Mary’s Immaculate Conception: Dialogue w Episcopalian

Mary’s Immaculate Conception: Dialogue w Episcopalian May 20, 2019

Kim Bishop is a member of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. This discussion came about on my public Facebook page. Her words will be in blue.

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Don’t care what your traditions say [about] this [Mary’s sinlessness and Immaculate Conception and in partu virginity] is totally ridiculous. Mary herself admitted she needed a saviour. Jesus was brought into the world like every other baby. I accept that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born, but to stay a virgin and have no other children was a curse in those days and she was called blessed among women. This has no basis in fact and is totally against the very canon books that the Catholic church chose.

Of course she needed a savior (no one ever said otherwise); God saved her by preventing her from falling into the pit of sin, through her Immaculate Conception. Otherwise, she would have been subject to original sin like all of us. It was an act of pure divine grace.

Your belief that Mary was sexually active after Jesus’ birth has no pedigree in the Church fathers. Only heretics in those days believed it. None of the Protestant founders believed it. It is basically a modernist belief that arose after the French Revolution in modernist / skeptical circles (where traditional Catholic and Protestant beliefs were being jettisoned on a weekly basis). Scripture is against it (many arguments that I have detailed).

That is your tradition which is truly “ridiculous”: straight from the godless so-called “Enlightenment” and liberal theology that mocked and denigrated Holy Scripture as well as any apostolic tradition.

I do thank you for saving us, at least, from the spectacle of being accused of being “anti-sex.” That’s very refreshing!

If Mary had to be immaculate didn’t then her mother have to be and so on and so forth? If she had to be without sin for Jesus to be without sin then her mother would have had to be too and so on…and if she was without sin she would not need a saviour because she would be already saved…and if it is so important why was nothing about it put into the official canon of the church (ie., the Catholic bible)? Why was not the gospel of Thomas or Jude in the canon? The whole Marian mythology goes against scripture…at least what the Catholic church thought important enough to be put in the canonical Scriptures.

Mary did not absolutely have to be immaculate, as I have written about. This is Church teaching. But we believe that in fact she was, as God’s “fitting” will.

Thus, your argument is a non sequitur. Mary’s mother didn’t have to be immaculate, in any event, because it had nothing to do with her. It was a direct miraculous act of grace by God.

The Immaculate Conception is in the Bible, in kernel form in Luke 1:28: “full of grace” / kecharitomene in Greek. I’ve defended the Immaculate Conception and.or Mary’s sinlessness many times from the Bible alone:

Blessed Virgin Mary & God’s Special Presence in Scripture [1994; from first draft of A Biblical Defense of Catholicism]

“All Have Sinned” vs. a Sinless, Immaculate Mary? [1996; revised and posted at National Catholic Register on 12-11-17]

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Sinless Mary: Dialogue w OT Professor (Dr. Jonathan Huddleston) [12-8-14]

“Armstrong vs. Geisler” #6: Sinless Mary [3-1-17]

Scripture, Through an Angel, Reveals That Mary Was Sinless [National Catholic Register, 4-30-17]

Armstrong vs. Collins & Walls #3: Necessity of Immaculate Mary? [10-18-17]

Amazing Parallels Between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant [National Catholic Register, 2-13-18]

Biblical Support for Mary’s Immaculate Conception [National Catholic Register, 10-29-18]

I have tons of papers on biblical arguments for Mariology, if you’re interested. I’d even send you my book about Mary as a PDF for free, if you want it.

I have listened very closely to people sharing about Marian theology or mythology whatever it is properly called and have tried with all my might to understand it and even accept it.

The Immaculate Conception still has nothing to do with Mary’s mother (as is often mistakenly thought). It was a miraculous act of God having only to do with Mary’s soul. That doesn’t mean her background heritage (assuming this is correct) played no role in her holiness and way of life, just not directly in her Immaculate Conception.

However, if Mary didn’t need her mother to be pure so she could be pure because it was a direct miraculous act of grace by God, why couldn’t the same be said of Jesus’ conception and that Mary was just the same as her mother?

As I have explained, the Immaculate Conception was not strictly necessary. Jesus was God and was conceived by the Holy Spirit without any man’s intervention. He would be without sin in any event: indeed could not ever sin (impeccability), since He was God.

