What is the immaculate conception?
Question: "What is the immaculate conception?"
Answer: Many people mistakenly believe that the immaculate conception refers to the conception of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ conception was most assuredly immaculate…but this concept does not refer to Jesus at all. The immaculate conception is a doctrine of the Romans Catholic Church in regards to Mary, Jesus’ mother. An official statement of the doctrine reads, “…the blessed Virgin Mary to have been, from the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Christ Jesus the Savior of Mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin.” Essentially the immaculate conception is the belief that Mary was protected from original sin, that Mary did not have a sin nature, and was, in fact, sinless.
The problem with the doctrine of the immaculate conception is that it is not taught in the Bible. The Bible nowhere describes Mary as anything but an ordinary human female whom God chose to be the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. Mary was undoubtedly a Godly woman (Luke 1:28). Mary was surely a wonderful wife and mother. Jesus definitely loved and cherished His mother (John 19:27). The Bible gives us no reason to believe that Mary was sinless. In fact, the Bible gives us every reason to believe that Jesus Christ is the only Person who was not “infected” by sin and never committed a sin (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).
The doctrine of the immaculate conception originated out of confusion over how Jesus Christ could be born sinless if He was conceived inside of a sinful human female. The thought was that Jesus would have inherited a sinful nature from Mary had she been a sinner. In contrast to the immaculate conception, the Biblical solution to this problem is understanding that Jesus Himself was miraculously protected from being polluted by sin while He was inside Mary's womb. If God was capable of protecting Mary from sin, would He not be able to protect Jesus from sin? Therefore, Mary being sinless is neither necessary or Biblical.
The Roman Catholic Church argues that the immaculate conception is necessary because without it, Jesus would have been the object of His own grace. The thought goes like this – for Jesus to have been miraculously preserved from sin, which itself would be an act of grace, that would mean God essentially “graced Himself.” The word grace means “unmerited favor.” Grace is giving someone something he or she does not deserve. God performing a miracle in preserving Jesus from sin is not “grace.” In no sense could Jesus possibly be infected with sin. He was perfect and sinless humanity joined with sinless divinity. God cannot be infected or affected by sin, as He is perfectly holy. This same truth applies to Jesus. It did not take “grace” to protect Jesus from sin. Being God incarnate, Jesus was in His essence “immune” from sin.
So, the doctrine of the immaculate conception is neither Biblical or necessary. Jesus was miraculously conceived inside Mary, who was a virgin at the time. That is the Biblical concept of the virgin birth. The Bible does not even hint that there was anything significant about Mary’s conception. If we examine this concept logically, Mary’s mother would have to be immaculately conceived as well. How could Mary be conceived without sin if her mother was sinful? The same would have to be said of Mary’s grandmother, great-grandmother, and so on. So, in conclusion, the immaculate conception is not a Biblical teaching. The Bible teaches the miraculous virgin conception of Jesus Christ, not the immaculate conception of Mary.
Recommended Resource: Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics by Ron Rhodes.
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