What is the Immaculate Conception? While most people are familiar with the term” The Immaculate Conception”, it is often misunderstood. For years l was like many Christians that believed this Catholic belief referred to Jesus Himself. But this is not the case at all.
The Immaculate Conception (IC) is referring to the birth of Mary, the mother of Jesus, rather than to Jesus Christ. The basic idea is that Mary was, and remained, sinless from the moment of her conception.
It is one of the four dogmas of Mary (The Mother of God, The Immaculate Conception, The Perpetual Virginity, and The Assumption). For Catholics, to deny any of these dogmas is to commit heresy.
So, where does this belief come from, and is there any Scriptural evidence to support it?
The origins of this dogma can be traced all the way back to the 2nd Century gnostic Gospel of James. In the book, it is asserted that Mary’s mother Anne and father Joachim are unable to have children. They pray for God to give them a child, and He grants their request with the conception of Mary without sexual intercourse.
By the 4th century, it was widely believed that Mary was free from personal sin, but this created the problem of what to do about original sin passed down from Adam. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception caused division among the Franciscan and Dominican friars during the Middle Ages, with Franciscans in its favor and Dominicans against it. The g
The Immaculate conception was instituted as a dogma by Pope Pius IX in 1854. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) asserted Mary’s freedom from personal sin. The Immaculate Conception dogma goes one step further and declares Mary free from original sin.
Is It True?
Catholics are one of the only groups to hold this position. Most Protestant denominations and the Eastern Church all deny the Immaculate Conception. The reason for this is that there is no scriptural evidence to support the notion.
Everything we have that would support the dogma is written well after the events of Mary’s birth. There is no contemporary source or early Church father that promotes this idea. The belief is a product of the Magisterium or the idea that the Pope has authority to proclaim what is or is not the Word of God. This can consist of not only written Scripture but “Church Tradition” as well.
Most Protestants and the Eastern Church do not believe the Magisterium grants this authority. Rather, they believe in “Sola Scriptura”, or “Scripture Alone” as the Word of God. We do not add to or subtract from the Word (Deuteronomy 4:2, Galatians 1:8-9).
How Should We Respond?
It seems the reason this dogma was put in place was due to a problem the Catholic Church created for itself. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that Mary was sinless, let alone a perpetual virgin. But once you advance the first notion, it creates another problem. What to do about original sin?
The dogma of the Immaculate Conception attempts to solve this problem. But again, it is a problem of its own making. If we stick to what we know from Scripture, there is no problem that requires either Mary’s sinlessness or an Immaculate Conception.
Discuss your thoughts for this post on our Facebook Group here.