Friday, December 30, 2011

Was Mary Saved?

A Protestant friend of mine related his struggle with the Catholic view of Mary's sinlessless, because Mary herself expressed that she needed a Savior, in Luke 1:46-47, when she proclaimed at the start of the Magnificat, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

I think that there's a simple response to this, which we find in Psalm 30:3, in which David proclaims, “You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; You spared me from going down to the pit.”  In that verse, David describes two different forms of salvation: God saves him from “the realm of the dead” by taking him out once he's already in there.  But He saved him from “the pit” by preventing him from going in the first place.

Think of sin as a mud puddle.  The usual way that we talk and think about God's salvation is the first way: He washes us free from the mud we're caked in.  But He can also save by keeping us from sinning in the first place. If He couldn't, we wouldn't pray, “lead us not into temptation” in the Our Father.

Of the two forms of salvation, which is more perfect?  The answer is obvious: it is more perfect to be saved from falling into sin then it is to be permitted to fall in, and repaired afterwards.  So, for example, in Psalm 22:21, when we hear the Psalmist cry, “Save me from the mouth of the lion,” there are two ways that God could answer this cry: by taking him out of the lion's mouth, or by preventing him from being ensnared at all.  Both forms are salvation, but the second is the more perfect salvation.  So yes, Mary is saved in the Catholic view.  And in fact, she's saved more perfectly than anyone else, because she's saved even from the temporary pain and self-damage of a life of sin.

To understand the majesty and the power of the Redemption, look at the lives of two people: Mary and St.  Paul.  In someone like Paul, we see the depth of the forgiveness of the Redemption: he killed Christians, but was brought out of his grave sins by the love of Christ, and forgiven a large debt (Luke 7:47).  This shows us that how low the Lord can reach to pull us out of sin.   In someone like Mary, we see the beauty of a life without any sin, venial or mortal, original or actual.  Remember, this is the way mankind was intended to live from the beginning, in God's Sovereign design.  This is how He originally made Adam and Eve.  And this is the life we'll live in Heaven.  So if Paul shows how low God can reach to save us, Mary shows how high He can elevate us.

Happy Feast of the Holy Family!

47 comments:

  1. Of the two forms of salvation, which is more perfect? The answer is obvious: it is more perfect to be saved from falling into sin then it is to be permitted to fall in, and repaired afterwards.

    Luke 15 would seem to contradict your "obvious" claim.

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  2. Interesting point, Mr. Patton. However, "more perfect" and leads to "more joy in heaven" aren't the same thing.

    If you follow that line of thinking to its logical conclusion, God was well-pleased by the sin of Adam and Eve because it set in motion the whole need for salvation.

    I'm not sure that God is ever pleased by sin.

    +Peace

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  3. Mr. Patton,

    That's true only if you strip those passages of all context. The older brother in the Prodigal Son parable failed to see his need for a savior, because his sins didn't seem that bad to him. Same is true of Simon the Pharisee in the Luke 7 passage I quoted in the original post. So sometimes, God permits us to sink further into sin so that we see our need for a Savior. To read this as support for the idea that it's therefore better to sin is condemned in strong language by St. Paul in Romans 3:8.

    God never wills sin. Never. Or He'd be the Father of Evil (or alternatively, the act in question wouldn't be evil, since sin is that which is contrary to the will of God). But He does permit it, and draws abundant good out of it.

    I.X.,

    Joe

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  4. Here's a variation on St. Jerome's explanation that I use when I know I'm speaking to people from a technical or project management background:

    "I work in software development and I’ve been on many projects which have only succeeded because we had someone join the project who managed to snatch success from the jaws of failure. Afterwards, everyone on the team would say that this person saved the project, and saved it before it had a chance to fail."

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  5. In Luke 15, the one brother obviously sinned and needed a savior. The other brother sinned of pride and perhaps of being unforgiving. In scripture and tradition, Mary was ever faithful and obedient. All evidence points to Mary's grace filled existence. I wonder. In the Protestant's opinion, was Mary at least the most pure and holy of all women of all time?

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  6. I have a question, and I'm a Catholic so I'm not baiting you or anything. If God could perform this more-perfect salvation for Mary by preserving her from Original Sin, why didn't he simply do that for the rest of us?

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  7. It's a curious thing: some Protestants object to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception because they think it suggests that Mary somehow preserved herself free from sin by her own power; others object to it because Mary was not able to preserve herself free from sin by her own power and acknowledged as much. Both objections fail to factor in God's omnipotence.

