How to explain Mary to a Protestant?

I have a friend who has the usual three problems with the Catholic Church - Mary, Mary, and Mary. He accepts Scripture, some logic, and some Church Fathers prior to 400 AD. The current doctrine we are discussing is that of Mary’s sinlessness, as well as the Immaculate Conception. He wishes to know why she had to be sinless for our salvation. His argument is that unless it was necessary for our salvation, she would not have been allowed to be sinless. The “Perfect Savior saved someone perfectly” argument does not hold much weight with him. Can someone help me?

1.If he’s a Protestant, he believes in Original Sin.
2.Jesus could not have been born with Original Sin
3.If Mary had original sin it would be transmitted to her child
4.Jesus was Mary’s child
5.Therefore, Mary could not have been born with Original Sin (the Immaculate Conception)

6.If Mary sinned prior to Jesus’ birth, she would have committed Adam’s sin again
7.So the sin would have been transmitted to Jesus
8.Therefore, Mary was sinless prior to Jesus’ birth

I’m Orthodox, and we don’t believe in original sin. But the concept of original sin makes all the Roman Catholic theological baggage necessary.

Cryptocalvinist,

The issue with that is that if Original Sin can be negated for Mary, it could have skipped her and just been negated for Jesus. Why then was Mary needing to be sinless when Jesus could have simply have been born without original sin?

(I like the answer, but unfortunately, it’s not good enough for my friend.)

The Church teaches that it was fitting that Mary be conceived without original sin not that it was necessary. This is much more nuanced that people may think–it’s not a question of either/or, as so many Protestants insist on in their theology.

In Luke 1:28 the Archangel Gabriel addresses Mary: “Hail, full of grace…” He doesn’t use her name here, but salutes her by this designation instead. If she were not “full of grace” why address her in that manner? Why not simply use her name? It was to confirm for her and for us that God had preserved her from all stain of sin, original sin as well as actual sin.

It was fitting that she was conceived without sin because she was to be the mother of the Incarnate God, the Theotokos, the “God-bearer.” No other person in the history of the world can make this claim. It makes her rather special, yes? It is only reasonable and logical that God created her free from sin in preparing the perfect mother for his Son. She was more than a mere vessel–she didn’t receive a fertilized egg–she conceived Jesus in her womb–he was a part of her flesh. Why would anyone think she shouldn’t have been free of sin when it makes much more sense that she be, considering her unique position in God’s plan of salvation for mankind. Jesus was conceived of a pure virgin, not popped into her womb. He was flesh of her flesh and bone of her bone–IOW, a real human being with a real human mother, conceived in a miraculous way–a pure mother whose whole life was dedicated to him.

It would have been repugnant for all pure Jesus, holiness itself, to have been in the womb of a woman who would have been in sin, which is ugly in the sight of God and unworthy of him. Nothing less would due for God than to be born in an all holy vessal. “All men shall call be blessed.”

May God our Father give you grace and peace.

Wouldn’t that be Nestorian?

That is, Mary would be the mother of his man-nature, but not his God-nature?

I know Nestorius kept claiming that Mary was the “Mother of Christ”, but not the “Mother of God”. Because she was only the mother of his human nature.


Martin Luther believed in Original Sin, and the Immaculate Conception. That might be useful.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_sin#Protestant_reformation

This is a short but packed, 12 minute video.
youtube.com/watch?v=xg2OQ_iPTv8

They can hit the pause button as often as necessary if they want to check their bible as the video rolls along.

In the Old Testament, David was dancing before the Ark of the Covenant as they went along. The Ark was being transported by oxen, 2 poles steadied the Ark. You can imagine, uneven ground and such, and a man put his hand on the Ark to steady it. He fell down dead on the spot.

What is God revealing in this scripture?
The power of God was in the Ark and it was holy. It rested in the Holy of Holies. The connection we make to Mary is that she contained something greater than this, God in the flesh. The power of God found it’s resting place in her, the Holy Spirit was her spouse. No man was to ‘touch’ her in a sexual way since she was already carrying a child from the Holy Spirit. By looking at the Ark, it is not a great leap to conclude that she was, by the merits of Christ, allowed the singular grace to be sinless. She is the Ark of the New Covenant, and the Ark is a foreshadowing of Mary to come.

