Here are my comments in square brackets on a webbed article about the virgin birth of Jesus, sent to me by a former member of my now-terminated Yahoo list.
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 11/11/2005 11:00:57 PM
Jesus and genetics: Thorny questions revolve around Christ's Y chromosome By Faye Flam Knight Ridder Newspapers
Darwin's evolution still stands out as the thorniest point of contention between science and religion, but other more recent scientific advances also raise new questions for believers.
How, for example, does the 20th century's biological revolution influence the Christian concept of virgin birth? Where did Jesus get his DNA? His Y chromosome?
[First, what is "the Christian concept of [Jesus'] virgin birth"? As a Protestant I will only defend that view, which is that "virgin birth ... means virginal conception" of Jesus (and not "the baby [Jesus] passed out of Mary's body in such a way as to leave her medically still a virgin"):
"VIRGIN BIRTH. By virgin birth the Protestant means virginal conception. The Roman Catholic believes both in the virginal conception and in a miraculous virgin birth, whereby the baby passed out of Mary's body in such a way as to leave her medically still a virgin. This idea in the Protevangelium of James (late 2nd century) became a standard doctrine as part of the idea of the perpetual virginity of *Mary. It is unlikely in view of Luke's quotation of `every male that opens the womb' (2:23) and Matthew's statement that Joseph `knew her not until she had borne a son ... Jesus' (1:25), which seems to rule out the view that Joseph and Mary abstained permanently from normal marital relations (* BRETHREN OF THE LORD). In this article we use virgin birth as the equivalent of virginal conception." (Wright J.S., "Virgin Birth," in Douglas J.D., et al., eds., "New Bible Dictionary," , Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester UK, Second edition, 1982, p.1238. Emphasis original)
The virgin birth (i.e. virginal conception) of Jesus is taught directly in the gospels of Matthew and Luke and indirectly in the other two gospels (Mark and John) and the letters of Paul:
"The two accounts of the birth of Jesus in Matthew and Luke are clearly independent of one another, and both record that he was born through the direct action of the Holy Spirit without a human father (Mt. 1:18-25; Lk. 1:34). If it were not for the miracle involved, anyone would accept the record as adequate. There is supporting evidence in the rest of the NT. Although a person may not say directly what he believes, he shows his belief by a turn of phrase. Thus Mark has no birth narrative, since he starts where the preachers in Acts start, namely, with the baptism by John. Yet in 6:3 he alone of the Synoptists quotes objectors as saying, `Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?' By contrast Mt. 13:55 has `the carpenter's son', and Lk. 4:22 `Joseph's son'. John also begins Christ's earthly ministry with the Baptist. Later he indicates that there were rumours about the illegitimacy of Jesus when in 8:41 the Jews declared, `We (emphatic pronoun and emphatic position) were not born of fornication.' ... Paul, the companion of Luke, uses language that implies acceptance of the virgin birth. When he speaks of the coming, or birth, of Jesus Christ, he uses the general verb, ginomai, not gennao, which tends to associate the husband (e.g. Rom. 1:3; Phil. 2:7). This is particularly marked in Gal. 4:4, where `God sent forth his Son, coming (geno menon) from a woman'. By contrast in 4:23 Ishmael `was born', gegennetai (from gennao'." (Wright, 1982, p.1238. Emphasis original)
As to "Where did Jesus get his DNA? His Y chromosome?", these are relevant questions because the historic, orthodox view of Jesus was that "He is fully God and fully man":
"The portrait of the incarnate Christ is clear. He is fully God and fully man. Taking on a human nature did not involve mixing divine attributes with human, nor converting one nature to the other. In the words of the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), Jesus Christ was `truly God, and the same truly man,' one Lord `manifested in two natures, without confusion, without conversion, indivisibly, inseparably. The distinction of the natures being by no means abolished by the union, but rather the property of each preserved and combined into one person and one hypostasis, not one severed or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten, viz., God, Logos, and the Lord Jesus Christ. [Schaff P., ed., `The Creed of Chalcedon,' in `The Creeds of Christendom: With a History and Critical Notes,' Baker: Grand Rapids MI, 1931, 2:62-63]" (Feinberg J.S., "The Incarnation of Jesus Christ" in Geivett R.D. & Habermas G.R., eds., "In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God's Action in History," Apollos: Leicester UK, 1997, p.231)
and therefore would have had both "DNA" and a "Y chromosome". The short answer to "Where did Jesus get his DNA? His Y chromosome?" is, by the power of God through the Holy Spirit:
Luke 1:34-35 "`How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, `since I am a virgin?' The angel answered, `The Holy Spirit will come upon 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.'"To speculate as to how this was done, it seems that, "the Holy Spirit fashioned the necessary genes and chromosomes that could be the vehicle of Christ's person in uniting with those in the body of the virgin":
