Underlying Disagreements in ECT Evangelicals’ Objections to the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception

Dec 8th, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Last year, immediately preceding this Solemnity, Taylor posted “Mary Without Sin (Scripture and Tradition),” and on the Feast I posted “Mary’s Immaculate Conception, in which I included podcasts of Prof. Lawrence Feingold’s lecture and Q&A on this dogma. Those two posts provide evidence for the Catholic dogma, and I will not repeat their content here. Instead I examine here a section of a statement titled “Do Whatever He Tells You: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Christian Faith and Life,” published by a group of Evangelical and Catholic scholars in the November, 2009 issue of First Things. This statement is a continuation of the project known as Evangelicals and Catholics Together, which released its first statement in 1994. The “Do Whatever He Tells You” statement contained a section written by Evangelicals explaining their reasons for not accepting the Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Here I show that the Evangelicals’ reasons for not accepting this dogma reveal five more underlying reasons that are at the heart of their disagreement over this dogma.


Scenes from the Life of Joachim and Anna
Master of Alkmaar (c. 1500)

The Evangelical statement reads as follows:

Immaculate Conception. Evangelicals find unnecessary and unbiblical the notion that Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin from the first moment of her conception. Still, we affirm much of what this teaching is intended to convey—that Mary was the object of God’s gracious election in Christ; that she was uniquely prepared to become the mother of our Lord; that she is an extraordinary model of the call to discipleship and the life of holiness; that her assent to the purpose of the Lord was itself the result of God’s unmerited favor toward her—an example of sola gratia; and that she should be honored and called “blessed one” in all places and by all generations.

Much interconfessional discussion has centered on the Greek kekaritomene of Luke 1:28 which the Vulgate renders gratia plena and the Douay-Rheims version as “full of grace.” In its clearest form, this perfect passive participle expresses divine favor in the passive voice, as in the King James Version: “Hail thou that art highly favoured” (cf. Luther, holdselige, and Calvin, agréable). Luke 1:28 does not mention Mary’s conception, though Scripture does teach that God’s redemptive call can take place before birth or even conception (Jer. 1:5; Gal. 1:15).

The concrete manifestation of divine favor occurred through the descent and overshadowing of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35), whose sanctifying activity enabled Mary’s response of faith and thus inaugurated the renewal of all creation in her womb (Luke 1:38). Calvin affirms this point by stating that “to carry Christ in her womb was not Mary’s first blessedness, but was greatly inferior to the distinction of being born again by the Spirit of God to a new life” (Commentary on the Harmony of the Gospels, 42). By divine grace alone Mary was enabled to give birth to the Son of God, and from her alone he received his human nature. It is not to be doubted that this was wrought by the power of God in a way no less miraculous or mysterious than the virginal conception itself.

Immaculate Conception is not accepted as a dogma by the churches of the East and was much debated in the West before and after the Reformation. Augustine held to a high view of the personal holiness of Mary but believed that God’s abundant grace was conferred on her “for vanquishing sin in every part” (On Nature and Grace 36.42). The idea that Mary was conceived without original sin was rejected by Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Thomas Aquinas, among other notable teachers of the Church. Their thinking about Mary deserves fresh consideration.

Evangelicals confess the sinlessness of Christ but not the sinlessness of Mary. Hebrews 7:26 refers to Jesus as our High Priest. He alone was perfectly holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners. The Bible makes clear that no other human being can claim this (John 8:46; Rom. 3:23, 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2Cor. 5:21; Eph. 2:3; Heb. 4:15). Jesus taught his disciples, among whom Mary was the first, to pray “Our Father who art in heaven . . . forgive us our trespasses” (Matt. 6:12). The Bible declares that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and he was the Savior as well as the son of his blessed mother (1 Tim. 1:15; Luke 1:46–47).

What disagreements lie behind the disagreements stated here by Evangelicals concerning the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception? I find five underlying disagreements.

The first is the notion that only what is explicitly stated in Scripture, or follows by logical entailment from what is taught explicitly in Scripture, is necessary for Christians to believe. That can be seen in the claim that “Evangelicals find unnecessary … the notion that Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin from the first moment of her conception.”1 (emphasis mine) The Catholic teaching, by contrast, is that the deposit of faith comes to us through both Scripture and Tradition. See “Sola Scriptura: A Dialogue Between Michael Horton and Bryan Cross VIII. Scripture and Tradition.” Therefore, from this Catholic perspective a doctrine not being explicitly stated in Scripture does not make it unnecessary.

The second underlying disagreement visible here is the notion that Tradition is not an authoritative guide in the interpretation of Scripture, but is instead itself judged by the interpretation of Scripture one arrives at apart from that Tradition. That notion can be found in two claims made in the Evangelical statement above. Evangelicals find the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception “unbiblical” because in their view (a) “The Bible makes clear that no other human being can claim [to be perfectly holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners]. (John 8:46; Rom. 3:23, 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2Cor. 5:21; Eph. 2:3; Heb. 4:15), and (b) “The Bible declares that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and he was the Savior as well as the son of his blessed mother (1 Tim. 1:15; Luke 1:46–47)”

Regarding the second claim, Evangelicals assume that since Christ was the Savior of His Mother, therefore it must follow that she was a sinner, and that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is false. But that conclusion does not follow, as Lawrence Feingold explains in “Mary’s Immaculate Conception, drawing from Scotus.”2 Through His Passion, Christ gloriously saved His Mother by preventing her from falling into original sin and actual sin.

