This little post is simply a comment on the rather obvious claim that the literal resurrection is more central to Christianity than the literal virgin birth. They are not equivalent. In case that sounds a tad heretical I’ll wheel out Pope Benedict XVI in my defense.
According to the faith of the Church the Sonship of Jesus does not rest on the fact that Jesus had no human father: the doctrine of Jesus’ divinity would not be affected if Jesus had been the product of a normal marriage. For the Sonship of which faith speaks is not a biological but an ontological fact, an event not in time but in God’s eternity. (J.Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 208.)
This is not at all to say that Christians do not believe in the virgin birth but simply to say that the importance of that belief is as a symbol. Even if it turned out that the virgin birth was not an historical fact this need have no implications for Christology — a full-blown Chalcedonian Christology with all the bells and whistles would still be perfectly intelligible. Indeed, it would still be possible to maintain the truth of the doctrine of the virgin birth. Not the historical truth of the virgin birth but the theological and metaphysical truth to which it pointed.
To repeat, I am not suggesting that Christians stop believing in a literal virgin birth. My point is simply that the issue is not on the same level as, say, belief in the full divinity and humanity of Christ.
However, belief in an historical resurrection is different in this critical respect — if Christ remained dead (if the tomb was not empty) then the “truth” to which the resurrection pointed is not true. At best the resurrection becomes a bland metaphor for good things coming out of bad. For the theology that the church has built upon the resurrection of Jesus collapses like a house of cards if Christ was not actually raised.
(NOTE: Jesus living on in the faith and memory of the church or Jesus’ spirit going to heaven simply cannot carry the load that Christian faith in the resurrection demands and so fail as substitutes for or interpretations of the resurrection.)
In a nutshell, if the virgin birth turned out not to be a historical event Christian theology is not affected; if the resurrection turns out not to be a historical event Christian theology is simply false.