From the stone age storytellers have shown religious longings. Stories of a god-like hero who comes to save a community appear cross culturally for thousands of years. Instead of rejecting religious longings, we can think of these age old desires for faith as signposts leading us to faith in the historic person of Jesus.
Carl Jung introduced the idea of archetypes that appear cross culturally that tap into unconscious truths that each culture shares. These archetypes seem to be built into the structure of the mind, like a deep structured grammar -- an empty space that seeks to be filled.
We can think of the virgin birth of Christ as a fulfillment of ancient longings. Unlike the gods of folklore and myth, Christ was actually an historical person. Yet, the story of his birth follows the structure of any good narrative type.
We all enjoy a good story. But, we usually are even more impressed when a good story is also non-fiction or is "based on actual events".
The narrative of Christ's birth seems like the birth of other divine-like heroes of mythic times.
But, there are curious departures from the expected archetype. Unlike the mythological heroes who are portrayed as a descendant of the gods, Jesus is both fully God and fully human. No other "incarnation" of other religions (such as the Hindu gods who only appear human) have this quantum mechanics-like dual nature.
The Greek and Roman folktale figure Hercules was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman -- making him half god or a demi-god. The Hindu Krishna is fully divine and only takes on the appearance of a human. The ancient emperors of China or ancient Mesopotamian kings were likewise fully divine.
Here the dual nature of Christ makes him stand out uniquely from the other gods of myth and folklore. when the formulation of the trinity adds something new that resembles quantum paradoxes.
Literary scholar C.S. Lewis argues that myth is a kind of deep structured grammar imbedded in the human imagination that unlocks truths that social progression is unable to realize otherwise. In When Myth became Fact, Lewis holds that literary images such as the divine hero told in prehistoric stories are necessary mental forms to help future generations understand what God was doing in history. He says that stories that formed the basis for pagan religions prepared our minds to accept the coming of Christ as an historical reality. The voice of imagination acts like an antenna for actualities to come.
"The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact," Lewis argued.
"The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens — at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle."
(C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 66-67.)
The myths about the demi-gods and heroes our age old longing for an accessible encounter with the divine have been fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ. The stories of the mythic gods prepared us for accepting Jesus as God in fact.
What is exciting about Christianity is that it fulfills all the best parts of all of the other religions. We see Jesus as a fulfillment of the pagan stories of the divine savior. We can think of God as a human person with a body.
God's Spirit fills every point of space, fulfilling the faith of tribal animists who believe that spirits indwell natural objects such as trees or mountains. The Christian shares the believe that nature is filled with a Spirit, but God's Spirit isn't part of nature. God's mind created and observes nature and so when we encounter nature we are close to God.
God is the one transcendent, unknowable Spirit (Hinduism, Buddhism) who is accessible to our imagination and language in the person of Jesus.
We also have a basis for knowing about the nature of God from scripture, which we believe is God communicating through the consciousness of inspired writers. These writers were influenced by their cultures so interpretation is still necessary.
Inspiration is not dictation. We say that the bible is composed of "the Word of God in the words of men." We trust the 27 books New Testament as well as the 39 of the Old Testament and look to these for insights of God's will. Here are recorded the stories and teachings of men and women who had a close relationship with God and revealed his thinking about humanity.
If a personal God exists we would expect that this Being would try to communicate with us. The bible is our most accessible message from the Divine Being.
A prophecy in the Old Testament foretold the coming of a universal savior who would be born of a virgin. “Behold the virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son, and he shall be called Immanuel, meaning, with us is God.” (Isaiah 7:14) For God to be with us as a human we would expect a dramatic departure from the ways of biology as we know it.
The idea that Christ was conceived differently than any other person in history is unsurprising when we consider that Christ was the "Second Adam", or the human being who came to reverse the contamination of Adam's sin which lead to the current state of universal brokenness in society and nature. In other words, the DNA of Christ had to be unique from all others to break the inherited proclivity for radical separation from God's mind. Human DNA is in a spiritual state of brokenness along with all features of this universe.
It takes the mind of the incarnate Christ to repair the universal brokenness by his perfected divine-human dual nature. In other words, Christ needs to observe each feature of the universe, from the subatomic, to the everyday to the cosmic universal. In his observation he judges it and refines it and redeems it. Our spirit or inner being is saved when we respond to the observation of Christ by accepting his judgement and salvation.
His observation makes us into the people that he wants us to be. An ordinary person would be unable to transform us by this intense quantum level observation. Only Christ, who is the Creator and fellow human, the dual natured God-man, is able to observe our constituent information and reform that information by his evaluation.
Unlike the natural "selfish gene" of biological reproduction which seeks to foster survival of specific traits, Christ's morally perfect DNA introduced the "unselfish gene" in human society which fulfills the purpose to heal universal brokenness and save humanity.
The doctrine of the virgin birth is necessary to create the unique God-man Jesus. He had to differ from ordinary humans to break the fundamental brokenness of time, space matter and society. Christ introduces the true evolutionary leap in human development that permits us now to be reborn into his family line that will signify the future of saved humanity.
Although we say that Christ is fully human, Christians believe that Jesus is a unique person in the history of the world. We believe that his conception was likewise an unique event. Just as the Big Bang started from nothing but the will of God, so the virginal conception of the Savior was a divine act without natural antecedent.
In the same way that virtual particles pop into existence from apparently nothing, so the random superpositions of subatomic particles could be re-arranged by the will of God with a different statistical algorithm to produce a unique fertilized egg in the womb of Mary. Since at its core all objects and phenomena are information, this information pattern could be re-arranged by God for a specific purpose of producing the perfect human DNA of the embryonic Christ who would then grow up to possess the redemptive consciousness needed to repair the universal brokenness.
By sending the virgin born Christ, God was injecting a healing quantum serum into the veins of civilization. We all need our flawed genetic condition treated by this "unselfish gene" therapy. We experience this radical salvation of our inner most being when we become a part of the family of God.