Conception an active work of God?

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jpfrench81

Puritan Board Sophomore
Is the conception of a child an active work of God? It seems to me that there are three ways to look at the event: 1. God passively creates a child by upholding the ability of a man and woman to procreate through the natural means. 2. God actively chooses to create a child when a man and woman come together. Though the natural means of procreation may play a part, no child will be conceived unless God actively wills create it. 3. It is some combination of the previous two ideas depending on the circumstances.

Another way of saying point 2 might be that God chooses to make every child and no child is made apart from his choice.

I am still thinking about the issue, so I'd be happy to hear other ways of viewing the conception of a child. I look forward to your thoughts.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
I'm curious to hear the arguments for anything but God actively creating every child. The alternative seem to me nonsensical if one has a proper view of God's sovereignty.
 

Stargazer65

Puritan Board Freshman
"Fearfully and wonderfully made"

I'll go with Option 2:
"God actively chooses to create a child when a man and woman come together. Though the natural means of procreation may play a part, no child will be conceived unless God actively wills create it."

I just can't see scripturally where God would be passive in something like that. Passiveness in conception would almost certainly imply open theology in my opinion.
 

J. Dean

Puritan Board Junior
I'm curious to hear the arguments for anything but God actively creating every child. The alternative seem to me nonsensical if one has a proper view of God's sovereignty.
That's fine, so long as you don't consider every conception an immaculate one a la Virgin Mary.

As with all other things, it is the sovereign work of God, but God in His sovereignty works in accord with human "interaction" as well.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
Here is a question.....Was the conception of Jesus and John The Baptist different than you or I? I say yes in that I view both of those conceptions miracles but not mine.
 

jpfrench81

Puritan Board Sophomore
Here is a question.....Was the conception of Jesus and John The Baptist different than you or I? I say yes in that I view both of those conceptions miracles but not mine.
Jesus' was certainly different. No male was needed! I'd also say John the Baptist's and Isaac's conception were miraculous; it seems that both of their mothers were beyond childbearing years when they conceived, so it seems that God bypassed or miraculously restored the ability of both Elizabeth and Rebecca to conceive.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
I'm curious to hear the arguments for anything but God actively creating every child. The alternative seem to me nonsensical if one has a proper view of God's sovereignty.
That's fine, so long as you don't consider every conception an immaculate one a la Virgin Mary.

As with all other things, it is the sovereign work of God, but God in His sovereignty works in accord with human "interaction" as well.
Huh? Where did you get that idea? (i.e. that I might consider every conception "immaculate"?)

Certainly human interaction is necessary, but God creates every human being by His action. It is not as though God is saying "Oh, it looks like Brian and Denise just had sex again. Hey, and look, an egg got fertilized this time! Yahoo! I get to make another baby!"

God actively creates, every time. It is not something God is "passive" in.... are not all "fearfully and wonderfully made", actively, by God? Or do you really think that somehow God is dependent upon His creatures so that they might thwart His plans for bringing about a child?
 

jpfrench81

Puritan Board Sophomore
God actively works through means.
A question to ask would be does God create a soul at time of conception. :worms:
Agreed. But for a child to be conceived through the natural means, does God have to actively do something? Or is the child conceived simply through the natural means alone within the providence of God?
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
I guess Romans chapter 9 answers it as good as we're likely to get, that God makes people like a potter makes clay pots, and what He does with them is His business. And I agree the process of animation is probably more cental to the issue.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Unless we are speaking of a miraculous occurrence (like the conception of our Lord in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the agency of the Holy Spirit), every birth is, glorious as it may be, part of God's ordinary providence.

And in God's ordinary providence, God is the primary cause of the thing, brought about by second causes (see WCF 3.1; 5.1-2). Your question does not present a special case as such: God causes it to rain (primary cause): atmospheric conditions cause it to rain (secondary cause); God causes a baby to be conceived (primary cause): the act of sexual intercourse, with all the proper conditions, causes a baby to be conceived (secondary cause).

