Rick Warren's foreword for Should We Fire God?
There is this very strange interaction between this young girl and an angel that I read about this morning. Not only strange, but it was one that made Christianity hard for me to accept for a long time. Let me just let you read it…
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. 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.
Virgins getting pregnant, angels talking about it… it reads like a fairy tale. In fact for years that is all I thought the bible was, an extended set of fairy tales, stories that perhaps held some usefulness, but only in measured amounts and in measured places.
Then I started to reflect on what I was rejecting. I was one of those that read the background material that 99% of people think is painfully boring. I read evidences against the bible being an accurate translation and those in favor of it being an accurate one. Keep in mind, when I started this whole thing I was firmly in the not accurate camp. Over about a year I frustratingly became more and more convinced it was accurate. That it had held up over time .
That didn’t mean it was true, mind you. Just that what we have now is an accurate portrayal of what they had then. To answer the question in advance, yes I continue to read about this. I have probably read 20-30 books in the past ten years written by biblical or literary critics that argue against my position. Even on my sabbatical, I was reading about the political and sociological streams that have influenced how we come to the conclusions that we do about scripture. If you have questions about my conclusions with them, let me know…
Then I started to ask whether the book might be right. Over time I came to conclude it was. Again, please know that at this point I still didn’t like that it was true, I was still rejecting it. But I couldn’t deny what I had come to learn.
Actually this account of this young girl, Mary, had a part in it. It was one of the first miracles that is recorded in the bible that I believed.
I concluded that I needed to chose my faith stance regarding the ultimate beginning of the universe. Either God (or something like him) started it, or a large explosion did. Both views are held by intelligent, respected members of the scientific and religious worlds. For reasons that are too numerous for this post, I chose to accept it was God.
If God created the universe and everything in it, it would mean that he likely installed natural law as a means of creating a world that was predictable and fairly stable. If he was the one that installed natural law, he would certainly have the ability to overstep it – set it aside if his purposes warranted it. Much like someone writing software code. If they create the program, they can create ways to interact with it that others couldn’t.
That conclusion showed me that the instance with Mary wasn’t that outlandish at all. If God is in a realm that we cannot see with just our human eyes, and cares about us, and has the ability to step into our realm… this kind of instance would be no big deal to him. Mary becomes aware that she is speaking to an angel and the angel says that she is going to carry a baby that is not conceived in the natural way. No sex. God would just start the pregnancy. We don’t know what she looked like (except that she was almost certainly not white like the pic), and we have only traces of the whole interaction, but I believe it truly happened.
BTW – I have a great deal more on this in my book
So, in a way, an angel talking to a young woman about how Jesus would start his work in our world, became the way that God, speaking with a young man, showed him it was time to let Jesus start working in his soul.
Kind of cool really. Glad I did it.