The Architecture of Man and the Problem of Morphogenesis – Concerning Them which Are Asleep (Part 3)

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The Incarnation stands as the most unique miracle and act of love on the part of our Creator. How does God enter humankind? Being God, He thinks ahead.[1] He crafted man in a way that allowed Him to tabernacle in the flesh.[2]

Luke 1:34-35
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. KJV

Absent euphemism, Mary’s question would read, “How am I to conceive a child without having sex?” In his answer, Gabriel reveals the real source of life in procreation. “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee,” he said. Spirit is what gives flesh life. This is why James wrote:

James 2:26
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. KJV

There are two dead things in the verse above: the body and works. Faith gives works life. Spirit gives the body life. It is when the spirit enters the body that it “becomes a living soul.”[3] When the spirit leaves, it hasn’t died, the body has. Thus, when the Holy Spirit carried the spirit of the Son of God into Mary’s ovum, the soul named Jesus came to be in the body that would be born in Bethlehem.

Psalm 139:14-16
14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. KJV

The Hebrew term behind “curiously wrought” in verse 15 is translated as “needlework” in Exodus 26:36; 27:16; and 28:39. It refers to the manufacture of the door of the tabernacle, the gate of its court, and the girdle of the high priest. Needlework is a little misleading, especially if it brings cross stitching to mind. The word actually signifies a weaving process in which raised patterns are produced. The manufacture of the door, gate, and girdle required the Spirit of God and wisdom.[4] The same is true of the formation of man’s body.

Ecclesiastes 11:5
As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. KJV

There was a time when I lived under the delusion that science had figured out the causes of fetal development in straightforward biological terms. My extensive reading in the field of genetics over the course of decades has dispossessed me of the idea. DNA is an information storage device. On its own, it does not answer the problems of morphogenesis.

Morphogenesis refers to the process by which order is created in a developing organism. Questions centered on morphogenesis have aimed to uncover the mechanisms responsible for the differentiation of cells and the organization of distinctive systems in the body.[5] Science has done a great job of doing what it does best, observing natural phenomena and quantifying them. Thus, while we have a great body of knowledge concerning the fertilization of an egg, its divisions into a blastocyst, its growth into an embryo, and its development into a fetus, we know little of the how and why.

Scientists studying morphogenesis are pursuing answers to questions such as:

  • How do tissues form from populations of cells?
  • How do tissues construct organs?
  • How do organs grow?
  • How is organ growth coordinated?
  • How is cellular polarity and orientation achieved?

The problem of morphogenesis is recognized by many to be one of the most elusive questions of development.[6] Rupert Sheldrake, in his book A New Science of Life, lists the four main facets of the morphogenetic mystery.

  • That form even comes into being at all is a problem. The process is epigenetic: new structures appear which cannot be explained in terms of the unfolding or growth of structures which are already present in the egg at the beginning of development.
  • That developing systems are able to regulate. If any part of a developing system is taken away or added, the system continues to develop in such a way that a more or less normal structure is produced. For instance, removing one cell at the two-celled stage of a sea-urchin embryo causes not a half sea-urchin to develop, but a small one. Conversely, a fusion of two young embryos causes a large sea-urchin to develop.
  • That organisms are able to regenerate to replace or restore damaged structures.
  • The simple fact of reproduction is a problem as well, for a detached part of the parent somehow becomes a new organism (a part becomes a whole).

Biology has come a long way as a science to describe much of what goes on in the natural world, but a clear answer to morphogenesis has not been provided yet. Why do organisms take on the forms they have? Or as the Preacher would ask, “How are the bones formed in the womb?” Genetics, you might say. But even there, the answer comes up short.

“Mechanists [ascribe morphogenesis] to genetic programmes [sic.]¼but the genetic programme must involve something more than the chemical structure of DNA, because identical copies of DNA are passed on to all cells; if all cells were programmed identically, they could not develop differently.”[7]

“So far, there has been a set of one-to-one relationships: a gene is ‘switched on’ by a specific stimulus; the DNA is transcribed into RNA; and the RNA is translated into a particular sequence of amino acids, a polypeptide chain. But now this simple causal sequence comes to an end. How do the polypeptide chains fold up into the characteristic three-dimensional structures of proteins? How do the proteins give the cells their characteristic structures? How do cells aggregate together to give tissues of characteristic structure? And so on. These are the problems of morphogenesis proper.”[8]

However mysterious the human body remains, the human spirit is a deeper mystery still. Without God in the picture, understanding is impossible for all life is directed by Him.

Zechariah 12:1
The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. KJV

If you were taught that you only had a soul, I am sorry for your loss. The truth is that man is a spirit being that possesses a soul and lives in a body. The spirit we possess, the spirit of man,[9] took its shape in us under the hand of the Almighty.

Isaiah 44:24
Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; KJV

Not only does He claim to have formed us in the womb, He makes the argument in Isaiah that His knowledge of a developing embryo is the primer to His knowledge of the process of history (read verses 25-28).

In a real sense, God has crafted us in our mother’s womb and formed the spirit of man within us. But also in a real sense, we have inherited both from Adam. If we were each a special creation in the spirit, how or why would the sin of Adam attach to us? No, we were in him and thus are born in iniquity (Ps. 51:5). These things are marvelous indeed and wonderful to contemplate. May the Lord grant us wisdom in all of it.

As we proceed, we need to understand that man is a tripartite being. He is spirit, soul, and body (1Thess. 5:23). Not understanding this causes most of the confusion with regard to the second coming of Christ and the state of the dead. That being said, a threefold chord is not easily broken. To be complete, man requires all his parts. If you have just his body, you don’t have the entire man, you have a corpse. In the same manner, the soul on its own nor the spirit on its own constitute the man entire. Having a body is part of our design and we need it to exercise our dominion and fulfill our destiny.

[1] Isa. 46:9-10; 44:2-4.
[2] John 1:14.
[3] Gen. 2:7.
[4] Exod. 31:1-6.
[5] https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/morphogenesis (accessed April 19, 2019).
[6] ibid.
[7] Rupert Sheldrake, A New Science of Life: The Hypothesis of Morphic Resonance, Park Street Press, Rochester, Vermont, 1995, p. 21, emphasis in original.
[8] ibid., p. 40-41, emphasis mine.
[9] 1 Cor. 2:11.