So your objection is a non-issue in Catholic theology.

I am trying to get my mind, heart and soul around it by listening and questioning. However, it seems when you do not like the question you simply go to the they typical “you’re not really interested in understanding Catholic Rationales” argument. How very sad. I guess I will no longer try and dialogue with you.

You started above by writing, “Don’t care what your traditions say . . . this is totally ridiculous.” Does that sound like you are “listening” and trying to understand? I take your word that you are doing that, but that sort of rhetoric is why I reacted as I did [in a statement that I apologized for, retracted, and removed].

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I posted the above to Facebook and tagged Mary, and she showed up for more dialogue:

Why did you tag me?

Out of courtesy, since it was from 2014.

The whole notion of Mary’s Immaculate conception is fiction…I have read and discussed with believers in it a lot. the premise of it is crazy. I mean if Jesus couldn’t be sinless unless Mary was sinless then it would have to go all the way back through Mary’s lineage that they all were sinless (which we know they were not). Yahweh is Yahweh and can do as He wills. I am not going to be convinced. I honestly am not one of those “protestants” who hates all things RCC, I try my best to find acceptability in their teachings (and do for most things protestants disagree with) but this is one that I have tried to see and just do not. Sadly, I’ve been told that damns me because I can’t be part of the “true” church. I very much disagree, but there it is. Thanks for thinking of me though.

I already responded to and refuted what you say here, in the dialogue. But you act as if I never did. One can only try! The Catholic Church doesn’t believe and teach what you claim it does (“if Jesus couldn’t be sinless unless Mary was sinless then it would have to go all the way back through Mary’s lineage that they all were sinless”).

It’s wrong to misrepresent what others in the Body of Christ teach. We have a responsibility to be accurate.

Yes, of course you won’t be convinced if you wrongly think that the Immaculate Conception has a major premise that is not in fact present in the reasoning and the dogma. At least understand what it is that you reject: over against the Church fathers and the Bible (in terms of sinlessness: the doctrine’s kernel).

Anyone who says you are going to hell doesn’t know what they are talking about. No one knows that, and the Catholic Church claims about virtually no one (save perhaps Judas), that he or she is in hell, or is destined for same.

As for being part of the true Church and the Body of Christ, the Council of Trent stated that you are, by virtue of baptism. It’s an imperfect inclusion, in terms of formal communion, and it would be better yet for you to formally join the fullness of the Catholic Church, but you are a true Christian, regenerated, and in the Body of Christ, according to Trent. For more on that, see: Baptismal Ecumenism: A New Evangelistic Paradigm (Rod Bennett).

Fellow apologist and friend Nick Hardesty joined in:

If you’ve “discussed with believers in it a lot” and lineage is your sticking point, then you haven’t been speaking with anyone very knowledgeable in this doctrine. Jesus’ sinlessness doesn’t depend on Mary being sinless. Jesus is sinless because He is God. His sinlessness flows from his divinity. Mary was preserved from sin so that:

– she would be the most fitting “ark” for the New Covenant that is Christ; 

– she would be equipped and emboldened to give the “Yes” that brought Jesus into the world.

– her Son, who is the 2nd Person of the Trinity, would be able to honor her in the best possible way, being, as He is, the perfect follower of His Commandments.

Very well-stated ! Thanks.

Your points were pretty much what the article said. And I have heard it many times. I do not see that Mary was ever treated any different than any other person in Jesus’s life in scripture. Perhaps the early fathers created the idea of perfection for her (which is unbiblical) but I do not see it or accept it. Doesn’t make her less of a woman or mother to God just because of it. She is remembered as faithful and a good mother…I don’t see why perpetual virginity makes sense. It was a curse to a woman to be childless, so having many children would be God’s gift to her. I do not get the whole notion of the Catholic view of Mary…I love her as much as anyone, but she was just like anyone else that God chose to work through…a faithful testimony to us all. The fact that you think because I do not agree with you means I haven’t talked to the right people is annoying and insulting to me.

What we are saying is that you have not talked to people who accurately understand what the Catholic Church teaches. It does not teach the caricature and straw man of “many generations needing to be sinless” that you have set up to shoot down and disbelieve in.

