough blog series on arguing for the miracle of the incarnation has gotten underway over at my other blogsite: Readers are invited to dig deeper as further posts will be forthcoming. To God be the glory!

As we begin today's post, we turn our attention to the focal point of this time of year: advent. Advent is a season on the Christian calendar that celebrates the historical event of Christ's incarnation or His act as God coming into this world to take unto His person true and genuine humanity. The event itself entailed two other important miracles: the virgin/birth conception, which explains how He came and the hypostatic union, or the joining unto His Person a truly human nature, and thus He in His Person being the union of true humanity and undiminished deity. Statements such as these reveal how much Christianity is predicated upon mighty miracles. Today's post will attempt to communicate how one might champion the incarnation and the miracle working of God in the course of this advent season. 

What is a miracle?

First, a miracle is a highly irregular event in terms of its frequency and features compared to what we would term regularly occurring events. Secondly, based upon Dr. William Lane Craig's definition, a miracle is a naturally impossible event - meaning that given naturalistic explanations, events such as Christ's incarnation and resurrection could not happen by natural causes. Of all the sorts of explanations that could be offered, the best explanation for these events would be shown to be a supernatural one.  

Therefore, since non-natural events, as well as natural events do occur in our world, and being that non-natural events (such as Jesus resurrection) has been shown to occur, then it only stands to reason that the God of the Bible exists. 

Some further thoughts on "irregular events" and why miracles can be legitimately considered as part of our world

This point about irregularity is important because so many skeptics will say that miracles are impossible, being that in the normal course of human experience, no such event can happen? However, if there are irregular events that can occur in history, which may not be experienced regularly by human beings, then does that rule out the miraculous? 

For instance, when I lived in central Florida, there was one year where the storm paths of three hurricanes in once season criss-crossed over the very neighborhood where we lived. For even one hurricane to make it that far inland into central Florida had not occurred in 40 years. Imagine the less likelihood of three hurricanes and their storm paths all intermingling with one another in one season? 

An argument for the validity of miracles in our world

Are we saying that this highly irregular pattern of hurricanes constitutes a definite miracle. Hardly. There are obviously other traits that need to be considered before saying something is a definite miracle. Consider the following logical statement:

#1 We see the possibility of irregular events occurring in the world; 

#2 and miracles are by definition irregular events 

Therefore it can be rightly concluded that miracles can occur in this world. 

What bearing the possibility of miracles has on the incarnation and virgin birth of the Son of God

In establishing the possibility of miracles in our world, we can then begin to make a case for the most important miracle upon which we celebrate Christmas - namely Christ's incarnation through the virgin birth conception. The rest of this post represents more of a sketch, rather than fully completed argument for the historical reality of the virgin birth. Notice the following argument:

#1 Miracles are non-natural events that are naturally impossible events. Only natural events that are naturally possible can occur if in fact the God of the Bible does not exist

#2 History's task is to recount all events that occur, including naturally possible & naturally impossible events

#3 The Gospel records document Jesus' incarnation and virgin birth/conception and have been shown under close scrutiny to be reliable documents

#4 Jesus' incarnation/virgin birth was a miraculous event that could be classified as occurring as a result of non-natural causes

#5 Jesus' incarnation/virgin birth from the dead is a miracle that did occur in history

How methods of history can show the validity of treating Christ's incarnation as a historical event

Now this argument can be shown sound through means of criteria used in validating the historicity of certain events in ancient literature. I will briefly list a couple of those criteria as applied to the Christmas story:

1. Multiple attestation or support from multiple sources (hence Matthew and Luke's Gospel with regards to the genealogies and the 1st century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, in his "Antiquities of the Jews")

2. The criteria of embarrassment (Joseph contemplated divorcing Mary upon hearing her pregnancy would had been an embarrassing detail but which is a sign of being genuine fact)

3. Palestinian or 1st century Jewish setting. Matthew and Luke's use of genealogies; the possible reference of Mary and Joseph finding "no room in the inn" as a technical term pointing to the interior room of a home in and around Judea (i.e Bethlehem). 

Closing thoughts for now

We have shown through our brief study of miracles thus far that miracles are possible in this world. We have also given an example of a brief outline of how one might argue for the historicity and thus plausibility of the Christmas story as it pertains to the miracles of the virgin birth and Christ's incarnation. Hence, the virgin birth/incarnation can be considered as a fact of history.

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