The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception

As a Christian, I have every respect for Mary, the mother of the Lord. When I write against the doctrine of "the immaculate conception", I am not writing against Mary. On the contrary, I seek to present the truth about her.

The image of Mary crushing the serpent's head is taken from a incorrect translation of Genesis 3:15: "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel" (Douay-Rheims Bible). Modern Catholic Bibles correct the mistake: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel" (New American Bible).

The Bible teaches that the woman's seed, JESUS, crushed the serpent's head. Why is then that Catholics continue to portray Mary as if she crushed Satan's head? Jesus came to the world to give us victory over our enemy. "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). Let us therefore trust in Him alone to give us victory over the devil, sin and death.

The modern Catholic Church teaches that Mary was conceived without sin.

Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, 'full of grace' through God (Luke 1:28) 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. [Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854)] (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 491).

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was not taught in the first centuries of the Christian church. While there were some fathers who believed that Mary led a sinless life, there was a unanimous agreement that all natural descendants of Adam were conceived in sin. Augustine writes: "He [Christ], therefore, alone having become man, but still continuing to be God, never had any sin, nor did he assume a flesh of sin, though born of a maternal flesh of sin" (De Peccatorum Meritis).

"The first real advocacy of the dogma comes in the twelfth century in the writing of a British monk Eadmer. But ranged against him in their denial of the dogma are names which are revered in the Church of Rome - Bernard Clairvaux, Peter Lombard, Bonaventura and Thomas Aquinas, to name a few. It was not until the fourteenth century that Duns Scotus elaborated the theory which was ultimately to win the day for the Franciscan advocates of the dogma in their debate with the Dominicans who had fiercely opposed it" (H.M. Carson, Roman Catholicism Today).

Catholic scholars admit that this doctrine is not explicitly revealed in Scripture. The Catechism refers to Luke 1:28 for scriptural evidence. But "full of grace" could not possibly mean conceived without sin for the very same word is used in Ephesians 1:6 where it refers to ALL believers. Certainly no one would argue that all Christians were conceived without sin!

Contrary to the Roman Catholic teaching, the Scripture plainly teaches that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). All Adam's descendents share his sinful nature: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12). Therefore all need to be saved. Mary herself calls God "my savior" (Luke 1:47). Evidently she did not know the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception!

Of Christ alone it is ever expressly stated that He was "without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). Christ alone is immaculate from conception, and therefore qualified to die in the place of sinners. Christ, who knew no sin, "bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24).

The implications of this dogma are very serious. The Pope warns:

Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he thinks in his heart (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus).

The Roman Catholic magisterium would have us believe a doctrine that is neither taught in the Scriptures nor in the writings of the early church fathers - as if this doctrine is essential to the Christian faith. But we are convinced that the Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation by faith in Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 3:15). We don't need any extra-biblical doctrines for our salvation. In fact, it is the Roman Church that suffered "shipwreck in the faith" by embracing a doctrine that is contrary to the Bible; and "separated from the unity of the Church" which for centuries knew nothing of the theological inventions of Rome.

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