Evangelicals think Mary was not sinless, on account of their interpretation of five verses:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Rom 3:23)

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— (Rom 5:12)

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Cor 15:22)

Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (Eph 2:3)

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (Heb 4:15)

Evangelicals assume that the ‘all’ (and ‘our’ in the Hebrews passage) in each case is intended to include Mary, because they do not find in Scripture any exegetical evidence to justify qualifying the extension of the term to everyone but Mary. Then having concluded that the ‘all’ must include Mary, they claim that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is “unbiblical,” i.e. contrary to Scripture. And they thereby conclude that the Tradition regarding the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception must be the result of a false accretion that worked its way into the Church’s beliefs and liturgical practices. What is therefore at work in this claim that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is contrary to Scripture is the notion that Scripture is to be interpreted only by Scripture, apart from Tradition, and then the interpretations thus attained are the standard by which Tradition is to be judged. The Catholic position, by contrast is that Tradition is the authoritative guide for the interpretation of Scripture, and therefore informs us that the ‘all’ should be interpreted as qualified. (See “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”)

The third underlying disagreement concerns the nature of grace. Evangelicals view grace as only divine favor, whereas in Catholic doctrine grace is not only divine favor, but also the divine gift God gives as a result of that favor, namely, a participation in the divine nature. (See “Lawrence Feingold on Sanctifying Grace and Actual Grace.”) This difference in our conceptions of grace changes how we understand the implication of Luke 1:28. A conception of grace as mere divine favor allows for a simul iustus et peccator view of Mary’s soul even while Gabriel is speaking to her or at any other point in her life. But a Catholic understanding of grace as participation in the divine nature, along with Luke 1:28, not only indicates a prior infusion of grace, but allows a Catholic to see Christ as Mary’s Savior through preventing her at every moment from being deprived of sanctifying grace.

The fourth underlying disagreement is an implicit denial of the development of doctrine. This can be seen in the Evangelicals’ claims that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception “is not accepted as a dogma by the churches of the East and was much debated in the West,” and “The idea that Mary was conceived without original sin was rejected by Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Thomas Aquinas.” Their appeal to these facts as evidence that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is false presupposes that doctrine does not develop. If doctrine develops, as St. Vincent of Lérins describes in his Commonitory, and Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman describes in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, then the fact that at some earlier time not all Christians recognized or affirmed it is not in itself evidence that it does no belong to the Tradition.

The fifth underlying disagreement in this Evangelical statement regarding the Immaculate Conception concerns the basis of ecclesial authority. When the Evangelicals assert that the reasoning by which St. Bernard and St. Thomas rejected the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception “deserves fresh consideration,” they are not only implicitly denying the development of doctrine; they are also denying the magisterial authority of the Catholic Church, because Pope Pius IX infallibly defined the dogma in 1854, writing:

Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.” (Ineffabilis Deus)

Moreover the Evangelical statement implicitly affirms the ecclesial authority of Calvin and Luther. The statement not only appeals to Luther’s and Calvin’s translations of terms, but writes, “Calvin affirms this point by stating that “to carry Christ in her womb was not Mary’s first blessedness, but was greatly inferior to the distinction of being born again by the Spirit of God to a new life.” Why do Luther’s and Calvin’s opinions come up in an explanation by Evangelicals of their reasons for not accepting the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception? The appeals to Luther and Calvin demonstrate performatively that these Evangelicals believe that Luther and Calvin hold some kind of ecclesial/interpretive authority. But Catholics do not believe that Luther or Calvin had ecclesial/interpretive authority. So one more disagreement underlying Evangelicals’ disagreement with the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is the basis for ecclesial/interpretive authority. For Evangelicals, that authority reduces to agreement with their own interpretation of Scripture.3 For Catholics, that authority comes through apostolic succession.4

Conclusion

The resolution of a disagreement, and especially a seemingly intractable disagreement, typically requires locating the underlying disagreements that are the fundamental source and cause of the disagreement in question. In this case, the Evangelical statement concerning their disagreement with the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary reveals five underlying disagreements: (1) the notion that only what is explicitly stated in Scripture, or follows by logical entailment from what is taught explicitly in Scripture, is necessary for Christians to believe, (2) the notion that Tradition is not an authoritative guide in the interpretation of Scripture, but is instead itself judged by the interpretation of Scripture one arrives at apart from that Tradition, (3) the notion of grace is merely divine favor, (4) an implicit denial of the development of doctrine, and (5) the notion that ecclesial authority is grounded in agreement with one’s interpretation of Scripture and not in apostolic succession in union with the episcopal successor of the one to whom Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom. Subsequent attempts to resolve the Evangelical-Catholic disagreement concerning the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception will require turning to these underlying disagreements.

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 2011.

  1. This assumption is also manifested in the statement that “Luke 1:28 does not mention Mary’s conception.” []
  2. For more detail, see Volume XX of Scotus’s Lectura in Librum Tertium Sententiarum (Q.1 dis. 3), titled “Utrum Beata Virgo fuerit concepta in peccato originali (whether the Blessed Virgin was conceived in original sin). []
  3. See “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.” []
  4. Sola Scriptura: A Dialogue Between Michael Horton and Bryan Cross, IX. Apostolic Succession. []
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32 comments
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  1. WRT whether “all” means all, there are at least two people in scripture who did not die, namely Enoch and Elijah. Now there is some speculation that they are the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation, but that is just speculation and could not be what Paul meant since Revelation wasn’t written yet, so “all” must mean something a bit more limited.

    Personally, I never liked the term “development of doctrine”. It’s inaccurate. IMO, a better term is doctrinal refinement. The faith remains hazy until a crisis forces it to be made more refined. You see this in the writings of the earliest Church Fathers when they struggle to come up with an explanation of the Trinity. But thanks to heretics, the hazy doctrines became more nailed down.

    Ditto with the Immaculate Conception. Dominicans and Franciscans on opposite sides. Rather than solving the problem the Martin Luther way (a church split) or the liberal modernist way (water down the faith to achieve unity), one side is picked and the Church moves on. It’s remarkably refreshing, particularly if you have been through a Church split to see that *you can move on* without watering down the faith or inventing a “new perspective” that no-one before you ever heard about so they must have missed this critical insight or were “too caught up in their inferior historical contexts”.

  2. Thanks for this, Bryan. I really like the first sentence of your conclusion.

    Also, the objections highlighted in #5 do seem like a double standard by the Evangelical authors.