"We now know that the female ovum contains half the forty-six chromosomes that are in every other cell of the human body. The male sex cell adds the other twenty-three, and immediately the two cells, now one, begin to divide, and build up a complete body, mind and spirit. If without irreverence we ask how the ultimate mystery of the incarnation can be linked to the physical, it would seem that, in order that the Second Person of Trinity might become man, the Holy Spirit fashioned the necessary genes and chromosomes that could be the vehicle of Christ's person in uniting with those in the body of the virgin. We can begin to see how the Christian definitions rightly describe him as one person, since he was conceived by the union of cells by which a single person is produced, and of two natures, since the cell which united with the human ovum was of divine, and not human, origin." (Wright, 1982, p.1238. Emphasis original)
A number of scientifically minded Christians have come forward during the Dover "intelligent design" trial to say they accept that ordinary humans arose through purely natural processes, no intelligent design needed. But it's another thing to accept that the Lord and Savior was conceived through an act of sex.
[The virgin birth of Jesus is indeed a problem for "scientifically minded" (i.e. naturalistic) Christians like Roman Catholic biologist Kenneth Miller, who was a key witness against ID in the "Dover `intelligent design' trial" and "say they accept that ordinary humans arose through purely natural processes [with] no intelligent design needed". Miller, in his book "Finding Darwin's God" admits that "The Christian God isn't a deist one" (which is ironic since if Darwin had a God, it was "a deist one"!) and that "A key doctrine in my own [Roman Catholic] faith is that Jesus was born of a virgin, even though it makes no scientific sense-there is the matter of Jesus's Y-chromosome to account for":
"The Christian God isn't a deist one; neither is Allah, or the God of Abraham. Any God worthy of the name has to be capable of miracles, and each of the great Western religions attributes a number of very specific miracles to their conception of God. What can science say about a miracle? Nothing. By definition, the miraculous is beyond explanation, beyond our understanding, beyond science. This does not mean that miracles do not occur. A key doctrine in my own faith is that Jesus was born of a virgin, even though it makes no scientific sense-there is the matter of Jesus's Y-chromosome to account for. But that is the point. miracles, by definition, do not have to make scientific sense. They are specific acts of God, designed in most cases to get a message across. Their very rarity is what makes them remarkable." (Miller K.R., "Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution," , HarperCollins: New York NY, 2000, reprint, pp.239-240)Phillip E. Johnson has pointed out the inconsistency of Miller "claiming to believe in an event while saying that it makes no scientific sense, especially since he is vigorous in judging all other claims of supernatural influence on the natural world by the standards of science":
"Other theistic evolutionists do accept individual miracles, although generally in a tentative or defensive way that suggests a certain embarrassment. Kenneth Miller, a Roman Catholic cell biologist and skilled platform debater for Darwinism, writes in his book Finding Darwin's God that `a key doctrine in my own faith is that Jesus was born of a virgin, even though it makes no scientific sense-there is the matter of Jesus' Y-chromosome to account for. But that is the point. Miracles, by definition, do not have to make scientific sense. They are specific acts of God, designed in most cases to get a message across. Their very rarity is what makes them remarkable.' I suspect that most of Miller's materialist colleagues will wonder how serious he can be in claiming to believe in an event while saying that it makes no scientific sense, especially since he is vigorous in judging all other claims of supernatural influence on the natural world by the standards of science. If he makes this one exception then why not others, and how does he decide where to draw the line? They may also wonder what Miller could possibly mean by his quest to `find Darwin's God,' when it is so widely known in the scholarly world (and even to Miller himself) that Darwin in his later years was an agnostic." (Johnson P.E., "The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism," Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove IL., 2000, pp.90-91)
In fact it is impossible that Jesus could be "the Lord and Savior" (in the sense of being both God and man) and be "conceived through an act of sex" since "If a child had first been conceived through the act of Joseph and Mary ... God could not then become this man":
"In fact genetic considerations may with caution be used to show that the incarnation necessitated the virgin birth. If a child had first been conceived through the act of Joseph and Mary, there would have been a potential and complete man from the beginning. God could not then become this man, but would either have to attach himself in some way as an extra (Nestorianism), or be content to fill him spiritually as the Holy Spirit filled holy men of old. Neither of these concepts fits the biblical picture. It is since the rejection of the incarnation and of the virgin birth that all sorts of new theories have emerged as to how Jesus Christ was God." (Wright, 1982, p.1238. Emphasis original).]
