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Virgin birth: beyond history, a living spiritual idea

From the December 1988 issue of The Christian Science Journal

When a new spiritual idea is borne to earth, the prophetic Scripture of Isaiah is renewedly fulfilled: "Unto us a child is born, . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful." Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 109

There is scarcely a more precious, sacred event in Christian history than the virgin birth of Christ Jesus. Nothing can deprive this event of its uniqueness, its foundational position in Christian theology, or its special significance to the Christian.

But the theology of Christian Science shows the timeless import of this historic event and explains that the virgin birth was not a miracle, not a departure from natural law, but a proof of the Science of real creation, in which God, Spirit, is the sole origin and continuity of man and the universe. "Those instructed in Christian Science," explains its Discoverer, Mrs. Eddy, "have reached the glorious perception that God is the only author of man. The Virgin-mother conceived this idea of God, and gave to her ideal the name of Jesus—that is, Joshua, or Saviour." Science and Health, p. 29.

This is not to suggest that Christian Scientists expect physical generation to be repeated in this way. Quite the contrary. One of Mrs. Eddy's biographers writes, "Although the historic virgin birth played a key role in Mrs. Eddy's theology, she saw it as a unique event related to the uniqueness of Jesus' mission." Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977), p. 423. But while this unique proof of man's eternal unity with God can be indisputably located in a framework of time, the laws involved in the Science of creation transcend time. And among their offspring in this age are the practical demonstrations of Christian healing that are born of scientific prayer.

In fact, humanity is, to a degree, agreeing with the law of spiritual creation when it embraces the concept of prayer. Prayer signifies a willingness to turn from human causation to God. It acknowledges man's unity with God and concedes the possibility of divine impartation reaching human consciousness. Any "new spiritual idea" born of such communion can be said to be original, in a sense a "virgin birth."

But limited concessions to spiritual origin aren't enough. If humanity is to feel the constancy of divine relatedness that brings a full salvation from evil, then spiritual causation, the only truth of creation and the starting point of all real thought and action, cannot be perceived of as merely something that coexists with a real physical universe. The realization that religious orthodoxy is not in the least uncomfortable with the basic idea of divine intervention— occasional unity with God—should awaken Christian Scientists to ask why. And then to rise to the holy heights of the significance of virgin birth.

After all, the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' day didn't question proof after Biblical proof of dependence on spiritual power to, by all appearances, aid men in what seemed their own power to create and to perpetuate life. They agreed that God enabled Sarah and Abraham to bear Isaac in old age; that God opened the wombs of Rachel and Hannah. But this same thought loathed the idea of pure divine sonship and crucified the man who embodied and taught it. Why?

Perhaps it had something to do with a basic misinterpretation. By misinterpreting Old Testament events and healings (and the healings of Jesus) to mean that God intervenes to adjust, multiply, and heal matter, the carnal mind could get away with believing that matter and Spirit were both real and could combine. It is above all the advent, life, and teachings of the sinless Jesus, illumined by Christian Science, that force mortal thought to face the correct interpretation of miracles and healings; to recognize them as proof of the utter nothingness of material life and intelligence. "This thought of human, material nothingness, which Science inculcates, enrages the carnal mind and is the main cause of the carnal mind's antagonism," Science and Health, p. 345. Mrs. Eddy explains.

Over the centuries, the carnal mind has found endless ways to avoid the fact of its own nothingness. It eventually found a way to adjust Christian theology to the virgin birth of Jesus by emphasizing its unique historical nature, rather than its timeless spiritual message. True, Jesus was God's "only begotten Son," but he was also the supreme earthly example of the truth that, spiritually, every one of us is right now God's son, Love's innocent offspring.

In recent times some theologians have called into question the factuality of the virgin birth itself. But nothing can forever hide the fact that the virgin birth did occur and pointed to the end of all compromise with the belief of intelligent matter. The living law of spiritual creation illustrated by the virgin birth is the basis of the inescapable demand on each of us to stop conforming to the world and be "born again." It is also the key to penetrating deeply the problem of evil and conflict and bringing salvation to mankind.

Virgin birth and individual salvation

The virgin birth gives definitive evidence that the doctrine of original sin is false, when this birth is understood as an illustration of the sinless, original being of all creation. It demonstrates that every real individuality has only one antecedent: God, Spirit. It proves that every individuality imparted by the one Father-Mother is pure, neither formed nor touched by genetics, chance, or heredity; and that each Soul-bestowed consciousness—forever unconditioned by past experience—is uncontaminated and unhaunted by mistake, disobedience, guilt, or condemnation.

Because these spiritual facts of creation are the reality, mortality is understood to be illusion. The human demand, therefore, fulfilled by Love's pure Christ-power only, is to see through the carnal mind's imposed illusion that we are material entities separated from divine Love and discover our real being as God's likeness. We must be "born again."

And what can this new birth be but the fruit of the virgin birth of spiritual ideas—ideas conceived and born of Spirit—that gradually but totally redeem human consciousness from error?

Perhaps the fundamental idea of Christian regeneration is clear to us, but the real problem is how to get from self-centered will and sensuality to the wholly spiritual power that transforms human life, heals us, and ultimately lifts us out of mortality. How do we approach the Science of creation that brought Jesus forth and that brings forth every idea that redeems and heals?

The fact is that as we become willing to exchange the belief in a self-justifying personal ego for the true conception of man as Love's idea, this Science approaches us. And the sacred task of both men and women is to yield to this dawning Christ-power that uplifts spiritual selfhood, especially spiritual womanhood, and prepares us to submit to the overshadowing love and creative power of the Holy Ghost. "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee," the angel Gabriel explained to Mary, "and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee." To which Mary responded, in moving, simple words whose outcome shook the whole foundation of genetic and atomic theory, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." Luke 1:35, 38.

