Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted.
Surfing the Net for reaction to Richard Dawkins’ appearance on ABC’s Q&A program of March 9 2010 “God Science and Sanity”, I discovered for the first time the assertion of aggressive Atheists that the Virgin Birth consitutes an act of rape.
I was familiar enough with the scripture to know that Mary consented to the Virgin Birth and responded in that manner. My Atheist correspondent, Lord Voldemort, replied with reference to scripture, Luke 1:28-38
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. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
And summarizes his rape argument as follows:
- Mary’s opinion is neither requested nor acknowledged.
- The language of directives is used.
By today’s standards, someone in a powerful position is using that power to commit rape. This is corroborated by the “I am the Lord’s servant” line.
Wills: Lets Look at Them All
Unfortunately for LV, the ‘language of directives’ is NOT being employed here, except in the directive to name the Son Jesus. Will merely signifies the future tense. It is not employed gramatically as an order or directive. In fact most of the Wills occur in the section where Mary asks about How the conception will occur, so these Wills cannot be orders to conceive. They are explanations of how the conception can occur since she is a virgin.
In fact, there are many wills in the passage, but not all are directed at Mary. Just as many are directed at Jesus. Is God also raping, dominating or abusing Jesus ? Of course not. Let’s look at His wills.
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.”
LV, by insisting that Mary’s wills are commands, may wish to consider what the wills directed at Jesus mean. Are they abusive, dominating commands to be great, to be the Son Of God, to be the King of the Jews and to have an eternal kingdom ? No. They are future tense, describing what will be and are denotive of the highest honour and great esteem. As are Mary’s.
See below for further comments on ‘will’
Mary was not denied the opportunity to express her opinion, and in fact did so by questioning the means of, then consenting to the Virgin Birth. Thus the acknowledement of that opinion then becomes moot unless LV wishes to insist that the angel should say ‘Righto then, that’s all agreed’ or somesuch.
What Is The Relationship Between God And Mary ?
LV’s mischaracterisation of the relationship between God and Mary as Rapist and Victim is a complete misrepresentation of the factual relationship which is beloved King to trusted servant.
The Angel’s Mission
LV would have it that the Angel has been dispatched to Mary to inform her that in a week or two she will be raped. His construction of the narrative is nonsensical. Rapists do not dispatch messengers to inform of impending rape. They just rape.
Rather, the angel has not come to inform Mary that she will be entrusted with a unique and highly honoured task which is to bear and birth the Messiah, the coming of whom is the most anticipated event in Jewish history. God is bestowing Mary with a unique historical honour, not abusing her.
In other words the Angel has been sent in advance by God to inform and comfort her about events which are about to take place and to describe to her what they mean. The angel’s visit describes God’s kindness and respect to Mary, not contempt, hatred or lust.
In addition the angel’s visit ahead of time proves that the wills in his message denote future tense, not immediate forced command. The visit ahead of time also implies that consent is being sought.
This inversion of God’s intent and character is typical of aggessive atheists like LV who gain perverse pleasure from maligning God and forcing foul meanings on The Bible.
An example of a similar difficult and esteemed honor might be a medieval King choosing and entrusting a servant to accompany and protect his juvenile son on a long horseback journey across the breadth of China. The servant is chosen for reasons of loyalty, courage, trustworthiness and reliability not in order to humiliate or abuse. That servant may also be chosen in the knowledge they would accept such a task if assigned it, as leaving a critical and supremely important task or entrusting one’s own Son to one not willing is to invite disaster.
LV’s negative reaction to this passage is also a result of unconscious Western bias he brings to the passage.
Distaste for the differential King/Subject statuses (here of God and Mary) is typical of Westerners as it cuts across our culturally revered norms of Democracy and autonomy (radical individualism). However, a person from an Eastern culture reading this encounter between King’s Messenger and Subject would find it unremarkable for the difference in status and obligation assumed in the passage and indeed may well find the Angel’s attitude remakably acommodating and kind for an emissary of the monarch: The angel speaks gently, does not demand ritualised forms of address or explicit acknowledgement of relative status, allows questioning and waits for consent.
