Modern Science Shows the Virgin Birth is Possible

Title: Science Shows the Virgin Birth is Possible

Text: Matthew 1:18-25

Time: December 19th, 2011

 

I just wrote another article for the local newspaper for publication during the Christmas week dealing with the possibility of the Virgin Birth in respect to modern science:

 

The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ: Fact or Fiction?

In the PBS television documentary The Elegant Universe the argument was made for the strangeness of the universe – reality is a lot more mysterious than we ever imagined. As science learns more and more about the way things operate at a sub-atomic level, the more we find that the old Newtonian idea of a perfectly rational and ordered reality is not how things really work. For example, according to Quantum physics a particle might be in two locations at the same time or might arrive at a destination before it departed from its previous location, etc. Now the implication of all of this to the Christmas Nativity event is this – the virgin birth of Jesus Christ can’t be ruled out as scientifically impossible any more by skeptics because of the direction modern science has taken. According to quantum physics, the universe isn’t some closed system that’s locked into a naturalistic loop without any possibility of divine intervention. No. Now science is showing us that at a fundamental level, reality is very unpredictable and that we can’t rule out anything from happening at any time. How did God perform the miracle of the virgin birth? Under the old paradigm, skeptics, atheists and agnostics simply ruled it out as impossible according to the laws of science. But they can’t do so anymore, not with quantum physics and new developments in sub-atomic science, because at this fundamental level of reality the laws of science, as we know them, seemingly don’t apply. Working at the sub-atomic level, God Almighty could easily stir into the mix the recipe for a virgin birth without much disruption at all. Or he could simply stack the statistical odds of certain particles being in one place with a different value – and the result, a virgin conception in the womb of Mary. According to quantum physics when we examine things at the smallest level particles or energy can’t actually be observed but only predicted based on statistical averages. Applying this to the virgin conception in Mary, Jesus’ birth is not impossible, but only a very statistically rare event. But we already knew that, as everyone will agree. So the next time someone gives you the old, “The virgin birth of Jesus is impossible” argument, tell them about quantum physics. With God all things are possible.

 

Now I’m sure I’ll get lots of comments in response to this article, especially around Christmas. But I wanted to get people thinking about the new direction science is heading – and how that helps, not hurts the Christian faith. In another message, I’ll talk about what scientists are calling “parallel universes” and how that opens up possibilities in talking about biblical concepts like heaven and hell. But today, I’d like to focus on modern science and the Virgin Birth – how science is actually opening up doors for making belief in this important and essential doctrine of the Christian faith easier to believe. Let’s turn to the account given in Luke 1:30-35 (read). Let me say three things about what this verse says and modern science.

 

First, under the old scientific view, many people rejected miracles like the Virgin Birth because they contradicted the laws of science. Luke 1:34, “’How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin.’” Sir Isaac Newton was the discoverer of gravity and other fundamental forces and laws of science, and ever since his time the picture of the universe that emerged was mechanistic – or in other words, the universe operated like a giant machine, according to laws at all times and every place. This came about because scientists using mathematics could chart the stars and planets forward and backwards and predict exactly where they’d be. This was all based on the known laws of science. Starting with massive objects like the sun and other planets, scientists could determine a lot of things about the universe, including how it came about and where it’s going. This ability to predict and determine the placement of large objects gave scientists the feeling that other things, medium and even small objects would operate under the same principles. As more and more scientific laws and principles were discovered many people began to dismiss all notions of supernatural miracles, because they felt if the universe operated like a giant machine, then all that was needed for its operation were universal scientific laws, not miracles. They explained the biblical miracles away as primitive explanations arrived at before we discovered scientific laws that explain things better. So then it was only a short jump from this attitude to the outright rejection of all miracles, including the Virgin Birth of Jesus. Christmas is a time of celebration of the birth of Christ – and that birth was a virgin birth. So then when science raises up to discount all miracles of the Bible — that is a direct attack on the Christian faith. Unfortunately, many churches over the last one hundred or so years have simply conceded or surrendered the doctrine of the Virgin Birth away to modern science. You hardly ever hear sermons defending it. Most pastors act like they are afraid to speak or defend the Virgin Birth. And if science can indeed explain everything in the world without reference to miracles, only using natural laws, then that certainly leaves Christians in a very shaky position in trying to communicate the faith as truth in the modern world. This was the situation for most of the 2oth century – and we saw many Christians and churches compromise in respect to the Virgin Birth doctrine. But what’s interesting today – and what I wrote about in the newspaper article – is that science is beginning to head into a new direction, one in which there is more room for miracles, even in the modern world among modern thinkers. Ancient people like the people in Jesus’ day new about the basic laws of nature, such as the improbability of a virgin birth – what was Joseph doing at first, but objecting to Mary’s story of a miraculous conception based on a simple knowledge of the laws of nature? Only later, as more and more laws of science were formulated, scientists and modern people began to get dogmatic and rigid in their rejection of miracles, as if science prohibited it. Well, that’s all changing today. Let me explain.

