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.


Daniel said...

While I agree with what you're saying, I disagree that it logically follows that *because* Christ got His humanity from Mary, she must have an uncorrupted nature to give to Him.

If that was true, then it would necessitate an uncorrupted humanity from Anna and Joakim, and from their parents to them and so on.

Unless you draw a line at Mary and say that's an exception.

But if we are in the exception-making business, then the Prots have some manuevering to put the exception on Christ's humanity alone, vice Christ's and Mary's.

I disagree with the Prots who do that, but I don't think the case is as obvious as you're making it out to be.

Nick said...

Hello Daniel,

You're right, it would necessitate an uncorrupted humanity from Anna & Joakim, along with their parents and so on.

But that's not a problem at all :-)

That's because humanity is on the realm of Nature and not of Grace. Nothing happened to human nature; we're as human as Adam was. And if we don't affirm that, then we're right back into the problem Protestants are in of how Jesus truly became human and shared in our humanity if our humanity is a corrupt "sin nature". So there's no "exceptions" here.

As far as Sanctifying Grace is concerned, God originally intended this gift to be bestowed ALONG with natural human procreation, so that the new human would also immediately be conceived in a State of Grace. But with Adam's sin, God no longer saw it fitting for Grace to be bestowed in conjunction with human conception, except for the unique case of those charged with the task of undoing Adam's sin, namely the tag-team of Jesus and Mary. But even if Mary was conceived in original sin like all of us, She still would be 100% human and would pass on our humanity to Jesus.

Anonymous said...

The sin nature of Adam is not passed on through the woman but through the man. Romans 5:12 clearly shows this:Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—

This is why the body of the Lord Jesus could be conceived in Mary and yet not take on the sin nature of Adam.

Nick said...

The problem with that response is that it is conflating Nature and Grace and thus a Pelagian view. Christ's humanity is Mary's humanity. What you're saying is that Jesus had a different DNA than we did, which is wrong.

You haven't gotten around the dilemma of those who believe in sin-nature: either Jesus took on Mary's nature or else Jesus didn't really become incarnate.

Anonymous said...

There is no other way to look at it. It avoids the problem of thinking that Mary was not only sinless but her parents, grandparents etc. The Scripture never speaks of Mary being without sin or free from it. She acknowledged her sins by acknowledging God as her Savior. Other passages point to the fall of all of mankind which includes Mary. The only exception is the Lord Jesus.
The NT does not say the fallen nature comes through Eve but only through Adam.

Nick said...

There is another way of looking at it, and you're not realizing it. What you're saying is that Jesus didn't have Mary's DNA, which is heresy because it denies the Incarnation. Mary becomes nothing more than an incubator.

The NT doesn't say fallen nature comes only through Adam, that's projecting onto the text. The problem here is that your concept of nature is flawed.

Anonymous said...

Where in the New Testament does it say that the sin of Eve is passed on to us?

Jesus would have the DNA of Mary but not her fallen nature.

Nick said...

It's not about whether it's called the sin of Adam or the sin of Eve, but rather the reality that they are the original parents of all humans and that the divine gifts they had they lost for all subsequent generations.

To say Jesus would have the DNA of Mary but not her fallen nature is ambiguous. That sounds as if Jesus is only partly human. Jesus was incarnate, receiving a human soul and his body at the moment of conception in Mary's womb. He was capable of suffering and dying as all men are.

It's really not complicated and requires no special pleading: Either Jesus received His humanity from Mary or He didn't. If He did, then by definition He received the very humanity She had herself.

Anonymous said...

You are the one who is "special pleading" in requiring that Mary be sinless to bring Christ into the world. There is nothing in Scripture that comes close to saying she was.

Jesus did receive His humanity from Mary but it was not a fallen human nature. There is a difference between human flesh and corrupted-fallen nature of Adam.

Paul is quite clear that the Adam's sin nature comes through the man and not the woman.

Anonymous said...

Nick, an unrelated thing:

In your debate with TurretinFant about PSub, he quoted Ambrose:

Nevertheless, I’ll let Ambrose (circa A.D. 339-97) have the last word : “Great, therefore, is the mystery of Christ, before which even angels stood amazed and bewildered. For this cause, then, it is thy duty to worship Him, and, being a servant, thou oughtest not to detract from thy Lord. Ignorance thou mayest not plead, for to this end He came down, that thou mayest believe; if thou believest not, He has not come down for thee, has not suffered for thee. “If I had not come,” saith the Scripture, “and spoken with them, they would have no sin: but now have they no excuse for their sin. He that hateth Me, hateth My Father also.” Who, then, hates Christ, if not he who speaks to His dishonor? — for as it is love’s part to render, so it is hate’s to withdraw honor. He who hates, calls in question; he who loves, pays reverence.”

I am unable to understand the bolded part. Ambrose is defending some limited atonement here?

Nick said...

Anonymous, you said: "You are the one who is "special pleading" in requiring that Mary be sinless to bring Christ into the world."

That's completely wrong because what I'm saying doesn't require Mary to be sinless at all! All it requires is that Mary be human, so that in turn she can pass on humanity to Jesus. You are conflating Grace/Sin with Nature.

You said: "Jesus did receive His humanity from Mary but it was not a fallen human nature. There is a difference between human flesh and corrupted-fallen nature of Adam."

What's the *ontological* difference between "human flesh" and "corrupted-fallen nature"? If Adam original had the first and then lost this "human flesh," then how was he still human? I don't think there's a good answer for that.

Nick said...


I would not say Ambrose is teaching LA here, and here's why. The quote begins by saying because the Son has appeared in flesh "it is *YOUR* duty to worship Him" and *YOU* "being a servant" we should not detract. So Ambrose is talking to either a believer here or at least someone with hope. So when he says "if YOU don't believe," it must refer to this "detraction" of refusing to believe. If you refuse to believe, then nothing Christ did would benefit you. As Paul says in Gal 5:1-3, if a person commits apostasy by turning to circumcision, then "Christ will be of no value to have severed yourself from Christ, you have fallen from grace."

Secondly, notice how Ambroce begins by saying "Ignorance YOU mayest not plead, for this end He came down that YOU mayest believe." In other words, you have no excuse for rejecting Christ, but if you were never given then chance, then you cannot be held responsible. HENCE why Ambrose immediately quotes the Gospel where Jesus said if He didn't appear to them, they wouldn't be culpable for denying the Messiah.

Anonymous said...

Does not your church teach and demand that Mary must be sinless so Jesus can be?

Of course Mary was human and Jesus gains His humanity from her. However He does not gain her falleness.

Adam did not lose his human flesh. What happened is that his sin corrupted his nature that affected also his flesh which is why he died not only spiritually but physically.

Nick said...

You asked: "Does not your church teach and demand that Mary must be sinless so Jesus can be?"

Not at all. The only thing required is that Jesus is consubstantial with Mary. Mary being sinless is only an added bonus.

You said: "Of course Mary was human and Jesus gains His humanity from her. However He does not gain her falleness."

The only way this could be true is if "falleness" pertains to the category of Grace and not Nature, but Protestants reject this distinction. I don't think you see that.

You said: "Adam did not lose his human flesh. What happened is that his sin corrupted his nature that affected also his flesh which is why he died not only spiritually but physically."

But what does it mean to 'corrupt nature'? If I throw a piece of wood into the fire, the wood's nature is corrupted and turned into ashes, no longer wood. If that's what's being said, then there is no longer one humanity but two.

And further, Jesus was able to suffer and die, so if suffering and death only comes by means of having a fallen nature, then that forces you to say Jesus had a fallen nature, otherwise He couldn't really suffer and die.

The only way out of that dilemma is if you view the divine gifts as 'clothing' that 'covers' human nature and endows human nature with super-human abilities. Catholics view Adam's immortality as a Robe that 'covered' his humanity and prevented it from corrupting (since material things naturally decay), and in sinning Adam forfeits the Robe for himself and all of us. So human nature isn't directly affected, but now we humans no longer have the Robe of protection preventing us from decaying and eventually dying.

