Bible Think Tank

This site is designed to help you interact with others about God's Word. I further some thoughts we developed during morning and evening gatherings at church. I have my NT translations from the original Greek to English. Also, I have book reviews and other current events.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Biology of Sin and the Incarnation of Jesus


The Reformation of God's Church initiated by Martin Luther in 1518 and continued to this day began out of a desire to begin and end on God's Word, the Bible. We believe and put into practice only those things that are expressly taught in the Holy Scriptures. This has been and remains to be a clarion distinction between the Protestant Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. With that being said, I begin today's discussion of the biology of sin and the Incarnation of Jesus.

How Does One Become a Sinner?

This is a hugely important question and (as all hugely important questions always are) is answered in wildly divergent ways. For most of Catholic Church history and all of Reformed Church history, the answer is: we inherit a sinful nature at the time of our conception just as the saint, King David expressed in his Psalm of confession "Truly I was sinful since birth, sinful since the time my mother conceived me" (Ps 51:5). Paul echoes this in his Spirit inspired discussion of salvation: "you were dead in your trespasses and your sins,... but He made you alive together with Christ" (Eph 2:1, 5).

The question of who I inherit my sinful nature from is one very different. Is it mom? Is it dad? Is it something biological, or does God pronounce me thus insofar as I am a descendant of Adam, the sinner? And if it is something that I inherit apart from anything I have done, how does Christ not inherit it?

I always heard that we are imputed with it due to Adam's fall in the garden, but that imputation is inherited through the male parent and not the female. The only proof for the male and not the female was a logical one, since Christ did not inherit a sin nature. He had no human father, but He did have a human mother, so obviously the sin nature is inherited through dad and not mom. It always bugged me that even the learned theologians are careful to spell everything out Biblically, except for this one, they prove it logically.

I'm No Techno-Biologist, But I Am a Thinker

I don't have a firm grasp on the intricacies of cloning or genetics, but I do know the basics human genes. Normal, healthy humans have 46 chromosomes. 23 from dad, 23 from mom. At conception the sperm's 23 get into the egg which holds the other 23 and oh-la-la, we've got a human embryo. One of the male sperm's 23 chromosomes is either an X-shaped or a Y-shaped and this determines if the offspring is a boy or a girl. Girls are all X's and boys are all X's with one Y. That is where my bio-knowledge ends.

We've been hearing a lot about human cloning these days. I am not up to speed on my news, so I don't know how far scientists have taken us, nor if they even should be going as far as they could. But I hear something about taking the guts of a sperm and the guts of an egg and frappeing them and putting the mush into an empty egg, making a baby distinct from mom and dad. This is just human-controlled conception.

Well, what would happen if you took 23 from an egg and 23 from another egg and frappe-ed and put it in an empty egg. Different from mom and mom. Life... 46 chromosomes. No dad. Theology time: has this human embryo inherited a sinful nature. No father from whom to inherit the sinful nature. We could have a whole strain of human that are innocent. I don't know if we can do this yet or if we could ever possibly do this, but I bet there would be a whole segment of the population that would want to (i.e. lesbians). I am also of the conviction that our view of inherited sin is currently lacking and will be thoroughly lacking whenever science surpasses this threshold.

Why Jesus REALLY Had No Sin Nature

Let's go over what we know about Jesus' Natures.

1. Jesus was born from Mary
2. Mary was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:18)
3. The conception was caused by "the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (Lk 1:35).
4. She remained a virgin until after He was born (Mt 1:25).
5. His Father was God in a different way than God is our Father (Jn 8:41-47, Rom 8:14-17).
6. He was in the beginning with God and He is God. (Jn 1:1)

Does any of this add up to Jesus Christ being a biological descendant of Mary? The Bible is not a science book and it never claims to be. God desires us to accept the virgin birth of Jesus Christ on faith. But nowhere in the Scriptures can we make the case that He was OR He wasn't the biological offspring of Mary. He was carried by and delivered by her. A modern parallel might be the image of a surrogate mother, who carries a baby during gestation for a couple who can not physically carry a baby to term. She raised Him and nurtured Him throughout His youth and she followed His ministry and was at His execution. She should be admired and imitated for her faith in something we treat very casually.