If Yahweh wants me to come to your way of thinking the Holy Spirit will bring me (as I am not closed off to it if it is true). But like you will never come to my way of thinking, I will not come to yours. Jesus is the mediator and propitiation for our sins that is enough for me…

By the way, I use the name Yahweh because I find that the word “God” is often used for false gods and I prefer to make sure people know which God I worship.

So, just to make sure I’m understanding you, you still believe that perfect holiness must go back through the generations, even though several people have told you that it doesn’t work that way?

For humans, yes. Jesus was God incarnate man…Mary was a human woman therefore for her to be perfect she would either have to be God or have no sin. People have told me that global climate change is caused by men too, doesn’t mean that I accept it.

She could have no sin, if God willed that by a very special gift of His grace (and Mary cooperated with the grace), by simply being like Eve before the fall and original sin. Eve (like Adam) was a sinless, perfect human being at that time, just as the non-fallen angels have always been sinless and perfect (though not human; but still creatures).

This is why the fathers called Mary the “new Eve” or “second Eve.” That goes back at least as far as St. Irenaeus. She undid human rebellion and the fall by saying “yes” to God in contrast to Eve’s “no.”

Earlier, you portrayed the Catholic position as declaring that Mary had to be sinless in order for Jesus to be sinless. I (and I’m guessing countless others) have told you that this is not what Catholics believe. So, are you willing to abandon that characterization of the Catholic position?

I have heard those arguments before as well, and I disagree with both of you…

Your task is to document that the Catholic Church teaches the straw man caricature that you have set up. You can disagree with the doctrine, of course, but if you disagree with the (alleged) reasoning behind it, you first have to properly understand and document it.

Why do Catholics have so many different interpretations of your teachings if your teachings are clear? I have heard from faithful Catholics in different parts of the world that yes, they worship saints, that no, they don’t worship saint, that Mary is the way to Jesus, that Mary had to be sinless for Jesus to be sinless and so on and so forth. I am always told by apologists that “this is what the church really teaches”. Well, why are the people being taught incorrectly then? And are they good Catholics if they are praying to saints or believe all those other things? Catholicism is so much like Protestantism because it seems that each apologist has their own interpretation of cannon and tradition etc. What can we look to to understand when we get so many different teachings? The bulls? The Bible? Other writings?

I choose to look toward the Scriptures if I am confused; and prayer. I speak to as many priests or pastors as I can and still get different explanations. It must come down to something. I hold to the creed and just pray that Yahweh knows my heart to be true to Him. I do not feel less because I am not a member of the RCC, as I believe I am a member of the true Catholic faith. All the bits and pieces are adiophra (sp). Christ (being God) come in the flesh, dying, rising, and ascending is what my faith is in…the good works I do must come from Him to be worthy and I receive the sacrament (albeit Lutheran) to receive his body and blood into my human flesh to keep me in the way.

I confess in church and as I sin to receive forgiveness. I do not pray to passed-on saints, but to Christ. I can only do what I am led to do. If I’m wrong, then I’m either doomed to hell or as so many now believe, oblivion. Only Yahweh knows, and I do feel that many of our “religious” arguments are unnecessary and useless. I pray all the best for you and Dave and all true believers. But I don’t have time to debate unnecessary points…even you guys seem to think it doesn’t matter to God, so why do we have to argue the point?

Still waiting for an answer to my question. I’ll state it again: Are you willing to abandon that characterization of the Catholic position? In other words, are you willing to admit that Catholics don’t in fact believe that Jesus’ sinlessness requires Mary to be sinless (and her mom, and her mom, and so on)?

If you are resolute in tearing down a strawman, then there’s really no point in continuing the conversation. In order to prove your case, you have to refute what we actually believe, not a caricature of what we believe. It’s also not enough to say, “Well, I disagree.” You have to actually marshal evidence that disproves our arguments.

As for the “many different interpretations of [my] teaching,” certainly its not inconceivable that, with 1.3 billion Catholics in the world, you’re going to come across some, and even many, who misunderstand certain teachings. That’s just humanity for you. But, if you want to know for sure what the Catholic Church teaches, just consult the Catechism. That is the authoritative presentation of what we believe. What you’ll find in there is everything that Dave and I have been saying.

