Last month, I wrote a 7-part apologetic (or “defense”) of the Immaculate Conception. Since I basically spammed the homepage of Catholic Stand for a week, I received a good deal of feedback, not just in the comments section, but also via email and on my blog. Some of that feedback was from non-Catholics who were not persuaded by my arguments. I would like to respond now to that feedback. Their words will be indented, in a quote box.
Mary: A Sinner in Need of a Savior?
“Justas399” left the following comment in response to Part 7:
Major problems with your understanding of Scripture. “My spirit rejoices in God my savior.” is not about “her legacy” but her awareness that she is sinner in need of a savior. We also know that no author of Scripture asserts Mary was without sin. Romans 5:12 tells us that all men are sinners that come into the world because all men are conceived by a fallen man and woman.
First, I did not say that it was simply about her legacy. That is an oversimplification of my argument. My point was that we have good reason to believe that Mary was referring to her temporal salvation, not her eternal salvation. I provided proof to support that position. A bald assertion doesn’t refute that position.
“… [N]o author of Scripture asserts Mary was without sin …”: Well, if the angel’s words to Mary don’t qualify, then they sure do come very close. At any rate, I don’t think a scripture passage as explicit as, “Mary did not commit any sins” is necessary in order to hold that the sinlessness of Mary is a scriptural doctrine. Christian doctrines (especially the great mysteries of the Christian faith) are rarely served on a silver platter like that. Instead, they require that we make deductions based on the scriptural evidence. That is what I have done with my 7-part series. Did you read every part?
Finally, regarding Romans 5:12 , many of the arguments I used in response to Romans 3 (see Part 6 from this series) apply to Romans 5 as well. There are exceptions to the rule, and there always will be.
That said, it is interesting that Justas399 would use Romans 5, which is about the “New Adam”. Has he ever wondered who the “New Eve” might be? Christians from the beginning identified her with Mary. Just as Eve listened to an angel (the fallen Satan), disobeyed God, and brought sin and death into the world, Mary listened to an angel, obeyed God, and brought grace and life to the world. For more on this, see “6 Biblical Reasons Mary Is the New Eve”. Essentially, her sinlessness does not contradict Romans 5. Instead, it completes the theme of recapitulation that Paul introduced there.
Did Jesus Rebuke the Notion of Mary’s Sinlessness?
The next bit of feedback comes from an anonymous comment on my blog:
I disagree that there no evidence against Mary’s sinlessness. In Luke 11: 27, a woman called out saying to Jesus, “… Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” Jesus then replies with a rebuke in verse 28 saying to the woman, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” KJV says instead of on the contrary, Yea rather. If Mary was sinless, then why did Jesus disagree?
Also I was wondering why in Mary’s Magnificat, she says in verse 47, “Oh my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.” If Mary was sinless, why did she refer to God as a Savior? This implies that she needed a Savior, right? In verse 48, she calls herself a handmaiden or lowly servant girl and said that God took notice of her which also implies her being nothing significant. I thought being sinless meant she had a high status.
Why are we putting some much focus on Mary when she herself said that she isn’t really significant. She was obviously blessed by God to be chosen as the mother of Jesus but I don’t see where she is more than that.
I don’t think Luke 11:27-28 means what this person thinks it means. First of all, the Greek word menounge, which in Luke 11:28 is translated as “on the contrary” or “yea, rather” can also mean “indeed” or “what is more”, as it does in Philippians 3:7-8:
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
What this means is that what comes after menounge need not negate what came before it. In this case, we know it doesn’t because if Jesus was somehow trying to say that Mary was not blessed then He would be contradicting Scripture. After all, earlier in the same gospel, it is quite plainly revealed that Mary is blessed:
- “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30);
- “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42);
- “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45);
- “For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).
Since Jesus cannot be contradicting the woman from the crowd, what is He doing? He’s expanding on the category of who can consider themselves blessed to include those who hear the word of God and keep it. Mary’s fiat (“Let it be done to me according to your word”) is evidence enough that she is someone who hears the word of God and keeps it. So, in no way can Jesus be seen here to be diminishing His mother in any way.
What’s interesting is that Luke 11:27-28 isn’t even about Mary’s sinlessness. That is nowhere mentioned in the passage. Only indirectly is it even about Mary at all. The woman who said this is praising Jesus, not Mary. She is essentially saying, “Your mother must be truly blessed to have YOU as her son!” This passage does nothing to refute the sinlessness of Mary.
My anonymous commenter also asked the question, “If Mary was sinless, why did she refer to God as a Savior?” I encourage him to read Part 7 again. I devoted a whole section to answering that question.
Finally, this person concluded by saying: “Why are we putting some much focus on Mary when she herself said that she isn’t really significant.” Mary said she was the Lord’s humble servant (“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” [Luke 1:38]), but she never said she was insignificant. Mary is also the one who said, “All generations will call me blessed.” That’s hardly the place of insignificance.
As for the focus we place on her, it is no more than what Scripture itself gives, or what the angel Gabriel and her relative Elizabeth gave. We honor her and venerate her just as they did.
Let me know what you think of these back-and-forth exchanges. I have received other objections besides these that I could respond to in future posts, but only if I sense it is helpful and you all haven’t grown weary with these lengthy posts broken up into several parts. I appreciate your comments and feedback.
Peace of Christ to you,
PS: If you would like to see what all the fuss is about, here are the links to my 7-part defense of the Immaculate Conception and the sinlessness of Mary: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Photography: Cindy Trainque