Christmas question: When it comes to Jesus, how true is “true”?

A new survey on Christmas raises a question: Could Jesus be theologically "true" without being scientifically so?

Does historical accuracy matter at Christmas? Or is this story about a different kind of truth?

No, I’m not asking about Megyn Kelly’s obsession with Jesus’ or Santa’s race. My questions came to mind a I wrote about a new survey by the Public Religion Research Center and Religion News Service.

Most Americans, including many who say they have no religion, still believe Jesus was born to a virgin. This Greek icon of Theotokos depicts the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus. Photo by Nick Crettier, courtesy of National  Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Most Americans, including many who say they have no religion, still believe Jesus was born to a virgin. This Greek icon of Theotokos depicts the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus. Photo by Nick Crettier, courtesy of National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

The RNS/PRRI survey finds the number of people who say “the story of Christmas – that is, the Virgin birth, the angelic proclamation to the Shepherds, the Star of Bethlehem, and the Wise Men from the East — is historically accurate” has plummeted more than 17 percentage points in the last nine years. It fell from 67 percent in a Newsweek survey to 49 percent in the new PRRI poll. Another survey, released Wednesday by Pew Research, found a high level of belief in the Virgin birth — and a lot of folks who believe Santa will visit their house Christmas Eve.

Today, 40 percent of U.S. adults say Christmas is “a theological story to affirm faith in Jesus Christ.”

So what’s “true” here?

The late Sir John Templeton endowed a foundation that spends millions in supporting many kinds of educational and medical research but may be best known for his interest in what he called advancing spiritual knowledge. I participated for several years in a Templeton program for science and religion journalists but never saw “proof” of God – or “proof” of no God either.

But what if Jesus and God are theologically “true” if not scientifically so?

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