    Mark: He did do it in the beginning, but Adam and Eve blew it by abusing their free will. After Adam and Eve blew it, God could not just overlook their sin and pretend like it never happened, which is basically what He would have had to do by preserving everyone free from original sin. His Justice demanded satisfaction, which is where the Incarnation comes in.

    Also, while God does not positively will evil, He does permit it in order to bring a greater good out of it. At the Easter Vigil, we celebrate this fact in the Exsultet -- yay for the new English translation, in which the relevant lines are now faithfully rendered as follows:

    O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

    It is not sin qua sin that is celebrated, but the fact that God drew a glorious triumph out of it.

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  8. Don't forget that the Most Holy Theotokos, as a Jew, did NOT share the current pop-evangelical notion of "being saved."

    Jews of that time (and still today) don't believe they are saved because of a "personal relationship with YHVH," but by being part of the saved, redeemed people.

    Christ is born! Glorify Him.

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  9. When's the book coming out, Joe?

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  10. Joe

    How do you interpret 'all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God'?

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  11. How do you interpret 'all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God'?

    Can I take a crack at this one?

    It becomes clear that this verse is not to be taken strictly literally when you consider that otherwise, it would have to include not only the Mother of God but Jesus Christ Himself, Who was not only fully God but also fully man. Obviously, such an interpretation would be blasphemous.

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  12. That's a great try Anita. It doesn't however account for the fact that Mary was born of two human parents while Jesus was born of one human and one divine parent.

    But it's a great point and I'd love to see it fleshed out further.

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  13. That's a great try Anita. It doesn't however account for the fact that Mary was born of two human parents while Jesus was born of one human and one divine parent.

    What difference does that make? Jesus still possesses a fully human nature hypostatically united to His divine nature (cf. the Council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451). He is like us in all things except sin.

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  14. @Dan,

    I think Anita's point still stands. There isn't an asterisk on that verse. If one is to take the point "it says what it says, and needs no interpretation, and therefore applies to Mary", then why wouldn't it apply to Jesus? It doesn't say anything about "if you have 2 human parents, then..."

    The point is that verse, heck that's only half of a verse, does need interpretation and context. What was Paul writing about? He was writing about the Law of Moses, the fact that adherence to that Law does not save a person; neither does being a Gentile or a Jew save a person.

    The teaching about the Immaculate Conception is that God saved Mary from sin. I'm pretty sure that St. Paul's point is that if one is to be saved from sin, that salvation comes from God, not from one's own effort, or nationality, or Law. The teaching of the Immaculate Conception doesn't contradict that in the least.

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  15. Those would be good arguments If Scripture was silent on Jesus' aimlessness. Except that Scripture clearly states that Jesus was sinless. It does not say how He was preserved from sin. It does not say that about Mary.

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  16. Sean

    Thank you for pointing out the context of that verse which goes on to say that we are justified By His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. You are absolutely right about that. However, Scripture does seem to be silent on Mary's sinlessness as opposed to quite a few passages that tell us that Jesus did not sin.

    I do understand the argument from tradition which is where this originally developed, right?

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  17. True, Dan. But that means that the half a verse that we are talking about is not without exception. And Mary is an exception, in that she was preserved from sin, and to say that is not contrary to Scripture.

    Where she is not an exception is in the fact that her salvation is from God. And that is the context of that half a verse; that salvation is needed by all, and that it comes from God.

    +Peace

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  18. Yes, it is of part of Sacred Tradition. It is important to note that saying that does not mean that is is contrary to Scripture. You are making an important distinction when you note that Scripture is silent on Mary's sinlessness (at least explicitly). But that doesn't preclude it being true or supportable by Scripture implicitly.

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  19. Dan,

    Deacon Sean is right on the money. And I think we need to distinguish between "Does Romans 3:23 leave open the possibility of Mary's sinlessness?" and "Was Mary sinless?"

    It sounds like we're nearly arriving at a "yes" to this first question, but will probably disagree (for now) on the second one.

    A. On the first question:

    (1) If Romans 3:23 is understood to be literally saying that every human being ever has sinned, this would include Christ, since Christ is a man, and that passage contains no exceptions. As you've correctly noted, such a reading would directly contradict those passages of Scripture that describe Christ as being sinless.