 

Second, under the new direction of science it’s a lot harder to reject or rule out completely the biblical miracles, such as the Virgin Birth. Luke 1:35, “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.’” The first verse we examined showed Mary questioning the angel, saying, “How will this be, I’m a virgin?” Mary, like Joseph, also knew the basic laws of nature. She knew that since she hadn’t been with any man it was impossible for her to be pregnant with child. Mary reacted a little bit like modern people operating under the old Newtonian paradigm of science that looks upon miracles as a violation of natural law – and to them that’s impossible.  But the angel tries to explain to Mary that natural law isn’t such a fixed and final thing, that God through the Holy Spirit can interrupt and intervene into nature to change things. The supernatural is possible for God. What the new direction science is headed in opens up is the possibility of unpredictable and unplanned change at the sub-atomic level. According to quantum physics, reality at the extreme sub-atomic level isn’t stable and fixed, but instead, it’s jumping around in unstable and unimaginable chaos – only it does follow statistical probability for all the chaos that exists there. The classical laws of nature that Newton and others formulated don’t apply to the sub-atomic level scientists are now saying. If physicists try to operate at the sub-atomic level using the same principles, laws and formulas as used in measuring, studying and predicting larger realities their calculations don’t work. It’s as if there were two separate realities operating in the same universe – the classical laws of science and the quantum laws of sub-atomic particles. But we all know that this just can’t be because reality is one, not two or divided. There must be some way to unify science on larger levels with science at smaller levels, although scientists haven’t yet discovered how to put the two together. What they have discovered is there is chaos and uncertainty and unpredictability at the sub-atomic level. What that means for us as Christians is that we don’t have to be so defensive in defending our faith, especially the biblical miracles like the Virgin Birth, because science now shows that reality isn’t a closed system where everything can be squeezed into a simple formula. A lot is happening out there that can’t be explained, and may never be explained, even in principle. There will always be a degree of mystery because at the sub-atomic level it’s just not possible to pin down or predict what is happening. In terms of how a Virgin Birth could happen we have to remember that all it takes is for God to thrown into the mix slightly different statistical averages of certain particles and suddenly an egg is fertilized and a baby is conceived. Let me talk more about this.

 

Third, as God created the vast universe, the galaxies, the solar systems, the suns, the planets and moons, so too could he create at the small level a Virgin Birth. Luke 1:36, “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible for God.” Elizabeth and her miraculous birth are usually forgotten in the Christmas accounts, but if you remember, according to the laws of nature she shouldn’t have been bearing a child either. Not only is a virgin birth contrary to the normal laws of nature, but so also is a woman giving birth in old age. And the ancient people, even though they were not scientists in the modern sense, they also knew that Elizabeth was beyond childbearing years, just as those who knew about Mary knew that women don’t get pregnant without the help of a man somehow. Under the older scientific paradigm, the old Newtonian mechanistic view of the world, the laws of science were unbreakable; they operated at all times in all places. Supernatural miracles couldn’t happen, for many people, because they contradicted nature itself. But under the newer scientific view, nature isn’t seen as so rigidly mechanical. Scientists began to examine nature at a sub-atomic level and they found that instead of a continuation of the regular, predictable and law-like certainty that they were used to with larger objects, they found unpredictable, uncertain and flat-out strange things happening. In my newspaper article I mentioned the discovery that in some circumstances, sub-atomic particles can arrive – can be measured arriving – at a destination slightly before they leave their previous spot. But how can that be? We all know that you can’t arrive at the church before you’ve left your house on Sunday morning. We all know that you leave your house first, then arrive at your destination, in that order. But in the weird and bizarre world of quantum physics, it appears that things can arrive and leave in different order. Don’t ask me to explain it; I don’t think anyone can. It’s just weird. But that’s what’s happening way, way down at the very bottom of the known reality at the sub-atomic level. Now if strange and weird and mysterious things are already happening at this level of reality, why shouldn’t we expect strange things to pop up once in a while – supernatural miracles even? Normal reality follows the normal course of nature and we understand this and we live our lives based on things being regular and predictable. But we need to be open to the fact that things can happen that seem to violate the normal laws of nature for which there is no explanation other than God.

 

Think about the prophecy in the Old Testament concerning the Virgin Birth of Jesus in Isaiah 7:14, “Behold the virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son, and he shall be called Immanuel, meaning, with us is God.” Then think about what might have happened in the womb of Mary to produce the supernatural, miraculous conception. Something happened that defies all the known laws of science. Scientifically speaking, in order for conception to happen there needs to be a male sperm and a female egg. One-half of the male chromosomes joins with one-half of the female chromosomes and forms a completely new life. That new life begins to grow and nine months later a baby is born. Now how could Mary have gotten male and female chromosomes together in her womb to conceive as a virgin? It’s naturally impossible. Yes, but not impossible for God. Just like the angel said, “For nothing is impossible for God.” How might God have done it? Well, operating at a sub-atomic level, God could have changed the statistical values of the most elementary particles so that instead of going here, they went there. From observing larger objects using classical physics we know that gravity has an effect that can be measured, so even such a force as gravity somehow could have altered the natural course of the particles in the womb of Mary to produce a child. Or, God could have made sure Mary received an extra dose of some kind of invisible rays, gamma rays or ultra-violet or some such known force, which could have altered the particles in her body and thus produced the highly unlikely and statistically improbable result of a virgin conception. But see all of this is possible in the new view of science that admits that it doesn’t know how things operate down at the sub-atomic level, and admits that it might be impossible for us to know anything with certainty at that level, ever. The end result of all this talk about sub-atomic science is that miracles such as the Virgin Birth are no longer things that can be ruled out by skeptics as impossible. We believe in the truths of the Bible because we believe in God and his revelation. We don’t need science and scientists telling us what we can or what we cannot believe. But it’s nice to know that science is moving away from the old view that thought it could explain everything in a nice, neat little formula. There are still scientists who talk about the so-called “Theory of Everything,” but that’s just whistling in the dark. Nobody can explain everything except God. Isn’t it good to know that smart people are starting to take a more realistic and honest view of reality and say, “We just can’t rule out anything, even the supernatural.” This Christmas, let’s give thanks to our God who is bigger than the laws of nature and who can intervene, manipulate or stir up nature at any point at any time as he so wills. He did so in the Virgin Birth of Jesus – and we celebrate it this Christmas. Let’s pray.

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