Christmas question: When it comes to Jesus, how true is “true”?

nativity_window_mary_joseph_jesus_closeup_by_powell_200Does historical accuracy matter at Christmas? Or is this story about a different kind of truth?

No, I’m not asking about Megyn Kelly’s obsession with Jesus’ or Santa’s race. My questions came to mind a I wrote about a new survey by the Public Religion Research Center and Religion News Service.

The RNS/PRRI survey finds the number of people who say “the story of Christmas – that is, the Virgin birth, the angelic proclamation to the Shepherds, the Star of Bethlehem, and the Wise Men from the East — is historically accurate” has plummeted more than 17 percentage points in the last nine years. It fell from 67 percent in a Newsweek survey to 49 percent in the new PRRI poll.

Today, 40 percent of U.S. adults say Christmas is “a theological story to affirm faith in Jesus Christ.”

Read full post here.

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  1. Many aspects of the Christmas story fit with the archaeological and cultural norms of that time and place. Even so, the story is so marginal to the central importance of what really matters about the Christian faith that two of the four gospel writers don’t bother with it at all.

  2. There are many valid criteria for truth, an abstract concept that has many meanings. Historical truth is empirical and close to scientific truth which depends on observation, outside repetition and confirmation, and public scholarly evaluation. Historical method is scientific, with specific criteria that need to be met. (See several Polebridge Press books for scholarly discussions pro and con, and Borg’s and Crossan”s The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach about Jesus’s Birth.) Most of the archeological evidence is vague or does not confirm what the two gospel writers constructed. They were writing years later, conforming to the literary conventions of their time, and borrowing a lot from stories about the births of contemporary emperors. No evidence of a census has been found, but it could have happened, probable not in the disruptive way Matthew and Luke tell. There are several unbelievable details of the stories: there is no outside evidence of a slaughter of innocents, which seems to have been used to give the birth of Jesus Mosaic power at least equivalent to the emperors’; and a bright light in the sky would have had to behave as no other light has or could behave knowing what we now know about astrophysics, such as making a sudden 90 degree turn. And who can believe beyond a smidgen in the virgin conception, basing that belief on physical reality and descriptions? If one then jumps to spiritual descriptions, well, we could say anything and the criteria become random and various. I would hope for consistency and poetic beauty. That is what we’ll have to settle for, I believe. And that is enough, so long as we are aware of the criteria.

    Poetically, it still is a beautiful story, full of meaning and good moral instruction. The Magnificate is a great and inspiring song. We should read it more – it talks about justice and the poor.

  3. A survey just goes to show that the indoctrination of unbelief is working. God’s word, His revealed truth about Himself has not, and never will be broken. There will be no survey taken at the judgement. He will have the final word.

    To say that the account of the virgin birth of Christ has no relevance to what really matters to the Christian faith sounds like a re-interpretation of the faith. The virgin birth is the very basis of the atonement, Christ’s substitutionary death for. No virgin birth, no forgiveness, no heaven. It matters.

    As for the un believability of the account, if you can get past Genesis 1:1 then this is a breeze. Of course the critics would most likely discredit this as well. True science is amply corroborating the intelligent design of the universe, ie DNA self correcting self replication. I believe the scriptures to be totally reliable, unlike most surveys.

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