And the way Jesus shares our experience is by foregoing the Robe of Immortality Himself, but not foregoing the other divine gifts. This way Jesus remains as human as we are, yet Jesus retains divine gifts we were never blessed to have at birth.

Anonymous said...

Your church does indeed insist that Mary had to be sinless so Jesus could be. That is why your church came up with the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary even though there is no basis for it in Scripture.

The fallen sin nature in Mary is not a physical -material thing. Your analogy fails.

Jesus, the perfect One. did not have a sin nature but was made sin on the cross and allowed Himself to die for sin. See 2 Cor 5:21- He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Hymenaeus said...

Nick, are you sure that Protestants say that man post-Fall is different in essence from man pre-Fall? The Epitome of the Formula of Concord (i.22) states,

Thus there is also to be noted well the diverse signification of the word nature, whereby the Manicheans cover their error and lead astray many simple men. For sometimes it means the essence [the very substance] of man, as when it is said: God created human nature. But at other times it means the disposition and the vicious quality [disposition, condition, defect, or vice] of a thing, which inheres in the nature or essence, as when it is said: The nature of the serpent is to bite, and the nature and disposition of man is to sin, and is sin; here the word nature does not mean the substance of man, but something that inheres in the nature or substance.

It is clear from this that "sin nature" to the Lutheran authors signifies something accidental rather than essential, so it does not follow that the Blessed Virgin would not have had a true human nature (signifying essence) to pass on.

Hymenaeus said...


Blessed Mary did not have to be sinless in order for Jesus to be born without sin. Will you provide evidence from Catholic magisterial sources which "insist that Mary had to be sinless so Jesus could be?" St. Paul states that sin came through one man, viz., Adam, so it does not follow that Mary had to be sinless of necessity. Rather, she was saved from suffering sin because it was fitting. As St. Augustine says, "We must except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin." (On Nature and Grace 42)

Anonymous said...

Here is a excellent article on the necessity of Mary being without sin.
Immaculate Conception

Also, it is pure speculation for anyone to assert: "she was saved from suffering sin because it was fitting..". There is nothing in Scripture to support this. Jesus never hints at her being sinless nor do the other apostles.

Hymenaeus said...

Anonymous, you will have to help me out. I'm not seeing the place where the article states the Immaculate Conception to be necessary for the reason you gave.

Nick said...


That is an interesting quote. I suppose some more sophisticated Protestants could use that approach, but most of those who speak in terms of "sin nature" are likely not making the proper distinctions.

When the quote from Concord says "the nature and disposition of man is to sin, and is sin" I don't know if they've completely got around the problem I originally brought up. To say even the accidental quality "is sin" is itself a form of Manicheanism. Plus, the parents do pass on accidental qualities to their children.

Unless a Nature-Grace distinction is going to be made, the Protestant position (even with the quote you gave) has conflated nature and grace.

cwdlaw223 said...
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cwdlaw223 said...
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cwdlaw223 said...

Protestant Poster - Let me guess, you think that Mary also had other children because scripture talks about Jesus' brothers! Plain as day and specifically stated in scripture! Of course, if you rely on English to interpret scripture you are going to look foolish. Nobody interpreted scripture that way because "brother" doesn't mean blood brother as those terms were interpret from Aramaic and Greek.

cwdlaw223 said...

Protestant Poster - What do you think "full of grace means"? If you examine the Greek you will find that it means she was with Grace at all time. To claim there is no scriptural support for Mary to be saved from original sin (and to be without original sin) is to be ignorant of language itself and history. Where does scripture say that everything must be in scripture? Where does scripture define itself? Whomever is requiring that EVERYTHING be explicitly stated in scripture is being absurd and they might as well throw out all creeds and any other language they use to describe scripture or else they are corrupting the words (and acting very Muslim like.

You also might as well throw Luther and Calvin under the Mary bus you're driving.

Anonymous said...

Here is a reference why Mary had to be sinless from that article:'"Genesis 3:15

No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture. But the first scriptural passage which contains the promise of the redemption, mentions also the Mother of the Redeemer. The sentence against the first parents was accompanied by the Earliest Gospel (Proto-evangelium), which put enmity between the serpent and the woman: "and I will put enmity between thee and the woman and her seed; she (he) shall crush thy head and thou shalt lie in wait for her (his) heel" (Genesis 3:15). The translation "she" of the Vulgate is interpretative; it originated after the fourth century, and cannot be defended critically. The conqueror from the seed of the woman, who should crush the serpent's head, is Christ; the woman at enmity with the serpent is Mary. God puts enmity between her and Satan in the same manner and measure, as there is enmity between Christ and the seed of the serpent. Mary was ever to be in that exalted state of soul which the serpent had destroyed in man, i.e. in sanctifying grace. Only the continual union of Mary with grace explains sufficiently the enmity between her and Satan. The Proto-evangelium, therefore, in the original text contains a direct promise of the Redeemer, and in conjunction therewith the manifestation of the masterpiece of His Redemption, the perfect preservation of His virginal Mother from original sin."

Anonymous said...

The greeting "Full of grace" or a better translation "hail favored one) has nothing to do with being "means she was with Grace at all time" or "to be without original sin".

The only things we know of Mary is found in the NT alone. Anything else is just speculations.

Daniel said...

You should be ashamed, Anonymous, of your tripe being offered up on the vigil of the nativity!

The only things we know of Mary is found in the NT alone. Anything else is just speculations.

Does the NT say that the only thing we know of Mary is found in the NT alone?

It does not.

But contradictions mean nothing to you and your ideological kind.

Anyway, what makes kecharitōménē unique here is that while it's in verb form, (feminine present perfect passive voice participle), the function in the sentence is as a noun!

It's a title or a titular usage.

Now note that her blessing is ennunicated immediately after and in connection with her titular name. 'Blessed' here is a verb (perfect participle passive nominative feminine singular).

Note that this blessing immediately precedes the Incarnation.

And finally, in vs 48 we have the prophecy that all generation will call her blessed (future indicative active 3rd person plural).

Kecharitōménē of course meant that she was being graced to a maximum capacity. You don't have to consult Thayer's here, but merely see how those earliest translators more fluent in their languages translated it. The Peshitta in Syriac says 'full of grace' as does Jerome's Vulgate 'gratia plena.'

It's simply a corollary that if Christ is the new Adam, and Mary is the new Eve (if Gabriel was speaking in Hebrew, then his most logical greeting would be 'Cha-ve' which is linguistically linked to the Hebrew word for Eve, 'Cha-va.' Both mean 'life' or 'living.' Eve was the "mother of all the living." Mary is the mother of our new life, in Christ.

Eve was created without spot or blemish. It is she afterall (the New Eve) who will crush Satan's head (while the earliest manuscript that confirms this is the Vulgate, the latin manuscript of Josephus affirms this, as does commentary by Philo, and Moses Maimonides).

Anonymous said...

Nothing to be ashamed about. It does not matter what day it is when it comes to the truth.

Full of grace
"χαριτόω charitóō; contracted charitó̄, fut. charitó̄sō, from cháris (5485), grace. To grace, highly honor or greatly favor. In the NT spoken only of the divine favor, as to the virgin Mary in Luke 1:28, kecharitōménē, the perf. pass. part. sing. fem. The verb charitóō declares the virgin Mary to be highly favored, approved of God to conceive the Son of God through the Holy Spirit. The only other use of charitóō is in Eph. 1:6 where believers are said to be “accepted in the beloved,” i.e., objects of grace."

Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament

As you can see this has nothing to do with her being sinless. Mary being a sinner does not in any way pass on the sin nature to Jesus since it is through man that the sin of Adam is passed on to the race. See Romans 5:12. Since Jesus had no biological father, He did not inherit the sin of Adam because He had no human biological father.

What other sources say things about Mary? Can you give me the names of these documents from the 1st century?

cwdlaw223 said...

Anonymous -

So you reject the Trinity? That isn't in scripture. "Justification by faith alone" is not stated in scripture as in the quote.

You are boxing yourself in with your own arguments where Christianity cannot make sense. Furthermore, who ever indicated that everything must be in scripture? That's your man made projection onto scripture.

cwdlaw223 said...

