The Corner

John Derbyshire Threw Down the Glove (Part I)

John Derbyshire asks for evidence that Jesus Christ was born of the “overshadowing Holy Spirit” and a virgin, as the Christian creed affirms. Not exactly the kind of evidence that Mr. Derbyshire likes best. But evidence is of many types. For instance, there are a very few scientific experiments that I have performed on my own, so that I have personal empirical evidence for them. However, most knowledge in the many fields of science is far beyond my comprehension and personal experience, with the result that I can only “know” through science by way of belief. This belief rests on my trust of the scientific community and its word. Once in a great while, researchers have lied, or their reported findings have not proven to be replicable by others. Much more often, earlier scientific propositions are rejected, to be replaced by better ones as the surrounding scientific field benefits by new discoveries and better methods.

In No One Sees God, I limited myself chiefly to the kind of evidence that is available to reason apart from revelation. After all, even Jewish and Christian revelation has as its presupposition that the human reason to which it is addressed has its own integrity and vigor. Questions about the “Mother of God,” however, belong to the special field of “evidences for the truth of the Christian faith.” That is the subject of many, many books, but not of No One Sees God. The task I set for myself there was much more limited and modest.

Since my good friend John (and NRO colleague) has thrown the glove down, however, the only honorable thing for me to do is attempt to meet his challenge. I offer two comments that at least place the claim that Mary is the Mother of God, Jesus Christ, in its proper context. First, the actual account of Mary’s conception comes directly from her, as given in testimony to the physician Luke, an Apostle of Jesus and the author of one of the four Gospels.

Second, Mary’s account that Jesus is both “born of a woman” and “conceived by the Holy Spirit” powerfully suggest the humility of the Almighty. He was willing to stoop down from His majesty and omnipotence to present Himself to human beings in all the limitations of the human body, psyche, hazards of “this vale of tears,” in short, the whole otherwise insignificant human condition.

When I can get back to a computer — I write this from Belmont, North Carolina — I would like to elaborate on these two comments.

Michael Novak — Michael Novak is Catholic philosopher, journalist, novelist, and diplomat. The author of more than twenty-five books on the philosophy and theology of culture, Novak is most widely known for his ...

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