Monday, August 8, 2011

In Defense of My Mother- Immaculate Conception. Part 1 of 4

There was a blog post on a Fundamentalist's website. Normally I'd link to it, but the objections that are raised against the Catholic Church are so elementary and ridiculous that it'd be a waste of your time and would give unnecessary attention to the blogger that posted it.

Anyway, the post was a 'Biblical' (read: bad interpretation) attack on Mary. It was categorized into sections specific to the 4 Marian Dogmas (Theotokos, Perpetual Virginity, Immaculate Conception, and Assumption), and I'll deal with them in those sections. It should be understood what the very core of her argument is: "If modern Catholic teachings and doctrines about Mary are true, then they will not be contrary to Scripture, the writings of the Early Fathers, or the decrees of past popes. For a devout Catholic to question these issues and put them to the test can be painful. It certainly was for me. However, it would be far more painful to have God correct us when we face Him on Judgment Day." I totally agree, but I think that doing so will lead to a much different conclusion than the Fundamentalist might think.

The first Marian Dogma 'analyzed' by my Fundamentalist friend was the Immaculate Conception. Charges are in bold and orange, and my answer is in regular print.

— According to Catholic doctrine, Mary was preserved from all stain of original sin from the first instant of her conception.

Okay, yeah. I'm with ya'.

_____In Luke 1:46-47, Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Mary knew that she needed a savior.

Heck yeah she knew she needed a savior! We all do! But that doesn't mean that Mary wasn't preserved from sin. Mary needed Christ to preserve her from sin, even though it was at the first moment of her conception. A common analogy goes like this: You're walking through the forest. You fall into a mud pit. Christ reaches down, pulls you out, and wipes you off. Mary is walking through the forest. Just as she is about to step in the mud pit, Christ stops her and walks her around the mud pit. In both cases a savior is needed, Christ is needed. The moment of the saving varies, however, though the savior and the need of Him does not.

_____The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was first introduced by a heretic (a man whose teachings were officially declared to be contrary to Church doctrine). For centuries this doctrine was unanimously rejected by popes, Fathers and theologians of the Catholic Church. ALL-HOLY

It would be great to know who this heretic was; what we do know is that the Immaculate Conception was referred to in the Ascension of Isaiah in A.D. 70. Want a Church Father instead? Alright: the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is discussed by St. Justin Martyr in Dialogue with Trypho the Jew in 155 A.D. This doctrine has not been rejected "by popes, Fathers and theologians of the Catholic Church." Here's a long, though not exhaustive, list of early Church writings and Fathers that talk about and refer to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

— According to Catholic doctrine, Mary, the All-Holy, lived a perfectly sinless life.

Again, I'm with ya'. A reference for this is CCC 411, 493 (seeing as our Fundamentalist amigo can't cite anything).

_____Romans 3:23 says For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Revelation 15:4 says, Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy. Romans 3:10 says, There is none righteous, no, not one.

We have three verses here:

1. Yes, all of have sinned. But we can't take this verse perfectly literally, can we? No, we can't. If we did, we would have to include Christ! After all, "for all" includes Christ. So we know that this verse doesn't include everyone. The text is speaking in a hyperbole, which "is a rhetorical device in which statements are exaggerated. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally" (Wikipedia).  Besides Christ, there are other people that do not fall into the category of "having sinned". For example, have little babies sinned? No, because they do not have the ability to reason right or wrong (Romans 9:11). People not yet conceived have yet to sin. And let's not forget that Jesus was also without sin. So there are obvious exceptions to this verse, and it shows that the verse should not be taken literally.

2. Mary feared the Lord. Just check out the Canticle of Mary in Luke 1:46-55! Just because someone is preserved from sin, does not mean that the person is G-d/divine or is equal to G-d. This is the mistake of the Fundamentalist. They assume that the preservation means equality, which is false. Why is it false? Because Mary was unable to save herself from sin. It was only by and from the action of Christ that she was saved. Christ was free from sin by His own action, because He is G-d. Mary was free from sin not by any action on her own part, but by the action of G-d.

3. This is another verse that we cannot take literally. The Bible itself mentions righteous people. Genesis 7:1b says that "I have found [Noah] righteous in this generation." Lot is called a righteous man in 2 Peter 2:7-8; and let's not forget about such people as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Zechariah, Sarah, Ruth, Abigail, and Elizabeth. So, again, this verse cannot be understood as perfectly literal. There are some, with whom we could include Full of Grace, that are righteous.

_____Jesus is the only person who is referred to in Scripture as sinless. Hebrews 4:15 says, For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 1 Peter 2:22 says, Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.

