Since we’re in the midst of Advent, it would seem to be a good time to pose a question about the relative importance of the doctrine of the virgin birth. (By the way, the term is infelicitous since the doctrine in question is really about whether Jesus was virginally conceived. Be that as it may, the term “virgin birth” is well established.)
With that in mind, yesterday I posted the following survey which poses the question of whether the virgin birth should be considered an essential doctrine (i.e. a dogma). The result was undeniable: most respondents said yes:
Is the virgin birth (i.e. the virgin conception) of Jesus an essential doctrine for orthodox Christian belief?
— Randal Rauser (@RandalRauser) December 17, 2017
No doubt, it will be a surprise to many to learn that some of the leading theologians of the twentieth century including Emil Brunner and Wolfhart Pannenberg rejected the doctrine. Regardless, this does press the question: what reason would there be to assume that the virgin birth is an essential dogma of Christian faith on the level of the Trinity, incarnation, and atonement, rather than an important but nonetheless secondary doctrine like baptismal regeneration, biblical inerrancy, or the real presence?