The Immaculate Conception
My previous blog addressed the question, was Mary a Perpetual Virgin? I have concluded that the Bible, which comprise the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament, does not teach this dogma of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). As I stated in this blog, it is not, nor will it ever be, my intention to attack my Roman Catholic friends and family.
Many people believe that the Immaculate Conception means the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit. If this is what it meant, then I would not have written this post.
The doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in his Apostolic Constitution “Ineffabilis Deus” on December 8, 1854.
"This doctrine asserts that Mary was kept free from any taint of original sin from the instant of her conception. Many Fathers in the early church, such as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, saw Mary as the new Eve. It was argued that only a sinless vessel could give birth to a sinless savior. This view was never endorsed by the Orthodox church and was denied in the Western church by many Scholastic theologians, including Thomas Aquinas. Nevertheless, in the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus of 1854, issued by Pope Pius IX, the immaculate conception of Mary became official dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. This view is not affirmed by most Protestant denominations."
This pronouncement is the source and basis for Mary’s complete holiness, without sin, as the "Mother of God". The dogma of the Immaculate Conception states:
"All these momenta are embodied in the definition enunciated by Pius IX in his famous Bull “Ineffabilis Deus” of December 8th, 1854: “We define that the doctrine which declares that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted to her by Almighty God, through the merits of Christ Jesus, Savior of mankind, was preserved from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore must be held firmly and constantly by all faithful Christians."
This dogma teaches that:
Mary was, by a special and altogether unique privilege, preserved from original sin from "the instant of her conception."
Mary was the new Eve.
Mary had no need for a savior to pay the penalty for her sins, however she owed her freedom from original sin entirely to the redemptive merits of her divine Son, thus the reason why she said: "My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior" (Luke 1:47).
This is "a doctrine revealed by God."
Paragraph 490 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
"To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role." The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace". In fact, 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 God's grace."
Paragraph 491 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
"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. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin."
Full of Grace
Paragraph 490 states that the angel Gabriel in his annunciation to Mary salutes her as "full of grace." The only reference of this annunciation is found in Luke 1:26-28.
"Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
The salutation "full of grace" is not mentioned in this passage. I checked several Bible versions, including the King James. It is not there. However, "full of grace" is found in the following two scriptures:
"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
"And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people" (Acts 6:8).
Mary was called "favored one" because she "found favor with God" (Luke 1:30). The Greek word for "favor" is charis, which means "grace, good will, favor." This word conveys the sense of a gift of kindness and favor given to a person or persons. The text does not imply that Mary was "full of grace" at her conception. Mary was favored by God because she, a virgin, was chosen by God to carry His Son in her womb (Luke 1:31). If Mary was conceived in her mother's womb without the taint of original sin, this important point would have been documented somewhere in the New Testament gospel accounts, especially by Luke who investigated everything carefully from the beginning:
"Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught" (Luke 1:1-4).
The apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 4:14 that Luke was a physician, so it would make sense that he would not leave out any important details in his narrative.
The New Eve
The scriptures do not mention that Mary was the new Eve. The only references to Eve in the New Testament are found in 2nd Corinthians 11:3 and 1st Timothy 2:13. Mary is not mentioned in either passage. The only other references to Eve are in Genesis 3:20 and Genesis 4:1 - the creation account and Eve giving birth to her son Cain. However, Jesus is mentioned as the last Adam:
"For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive" (1st Corinthians 15:22).
"So also, it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit" (1st Corinthians 15:45).
Immune From the Stain of Original Sin
If there was ever a blasphemous dogma pronounced by the RCC, this is it - Mary was preserved immune from all stain of original sin.
In Luke 1:47 Mary proclaims, "And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior." If she was immune from original sin from the time of her conception, then why would she need a Savior at all?
Romans 3:23 states that "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The word "all" means just what is says with no exceptions. If Mary was an exception this would have been noted in the scriptures.
Romans 5:6-8 - "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Why would Christ die for Mary if she was without sin?
Romans 5:12 - "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." Again, we see the word "all." "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23) and this penalty spread to all of mankind. No exception is made for Mary.