  3. Regarding #4-5, I consider it more of a ‘drive-by’ by the Document to make such sweeping and inaccurate claims. The words of St Augustine certainly conforms to the doctrine of Immaculate Conception, for in the context Pelagius just got done mentioning texts like Luke 1:5-6 arguing certain people truly did have no sin, to which Augustine responded that means those righteous/blameless OT Saints had merely venial sins, and from there St Augustine makes the exception for Mary (i.e. She didn’t even have venial). And to say St Thomas denied it is also inaccurate and actually something Evangelicals need “fresh reconsideration” on: for St Thomas believed ensoulment happened 8 days after conception (i.e. didn’t define “conception” as it later became refined as), and at the earliest possible moment She was cleansed from sin. That’s 99% of the Formally Defined Dogma.
    Within the Protestant framework of “Total Depravity,” it’s impossible for them to affirm anything close to the IC.

    The most important question the Evangelical side has to answer is: Did Jesus take Mary’s nature? If She was conceived in Total Depravity, and thus had a “sin nature,” then Jesus must have a “sin nature” as well (though no Evangelical would say that). But if Jesus took on a non-sin-nature, then how did Mary give this to Him?

  4. Bryan,

    Thank you for this article. I would like to offer some comments directed at two of the points you highlight. Firstly, the interpretation of “all”, in passages like Romans 3:23 as inclusive of “each and every” human being; and secondly, the appeal to Fathers such as Sts. Augustine, Bernard and Thomas as contrarian voices concerning the Immaculate Conception.

    With regard to the interpretive dispute, I fully agree that the fundamental issue is the latent rejection of Tradition as an authoritative guide in the interpretation of scripture. Nevertheless, I hope to make an exegetical point concerning Romans 3:10. A passage which I take to be paradigmatic with regard to the notion that scripture excludes the possibility of any human being (save Christ) being exempted from sin. The passage reads as follows:

    “As it is written: none is righteous, no, not one”

    At first glance, this text seems to unambiguously teach that every single human being has sinned. “None (inclusive of each and every human being) is righteous, no, not one”. However, St. Paul has intentionally drawn this text from Psalm 14. The text is meant to bring before the reader’s mind, the larger context from which it is drawn. To maintain otherwise is to suppose that Paul, a scholar of the Law, is taking a text out of context as a pretext. Or said another way, if, in drawing upon this passage from Psalm 14, St. Paul were intending to teach something contrary to the text’s meaning as it is found within the context of Psalm 14; he [Paul] would be jeopardizing his own integrity as a teacher, in the minds of his readers. With that thought in mind, here is the context from Psalm 14:

    “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. Will evildoers never learn– those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on the LORD? There they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous. You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the LORD is their refuge.”

    Clearly, the contrast is being drawn between “evildoers” as juxtaposed to “my people”, or “the company of the righteous”. Thus, within context, the phrase “there is no one who does good, not even one” seems quite clearly to refer only to one class of humanity (“evildoers”); while explicitly excluding another class of persons (“my people” or the “company of the righteous”). Hence, I argue that St. Paul cannot, in adopting this language for his purposes in Romans 3, be intending to invest the phrase with a comprehensive quality which clearly does not obtain within its source context. Moreover, the apparent all-inclusive tone of Romans 3:10 is at least as forceful as other passages appealed to by Evangelicals in defense of the notion that scriptural references to ubiquitous sin are to be taken in the sense of “each and every” human being. Thus, if, despite initial appearances, a text as strong as Romans 3:10 – considered in its original context – clearly militates against the Evangelical supposition; there is every reason to suspect that other passages too, are likewise not to be taken in the sense in which Evangelicals tend to construe them. In which case, such verses do not provide warrant for asserting that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception violates scripture.

    Secondly, with regard to the Patristic record, I agree that the fundamental issue concerns the Evangelical rejection of the fact of “doctrinal development”. Nevertheless, there are some additional items worth noting. The Evangelical statement contains the following:

    “The idea that Mary was conceived without original sin was rejected by Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Thomas Aquinas, among other notable teachers of the Church. Their thinking about Mary deserves fresh consideration.”

    Reading that statement, one might easily get the impression (at least by implication) that the position of St. Augustine, St. Bernard and St. Thomas is not only a “rejection” of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, but is rather a position more in keeping with modern Evangelical views regarding Mary. Nothing could be further from the truth. The statement declares: “Their [Augustine, Bernard, Thomas, and perhaps other Fathers] thinking about Mary deserves fresh consideration”.

    With that last line, I wholeheartedly agree. But if this recommendation is taken seriously, the dutiful student will encounter Churchmen whose doctrine regarding Mary is only a moment away from the current dogma of the Catholic Church (and it is vigorously argued by scholars what the real position of some of these Fathers really is on the matter). Even if all three doctors of the Church do not technically hold to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception; the fact remains that all three saints affirm Mary to be free of all actual sin throughout the entirety of her life; and moreover, to have been infused with sanctifying grace (thereby overcoming original Sin) only a moment after conception – while still in the womb. Not only is their doctrine of Mary’s lifelong freedom from ALL sin immeasurably more radical than any notion currently acceptable to Evangelicals; it is also a position which directly militates against the “all-inclusive” text exegesis discussed above. Consider the Fathers in their own words:

    St. Ambrose, St. Augustine’s mentor, wrote the following:

    “Lift me up not from Sara but from Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free from every stain” (Commentary on Psalm 118)

    The cause of Mary being “free from every stain” is the “grace [that] has made [Mary] inviolate”. But if Mary was “free from every stain” throughout her whole life, and it was grace which caused such freedom; then Mary must have been in possession of grace throughout her whole life. But that is precisely the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

    Unsurprisingly, St. Augustine, as Ambrose’ disciple, echoes a similar (if not essentially identical) refrain:

    “Having excepted the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, on account of the honor of the Lord, I wish to have absolutely no question when treating of sins, for how do we know what abundance of grace for the total overcoming of sin was conferred upon her, who merited to conceive and bear Him in whom there was no sin? So, I say, with the exception of the Virgin, if we could have gathered together all those holy men and women, when they were living here, and had asked them whether they were without sin, what do we suppose would have been their answer?” (Nature & Grace)

    From the above, it is not clear to me that St Augustine “rejected” the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

    Consider now, the early St. Thomas:

    “Purity is constituted by a recession from impurity, and therefore it is possible to find some creature purer than all the rest, namely one not contaminated by any taint of sin; such was the purity of the Blessed Virgin, who was immune from original and actual sin, yet under God, inasmuch as there was in her the potentiality of sin.” (Commentary on the Book of Sentences)

    This passage, if not an actual affirmation of the Immaculate Conception, certainly provides no ground for arguing that St. Thomas denied the dogma.

