Bishop Joseph Sprague of the United Methodist Church offers further evidence of modern heresy. In an address he presented on June 25, 2002 at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, this bishop denied the faith wholesale. Sprague, who serves as Presiding Bishop of the United Methodist Church in northern Illinois, has been called "the most vocally prominent active liberal bishop in Protestantism today." Sprague is proud of this designation and takes it as a compliment: "I really make no apology for that. I don't consider myself a liberal. I consider myself a radical." Sprague lives up to his self-designation.
In his Illiff address, Bishop Sprague claimed that the "myth" of the virgin birth "was not intended as historical fact, but was employed by Matthew and Luke in different ways to appoint poetically the truth about Jesus as experienced in the emerging church." Sprague defined a theological myth as "not false presentation but a valid and quite persuasive literary device employed to point to ultimate truth that can only be insinuated symbolically and never depicted exhaustively." Jesus, Sprague insists, was born to human parents and did not possess "trans-human, supernatural powers."
I've asked why any Christian would reject the Virgin Birth. What possible reason would exist for doing so? I've been a bit coy because I know quite well why those who reject the Virgin Birth do so -- because they reject the divinity of Christ. If Jesus was just a great, but human teacher who talked about turning the other cheek and so on, then his birth from a virgin, miracles, and bodily resurrection are impossibilities derived from myth, not historical fact. Mohler, unlike me, however, is not interested in tap dancing around this issue:
Thus, Sprague dismisses the miracles, the exclusivity of Christ, and the bodily resurrection as well as the virgin birth. His Christology is explicitly heretical: "Jesus was not born the Christ, rather by the confluence of grace with faith, he became the Christ, God's beloved in whom God was well pleased."
Can one be a Christian and reject the divinity of Christ? Mohler is more generous than I by responding to this preposterous question:
Can a true Christian deny the virgin birth? The answer to that question must be a decisive No. Those who deny the virgin birth reject the authority of Scripture, deny the supernatural birth of the Savior, undermine the very foundations of the Gospel, and have no way of explaining the deity of Christ.
Anyone who claims that the virgin birth can be discarded even as the deity of Christ is affirmed is either intellectually dishonest or theological incompetent.
Exactly. As I stated previously, rejection of the Virgin Birth is not in and of itself heretical, but is symptomatic of heresy. One only rejects the Virgin Birth after one has rejected the divinity of Christ.
So if there is some reason why anyone would reject the Virgin Birth but support the authority of Scripture and the divinity of Christ, I would like to hear it. That is the challenge that I lay down to skeptics of my position: explain why anyone would reject the Virgin Birth while simultaneously upholding the authority of Scripture and the divinity of Christ.