If you understood the Greek that was interpreted as "full of grace" you would understand how Mary is sinless. There's no other logical conclusion. Quit using English translations to interpret scripture.

Anonymous said...

I didn't quote a translation but gave you what the term means in Greek. There is nothing in the term :hail favored one or full of grace" means without sin. It has nothing to do with that.

Hymenaeus said...


Did you even read the source you posted? The author states at the beginning of your excerpt, "No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture." When he says, "Only the continual union of Mary with grace explains sufficiently the enmity between her and Satan," he is stating his own interpretive opinion , not the teaching of the Church. Finally, even if this were the official teaching of the Church, the article states that the Immaculate Conception is necessary for the enmity between Satan and the Woman. What bearing does this have on your assertion that "your church does indeed insist that Mary had to be sinless so Jesus could be?" Could you please address this, as I am unfamiliar with any basis for this claim and so far it appears that you are too. If you are unable to produce any magisterial sources, will you admit you were mistaken and retract your assertion? It is a very presumptuous thing for someone unfamiliar with Catholic doctrine to attempt to teach Catholic doctrine to Catholics.

Hymenaeus said...


The Lutherans already clarified that the sin nature refers to man only to an accidental corruption of man and not an essential corruption. This is perfectly agreeable to Catholic doctrine, as we too hold that man's natural powers are impaired. Furthermore, I don't believe it is correct that accidental qualities are necessarily inherited. Otherwise children would resemble (both) their parents in every respect.

Furthermore, concupiscence (which is what is being spoken of) can be called sin in a material sense. St. Thomas makes the distinction that concupiscence is original sin materially while original sin is formally the privation of original justice. Now, of course Lutherans may err in denying supernatural grace and if they say that merely having concupiscence is imputed as actual sin (I don't know off my head if they teach that), but I don't think it is fair to call them Manichaeans. Perhaps this charge applies to some, but not to the mainstream of traditional Lutherans.

cwdlaw223 said...
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cwdlaw223 said...

Anonymous -

You did not provide a proper translation of what the Greek word for "full of grace" means.

The correct word for full of grace is Kecharitomene.

"There are seven tenses of the Greek verb. They are: the Aorist, Present, Imperfect, Future, Pluperfect, and Future Perfect. Let us exemplify the Perfect and Present tenses. In the words of the Greek grammarian J. Gresham Machen, 'The Greek perfect tense denotes the present state resultant upon a past action' (New Testament Greek for Beginners, p. 187).

"It is permissible, on Greek grammatical and linguistic grounds, to paraphrase kecharitomene as completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace." (Blass and DeBrunner, Greek Grammar of the New Testament).

cwdlaw223 said...

Anonymous -

The words "full of grace" are a translation. Otherwise, you would have to post in Greek. If you are using the English language you are translating scripture from the original.

Daniel said...

First, you referenced Strong's G5485 instead of 5487 (the first is the noun, the second is the verb).

It's 5487 that needs to be compared between Luke 1:28 and Ephesians 1:6.

Now as for the differences between kecharitōmenē and echaritōsen, I note that the first is a verb being used as a title, the second is a verb being used as a verb. The first is a passive perfect participle. The second is aorist indicitive active.

Ordinarly perfect participles mean that actions are complete with nothing left to be done, as opposed to present participles which show continuing action.

"Having read the book the boy came out of the room."

Is the book partially read or completely read?

So, from the grammar we can assume Luke intends to say that her grace is maximumly completed for her receiving the Real Presence of God in her womb. That is also the assumption behind the Aramaic text of Luke and the Latin text of Luke that choose to utilize the phrase 'full of Grace.'

Second, let's talk about Romans 5:12

"...kai houtos eis pantas anthropous ho thanoutos dielthen eph ho pantes hemarton."

Ok, pantes in an adjective and and hemarton is a verb in the aorist tense.

Pantes is modifying anthropous which means 'man.'

Mary is an 'anthropous' therefore marry has hemarton'd, she's 'sinned.'

But does that necessarily follow?

Christ is an anthropous...has Christ sinned? No.

But that's a special case, because Christ is not only fully human, he is fully God.

But Mary is a special case, not only is she fully human, she is the Mother of God in the flesh.

Last, can you imagine evangelizing first century Jews?

You: So Christ is in being...with the Lord, and came in human flesh inside the womb of the Virgin Mary, where he was born, lived, and died for our sins as the perfection of the paschal lamb sacrifice.

Them: So God dwelled among us, first in Mary's womb like the Shekinah dwelt in the Holy of Holies?

You: Yes, except Mary isn't a 'holy of holies'; she's a dirty rotten sinner.

Them: Jesus is God? The same God who made Moses walk barefoot to the burning bush? Dwelt for nine months in the womb of a dirty sinning unclean Jewish girl? Get outta here!

Anonymous said...

Mary is a sinner like the rest of us. She acknowledge as much in Luke 1:47. She sinned when she rebuked Jesus for going to the temple in Luke 2:48.

Daniel said...

I know this will be difficult for you to conceptualize, but point of fact: strictly speaking, not every person requiring a savior has committed an actual sin. An embryo doesn't commit a sin.

That doesn't mean that a person who dies as an embryo doesn't require a savior for their salvation.

So, the corollary of that obnoxious fact is that just because Christ is Mary's savior (which Catholics affirm) does not strictly necessitate that she was a sinner.

That she was a sinner per Luke 2:48 is the most preposterous Scriptural commentary I have ever encountered.

Would you like to identify what sin was actually commited in the text? Was it murder? Was it envy? Was it pride?

Anonymous said...

Romans 5:12 is clear that all men are sinners--"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." Mary also died. Jesus died because He gave up His life for sinners and to satisfy the wrath of God.

Mary accused Jesus falsely of not caring for her and thereby not honoring them as His parents. See Luke 2:48. It is a sin to accuse Christ of any imperfections.

Daniel said...

Anonymous, this is the big leagues. Simply repeating your assertions won't get you anywhere. In fact, it will just get me to repeat my refutation of your assertions.

Romans 5:12 is clear that all men are sinners--"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned."

Once again the reductio ad adbsurdum: If Christ is fully man, and men are sinners, then Christ is a sinner.

The only Biblical way out of this conundrum is to say that because of Who Christ Is, there is an exception to that rule for Him.

But that opens up the door to this: that because of Who Christ Is, there needs to be an exception for Mary for Him to dwell in her womb.

That doesn't take away from her need for a savior, but rather offers her a unique role in salvation history: Her 'so be it' as an act of free consent of the will, enabled the Incarnation which is a strict requirement for Christ's atoning sacrifice at Calvary. No Incarnation, no Calvary. No Calvary, no salvation. All of that was possible because of Mary's act of free will.

The fact that Mary died is immaterial to your point. Embryos who have never commited any sinful acts also can die.

Death is not, strictly speaking, evidence that the dead person has sinned.

Mary accused Jesus falsely of not caring for her and thereby not honoring them as His parents. See Luke 2:48. It is a sin to accuse Christ of any imperfections.

Inquiring why someone did something is not an accusation that they didn't care about you; even if you did state to God that you didn't think that He cared about you [after all, He is 'no respecter of persons'], that's still not a sin because that doesn't mean that He isn't perfect, only that He doesn't care about you; finally, even if you accuse Christ of not being perfect, you still haven't neccesarily committed a sin. "Jesus, you would be a much better communicator if you got rid of that hillbilly Galilee accent." Etc.

cwdlaw223 said...

Anonymous -

Mary isn't a man, therefore she couldn't have sinned if one uses the tortured logic that Protestants use when interpreting text.

You have no idea what the words "full of grace" truly mean.

You also probably have no historical idea that when Mary agreed to bear Christ she wasn't married yet and being pregnant at such time without being married was punishable by death.

Nick said...


You made a good point regarding the essence/accidence distinction so as Jesus does not have to have a "sin nature" so I have updated the original post to note this.

But as far as the "Manichean" issue, I don't think Lutherans or Protestants have gotten around the problem of calling concupiscience truly "sin" right along in the context with mentioning actual sin.