As others have mentioned, the question of the origin of the soul (creationism vs. traducianism) is a particularly interesting aspect of this, but not one that you mentioned. If you mean to indicate that in the case of conception God superintends in a way different than, say, with rain, I would grant that the providence is more wondrous and the effect more significant (one made in His image). If you mean that God directs the production of human life through something other than secondary causes, apart from the question of the soul's origin, I would inquire further as to your point and why you would diminish second causes in this case.

One thing we've always noted as a family: ordinarily, conception and birth is not a miracle, though a particularly wonderful providence of our gracious God. However, in the case of Him who was not born of ordinary, but extraordinary, generation, we do witness a marvelous miracle in His conception and birth. There was a direct divine involvement in that conception that is different than the case with the rest of us, who were born of ordinary generation from Adam. I don't know if this helps in what you are getting at, but it does seem, at least, seasonally appropriate (for those who observe such!).

Peace,
Alan
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Snowflake
Here is a question.....Was the conception of Jesus and John The Baptist different than you or I? I say yes in that I view both of those conceptions miracles but not mine.
"natural conception" is "ordinary" - ordinary in that it happens so often that we forget how incredibly improbable that it should occur at all given the scientific complexity of it. While I understand the technical definition of a miracle, I do not shy from refering to conception as a miracle. It is simply and utterly astounding to me that all the complex chemical and biological factors necesary for conception happen, and WHY they happen, etc. But the miracles of Jesus' birth (or John's, or Isaac's, or Nathan's) tells me that some miracles are bigger than others.

Or to look at it another way: We're all special. Some are just more special than others.
 

J. Dean

Puritan Board Junior
Huh? Where did you get that idea? (i.e. that I might consider every conception "immaculate"?)
I didn't say you did. I said I don't have a problem with saying what so said, so long as it's not interpreted as meaning that every conception is equated with immaculate conception, which did not require a human father.

Certainly human interaction is necessary, but God creates every human being by His action. It is not as though God is saying "Oh, it looks like Brian and Denise just had sex again. Hey, and look, an egg got fertilized this time! Yahoo! I get to make another baby!"
Oh yeah, absolutely. I agree. Just saying that it's through ordinary means that the creation happens (outside of Mary and Jesus, of course)

God actively creates, every time. It is not something God is "passive" in.... are not all "fearfully and wonderfully made", actively, by God? Or do you really think that somehow God is dependent upon His creatures so that they might thwart His plans for bringing about a child?
Yes, I realize that. Nowhere did I say God was passive. But as the doctrines of providence and predestination make clear, God works these things through ordinary means.

When two people come together to conceive, is that ordained by God in His sovereignty? Absolutely. Is it an active work of God? Certainly. Is it miraculous in the sense that God is operating through supernatural means and thus going over and above the laws of nature and biology (a la the Immaculate conception)? No.

I think we're on the same wavelength here, just that you're on the crest and I'm on the trough :D
 

jpfrench81

Puritan Board Sophomore
But for a child to be conceived through the natural means, does God have to actively do something
What exactly do you think God may have to actively do in this matter?
I'm not sure. And I don't have a definite opinion on the matter (which is why I broached the question). This point is part of a larger worldview issue I'd prefer not to go into quite yet.

I'm not sure. Joshua, were you talking about a personhood?
I'm also not trying to talk about personhood. I guess I'm really trying to determine the role of God in conception of a child.


However, Todd's point above kind of gets at what I'm trying to figure out.

[Certainly human interaction is necessary, but God creates every human being by His action. It is not as though God is saying "Oh, it looks like Brian and Denise just had sex again. Hey, and look, an egg got fertilized this time! Yahoo! I get to make another baby!"]

