From The National Post: The trouble with Mary

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Jordan Peterson has an easy way to prove to most everyone they are a person of faith. It is not faith as one normally thinks of it at this time of year -- that the Son of God was born to a virgin Jewish woman in a stable in a not-so-great part of Bethlehem about 2,000 years ago -- but there is a connection.

"I presume that you assume that the future is real," said Prof. Peterson, who teaches psychology at the University of Toronto and has studied the impact of belief on society. "The future is an immaterial entity. It's composed entirely of possibility. So your belief in it is an axiom of faith."

Across town, Archbishop Thomas Collins, whose responsibility is the region's 1.7 million Catholics, said he believes in quarks, the little particles that are one of the two most fundamental components of the physical universe. Archbishop Collins has never seen a quark and nor has anyone else. They are, he said, like so many other things we take on faith, beyond our human comprehension.

"In this world there's a lot more than can be caught in the coarse net of secular and rational reasoning," said Archbishop Collins. "The imperfect instrument of the human reason is profoundly valuable, but it cannot capture everything. And the Virgin Birth is certainly something that doesn't fit into it. Mysteries and miracles are simply things that boggle the mind. But they are real and they are profound."

Read it all.

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Posted January 29, 2008 at 6:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Sidney wrote:

Archbishop Collins has never seen a quark and nor has anyone else. They are, he said, like so many other things we take on faith, beyond our human comprehension.
No, no, no.  Some beliefs are supported by more evidence than others.  There is much more evidence for the existence of things like atoms (not sure about quarks) than there is for the Virgin Birth.  Stop putting these beliefs in the same category.

January 29, 8:10 pm | [comment link]
2. the roman wrote:

1. Sidney wrote: “Stop putting these beliefs in the same category.”

Aren’t they in the same category if both are subject to empiricism?

January 29, 8:54 pm | [comment link]
3. Clueless wrote:

One believes in those things that cannot be seen, because of their effect on the world around them.

Thus, I believe in magnetic forces (which I cannot see) due to the effect that a magnet has on metal in its vicinity.  Something made my hairclip move.  The atomic scientist tells me that it is a force called “magnetism” this seems quite likely to me.

Similarly, I believe in the resurrection because I can think of no other explanation for how 11 terrified men hiding in Jerusalem would become 11 heroes preaching in the streets 3 days later, and a force that peacefully transformed the Roman empire hundreds of years later, despite increasing and relentless persecution.  Something caused that transformation.  The Church tells me that it was the working of the Holy Spirit, and I have no reason to believe that it was not.  Certainly it was not magnetism, whatever it was.

I believe that the Catholic church (despite her many and obvious failings) is Christ’s primary link to the world for much the same reason.  Despite persecution, forced conversions, and banning in England, there are still more Catholics in England, than in the state subsidized “Church of England”.  The same can be said for Catholics in China and elsewhere.  Why should the church not have been stamped out or dwindled into nothingness, given how unprofitable it usually has been, through out human history to be Catholic?

The Catholic church tells me that the Virgin Birth happened.  The veracity of the virgin birth is not “obvious” to me, the way the veracity of the Resurrection is obvious to me.  However the existence of quarks are not obvious to me the way the existence of magnetism is obvious to me.  However if atomic scientists whom I trust on things that make sense and are obvious like magnetism tell me that quarks exist too, well, I am willing to believe it, or to at least not argue the point, since I have no desire to argue from the point of ignorance.  I accept the teachings of the Catholic church on the subject of the Virgin Birth for the same reason.

January 29, 9:27 pm | [comment link]
4. Words Matter wrote:

Like Sydney, my first thought was that the existence of quarks can be inferred by mathematical means. Historical events, however, are based on the testimony of persons present at the event. Of course, modern man has more or less innoculated himself against historical testimony, so events such as the Virgin Birth are relegated to speculation, conveniently dismissed as “unscientific”. 

Well, there being no biological proof of the VB, it is “unscientific”. However, to say that it can’t have happened because it violates nature moves beyond “unscientific” to a realm in which purported “laws of nature” are the supreme element. That’s a different animal and, perhaps in it’s own way, unscientific.

January 29, 9:31 pm | [comment link]
5. sophy0075 wrote:

Given that we mere humans can clone mammals, why is it so difficult to believe that God can create Himself in human form through a virgin?

January 29, 9:48 pm | [comment link]
6. Ross wrote:

The question (for me, anyway) is not so much whether God could have brought about the Incarnation by means of a virgin birth—I take it as given that God could do so if he wished—the question is whether that’s the only or best way that God could have done it.  I have a lot of trouble accepting “only,” and essentially no data on which to evaluate “best.”  So I’m agnostic on the Virgin Birth.