Here are some quotes I saw from the book of concord:

"it is true that Christians should regard and recognize as sin not only the actual transgression of God's commandments; but also that the horrible, dreadful hereditary malady by which the entire nature is corrupted should above all things be regarded and recognized as sin indeed, yea, as the chief sin, which is a root and fountain-head of all actual sins"

Combined with the notion that Christ's Righteousness must "cover over" this concupiscience is another bit of evidence that concupiscience is something sinful in the proper sense.

Nick said...

Even though I posted an Update in the main post, I'm still debating whether the Lutheran view actually gets out of the dilemma.

Even though biologically the parents don't pass on their accidental qualities to their children (e.g. a child having blue eyes even if the dad has brown and only the mom has blue), this would be speaking only of the material/biological aspect. But when speaking on the accidental qualities of the soul, this is not subject to the same rules as biology. Parents don't pass down the soul; the soul is created by God immediately at conception.

So the question is, does God simply not create Jesus' human soul with these 'accidental' original sin qualities? The Lutheran would have to say yes. But what exactly are these 'accidental' original sin qualities? I cannot think of what these would be, especially since accidental qualities can only be 'positive' things that either are present or are absent, rather than 'sinful' things that are present. Jesus was capable of suffering and death, which is the visible consequence of Adam's sin, so obviously Jesus wasn't exempt from the consequences of Original Sin in some sense.

I will have to change my mind once again and say I don't think the Lutheran view actually gets around the problem, even though it appears to at first. Maybe it does, but I don't see it (yet?).

Hymenaeus said...

Dear Nick,

I think we are getting far afield of your original argument. If it is necessary to get into scholastic arguments, then you will probably not get very far since most Protestants today do not care about scholastic philosophy.

I will avoid getting bogged down in point-by-point responses for the time being and focus on your key problem. The Lutheran teaching of an accidental corruption of human nature is not Manichaean and is in fact the Catholic doctrine. The Decree Concerning Original Sin from the Fifth Session of the Council of Trent states that "the entire Adam, through that offence of prevarication, was changed, in body and soul, for the worse; let him be anathema." If you read St. Thomas, you will see that in addition to calling original sin the privation of original justice, he also calls it concupiscence, a corruption of nature and a stain on the soul. If a Lutheran used these expressions, my guess is you would pounce on it, but be mindful that there is an orthodox sense in which to interpret them. Charity compels us to interpret people's words in the best light possible so it follows that we ought to interpret the Lutheran confessions in line with Catholic doctrine wherever possible in order not to create any more obstacles than necessary.

Now, I certainly have problems with some of the language in the Formula of Concord on original sin, but a problem does not mean that it is impossible to be reconciled, and even if it is irreconcilable, I do not believe it is Manichaean. I
recommend you browse through the questions on sin from Part II of the Summa Theologiae.

The beginning of your answer is that concupiscence is not an evil Manichaean substance in its own right. It is a disorder of the natural appetites contrary to reason.

Daniel said...

To my mind, original sin is not 'inherited guilt' through Adam, nor is it really sin. 'Deprivation of original holiness' is an excellent definition. Transmitting 'the state of deprivation of original holiness' is a mouthfull, so calling it sin is helpful as long as we recognize that it's sin only in an analogical sense.

The effects of being deprived of the state of original holiness are: toil, pain, concupiscence, and death.

Original sin is like a bullet that we are all born with, and baptism is its surgery for removal. But the hole remains, until by grace it is finally healed in this life or the next through theosis.

Nick said...


I certainly want to interpret the Lutheran Confessions in the most favorable light. If indeed the Confessions are saying something orthodox, then I'm glad.

I see nothing wrong with speaking of an accidental corruption of human nature, provided the accidental corruption is itself not problematic.

On the Catholic Encyclopedia, under the topic of Justification, the article says:

"Since, according to Luther, concupiscence, of which death alone shall free us, constitutes the essence of original sin, all our actions are corrupted by it. Concupiscence as an intrinsically evil disposition, has instilled its deadly poison into the soul, its faculties, and its action (cf. Möhler, "Symbolik", sec. 6). But here we are forced to ask: If all our moral actions be the outcome of an internal necessity and constraint, how can Luther still speak of sin in the true meaning of the word? Does not original sin become identical with the "Evil Substance" of the Manichæans, as later on Luther's follower, Flacius Illyricus, quite logically admitted?"

This is where I originally heard the Manichean charge leveled at Protestants, Lutherans specifically. Now the Confessions didn't follow Luther on every point, so maybe the didn't do so here, but the Confessions do claim to follow Luther on this point in the Formula of Concord section.

Also, in the Encyclopedia, under the topic of Concupiscence, it says (excerpted):

"The Reformers of the sixteenth century, especially Luther, proposed new views respecting concupiscence. [One new view was] concupiscence is of itself sinful, and being the sinful corruption of human nature caused by Adam's transgression and inherited by all his descendants, is the very essence of original sin. The Catholic Church condemns these doctrines as erroneous or heretical."

This is a fundamental point of disagreement between Catholics and Protestants. Catholics say concupiscence is not properly sin, where as Protestants say it is truly and properly sin. They even said concupiscence is the essence of original sin, where as Catholics would say concupiscence is natural to man and morally neutral.

If the discussion were strictly limited to whether or not Christ must take on these accidental qualities, regardless of whether the anthropology is Manichean/Pelagian, the answer is No. So in that narrow regard Lutherans are not stuck. But if the discussion extends beyond that though, I'd say the Lutheran position has serious problems regarding anthropology. And as much as I'd like their anthropology to line up with the Catholic view, I think there is serious divergence.

Daniel said...

Only behavior is sinful. Concupiscence isn't even a desire as much as it's an orientation toward sinful things. I would say Christ has to have that in order to say that He truly resisted temptation. Without concupiscense it's as if the devil offers us unlimited belly button lint if we would only worship him. It's not a temptation if there's no 'interest' that's aroused that one must resist.

Anonymous said...

You wrote--"Anonymous, this is the big leagues. Simply repeating your assertions won't get you anywhere. In fact, it will just get me to repeat my refutation of your assertions.

Romans 5:12 is clear that all men are sinners--"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned."

Once again the reductio ad adbsurdum: If Christ is fully man, and men are sinners, then Christ is a sinner."

Good to know I'm in the big leagues. In regards to Jesus being a sinner because of Romans 5:12 does not follow. Jesus was not conceived by 2 fallen human parents as Mary was but was conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit and thus did not inherit the sin of Adam as Mary and the rest of the human race has.

Hope this helps

Daniel said...

Romans 5:12 doesn't say that sin is hereditary.

cwdlaw223 said...

Jesus was a man and therefore he must have been a sinner if you just review one aspect of scripture.

Only post-modern man believes that Marry was a sinner since they know more than people in history who examined these issues closer in time in history. Luther certainly thought she was sinless.

Kecharitomene has to do with God’s grace, as it is derived from the Greek root, charis (literally, "grace"). Greek scholar Marvin R. Vincent noted that even Wycliffe and Tyndale (no enthusiastic supporters of the Catholic Church) both rendered kecharitomene in Luke 1:28 as "full of grace" and that the literal meaning was "endued with grace" (Word Studies in the New Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1946, four volumes, from 1887 edition: New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons; Vol. I, 259).

Post modern man does NOT want to believe in the supernatural and/or metaphysical. That is why they never understand Catholicism because in their minds their "cook book", the Bible, shows them all they need to know and there is nothing currently on this earth that is metaphysical/supernatural in their world.

cwdlaw223 said...

1. The Bible teaches that we are saved by God's grace.

2. The Bible teaches that we need God's grace to live a holy life, above sin.

3. To be "full of" God's grace, then, is to be saved.

4. Therefore, Mary is saved.

5. To be "full of" God's grace is also to be so holy that one is sinless.

6. Therefore, Mary is holy and sinless.

7. The essence of the Immaculate Conception is sinlessness.

Hymenaeus said...


