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December 2020

In January 1945, C.S. Lewis published an essay titled “Religion and Science,” in the form of a conversation with a friend. The discussion begins with the topic of miracles and the Virgin Birth:

Miracles,’ said my friend. ‘Oh come. Science has knocked the bottom out of all that. We know that Nature is governed by fixed laws.’ ‘Didn’t people always know that?’ said I.
‘Good Lord, no,’ said he. ‘For instance, take a story like the Virgin Birth. We know now that such a thing couldn’t happen. We know there must be a male spermatozoon.’
‘But look here’, said I, ‘St Joseph –’
‘Who’s he?’ asked my friend.

‘He was the husband of the Virgin Mary. If you’ll read the story in the Bible you’ll find that when he saw his fiancée was going to have a baby he decided to cry off the marriage. Why did he do that?’
‘Wouldn’t most men?’
‘Any man would’, said I, ‘provided he knew the laws of Nature – in other words, provided he knew that a girl doesn’t ordinarily have a baby unless she’s been sleeping with a man. But according to your theory people in the old days didn’t know that Nature was governed by fixed laws. I’m pointing out that the story shows that St Joseph knew that law just as well as you do.’ ‘But he came to believe in the Virgin Birth afterwards, didn’t he?’
‘Quite. But he didn’t do so because he was under any illusion as to where babies came from in the ordinary courses of Nature. He believed in the Virgin Birth as something supernatural. He knew Nature works in fixed, regular ways: but he also believed that there existed something beyond Nature which could interfere with her workings – from outside, so to speak.’
‘But modern science has shown there’s no such thing.’
‘Really,’ said I. ‘Which of the sciences?’
‘Oh, well, that’s a matter of detail,’ said my friend. ‘I can’t give you chapter and verse from memory.’
‘But, don’t you see’, said I, ‘that science never could show anything of the sort?’
‘Why on earth not?’
‘Because science studies Nature. And the question is whether anything besides Nature exists – anything “outside”. How could you find that out by studying simply Nature?’1

The Bible records that, as Joseph was considering Mary’s pregnancy and what he should do, “… an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’” Matthew 1:20-21 (ESV).

In his book Miracles, Lewis observed, “The grounds for belief and disbelief are the same today as they were two thousand – or ten thousand – years ago. If St Joseph had lacked faith to trust God or humility to perceive the holiness of his spouse, he could have disbelieved in the miraculous origin of her Son as easily as any modern man; and any modern man who believes in God can accept the miracle as easily as St Joseph did.”2

As you ponder the biblical account of the birth of Jesus, what do you believe?

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

ISAIAH 7:14b (ESV)


1 C.S. Lewis, “Religion and Science” in God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmanns, 1998), pp. 66-67.
2 C.S. Lewis, Miracles (HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), pp. 76-77.

COPYRIGHT: This publication is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.

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