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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Didn't the Church just invent the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Question: Regarding the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, didn't the Church just invent this dogma in 1854?

Firstly, we ought to define what the Immaculate Conception (IC) is.  It is NOT the conception of Jesus in Mary's womb.  We all have heard many women joking that if they're pregnant it must "through the immaculate conception 'cause there's no way I could be pregnant."  
 This is an understandable confusion, especially since the Church always reads the Gospel narrative of the Annunciation, where Mary is told that she will conceive, without marital relations, a son.  Naturally Catholics assume that this is the Immaculate Conception.

However, the IC is the teaching that Mary, from the very first moment of her existence in St. Anne's womb, was free from Original Sin.  That is, she did not lose the supernatural grace that was once part of our humanity but lost through the sin of Adam and Eve.  God created her to be the fitting and perfect vessel for His Divine Son. 

"The dogma is especially fitting when one examines the honor that was given to the Ark of the Covenant. It contained the manna (bread from heaven), stone tablets of the Ten Commandments (the word of God), and the staff of Aaron (an instrument of Israel’s redemption). If this box was created with such honor—to carry a stick, some bread, and stone tablets—how much more should Mary be made a worthy dwelling place for God himself? She is the new Ark of the Covenant because she carried the real bread from heaven, the Word of God, and the instrument of our redemption, Jesus’ body."  source

So, did the Church invent this teaching in 1854?

It's true that Pope Pius IX officially defined the doctrine of the IC in 1854.

However, what was solemnly pronounced, declared and defined a certain point of time is
not an indication that it only came to be believed at that point.

It has been the "constant teaching" in our house that when the kids come home from school they are to do certain things: hang up their backpacks, put their shoes away, wash their hands, take off their uniforms, eat their snack, finish their chores, practice their piano, etc etc etc.

Despite the fact that they have been doing this every school day for 3-11 years every once in a while we need to have a "family meeting" to pronounce, declare and define exactly who should be doing which job and how it is to be done. (Note: I try to ignore their incredulous looks that say, "What? We're supposed to hang up our backpacks again this year?" or "What? You've never said that we had to take off our uniforms and hang them up!" )

At this council we recall what’s been done in the past, review the current norms and define again exactly what’s the expectation. Sometimes the kids complain that we are “making up new rules”, claiming we’ve “never done it this way before” when in actuality we are just pronouncing, declaring and defining a standard norm of our family.

Thus, the solemn declaration of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was not newly formed in 1854. It was a constant belief held and spoken of for many years, sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly. 

However, this dogma was ancient, dating back to the times of the apostles. Perhaps in order to alleviate any doubt and to correct any wrong information, God chose 1854 as the time to pronounce, declare and define this belief and practice.

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15


  1. The point is that the idea of Mary having no sin is not taught in the Bible. Would you agree with that?

  2. Actually, I would not agree. Mary's sinlessness is indeed found in the Bible, although not explicitly.

    Incidentally, why must we provide verses that support our beliefs? Where does the Bible state that we must do this? The Bible states that the Church, not the Scriptures is the pillar and foundation of Truth.

  3. And the "Church" is the bride of Christ. His bride are Christians who have heard his voice and those whom he has "called them by name" not an organization. Some of us who most certainly are his Church are not Catholics and some of us do not believe in many of the doctrines that are upheld by the Catholic Church. I used to be Catholic until I was born again and the Spirit became my teacher.

  4. Where is Mary's sinlessness found in the Bible? And where does the Bible say that "the Church, not the Scriptures is the pillar and foundation of Truth?"

  5. "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

    Will you answer my previous post?

  6. @ Wanda: thank you for your comments/questions. (Please allow me time to address your questions--perhaps an expectation of a response within 24 hours is more realistic?)

    Anyway, I have no disagreements with you regarding Christians being part of the Bride of Christ, even if they are not Catholic. Our Catechism says that you are indeed part of the church, although joined to us imperfectly.

  7. @ Wanda: As far as Mary's sinlessness being found in the Bible--here are the verses, taken from this website:

    Exodus 25:11-21 - the ark of the Old Covenant was made of the purest gold for God's Word. Mary is the ark of the New Covenant and is the purest vessel for the Word of God made flesh.

    2 Sam. 6:7 - the Ark is so holy and pure that when Uzzah touched it, the Lord slew him. This shows us that the Ark is undefiled. Mary the Ark of the New Covenant is even more immaculate and undefiled, spared by God from original sin so that she could bear His eternal Word in her womb.

    1 Chron. 13:9-10 - this is another account of Uzzah and the Ark. For God to dwell within Mary the Ark, Mary had to be conceived without sin. For Protestants to argue otherwise would be to say that God would let the finger of Satan touch His Son made flesh. This is incomprehensible.

    1 Chron. 15 and 16 - these verses show the awesome reverence the Jews had for the Ark - veneration, vestments, songs, harps, lyres, cymbals, trumpets.