Sorry I meant to say “no” to your question in my last answer, just left it out. When so many Catholics tell me different things I do not know that I can say that the characterization of the catholic position is wrong…so many different interpretations.

You are asserting that “the Catholic Church believes in the Immaculate Conception because of presuppositional / foundational reasoning x . . .” We reply that “the Catholic Church does not teach x as a basis of the Immaculate Conception.” X is your straw man: a piece of fiction.

That’s what we’re trying to get you to see, but so far, you will have none of it. You think you understand Catholic dogma on this point better than a Catholic catechist / apologist (Nick is the Coordinator of Content and Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati) and a Catholic apologist.

You claim that [Catholic] “apologists” are telling you these things. Very well, then: please name them. There are good and bad apologists, and so-called “apologists” who have no business defending Catholicism. They have no credentials.

I’m not gonna play Bible hopscotch and do the silly “100 topics at once” routine. That’s simply a way for you to avoid the dilemma that you have gotten yourself into. If you want to have a serious discussion about any of that, pick one, and we will do so in a separate thread. Right now, the topic is the Immaculate Conception.

I don’t really care what the RCC believes on the immaculate conception. I don’t think it matters one iota in the scheme of salvation so it is a vain and useless argument to me.

Yeah, we can see that. This is why you keep misrepresenting what we believe. You feel that it is okay for you to lie about a fellow Christian’s belief, and to not care whether you are doing so or not, as long as you oppose the thing you disagree with. Anything goes. The end justifies the means . . . Last I checked, all Christians agree that lying is wrong.

I am not misrepresenting, I simply am say what other Catholics say to me. Not my fault that they were taught wrong. And you tagged me. I did not jump on the discussion.

But, you are misrepresenting. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has the final say on what the teaching of the Catholic Church is, and it contradicts what you claim the position of the Church is. If speaking the truth about what others believe is important to you at all, then consider what the Catechism says:

Art. 490 says, “In order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne …” by a sinless mother? No, it says, “… by God’s grace.” Art. 491 says, “Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, ‘full of grace’ through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception.” Through God, not her own mother. Art. 722 uses the language of fittingness, not necessity. It says, “It was fitting that the mother of him in whom ‘the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily’ should herself be ‘full of grace’.”

It should be clear from this that the Church teaches that Mary’s sinlessness comes from a special gift of grace, from God, at the moment of her conception, and not from a lineage of sinless people.

As for Jesus’ own sinlessness, the Catechism says that this comes, not from Mary, but from the perfect union of His two natures within the 2nd Person of the Trinity. Art. 468 says, “Thus everything in Christ’s human nature is to be attributed to his divine person as its proper subject, not only his miracles but also his sufferings and even his death.” That would include His sinlessness. Art. 470 says, “Everything that Christ is and does in this [human] nature derives from ‘one of the Trinity’.” Art. 475 says that Jesus has two wills — divine and human — and they are not opposed because they belong to the Word.

You will not find anywhere in the Catechism or in any of the authoritative documents of the Church any statement which says that Jesus’ sinlessness came from Mary, or that a lineage of perfectly holy people was necessary for either Mary or Jesus to be sinless. It’s time for you to banish this misrepresentation of why the Church believes in the sinlessness of Jesus and Mary.

G. K .Chesterton wrote about this sort of attitude:

So many people are at once preoccupied with it and prejudiced against it. It is queer to observe so much ignorance with so little indifference. They love talking about it and they hate hearing about it . . . I fancy there is more than meets the eye in this curious controversial attitude; the desire to ask rhetorical questions and not to ask real questions; the wish to heckle and not to hear. (The Thing, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1929, 81-82)

I could not understand why these romancers never took the trouble to find out a few elementary facts about the thing they denounced . . . Boundless freedom reigned; it was not treated as if it were a question of fact at all . . . It puzzled me very much . . . to imagine why people . . . should thus neglect to test their own case, and should draw in this random way on their own imagination . . . I never dreamed that the Roman religion was true; but I knew that its accusers, for some reason or other, were curiously inaccurate. (The Catholic Church and Conversion, New York: Macmillan, 1926, 36-38)

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(originally 11-14-14; expanded on 5-20-19)

Photo credit: Immaculate Conception, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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