Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


In Defense of Edward Kessel
Richard H. Bube

753 Mayfield Ave.
Stanford, CA 94305

From: JASA 36 (March 1984): 64.

I am concerned to learn of some of our readers who felt that the article, "A Biological Interpretation of the Virgin Birth," by Dr. Edward Kessel, published in the September 1983 issue of the Journal ASA, was theologically offensive. Perhaps a few comments will help clarify the editorial decision to publish the paper and some of the mistaken notions of its critics.

Dr. Edward Kessel is a devout Christian with many years experience in the field involved in his paper. I know that it is his desire to exalt his Lord, and not in any way to lessen his Deity. Readers of the article who see in it an attempt to attack the person of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, must recognize that this is totally their own emotional reaction and neither the purpose nor the result of this article. Implications of such an attack cannot be obtained from the paper itself.

The manuscript was duly circulated to several reviewers of the Journal and their suggestions for revisions were duly incorporated before publication.

Violent objections to this paper must come, it seems to me, from the classic and tragic fallacy of believing that a mystical event incapable of scientific description is somehow more properly seen as having supernatural significance than an event that is capable of scientific description. The church has stumbled on this fallacy repeatedly through recent centuries, and sadly it still remains an unconscious inheritance from the past.

God is free to act in whatever way He will. The Bible establishes the fact, the truth, and the meaning of His actions. Ordinarily the Bible does not give us the specific process by which human beings might be able to describe God's activity. The fact of the Virgin Birth and all of its theological significance is established by the biblical relevation. How God took the ovum of a single woman and caused it to develop into a male human being is not told us by the Bible. It may have been by a fiat act that defies all scientific description. Or it may have been by a process that can at least partially be scientifically described. The Bible does not tell us this, and we cannot presume to know how God accomplished His purpose. If we have the opportunity to investigate and explore possible ways in which God may have accomplished His purpose, it is right and good for us in this way to "think God's thoughts after Him."

Dr. Kessel does not claim that the Virgin Birth did occur according to the processes described in his paper. He merely suggests that it might have occurred this way in the accomplishment of God's purpose to become sinless mankind through the Virgin Mary. And if it did, he is delighted to discover, it would have been a remarkably appropriate way for the Lord Jesus to be a biological representative of all human kind, both male and female.

However unusual and off-beat this paper might be considered to be, I do not believe that any thoughtful reader can accuse the author or the Journal ASA of publishing material damaging to the person or cause of Christ.