Reasoning on Jesus

(Luca) #1

Hi everyone,
I had my first religion class today and the teacher is a Christian.
But when someone said “i don’t believe Jesus performed miracles like walking on water” he said: “Ofcourse he didn’t” And then gave us some weird explanation of how ships could sometimes be seen ‘flying’ when they are far on seas. And ofcourse thats a pretty weird explanation but it does make me wonder. Do you guys believe the miracles Jesus performed? Do you think this is a good thing for someone to believe as a christian? And do you have some tips for me to talk to the teacher about this? Thanks!

(RiderOnTheClouds) #2

I do not know (or really care) if Jesus walked on water, fed the five thousand or turned water in to wine, but it does matter if Jesus rose from the dead, that is the only miracle that counts:

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

And there is fairly solid evidence to believe it. Paul and James were hostile to the faith, so something serious must have happened to change them, and why dispute that what caused them to change was a vision of the risen Christ?.

(Luca) #3

I guess this is a question I will have to ask. But since my last religion teacher who is also a Christian said the miraculous birth of Jesus was rather a story made up by Mary because she cheated.
Doesn’t really get my hopes up.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #4

I don’t know, but I tend to discount the story of Christmas as fiction, the nativity accounts are contradictory and ahistorical, I believe they were made to explain how Jesus of ‘Nazareth’ could have been born in Bethlehem (this is the main reason why I am not a Catholic), a ‘requirement’ for the Messiah.

(Randy) #5

It’s good that you are patient with this difficulty. We all have struggles.

NT Wright, one of the foremost NT experts and believed in the Resurrection, was a good friend of Marcus Borg, a man who found himself unable to believe in it. He felt that God knows where our difficulties lie. He also believed that Borg was a Christian.

I myself do believe in the Resurrection. I struggle with reasoning from the NT directly because whoever has a hard time believing in miracles can (rightly) say that the authors wrote things to fit not only as they believed, but simply as they heard it from others (those who were not eyewitnesses).

Bottom line, it’s good that you have patience with those who have difficulty believing, remembering that God has patience too. Eventually we’ll all know; but God knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. Maybe you can still find common ground with this teacher in some beliefs. Have you found a helpful church yet?

God bless.

(Christy Hemphill) #6

Some smart people believe in miracles. Here is a review of NT scholar Craig Keener’s research on the topic:

(RiderOnTheClouds) #7

I do worry though, if Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem, how could he have been the Messiah?

(Luca) #8

Hey Randy! I’ve been very busy with school that ive forgotten about it a bit. I’m going to get back on track.


It is true that not all the details in the nativity stories are on the same historical footing as the rest of the NT. HOWEVER they are still inspired theological truth. You can’t read Scripture as a series of AP newswires. (And the charge that the virgin birth story was made up by Mary is just ridiculous.) There’s was a really good article by historian Jon Meacham on the nativity narratives that was appeared in Newsweek.

(Luca) #10

I know its ridiculous but thats what my former religion teacher believed.


I thought you’d find this quote by Jon Meacham helpful:

A man with no human father, a king who died a criminal’s death, a God who assures us of everlasting life in a world to come while the world he made is consumed by war and strife: Christianity is a religion of perplexing contradictions. To live an examined faith believers have to acknowledge those complexities and engage them, however frustrating it may be. “We are in a world of mystery, with one bright Light before us, sufficient for our proceeding forward through all difficulties,” wrote John Henry Newman, the great Victorian cleric whose intellectual journey led him from the Anglican priesthood to the Roman Curia. “Take away this Light and we are utterly wretched–we know not where we are, how we are sustained, what will become of us, and of all that is dear to us, what we are to believe, and why we are in being.”

(Mitchell W McKain) #12

The issue for me is the definition of the word miracles:

  1. Something which violates the laws of nature.
  2. An unexpected or unlikely but happy event that causes people to feel the presence of the divine.

I certainly believe in miracles because I use the second definition. But if you insist on the first definition then I don’t believe in such miracles, because I don’t believe in an inconsistent irrational God who makes laws and then breaks them. The God I believe in is not like the whimsical members of the Roman pantheon. If He makes things like the laws of nature then He does so for a good reason. I think the very existence of life depends on the laws of nature and God’s faithful adherence to these limitations.

I certainly don’t believe God breaks the laws of nature for the lame reason of impressing a few people and supporting their ideas of magic and the hope of manipulating God. Furthermore, I think it is absurd to think that God would even need to do such a thing. Humans have shown over and over and over that they can impress and amaze people without superpowers and without breaking the laws of nature – including all of the miracles in the Bible. Walking on water – it has been done. Virgin birth – we know how to do that one. Bringing people back to life – we do that one all the time, though it has caused us to change our definition of death to exclude those we can resuscitate by restarting their heart and getting them to breathe again. Of course this doesn’t mean we can explain everything for we see medical miracles all the time where we just don’t know for sure how the person has recovered – but this doesn’t mean the laws of nature were broken.