The Celestial Flesh of Jesus

Menno Simons picks up on the lack of foundation for a Jesus-Mary relation and further develops a view called the celestial flesh of Jesus. This celestial body view is just that, namely, Jesus physical body was created in heaven and implanted into the empty womb of Mary. There has no Divine Sperm that impregnated Mary's egg. There was no miracle which took any of Mary's genetic material, but rather a miracle which ex nihilo fashioned the embryo within her womb.

Menno has written:

"Our doctrine and belief is that this same Word, Wisdom, and First-born, as we have confessed, in due time descended from heaven, and that He became a true, mortal man subject to suffering and death by the power of the most High and His Holy Spirit, not of Mary but in Mary, above all human comprehension."
and elsewhere
"We confess and say, and that in accordance with the Lord's Word, that the Scripture exempts none from sin but Him that is free indeed, namely, Christ Jesus. . . whereby it is plainly shown that He is not of Mary's flesh."

Menno received this understanding from Melchoir Hoffman, another Anabaptist. Hoffman wrote in Truthful Witness that

"We have now heard enough that the whole seed of Adam, be it of man, woman, or virgin, is cursed and delivered to eternal death. Now if the body of Jesus Christ was also such flesh and of this seed. . . it follows that the redemption has not yet happened. For the seed of Adam belongs to Satan and is the property of the devil. Satan cannot be paid in his own coin."

Menno makes a lot out of the phrase, "I am the bread that came down out of heaven" in John 6:32-33. What is this bread? you ask. "This bread is my flesh" Jesus replies (v51). Simple logic. Bread from heaven... bread = flesh... therefore flesh is from heaven. It is interesting that they all knew exactly what Jesus meant, for they bicker amongst themselves: "At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, 'I am the bread that came down from heaven.' They said, 'Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven''?" (v41-42).

Admittedly, the Anabaptist reformers get a bad wrap for this element of their theology. It should be noted that not all Anabaptists, nor even all Mennonites embraced Menno's and Hoffman's view of Jesus' Incarnation. However, I personally tend to lean that way.

Is this anything inconsistent with BFC doctrine? No, we say only this about His Incarnation:

"He took on Himself man's nature, with all of its essential properties except sin: Being conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, He embodied two perfect and distinct natures in one person. He is truly God and truly man, the only mediator between God and man" (BFC AoF 4-1).

Back to the Biology of Sin

Since the fact of Jesus' biological relation to Mary is suspect, how can we put much weight on it in order to prove the mode in which we inherit sin from our parents?

My mom and dad are equally riddled with sin. Their bodies are equally wasting away (as is all creation) by the consequences of humanities wickedness. When they conceived me, they were participating equally in the creation and defilement of me. It really is chauvinist to have dad assume all the guilt, mom is just as responsible.


Really, what I guess my conclusion and challenge is: let's not ask questions the Bible doesn't ask. I know your heart because I know mine, we will ask those questions, so if we do: let's not answer questions the Bible doesn't answer. When we go beyond the Word, we become as guilty as we make the Catholics out to be, who stand on councils and tradtions as co-equal with the Word.



Blogger delawaregirl said...

Interesting topic. Although, I've never thought about Jesus having genes. I like your conclusion. I think that God has given us all the answers He wants us to have in His Word. I'm content with that. Doesn't Paul address the idea that all men inherited sin from Adam? I've never thought our sinful nature could be attached to our genes. It's spiritual to me, not physical. Way to get my mind cranking, Tim.

8/26/2007 12:23 AM  
Blogger s said...

The question that come to my mind on this topic are:
1) Who did Jesus look like if he did not have Mary's genes? Did he look like his brother and sisters? If not wouldnt people continue to think Mary was unfaithful to Joseph?

2) If He had the same body He had in heaven would it have been in a better condition than Adam and Eves body without the influence of sin?

3) Do the references in the Old Testament to "the angle of the Lord" refer to Jesus's pre-incarnate body?

8/27/2007 8:01 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home