Jesus is the only person explicitly referred to in Scripture as sinless. But Mary was given the title 'Full of Grace' in Luke 1:28. Besides, aren't we talking about things that are contrary to Scripture (reread the quote I gave at the beginning of the post from our Fundamentalist tomodachi). So the question that we should really ask isn't where it explicitly says that Mary was without sin, but rather where does it say that Mary did sin (I'll grant that this line of thinking is horrible, but it was introduced by the Fundamentalist, not by me)? Mary's preservation from sin is not contrary to anything in Scripture.

_____In contrast, Mary said that God is her Savior. (Luke 1:47) If God was her Savior, then Mary was not sinless. Sinless people do not need a Savior.

Didn't we deal with this earlier? I guess when you don't have any good arguments, you have to repeat old ones.Anyway, I'm now forced to repeat myself:
Heck yeah she knew she needed a savior! We all do! But that doesn't mean that Mary wasn't preserved from sin. Mary needed Christ to preserve her from sin, even though it was at the first moment of her conception. A common analogy goes like this: You're walking through the forest. You fall into a mud pit. Christ reaches down, pulls you out, and wipes you off. Mary is walking through the forest. Just as she is about to step in the mud pit, Christ stops her and walks her around the mud pit. In both cases a savior is needed, Christ is needed. The moment of the saving varies, however, though the savior and the need of Him does not.

_____In the Book of Revelation, when they were searching for someone who was worthy to break the seals and open the scroll, the only person who was found to be worthy was Jesus. Nobody else in Heaven or on earth (including Mary) was worthy to open the scroll or even look inside it. (Revelation 5:1-5)
 
Why was Christ worthy to open the scroll and not Mary? Because Christ is G-d, Who died for our sins. Mary is only human, and not divine. Christ was free of sin by His own merit (and again, He was G-d!), whereas Mary was only preserved free from sin as a result of the action of Christ (not because of anything she did). Furthermore... Mary isn't divine! She's not G-d, she's human. Christ, as fully human and fully divine, having died for our sins on the cross, is the only one worthy to open the seals. Just because Mary wasn't worthy enough does not mean that she isn't a worthy person.

That's my defense of the Immaculate Conception. You might notice that I did little to prove the Immaculate Conception, which was my point. I only wanted to defend the doctrine, not prove it. Here's an earlier post I did on the Immaculate Conception, which might satisfy your desire your proof (though it's not great).

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

4 comments:

  1. Hi Brett, great article. One thing I'd improve, however, is how you dealt with "if Mary was sinless, then she didn't need a savior". It seems that fundamentalists believe that until we sin, then we don't need a savior to go to heaven. Their concept of grace is wonked up; they don't believe that sanctifying grace is required to live in heaven. All babies go to heaven to them, even if they have not been baptized, even though such a concept has not been revealed.

    I think that the Catholic emphasis would be on original sin, or the fact that normally people are not born righteous, but rather as enemies of God, and the way we become righteous is through sanctifying grace, whether received by baptism and repentance, the "normative" way, or through another special grace, such as Mary received, a "special privilege" granted by God operating outside the sacraments. Or maybe you have a better way to explain it, but I feel like the whole "I'm a sinner, therefore I need a savior" is ingrained in the fundamentalist summary of what they call "the gospel".

    God Bless,

    Andy

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  2. This Post is simply beautiful. God bless you. Oh, why, why will Protestant Fundamentalist never accept. God could never been been conceived in a womb of the Virgin who had the Stain of the Sin of Satan's Deception. It is clear from the very beginning in the Genesis. Mary42

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  3. Beautiful. As a former protestant, current (grateful) Catholic, I would answer Mary's comment by saying that you have no idea how gigantic the gap is for our protestant brothers and sisters. Most of them cannot even imagine wanting to cover that distance. But it is blogs like this that will be instruments of grace for many of them, if they will read it. And actually, a lot of them won't because they have prejudged whatever we say to be false and deceived, and they fear being deceived, as well. Their eyes and understanding can only be opened by grace. I offer the prayer (straight out of the Bible - John 16:13,14)that I believe was a huge instrument of grace in my life to bring me home to the Catholic Church - "Spirit of Truth, please teach me your truth." I prayed this for a few years before I even thought of exploring the Catholic Church. I had no idea where this prayer would take me, but if Jesus was offering the Spirit of Truth to lead us into all Truth, I wanted it. I often offer this (and pray it) in conversation with Protestants. And because it comes right out of scripture, from the mouth of Jesus, they aren't afraid of it. I believe the Spirit of Truth will do the rest. Thank you, Brett, for speaking the truth again and again.

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  4. Thank you for your wonderful and beautiful comments.

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