A few weeks ago, I was watching a news program when they shared a story about some whale watchers who got a little too close to the whales and almost got swallowed alive! (The footage was amazing.) Laughing in amazement, one of the hosts said, “They almost had a Jonah in the whale moment!” As they continued laughing, one well-meaning host said, “Can you believe I actually thought that story was true until I was about twelve years old.” As all of the other hosts continued playfully mocking her as if she believed in Santa until she was twenty, Jamie and I were shouting at the television: “It is true! It really happened.”
The worst part about the story is that the woman who now believes the Bible is only figurative calls herself a Christian. She is not alone. One of the biggest problems progressive Christianity and liberal theology has brought into the church is the belief that you can’t take the Bible literally. The stories didn’t really happen. It’s all figurative.
This is a complete lie!
The Bible is the inerrant word of God—meant to be read literally and literally obeyed. When we abandon this foundational truth, we abandon the message of the Gospel. When we diminish the authority, validity, or literalness of the Bible as God’s Word, we water down the truth that saves our souls and determines where we will spend eternity.
Christianity cannot exist without the Bible.
As true followers of Jesus, we cannot accept the belief that the Bible is just filled with “nice stories with symbolic meanings.” Even this time of year, we see many who simply add “The Christmas Story” to their list of fairy tales alongside Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph. They tolerate it as part of the holiday, but they don’t really take it literally.
Yet, this simply isn’t true. Mary and Joseph weren’t “characters” in a story—they were real people. There really was a census, and that poor woman really did have to make a long journey at the height of her pregnancy. Angels really did appear to shepherds, and a virgin really did give birth to a son. These are literal, historical facts. Even more, they lay the foundation for the Gospel message—especially the truth that Jesus was born of a virgin.
Why is this so important?
Because the fact that Jesus was born of a literal virgin is fundamental to the truth that Jesus was more than just a nice man who taught good things.
Instead, the truth that Mary was a virgin who became pregnant when the Holy Spirit came upon her supports the truth that God took on the form of a man.
“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,
to a virgin named Mary.
She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.
Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.
“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.”
(Luke 1:26-35, NLT)
The last verse tells us why this fact is so important: “So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.”
Jesus was 100% human, and he was 100% God. He was literally, Emmanuel, God with us. (Isaiah 7:14)
The fact is that Jesus was not just a teacher like Mohammad or Gandhi. No, he is the literal Son of God. Because God wanted to create a way to heal the relationship that sin had broken between God and man, He gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NLT)
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:6-8, NLT)
This is why it is so important that as followers of Christ, we completely reject the idea that the stories in the Bible cannot be taken literally: because each part of redemption’s story builds on the other parts.
When we remove the literal virgin birth, we lose the Deity of Jesus.
When we reject the fact that Jesus walked on the earth as God Incarnate, it invalidates the truth that His purpose was to die on the cross and rise again so that mankind could be saved from their sins.
This is the foundation of Christianity: God sent His Son to the earth to die on a cross, pay the price for our sin, and provide an opportunity for man to be reconciled to God.
More than anything else, this is what we celebrate this Christmas season: Deity coming to earth as a man to provide salvation to men and women.
The truth is that the nativity isn’t just a story. It is absolutely not a fairy tale.
These events actually took place, just as the Bible described them. And they happened for a purpose: Because God loved humanity, He created a way to save us from the sin that destined us to eternity in Hell.
Because He loved us, He sent His Son. Just like the Bible says.
Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
When asked about herself, she'll tell you "I'm a women's minister, a sister, and a daughter. I love to laugh and spend time with people. My favorite things are chocolate, the ocean, sandals and white capris, anything purple, summertime and riding in the car listening to music. It is my absolute honor and privilege to serve Jesus and women through this ministry.