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From: JASA 29 (March 1977): 44-45.
I believe in the biological truth of the virgin birth. That is easy. But it isn't enough.
I can't think much about the biological truth of the virgin birth, because I can't find any comment anywhere on the obvious alternatives we have to sort out in order to think clearly about the subject. (How much do we really value a creed if we don't care to think about it?)
Here are the six questions about the virgin birth that block me.
1. Could God have used a kind of parthenogenesis within Mary? (As I recall, parthenogenesis is full development of an egg into an animal without benefit of fertilization. It occurs in nature in certain lower animals and has been accomplished in laboratory experiments with certain more complex animals.)
2. If the ovum was never fertilized, then Jesus' genes were all from Mary. What are the biological implications of that for the kind of man Jesus was? What could have been the nature of his chromosomal pattern?
3. In contrast, do any Christians hold the theory that the Holy Spirit inplanted a zygote (fertilized ovum) within Mary? If that were the case, Jesus was no more a physical descendent of Mary than of Joseph, but her body nurtured Him without contributing any genetic material. Would this tie in with Christ being the second Adam, a new creation?
4. The only alternative I can see to the two ideas above is the idea that God implanted a sperm full of chromosomes into Mary's body to unite with her ovum. Is that an acceptable idea to orthodox theologians? Supernatural insemination.
5. If God created or transferred a certain sperm into Mary and united it with an ovum, what genetic code did He use? Surely not His own, I assume. Could He have drawn a sperm of David from a ''celestial frozen sperm bank'' so that Christ was literally the SON of David? (Here, of course, I am talking about the code, not the speck of material.) Did God use a sperm from Joseph? Or could Christ actually be the Second Adam genetically in that the sperm He grew from carried Adam's exact chromosomal pattern? (This, in contrast to the David theory, would give him twenty-four unfatlen chromosomes out of forty-eight.)
6. My final question sounds zany, but I don't mean to be profane. I ask it in reverence. All time is now to God, I truly believe. Jesus was fully God and fully man. As a true human man, Jesus had sperm in His testicles, didn't He? Those sperm had genetic codes. Perhaps God took one of those sperm from Jesus' mature body and moved it back in time (from our point of view) and implanted it inside Mary to unite with her ovum to form Jesus in her womb. So He was physically the Son of God because He was His own father. If this idea is out of court, why?
In conclusion, I am willing to happily accept mystery at the point where human reason and knowledge fall short. But won't some perceptive Christians who know biology guide me to that given point? I can't get there on my own.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)