    (2) Or, think of it this way: if Romans 3:23 contains an implied exception for Christ (despite containing no reference to such an exception), then why can't it contain an identical exception for Mary? That is, even if you don't personally believe in Mary's sinlessness, how can you use Romans 3:23 to say it's impossible without running into the problems outlined in (1)?

    (3) The more fundamental problem is that this proof-text badly misrepresents what Paul was saying, by ripping half a sentence out of context. The "All" here is a reference to the Jews and various Gentile peoples, and the mechanics of salvation.

    Which is why Paul continues the thought, "Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also?" (Romans 3:29).

    On the second question,

    I'd say that the Scriptural support for Mary's sinlessness is implicit in Scripture.  We see it in the depictions of Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant (which was pure and without blemish), as the Temple Gate (same), as the New Eve (who was without original sin), and this sinlessness is represented by her virginity.

    That is, the reason the Messiah was born of a Virgin wasn't just because it was a miracle, but to show Mary's holiness (in the original sense of the word -- as one set apart for God).  And Mary's holiness is shown to tell us something about the Christ.  Namely, the coming Messiah was so important that Mary's entire person was totally and perfectly ordered towards Him.  That's one of our first clues that He's God, since for her to have been totally ordered and dedicated to a mere man would have been idolatrous.

    There's much more that can be said on this issue, but it's important to know that Catholics venerate Mary, not because of Mary, but because of Jesus.  Without Jesus, Mary would just been a random Jewish peasant.  This is why the Church has felt it important to define Marian dogmas (early on, defining her as Theotokos).  You can't understand the complete picture of Jesus until you grasp the role Mary plays.

    I.X.,

    Joe

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  20. Thank you Joe, Sean and Anita for your helpful comments. I was reading an article by Fr. Most while you guys were replying to me and I believe I have pinpointed the deficiency in my thinking. It has to do with my understanding of Original Sin.

    An understanding of original sin was not as clear as it should have been--it was often thought of as having a positive element, instead of merely being an original lack of the grace to which God calls us. This positive element was thought to be transmitted from parents to children through the marital act (which was itself thought to be somehow sinful, though pardoned by God), and so it was hard to see how there could be an immaculate conception.

    If, as Pope John Paul the II explains it, original sin is It is the privation of sanctifying grace in a nature which, through the fall of the first parents, has been diverted from its supernatural end. then the angel's words to Mary "Hail full of grace" make perfect sense.

    This was a huge stumbling block to me at one time. Thank you for helping me understand it better.

    Blessings,

    Dan

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  21. Thank you, Dan, for an open, respectful dialogue! God bless you!

    +Peace

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  22. Joe:

    I think I've decided what my goals for this New Year should be (and they include you). Ha Ha! I've been approaching Catholicism with a shotgun approach instead of systematically studying in depth the Catholic church's answers to each objection I have.

    So, if you will work with me, I would love to let you decide what you think is the most organized way to approach this.

    Perhaps, by the end of the year, I might be a few steps closer to the church of my birth?

    Dan

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  23. Dan,

    God is great! I'd love to play whatever role I can in your New Year's Resolution. Having said that, I'm definitely no replacement for the Catechism. I know that Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism series is a great overview of the faith, and Msgr. Ronald Knox's The Belief of Catholics is probably my favorite book, and it's very systematic in its approach. Both of those are overviews, and don't get into the kind of depth that the Catechism gets into. Let me think and pray on this a bit, and see if I get a clearer sense for the direction to suggest.

    In the meantime, does anyone else have any suggestions on a systematic way for Dan to approach Catholicism?

    I.X.,

    Joe

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  24. When it comes to a systematic approach to Catholicism, it's hard to beat the old Baltimore Catechism. I recently acquired on Amazon a book called An Explanation of the Baltimore Catechism by Thomas Kinkead (1921). It contains not only the catechism (questions and answers) but also some very good and highly readable explanations. Since the book is 90 years old, some of the information in it about disciplines (e.g., days of fast and abstinence, the length of the Communion fast) are out of date; but otherwise, quite sound. I myself have found it very helpful.

    The Catechism of the Council of Trent is also still in print (TAN Books) and is also very good.

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  25. @Anita:
    1) Christ is God and has the glory of God, so Romans 3:23 CAN'T be speaking of Him.
    2) Concerning me 'dissing' blessed Mary: My bad, Yeshua saying that no one is greater than the Baptist doesn't mean someone can't be as great. Oops! I should've said, "...but the Baptist was at least as righteous and Stephen was as righteous."