In Mary's example of uplifted womanhood we begin to understand the qualities of thought and character able to receive the conception of man as the idea of Love. Absolute faith and trust in God, remarkable courage, childlike expectancy of good, selfless obedience, purity of heart, meekness, unresistant receptivity—Mary's consciousness at that moment was the very embodiment of those Beatitudes that later open the Sermon on the Mount and would forever mark the way to overcome the world. Most certainly, this unworldliness—this humble sense of selfhood that knows it can do nothing without God—is, as always, "despised and rejected of men";Isa. 53:3. but it is the only attitude that demonstrates unity with God and allows the Holy Ghost to penetrate human consciousness with the creative spiritual law that breaks through hereditary patterns of thought.

Since this uplifted consciousness is the "womb" where the infant idea of our original, sinless being is dawning, our necessity is to protect our new birth with purity of thought. Here is where the virgin birth of spiritual ideas in us begins its inevitable coincidence with the needs of mankind, with the universal body of human thought. We cannot surround the infant idea of our spiritual identity with mental purity without feeling the oneness and allness of the impartial love of God that embraces all simultaneously. Since, in truth, each of us fully individualizes the divine Mind, the substance of our own real identity consists of the pure consciousness of all of Mind's loved ideas. We falsely conceive our own substance and misunderstand the new birth when we fail to love another as ourselves.

At the same time, the uncompromising love needed to bear witness to heaven-born ideas teaches us the need to fast from the belief that evil has any actual presence or force with which to invade and divide real purity, the oneness of good. Our spiritual development is kept pure to the degree we reject the dualism that claims both good and evil to be real and to the degree we rid thought of ungodlike, unchristian thinking. Spirit, good, is infinite. In truth, there is neither opposition to this fact nor conflict within its allness.

Virgin birth and universal salvation

The virgin birth of Christ Jesus is certainly one of the most important, concrete proofs in history of the oneness of real being. It draws a clear line of distinction between what is true and what is not, between the unreality of matter and the reality of Spirit. It shows spiritual causation to be the foundation of mankind's salvation from all evil—from the entire mass of error coming from the belief that matter is the basis of life. This latter belief in multiple origins—in intelligent, living matter, or animal magnetism—would set up a creation in perpetual and inevitable conflict. Belief in more than the one Mind lays the groundwork for the ceaseless polarization of human thought and life. Male and female, science and art, science and religion, creativity and stability, gentleness and power, feeling and intellect, innocence and maturity, often seem to be in opposition to each other; and only the truth of matter's nothingness and Spirit's allness can resolve this conflict.

Mrs. Eddy writes: "One only of the following statements can be true: (1) that everything is matter; (2) that everything is Mind. Which one is it?" Science and Health, p. 270. This uncompromising statement exposes the inconsistency of thinking we can continue to live with the occasional unity with God implied in divine intervention. We cannot, as Jesus warned, "serve God and mammon." Matt. 6:24. The fact of being is that matter and Spirit (being opposites) cannot dwell together; something must be all. The carnal mind claims matter to be the nature and essence of all that is real. This claim is represented by various atheistic systems such as dialectical materialism and scientific materialism, and these thought systems prey, feed, and grow on conflict and separation. They embody the carnal mind's lust to cling to life in matter, its need to deny the divine idea of oneness, and its intent to swallow up everything that opposes it. Atheistic materialism represents total acceptance of material evidence. Its opposite, and its destroyer, cannot be, therefore, any system or theology that unscientifically mixes matter and mortal will with Spirit. And because this dualism, this contaminated conception, embraces no thought of Spirit's allness, it must inevitably be swallowed up by evil's claim to be all.

Male and female, science and art, science
and religion, creativity and stability, gentleness
and power, feeling and intellect, innocence and
maturity, often seem to be in opposition to each
other; and only the truth of matter's nothingness
and Spirit's allness can resolve this conflict.

For human consciousness to begin to achieve the seamlessness—the unity and peace—that represents divine oneness, we must embrace the truth of God's allness taught by Christian Science. It is the pure idea of the allness of Spirit, good, that destroys conflict, and the fear of it, in the individual and in the universal thought and the whole body of mankind.

At this moment the world seems polarized as never before. Mankind is fearfully focused on the specter of total destruction. Terrorism, wars, addiction, the issues and diseases surrounding human sexuality, crime, separation in families, the abrogation of the legal and moral rights of all living beings—all of the symptoms of individual and collective conflict—constitute the carnal mind's denial of the oneness of real being. This is why the pure theology underlying the virgin birth is so essential, because as long as belief in matter's reality persists, there must be conflict. We can't naively continue to believe that the world is dealing merely with a conflict between human good and evil. We have seen that in the context of the belief of multiple causes, even the apparent good is inevitably polarized. Therefore, human goodness is not sufficient to redeem conflict. True redemption is, as promised, the task of the Saviour, the Christ, revealing the pure and infinite idea of Mind's allness and oneness.

The remarkable words opening "the scientific statement of being" in Science and Health kindle with new fire as we recognize more fully what they mean to the salvation of mankind. "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter," the words tell us. "All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all." Science and Health, p. 468.

And Jesus, knowing and proving that we are all the beloved sons and daughters of God, uttered the amazing words that to the end of time prophesy our demonstration of both spiritual origin and universal brotherhood. "Our Father which art in heaven," he prayed, "Hallowed be thy name." Matt. 6:9.

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