    Later in life, St. Thomas writes:

    The Blessed Virgin was sanctified in the womb from original sin, as to the personal stain; but she was not freed from the guilt to which the whole nature is subject, so as to enter into Paradise otherwise than through the Sacrifice of Christ.” (ST)

    Here, St. Thomas affirms that Mary was “sanctified in the womb”, and is eager to point out, that even a sanctification so extraordinary, must ultimately derive from the “Sacrifice of Christ”. He does not (in this passage) clarify the precise moment at which he believes Mary was sanctified within the womb. Needless to say, in consideration of the two passages just quoted, the fact of vigorous scholarly debate concerning St. Thomas’ actual position is not surprising.

    St. Bernard of Clairvaux writes as follows:

    “I say that the Virgin Mary could not be sanctified before Her conception, inasmuch as She did not exist. if, all the more, She could not be sanctified in the moment of Her conception by reason of the sin which is inseparable from conception, then it remains to believe that She was sanctified after She was conceived in the womb of Her mother. This sanctification, if it annihilates sin, makes holy Her birth, but not Her conception.” (Epistle 174)

    St. Bernard clearly rejects the moment of conception as correlative to the moment of sanctification. Nevertheless, he goes on to say that the moment of sanctification which “annihilates sin”, takes place while Mary is still in the womb, so that her birth is holy.

    If, indeed, Evangelicals were to give “fresh consideration” to the teaching of these saints and doctors, they would find themselves on the very threshold of the Catholic Dogma. Moreover , they would find themselves faced with the prospect of jettisoning their current exegetical stance with regard to those passages which they suppose exclude the possibility of embracing Mary’s earthly freedom from sin.

    Finally, while Calvin does reject the teaching of the Immaculate Conception, it may be worth noting that the original father of the Reformation did not share Calvin’s reductionism on this point.

    Martin Luther writes:

    “It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin” (Sermon: “On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God,” 1527).

    And again, he writes:

    “She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin- something exceedingly great. For God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil.” (Personal {“Little”} Prayer Book, 1522).

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  5. Bryan,

    I enjoyed reading this post. I would add a sixth impediment, though. This one doesn’t have to do primarily with epistemic propriety or questions about authority or the content of the deposit of faith or development or what have you. Rather, it derives from the perhaps more “fundamental” Protestant intuition that such honors as are given to Mary (or “the Saints”) necessarily detract from (or subtract from) the honor, glory, praise, due to God. I have some things to say about that, but I don’t wish to hijack your post, and I’m pretty sure whatever I say will be less insightful and succinct than what you say in any case. Instead, I’ll just ask you to speak to this issue yourself, for the benefit of everyone: Granted that calling the Blessed Virgin “immaculate” doesn’t implicate that she was somehow able, on her own steam, hyper-Pelagian-wise, to be morally perfect all the time, why exactly is it that the existence of such a person as St Mary — “our tainted nature’s solitary boast” — might be thought to undermine or usurp the glory of God?

  6. By the way, Nick, I don’t want to step on your toes or anything, but I am and have always been a little worried about this line of argument. Regress concerns loom. I don’t think it’s impossible for God to cause the conception of a person immediately, and not subject to original sin, if He so wishes; and I don’t think a pre-requisite to His doing this is that He ensures that the woman in which this person is conceived is likewise not subject to original sin. Don’t get me wrong — I’m with you on the dogma; but (and maybe I’ve just misunderstood you) I’m not sure this is the best way to argue for that dogma.

    Anyway, happy feast of the immaculate conception to everyone. I do so love the Marian feasts. They are always, in my experience, so cozy and familial. I guess everyone just loves their mom.

    Neal

  7. Bryan,

    Not to beat a dead horse, but I think impediment one is the smoking gun (which has been talked about a lot here).

    “The first is the notion that only what is explicitly stated in Scripture, or follows by logical entailment from what is taught explicitly in Scripture, is necessary for Christians to believe. “

    Where is this taught in Scripture? I think the lack of real answer for this question demonstrates why, in my observation, Protestantism naturally devolves into relativism. If you have no principled way for determining your first principle, then your method is irrational. Of course, the objection would be that the above principe is rational; and I would agree that it appears so. However, I’m not questioning the rationality of the principle, but the method for obtaining the principle–the cause. For example, a person might believe that every child should be kept safe, but the method for obtaining that conclusion could be pure sentimentality. Thus, when sentiment changes, children may be more or less valuable.

    This same problem manifests in Protestantism (and can manifest amongst Catholics as well). It manifests in questions like “What does that Scripture mean to you“, or in short and shallow statements of faith, or in essentialism. What all three point to is a method: namely subjectivism (primacy of the individual conscience). This only makes sense, when from Scripture itself, one cannot adduce “the notion that only what is explicitly stated in Scripture, or follows by logical entailment from what is taught explicitly in Scripture, is necessary for Christians to believe”. Because that principle–in theology–is a novelty of the subject. So, we should not be surprised when in Protestantism novel doctrines are created ad infinitum from the principle of the primacy of the individual conscience lurking just beneath the surface of their alleged “first principle”.

    Neal,

    I don’t see the regress problem in Nick’s argument (if I understand his argument and your objection correctly), if we think about the IC in terms of an act of God. I think when we conceive of it as a condition of the possibility, then we have problems. But, of course, God could do anything so there is no condition of the possibility for an act of God (with some qualifications). Nonetheless, potuit decuit ergo fecit. The IC simultaneously tells us about Mary’s nature in lieu of God’s saving power, and ultimately what God was saving Mary from (original sin inherited from her parents). So, I see no reason why St. Anne would have to be conceived immaculately for Mary to be conceived immaculately. The proportional difference between Mary and Jesus make St. Anne’s immaculate conception non decuit. Additionally, the regress “problem” is further mitigated by the IC’s Biblical grounding in the Ark of the Covenant.