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  26. @Anita:
    Put VERY blunt: The RCC is NOT the pillar of truth; it's the pillar of blasphemy built on quicksand. Since you're currently blind, you'll find that out when the followers of the Mahdi (Antichrist) drop a WMD on Vatican City (Revelation 18:21) and people stand far off in awe (Revelation 18:8-10,18). Then you'll know Yeshua is Lord and whom the Spirit of Moshiach really is.
    For the love of Christ Jesus, get out of the Harlot (Revelation 18:4). Don't let her sear your conscience any longer (1 Timothy 4:1-3). Call on the Lord that you may see.

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  27. Praying for you Mike!

    My Protestant girlfriend once said a beautiful thing about the Church. She said that if you listened to just one homily or papal address from either Bl. John Paul II or Benedict XVI, you'll realise that contrary to them being anti-Christ, there are few people who are more Christ-centered in their faith and theology than these two popes. I agree with her.

    The antichrist, among other things, denies that Christ is the Son of God the Father. Try finding that in any Catholic doctrine!

    And if we're going to be talking abot harlotry, I think the last place you'll find that sort of thing is the Catholic Church. Contrary to almost every other Christian denomination/creed/fellowship etc. She has consistently held on to Christian moral truths. She has not sold her soul to the world by buckling under societal pressures to contracept, approve of homosexual relations, ordain women, abort babies, experiment on human life etc.

    And where she, in her human aspect, has failed, she has by the power of the Holy Spirit picked herself up again: we might once have (to an exaggerated degree) persecuted unrepentant heretics, but nowhere on earth today will you find an institution that is more pro religious freedom, yet still completely reverent to orthodoxy, than the Catholic Church.

    We might have had clerical corruption before and leading up to the more familiar Protestant Reformation, but the counter-Reformation has managed to direct the Church back to holiness so that today such practices are practicallu non-existent.

    We might have had an (overexaggerated) sexual abuse scandal, but nowhere on earth will you now find a safer environment for children than in the Church, who has suffered and fallen to temptation but picked herself up and can now by the grace of God be a refuge for those suffering under others in similar ways.

    Because of both Tradition and tradition, the Church is able to learn from Her mistakes and never repeat them again. This is what Chesterton called the democracy of the dead. We have Heaven on our side, and the departed faithful have a say in how the Church should function: death not being able to seperate those who have died and risen in Christ.

    It's all about Christ. It always has been. I never had this profoundly intellectual AND spiritual a relationship with Christ when I was a solascripturist. He gave us His Church so that we could be led into all truth, and in the Eucharist He is with us even unto the end of days!

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  28. Joe, tomorrow being the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, I was wondering if I might ask a question that relates to Nestorianism?

    If Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully God, was He human before the Incarnation?

    If He wasn't, why would the Nestorian position be heretical, since Christ is fully divine and His humanity was only a later addition?

    And if He was, would that mean that humanity, as it existed in the form of Christ, has been there from the beginning of time?

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  29. Jesus shot down the person trying to praise his mother.

    Don't you rely on it!

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  30. Folks,

    I had to delete some comments related to a pretty disturbed reader (I’m not going to recount the whole situation). As a result, some of the conversations above might read a bit choppy. My apologies about all of that.

    To Georg, Anita, Acontra, and Michael: thanks for calling out the situation. I'd been out of town all week, and while I'd been following his comments, I hadn't seen his blog.

    Finally, all glory to God. It’s easy to get discouraged when we see Catholicism mocked, particularly in a diabolical way. We should instead thank God for the clarity such mockery provides. Two sayings of Christ come to mind. The first is from the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:10): “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The second is from John 15:20, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” If the Catholic Church weren’t the Church established by Christ, She wouldn’t be worth the amount of vile and hatred that Satan sends Her way.

    God bless,

    Joe

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  31. I think if we follow up with "Saved from what?" Prots will say sins. Being saved means God rescued you from your sins.

    I think more Catholics think of being saved from Hell, which without knowing if we have final perseverence, is always a possibility. Can't canonize the living...

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  32. Mr. Patton,

    That's true only if you strip those passages of all context. The older brother in the Prodigal Son parable failed to see his need for a savior, because his sins didn't seem that bad to him. Same is true of Simon the Pharisee in the Luke 7 passage I quoted in the original post. So sometimes, God permits us to sink further into sin so that we see our need for a Savior. To read this as support for the idea that it's therefore better to sin is condemned in strong language by St. Paul in Romans 3:8.