We ought to keep in mind historical circumstances. While one might think that the definitive interpreter of something called "Lutheranism" would be Luther himself, history tells us that Luther was far more radical than his followers. The Formula of Concord was written in 1577, over three decades after Luther's death, so he had no direct role in its authorship. Even if Martin Luther really did have some Manichaean beliefs (I have heard this charge before against Luther, even purportedly by Philip Melanchthon himself), it does not mean that the Formula of Concord is a Manichaean document. It seems, if anything, that the Lutherans saw that Luther's expression of "sin nature" was problematic and distanced themselves from a Manichaean interpretation of Luther (whether or not Luther was himself "Manichaean" on this point or not).

As for whether concupiscence is truly sin, I think there are senses in which we could say that. Original justice was a right ordering of man's soul toward God. Original sin, on the contrary, is the privation of original justice and consists in the soul being fixed inordinately on created things. While you are correct that concupiscence is natural to man if we understand this to mean that appetites are natural to man, man's appetites in the state of original justice were subject to reason, while in original sin, our appetites drive us contrary to reason. St. Thomas deals with this very objection in the ST. (that original sin is not concupiscence because concupiscence is natural) to man. If St. Thomas says that concupiscence is original sin, then I cannot feel too opposed to that.

I like the Catholic Encyclopedia, but I do not think it is entirely relevant in this case since they are not commenting directly on the Formula of Concord, and the CE is opinionated and can be overly harsh in its appraisal of other beliefs, even if they are perfectly orthodox. For example, it is critical of the "Thomistic" view of grace and justification.


Christ did not have concupsicence. Christ was hungry and tired, but all his inner passions were subject to his reason.

Daniel said...

I'm not entirely convinced.

"...Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, "the tinder for sin" (fomes peccati); since concupiscence "is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ." Indeed, "an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules."

Should we say that this manfully resisting is an act that Christ never undertook?

Nick said...


I just wish Lutherans would be more clear about how Concupiscence is "truly sin," even using actual sin in the same context.

Even granting them the most favorable reading, which would make my original argument moot, I still think in denying super-added grace they run into serious problems in their anthropology. Even if not manichean, there is still a Pelagian problem for them - a charge that I didn't make up and which I first saw in Fr Lagrange's book Predestination.

For now I'm not sure whether to leave the original post up or to delete it.

Hymenaeus said...


Actually, we must say that the fomes of sin were not in Christ, but your question is understandable. Thomas answers basically the same objection in the Summa Theologiae. How can Christ be worthily crowned if he did not struggle against concupiscence? His spirit conquered it in the most valiant way because his appetites were always under the foot of his reason. In Thomas's own words,

The spirit gives evidence of fortitude to some extent by resisting that concupiscence of the flesh which is opposed to it; yet a greater fortitude of spirit is shown, if by its strength the flesh is thoroughly overcome, so as to be incapable of lusting against the spirit. And hence this belonged to Christ, whose spirit reached the highest degree of fortitude. And although He suffered no internal assault on the part of the "fomes" of sin, He sustained an external assault on the part of the world and the devil, and won the crown of victory by overcoming them. (III, 15, 2, ad 3)

Hymenaeus said...


Even if I were right, that would not merit taking your post down. My main objection was when you said that "Protestants believe..." as if this were a mainstream Lutheran or Calvinist view. It appears to me that the saner Protestants were aware of this potential error and distanced themselves from it. At least, most would not explicitly promote a Manichaean interpretation.

I agree with you about the nature-grace distinction. My opinion is that to deny this is to deny the Gospel.

Hymenaeus said...

Somewhat on topic, I was reading through the canons of the Second Council of Orange, and it seems to speak about the nature-grace distinction. Canon 21 reads,

Concerning nature and grace. As the Apostle most truly says to those who would be justified by the law and have fallen from grace, "If justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose" (Gal. 2:21), so it is most truly declared to those who imagine that grace, which faith in Christ advocates and lays hold of, is nature: "If justification were through nature, then Christ died to no purpose." Now there was indeed the law, but it did not justify, and there was indeed nature, but it did not justify. Not in vain did Christ therefore die, so that the law might be fulfilled by him who said, "I have come not to abolish them, but to fulfil them" (Matt. 5:17), and that the nature which had been destroyed by Adam might be restored by him who said that he had come "to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).

Interesting since Reformed folks seem to think that this was a Calvinist council, although I suppose modern-day Protestants do readily admit that they diverge from Augustine on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Not the same Anonymous! My name is Jim. Anyway, it may help clarify things if we take into account that Luther was a traducinist and not a creationist when it comes to the origin of the soul. The young Augustine seems to have been one also as it explains thr transmission of Original sin easily ). Creationism explains how God could create a soul infused with Grace despite the parents being sinners. Theoretically, Jesus could have been conceived by two sinful parents and His human soul could still have been grace filled. Same applies to Mary. The manicheans, however, were neither creationists nor traducinists. They believed in the pre-existence of souls.

Michael Taylor said...


I think your understanding of Protestantism on this point is problematic. Those who speak of a "sin nature," are usually speaking of what scripture means by "the flesh." That is, humanity "in Adam" is sinful and disordered. Even Roman Catholics accept the Augustinian notion of concupiscence, which is a proclivity toward sinfulness.

But I think we would both agree that sin and the effects of sin (concupiscence) is in fact alien to human nature and not apart of it.

I didn't get my concupiscence from my mother. I got it from Adam. That's what it means to be "in Adam." What I mean is, I did not "inherit" my sinfulness like some kind of genetic trait. Rather, because I am "in Adam," I am under the same covenantal curse that he was.

The entire theory of the Immaculate Conception ignores the covenantal dimension of sin and depends entirely on the seminal theory of the transmission of original sin.

But the theory in fact undermines the very doctrine it depends upon. For if Mary had to be kept from "contracting" original sin, then by a second application of that logic, so did her entire maternal line all the way back to Eve. Further, even taking the seminal theory for granted, we need only posit an Immaculate Conception for Jesus in the womb of Mary, and the same result is accomplished.

In other words, the Immaculate Conception as Rome defines it actually undermines its own (seminal) theory of original sin and vindicates Protestantism insofar as it is the example par excellence of a false doctrine, thereby showing Rome not to be the infallible church it claims to be.

Hymenaeus said...


That is an interesting perspective.

Hymenaeus said...


Catholicism does teach a "covenantal dimension" of original sin. Difference is, parallel to the differing doctrines of justification, Catholics do not teach that the inheritance of original sin is merely the imputation of Adam's sin to his descendants.

Your mischaracterization of the Immaculate Conception is a bizarre coming from you since you should know better. The Catholic Church has never taught that Mary had to be conceived without original sin so that Christ could be conceived without original sin. This was clarified in this very thread. Moreover, Catholic teaching is that original sin is inherited through the father, so Mary's sinfulness is irrelevant to transmission of sin. After all, if Rome holds to a "seminal theory" of transmission, Mary is not the source of transmission since she does not have "seed" (semen).

Michael Taylor said...


You said: >>Catholicism does teach a "covenantal dimension" of original sin.<<

Not in the sense I'm using. Rome uses entirely different categories for its understanding of Original Sin, especially with respect to how it is transmitted.

You said>>, Catholics do not teach that the inheritance of original sin is merely the imputation of Adam's sin to his descendants.<<

The key word here is "merely." I would argue that no one teaches that it is "merely" imputation. But the real question is if Roman Catholicism teaches imputation **at all.** If so, kindly point me to the reference so I can read up on Rome's understanding of "imputation" and how that fits into Rome's system.

Hym said>>Your mischaracterization of the Immaculate Conception is a bizarre coming from you since you should know better. The Catholic Church has never taught that Mary had to be conceived without original sin so that Christ could be conceived without original sin.<<

But Nick has said this. I'm responding to his argument. I have these words uppermost in mind:

Nick>> 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. <<

The very strong and obvious implication is that if Mary was sinful, then Christ would have inherited a sinful human nature.

Moreover, it is disingenuous on you part in the extreme to assert that this argument has *not* been part of the catholic tradition. For many, many scholastic theologians (such as Scotus) argued along these same lines for why the immaculate conception was needed, whereas others rejected this line of thinking (such as Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Aquinas).

