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Question and Answer

Presbyterians and the Virgin Birth

Question:

Do Presbyterians believe in the virgin birth of Jesus?

A friend of mine said the Presbyterian church did not believe in the virgin birth of Jesus from Mary. She said that Joseph was the biological father. I am sure she is mistaken but would like a clarification on the doctrine of the Presbyterian church on this.

Answer:

Thank you for your fine question. Your instincts were correct; we do firmly believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit.

We affirm with the Nicene Creed:

We believe ... in one Lord Jesus Christ, ... who for us and our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary....

and the Apostles' Creed:

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary ....

Such is our belief, because such is taught in Scripture, which is our "only rule of faith and life." Consider, for example, Luke 1:26-35:

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.' Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.' 'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?' The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God ....'

or Luke 1:20-23:

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel'"which means, "God with us."'

Now, when your friend said "the Presbyterian church", she may have been referring to some Presbyterians in some other Presbyterian denominations.

The largest Presbyterian denomination in America, the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA), has long tolerated ministers and elders who reject and deny fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith taught in Scripture, such as the virgin birth of Christ. One of the very reasons our denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), back in 1936 broke away from the PCUSA was their failure to affirm such basic Christian doctrine. So, the testimony of our denomination is that we stand firmly upon the Scriptures and, by God's grace, uphold the historic Christian faith.

If you have any follow up questions, please let me know.


About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

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You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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