A Virgin Shall Conceive

When I first started this blog, I anticipated writing more posts about fiction, understood from a Christian worldview. As it’s happened, I’ve ended up writing more posts about the Christian worldview than I do about fiction. And what better time to do so. I mean, Christmas is not exclusively a religious holiday, but it nevertheless does have religious significance. And not just religious. Christian meaning!

We aren’t celebrating the birth of any old god. Rather, Christmas rivets our attention on Jesus, the Christ, who entered the world as a baby.

The first miraculous part of His coming was His conception. His mother Mary was a virgin. Clearly anyone reading the Christmas story must question this. I mean, how many virgins do we know who get pregnant?

Interestingly, C. S. Lewis addresses this very subject in his book Miracles. This volume is much more of an apologetic for God and His work in the world than I had realized. As an aside, I can see more clearly why Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, called himself the anti-Lewis. But 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 common atheist 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.

Good stuff, important to recall when we are approaching the celebration of the Incarnation. At every turn concerning Christ’s birth, there was a miracle. It’s helpful to remember that the things which seem impossible are impossible, except for God who can do the impossible.

This post was inspired by one that appeared here in December, 2007.

The “Manination” Of Animals

Manination. It’s sort of the opposite of incarnation. But let me explain.

A day or so ago the news carried a story about a first that is bizarre even for Hollywood. It seems Uggie, the canine star of the Oscar Award winning movie The Artist became the first dog to have his paw prints immortalized in cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

You know, that’s the tourist trap hot spot where all the famous stars have their Stars on the sidewalk. So now, along with the hand prints of actors like Cary Grant and Lucille Ball, you can visit Uggie’s paw prints.

Uggie’s, I thought, not Lassie’s or Rin Tin Tin’s? Not even Benji’s? I mean really. Uggie?

But then I saw the look on the poor dog’s face as his trainer took hold of his front paws and pressed them into the wet cement. It was the most forlorn look. A sort of despairing, “What are they doing to me” look mixed with, “If I have to, I have to.”

What next, I thought. We already dress dogs up with hats and holiday outfits. We have TV shows about them and dog health insurance. We even have dog spas and boutiques.

Of course for this celebration there was at least a nod to Uggie’s dogginess. After all, they gave him a fire hydrant shaped cake.

Really? you might say. A cake? Dogs generally don’t consider fire hydrants things to eat!

I’m with you on that. They also don’t usually wear bow ties or walk the red carpet, but apparently Uggie is breaking the barriers.

As I thought about this for a bit, I realized that all the training and pampering is entirely for our benefit. Uggie would undoubtedly be content chasing a ball with a ten-year-old boy or running around some farm or basking in the shade of some suburban home.

He’s a dog.

He has no aspirations for wealth or fame. Yet we, in our infinite wisdom, have decided to make Uggie humanish. We find it cute to force him into these poses and postures not natural for a dog.

How typical of Mankind. We talk a good game–all about caring for the environment and preserving endangered species, but the species we have around us on a daily basis, we want to make over in our own image.

How unlike God who came to earth in our likeness. Rather than dressing us up as little gods and prodding us to pretend we are doing what He’s doing, He came to earth to live like us so we could actually know Him as He is, so we can in truth become like Him.

I wonder how many of these faithful dog owners would volunteer to become a dog so they could be closer to their dog.

Jesus Christ stooped far more than that when He left Heaven. What’s more, He did so knowing full well that His reception wouldn’t be of the Hollywood-style Red Carpet variety.

Imagine there was a pet owner brave enough to become a dog in order to help all dogs know and understand their owners better, but instead, the dogs formed a pack and tore that owner to pieces. That’s a picture of what Jesus endured.

That’s a picture of the Incarnation, not the Manination we are forcing on dogs these days. Quite different, how we act and how God acts, don’t you think?

Published in: on June 27, 2012 at 5:38 pm  Comments (3)  
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