January 29, 10:04 pm | [comment link]
7. archangelica wrote:

Brilliant analogy. Thank you for this.

January 29, 11:52 pm | [comment link]
8. azusa wrote:

# 6, Ross opines: ‘the question is whether that’s the only or best way that God could have done it.  I have a lot of trouble accepting “only,” and essentially no data on which to evaluate “best.”’
A wonderful exemplification of the dictum that many people would like to serve the Lord, but chiefly in an advisory capacity. As for ‘data’, the rest of us will have to settle for the testimony of two evangelists.

January 30, 3:53 am | [comment link]
9. Ross wrote:

“Advisory capacity”?  Either you misunderstood my point, or I’m misunderstanding yours, because I can’t make that barb make sense; but either way I’m too tired to try to sort it out right now.

But as far as the “testimony of two evangelists,” that puts us right back at the nature of Scripture, doesn’t it? ...which, as has been discussed ad nauseum here, is somewhere near the root of what divides us.

January 30, 4:15 am | [comment link]
10. CharlesB wrote:

Somewhere in the Alpha Course material there is a statement by a famous mathematician concerning the probability of prophesies concerning Jesus occurring.  It is a staggering, very large number.  Assuming that the virgin birth is one of these prophesies, and based on the large statistical probability of all the other prophesies being true, I think you could say there is scientific evidence to support the belief in the virgin birth.  I do anyway, as I profess the Creeds, and says so right there, “Born of the Virgin Mary.”

January 30, 7:22 am | [comment link]
11. Chris Molter wrote:

Doubt in the Virgin Birth is doubt in the immanence of God.

January 30, 9:45 am | [comment link]
12. libraryjim wrote:

There is an interesting article in Christianity Today online that addresses Evangelicals and Mary.  One passage stands out as very relevant to this thread:

Especially since the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy of the 1920s, belief in the virgin birth has been a test of evangelical orthodoxy; its denial is still likely to get one fired from most evangelical schools. Despite fervently advocating this doctrine, however, evangelicals may have missed two important aspects of its meaning.

First, evangelicals have defended the miraculous character of the virgin birth because they see it undergirding the deity of Jesus Christ. The virgin birth teaching arose in the early church from a different concern: namely, as a way to affirm that the Son of God was truly human. “Away with that lowly manger, those dirty swaddling clothes,” Marcion had cried. Marcion denied that Jesus had ever been humanly born at all. How could one so deeply divine be associated with messy diapers and afterbirth?

Against all such antimaterialism, Ignatius of Antioch declared in one of the early creedal expressions of the Christian faith that Jesus was “truly born, truly lived, truly died.” That word truly resounds like a gong throughout the writings of the second century.

In defending the virgin birth as a supernatural reality, evangelicals have frequently been more concerned with Mary’s virginity than with her maternity. But Mary was not merely the point of Christ’s entrance into the world—the channel through which he passed as water flows through a pipe. She was the mother who cared for the physical needs of Jesus the boy. She nursed him at her breast and nurtured and taught him the ways of the Lord. Doubtless she was the one who taught him to memorize the Psalms and to pray, even as he grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and others (Luke 2:52).

The God-bearer

Evangelicals can and should join with other Christians in celebrating the virgin Mary as theotokos: or as historian Jaroslav Pelikan translated the classic theological word, as “the one who gave birth to the one who is God.” This title takes us back to the debates about Christology in the fifth century.

The teacher Nestorius did not like to give Mary the title theotokos. He preferred to call her christotokos, “the bearer of Christ.” This is because he understood the divinity and humanity of Christ to function as two separate compartments not intrinsically related to one another. Believing that this portrayed a schizophrenic kind of Christ who could hardly be understood as one undivided person, the Council of Ephesus (431) declared Nestorius’s teaching heretical and recognized the title theotokos, God-bearer, as an orthodox way to describe Mary.

The purpose of the title was not so much to exalt Mary as to assert the unity of divinity and humanity in her son. For this reason, both Luther and Zwingli strongly affirmed this title. While Calvin had reservations about the way “mother of God” (as theotokos was rendered in Latin) could be misunderstood, he too embraced the doctrinal truth this title was meant to convey. Most evangelicals today would agree with Calvin in finding “mother of God” language strange, if not inappropriate, but we should not miss the crucial Christological issue at stake in this ancient debate. We use God-bearer language to describe the mother of Jesus, not in order to exalt Mary unduly but to confess Christ completely, to assert that the beloved Son of the Father was “born of a woman”—God manifested in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16).

The whole article runs SEVEN PAGES, but is well worth the time taken to read it all.

Jim E. <><

January 30, 1:15 pm | [comment link]
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