    Taking the language from Saul as condemnation of sin is an oxymoron. Can you think of no other greater monster to Christians than Saul? I think that you demonstrated the point sin is revered as much as Saul was a Greek demagogue.

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  33. Mr. Patton,

    How is it an oxymoron, and what do your last two sentences mean?

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  34. I may be the person that sparked this post in the fist place since I have raised my concerns about Mary in the past. I think that I mentioned this verse to Joe in an e-mail before. I love the Romans quote because it is literal. Jesus, as the incarnation, was at the same time with sin and without sin. This is part of the great mystery that is the incarnation. It is amazing to think that Jesus experienced all that we experienced and was still God. How can Jesus be fully human and fully God at the same time?

    I am concerned that Joe went to the Psalm on the issue of salvation. Mary said that she needed a savior in God. This clearly means that she was in a state that was not sinless. Joe is very articulate and smart, but you do not satisfy my skepticism by finding a passage in the Psalms for this issue.

    I love debating and discussing this topic, but the reality is that the immaculate conception is not a theological point that we should die in the ditch over. We need to lift up Christ (and not worry to much about his mother today as Christianity is attacked in every direction). I personally believe that lower Christ when we elevate Mary. I can be totally wrong, and I find with being wrong as long as I am wrong for lifting up Christ. I am not going to die in a ditch over this issue. My Roman Catholic brothers and sisters are free to make this into a major issue.

    Now for my favorite Catholic joke. We all know the story from the Gospel of John where the woman, who was caught in adultery, was brought before Jesus. The truth is that the gospel writer did not document that event as it really happened. The woman was presented before Jesus, and the religious leaders asked Jesus what should be the fate of this woman. Jesus started to speak and write down sins in the sand. Jesus eventually said "Ye without sin can cast the first stone." The crowd go quiet. A rock whizzed passed Jesus' head a few seconds into the silence. Jesus turns around and says "Mom!"

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  35. I beg to differ about whether we ought to die on the hill of the Immaculate Conception. The fact is that Mary in every way points to Jesus, and therefore, understanding the truth about her is critically important to understanding the truth about her Son. Get it right about Mary, you get it right about Jesus; get it wrong about Mary, you get it wrong about Jesus. This is perfectly illustrated by the episode of Nestorius and the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431. Nestorius refused to honor Mary with the title of Mother of God. But in so refusing, he did not do honor to her Son, but rather strayed from the truth concerning Him.

    We honor Mary because God honored her first. He bestowed upon her the unique grace of preserving her free from all sin from the instant of her conception, applying in advance the merits of His Son's Passion and Death on the cross. There is nothing far-fetched or illogical about this. We ought to know from experience that it is not necessary to have sinned in order to be saved from sin. Have you never been prevented from committing a sin? This was as much an act of God's grace as if you had sinned and been forgiven.

    Could God have preserved Mary immaculate from the moment of her conception? God is omnipotent, and therefore there should be no doubt as to His ability to do it. Was it fitting that He should do this? Absolutely, in view of her mission to be the Mother of God. If God could do it, and it was fitting that He should, then we may safely take it that He in fact did do it. Potuit, decuit, ergo fecit.

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  36. The way I understand it, Mary being the New Eve, she is Christ's equal in terms of "humanness".

    She was just as human as Christ, and therefore just as perfect. The big difference is, of course, that Christ was fully God as well.

    Just as Adam and Eve were created equal and were fully "human" (read: immaculately created) before the Fall, Jesus and Mary are equals on a human level and both were immaculately conceived.

    Before anyone shouts "blasphemy!", Mary is obviously not divine and despite her perfect humanness, there is an infinite gap between her humanity and Christ's divinity.

    (I use the word "humanness" since humanity just doesn't sound right in context)

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  37. Why create schism from something you wouldn't die on a hill over? Just a curious question...I'm sure there are other reasons that you hold your positions

    In Christ
    cary

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  38. I'm a little surprised but I haven't seen any quote from Genesis with gives a pretty good description of God's plan from the beginning. "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head while you strike at his heel." If Jesus is the offspring that crushed the serpent, then wouldn't Mary be the woman that God protected, i.e. saved from Satan's influence?

    Now that I think about it Revelation also talks about God preparing a place for the woman that gave birth to the king. 12.6 Shows God protecting (saving) Mary after the birth of Jesus. Scripture shows that before the birth of Jesus and after, God has always protected his Mother.

