Dogma of the Immaculate Conception
The modern Catholic Church teaches
dogmatically that Mary was
conceived without sin. The Catechism (paragraph 491) states:
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
How was the idea of Mary's immaculate conception introduced in the catholic church? The doctrine was not
a tradition in the early centuries of the church. Some Church
Fathers taught that Mary led a sinless life, but they did not teach
that she was conceived without original sin. On the contrary the
Fathers opposed the heresy of Pelagius who insisted that Adam's sin
was not imputed to the human race. For
instance, 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, Bk II, Ch 38). Christ alone never had
A feast of Mary's conception was celebrated in the Eastern church
as early as the seventh century (and later in the West), but that does not imply a belief in
"immaculate" conception. In fact, to this day the Orthodox
Church does not accept the doctrine.
In the 13th-century, John Duns Scotus promoted the doctrine of
the Immaculate Conception. The Franciscan monks continued to preach
and defend the doctrine, but it was opposed in the 12th-century by
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th-century
and subsequently by the Dominican friars.
In the 15th-century the Franciscan Pope Sixtus IV established a
feast of the Immaculate Conception to be celebrated on December 8.
Finally in 1854 Pope Pius IX issued a solemn decree, Ineffabilis
Deus, declaring the Immaculate Conception an essential dogma
for all the church.
Catholic scholars acknowledge that this doctrine is not explicitly
revealed in Scripture.
Catholic Encyclopaedia admits, "No direct or categorical
and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from
The Catechism refers to Luke 1:28 for
scriptural support. But "full of grace" could not
possibly mean conceived without sin, for the very same word is used
in Ephesians 1:6 referring to ALL believers. Certainly no-one
would argue that all Christians are conceived without sin!
Contrary to the Roman Catholic teaching, the Scripture plainly
teaches that all Adam's descendents share his
sinful nature: "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered
the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men,
because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). Therefore all Adam's
children need to be saved.
Mary herself, a natural descendant of Adam, calls God "my savior" (Luke 1:47). Evidently
she did not know the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate
Of Christ alone, the eternal Son who was
supernaturally conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the
virgin woman, it is ever expressly stated that He was
"without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). Christ alone is immaculate
from conception; therefore He alone is qualified to die in the place of
sinners. Christ, who knew no sin, "bore our sins in His own
body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24).
In Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pius IX also
appealed to Genesis 3:15 as "unmistakable evidence that she has
crushed the poisonous head of the serpent." He also states that
with and through Christ, Mary was "eternally at enmity with the
evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus
crushed his head with her immaculate foot."
But the Bible does not say that Mary crushed the
serpent's head. Speaking to the serpent, the Lord says:
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
The woman's Seed, the Messiah, not the woman,
bruised the serpent's head.
The paintings of the Immaculate crushing the serpent's
head were inspired from a incorrect translation of Genesis 3:15 based on
the Latin Vulgate: "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, such as the New American Bible, 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."
Yet Mary is still portrayed
crushing Satan's head. Let us not be misled by false images and
false doctrine. Nobody but Jesus fulfilled the great prophecy and
overcame our deceptive enemy. "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he
might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). Through His
death, Jesus destroyed "him who had the power of death, that
is, the devil, and release[ed] those who through fear of death were
all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14,15). Let us
therefore trust in Him alone to give us victory over Satan, sin
Shipwreck in the Faith
The implications of the Catholic dogma are very serious.
Pope Pius IX solemnly warned:
"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" (Ineffabilis Deus).
The Roman Catholic magisterium would have us believe a
novel doctrine (that is neither taught in the Scriptures nor in the writings of the Church Fathers)
as an essential article of the Christian faith. But we are convinced that the Scriptures are able
to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy
3:15). We don't need any extra-biblical doctrines for our salvation.
In fact, it is the Roman Church that has 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.