This is a good article to share, from a protestant:christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/december/1.34.html?paging=off

Two lines of discussion that I’ve seen have born some fruit for me:

  1. Focus on and ask questions about the Ark of the Covenant. Was it honored? Was it revered? Did people pray before it? Could anyone touch it? Was it holy? Was it holy? Was it holy? (I intentionally wrote this 3 times. Really focus on it. If they admit an OBJECT was holy, why would Mary, who held Jesus, not be holy?) Was the Ark the same as all other wooden boxes? Or did it hold the 10 Commandments (The word of God) the manna from the desert (the bread from heaven) and Aaron’s staff (the high priest’s authority)? Did Mary hold in her womb the WORD of God, the BREAD from Heaven, and the HIGH PRIEST? Really delve into the Ark and focus on how it was revered in the OT.

  2. Ask them if Jesus saved Himself. Of course their answer will be “no, He was sinless and needed no savior, as He is the Savior.” They are correct. But let’s dig deeper. Let’s assume that Mary either had Original Sin, the stain of Adam, or she had personal sin. As such, this sinfulness and sinful flesh would be transferred to Jesus. But this can’t be. So Jesus would have had to purify/save Himself from this sin. This would inevitably lead to questions about if He were really God since God doesn’t need saving. So God decided to save Mary before she fell into sin, and through the IC, grant her freedom from Original Sin and personal sin.

Never understood the deal with Mary. She was an instrument of Go-'s will, a vessel no more no less. Every time I hear the words “hail mary” I scratch my head and think idolatry. I don’t doubt the virgin birth of Christ, nor doubt Mary was a great human being worthy of respect, but she was human, and a sinner like the rest of us. If she was perfect and sinless, we wouldnt have needed Jesus and Mary could have died for our sins, but that is not the case.
Romans 3:23 KJV
For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Secondly, Jesus was conceived by Mary the virgin, but was of The Holy Spirit.

This isn’t fact, just my theory, but since the conception was of the spirit, wouldn’t that negate marys sinful flesh, and allow the perfect and stainless lamb to be born? Just something to consider. Further, I recall nothing in scripture stating mary was sinless. If there is, im open to reading it if you provide the verse. Full of grace does NOT equal sinless.

From the Evangelical point of view Mary is a Saint, mother of Jesus, God’s chosen vessel.

Scripture doesn’t say she was sinless, a perpetual virgin, or ascended bodily to heaven.

Mary is an important Saint but from the Protestant point of view she is not more important than others.

Catholic emphasis on Mary is not understood by Christians neither is praying to dead Saints.

The Protestant and Evangelical focus is on Christ and the Scripture.

I recommend the book A Protestant Pastor Looks At Mary by Charles Dickson. It’s available used online and probably available through inter-library loan.

No human being is a vessel. That’s an insult to the dignity of a human person. They were created in the image of God. And this particular person was created, specifically by God Himself, to be HIS MOTHER.

Question 1: Would it have been sinful for a person to give special honor to the Ark of the Covenant?
Question 2: Is it sinful for a person to give special honor to the Ark of the New Covenant?

Scripture explicitly says that Scripture doesn’t contain everything regarding the Christian faith.

Question 3: Is a person who is full of grace have any sin in them?

The MOTHER OF GOD is no more important than any other saint?!?!?

Question 4: Was the Ark of the Covenant more important than the instruments used in the Temple for worship?

First, Catholic are Christians, the first ones and the ones who hold the fullness of the Christian faith. Second, you should read Scripture more, specifically Revelation. You’ll see a couple examples of the saints and angels taking our prayers and presenting them to God.

Question 5: So you ignore the Church that Christ left to guide His sheep?
Question 6: Why do you accept Catholic Church authority about the canon of the Bible, but reject her authority on everything else?

That’s an insult. If I called your mother just a vessel, you’d rightly smack me in the nose. And yet you feel completely comfortable proclaiming that the MOTHER OF GOD was nothing more than a vessel. Do you at all see how insulting that is?!?! You really think Jesus appreciates you referring to HIS MOTHER as just a vessel?

So you’re accusing an angel of God, and Scripture, of being idolatrous?

Good, at least you got that right.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

And you’ve completely lost it again. No, the MOTHER OF GOD, who was given a royal acclamation by and ANGEL OF GOD was NOT just like the rest of us! That’s what “hail” means and why Mary was perplexed. That is a greeting given to royalty, and here an angle of God has greeted her as royalty. Have you been greeted by an angel of God as royalty?

Nonsense. Mary was not divine. If she had been sacrificed for our sins, it woud not have been efficacious. Jesus, as a Divine Being, is giving an unlimited, eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient sacrifice to the Father on our behalf. It is a limitless, infinite, eternal sacrifice. A human could not give this sacrifice since were are not limitless nor infinite, and only eternal by God’s will.

That verse doesn’t mean what you think it means. Look a little earlier in the chapter.

Romans 3:11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.