For centuries it was understood that sex preceded pregnancy, but what exactly happened to create the baby was shrouded in mystery. Not until the 1600s, with the advent of the microscope, did scientists learn about the role of sperm in triggering development.
[Indeed, it is "Modern genetics" that has given further "insight into the possible mechanics of the Incarnation" and enabled "a reply to those who contend[ed] that the incarnation of the Lord is scientifically impossible" and has been "a help in the difficulties which some in the early centuries and the middle ages had in their speculations on how two natures could become one":
"Our knowledge that a foetus receives a complete set of 23 chromosomes from each of its parents gives insight into the oneness of Christ's nature. Those of Divine origin and those of the Virgin would pair and fuse (in the sense of producing gametes), resulting in the one personality, fully divine, fully human, without sin. This insight into the possible mechanics of the Incarnation is a reply to those who contend that the incarnation of the Lord is scientifically impossible. It is also a help in the difficulties which some in the early centuries and the middle ages had in their speculations on how two natures could become one. Modern genetics reveal that the alleles from both parents make one person at conception. The statement `That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit', shows how God was the Father and the Virgin Mary the mother. Also, the fact that DNA is a code demonstrates how the speech, or `Word', of God, recorded upon the nucleic acids, would form the real genetic contribution from the Divine side. We see how that Christ was fully and truly man, and yet not two natures, but God-man, not God and man, thus illustrating physically what had been arrived at theologically by earlier divines. Yet ultimately our only authoritative source for the doctrine of the Incarnation is still the revelation of God in Holy Scripture. We could not discover such things through the medium of science, but having received the revelation of God, we can note that increasing discoveries in science do show how it could come about, and justify the terms of reference, hitherto not fully understood by us, which God's revelation uses." (Pearce E.K.V., "Who Was Adam?" Paternoster: Exeter UK, 1969, pp.139-140).]
Sperm aren't always necessary. Some female lizards, fish and other creatures can procreate through parthenogenesis (Greek for virgin birth). Cloning allows something similar in mammals.
But there's a problem with arguing Jesus came about through cloning or parthenogenesis - he would have been born a girl. In the past few decades, science revealed that to be male you need a Y chromosome, and the only place you can get one is from a man.
[Agreed, this is the first show-stopper for naturalistic `explanations' of the virgin birth of Jesus (there is a second, even bigger one), "if a virgin birth could have occurred, Jesus should have been a girl, not a boy":
"Leaving aside the question of illegitimacy, raised in Matthew 1:19 (`Then Joseph her husband, being just a man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily ...'), virgin humans simply do not have babies. Scientists, however, are not content to accept the lack of evidence of virgin births in humans, and seek underlying factors to explain why women are incapable of such births. The laws of nature do not forbid virgin births: eggs can develop of their own accord, for example, in bees or aphids, by a process called parthenogenesis. This is the case for around one in every 1,000 species. However, from a scientific viewpoint, if a virgin birth could have occurred, Jesus should have been a girl, not a boy. The key limitation governing virgin births is that the genetic recipe for the offspring must, of course, come from the mother alone: in the case of Jesus, all his genes must have come from Mary. Under normal circumstances she would only have the genetic wherewithal - in humans, a bundle of genes called the X-chromosome - to make a female. For Mary to have given birth to a boy by parthenogenesis, she would also have had to have a Y-chromosome, a package of genes that separates the girls from the boys. Everyday sex turns the gender of a child into a lottery by mixing the chromosomes of each parent. This lottery takes place when egg greets sperm. An egg contains the mother's genetic instructions and an X-chromosome. Girls occur when the sperm adds an X-chromosome to the X already present in the egg, and boys when the sperm adds a Y- chromosome to the X-chromosome in the egg. We can better under-stand why boys are conceived by studying the genetic cargo of the Y-chromosome. All chromosomes, X or Y, contain a double helix of the chemical DNA, tightly twisted into coils within coils. This chemical medium is the genetic 'message', spelling out genes by different sequences of four chemical units or `letters'. For the purposes of the Virgin Birth, the most relevant gene is one on the Y-chromosome called SRY. This triggers the construction of male sex organs and so on. If Mary had passed on a Y-chromosome, it suggests that she herself carried a working Y- chromosome. This creates difficulties for the scientist, since it would have led to her possessing male characteristics as well as being sterile. Nonetheless, the above discussion does admit the possibility that a baby girl could result from a virgin birth." (Highfield R., "Can Reindeer Fly?: The Science of Christmas," , Weidenfeld & Nicolson: London, 2001, pp.36-38)
"There's a big split over the Y chromosome issue," says Boston University theology professor Wesley Wildman. One thing Catholics and Protestants seem to agree on is that Jesus was fully human and male, so he must have carried the usual male quotient of DNA. It's not the Y chromosome he needed per se but a gene called SRY normally carried on the Y.
