In her beautiful outpouring of amazement, gratitude, and worship after the angelic announcement that God has chosen her to be impregnated by His spirit and bear His son, Mary proclaims,
“My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior:
Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid;
For behold, from henceforth all generations will call me blessed (makarios, lit. happy, to be envied)” Luke 1:46-55 Douay-Rheims (Catholic) version.
Mary called God her Savior. Only sinners need a Savior. Therefore, Mary was a sinner.
The Catholic Church does not deny that Mary needed a Savior. But since the fourth century some church leaders* believed that Jesus Christ forgave His mother ahead of time for the sin nature she would have inherited and for all the sins she would have committed during her lifetime. (They also say that because of the exalted state His pardon provided for her, Mary never died but was received into heaven bodily as Jesus Christ was. This is called the “Assumption.”)
In AD 1854, Pope Pius IX made the “Immaculate Conception”** official church dogma: “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.” The Catechism adds, “By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.”
According to popular Catholic apologist*** Scott Hahn, “The immaculate conception, then, was a fruit of the redemption applied to Mary by way of anticipation. . . Her redemption was an act of preservation, while for all others it is an act of deliverance.” (Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God, pp. 97-98).
But here’s the catch. Although the Church says this was made possible by a retroactive pardon based on the sinlessness of Jesus Christ (not on Mary’s own merits), the church has extended this to mean that as a result Mary is not just “forgiven,” but is “sinless,” a very different thing.
My question would be, “Why? Why was it important for her to be sinless?” Catholics say it was so her womb would be holy, worthy of containing the sinless son of God.
But again my question is “Why? Why was it necessary for Him to be contained in a sinless womb?”
First, Mary did not need to be conceived without sin to avoid infecting her son with sin. Jesus could reside in the womb of a sinner just as He can indwell all of us sinners who believe in Him: “Christ liveth in me” Galatians 2:20 D-R. And “–you shall know that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you” John 14:20 D-R. Also John 17:23.
Second, Jesus would not have inherited sin through Mary anyway. The Bible teaches that sin is transmitted generationally through the male. Although Eve sinned (and sinned first), the judgment for sin came down to the rest of us through Adam: “And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.” I Corinthians 15:22 D-R
Also “–by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned–” and “–by one man’s offence death reigned. . . . For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners: so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just.” Romans 5:12 and Romans 5:17-19 D-R.
Therefore, since Jesus of Nazareth had no human father, the sin nature was not transmitted to Him anyway.
The Bible allows only two very separate categories of people: sinners with no “merit” of their own who need a Savior and the unique, sinless, fully God/fully human, fully meritorious Jesus Christ, who alone can be and is the Savior.
The Roman Catholic Magisterium seems to have created a third category.
They agree with the Bible that Jesus Christ is the Savior: “without sin,” “did no sin,” “knew no sin,” has “no sin in him,” and is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners” (Hebrews 4:14-15; I Peter 2:21-22; 2 Corinthians 5:21; I John 3:5; Hebrews 7:26 all from Douay-Rheims version)
They agree with the Bible that the rest of us are sinners: “For all have sinned and do need the glory of God.” Romans 3:10-19 and 23 D-R.
Yet they have carved out a third category for Mary. In a strange, circuitous fashion, they elevate her to a position where her son’s “merits” make her not only His peer but His adviser. Hahn’s chapter, “The Power Behind the Throne” (the very title gives me chills), points out that the “queens” who ruled with many ancient kings were not their wives but their mothers. He presents the official RC position that since Mary is the Savior’s mother, she is closer to Him than all other sinners and can run interference between us and Him, that He respects and listens to and defers to her.
The real, Biblical Mary never claimed to be sinless. In fact, she claimed to be God’s “handmaid,” lit. female slave or bondslave, a recipient of His grace, not a dispenser of grace.
Yes, in real life, she sometimes forgot her place as mother of a Person so far her superior she owed Him her very existence as well as her salvation. She forgot He had to be in the temple, “about his Father’s business.” She criticized Him and tried to tell Him what to do. She interfered with His God-appointed timing to start His ministry. And as Her son (humanly speaking) He did defer to her.
But he constantly had to deflect her attempts to claim a special relationship with Him. He reminded her that His mother and family were “those who hear the word of God and do it,” that she has to share Him with us all. Luke 8:21 D-R
I do not doubt that all this gentle distancing by her son as well as watching Him suffer as He did drove a sword through her heart. I do not doubt that because of her “yes” throughout life she enjoys special honor in heaven and a unique closeness with her son, as she worships and submits to Him there.
But attributing sinlessness and divine attributes and prerogatives to any human being other than the Lord Jesus Christ does violence to Holy Scripture. The Roman Catholic church holds the Bible to be the Word of God. The Magisterium claims equal authority with the Word of God but not the authority to contradict it. They say they only develop more fully teachings embryonic in it.
But if Scripture restricts sinlessness to Jesus Christ, something has been added that is not only not implied in Scripture but which actually violates its teaching.
I don’t see any wiggle room. I don’t see any crack through which Mary can conceivably be sinless as the church describes her, that is, in the sense that Jesus Himself is, able to dispense divine grace and redeem humanity.
To say that any human being, however highly-favored or Christ-like, is the power behind the throne of God is nothing short of blasphemous, no matter how you define power. It opens the door to unlimited abuses. Speaking for the church, Hahn gives Mary divine titles such as Queen of Heaven and Mother of God. He says Mary is the New Eve, and that everything from the ark of the covenant to the woman giving birth in Revelation is a type of Mary. He calls her the mother of all living, and says because she was Jesus’ mother and we are His sisters and brothers, she is our mother too, the Mother in the Holy Family. With God the Father and God the Son, Mary is on a fair way to pushing God the Spirit right out of the Trinity.
For more: Let us Reason.org
*There were notable exceptions, such as Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine Bishop of Hippo, Gregory the Great, Ambrose, Cardinal Cajetan, and at least seven of the popes. Theologian and church historian Philip Schaff lists seven Roman bishops who rejected Mary’s sinlessness (The Creeds of Christendom [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998], Vol. I, p. 123). http://www.letusreason.org/rc1.htm
**The term “immaculate conception” always refers to Mary, never to the Lord Jesus. He is said instead to have been “born of a virgin.” Thus in each case the focus is not on Him or on the Holy Spirit who conceived Him but on His mother.)
***”Apologist” is not a slur. It does not mean one who apologizes for something. It means one who defends a position.