    Immaculate Conception, pray for us!

  8. Another issue I see is a lack of understanding of the sacramental nature of sex. They believe in the virgin birth. It is explicitly taught in scripture. But when you take it a step further. When you ask why her being a virgin was important, they tend not to know. Some will say it was to show who Jesus was but that makes no sense. The miracle is unverifiable so it is not much good in building up anyone’s faith. So why was it important that Mary be a virgin? They end up saying it was unnecessary. They don’t get the connection between virginity and spiritual consecration. But that connection is one of the main things that led the Church to this teaching.

  9. Neal,

    As an Evangelical Protestant, I will heartily affirm your suggestion that the “sixth impediment” is substantial. When Protestants encounter terms like Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix, an almost involuntary and visceral reaction occurs, with strong suspicion that if not dogmatically at least practically Catholics have added something to the salvific grace won by our Lord. A lot of work needs to be done to help Protestants understand exactly what is meant by these titles and specifically why these roles for Mary do not distract or subtract from the sole mediatorship of Christ. I fully concede that Protestants also have a lot of work to do: the very difficult task of letting down our reflexive negative response to all things Marian.

    Burton

  10. Ray, (re: #4)

    I agree with what you wrote. At the same time, I think the OT reference does not ‘settle’ the question of the extension of the ‘all.’ In my experience, interpretive debates in which Scripture-interprets-Scripture is the sole guiding principle, the choosing of certain passages to be the interpretive norm for the others determines the outcome, and this choosing is arbitrary without the guidance of Tradition. This is how Scripture-interprets-Scripture turns Scripture into a wax nose, to say whatever one wants it to say while being ‘faithful’ to the text. I’ve seen this happen hundreds of times, and in that hermeneutical situation the interpretive debates are intractable precisely because there is no objective basis for determining which passages are the ones to pick as normative for interpreting the others. So I agree that there is Scriptural support for qualifying the ‘all,’ but I think that that support cannot be determinative for resolving the question apart from an authoritative Tradition recognized as authoritative, and I think there cannot be a recognized and functional authoritative Tradition apart from a magisterium. So this again reduces to the points of disagreement listed above in the body of the post (especially 1, 2, and 5).

    I also agree with what you (and Nick) said about St. Augustine, St. Bernard, and St. Thomas. I have noted that as well in “Mary’s Immaculate Conception,” and I think that is a very important observation to make in response to the line “Their thinking about Mary deserves fresh consideration.” Again, however, I think that the difference between the teaching of those three saints on this subject, and the defined dogma, though small, is not fundamentally the source of the Evangelical dissent from the Catholic teaching. That’s why the smallness of the difference is of little concern to Evangelicals, nor are the radical [for Evangelicals] implications of adopting, say, St. Thomas’s notion that Mary was perfectly and perpetually sanctified and sinless from the moment after her conception. The Evangelicals who wrote this section of the statement are scholars who are not unaware of the smallness of the difference. For Catholics guided by Tradition, the smallness of the difference supports the defined dogma, even by the very fact of its smallness. But for Evangelicals who do not recognize the authority of Tradition, the smallness of the difference is irrelevant; rather, apart from the notion of the development [or refinement] of doctrine and apart from any magisterial authority by which the development of doctrine is thereby definitively defined and established [see my reply to Mark Galli], the difference is merely seen as difference, and therefore used as justification to dissent from the dogma.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  11. Neal (re: #5),

    I agree with you that this sixth notion is at work in the background in the Evangelical section of the statement. It reminds me of the “theologism” Gilson describes in the second chapter of his book The Unity of Philosophical Experience. I described that theologism briefly last year in comment #2 of the “St. Augustine on Law and Grace” thread. The desire, of course, is to give God all the glory. But the mistaken assumptions are (a) that God receives the most glory when God alone receives glory, and (b) that glory is the sort of thing that is lost by the giver when the giver gives it to others. But in actuality (as you know) God is more greatly glorified when He makes more glorious creatures. The greater the glory He gives to a creature, the more the greatness of His glory is manifested, just as God’s love is more clearly manifested the more He allows creatures to share in His love, the more we love one another with the love by which He first loved us.

    This principle that God is more glorified the more He gives glory to His creature is true at the level of nature, and it is no less true at the level of grace. But the Evangelical assumption regarding glory as a zero-sum commodity is at work in Michael Horton’s thought with regard to the role synergistic sanctification has in salvation, as I explained in “The Gospel and the Paradox of Glory.” It also is at work in John Calvin’s thought with regard to the doctrine of merit, as I explain in “The Doctrine of Merit: Feingold, Calvin, and the Church Fathers.” This zero-sum treatment of glory is not derived from Scripture; it is a philosophical assumption imposed on the interpretation of Scripture. And it is based on a mistaken assumption that glory is like something material, such that giving some to another subtracts it from oneself, whereas that does not apply to glory, love, wisdom, goodness, etc., which give by allowing participation in themselves, not by removing anything from themselves. Don’t worry in the least about hijacking my post; I’d be very glad to hear your thoughts on this.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  12. Neal (re#6),

    I understand the ‘regress’ objection, but my comment was of a radically different nature. My claim was that Jesus received His humanity from Mary, and as such the both had to have the same human nature. Within Protestant anthropology (i.e. view of man’s nature), the Incarnation is serious a problem, because everyone has a ‘sin nature’ (with concupiscience seen as sin itself) and thus there is no way Jesus could take on this ‘sin nature’. Thus, if Mary had a ‘sin nature’, then She couldn’t have given Jesus His humanity. See the problem now? (If anything, it’s the Protestant side stuck with a regress dilemma in order to get Jesus a ‘non-sin-nature’.)

