Jesus for Christmas 2000

Dr James Veitch, of SoF NZ, gave a pre-Christmas lecture which was reported in the Wellington Evening Post. The NZ newsletter ran the following summary of the press coverage

In November the front page of Wellington's Evening Post ran a story headed

Son of God 'created' by Church

A lecture on "Jesus For Christmas 2000" was to be given the following day. The story began:

Jesus was not the Son of God. That's the view of Dr. James Veitch, senior religious studies lecturer ... He said "As an historical figure he was not divine, but created to be divine by the Church"

In fact, the lecture (given in a packed-out St. Andrews on the Terrace, Wellington) was not about "Son of God" as the headline proclaimed, and did not mention the words "Son of God". Rather it discussed the New Testament stories of the birth of Jesus, noting how for forty years the early church worked out who Jesus was without reference to his birth: those stories developed only after about 70AD, and the celebration of Christmas centuries later. This was a lively restatement of familiar ground. The historicity of the "Virgin Birth" has been questioned for over 100 years; many respected scholars openly reject it.

The question of the Virgin Birth is quite separate from that of whether (and in what sense) Jesus was "Son of God". However, they are often confused—as happened in the original newspaper story, and in the lively correspondence which followed.

There were many (mostly outraged) Letters to Editor. A leading editorial was devoted to the issue, and a full page gave solid responses from four church leaders. But it did little to engender confidence in the level of theological debate in Kiwi-land, because the promotional article was confusing and misleading and most contributors reacted to the original story rather than to the lecture itself. This was hardly surprising, because the paper never properly reported the actual lecture.

Most correspondents expressed outrage and considered that Veitch should be sacked for denying a fundamental doctrine. Only one expressed satisfaction.

None of the four church commentators—including and Archbishop and a Professor of New Testament—welcomed the lecture, and all were critical of Veitch. Some commented only on the basis of the brief and confusing pre-lecture notice. Others defended the Virgin Birth.

The editorial, while welcoming Veitch's questioning of faith statements, accepted the correspondents' belief that the Virgin Birth is a central tenet of the Christian faith. Questioners don't belong in the Church—at least in New Zealand.

The Executive Secretary of the Presbyterian Church said that "the Church has room for Dr. Veitch and for those who disagree with him. Presbyterians were not afraid of questions in searching for the truth about Jesus." This lone piece of sanity was buried in a short article giving a number of views, but headlined:

Lecturer's view on Jesus spurs sacking call
Click button for printer-friendly version of this article
Registered charity number 1113177
© All Sea of Faith material is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence