Andrew Sullivan (as Glenn Reynolds did previously) links to a wonderful paper by Canadian author David Warren on his experience living in Pakistan and his take on the threat of militant Islam.

Maybe it’s because of the Christmas season coming up, but what struck me, close to the end of his article, was this passage:

“We Christians believe ourselves to be completing that ancient, Jewish covenant in the new covenant of Christ, to be carrying the Jewish spiritual logic forward, in an enlargement of the chosen people to include all the elect of God, all who can see the Messiah. The Gospel message is radically anti-tribal, and the apostle Paul carries this into practice in the very cosmopolitan, urban world of late Hellenism and Rome. The whole doctrine of the Virgin Birth, quite apart from the question of its historical veracity, has the practical effect of bringing Christ into the world, and taking him out again, without leaving male blood relatives. (my emphasis)”

That last sentence is truly striking. I think even religious people today are brought up with the vestiges of Humean skepticism when it comes to the idea of miracles and the supernatural. We assume, for completely a priori reasons, to rule out the supernatural, supposing it to be an embarrassing appendage to faith—the fabrication of interfering church fathers or those in power to embellish the story of Christianity for the purpose of impressing the ignorant. It’s refreshing and startling therefore to read someone suggest a purely practical reason for God deciding to suspend natural law (in this case for a virgin birth)—after all, how would Christ have left any lasting message or tradition, if the immediate aftermath of his departure was attended by a great conflict over who was his successor?

Not an unsound strategy for God, when you consider the murderous slaughter that has all too often followed the reigns of kings and queens, precisely because of the problems posed by “male blood relatives.”

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