[Presumably the "big split over the Y chromosome issue" would be between naturalistic (i.e. anti-supernaturalistic) pseudo-Christian theologians who rule out the miraculous apriori and therefore are forced to reject the virgin birth of Jesus as at best a pious fraud, and true Christian theologians who accept that the virgin birth of Jesus was a supernatural miracle.]
Occasionally this male-making gene gets moved off the Y, giving rise to an infertile XY woman. In a few cases men are found to have two X chromosomes, but such XX males turn out to have this critical fragment of the Y stuck on one of the other 22 chromosomes. That fragment of the Y has to come from a father.
[At this point it is worth mentioning the second show-stopper for naturalistic `explanations' of the virgin birth of Jesus, and that is "imprinting", i.e. mammals require genes from both a mother and father for viable embryonic development:
"Sometimes an unfertilized human egg will begin dividing. This self- activated `embryo' will create rudimentary bone and nerve, but seems unable to make some tissues, such as skeletal muscle, preventing further development. The end product is a strange form of tumour, a blend of hair and teeth known as a derrnoid cyst, or teratoma. Because human parthenogenetic development never gets further than this, it suggests that barriers to development without a father were set early in mammalian evolution. The most profound of all has only recently been recognized: it is a phenomenon called imprinting. In addition to the X- and Y- chromosomes that distinguish the sexes, there are twenty-two pairs of other chromosomes in humans, each carrying around 30,000 genes, each of which contributes a protein to the recipe of a human being. The process of imprinting ensures that the developing embryo relies on genes from both the mother and the father. In the early eighties scientists realized that genes from the mother's chromosomes do some jobs, while genes from the father's perform others. ... Imprinted genes carry a biochemical label that reveals their parental origin and determines whether or not they are active inside the cells of the offspring. One is suppressed and inactive while the other is fully functional, depending on the parent who donated them. Jesus would have found it tricky to make do with one parent's genes. Imprinted paternal genes have been found to be responsible for the development of the placenta, while imprinted maternal genes are involved in the growth of the embryo. ... imprinting would have made it tricky for Mary alone to have equipped baby Jesus with all the necessary genetic machinery. Complete failure of imprinting, and thus of any co-operation between maternal and paternal genetic instructions, seems likely to be lethal: as far as we know, no mammal conceived by parthenogenesis has ever been born in the wild (though some of these imprinting rules may have been broken by the cloning methods used to make Dolly the sheep)." (Highfield, 2001, pp.39- 40. Emphasis original).]
Biology professor David Wilcox of Eastern University, a Christian college, said some aspects of reality may lie beyond the reach of science. "Of course Jesus had DNA and a Y chromosome - and the source for half of that DNA [and the Y chromosome] would presumably be pure and simple miracle," he says.
Theology professor and ordained minister Ronald Cole-Turner said standard Christian thought attributes the virgin birth to God's intervention in the natural order, not a biological anomaly. "It's not God's sperm ... but God created something like a sperm and caused it to fertilize Mary's egg," he says.
Wildman says it's not as big a problem for Protestants like him to accept a non-virgin Mary as it is for Catholics who revere her. The Bible is ambiguous on the point, he says, since in the original Hebrew Mary is referred to as "almah," a word that can mean virgin or young girl.
