Quick Thought on the Virgin Birth

Ok—here’s what I don’t get.

You have people who are fine with God creating the entire universe from scratch.

Think about that…

Galaxies, suns, gravitational forces, quarks (whatever the hell they are…), rain forests, viruses, the dance of subatomic particles: all of it. From scratch. The crystalline structures of minerals. The little bio-motors that power flagella. All of it.

Bringing forth life in a wild riotous explosion of varities of forms and shapes and colors and life-spans. And that’s just this planet…

They’re fine with all of that.

But suggest that God might fertilize a single human egg cell—this being the same Being that started the whole subatomic dance thing and decided that “fertilization” should even be a thing—suggest that, and suddenly they think you’ve gone a conceptual bridge too far?

Really? You’re fine with “everything from scratch” but one half of one cell is too much for you to conceive of?

(pun totally intended…)

9 Replies to “Quick Thought on the Virgin Birth”

  1. Ok, I’ll bite. I think the idea is that we have a pretty good notion of how babies are made, and the Virgin Birth would be the sole counterexample, whereas the creation event of this universe has no means for comparison. Saying God created the universe doesn’t fly in the face of a fairly well-understood biological process.

    That doesn’t mean we can’t believe in the Virgin Birth. But I offer it as a pretty reasonable explanation for why people of today can easily believe in God being behind the creation of the universe, but have a little more difficulty with the idea of God injecting half of a set of chromosomes into an unfertilized egg [or some similar mechanism] of one female in one location on this planet, approximately 8,000 years into the 10,000 year history of this particular species.

  2. I agree , Derek, particularly when one pairs the Prologue to John with the opening of Genesis – as we did in Lessons and Carols for Christmas 1 a few days ago (actually we used the Adam & Eve reading). All of that creative energy from before the beginning of time is present in Jesus in concentrated form – and I suppose you might also say, hidden form. And then, through our baptism and on-going sanctification, that creating light and energy can be present in us, although with the “wattage” greatly reduced. That was Sunday’s sermon, in a nutshell. So if all that is possible, why not a virgin birth? Actually, most of the people I know who balk at the Virgin birth as traditionally understood are men. Is there a gender issue here?

  3. I think it useful to maintain the distinction between virgin conception and virgin birth.

  4. The problem is greater than the question of the incarnation. If we ask others (or even ourselves) to believe in the virginal conception of Jesus—and more than that, to believe that the unapproachable and uncontainable God was incarnate as man and walked the earth in a historical verifiable time and place—then how are we to view the rest of the endless list of divine intrusions into the natural order?

    The majority of Christians have found a way around the 7 days of Creation and all that by viewing it as a spiritual rather than literal story. But what about the flood, the plagues in Egypt, Mt Sinai, the walls of Jericho, and so many other such stories? And after the time of Christ, what about the many saints endlessly healing infirmities and even raising the dead? God can, of course, do anything; so why aren’t all of these stories equally possible and equally believable?

    One obvious problem is that so many of these tales are patently false, and people grappling with their faith often find themselves overwhelmed by doubt. Is there any other reason why so many Christians simply opt for deism?—God made all this stuff that we see and experience; he wound it up like a clock, and that was the end of it.

    Admittedly, the all-or-nothing approach is not the only option, but anything in between is much more difficult, especially when non-believers start digging in with questions. No one wants to be the one at the party who believes the Greeks rode velociraptors into battle. But how exactly do we separate a 6000-year-old earth from a virgin birth? Who draws the lines?

  5. The obvious conclusion is that deism is alive and well.

    I’ve never been able to make the “I’m still a Christian even though I’ve lost faith in any of the central claims of the miraculous” thing work. It’s one thing to learn to live with scriptures whose authorship and transmission make taking them as an infallible and absolute authority impossible. I’m not especially willing to argue with the text to say that this story or that is clearly untrue, because I don’t have the confidence in my or any other modern as a critic given how little any of us know. But I don’t demand that everyone else deal with the issue as flexibly, though I wish the would. When it comes to the core Christian miracles, though, I hit hard limits. I don’t see how Christianity is viable without a real resurrection, and once we get to that, there’s not a lot of reason to argue with Luke.

  6. RE: C. Wingate’s remarks. In my experience, the people you describe seem to understand Jesus as a sort of Buddha. Jesus, in their understanding, is a remarkable man with insights into the divine that other mere mortals do not possess. This makes him divine in a certain way, probably in a unique way, which makes his worthy of the title “Son of God”. His teachings are profound and wise–something many non-Christians do acknowledge–and his life is worthy of imitation. The rituals of the church reinforce individual commitment to his teachings, and they give a certain “centeredness” to the mundane aspects of life. And that’s it.

  7. On an unrelated topic–I would really love to be able to edit my posts. I work so hard to get them right, but time and again, I find a typo after I’ve posted–as I just wrote, “which makes his worthy”, which it should read, “which makes him worthy”. I can edit on other sites, but maybe the functionality is more tricky that it seems.

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