Science in Christian Perspective
Letter to the Editor
Reply to Lindskoog on the Virgin Birth
Harold H. Bowerman, M.D.
607 North Grand Ave.
St. Louis, Missouri 63103
From: JASA 29 (September 1977): 141.
I would like to answer and discuss the letter of Kathryn A. Lindskoog on "The Trouble with the Virgin Birth," Journal ASA, 29, 44, 1977). Like me she believes in the truth of the virgin birth. Unlike me, she has not yet given up trying to explain that miraculous sign. She "can't think much about the biological truth of the virgin birth," seemingly because she can't explain it. All miracles were signs. This birth, being different from all others indicates that there is something special about the One so born.Let us consider her questions in order.
1. "Could God have used a kind of parthenogenesis within Mary?" Yes, but if so, a double unexplained miracle occurred, In parthenogenesis, as we know it, the offspring is like its parent (mother), a female, and the New Testament, especially John 1:30, tells that Jesus was a man. A parthenogenic man - God could do it, but did He?
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?" There need be no implications, although there could be. In the ovary during the process of development of the sex cells a cell having the diploid (full) number of chromosomes may not have divided into two cells having the haploid number, as would be usual; this cell with the diploid number may have given rise to Jesus' body. An obvious problem is present; two XX chromosomes and no Y should have produced a female, but Jesus is a man. A miracle is necessary.
The divine nature and human nature blended to make Jesus' personality.
3. "In contrast, do any Christians hold the theory that the Holy Spirit, implanted a zygote (fertilized ovum) within Mary? If that were the case, Jesus was no more a physical descendant 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?" Yes, at least two Christians hold this view - Henry M. Morris and John D. Jess. According to Morris, "Although He was born in the family of David, it must be remembered that neither of His earthly parents was connected with Him genetically. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost and simply placed in the womb of the Virgin Mary - He was not genetically connected by direct heredity to His parents, since He was miraculously placed in an embryonic form into Mary's womb by the Holy Spirit, thus entering the world by the virgin birth." Transplantation of fetuses has been successfully done in cattle and in monkeys, and the offspring was born from a female that was not the genetic mother. What's wrong with the theory is that it contradicts Old Testament prophecies and New Testament conclusions. If the theory were true, Jesus would not be the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15), was not a descendant of David; although possibly a human being, He would not be a member of our human race and should not have been called Son of Man. This is a very dangerous explanation.
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." At first thought this might seem acceptable. The need for a human male parent is eliminated; there is only the human parent, a woman. But the prophecy is, "A virgin shall conceive and bear a son." In nature a virgin can conceive, but a virgin does not bear a son; the female is not a virgin after conception, whether conception is by intercourse or by artificial insemination. If Mary received a sperm from God, was she a virgin? This theory reminds us of some ancient pagan accounts of cohabitation between women and gods.
5. The question has the same objections as question 4. The use of a celestial sperm bank eliminates virgin conception, wherever the original source of the sperm may be. If God used a sperm from Joseph, Joseph and Mary might just as well have had normal sexual intercourse to produce Jesus. The idea of "twenty-four unfallen chromosomes" from Adam is one of the many mental gymnastics to protect the God-Man, Jesus Christ from original sin - as if God needed any protection.
6. "My final question sounds zany," - Perhaps so, but it is sincere. In this paragraph God has a time machine, takes something from one moment of time and uses it at a time before its actual existence. Since we say that God can do anything, we won't say that the explanation is impossible, but it seems very improbable.
The final paragraph of Mrs. Lindskoog's letter says, "In conclusion, I am willing to happily accept mystery at the point where human reason and knowledge fall short." This is what Christians did for nineteen centuries; they believed in the virgin birth without explanations. It seems that only in this century have Bible-believers tried to explain the virgin birth. Some preach their explanation as if it were Bible truth, We know no more about how God produced the physical body of God Incarnate than we do about how He put together the elements to make the first man.
Let us accept the facts as recorded in Scripture. We need not accept extra biblical explanations. With a trusting mind as of a little child we may believe the divine mysteries, for Jesus said, "Unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18:3). Extra-biblical explanations, even from Bible-believers, can be anti-biblical.