The Dilemma of God and the Virgin Mary and Consent

xbeautyforashes asked a question:

Hi Pastor JS, my atheist friend said that Jesus was the ultimate rapist because He impregnated Mary without her consent. He later then asked why God couldn’t have just sent Jesus without having Mary get pregnant and go through the pain of child birth. I guess what I’m asking is.. How do you respond to this? I was left with a blank stare and had to think.

Hey dear friend, thank you for bringing up such a challenging question. I’ve actually heard this brought up quite a few times, and I hope you’ll hang with me here on a tough but possible explanation.

My brother, who is not a Christian, once asked me, “What does the Bible say about sex?” I was taken aback and enthusiastically curious, so I asked him why he wanted to know what the Bible said. He replied, “Logically, if God is super-powerful and He knows everything, that means He would know exactly what’s best for people He created. So then the Bible wouldn’t just say random things we have to do, but if God is who God is supposed to be, then His ‘commands’ would have to make rational sense.”

I thought a lot about what my brother said. Essentially, if God is all-knowing and all-good, then He knows exactly what’s best for us, and our very best is to fall under His authority. By default, we’re all submitting to some kind of authority, whether it’s pop culture or some celebrity’s ideas or what-mama-said. When people say, “I won’t surrender to a God,” they haven’t realized they’re already surrendering to something. It’s not a matter of if, but what.

The Bible makes the case that God, being who He is, has a cosmic goodness for us through His Son, and also a personal plan for us that’s wired differently for every individual. Romans 12:1-2 has this really bizarre wording, but in light of God’s authority being perfect and our best, it comes together:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I hope you notice at the end of this passage, it says “test and approve what God’s will is.” In other words, it’s always our free choice to follow Him. We can test Him out. We can turn Him down. But God has a “good, pleasing and perfect will.” Logically, His way is total goodness, joy, and glory.

When I think of Mary, I believe she was one of the very few people in human history who was able to completely surrender herself to God’s best plans. I highly doubt she was unaware of what would happen. I’m absolutely certain that God disclosed His will. I also believe she could’ve refused if she wanted to – God did not impose His will upon her, and He never does. It was her choice. And if we believe the story, Mary had the interesting situation of never having to engage physically for the miracle of birth.

In fact, maybe Mary was the only woman in the history of the world who could take on the intimidating task of birthing and raising the very embodiment of God on earth. Just as there is only one David, one Daniel, one Esther, one Ruth, one Peter, and one Paul, there could be only one woman in the pages of our story who would obey such a cosmic, yet personal task. Mary was an entirely unique, amazing woman – there was no one like her, and no one ever would be, either. She’s one of a kind.

C.S. Lewis once said (paraphrasing here) that a happy person would be someone who freely obeys God’s perfect will out of love and adoration, and it would be our greatest joy for both us and God if we did this without obligation or functionality. Very often God’s Law is for our good, but other times it’s simply to obey out of love, even when it first seems difficult. I’m sure Mary really wrestled with her mission: but there was such wonder in the end. It takes a truly melted, tenderized, sensitive kind of heart to follow God even when it’s their own disadvantage. They’re simply abiding in the beauty and the glory of God.

If someone were to say, “God was the ultimate rapist,” I hope this person would understand how much they’re diminishing the word rape. It is a brutal, dominating, cruel, terrible evil that involves physically and psychologically violent forces. To even bring this word into the same discourse as Mary not only minimizes women who have been assaulted, but is a cheap attempt at using a very painful word to exaggerate a sensationalized non-sequitur.

If someone were to say, “Why couldn’t God have just sent Jesus?” – then of course, this negates the very profound willingness of God to empathize with us. If we’re assuming that God is who God is supposed to be, then it would only follow that He would engage with His own creation at the highest point of solidarity, by growing up as a helpless infant and experiencing our every pain, hunger, weakness, emotion, and even gravity. Simply sending a fully grown adult onto earth would’ve been a cop-out.

The fact is that you will hear many audacious, outrageous claims against the Christian faith that require gentle humility and total intellect. Whether those claims are legitimate or only for shock value, they still demand our attention and conversation. Sometimes we won’t know the answer, and that’s okay. Sometimes it’s not an answer that’s being sought, but a particular attitude. I hope I haven’t condescended or ridiculed your friend’s question – and I hope he’s just as willing to hear the Christian point of view. It doesn’t matter that we “convert” anyone or persuade someone to faith. What matters is that we offer coherency, and we offer grace and respect.

Much love to you, dear friend, and I applaud you for receiving such a concern with a serious, sincere heart.

– J.S.

2 thoughts on “The Dilemma of God and the Virgin Mary and Consent

  1. Very thoughtful reply to a difficult question. You have a gift for addressing the issue w/o making it personal, no matter how squicky.

    And I’m with you in belief that Mary was openly accepting and obedient. She consented with her words. 🙂


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