King And Subject
LV is correct to identify that Mary has an obligation to obedience (I am the Lord’s servant) arising from her Subject/King status, but typically of aggressive atheists, LV instantly and always identifies the obligation of the Subject to the King as an abuse of power. In doing so LV fails to recognise any possibility that a healthy King/Subject relationship can exist, that such a relationship can and does exist without abuse, that the King may select servants for particular tasks on the basis the he already knows in advance that they will accept and enjoy the task and that tasks performed out of obligation may nevertheless impart high honour to those performing them.
Finally on this the King may not always choose to exercise his right to obedience. It is not evident in this passage that Mary had no choice of refusal, even though her obligation to obedience is correctly assumed. Mary could have said ‘No’ and the King may have said ‘OK then’. Given the gravity, honour and historical importance of the task God needs someone wiling, not unwilling.
To summarize some points so far:
- The task is to bear and birth the Messiah
- The coming of the Messiah to Israel is the great hope and entire focus of the whole history of the Jewish nation
- Given this, a higher honour for Mary is hard to imagine
- The task honours Mary, it does not debase her, as rape would.
- Given the gravity, importance, surpassing honor of the task and that in involves God entrusting his Son to another person (Mary) God may well have chosen Mary for the task knowing in advance she would accept.
Mary’s reaction to the Angel’s visit, as well as that of her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John The Baptist, directly confirms many of the points I have made above. Her song, now known as The Magnificat, is located in scripture at Luke 1:46-55.
Mary’s Zeal For The Messianic Promise
The Magnificat records Mary’s joy in God that she has been selected for such a great honour and that she this honour is centred on assisting in bringing the Messiah to Israel. She praises God for His faithfulness in remebering his Messianic promises to Abraham and Israel.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.”
Mary’s zeal for the Messianic promises of God to Israel indicate that this zeal forms at least some part of the reason that God selected her to bear Jesus. If one includes verse 50 in this frame of reference, gratitude to God for sending the Messiah comprises about one-third of Mary’s song of thanks. The Angel Gabriel indicated specifically to Mary that the child would be the Messiah by reference to the child’s later assumption of ‘the throne of his father (i.e. ancestor) David’.
Luke 1 is a chapter all about the coming of the Messiah. The task of Elizabeth, the other major personage in the chapter is to bear John the Baptist, whose role is to proclaim the immediate coming of the Messiah and Mary’s role is to birth and bear the Messiah, name Him Jesus, then protect and nurture Him until maturity i.e. be His mother.
Mary’s song indicates her zeal and faith in God’s Messianic promises, explains her favour with God and also her selection as Jesus’ mother. God, knowing Mary’s character and hope for the Messiah, knows she will not refuse the honour and hence selects her for the role.
She certainly does not consider herself a victim and neither does Elizabeth.
42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
Since God knows that Mary will not refuse the honour, the Angel can speak to Mary in the future tense (Will) of the events that she has been selected for.
Missing Out, Messing Up
LV’s determination to malign God and The Bible causes him to miss out on the many encouraging aspects of the Virgin Birth narrative including Mary’s point that God has special concern with the ordinary and poor of the planet, including herself, as proven by her selection, despite being a completely unremarkable village girl for the high privilege given her.
LV’s impoverished approach to this passage robs him of both understanding and coherence. Titus 1:15 could have been written for him. Indeed LV’s very characterisation of the Virgin Birth as Rape can’t be sustained even if God had forced Mary into the arrangement. Rape is a non-consensual sexual act even where conception does not occur, whereas conception is an act of reproduction, the genesis of a human life. To treat one as the other is a non-sequitir. Sex is not reproduction. The Virgin Birth occurred without sex and hence without rape.The maximum charge that could be levied against God is “non-consensual conception”, not rape.
But the Virgin Birth was consensual, first accompanied by obligation, but then overtaken with joy.
And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,