Benjamin, I certainly don't deny secondary causes. If my wife and I don't have sexual relations, no child will be conceived (unless God works supernaturally). If my wife and I do have sexual relations, and she is fertile, then she may conceive a child. What's the difference between whether a child is conceived or not conceived? Is it simply the providence of God that the path for the sperm to the egg is open, that the sperm is able to fertilize the egg, the zygote attaches to the uterine lining, etc.? Or does God "do something" that causes my wife to conceive a child as opposed to not conceive a child? (What that "something" may be, I'm not sure). God speaks in very personal terms about certain people having purposes before they were conceived, e.g., Jacob and Esau, Jeremiah, Paul, etc. Was God personally involved in the conception of these children, or as Alan says, is it simply part of God's ordinary providence? A sampling of passages from Genesis:

"Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord" (Gen. 4:1).

"And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel" (Gen. 4:25).

And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. (Gen. 16:2).

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” (Gen. 17:15-16).

"Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his [Abimelech's] wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. For the Lord had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah, Abraham's wife" (Gen. 20:17-18).

"When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb...And Leah conceived, and bare a son" (Gen. 29:31-32).

"God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb" (Gen. 30:22).

In what sense did God give a son to Abraham and Sarah? In what sense did he close the womb of Abimelech's wives? These passages seem to describe a level of interaction that is beyond what I would consider the usual providence of God. If so, is that interaction how God normally operates in the conception of a child? Or are these the exceptions?
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Snowflake
In what sense did God give a son to Abraham and Sarah? In what sense did he close the womb of Abimelech's wives? These passages seem to describe a level of interaction that is beyond what I would consider the usual providence of God. If so, is that interaction how God normally operates in the conception of a child? Or are these the exceptions?
Joshua, the many passages you referenced are helpful. They show God's interaction with the created order. They show that God didn't simply make "natural causes" and then step back to enjoy the show. That would be deism. What folks here would say is that God worked his purposes but he did so in, with, and through natural means. Thus, prior to Gen 30:22, Rachel was not able to conceive. Then God decided to give her a baby, and thus whatever physiological issue she was having that prevented pregnancy, God removed. Etc.
 

athanatos

Puritan Board Freshman
Huh? Where did you get that idea? (i.e. that I might consider every conception "immaculate"?)
I didn't say you did. I said I don't have a problem with saying what so said, so long as it's not interpreted as meaning that every conception is equated with immaculate conception, which did not require a human father.

Certainly human interaction is necessary, but God creates every human being by His action. It is not as though God is saying "Oh, it looks like Brian and Denise just had sex again. Hey, and look, an egg got fertilized this time! Yahoo! I get to make another baby!"
Oh yeah, absolutely. I agree. Just saying that it's through ordinary means that the creation happens (outside of Mary and Jesus, of course)

God actively creates, every time. It is not something God is "passive" in.... are not all "fearfully and wonderfully made", actively, by God? Or do you really think that somehow God is dependent upon His creatures so that they might thwart His plans for bringing about a child?
Yes, I realize that. Nowhere did I say God was passive. But as the doctrines of providence and predestination make clear, God works these things through ordinary means.

When two people come together to conceive, is that ordained by God in His sovereignty? Absolutely. Is it an active work of God? Certainly. Is it miraculous in the sense that God is operating through supernatural means and thus going over and above the laws of nature and biology (a la the Immaculate conception)? No.

I think we're on the same wavelength here, just that you're on the crest and I'm on the trough :D
Uhh... immaculate conception had to do with not-being born with original sin, not the virgin birth of Christ.

Immaculate Conception - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
I do not deny, Ben, as I said in my comment above, that conception and birth is a wondrous, magnificent thing, especially for what must occur scientifically, as you point out. I would call it a particular providential kindness of our Lord. He has blessed me and my wife with five children and we do indeed marvel at the whole process.

But the virgin birth of Jesus is a miracle, a direct divine intervention, unlike any other birth. You make it a matter of degree (ours was special; His was more special). I disagree: Jesus' birth is of a different kind than ours (not simply a different degree). He was born without the agency of a father; no one else was, including Isaac, John Baptist, or any others. Their's might be of a different degree (mothers past conception who conceive, clearly an extraordinary providence): I could see that argument. But not Jesus' birth: it was a different kind, not simply a "greater miracle" than ours. That has serious consequences, particularly for the determinations of Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), and Constantinople II (553).