    The Supernatural and Preturnatural gifts do not track with biology, they are given directly by God and only passed down (or not passed down) to future generations on the basis of obedience/disobedience of the ‘head of the family’ (e.g. Adam). As such, there is no ‘danger’ of ‘regression’, because God has not been giving these gifts all this time, and simply makes an exception for Mary. The ‘new-normal’ manner of receiving the Supernatural gifts is through Baptism.

    Since the Protestants deny a natural/supernatural (i.e. nature/grace) distinction, all they have is ‘biological animal nature’, with it being in ‘sound condition’ their definition of ‘original righteousness’. Pelagius held this view as well, which is why the Reformation was largely a re-manifestation of Pelagianism-Manichaeanism. The key distinction is that Pelagius saw there was nothing for man to “fall from”, and thus Adam’s sin could only have hurt him and him alone. On the flip side, the “Reformers” saw Adam and creation did indeed fall, but since all there was to fall from was the created order, they held man’s nature itself turned ‘rotten’ (i.e. Total Depravity), resulting in a Manichean* ‘sin-nature’.

    Byran has brilliantly pointed out how in the Protestant scheme, the “fall” was no where near as severe as the Catholic view, because in the Catholic view the fall was a fall from an infinite dimension, where as in Protestantism the fall was a fall from one finite dimension to another finite dimension.

    ——————

    *St Augustine struggled on a similar issue before his conversion (since he was associated with Manicheanism), and talks about this in his Confessions:

    For corruption harms, but, unless it could diminish goodness, it could not harm. Either, then, corruption harms not, which cannot be; or, what is most certain, all which is corrupted is deprived of good. But if they be deprived of all good, they will cease to be. For if they be, and cannot be at all corrupted, they will become better, because they shall remain incorruptibly. And what more monstrous than to assert that those things which have lost all their goodness are made better? Therefore, if they shall be deprived of all good, they shall no longer be. So long, therefore, as they are, they are good; therefore whatsoever is, is good. That evil, then, which I sought whence it was, is not any substance; for were it a substance, it would be good. For either it would be an incorruptible substance, and so a chief good, or a corruptible substance, which unless it were good it could not be corrupted. I perceived, therefore, and it was made clear to me, that Thou made all things good, nor is there any substance at all that was not made by You
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/110107.htm

  13. Nick, (re: #12)

    I don’t know any Protestant who would say that the “sin nature” (or sarx) is human nature, even though Protestants affirm that all humans since Adam have a sin nature. From a Protestant point of view, the “sin nature” is an acquired nature in addition to our human nature, or more properly, an accidental condition of our human nature following the sin of Adam. So from a Protestant point of view Mary could, in theory, give to Christ His human nature without also giving to Him a sin nature, especially if divine omnipotence was involved. And that’s Neal’s point.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  14. Hi Bryan,

    I’ve come across only one Protestant who said sin is an accidental quality, but he couldn’t answer any of my questions. Can you explain how can a ‘sin nature’ even be an ‘accidental’ quality? And even if it was, wouldn’t it still be ‘ontologically sin’? I don’t even see how they would define spiritual death at that point. The way I read many Protestant comments on the subject, they don’t make such a distinction between essence/accidents (e.g. See RC Spoul’s claims Here” and John Piper Here, and C Matthew McMahon Here where no attempt is made at such a distinction in any case and these men speak as authorities on Protestant soteriology).

  15. Nick,

    Of course they don’t typically use that language, but that’s generally still how they understand it. But even if they didn’t, omnipotence is quite powerful. All Protestants believe that the “sin nature” is removed from a person who dies in faith, since believers don’t retain a sin nature in heaven. Therefore, God’s omnipotence is able to remove the sin nature while preserving or restoring the human nature. And so His omnipotence could do the same in the womb of Mary.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  16. I guess it makes sense to say in virtue of omnipotence God could do that, but I would say that hinges on whether the “accidental-sin-nature” thesis is even feasible. For example, omnipotence cannot be used by God to declare something other than what it really is in a ‘simul iustus et peccator’ sense.

  17. Nick,

    Well, in order to support your assertion (in #3) that “If She was conceived in Total Depravity, and thus had a “sin nature,” then Jesus must have a “sin nature” as well,” you would need to demonstrate that God could not possibly give her human nature to Christ without also giving to Christ this [alleged] sin nature.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  18. Hi Bryan,

    I don’t get the question.

    We agree God can do whatever is conceptually possible, but He cannot do what is conceptually impossible (e.g. tell a lie, make a rock he cannot lift). If having an accidental-sin-nature is not conceptually possible, then even omnipotence cannot do anything about it.

    If human nature is passed on through marital relations, then whatever the nature the parents had is passed to the child. If the accidental-sin-nature thesis isn’t true, then whatever nature Mary had must have been passed onto Christ. If the accidental-sin-nature thesis is true, then there are ways the sin-nature could not have been foregone during generation.

  19. Nick,

    I didn’t ask a question, so I’m not sure what question you don’t get. I agree that “If having an accidental-sin-nature is not conceptually possible, then even omnipotence cannot do anything about it.” But you haven’t shown that an accidental sin nature is impossible. Therefore your claim that “If She was conceived in Total Depravity, and thus had a “sin nature,” then Jesus must have a “sin nature” as well” is not established. Likewise, you wrote, “If the accidental-sin-nature thesis is true, then there are ways the sin-nature could not have been foregone during generation.” That too has not been demonstrated, only asserted.

    But continuing with this particular discussion might take this thread off the general topic of the ECT statement on the Immaculate Conception.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  20. Mary is the bride of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity. Overshadowed by the Holy Sprit she gave birth to Jesus the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity. She is the daughter of God the Father. Even as we as Christians are sons and daughters of God the Father. Mary is blessed above all creatures as she is totally and completely permeated by the Spirit of God in every way. Saved by the merits of her son who is the New Adam and created free from all sin she is indeed the New Eve. Adam and Eve came as a matched pair. The New Adam and Eve also come as a matched pair. As the first Adam and Eve said “no” to God, the New Adam and Eve said “yes” to God. God knew from all eternity that His handmaiden would be totally and completely blessed and involved in the salvation of humanity. As Eve was created without sin, the New Eve was also created without sin, conceived without sin in her mothers womb and saved from Original Sin by the merits of her Son to be. God knew she would be His bride, His mother and His daughter. No human on earth was ever born or will ever be born that could possibly give Mary any higher or greater honour than God gave to Mary. If salvation means being a part of God’s very life, then Mary is the creature that most greatly exemplifies that union. A union that every Christian will have through our faith in Christ. We will all be a part of the family of God.

