Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Immaculate Deception?

Here is some Catholic trivia for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. What saint wrote that the Mary was conceived WITH original sin? The answer is St. Thomas Aquinas. I did a double-take myself when I first stumbled upon it in the Compendium to Suma Theologica, chapter 224:

 “Likewise, if Mary had been conceived without original sin, she would not have had to be redeemed by Christ, and so Christ would not be the universal redeemer of men, which detracts from His dignity. Accordingly we must hold that she was conceived with original sin, but was cleansed from it in some special way.”

Could this be the beginning of a new scandal in the Church that has its roots way back in the 13th century? Is the Immaculate Conception really the Immaculate Deception? Should Catholics be mortified, crushed and shaken to their very core of their faith? No, not at all; why not? Because when someone is declared a saint, it does not mean everything he or she did, said or wrote is infallible.

How then, can we know true Christian dogma? What is the foundation for truth? Where do we turn? What do we do? We can start with the Bible, but the Bible will direct us elsewhere; it directs us to “…God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1Timothy 3:15 is a verse every Catholic should memorize)

The Immaculate Conception was dogmatically defined by “God’s Household” in 1854 and is one of those “thorny” teachings that non-Catholic Christians object to, and I’ll bet some Catholics object to it too. This is the teaching that Mary was spared from original sin by God. An analogy is that we all fell in a mud puddle, and God cleaned us up afterward through baptism. In Mary’s case, God saved her by not letting her enter the mud puddle to begin with. Some may say this teaching is not only unbiblical, but actually contradicts the Word of God. After all, the Bible is clear, “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23), but what is clarity without perspective, and what is perspective without context.

We can't really be clear about something until it is understood in its proper context. Suppose someone said they have beheld the most beautiful eyes on a woman and then proceeded to show you her eyes in a box, would you be entranced by their beauty or be horrified? Her eyes are beautiful in the proper context of her face, not in a box.

Another way to better understand a thing is to compare it to other similar things in a similar context. Consider temperature in degrees kelvin. If I told you it is 250°K outside, what would you wear to go out? You may have no clue unless you had a relevant basis of comparison. 250°K is about -23°C, or about -10°F; not exactly flip-flop weather.
To what can we compare Romans 3:23 to get a better understanding?

How about this verse? “In Adam all have died…” (1 Cor. 15:22). In the Old Testament Enoch and Elijah did not die; they were taken up to heaven. Does this mean Paul contradicts scripture? No, this shows how “all” does not mean “every single one.” Also, if Christ never sinned, once again “all” does not really mean all. It reminds me of other generalizations like, “Everybody loves pizza”. I bet you can find at least one human on earth that does not like pizza.

Paul also says that “death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned” in Romans 5:12. Again, this proves that “all” does not mean “every single one” because death did not spread to all men as we have already seen with Enoch and Elijah.

Here’s a doozy; “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one;’” (Romans 3:10). Some may use this verse to show how all human beings are sinful including Mary, but the basis for the verse comes from Psalm 14:3 or Psalm 53:4. These psalms are not talking about all people being sinful. They note that among the wicked, all are sinful.

What about the words of Jesus himself? In Luke 18:19 Jesus says, “No one is good but God alone.” But then in Matthew 12:35, Jesus also says “A good person brings forth good…” So Jesus says no one is good but God, and then calls another person good. Is Jesus also contracting himself? I think not.

How do we know what’s true? The saints, as they lived on earth, were fallible humans just like you and I. The Bible alone leads to confusion alone (30,000 different Christian denominations & counting). Conscience alone leads to relativism alone. It is the spirit of truth that guides us to all truth (see John 16:13), but we cannot know the stages of guidance. Whatever the case or whatever the stage, remember to stick with God’s Household, which is the Church of the living God, and have a happy feast day!

You're kinda lost without it...

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