[Bible, Ministry & More] Historical Reliability: The Virgin Birth

The alternator in my son’s Jeep recently went out. We had to get his vehicle towed to a local mechanic to get it fixed. When the tow truck driver asked where to take the Jeep, I didn’t tell him to a chiropractor, or a pediatrician, or a cardiologist. I told him to take the Jeep to a car mechanic. Someone that is trained in the practice of vehicle mechanics. My mechanic is a specialist in a particular field: auto mechanics. If one were to ask him for advice or counsel on the cardiovascular system, he probably wouldn’t have much to say.  

In most areas of our lives, we seek out experts that can give us knowledgeable and skilled services. In seeking these experts, it is important that we find the right skilled and trained person for the job. People that use the right tools and the right methods for the job.  

If one were to show that Scripture was false because virgins don’t have babies, the point of attack would most likely be the scientific method. From a scientific perspective (that is, from a purely natural perspective), it really isn’t hard to show that virgins don’t have babies. In fact, even we Christians fully believe and know such a fact. So, what are we to make of passages like Luke 1:31-35?  

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be since I am a virgin?”  

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be called Holy—the Son of God.” 

Christians have always believed that Jesus was born of a virgin. In fact, this is an essential doctrine of the Christian faith: remove the virgin birth and one removes the deity of Christ. So if Christians understand that virgins do not have babies, but also believe what Scripture says about Jesus’ virgin birth, isn’t that an inconsistency?  

Ultimately, the answer comes by discussing what science can and cannot tell us. Science—and here I’m discussing physical science, such as, biology, chemistry, physics, etc.—studies the physical world. As Stanley Jaki writes,  

Science…is synonymous with measurements, which are accurate because they can be expressed in numbers. Those numbers relate to tangible or material things, or rather to their spatial extensions of correlations with one another in a given moment or as time goes on. All the instruments that cram laboratories serve the accurate gathering of those numbers, or quantitative data.1 

So, science studies, measures, and explores those things of the physical world. Science cannot and does not tell us anything about the nonphysical (or spiritual) world. It is wholly incapable of such exploration. Science cannot tell us anything about morality, value, the nonphysical (or spiritual) realm, the human soul, etc. But what about miracles? What can science tell us about miracles? Really…not much, if anything.  

Allow me to share a truth with you that isn’t said much in the Western world, something that is a bit scandalous and heretical in some circles: Science is limited. It cannot tell us everything. I know that may come as a surprise to the reader, but it is a truth with which one must come to grips. It is an unfortunate reality that science holds something like a deified status in the secular world. But science is incapable of giving us any information of value regarding the spiritual or supernatural world. That isn’t to say that science is useless. Of course it is extremely useful, but not in all areas of exploration and knowledge. So if someone is trying to argue against the veracity of Scripture, he or she cannot use science to undermine the virgin birth.  

Again, we all agree, scientifically speaking, virgins do not have babies. But when Scripture declares that Jesus was born of a virgin, it is not making a scientific claim. Oh, it is most definitely making a true claim, but Luke is speaking to us not as a scientist, but as a theologian/biblical writer/follower of Jesus. Luke does not speak of the virgin birth as something natural. To him, the virgin birth is a supernatural event. And, thus, the event itself is wholly outside of any discipline that simply studies nature. 

So where does that bring us? That means science is a woefully inadequate tool to show the virgin birth is false. It’s like trying to measure the sun with a hammer. Science can’t do such a thing. Thus, natural science neither undermines our belief in the virgin birth nor our belief in the veracity of the Scriptures that declare it.    

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