I believe that God ordains everything that comes to pass. I believe that nothing escapes His control. But I also agree with our Confession (which is not deistic) that this falls out under second causes so that we can properly speak in all the ways that we do about science and so forth. In fact, I've known folk who throw miracle around rather freely, implying that God is working in those occasions. I believe that He's working in all occasions, usually through second causes. But He and His will is always the primary cause (though this does not make Him the author of sin). I hope that offers some clarity.

Peace,
Alan
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
Here is a question.....Was the conception of Jesus and John The Baptist different than you or I? I say yes in that I view both of those conceptions miracles but not mine.
"natural conception" is "ordinary" - ordinary in that it happens so often that we forget how incredibly improbable that it should occur at all given the scientific complexity of it. While I understand the technical definition of a miracle, I do not shy from refering to conception as a miracle. It is simply and utterly astounding to me that all the complex chemical and biological factors necesary for conception happen, and WHY they happen, etc. But the miracles of Jesus' birth (or John's, or Isaac's, or Nathan's) tells me that some miracles are bigger than others.

Or to look at it another way: We're all special. Some are just more special than others.
I hear you, I remember one time someone was sitting with friends and talking about what a miracle is and well you know the story.;)
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Snowflake
I do not deny, Ben, as I said in my comment above, that conception and birth is a wondrous, magnificent thing, especially for what must occur scientifically, as you point out. I would call it a particular providential kindness of our Lord. He has blessed me and my wife with five children and we do indeed marvel at the whole process.

But the virgin birth of Jesus is a miracle, a direct divine intervention, unlike any other birth. You make it a matter of degree (ours was special; His was more special). I disagree: Jesus' birth is of a different kind than ours (not simply a different degree). He was born without the agency of a father; no one else was, including Isaac, John Baptist, or any others. Their's might be of a different degree (mothers past conception who conceive, clearly an extraordinary providence): I could see that argument. But not Jesus' birth: it was a different kind, not simply a "greater miracle" than ours. That has serious consequences, particularly for the determinations of Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), and Constantinople II (553).

I believe that God ordains everything that comes to pass. I believe that nothing escapes His control. But I also agree with our Confession (which is not deistic) that this falls out under second causes so that we can properly speak in all the ways that we do about science and so forth. In fact, I've known folk who throw miracle around rather freely, implying that God is working in those occasions. I believe that He's working in all occasions, usually through second causes. But He and His will is always the primary cause (though this does not make Him the author of sin). I hope that offers some clarity.

Peace,
Alan

Of course you're right. I know you're right about secondary causes. I said so above.
But I disagree that Jesus represents the only miraculous birth in Scripture.
 
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Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Then we are in agreement, Ben.

I do not maintain that Jesus' birth is the only miraculous one in Scripture. I agree that the births you cited (John's, Isaac's, et al.), as I noted above, involved extraordinary providence, playing particular roles in redemptive history. We are not to look for such extraordinary conceptions any longer, however (I am not saying that such might not happen; I am simply saying that we are not to look for them and I am not sure that we could know definitively that such had happened, lacking special revelation to give us such infallible intelligence--science never being able to give us such infallible knowledge).

Having said all that, I do strenuously maintain, and the church has historically maintained, that the Word of God teaches that the conception and birth of Jesus was unique, not simply miraculous. There was no other birth like his, meaning, no other kind of birth like his. All those other folks (John, Isaac, et al.) had earthly fathers. Jesus had no earthly father. This makes his birth different from all others, including those we've both mentioned.

I belabor this point because people need to understand it and not put us on a continuum with our Lord in His Incarnation. Only in this way do we maintain the doctrine of the integrity of the theanthropic person in the hypostatic union. The virgin birth is necessary (but not sufficient) for this: I do not argue that the virgin birth makes Him God (Muslims affirm the virgin birth but deny His deity). No, the virgin birth does not make Him God, any more than the Resurrection does. But because He is God, He must be born of a virgin, without the agency of a human father (even as, because He is God, He must rise from the dead).

At any rate, I think that we are in essential agreement.

Peace,
Alan
 
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