Perhaps you mean that no *official* Roman teaches uses this argument. But that can be said of almost everything Rome teaches. After all, it is the substance of the dogma that is *official* teaching and *not* necessarily the arguments that have historically been used to justify that teaching. But here I'm not interacting with official statements about the IC; rather I'm responding to Nick's piece, which is in fact quite consistent with what one can find in the Roman Catholic tradition.

Hymenaeus said...


I see. It appears you were confused by Nick's argument. His argument was not that Mary had to be sinless to be the mother of the sinless Christ. He was starting from the assumption that Protestants believe fallen man has a corrupted nature (a "sin nature") as if fallen humans were different in essence from true humanity, to which Adam belonged before the Fall. It follows from that that if Mary were the mother of a child, she would be the mother of a sin-nature child rather than a (sinless) human-nature child because she wouldn't have a true human nature to pass on. On the other hand, if Jesus were without sin, he wouldn't have become like us, because he wouldn't have a sin nature. Reread the quote you posted with that in mind and I think things will be clearer.

The problem, as I pointed out, is the assumption that Protestants believe this. I brought up the Formula of Concord which explicitly rejects the "Manichaean" belief that "sin nature" differs in essence from human nature, affirming instead that the sin nature is merely an accidental corruption of human nature. I don't know how extremely all Protestants take the doctrine of original sin, but I have not yet met any who would explicitly affirm that humans are no longer essentially human. If there are any, I think Nick's argument would hold ground against them.

Hymenaeus said...


Regarding original sin, I agree that Protestants due not merely teach that original sin is merely something imputed. My point was that Catholics do not believe only in a legalistic doctrine of sin, so the fact that Catholics teach about original sin in something other than a "covenantal" way does not mean that Catholics do not admit any sort of covenantal element. My statement was really intended as a jab at the (deficient) Protestant doctrine of justification. Sorry if I was unclear.

For example of an imputational teaching, why not turn to the Summa Theologica? Granted, it is not a magisterial source, but it is certainly representative of mainstream Catholic theology. Thomas may not speak in terms of "covenants" and "federal representatives," but, the essence is there. In order to explain how guilt can be transmitted from parent to child when guilt implies something voluntary, he considers all humanity as one man, and just as the hand is implicated in sin which originates from the soul, the sin of Adam is imputed to every man descended from Adam considered as one man (see the answer to I-II, art. 81, question 1). Furthermore he also describes men bearing reproach as by a family disgrace. Although Thomas does not use the word "covenant" in this article, you can see the essence of the idea in his doctrine of original justice, which is that Adam had the supernatural gift of original righteousness to pass down to his descendants if he had not sinned. Sounds like a covenant to me.

I could have offered a more explicit source, but I would like to demonstrate that even if Catholics might focus on certain aspects, that does not mean they deny other ones. To give a remote example, Byzantine theology, following John Chrysostom, primarily identifies original sin with death. That does not mean that they do not believe in other elements, but they emphasize one over others. Anyway, the doctrine of original sin has never been a fundamental dividing issue between Catholics and (Lutheran and Reformed) Protestants. The Council of Trent's condemnations were directed at the disciples of Pelagius, not Luther.

Hymenaeus said...


Forgive me if I seem uncharitable, but I will not take your assertion about Scotus at your word. I have found that Protestants for some reason have an apparently difficult time giving accurate readings of Catholic sources, so I would like a citation (just as I would be hesitant to take a Catholic's assertion about Luther at face value). Furthermore, it is to Scotus himself that the saying, "potuit, decuit, ergo facit" is attributed so I don't see how Scotus would have taught as you say.

If not Scotus, I would like to see examples of others (figures of authority) who used this argument to substantiate your assertion that this was a widespread tradition, at least for history's sake. You can hardly say I am being disingenuous when I am only unaware of these sources. Regardless, it is irrelevant to the discussion because you misunderstood what Nick was talking about, and, as you note, the only definitive teachings about the Immaculate Conception are those taught by the Church's infallible magisterium, which includes neither Duns Scotus nor Catholic Nick.

Michael Taylor said...

Hym: I see. It appears you were confused by Nick's argument. His argument was not that Mary had to be sinless to be the mother of the sinless Christ.:

Notwistanding his claims to the contrary, I think his argument ends up being precisely this.

Hym>>He was starting from the assumption that Protestants believe fallen man has a corrupted nature (a "sin nature") as if fallen humans were different in essence from true humanity....<<

I have pointed out to Nick a number of times in the past that no Protestant I know of holds this view. Essentially he is taking the idea of the "corruption" of nature and turning it into the obliteration of human nature such that no one is Adam is actually human.

Hym>> which Adam belonged before the Fall. It follows from that that if Mary were the mother of a child, she would be the mother of a sin-nature child rather than a (sinless) human-nature child because she wouldn't have a true human nature to pass on.

Exactly. This almost sounds Nestorian. But I think all parties (except Nick) agree that mothers give birth to persons who have natures, not natures themselves. Mary did give birth to a human nature, but rather a person with a nature. This person (Jesus) did not have any corruption of his nature because he was not under the juridical penalty of Adam's curse. But he allowed himself to experience that curse (death) for those whom he came to save.

Hym>>On the other hand, if Jesus were without sin, he wouldn't have become like us, because he wouldn't have a sin nature. Reread the quote you posted with that in mind and I think things will be clearer.<<

I want to distinguish here between Rome's position (which is that it was fitting, but not necessary for Mary to be sinless), from Nick's argument which implicitly assumes (contrary to Rome's position) that Mary *had* to be sinless or else she would have given Jesus a sinful nature. As Nick put it: "you can't give what you don't have." The corollary, of course, is that you can only give what you have. If, therefore, Jesus was given a sinless human nature, then Mary must have had a sinless human nature to give.

Hym>>The problem, as I pointed out, is the assumption that Protestants believe this. <<

Right. But if you've been following Nick for any time, correctly representing Protestantism hasn't been high on his list of priorities.

Michael Taylor said...


I'm satisfied that we've cleared up the most important point--namely that Protestantism doesn't teach the obliteration of human nature, but rather its corruption.

As for the particular arguments about the IC and whether anyone in the Roman Catholic tradition has taught the IC was in any sense "necessary," I believe that this is in fact what we have to infer given what scholastics like Bernard said in their rejection of the doctrine. I can dig for you, but I'm pretty sure it's common knowledge that Bernard used the reductio against the IC on the grounds that Anne would have had to be immaculately conceived ad infinitum. But such could only be his argument if there were those positing a necessity for the IC in the first place.

When I mentioned Scotus as being among those who argued for that necessity, I did not mean to deny his argument from fittingness. In deed, he seems to have combined elements of both. I have in mind this passage:

"Since therefore Christ was the most perfect Mediator, it is **necessary** that he have altogether prevented someone from contracting original guilt: but it was not fitting that this be any other besides his most blessed Mother."


Please go back and read this in context to see what I'm getting at. It's a rather "subtle" piece of reasoning on the part of the subtle doctor.

He is not saying that it was "necessary" in an ontological sense as if the only way Jesus could have inherited a sinless human nature is by preserving Mary from sin. Rather the entire argument depends upon his previous point that the best way to mediate the conflict between the Trinity and sinful man is by preemptively keeping man from committing the crime in the first place.

As I read the text, Scotus is saying that it was therefore "necessary" that someone be preserved from original sin, since this would have been the most economical or efficient way of dealing with our sin problem (i.e., by keeping us from it in the first place). He then goes on to say that the most fitting "someone" would be Mary.

I would disagree with him on both points. By that logic, it would have been better not to create us in the first place--that way there would be no chance of us sinning at all. (You can't sin if you don't exist.) Second, it would have been far more fitting to simply simply have kept Eve from sinning in the first place--that way there would have been no Fall to deal with at all.

But since He did create and there was a Fall, it would seem that the next most logical and fitting place for an immaculate conception would have been Jesus in the womb of Mary.

Anyway, interesting rabbit trail, but rabbit trail nonetheless.

Hymenaeus said...