It is important to note that this doctrine was revealed by God. However, there is no basis in the Bible, the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament, for this doctrine. Even though there is no scriptural evidence to support this doctrine, it must be accepted and believed strictly based on the infallibility of the Pope Pius IX who declared it. The doctrine of Papal Infallibility was dogmatically defined at the First Vatican Council (1869-1870):
"The supreme power of teaching (magisterii) is also included in the apostolic primacy, which the Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, Prince of the Apostles, possesses over the whole Church, this Holy See has always held, the perpetual practice of the Church confirms, and Œcumenical Councils also have declared, especially those in which the East with the West met in the union of faith and charity. For the Fathers of the Fourth Council of Constantinople, following in the footsteps of their predecessors, gave forth this solemn profession: “The first condition of salvation is to keep the rule of the true faith. And because the sentence of our Lord Jesus Christ cannot be passed by, who said, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church,’ these things which have been said are proved by events, because in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept undefiled, and her well-known doctrine has been kept holy. … We teach and define that it is a dogma divinely revealed: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in discharge of the office of Pastor and Teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, is, by the divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals; and that, therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, irreformable."
The entire basis for Papal Infallibility is based on what the Lord said to Peter: Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church. In other words, Peter was the rock that the Catholic church was built upon.
"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it."
Was Peter the rock upon which Jesus will build His church? Or is the rock in reference to what Peter said?
"Peter" in the Greek is Petros which means "little stone." It is only used in reference to the name of Peter in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Galatians, 1st Peter, and 2nd Peter.
The word "rock" in this context is the Greek word petra. It has the idea of being a mass of rock, such as a detached stone or bedrock - any solid, unweathered rock located at any angle, usually lying beneath surface deposits of soil. This word is found in fourteen New Testament verses, most notably:
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock" (Matthew 7:24).
“BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED” (Romans 9:33).
"And all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ" (Ist Corinthians 10:4).
The rock upon which Jesus said He will build His church is not Peter, but on what Peter said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Ephesians 2:18-22 states: "You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit."
God's household, the universal church, is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets - the message that the twelve apostles and prophets proclaimed. Its cornerstone - the most important stone of a new building which ensures a straight and level foundation - is Christ Jesus.
Bernadette of Lourdes
Pope Pius IX pronounced the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary on December 8, 1854. Four years later, Bernadette Soubirous, a fourteen-year-old daughter of a miller from Lourdes in France experienced apparitions of a young lady who asked for a chapel to be built at a nearby cave at Massabielle. These apparitions occurred between February 11 and July 16, 1858. The apparition identified herself as the "Immaculate Conception." This Marian apparition became known as "Our Lady of Lourdes" on February 18, 1862. The Marian shrine at Lourdes became a major pilgrimage site, attracting over five-million people every year.
I am not going to question whether or not this story is true. I wasn't there. After a canonical investigation, Soubirous's reports were eventually declared "worthy of belief." The following are suggestions for consideration by those reading this post.
The purpose of signs, wonders, and miracles performed by Christ during His earthly ministry
demonstrated His deity (Matthew 9:1-8) and to support His claim of being the promised Messiah, the Son of David (Matthew 9:27-38). They were also used to confirm the gospel message preached by the apostles (Romans 15:18-20, 2nd Corinthians 12:12).
Is it possible that the RCC needed some miracle to confirm the pronouncement of the Immaculate Conception of Mary four years earlier?
Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians 11:14 that "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." He also warns us in Galatians 1:6-9:
"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!"
Is it possible that Bernadette Soubirous saw Satan disguised as Mary? We know from Genesis 3:1-6 that the serpent (Satan) deceived Mary into eating from the tree that the Lord commanded Adam not to eat from (Genesis 2:16-17). Was Bernadette Soubirous also deceived and, in the process, the Roman Catholic Church was deceived? Satan will do anything within his power to keep the lost, those who are perishing, from believing the gospel of Christ.
"For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1st Corinthians 1:18).
"And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2nd Corinthians 4:3-4).
It is my contention that the Immaculate Conception of Mary is a false doctrine that is not supported within the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament. If some dogma is not supported in the Bible, then you must decide which has the higher authority - the source of the dogma or the scriptures.
The following sources were utilized in the development of this post:
Pohle, J., & Preuss, A. (1919). Mariology: a dogmatic treatise on the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of God with an appendix on the worship of the saints, relics and images. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder.
Feldmeth, N. P. (2008). In Pocket Dictionary of Church History: Over 300 Terms Clearly and Concisely Defined. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
McNabb, V. (Ed.). (1907). The Decrees of the Vatican Council. New York: Benziger Brothers.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition.
Bernadette Soubirous - Wikipedia
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth"
2nd Timothy 2:15
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture cited in this post is taken from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update.