Some Negative Points

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.

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Timing

I got to thinking about the timing of the doctrine of immaculate conception, and it occurred to me I should call my son – history and religious buff – to see what he thought about it.  We learned and supposed quite a few things.

First, the doctrine of the immaculate conception was proclaimed doctrine in 1854 through a papal bull, ex cathedra – meaning that it incorporated the infallibility of the Pope through his connection to the Holy Spirit as God’s representative here on Earth.  Interestingly, that very same infallibility was only tradition until the Vatican I council in 1869.  At that point, it was made doctrine.  The only other papal bull declared doctrine in 1950 was also about Mary, concerning her bodily Assumption into heaven.  There haven’t been any others.  That, all by itself, is interesting.

But I was wondering about the timing of the doctrine.  The Second Great Awakening had been occurring in the first half of the 19th century, so Protestantism was again on the rise.  The Millerites and Baha’is had just passed the 1844 time for the return of Christ.  The Crimean War was being fought; the Franciscans (supported by the French, who at that time headed up the Holy Roman Empire) were in favor of the doctrine, while the Dominicans were not.  What made the Pope decide that now was the time to establish this as infallible doctrine?

Immaculate Conception – Eisegesis or Exegesis?

The question may actually be, were things written about the immaculate conception of Mary initially to help prove Christ’s divinity?  How much of that is eisegesis rather than exegesis, particularly in light of the papal bull in 1854? Prophecy can’t be perceived until it’s already happened, and then, are we really looking at the context in which a prophecy has been made, or are we practicing eisegesis to prove our point?

Was Augustine correct when he said, “The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed”? Are the two books of the Bible so interrelated, or is it that we are interpreting the old through the lens of the new, rather than through the lens of when it was written? Was it written to only be interpreted one way? Or are both correct?

Part of me wants to say that if Pope Pius IX was so moved as to issue a papal bull in the mid 19th century, then God’s saying both are correct. How much of that is being the good little Catholic? <g>

I discovered in writing my last paper that probably a good half of it came from my blog entries, so I’m going to continue the practice.  Next time will concern prophecies in general, and their relation to eisegesis/exegesis.