[The only reason why `theologians' like Wildman "accept a non-virgin Mary" (i.e. in the conception of Jesus: "Protestants ... accept a non-virgin Mary" after the conception of Jesus), given that the virgin birth of Jesus is clearly taught in the New Testament, is that they have a prior commitment to naturalism. That is, they have allowed their minds to be taken "captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ" Col 2:8). As to "The Bible is ambiguous on the point ... since in the original Hebrew Mary is referred to as "almah," a word that can mean virgin or young girl", since the New Testament is in Greek, presumably Wildman is referring to the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin [Heb. `almah] will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." But then it is false that "The Bible is ambiguous on the point", since "'almah, in every passage [in the Old Testament] in which this word is indisputably used, means maiden" (as opposed to bethulah which means `unmarried woman' but not necessarily a virgin (e.g. in the case of a widow):
"[Matthew 1:22,23] As to almah versus bethulah [the] fact is that while the latter means virgin in Gen. 24:16; Lev. 21:3; Judg. 21:12; in Joel 1:8 it probably refers to a non-virgin, a widow who during the early years of married life had lost her husband, whom she now laments. On the other hand, an 'almah, in every passage in which this word is indisputably used, means maiden (Gen. 24:43; Exod. 2:8; Ps. 68:25; Prov. 30:19; Song of Sol. 1:3; 6:8). It refers to a girl, like Rebecca, before she had even seen Isaac, and like Miriam, Moses' sister. The logical inference would seem to be that also here in Isa. 7:14 the meaning is basically the same. Luther's challenge still stands: `If a Jew or Christian can prove to me that in any passage of Scripture almah means a married woman, I will give him 100 florins, although God alone knows where I might find them.' ...The opinion of [a] renowned Old Testament scholar... may be added for further confirmation of this position:`The word 'almah...is never used of a married woman, either in the Bible or elsewhere. The new evidence from Ras Shamra is strikingly interesting on this point." With respect to bethulah this author writes, `The word in question is ambiguous. Does it mean a virgin, a betrothed virgin, or a married woman? I am convinced that it may mean any one of the three.' He continues: "Isaiah [in Isa. 7:14] used the one word in the Hebrew language ['almah] which is never employed of a married woman. ' Further, `In English the word 'almah is perhaps the most closely approximated by maid or damsel. The word virgin, however stresses the supernatural character of the birth, and hence is to be preferred. In no case should the word in this passage be translated by the vague and weak term young woman." [Young E.J.; "The Virgin Birth" in The Banner, April 15, 1955]" (Hendriksen W., "New Testament Commentary: The Gospel of Matthew," , The Banner of Truth Trust, 1982, reprint, p.137)The fact is that the 2nd century BC translators of the Old Testament into Greek (Septuagint), rendered the Heb. 'almah in Isa 7:14 as Gk. parthenos "virgin", as does the Apostle Mathew in his quoting of it in Mat 1:23:
"[Matthew 1:22-23] "... Luke 1:31 probably alludes to the same verse, Isaiah 7:14, indicating that it was not only Matthew who saw its relevance to the birth of Jesus; by the middle of the second century (Justin) it was an important Christian weapon in defence of the virgin birth tradition. But its relevance is often disputed on two grounds. First, it is argued that Matthew depends on the Greek word parthenos (virgin), whereas the Hebrew 'alma means only 'young woman'. 'Alma is in fact used only seven times in the Old Testament, of girls or young women, at least two of whom were unmarried (Gn. 24:43; Ex. 2:8). It is not used elsewhere in connection with childbirth (or even marriage), so that its use in Isaiah 7:14 is remarkable, when 'issa ('woman', 'wife') would have been the normal term. It was perhaps this indication that Isaiah was thinking of a birth outside the normal pattern of childbirth within marriage which led the LXX to use parthenos. It is a reasonable, if not a necessary, translation. The second objection is that Isaiah 7:14 promises a sign specifically referring to the immediate historical situation in the reign of Ahaz, not to the distant (Messianic) future. The immediate historical reference is clear in vv. 14-17, but it is also clear from the wider context that the prophet's thought is, as often in Old Testament prophecy, not confined to that primary reference. The reintroduction of 'Immanuel' in Isaiah 8:8, 10, and the recurrent theme of a child to be born as deliverer (9:6-7; 11:1ff.), indicate that 7:14 is to be seen as preparing the way for a developing Messianic theme in this section of Isaiah. Clearly the LXX translators, with their striking use of parthenos, understood it to refer to more than an ordinary birth, and the choice of 'alma in the Hebrew as well as the symbolic name 'Immanuel' suggest that they were right.'" (France R.T., "Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary," Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester UK, 1985, p.79. Emphasis original)
But a natural conception was problematic to early Christian thinkers, Wildman said, because St. Augustine and others believed original sin was passed on "through the male via the loss of control associated with the male orgasm."