    Now I don’t have the gift to read souls, so I will assume that Mary was sinless because of God’s protection. If someone else wants to assume the opposite, well I can’t stop them, but I also won’t stand next to them in a lightning storm.

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  39. "I am concerned that Joe went to the Psalm on the issue of salvation. Mary said that she needed a savior in God. This clearly means that she was in a state that was not sinless."

    Rev.: No, it doesn't; that's a leap. What good is it if a creature if conceived sinless if they can't redeem their brothers and sisters? If a sinless person has perfect charity, then this love would prompt Mary to realize and praise her Savior for saving her people as a whole--after all, Mary was an Israelite. Furthemore, Mary was saved by Christ. But God is outside of time.

    Also, the Marian dogmas do not point to Mary as much as they do to Christ and what we will be like after the Resurrection; Marian dogmas are Christological declarations. (The implication with Immaculate Conception being that when we are remade at the Resurrection, it will be without sin.)

    To make a separate comment, I thought St. Paul was speaking hyperbolically when he said, "All have sinned..." Similarly did Our Lord when He said, "No one is good but God."

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  40. Georg and Rev. Hans,

    Regarding Jesus being fully human and fully God at the same time, I did a post here, but I think it's more a jumping off point, so if you've got something more specific on your mind, feel free to build off it.

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  41. Sorry, my comment about the Marian dogmas were convoluted. The Immaculate Conception is Christological in that it points to Christ; it is also a declaration about us during our Resurrection. Mary pre-figures us in these aspects of the Resurrection.

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  42. Rev. Hans,

    I think you're approaching this from a fundamentally different angle than we are. Here are some points to consider:

    1) Mary isn't a competitor to Christ. Certainly, created things can become obstacles to right relationship with God if we let them, but Creation inherently points towards, rather than away from, God. Fr. Robert Barron puts it beautifully on page one of Catholicism: “The Incarnation tells central truths concerning both God and us. If God became human without ceasing to be God and without compromising the integrity of the creature that he became, God must not be a competitor with his creation.”

    We don't build God up by tearing down His creation, any more than you compliment Da Vinci by telling him that the Mona Lisa is junk. Mary is God's masterpiece. The very reason that Mary is “safe” is that she always points us towards to Christ (John 2:5) and faithful obedience, an obedience she lived perfectly (see Luke 1:38).

    2) In the same vein, Mary isn't sinless by her own merits. She's saved from the stain of sin by her Savior, Jesus Christ.

    3) Let’s use a different example. Prior to His own Death and Resurrection, Jesus resurrects the dead Lazarus (John 11:1-45). Now, one school of thought might be that this diminished the Resurrection, since it made Jesus’ Resurrection less unique. But that’s clearly not the view that Christ takes. Instead, He treats it in the opposite way: as a way of drawing people to Him (John 11:42), which it does (Jn. 11:45). After all, Lazarus is only resurrected through the power of Christ, so it points towards Jesus, rather than away from Him. Likewise, preserving Mary from sin can be viewed either as something that diminishes the uniqueness of Christ, or as a manifestation of Christ’s power. I don’t see a reason to view it differently than Lazarus’ resurrection.

    4) In your comment, you write, “Mary said that she needed a savior in God. This clearly means that she was in a state that was not sinless.

    I don't understand why you think that this is so. If, in order to be saved from sin, we must first have sinned, does the same hold true for other areas as well? For example, to be saved from hell, do I first need to go to hell first?

    On the other hand, if God can save us from hell by preventing us from going into hell in the first place, why can't He save Mary from sin the exact same way?

    5) Having said all that, I still love that Catholic joke.

    God bless, and thanks for visiting with me while I was in town,

    Joe

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  43. I really enjoyed getting to meet you in person. I need to hold my tongue on this issue because I do not want to offend my brothers or sisters in Christ. You are right that we are approaching this from different places. I may write some of my concerns to you in an e-mail. Peace!

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  44. Thanks Joe.

    Am still confused about some stuff, but the Incarnation and Trinity are Mysteries of Faith after all.

    But I do understand the history and development of orthodox teaching on this matter much better now. Thanks!

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  45. Dan Soares,

    Not sure if you're still following the comments on this thread, but I had another couple books I wanted to suggest to you, based on a question another reader asked today. I already suggested Belief of Catholics and Catholicism, but let me add to that list:

    -- Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis De Sales
    -- Europe and the Faith by Belloc
    -- Confessions by St. Augustine
    -- Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton.

    Hope that helps!

    I.X.,

    Joe

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