    If what I have written is not in the Bible or at least inferred by the Bible, please feel free to correct my errors.

    God does nothing without a reason so if He used Mary to take upon Himself human nature then He had a reason for doing it that way. God cannot be associated with sin or corruption in any way shape or form. Human nature was tainted by the corruption of sin. Though God cannot be associated with sin Mary could be and indeed was through her parents, (She is after all human) She was spared inheriting Original Sin by a singular act of God through the merits of her Son, grafted to her at her very conception thus she was pure and without sin. A holy vessel, the Arc of the new Covenant, Mother of God. Firstborn of all creatures through the saving graces of her Son Jesus.

    Could God have accomplished it any other way? Of course he could. Did He? No. Mary was the way He brought salvation into the world.

    NHU

  21. Fair enough, this could be taking the main topic on a tangent. All I will say as a final thought is that I don’t believe accidental-sin-nature is possible in light of the fact sin has no ontological existence (which would include substance or accident). Sin is an act; Original “sin” is a defect/privation; but Concupiscence for Protestants is ontologically sinful and thus requires it to be perpetually non-imputed.

  22. Bryan and Nick,

    I do think a discussion of how Evangelicals view original sin is on topic. If we do not agree on that definition, than a discussion of the IC will never profit as much as it could. It should be important to distinguish between the various Protestant (i.e., Reformed, Anabaptist or Arminian) ways of looking at original sin and also to consider the “Evangelical way” of looking at original sin as a unique position (although what an Evangelical “is” is quite open for debate–to which further I ask, “Who does the ETS represent beside the self-sworn theologians who participate?). Nonetheless, to the second task of defining an “Evangelical way”, I found an article by David Parker entitled, “Original Sin: A Study in Evangelical Theology,” published in the Evangelical Quarterly 61:1, 1989. It introduced some of the problems to which I think Nick is referring.

    On Parker’s view, original sin is a “vitiated” state, but more importantly a state whose metaphysics is not really understood (pp.56 & 57) outside of the actuality of sin. Think about it. Evangelicals do not baptize their infants, so what is the “bite” in original sin? Who cares until you actually sin? The IC would clearly be superfluous on this view of original sin (and Parker will tie the three together–the IC, infant baptism and original sin). Again, to Nick’s point, Parker says: “According to Reformed theology, then, it is this common human nature now tainted by corruption which the Bible means when it speaks of ‘the flesh’ and the ‘carnal mind’.” Of course this is Parker’s opinion, but from what I gather it is not unsubstantiated. In his article, Parker goes on to describe contemporary Evangelical definitions of original sin via Bloesch, Erickson, and Weslyian strands. (Erickson seems to espouse the corrupted human nature view that Nick is referring.)

    In conclusion, Parker says the same kind of thing ETS would communicate 5 years later:

    Therefore it can be concluded that one major problem with the traditional formulation of the doctrine of original sin is the desire to go beyond Scripture by seeking rational explanations for the causes and mechanisms of sin. One result of this is to distort the Biblical witness by placing heavy dependence on extra-biblical philosophical doctrines, rather than putting the emphasis where the Bible does, viz., upon moral relationships which speak of the ‘confession of our sin’ or ‘the guilt character of all sin’. But once it is recognized that Scripture does not offer an explanation for the universality of sin, many of the traditional difficulties with the exegesis of passages noted above dealing with sin fall away, leaving them to be interpreted in their original pastoral context. There is therefore no inclination to add anything to the doctrine of sin to sharpen its impact, and no need to hedge soteriology around with any protective doctrinal affirmations. This means that there is no need for elaborate theories of imputation and furthermore, there is no pressure to develop a doctrine of sacramental infant baptism or to move in the direction of the Catholic Marian dogmas of the immaculate conception or of the bodily assumption. It also frees up the idea of the Virgin Birth and enables it to make a more dynamic contribution to Christology.

    Notice, by avoiding “philosophic categories” and holding to the first notion Bryan talked about (see my comment #7), he thinks he avoids (a) development of doctrine, (2) infant baptism, and (3) the IC. What I don’t understand is how “It also frees up the idea of the Virgin Birth and enables it to make a more dynamic contribution to Christology”. I guess that would mean that “no other doctrines would detract form the importance of the Virgin Birth”. But that seems problematic, since mining the implications of the Virgin Birth would likely require violating their first principle of explicit, logical entailment. Further, it would require some kind of working development of doctrine.

    Parker’s definition of OS as a “morally vitiated condition in which we find ourselves at birth”is not too far off from “a morally vitiated human nature”. Lastly, this post by an “Arminian Evangelical” describes original sin as “inherited corruption”. Both views seem to speak to a human nature that is corrupted. Whether or not that corruption is “accidental” (in the Aristotelian-Thomistic sense) would be predicated on the ability of Evangelical theology to borrow that particular philosophic category. If there is no biblical warrant on their view to do so, I don’t know how they are going to make that distinction.

    Through the Immaculate Conception,

    Brent

  23. Nick, (re: #21),

    In my experience, Evangelicals generally believe original sin to be a disposition to sin. And they do not believe that this disposition is essential to human nature (since they believe Adam and Eve didn’t have this disposition before their act of disobedience, and they believe that Christ never had this disposition, and they believe that all the saints in heaven do not have it, and they believe that all these were and are all human and have human nature). I don’t see how anything you have said makes it impossible, on that view, for God to prevent a child of a parent having this disposition from contracting this disposition. If you are trying to argue that divine omnipotence can’t do something, you need to show some kind of contradiction. And I haven’t seen any contradiction laid out in your reasons why on the Evangelical notion of sin nature as a disposition that is not essential to human nature, God cannot prevent a child from contracting that disposition.