[This may or may not be a factor for "St. Augustine and others", but the main reasons why "a natural conception [of Jesus] was problematic to early Christian thinkers" (and later ones too) are: 1) the New Testament clearly teaches a virginal conception of Jesus; and 2) the Incarnation requires it (see above).]
That's why Catholic thinkers introduced the concept of immaculate conception, a term often misunderstood as the conception of Jesus, but which really refers to the conception of Mary herself. Her mother need not have been a virgin, but somehow God blocks the passage of original sin.
[This in no doubt true of "why Catholic thinkers introduced the concept of immaculate conception," but the latter is not in the Bible (which is why Protestants reject it), and anyway it does not refer to the virginal conception of Jesus.]
But for Jesus, a miraculous manufacture of genetic material would imply there's a sequence of genetic code designed by God himself God's own approved DNA. That would have big implications for those who believe in the premise of The Da Vinci Code - that Jesus had children and his lineage continues to the present day.
[Those "who believe in the premise of The Da Vinci Code" believe that Jesus was just a man, yet his claimed wife and mother of his children, Mary Magdalene, was a goddess! This is one of the many contradictions of the book: if Jesus was merely a man, then who cares if he "had children and his lineage continues to the present day"? But it is wrong on both premises: Jesus was not merely a man and he never married or had children-even the dubious gnostic sources cited by Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code don't say that!]
"The bottom line for me: I think the virgin birth is a mistaken belief," Wildman says. "I also think that this need have no impact whatsoever on Mary's and Jesus' moral and spiritual importance."
[Wildman is deluding himself. If "the virgin birth is a mistaken belief" then Jesus was not God for starters. Given the things that Jesus said about himself, if he was not God, then he (and Mary) would be either massively deluded or the world's greatest fraudsters:
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or some thing worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." (Lewis C.S., "Mere Christianity,"  Fount: London, 1977, reprint, p.52)
That might not have "moral and spiritual importance" to Wildman and his fellow naturalistic pseudo-Christian `theologians' but it would have plenty "moral and spiritual importance" (of the worst sort) to most people (including me). I don't know much about Wildman, but I suspect that he is among "The overwhelming majority of those who reject the Virgin Birth [and] reject also the whole supernatural content of the New Testament":
"The question, then, does not concern the historicity of this miracle or that; it concerns the historicity of all miracles. That fact is often obscured, and the obscuration of it often introduces an clement of something like disingenuousness into the advocacy of the liberal cause. The liberal preacher singles out some one miracle and discusses that as though it were the only point at issue. The miracle which is usually singled out is the Virgin Birth. The liberal preacher insists on the possibility of believing in Christ no matter which view be adopted as to the manner of His entrance into the world. Is not the Person the same no mutter how He was born? The impression is thus produced upon the plain man that the preacher is accepting the main outlines of the New Testament account of Jesus, but merely has difficulties with this particular element in the account. But such an impression is radically false. It is true that some men have denied the Virgin Birth and yet have accepted the New Testament account of Jesus as a supernatural Person. But such men are exceedingly few and far between. It might be difficult to find a single one of any prominence living to-day, so profoundly and so obviously congruous is the Virgin Birth with the whole New Testament presentation of Christ. The overwhelming majority of those who reject the Virgin Birth reject also the whole supernatural content of the New Testament ... The issue does not concern individual miracles, even so important a miracle as the Virgin Birth. It really concerns all miracles." (Machen J.G., "Christianity and Liberalism," , Victory Press: London, 1968, reprint, pp.108-109).]
A nonvirgin birth would, however, seem to raise the spiritual capital of sex.
