Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Silly objections to miracles

There are actually some good arguments against miracles, but today, I just want to talk about some bad ones. These aren't objections to miracles in general; they are objections to specific miracles in the Bible.

The occurence of miracles in the Bible is a serious obstacle to faith for some people. Imagine, though, that there were no miracles in the Bible at all. Recall from a previous entry that I defined a miracles as an event in the natural world whose cause is not natural. Any direct act of God in the natural world, then, is a miracle. If God never acted in nature, though, there'd be no reason to be a Christian. I don't see how Christianity could exist if God never acted in nature. Isn't that ironic? If God doesn't act in nature, then we should forget about Christainity, but if God does act in nature, and the Bible records it, then we should forget about the Bible.

Anyway, back to the topic. Since Christmas just happened, I might as well use the virgin birth as an example. When a person objects to this event on the basis that virgins do not give birth, they're essentially objecting to the fact that it's a miracle, and miracles don't happen. So their objection is really to miracles in general, and the virgin birth is just an example of a miracle. But some people will accept that there could be miracles, and they object to the virgin birth for a different reason. But given their acceptance of miracles in general, this objection seems completely silly to me.

The objection is that Jesus was male. You see, to get a male, the father has to contribute a Y chromosome. Women don't have Y chromosomes. But if Mary was a virgin when she conceived, then there was no father to contribute a Y chromosome. With no Y chromosome, Jesus should have been female. The fact that he was male proves that Mary was not a virgin.

Do I even have to point out the silliness of this argument? If a person accepts that the virgin birth could have happened as long as Jesus turned out to be female, then the person has accepted that miracles can happen. If miracles can happen, then God can act in nature. If God can act in nature, then why couldn't he create a Y chromosome? If God created life to begin with, one measly little Y chromosome is going to be no problem for him. I suppose a person could say that God is powerful enough to produce a virginal conception, but not powerful enough to produce a Y chromosome at the same time. On what basis, though?


At 12/27/2005 11:38 AM , Blogger Jeff said...

It seems like a variation on the theme that "God would do it this way".

As if He could coax an egg in to dividing and growing without providing a Y chromosome (such as cloning) yet couldn't have provided additional DNA to create a unique human.

Definitely bad logic. But we see this all the time in theological discussions too. We tend to put God in a box (there are boundaries we CAN put on him, but we should be careful). Ever heard the statement: "My God wouldn't..." (often heard in discussions of Calvinism).

At 12/27/2005 2:20 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Oh yeah, I've heard the "My God wouldn't..." from people who aren't even Christians. I had a history teacher use the "My God wouldn't..." in class one day. He said his God wouldn't punish anybody. I remember thinking, "Wow, your God literally lets people get away with murder."

At 12/27/2005 9:39 PM , Blogger Steve said...

i think people's objection to miracles in the Bible deals more with the fact that all these miracles happened thousands of years ago, prior to cameras and scientific explanations for locus attacking crops, or the sea turning red from plankton.

Today, the miracles are long gone and christians now speak of daily, small miracles. there's nothing wrong with that at all, but I wonder if the miracles in the Bible are simply things that could have rational explanations.

case in point: mary didn't want joseph to know she cheated on him, so, it was immaculate conception!

At 12/28/2005 12:54 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Steve, if you consider the span of time the Bible covers, even the miracles in the Bible are few and far between.

The immaculate conception isn't the same thing as the virgin birth. The immaculate conception has to do with Mary being without original sin from the time she conceived.

At 12/28/2005 3:08 AM , Blogger Steve said...

ah i see, thank you for correcting me! I didn't know that.

But, that being said, i think my point stands, which is that the miracles of the bible all happened a long time ago, before science was capable of explaining the phenominon.

At 12/28/2005 9:21 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Well, Steve, I think that's definitely a legitimate argument against miracles. It's not really an argument that miracles can't happen, but an argument that they probably don't, or at least that a lot of the claimed miracles are not really miracles after all.

But you know, even if there are natural causes to things, that doesn't completely take away their miraculous nature. God does use secondary means sometimes. If some storm blew up to "part" the Red Sea just as Moses lifted his staff, we might say it had a natural cause, but gosh, you gotta admit it's a pretty big coincidence that the natural event happened at just the right time.

At 12/29/2005 10:06 AM , Blogger Sprocket said...

I'm not a catholic, but I have understood ...

The immaculate conception has to do with Mary being without original sin from the time she conceived.

... that the immaculate conception was on the part of Mary's mother (Anne?) conceiving Mary (who is help to be without original sin).

Curious are the rationalizations of the mind of man ... Christ couldn't have been born of a virgin due to the Y chromosome? But 2 Xs from a female will never join either -- the X ovum will only accept a preferred X or Y sperm.

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

Furthermore, it isn't a stretch to see the complete duality of the nature of Christ.


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