Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How Mary Refutes Protestantism

[Updated 12-30-13: I'm in discussion in the comment box with someone who is suggesting the Lutheran view might have a solution to this. If so, then my original argument obviously no longer should be used. For now I'll just leave this whole thread up.]

I feel bad for not getting a new post up for over a month now because I've been so busy, but in some ways that's a healthy thing. I've always believed that posting too frequently is not a good idea because it drives down the quality of posts, promotes a consumerist mentality, and tends to overwhelm readers. For this post, I want to share a brief argument that overturns the entire Protestant paradigm. 

We know that Mary was the mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, but this is a more significant claim than we typically realize and give credit for. Mary gave Jesus His humanity. Without Him receiving humanity from Her, no Incarnation would have taken place. So how does this refute Protestantism? Here's the fun part.

Protestants believe that human nature was "radically corrupted" and made "totally depraved" by Adam's sin. As a result, every person from Adam onward, including Mary, was born with a corrupt/depraved 'sin nature'. The only exception is Jesus, who did not have a 'sin nature' but rather a perfectly upright human nature. But how can this be if Jesus received His humanity from Mary, who Herself was born with a 'sin nature'? As the saying goes, you cannot give what you don’t have. So how can She give Him an upright human nature if She didn't have this already? Really, what we have here is two human natures, a corrupt human nature and an upright human nature. So the Protestant has to decide between two devastating options: Either Jesus took on Mary's 'sin nature' in order to become Incarnate, or Jesus did not take Mary's 'sin nature' and thus Jesus couldn't have truly shared in our humanity, meaning the Incarnation never happened. 

So which of the two difficult choices would you go with: Did Jesus have a 'sin nature' or did the Incarnation never happen? Thanks be to God, Catholics don't have to pick either! Rather, Catholics have always taught that there was nothing wrong with Mary's humanity and thus there's no dilemma. This is why the early Ecumenical Councils had no problem saying: "Consubstantial with the Father as touching his Godhead and consubstantial with us as touching his manhood." During the Creed when we say Jesus is "consubstantial with the Father," the same Councils said consubstantiality applies also in regards to Mary's humanity! 

To better understand all this, you must recognize that Adam didn't cease to be human the moment he sinned. Rather, he ceased to be in communion with God, forfeiting the Divine Indwelling of the Trinity in his soul, as well as forfeiting other divine gifts such as immorality. These gifts "clothed" humanity, they didn't destroy, nullify, or conflate with humanity. Losing the gifts doesn't mean losing humanity, it just means humanity was no longer 'clothed with grace'. This is why some in the Early Church interpreted the Biblical phrase "man was made in the image and likeness of God" to refer to two realities: the "image" referring to humanity as a rational being, and the "likeness" referring to the gracious gifts that 'clothed' humanity and bestow special super-human powers to man, such as immortality. This distinction is sometimes known as the Nature-Grace Distinction.

Realizing this, it becomes clear that God intended man to cooperate with grace, since grace was to compliment the person's natural human abilities (Lk 24:49; 1 Cor 15:53). Since Protestants reject the idea man can cooperate with grace, this forced Protestants to conflate "image" and "likeness" (i.e. collapse Nature and Grace into one thing rather than keeping them distinguished). And to add insult to injury, Jesus' Divinity became of no real significance since Protestants see Jesus as doing what Adam only as a human was supposed to do (e.g. love God by only human powers, not by grace). As a result of this thinking, we have the original dilemma I mentioned earlier on: Protestants are forced to either say Mary passed on "sin nature" to Jesus or else Jesus wasn't truly Incarnate at all. What a Christmas present for Protestants to wake up to!  

With Christmas coming up next week, I would hope this article helped give readers a better appreciation for just what happened at the Annunciation and on Christmas Day.