[No claim is made in the Bible either way about the virgin birth of Jesus' significance for "the spiritual capital of sex", whatever "St. Augustine and others" may have thought. The virgin conception of Jesus was the means whereby God chose to unite with a human nature in Jesus and it is difficult (if not impossible) to think of any other way that God could become incarnate in a man. The virgin birth of Jesus is either true or false. If true, then modern science has shown even more clearly that it had to be a supernatural miracle:
"THE Virgin Birth of Jesus has become more miraculous than ever, thanks to the advances in our understanding of what turns a fertilised egg into a baby. ... Recent research reveals that every birth is the culmination of a genetic battle. Hostilities are between genes from the mother and those from the father. You might think that if one army deserted the battlefield in the womb, as in a virgin birth, the other army would rejoice in victory. But it turns out that babies need the competition and co-operation of both armies. For millions of years, maternal and paternal genes have co-operated in development to produce offspring, while also vying to get the upper hand. Remove one set, however, and the pregnancy halts or leads to an abnormal birth: women need men to reproduce, and vice versa. We inherit two copies of each gene, one from each parent, but for some genes we use the copy from only one parent. Scientists now realise that one reason for this is imprinting, a mechanism that can switch genes on and off, depending on whether they come from the mother or father. Imprinting is not universal, because many creatures reproduce without sex. If females alone produce offspring, the process is called parthenogenesis and the offspring is female. If males do it, it is called androgenesis. (Here, the sharp-eyed reader will spot one scientific issue regarding the Virgin Birth: Jesus should have been female, discussed below.) Sexless reproduction abounds. Examples range from the timber rattlesnake to species of the Basilisk lizard, sometimes called the `Jesus Christ lizard' for its ability to walk on water. Even the turkey can do it. But humans have nothing to do with parthenogenesis and androgenesis. The reason is imprinting, which turns on certain genes in sperm but not in eggs, and vice versa. `Imprinting is a very severe block,' commented one pioneer in the field, Prof Azim Surani of the Wellcome and Cancer Research Campaign Institute of Developmental Biology and Cancer Research in Cambridge. Prof Surani reasoned that organisms with a gift for parthenogenesis should lack imprinted genes. Sure enough, creatures such as snakes and reptiles do not use imprinting. Among vertebrates, imprinting is exclusive to mammals such as humans and occurs when a gene is chemically modified by a process called methylation. Once methylated, the gene is silent. At least 40 genes with diverse functions during development are thought to be regulated this way. When imprinting goes awry the effects are serious. Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes, marked by mental retardation and a host of problems, occur when a baby inherits two maternal copies of chromosome 15, or two paternal copies, respectively. In each case, the baby will have copies of a key gene on chromosome 15, but they have come from the mother when they should be from the father, or vice versa. Imprinting prevents them from working. This same genetic division of labour almost certainly thwarts virgin births." (Highfield R., "An immaculate misconception," Daily Telegraph, 21 November 2001)
If false, then Jesus was just a man and he and his followers were at best deluded and at worst deliberate fraudsters. There is no third option. Each of us must chose one or the other, and then accept the consequences of our choice.
While we are on the topic of "sex", I found this quote by Highfield:
"Miracles aside, the Virgin Birth raises another issue dear to the hearts of scientists: why did sexual procreation evolve at all? Our most primitive ancestors emerged some 3,850 million years ago, but sex itself began only about 1,000 million years ago. Before then, all creatures presumably existed as clones. In his book The Evolution of Sex, John Maynard Smith of Sussex University maintains that there is a gap in our basic understanding of why sex evolved. `I have been wondering about this for fifty years but I don't claim to have solved the problem,' he told me. `The problem has been that, in the short run, abandoning sex would be an enormous advantage, at least for females.' Calculation illuminates the joys of reproducing without sex: sexually reproducing females on average produce one female offspring, while asexually reproducing ones, who rely on virgin births, will produce two. Thus, among a colony of asexually and sexually reproducing individuals, the former would quickly dominate. So why is it that females go through all the fuss and bother of finding a mate and then dilute their genes with those of a male in any resulting offspring?" (Highfield, 2001, pp.34-35)which I have added to my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE 8.3 "Problem of sex".]
PS: I have started a project "Paley's design argument" in which I will post as `tagline' quotes, excerpts from Paley's Natural Theology (1802), with a link to that section in which I have inserted the quote, with no other comment.
"IN crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer, that, for any thing I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to shew the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that, for any thing I knew, the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch, as well as for the stone? Why is it not as admissible in the second case, as in the first? For this reason, and for no other, viz. that, when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive (what we could not discover in the stone) that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that, if the several parts had been differently shaped from what they are, of a different size from what they are, or placed: after any other manner, or in any other order, than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would've been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use, that is now served by it." (Paley W., "Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature," , St. Thomas Press: Houston, TX, 1972, reprint, pp.1-2. Emphasis original.)