Immaculate Conception

So I decided my next paper will be on the immaculate conception.  Interestingly enough, this is not about the birth of Christ, but rather about the birth of Mary without original sin.  It is doctrine within the Catholic church, per a Papal Bull released by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854, but it was considered accurate theology since the mid-2nd century by quite a large number of people.

While some of the basis of the theory comes from the Apocryphal Gospel of St. James, there are interesting arguments in favor of the sinless nature of Mary (as well as interesting arguments against it) from the time of her conception which offer their roots within the Old Testament.

Arguments in favor:

Mary is full of grace:  past, present and future, having been gifted with the grace at the time of her own conception.

Mary is the “new Eve” having enmity with Satan:  Gen 3:15 says “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall crush your head, and you shall strike at His heel.”  In this verse God addresses Satan. The Seed here is Christ. The Woman is His Mother, that is, Mary. Thus Satan has perfect enmity with Christ and with His Mother. The Catholic Church has interpreted this as indicating the sinlessness of Christ and Mary. If either actually committed sin, then they would not be at enmity with Satan but actually a cooperator with Satan at times.

Mary is the ark of the New Covenant:  In the Old Covenant the Ark of the Covenant contained the Word of God on stone. In the New Covenant, the Word made Flesh was also contained – and that in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. The Catholic Church has therefore understood Mary as the mystical Ark of the New Covenant. This connection is made in the book of Revelation (11:19-12:2) “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child.”  The Ark of the Covenant appears in Heaven and then in the next breath (and next verse) St John describes a pregnant woman appearing in Heaven. This Woman “contains” the Messiah.  The thinking goes that if Mary is the fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant, then she must be “all holy”. Remember that in the Old Covenant a man was killed for touching the ark. It was holy. If the box that held stone tablets was so restricted – so also would be the woman who actually carried God Himself. And so she is all pure and all holy, without the stain of sin.

Arguments against:

Mary is full of grace; grace is only provided to sinners.

Mary’s spirit rejoices in God her savior; God saved Mary from the sins of arrogance and pride; salvation (rescue) is for sinners.

Mary is considered the ark of the new covenant; as a created being, Mary is subject to corruption and sin, just as the ark was.

Arguments for an argumentative paper:

Here’s where I get stuck.  The two main arguments are either she was conceived without sin, lived a sinless life, and had Christ – which brings up things like the predestination/free will argument; or she was a normal woman, conceived in the normal way, who was chosen by God as the vessel through whom He would be born and have a human nature.  Lots has been written about both points of view – generally Catholic on one side and Protestant on the other, although there are also Islamic arguments for a sinless nature and Orthodox arguments against a sinless nature.  What exactly am I going to be arguing about that hasn’t already been said?


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