Or how about some Psalms?

Psalm 14:3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

Psalm 53: They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good,not even one.

Do you seek God? Or is this an example of where the use of “all” or “none” not mean every single person, but instead means most people? If you disagree, then you also have to admit that you do not seek God.

He was fully human AND fully Divine. He is born of the Virgin Mary AND the Holy Spirit.

You haven’t substantiated that Mary has sinful flesh. And you do realize that your interpretation requires the Holy Spirit to “save” Jesus from her sin. Does Jesus, as God, need a savior?

Scripture explicitly states that it does not contain everything about the Christian faith.

So you are stating that someone who is full of God’s grace still has sin remaining in them? When is this sin removed, since nothing unclean can enter Heaven?

Not that this is my topic, but Micko, Catholics do not pray to “dead saints.” We request the intercession of (check Webster for a definition of pray) those who are in heaven (again, Webster gives a great definition of saint). Heaven is not a place for the dead, but the living, those living the new life in Christ.

So you’re accusing an angel of God, and Scripture, of being idolatrous?

Of course not. But Gabriel wasnt kneeling to mary or to a statue of her.
Exodus 20:4 KJV
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

Do you seek God? Or is this an example of where the use of “all” or “none” not mean every single person, but instead means most people? If you disagree, then you also have to admit that you do not seek God.

I do seek God, along with everyone else that has been called. But here’s what Jesus said -
John 6:44 KJV
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

You haven’t substantiated that Mary has sinful flesh. And you do realize that your interpretation requires the Holy Spirit to “save” Jesus from her sin. Does Jesus, as God, need a savior?

Jesus was of the spirit, Mary was blessed but was fully conceived herself through flesh. The original sin of Adam makes her an imperfect sinner and equally culpable under the law, just like you and me. Only through faith are we saved.

Scripture explicitly states that it does not contain everything about the Christian faith

Wrong, quite the opposite.
2 Timothy 3:14-16 KJV

But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

So you are stating that someone who is full of God’s grace still has sin remaining in them? When is this sin removed, since nothing unclean can enter Heaven?

Grace is the act of mercy from Go- through Jesus. We’re sinful under the law of flesh but not under the law of grace.

Why did God exempt the Virgin Mary from Original Sin, if it was not absolutely necessary for our salvation? Because it was fitting. The same reason why God commanded that the Ten Commandments tablets be carried around in a new wooden Ark covered inside and out with gold, instead of in old manure bucket.

The angel’s unusual greeting in Luke 1:28, Kecharitomene, translated variously as “full of grace,” “O highly favored daughter,” “favored one,” etc., indicates that Mary had, at some indeterminate time in the past prior to the angel’s visit, been the recipient of divine favor, favor she continued to enjoy at the time of the angel’s visit, and there was every expectation she would continue to enjoy it after the angel’s visit. The Bible does not reveal the exact nature of this divine favor but, since the angel addresses Mary, not by her name, but by the divine favor, doesn’t this suggest that, whatever it was, it was really, really big, such that Mary was the epitome of one favored by God?

Catholics believe that the divine favor given to Mary was nothing less than her exemption from Original Sin and her subsequent sinlessness and that Mary received that favor from the very first moment of her existence, her immaculate conception. There is certainly nothing in the Bible that disproves this belief beyond a reasonable doubt. On the contrary, Mary’s sinless goes a long way in explaining how the angel could tell her that she “found favor with God.” It also explains how Mary’s unqualified description of herself to God’s sinless angel as “the handmaid of the Lord” was not hubris.

I don’t argue Marian doctrines with anyone. I point people to 2 Maccabees 7 and let them read for themselves the role of Mary as forshadowed by the brave mother of the seven sons who encouraged her sons to faithfulness in the face of cruel death.

quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/r/rsv/rsv-idx?type=citation&book=2+Maccabees&chapno=7&startverse=1&endverse=42

-Tim-

Back it up there. Read all of Romans 3, not just a single verse. In the verses BEFORE the one you quoted it is quite clear that St. Paul is addressing sins in breaking of the laws of God. He is NOT addressing original sin here. So in that context have ALL sinned? Of course not! What sin would a one year old baby have? Cried too much when diaper wet? What about a severely mentally challenged 18 year old who cannot reason?

So does ALL always mean ALL in the bible? What about here? Mark 1:5 (ALL of Judea and Jerusalem were going to John to be baptized). Really? ALL the Sadducees who did not believe in an afterlife, so there would be no reason for them to be baptized? What about Herod? The Roman legions garrisoned in Judea? The lepers? Methinks all does not always mean all In the bible!

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