June, 2017

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The Virgin Birth & Naturalism

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

“Christians believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. Materialists believe in the virgin birth of the cosmos. Choose your miracle.” Glen Scrivener, on his twitter feed, @glenscrivener, 5 January 2014.

*

“We find one virgin birth in the story of the Incarnation:

‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God’ (Luke 1:38).

Admittedly, this is out of the ordinary. But criticism without alternative is empty; a hypothesis is only plausible or implausible relative to what alternative hypotheses present themselves. So what exactly is the alternative?

My colleague Professor John Lennox debated another Princeton professor, Peter Singer, one of the world’s most influential atheists. Lennox challenged him to answer this question: ‘Why are we here?’ And this was Professor Singer’s response:

We can assume that somehow in the primeval soup we got collections of molecules that became self-replicating; and I don’t think we need any miraculous or mysterious [explanation].1

Self-replicating molecules somehow emerging out of a primeval soup strikes me as leaving substantial room for mystery. In fact, without further clarification, this theory sounds not dissimilar to a virgin birth. Or take Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking’s latest attempt to propose an atheistic explanation for our universe:

‘…the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.’2

But physical matter doesn’t normally materialize out of nothing, so this account also presents itself as outside the realm of the ordinary. Is this a less miraculous birth than the story of Jesus?

Or, finally, consider the position of the prominent atheist philosopher Quentin Smith:

The fact of the matter is that the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing and for nothing . . . We should . . . acknowledge our foundation in nothingness and feel awe at the marvelous fact that we have a chance to participate briefly in this incredible sunburst that interrupts without reason the reign of non-being.’3

That is a refreshingly honest characterization, but again it is not at all clear why a foundation in nothingness should be viewed as comparatively more reasonable than a foundation in God.

The fact is, we live in a miraculous world. Regardless of a person’s worldview, the extraordinariness of the universe is evident to theists, atheists, and agnostics alike. It is therefore not a matter of whether we believe in a virgin birth, but which virgin birth we choose to accept.

We can believe in the virgin birth of an atheistic universe that is indifferent to us—a universe where ‘there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.’4

Alternatively, we can believe in the virgin birth of a God who loves us so deeply that he ‘became flesh and made his dwelling among us’ (John 1:14). Emmanuel, God with us.”

Ftnt.#1:“Is There a God,” Melbourne, Australia, 20 July 2011.

Ftnt.#2: Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design (New York: Bantam, 2010), 180.

Ftnt.#3: Quentin Smith, “The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism,” Philo 4.2., 2000.

Ftnt.#4: Richard Dawkins, A River Out of Eden (New York: Perseus, 1995), 133.

Vince Vitale, “Everyone Believes In A Virgin Birth,” 6/16/17, on the blog, A Slice of Infinity; electronic ed. accessed on 6/20/17 here: http://rzim.org/a-slice-of-infinity/everyone-believes-in-a-virgin-birth/ [Italics original.]

*Art: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gabrielle_et_Jean,_by_Pierre-Auguste_Renoir,_from_C2RMF_cropped.jpg [Labelled for noncommercial reuse.]