After immersing myself in Mary’s immaculate conception research, I need to write out the points in a positive versus negative manner. So first, the immaculate conception deals with Mary‘s birth, not Jesus’. Jesus’ birth refers to the Virgin Birth. That’s just making sure we’re on the same page here.
- Protestants reject the concept of immaculate conception.
There are several reasons listed for that – for Protestants: lack of Biblical support; lack of uniqueness in Christ being the only being without sin; statements in the Bible which would refute the immaculate conception (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8, Luke 1:47 – one doesn’t need a savior if one is without sin); penal substitution which asserts Christ came to save all, not some; the whole argument between original sin and personal sin, and Christ paying for the former, not the latter.
- Greek Orthodox also reject the concept of immaculate conception, for a different reason.
For Orthodox, we need to go back to the whole concept of original sin. In the Western Church, it became defined by St. Augustine as each human being at the moment of conception shares in the guilt of Adam‘s sin of disobedience. The Orthodox Church has kept alive the original understanding of the early Church as regards “original sin.” The early Church did not understand “original sin” as having anything to do with transmitted guilt but with transmitted mortality. Because Adam sinned, all humanity shares not in his guilt but in the same punishment (death). Because of this, there was no need for an immaculate conception, as Mary would only suffer from personal sin, as do all men, but not original sin, which the Orthodox do not believe we share in; they believe only that we share in the punishment because we are all mortal.
Now, while Catholics would have us believe that Mary never sinned (personal sin), the Bible showed times when she both doubted and had pride, so that kinda shoots that argument in the foot.
Immaculate Conception is seen by the Orthodox as separating the Mother of God from the rest of the human race. If true, this would have made it impossible for Christ to become truly man, because Mary would therefore not be subject to the same conditions of humanity as those for whom Christ had become incarnate in order to save. Mary is human, and through her, God became fully human as well.
And it’s that last argument which makes the most sense to me. God became man in order to experience life as a man, to be born and live without sin, so that He could take the sins of all humanity upon Himself and provide that perfect sacrifice.
So, next time, I’ll start getting into why the immaculate conception does make sense. Because there is quite a bit to recommend it as being accurate. In a very logical way – which is part of what convinces me that it is a doctrine of man and not of God.