Virgin-Born Rabbits

In recent years, one scarcely sees either a strong defense of the importance of the Virgin Birth to Christian faith or an outright attack against it as scientific nonsense and a handicap to faith. Why the apologetic shift to other battlegrounds? In part this miracle has become domesticated, making it easier for some people to believe. What with “virgin-born” rabbits and sober scientific explanations that virgin births are really not all that surprising, some even took seriously the claims of a contemporary English woman that her child, too, was virgin born. The qualification that only female offspring could come from a virgin birth seemed a trivial objection. The case against the virgin birth of Christ almost reduced itself to “We don’t like novelty.”

A major shift in world view has accompanied this scientific attitude of sweet reasonableness toward a virgin birth miracle, and has provided its broader context. Somehow, at the end of the twentieth century, it seems far less important to show that acceptable religion must fit into a natural and rational framework. The world had proved to be far more mysterious and unpredictable than we had imagined. Yesterday’s wonder has become today’s commonplace. Miracle no longer seems the same formidable obstacle to faith as previously. Of course, by the same token, many no longer see it as proof of any particular religion, demanding a verdict.

Emil Brunner represents a sort of halfway house between the older rationalistic approach to the Virgin Birth and the more value-oriented, existential approach to theology. In his early work The Mediator, for example, he attacked the Virgin Birth as a “biological interpretation” of the real miracle—the Incarnation. It represents, ...

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