Monday, December 25, 2006

The nativity story #1

A happy Christmas to all my blog's readers!

[Graphic: "The Nativity Story (2006)," Yahoo.]

I had been thinking about something to post for Christmas, and had tried unsuccessfully to find anything suitable on the Web.

Then in our church's Christmas Eve Sunday morning service one of our pastors who had just seen the movie, "The Nativity Story" (which I haven't yet seen) preached on Joseph's part in it.

So I decided to write about the nativity story (i.e. the birth of Jesus) in my own words, based mainly on the Gospel accounts in Matthew 1:18-25; 2:1-6 and Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-40, commenting especially on those aspects that have implications for creation/evolution.

Mary and Joseph were residents of Nazareth (Lk 2:39) then a small town in Gallilee, in northern Israel, during the reign of King Herod the Great (37-4BC) (Mt 2:1; Lk 1:5). They were descendants of King David, Joseph through David's son Solomon (Mt 1:6-7,16) and Mary through Solomon's younger brother Nathan (Lk 3:23,31-32). They shared the same great-grandfather if Matthan (Mt 1:15) was Matthat (Lk 3:24) and would then have been second cousins.

Mary "was pledged to be married to Joseph" (Mt 1:18; Lk 1:27) which is stronger than our engaged to be married, in that Joseph was called Mary's "husband" (Mt 1:18) and it would require a "divorce" to break the engagement (Mt 1:19).

However, "before they came together" sexually (Mt 1:18) and indeed before Mary had sexually known any man (Lk 1:34 KJV), that is while she was still "a virgin" (Lk 1:27), Mary "was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit" (Mt 1:18).

God had sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to tell her that she had been chosen by God to "give birth to a son ... Jesus" who "will reign over the house of Jacob forever" and "will be ... the Son of God" (Lk 1:26-35). Mary had then given her consent to becoming pregnant with "the Son of God" by "The Holy Spirit" (Lk 1:38).

This child Jesus would be the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah ~700BC that "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (Isa 7:14), which means, "God with us" (Mt 1:23). That is, this child Jesus would be God in human form (Mt 1:23; Jn 1:1,14; 8:58-59; 10:32-33; 20:27-28; 28:19; Acts 20:28; Rom 9:5; 2 Cor 13:14; Php 2:5-6, Col 2:9; Tit 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2) living here on Earth as a human with humans for, as it turned out, ~35 years!

When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant he assumed that she had been unfaithful to him and had resolved "to divorce her quietly" (Mt 1:19). However, "an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream" and told him "to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." (Mt 1:20).

As C.S. Lewis pointed out, "Joseph ... knew just as well as any modern gynaecologist, that in the ordinary course of nature women do not have babies they have lain with men" (Lewis, C.S., "Miracles," Fontana: London, 1963, p.50. My emphasis). Modern science has since confirmed that, due to genetic imprinting, it is naturalistically impossible for any mammal, including humans, to have a viable virgin birth, since "Recent research reveals that ... [human] babies need the ... co-operation of both ... maternal and paternal genes" and "This .... genetic division of labour almost certainly thwarts virgin births":

"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 ... babies need the ... co-operation of both ... maternal and paternal genes ... 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 ... 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 ... Cambridge. .... 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. .... This same genetic division of labour almost certainly thwarts virgin births." (Highfield, R., "An immaculate misconception," Daily Telegraph, 21 November 2001)

So it is clear that if this sober account of the fulfilment of supernatural prophecy given ~700 years in advance of the virgin birth of Christ through Mary, the supernatural intervention of angels sent by God to prepare the way for that virgin birth, and the virgin birth of Christ itself (which hundreds of millions are celebrating today), is not factually true, then Christianity would be false.

On the other hand, if this account is true, then the two main philosophical underpinnings of evolution: Materialism (i.e. matter is all there is = there is no God) and Naturalism (i.e. nature is all there is = there is no supernatural = there is no God) would be false. There is no middle ground.

Continued in part #2.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).

Genesis 32:22-32. 22That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." 27The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. 28Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome." 29Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." 31The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob's hip was touched near the tendon.


Anonymous said...

Very nice essay,Stephen,thank You very much.
I like to read Your articles,in both Your blog and Your webpage.
I have things I read recently.What do You think about them?Could You have any comments?
I'll split them into few different comments.
Owen Gingerich,Research Professor of Astronomy and of the History of Science at Harvard University and a senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory:
"The future of homo sapiens.(forecasting the species)"
"Philip Morrison, a professor emeritus at MIT and an astute observer of the scientific scene, says he would give homo sapiens "about 10 million years." That, he says, is the typical lifetime for a complex species. Certainly the fossil record demonstrates that extinction is the name of the game. It is not reasonable to expect humankind to be exempt from the general rule."
"To me, 10 million years seems an unreasonably long time for the survival of homo sapiens...."
"If homo sapiens are still on earth 10 million years from now, it will be in zoos or special preserves, as throwbacks much like Przewalski's horse is today. Evolutionary biology and anthropology give me this reading, which is neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but realistic. Cosmological eschatology, with its timescale of many billions of years, is irrelevant when measured against any reasonable scenario of future human existence on earth or in the cosmos. "
Next one is from the Gingerich's
"Is the Cosmos All There Is?"
"I believe it is neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but simply realistic. Our universe is going to go on for billions of years without us. Our temporal span is as fleeting as our spatial position is minuscule."
These 2 articles pretty much reflect Gingerich's essay "Eschatology : Cosmic Versus Human" from George Ellis book "Far-Future Universe"
Note: Owen Gingerich is well-known as believer,and by no means atheist!

Stephen E. Jones said...


>Very nice essay,Stephen,thank You very much.
>I like to read Your articles,in both Your blog and Your webpage.


>I have things I read recently.What do You think about them?Could You have any comments?

Sorry, but they are not comments to my post, but entirely new topics.

They are, in effect, you publishing on my blog! I am not saying that you realised this and are not sincere.

I have published this first comment to communicate with you that I simply do not have the time to respond to every off-topic individuals send me.

So I am not responding to this on principle and I am rejecting the other two.

Sorry. All I can offer you is for you to read my blog and other pro-ID blogs on my blogroll and I am sure that most of your questions will be answered on them over time.

Stephen E. Jones