    Luke 1:39 / 2 Sam. 6:2 - Luke's conspicuous comparison's between Mary and the Ark described by Samuel underscores the reality of Mary as the undefiled and immaculate Ark of the New Covenant. In these verses, Mary (the Ark) arose and went / David arose and went to the Ark. There is a clear parallel between the Ark of the Old and the Ark of the New Covenant.

    Luke 1:41 / 2 Sam. 6:16 - John the Baptist / King David leap for joy before Mary / Ark. So should we leap for joy before Mary the immaculate Ark of the Word made flesh.

    Luke 1:43 / 2 Sam. 6:9 - How can the Mother / Ark of the Lord come to me? It is a holy privilege. Our Mother wants to come to us and lead us to Jesus.

    Luke 1:56 / 2 Sam. 6:11 and 1 Chron. 13:14 - Mary / the Ark remained in the house for about three months.

  8. @ Wanda: Scriptural references to Mary's sinlessness cont'd (from Scripture Catholic website)

    Rev 11:19 - at this point in history, the Ark of the Old Covenant was not seen for six centuries (see 2 Macc. 2:7), and now it is finally seen in heaven. The Jewish people would have been absolutely amazed at this. However, John immediately passes over this fact and describes the "woman" clothed with the sun in Rev. 12:1. John is emphasizing that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant and who, like the Old ark, is now worthy of veneration and praise. Also remember that Rev. 11:19 and Rev. 12:1 are tied together because there was no chapter and verse at the time these texts were written.

    Rev 12:1 - the "woman" that John is describing is Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, so Mary, with the moon under her feet, reflects the glory of the Sun of Justice, Jesus Christ.

    Rev. 12:17 - this verse tells us that Mary's offspring are those who keep God's commandments and bear testimony to Jesus. This demonstrates, as Catholics have always believed, that Mary is the Mother of all Christians.

    Rev. 12:2 - Some Protestants argue that, because the woman had birth pangs, she was a woman with sin. However, Revelation is apocalyptic literature unique to the 1st century. It contains varied symbolism and multiple meanings of the woman (Mary, the Church and Israel). The birth pangs describe both the birth of the Church and Mary's offspring being formed in Christ. Mary had no birth pangs in delivering her only Son Jesus.

    Isaiah 66:7 - for example, we see Isaiah prophesying that before she (Mary) was in labor she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she was delivered of a son (Jesus). This is a Marian prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

    Gal 4:19 - Paul also describes his pain as birth pangs in forming the disciples in Christ. Birth pangs describe formation in Christ.

    Rom. 8:22 - also, Paul says the whole creation has been groaning in travail before the coming of Christ. We are all undergoing birth pangs because we are being reborn into Jesus Christ.

    Jer. 13:21 - Jeremiah describes the birth pangs of Israel, like a woman in travail. Birth pangs are usually used metaphorically in the Scriptures.

    Hos. 13:12-13 - Ephraim is also described as travailing in childbirth for his sins. Again, birth pangs are used metaphorically.

    Micah 4:9-10 - Micah also describes Jerusalem as being seized by birth pangs like a woman in travail.

    Rev. 12:13-16 - in these verses, we see that the devil still seeks to destroy the woman even after the Savior is born. This proves Mary is a danger to satan, even after the birth of Christ. This is because God has given her the power to intercede for us, and we should invoke her assistance in our spiritual lives.

  9. @Wanda: see 1 Timothy 3:15 to see what the Bible says is the pillar and foundation of truth.

    Note: the Bible says that it is NOT the Bible, but the Church.

  10. Hello Apologist,
    The doctrine of the immaculate conception, unfortunately, is not true. It detracts focus from Jesus, ironically. The reason why He had to become incarnate in human form was to adopt our nature, and overcome it by His power. The only way he could adopt our nature was to inherit a body with sinful tendencies from a human mother. These tendencies is what allowed him to become tempted. As to the body he could be tempted, but as His soul was Divine He resisted all temptation. In Jesus there thus arose a conflict between Jehovah and all of hell, until the body was glorified. This is why Jesus says this: "And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth" (John 17:19).

    The passages on the ark of the covenant is merely applying this doctrine onto scripture, but this teaching did not appear until 1854. The ark is not Mary, it represents the Lord Himself.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Doug. The dogma of the IC only serves to highlight the divinity of Christ.

      Any thoughtful Muslim can thwart your belief that Jesus is divine when he says, "How can your Jesus be divine when your own vessel which carried him for 9 months was defiled and full of sin?"

      But the Muslim could never say that to a Catholic. The Muslim's response must be, "Yes, it is entirely fitting for your belief that your Jesus is divine if you assert that the vessel which carried him was pure and undefiled. That, indeed, is a fitting vessel for He Who Cannot Be Contained!"

    2. And no, the teaching on has been present and proclaimed in the Catholic Church from the first moments of the kerygma.