Nor does this mean that God doesn’t interact with the world – I am no Deist. This is no longer required because the physical determinism of the 1800s and before is dead due to quantum physics. We can now prove that events occur where there are no hidden physical variables to determine what happens. In fact this is one reason in the list of reasons I often give for believing in God. While the majority of scientists experience considerable cognitive dissonance over this result of quantum physics which seems to contradict the very premises of scientific inquiry itself, for me it makes sense if God needed a back door through which He could interact with the universe without breaking the laws of nature.


An interesting claim.


Yep, I do think Jesus did the miracles. The answer your teacher gave really is a form of kookery, and is not new at all. Scholars around the turn of the 20th century tried to rationalize the NT by making up some context where natural events lead to the development of every miracle claim, but that was rejected by real historians once the explanations just became so contrived.


I believe that Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit when God became flesh, not by parthenogenesis in a lab. That’s my opinion.

As for being brought back to life, that gets complicated. The brain can live but a short time without oxygen. After Jesus died, his body was laid in a tomb. People understood what being dead meant. The Romans were good at killing people. Jesus wasn’t magically transported thousands of years in the future to receive treatment by trauma physicians at New York Presbyterian Hospital, patched up, then dropped off at home (looking glorious). There’s a reason why attempts to revive people don’t go on for long periods of time.

(Mitchell W McKain) #16

Do you even know what parthenogenesis means? This is a terrible strawman. Parthenogenesis can only produce a female. This has absolutely NOTHING do do with with the discussion, for I don’t think we know how to do that with humans, if it is even possible at all. I said we know how to do a virgin birth and parthenogenesis is not it. It is called artificial insemination which basically means fertilization without sexual intercourse. So, what does your “conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit” actually mean? Well you can go with parthenogenesis again for a “female” (probably needs to be a diploid ovum for it to even work), artificial insemination can get you a male born to a virgin, or sex with the Holy Spirit which can get you the male fetus but then Mary wouldn’t be a virgin anymore, would she?

Perhaps the more interesting question is, where did the set of male chromosomes come from?

And neither did Jesus go on with his life as if nothing had happened for that is pretty much what people do when the are treated at a hospital. Instead it is pretty clear that His particpation in the world as a human being is over. People have trouble recognizing HIm, He appears in a room without opening the door, then He disappears from the world without a trace. This tells us that the laws of nature don’t mean anything to Him anymore. He is of another world then… a life giving spirit and a man of heaven according to Paul.

It is certainly not my intention to claim that a resurrection to a spiritual body is something that we can and have done – not at all! No I was speaking more of the Lazarus variety of returning someone to life.



In animals, parthenogenesis means development of an embryo from an unfertilized egg cell.

For Christians, the virgin birth means the virginal conception of Jesus. It puzzled and frightened Mary when she heard the angel Gabriel’s message. It has puzzled Christians down through the ages. But we don’t laugh in scorn and blow it off.

I believe he is still 100% man and 100% God. He still participates in the world, especially in the Eucharist.

But often he is recognizable. He can be touched. He teaches. He eats fish. He invites his disciples to touch him and see his wounds.

On the walk to Emmaus he was not recognized by his disciples. But when they arrived and sat down to eat, he broke bread and they recognized him. That is why we say during the Eucharist, “Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread.”

(Mitchell W McKain) #18

And since the egg cell has only female chromosomes it cannot produce a male. In the case of humans, I doubt that a haploid egg cell can produce a fetus at all.

Yes fertilization without sexual intercourse, exactly. We call it artificial insemination now. Can’t blame Mary for being frightened. She knows what everyone is likely to think and the punishment in Jewish law was death by stoning. Yes it has puzzled Christians, and atheists like to point the finger and say this is impossible and unscientific. But now we know there is nothing opposed to science in this at all. A baby only requires fertilization, NOT sexual intercourse. This doesn’t mean it isn’t a miracle. They certainly didn’t have any fertilization clinics back then.

But like I said, possibly in an edit after your first reading, the more interesting question is, where did the set of male chromosomes come from?

Do people cease to be 100% human after they die? I don’t think so.

You are ignoring the phrase “as a human being.” That is not how human beings participate in the world.

Indeed! Spirit is more capable and powerful not less. God is spirit! So Jesus can do all of these things, but He doesn’t have to. The limitations of the laws of nature do not apply anymore.

But of course it is only capable and powerful if it is a living spirit or even life giving spirit, not the dead things and shadows we call ghosts.


The first question should be, is the virginal conception of Jesus is a miracle? Exactly what does that mean? Were natural laws broken or not? The answer to that question will lead to the answers you are looking for.

I believe an embryo was implanted and Mary was simply a surrogate mother. She was chosen for the care she would provide to Jesus as he grew. Jesus was said to grow in wisdom and his mother and father would have been a part of that.

(Mitchell W McKain) #20

And I addressed all these questions already.

This doesn’t alter the question you quoted in the slightest. But I do not believe this. I see no support for this in the Bible – quite the opposite. The Bible gives not only one genealogy for Jesus but two – making sure that we understand that as Jesus is 100% human and genetically descended from the Israelite people. But more importantly I see no theological merit in the idea. Human beings are already a creation of God. There is no need for a substitute. And I find the whole idea of redemption by genetic alteration to be horrific and distasteful in the extreme catering to racism. Our problem is spiritual, not genetic. Thus I go in the complete opposite direction to completely refute the idea that our humanity is found in either genetics or biology.