Christmas cookies are beyond the realm of my diet, and the virgin birth of Christ is beyond the realm of science, but I plan to enjoy both this Christmas.
I am finding that many young people are reading books by the new atheists such as Richard Dawkins whose book The God Delusion is out-selling Miracles by C.S. Lewis 10 to 1 on Amazon. I write this because many mistakenly think science is the test of all truth.
Popular author, professor and scientist Dr. Richard Dawkins (a die-hard atheist) says, “…I suspect that alleged miracles provide the strongest reasons that many believers have for their faith, and miracles, by definition, violate the principles of science.” I say Amen! Yes miracles do violate the principles of science, like Christmas cookies violate the principles of a good and healthy diet. Let me explain. By definition miracles must violate the principles of science.
Science deals with the ordinary. Scientific discoveries seem extraordinary only when they are new and sometimes life-saving, for example wonder-drugs would have been working all along if we had discovered them sooner because they operate by the principles of science that have been in place since day one. Who gets excited about penicillin or the polio vaccine now? We are thankful, but these are ordinary not miracles, but the virgin birth is miraculous.
I define a miracle as an extraordinary act of God that overrules nature. This word “extraordinary” is no doubt the part of the definition of miracle that most troubles Dawkins. If something is “extraordinary” it may not therefore be available for scientific testing. However, if something is common and repeatable it cannot be a miracle, it would be ordinary. The news would be bah-humbug-boring if virgins conceived babies all the time. But the exciting news is that the virgin birth of Christ was foretold by the prophecy given to Isaiah around 734 BC. The scientific method requires continual testing and such extraordinary events cannot be tested by the scientific method. Repetition is a basic requirement of true scientific knowledge. The virgin birth of Christ is beyond scientific reach.
For clarity let’s substitute some synonyms in Dawkins’s statement. The scientific method equals ORDINARY, and miracle equals EXTRAORDINARY. Now let’s put these substitutions in Dawkins’s statement. “…I suspect that alleged miracles provide the strongest reasons that many believers have for their faith, and EXTRAORDINARY (miracles), by definition, violate the principles of THE ORDINARY (science).” Dawkins wants to exclude the extraordinary because it is not ordinary. What Dawkins does is violate a fundamental law of thinking: the law of non-contradiction. “Extraordinary” and “Ordinary” are not the same and cannot be the same. Dawkins demands a contradiction which can never make sense. He has trouble accepting what so many scientists have accepted and that is that science has limitations.
Science is not the test of all truth. Science has not told us how life began. You would think that a book on origins would say something, but Charles Darwin doesn’t even mention how it all started. Science has not told us why there is something rather than nothing or where this something called matter (earth, stars, elements, elephants & electrons) came from or how something could come out of nothing. Scientific testing even makes mistakes sometimes. Many drugs that drug companies are being sued over were scientifically tested and considered safe at one time. Science is not the test of all truth, especially truth that is extraordinary.
Christmas cookies are beyond the realm of my diet, and the virgin birth of Christ is beyond the realm of science, but I plan to enjoy both this Christmas. Like all people, I will eventually face death, I am very thankful that the resurrected Christ has the virgin birth on the historical record. We need a forgiving Savior who has overcome nature especially in matters of birth and death!
Jim Thornton is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and lives in Johnson City, Tenn.