A Virgin Shall Conceive

Nativity Scene, Photographer: Ian BrittonI suppose it’s natural around Christmas time to think more about God, especially God with us, God Incarnate, God taking the form of a baby. And certainly my recent discussions regarding the existence of God have propelled my thoughts in that direction as well.

Now I am reading C. S. Lewis’s book Miracles which is much more of an apologetic for God and His work in the world than I had realized. Interestingly, I can see more clearly why Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, calls himself the anti-Lewis. The thing is, because Lewis had himself been an atheist, he could anticipate the arguments an atheist would make against the Supernatural.

Unsurprisingly, the miracle Lewis refers to with some frequency is the virgin birth. Here are some of his thoughts in answer to the argument that people of old believed in miracles because they didn’t have the scientific knowledge we have now.

You will hear people say, “The early Christians believed that Christ was the son of a virgin, but we know that this is a scientific impossibility.” Such people seem to have an idea that belief in miracles arose at a period when men were so ignorant of the course of nature that they did not perceive a miracle to be contrary to it. A moment’s thought shows this to be nonsense: and the story of the Virgin Birth is a particularly striking example. When St. Joseph discovered that his fiancé was going to have a baby, he not unnaturally decided to repudiate her. Why? Because he knew just as well as any modern gynecologist that in the ordinary course of nature women do not have babies unless they have lain with men. … When St. Joseph finally accepted the view that his fiancé’s pregnancy was due not to unchastity but to a miracle, he accepted the miracle as something contrary to the known order of nature. All records of miracles teach the same thing. In such stories the miracles excite fear and wonder (that is what the very word miracle implies) among spectators, and are taken as evidence of supernatural power. If they were not known to be contrary to the laws of nature how could they suggest the presence of the supernatural? How could they be surprising unless they were seen to be exceptions to the rules? And how can anything be seen to be an exception till the rules are known? … If St. Joseph had lacked faith to trust God or humility to perceive the holiness of his spouse, he could have disbelieved in the miraculous origin of her Son as easily as any modern man; and any modern man who believes in God can accept the miracle as easily as St. Joseph did.

There’s more. Good stuff, important to recall when we are approaching the celebration of that which is impossible except for the God with whom all things are possible.

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3 Comments

  1. Lewis is just so logical and sensible, isn’t he? Clear-thinking.

    Thanks for copying that for us. I haven’t read any Lewis in years. I may have to re-read some. Miracles may be a good place to start. Or maybe The Great Divorce.

    Thanks, Becky.

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  2. I think it’s imperative to mention that in order to convince Joseph his wife-to-be’s pregnancy was supernatural, an angel told him! Let’s hear it for the miraculous means of an unlimited Lord.

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  3. Sally, I agree that Lewis had a way of making a philosophical argument seem so clear and logical. I suspect this is why he could write children’s books.

    I haven’t checked yet but part of the quote I included today (Friday) sounds it was either a prompt for or a reaction to his space trilogy. I want to look up his works in Wikipedia and see whether the trilogy or Miracles came first.

    Nicole, your point is well taken! Without Joseph’s interaction with the miraculous, he most likely would have continued to operate on the assumption that what he understood of nature was correct and Mary was … deluded or seduced. Otherwise, God would not have needed to intervene and change his thinking.

    Becky

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