It still appears that you do not understand what Nick is getting at. It is a fact that a member of a species begets children of his own species and not another. Tigers beget tigers, honey bees beget honey bees, and humans beget humans. If the corruption of original sin were an essential corruption, then fallen man and original man would be a different species. If Mary were stained by sin, then she would not be the same in essence as Jesus according to humanity. It follows then that Mary could not have begotten a sinless Christ with respect to his humanity, barring any preternatural intervention. That is what the post was about, defending the notion that fallen man still has a human nature. It has nothing to do with the Immaculate Conception. The idea is not that a parent has to be identical to her child in every respect, but that a human parent by nature only gives birth to human children. The conclusion (by reductio ad absurdum) is that fallen man still has a human nature ("nature" here signifying essence). However, since Protestants do not teach (as far as I know) that fallen man differs in essence from original man, Nick's argument would not apply.

Your charge of Nestorianism is, again, bizarre since you would identify as a Calvinist. I'm sure you are aware that Calvinists have been accused of Nestorianism from all sides: Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, basically everyone who's not a Calvinist. Now, I will not pursue this any further except one thing. Calvinists have historically denied that Mary is the Mother of God because she was not the mother of his divinity. This is the Nestorian position. Remember that even Nestorius tried to teach that Christ was one person with two natures. It was what else he taught that made it clear that he did not teach this in an orthodox sense, regardless of his intentions. Nevertheless, since this has absolutely nothing to do with the post, I have no desire to pursue that conversation. For now, here is an article on Nestorianism that will perhaps be educational for you.

Hymenaeus said...

Thank you for providing a source for your statement. However, I must again say I think you have misinterpreted your source. The quotation from Scotus is saying this, that Christ needed to perform the most perfect act of mediation, viz., to preserve entirely from original guilt, with respect to someone for whom he was Mediator. This is where the Immaculate Conception comes into play. Christ can be called the perfect Mediator. Thus the Immaculate Conception adds to Christ's glory rather than derogating from it. Whether or not you agree with his argument, it has nothing to do with your assertion that Scotus taught the Immaculate Conception was necessary for Christ to be without sin. Furthermore, your objections to his argument are irrelevant because they are directed at a mistaken reading that Scotus is trying to show how Christ could best preserve people from sin.

As for Bernard, I have found too often that common knowledge really is common ignorance. I dug up the relevant text for you (Letter 174) and Bernard's argument concerning parents, grand parents, great grandparents ad infinitum is a question of honor, not transmission of sin. Do you have any medieval Catholic sources that show an opinion, as you first said, that the Virgin Mary had to be immaculately conceived so that Christ could be? You have not produced anything so far. Would you care to retract your claim?

Michael Taylor said...


It may be that I'm not understanding Nick. But I think in fact you're not understanding my point, which have yet to interact with. When Nick says, "you can't give what you don't have," he is stating exactly what you mean by tigers begetting tigers. Ergo, Mary was human and therefore so was Jesus. As you say, all parties agree with this and Nick is simply wrong to read the concept of "corruption" as obliteration, as no one is saying that Jesus can't be human because Mary was a sinner.

As for Nestorianism, I think I understand the heresy quite well, thank you very much. But again, I think you failed to see why I mentioned it: For Nick's argument, taken to it's conclusion, is in fact Nesotorian (even if Nestorius himself never pushed this point), insofar as it trades on the assumption that Mary gave Jesus as "nature" or that Jesus "took his humanity from Mary." All kinds of things need to be unpacked here, which I won't go into now. But the point of my objection is that Nick's argument focuses on Mary as the originator of Jesus' nature, whereas orthodox Christology focuses on the function of Mary as the God-bearer.

Think about it: What does Theotokos mean? It means that Mary is the one who gave birth to God. This is an affirmation that the person to whom she gave birth was truly God without, pace Nestorius, the implicit denial that he wasn't fully human, (hence Nestorius' preference for Christotokos).

Mater Dei language, however, lends itself to a more ontological, rather than functional understanding of the divine maternity. So here one could argue (as Reformed theology traditionally has) that the imprecision of such language can lead to the understanding that Mary is the originator of divinity, which no one actually holds. It's a quibble, but it's one that follows from the imprecision of the language. In other words, Mater Dei does not have the same emphasis as Theotokos, and therein lies the (potential) problem.

Moving right along…As for Scotus, please show me exactly where I've misunderstood the words that I quoted to you. The mere claim to have misunderstood them is not proof that I did misunderstand them. By all means, take your time.
(I ask, because nothing in your post shows any interaction with the quote itself or even a plausible understanding of what Scotus meant by the word "necessary" with respect to preventing someone from falling into sin and how that relates tot he "fittingness" that someone being Mary.

Finally, yes, that is the Bernard quote I have in mind, and no, I'm not wrong about the logic. The reductio is absolutely the same argument I am representing. You, sir, are not dealing with the actual words of the letter. It is absolutely about the transmission of sin and if you doubt me, I'd simply refer you to the letter itself. "Moreover, how can there not be sin in the place where there was concupiscence? All the more, let one not say that the Holy Virgin was conceived of the Holy Spirit and not of man."

The piece about the parents and grandparent "ad infinitum" does concern the veneration in immediate context. But taking into account the wider context of the letter, that only speaks to the motives of those who wish to promote the underlying doctrine by, and let me quote Bernard here, "introducing a new festival unknown to the Church, unapproved by reason, unjustified by ancient tradition."

In other words, in order for Jesus' conception to have been "glorious" (Bernard's word, not mine), so too Mary's had to be glorious (read: immaculate). But by a second application of that logic, and a third and so on, so would every ancestor of Mary.

So help me understand exactly where I've misunderstood Bernard, whose arguments against the IC are simply devastating to Romanism.

Hymenaeus said...


Nick's argument is a reductio ad absurdum or proof by contradiction. He is taking for granted a premise he wishes to disprove (viz., that human "nature" is different pre-Fall and post-Fall), and then reasons from that to a contradiction (that either Jesus was sinful or he is not truly human as we are). To give another example, the textbook mathematical example would be the proof of an infinity of prime numbers by assuming that the set of prime numbers is finite, and then showing that there remains another number that is higher than the highest prime number that is also prime, a contradiction. Therefore, the premise of the argument was mistaken and there are in fact an infinite number of prime numbers. There is no reason to dwell on Nick's argument anymore since I think we are in agreement that his assumption was based on a mistaken interpretation of what Protestants mean by "nature." So regardless of the merits of his argument, it is not relevant to Protestant-Catholic apologetics.

Now, this has nothing to do with Nestorianism. Nick is defending the idea that Mary was the mother of a person with a human nature. There would be a problem if Nick said perhaps that Mary was not the mother of the divine Jesus, only the human Jesus, but Nick said nothing of the sort. His assertion is that Mary gave birth to a child of a like nature as the Athanasian Creed says: "Deus ex substantia Patris ante saecula genitus; homo est ex substantia matris in saeculo natus [He is begotten God out of the substance of His Father before all worlds; He is born into the world a man out of the substance of His mother]."

The denial of Mary the title Mater Dei would be Nestorian, not least because Nestorius did so. But you are saying that mother is an "ontological rather than functional" title," which is mistaken because the universal meaning of mother in its most primary sense is a woman who gives birth to a child, which is exactly what Theotokos means. There are other parts of motherhood as well which include carrying the child before birth and nurturing him after birth, but Mary filled both of these roles also. Mater Dei is synonymous with Dei Genetrix (the rendering used in the Mass), which is perhaps a more literal rendering of Theotokos. Since you admit the use of Theotokos (contrary to traditional Calvinism) and its meaning (that Mary gave birth to the divine person Jesus Christ), there is no reason to dispute the title Mater Dei. The only exception is if in your homeland, the expression "she's my mother" means primarily "she's the giver of my nature." In that case, perhaps it is safer to avoid the use of the title "Mother of God" locally, but not in the rest of the English speaking world, and I can assure you that no such problem exists at all with the phrase "Mater Dei."

Hymenaeus said...

I will help you read what Scotus said. Here is the relevant section.