    If, however, you are claiming that an accidental disposition to sin is impossible, then you are claiming that vices are impossible, because a vice just is an accidental disposition to sin. But vices are possible (cf. CCC 1865). So I think you wouldn’t want to try to claim that an accidental disposition to sin is impossible.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  24. Bryan,

    You wrote:

    “In my experience, Evangelicals generally believe original sin to be a disposition to sin” .

    Just thinking out loud here. If the Evangelical conception of original sin really amounts to a mere disposition to sin, rather than some abiding sinful quality [as an aside, I am not sure what a “sinful quality” would mean on a privation view of evil] of post-Fall human nature, it would seem to be consonant with the Catholic doctrine of concupiscience. All that would be lacking (from an orthodox POV) in such a conception is the understanding of a loss of sanctifying grace and its attendant preternaral gifts as the cause of that disposition.

    If that is so, I wonder how that [Evangelical] view cashes out with the Reformation idea that all our works are as filthy rags. I suppose I am under the [perhaps wrong] impression that most Reformed, and many theologically minded Evangelicals, would reject the idea that original sin is nothing other than the Catholic idea of concupiscience. Perhaps its just a matter of different experiences (and probably also a matter of the ambiguity which surrounds the terms “Evangelical” and “sin” in non-Catholic circles), but I am somewhat surprised by the idea that Evangelicals would be willing to affirm that original sin is merely a disposition to sin, rather than – in some sense – sin proper.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  25. Ray, (re: #24)

    Dispositions are qualities, according to Aristotle. There are four kinds of qualities, and habits (or dispositions) are one of the four kinds. Yes, ‘Evangelicalism’ is such a broad loose term that it is hardly helpful. And I agree that some Evangelicals are more inclined to a Reformed position. In my experience, Evangelicals generally believe that all our (Christians’) works are as filthy rags in the eyes of God. Broadly speaking, for Evangelicals our disposition to sin taints all our good works.

    This is why so many Evangelicals think all babies that die as babies go to heaven, because Evangelicals don’t think original sin in itself separates the baby from God, but only gives the baby a disposition to [of necessity] eventually sin upon reaching the age of reason. Yes, that’s Pelagian, but that’s just the state of Evangelicalism, in my experience. If Evangelicals thought that original sin were “sin proper” then without the possibility of baptismal regeneration, Evangelicals would generally believe that all babies that die without baptism are lost, at least without some special intervention on God’s part. But in general, Evangelicals believe that all babies that die as babies, whether having received baptism or not, go to heaven, because they have not sinned. And that implies that Evangelicals generally believe that original sin is not in itself sin that separates a person from God.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  26. Oh, I had no idea you were defining “Evangelical” that way. I was using the term “Evangelical” to refer to the low-church Reformed types like Piper, Sproul, etc. Generally, the more ‘intellectually inclined’ Protestants are Reformed to some extent because it’s the most systematic and consistent of other denominations.

    What you’re describing is a non-systematic, non-scholarly Evangelicalism that essentially doesn’t even follow the “Reformers” writings or historic Confessions. The Evangelical you’re describing is a “no creed by Christ” Arminian type. For you to say “Evangelicals generally believe that original sin is not in itself sin that separates a person from God” might be true in so far as mainstream Protestantism has become less and less dogmatic and generally traded doctrinal purity for unity, but none the less that description is something Reformed Evangelicals would never go for. For Reformed Evangelicals, OS is seen as sin proper, and just as infinitely damning as personal sin. I’ve not seen any of them describe it as a mere disposition (nor do the historic Confessions).

  27. Nick, (re: #26)

    The term ‘Evangelical’ has a history in the twentieth century, and it isn’t just “low-church Reformed types.” It refers to a movement that grew especially in the 1940s, and is epitomized by figures such as Carl Henry and Billy Graham and Christianity Today. See Mark Noll’s “Who Are We and How Did We Get Here?” See also the list of member denominations in the National Association of Evangelicals.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  28. Hi Bryan,

    Wow, I read their Statement of Faith:
    http://www.nae.net/about-us/statement-of-faith
    and it’s so broad that virtually any Protestant could qualify, and a Catholic could probably affirm everything except #1 (Sola Scriptura). It doesn’t even mention Sola Fide!

    We are a vibrant and diverse group, including believers found in many churches, denominations and nations. Our community brings together Reformed, Holiness, Anabaptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic and other traditions.

    There it is, Reformed is just one of many faith-traditions. Your Billy Graham example is actually very important, because he’s known as a figure head of evangelicalism yet he was not Reformed. What astonishes me though is folks like RC Sproul consider themselves Evangelical and yet hold Arminaism to be a terrible error (even if not using the term ‘heresy’).

    In that case though, I don’t see it as a movement with sufficient scholarly/intellectual/creedal backing to even be possible to dialogue with, much less discuss key points of theology. On an individual basis, it’s possible, but to speak of Evangelicals in a broad sense is like speaking of Protestantism in a broad sense.

  29. Nick, (re: #28)

    You wrote:

    What astonishes me though is folks like RC Sproul consider themselves Evangelical and yet hold Arminaism to be a terrible error (even if not using the term ‘heresy’).

    It isn’t astonishing if you recognize that they consider themselves Evangelical with respect to what they have in common, not with respect to what they don’t have in common.

    But, again, I think this discussion would take us off-topic, which is the ECT statement regarding the Immaculate Conception.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  30. Jesus was the only Immaculate Conception bcuz He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Mary was not conceived by the Holy Spirit.

  31. Mary,

    What makes a conception “immaculate” is that the one conceived be free of original sin (or said more clearly – be conceived with sanctifying grace, which just is the negation of original sin). Jesus’ conception was both immaculate and supernatural, the later being uniquely due to the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing about the hypostatic union of Christ’s human and divine natures. Mary’s conception was immaculate only, not supernatural as was the case with Jesus.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  32. This month is the twentieth anniversary of “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” which was published in May of 1994.