* * *

The very excellence of her Son, for the purpose of not derogating from which some hold the opposite opinion, is what shows this. For [Oxon. ib. n.4] it was fitting for the most perfect Mediator, such as Christ the Lord was, to have had the most perfect act of mediating with respect to some person of whom he was Mediator: but he is not conceived to have existed as the most perfect Mediator of God and of his Mother unless he had preserved her from falling into original guilt; therefore she was preserved from being infected with original guilt. The minor is shown: [Oxon. ib.] first by comparison to God to whom he reconciles: second by comparison to the evil from which he liberates: third by comparison to the person for whom he reconciles. And the first in this way, by supposing that it was not impossible for original guilt to be prevented from being present, since it is not guilt, except contracted from another; and if that was possible, for no one did it become the Mediator to have done it than for his Mother. Therefore the argument is as follows: [Oxon. n.5] a mediator is not conceived to mediate most perfectly, or to placate someone for an offense that had to be contracted, unless he prevents the offense from being present and prevents anyone from being offended by it; for if he placates someone already offended, and sways him to remit guilt, he does not exercise the most perfect act of mediating or placating, as he would have done by preventing the offense; therefore Christ does not most perfectly reconcile or placate the Trinity for the guilt to be contracted by the sons of Adam, if he does not prevent the Trinity from being offended, on account of the inherent guilt, in some one among them. Since therefore Christ was the most perfect Mediator, it is necessary that he have altogether prevented someone from contracting original guilt: but it was not fitting that this be any other besides his most blessed Mother.

* * *

The path of his argument is as follows:

(1) He begins by asserting that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception does not derogate from the excellency of Christ, but increases it.

(2) He explains this is because preserving Mary's soul from the stain of original guilt makes him a more perfect Mediator than otherwise.

(3) He endeavors to show how this would make Christ a more perfect Mediator.

(4) He states his conclusion, that it was necessary for Mary to have been preserved from original sin if Christ were to be the most perfect Mediator.

Nothing to do with "Mary had to be immaculately conceived so that Jesus could be."

Hymenaeus said...

Bernard is not arguing in the manner you are portraying him. First, when he is speaking of concupiscence in relation to conception, he is referring to the concupiscence involved in procreation, which according to Augustine is the cause of the transmission of original sin. Bernard here is only rejecting the idea that Mary's conception was without concupiscence of her parents. The point is that Mary's conception was still subject to the transmission of sin, and thus the idea that Mary was sanctified before or in her conception is absurd. You can see further evidence of this when he denies that Mary was conceived of the Holy Spirit rather than man. "Conception" is meant in its active sense. In any case, this part does not pertain to your argument, which concerns Christ's conception. Second, when he says that the Feast is contrary to tradition, he is mistaken since the feast is much older than Bernard. This point is also irrelevant.

Third, we can proceed to the only part of your post that addresses the subject at hand. To establish what you asserted earlier, you will need to demonstrate that "glorious" is synonymous with "immaculately conceived." One textual note is that Bernard does not actually use the word "glorious" here, but rather "honored," which further cements the fact (as if it were not already obvious from the context) that Bernard is talking about the feasts of the Church rather than immaculate conceptions. Bernard's "ad infinitum" argument is against the notion that Mary's conception (on the part of her parents) had to be holy in order for Mary's birth to be holy. This is about Mary's birth, not Jesus' conception. Nevertheless, you might be interested to know that Bernard believed that Mary was sanctified from sin in her mother's womb before her birth.

Unknown said...

The Immaculate conception has no logical necessity just as much as Christ's birth from the Blessed Virgin Mary has no necessity. God made a free choice to have things in a way that Christ was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

However, given that God chose to give the flesh for his son from the Blessed Virgin Mary, and that he chose the son to be born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, then I think it may seem as if the IC is now a necessity.

I think the following logic disproves it though.

If God can create on immaculately conceived being from a fallen human mother and father, then it is possible for God to create his son immaculately conceived from a fallen mother. Therefore the immaculately conception is not a logical necessity.

However, it was an appropriate gift for a son to bestow upon his beloved Mother.

So regardless of Nick's assumptions on the Protestant theology, I think the argument is most likely incorrect. It is incorrect because it assumes a logical necessity upon the Immaculate Conception.

Michael Taylor's views of the Church "shooting herself on the foot" with the IC dogma is also baseless because nowhere has the Church defined as dogma that the IC is a logical necessity upon God.

Anonymous said...

No doubt the RCC implies Mary had to be sinless. A lot of ink has been spent defending this.

The problem is that the Scripture does not attribute any sinless characteristics to her. No exegesis of Scripture supports this assertion.

Hymenaeus said...


If so much ink has been spent on this, surely you can produce some Catholic sources which state that the Immaculate Conception was necessary for Christ to be conceived without sin. For now, it seems the only people who say this are Protestants. I have not seen a single Catholic source, much less a magisterial source, assert this.

Hymenaeus said...


I think you are also misunderstanding what Nick was arguing. He was not defending the Immaculate Conception, but the view that the nature of fallen man does not differ in essence with the nature of original man. His trap in the argument was that if Protestants believe that there is an essential difference, they're forced to admit that either Jesus had a sin nature (unacceptable) or that Mary was immaculately conceived (unacceptable), because of the fact that animals do not beget offspring with a different essence. This has nothing to do with supernatural gifts, but rather natural essence and generation. The problem is the premise, that Protestants believe human nature differs essentially after the Fall, does not in fact apply to most Protestants.

Anonymous said...


This is from Catholic Encyclopedia on the Immaculate Conception:
"Mary was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin at the first moment of her animation, and sanctifying grace was given to her before sin could have taken effect in her soul."

The whole is about making the case that it was necessary for Mary to be without sin.

Hymenaeus said...


The quote you posted is merely a description of what the Immaculate Conception is. The Catholic Encyclopedia article never says that the Immaculate Conception was necessary, much less for the reasons usually alleged.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't need to say the word "necessary". The argument here and in other RC documents make the case that it was necessary otherwise Jesus would have inherited a sinful nature from Mary.

Hymenaeus said...


For something to "make a case" it is necessary for it to actually argue what it is making a case for. You didn't even post an argument, but a definition, and one that doesn't even pertain to the supposed argument at that.

Hymenaeus said...

The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord explicitly acknowledges the validity of the argument Nick is making.

''Now, if there were no distinction between the nature or essence of corrupt man and original sin, it must follow that Christ either did not assume our nature, because He did not assume sin, or that, because He assumed our nature, He also assumed sin; both of which ideas are contrary to the Scriptures. But inasmuch as the Son of God assumed our nature, and not original sin, it is clear from this fact that human nature, even since the Fall, and original sin, are not one [and the same] thing, but must be distinguished.''
(Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord I.44)

So to those who say that Nick's argument is flawed, obviously the Lutherans didn't think so. And for Nick, looks like the Lutherans already beat you to it! :p

CD-Host said...

As an aside I had a post a few years back asking those kinds of questions. Two were:

6) A piece of skin falls off his hand and hits the ground. In terms of DNA
a) 0 of the chromosomes are Mary's, he is fully human but not biologically descended from her.
b) 23 of the chromosomes are Mary's she is fully his mother. The other 23 don't correspond to any existing human.
c) All 46 are from Mary. God did not have sex with Mary and thus couldn't provide genetic material, she provided all of it.

7) Human DNA has thousands of replications errors. Jesus'
a) Is perfect, no bad strings all.
b) Has 23 perfect chromosomes and is a perfect copy of Mary's for the other 23 she has no genetic defects and thus he doesn't.
c) Has 23 perfect chromosomes and is at best a perfect copy of Mary's for the other 23; she has genetic defects and thus he does too.
d) Jesus is fully human and has genetic defects on all 46.

CD-Host said...

Thought I'd separate these two comments. I don't see how the incarnation and the being born of Mary's nature are connected. Assume that Jesus had no ties to Mary biologically at all, that she just acted as a source of food and shelter during the pregnancy: a surrogate mother. How does that contradict the incarnation?

Munchy said...

"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'?"

Remember Jesus is God and God cannot be sin. It was true that Jesus received His humanity from Mary, but the difference is that Mary did not have sex with the Holy Spirit, is she? No. It was by the power of God that makes Mary pregnant. On the other hand, Mary's mother and father did have sexual intercourse to conceive her. So Mary have that original sin, but Jesus does not.