Immaculate Conception of Mary


#1

**[size=4][size=3]Hi there,[/size]*[/size]
[size=3]I have a friend that is Fundamentalist and she wrote the following and I don’t know how to answer her because I have never heard of the early fathers contradicting one another. I would appreciate any and all help.[/size]
[size=3]Thanks, Robin[/size]
**t[size=4]How do you handle contradictions in church tradition by its many church fathers? (For example, Some Church fathers accepted the immaculate conception of Mary, while others did not.) In an earlier email, you said that God prevents His chosen teachers from preaching anything that is untrue. Shouldn’t there be a recognized standard of truth whereby to measure all teachings, one that is as unchangeable and infallible as God Himself? [/size]

And, since there are documented contradictions in the traditions of Rome, doesn’t that argue against traditions’ infallibility?

I believe that the Roman Catholic exaltation of tradition violates the intent and spirit of these verses:

Deut. 4:2

“…not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.” I Cor. 4:6

“Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.” Prov. 30:5-6

I am not arguing against all tradition; I am just saying that since the Scriptures are “God-breathed”, more weight should be given to them when there is a discrepancy in tradition vs. tradition, or tradition vs. scripture. After all, Scripture has God as its author, man is tradition’s author. If the “repository of truth” rests within man’s tradition, why would it ever disagree or not be proved true by God’s stated truth in the Scriptures? I agree that the Scriptures do not address every single issue; but what about the issues that it does address?

Seems to me that there should be an “outside” source to prove that the Church holds the repository of truth, more than the Church just saying that about itself. Otherwise, where is the proof? For example, I can say that I my shirt is white. I can prove it by laying an accepted colorwheel against my shirt. If I have no accepted standard showing the color white, can I really prove my shirt is white to someone who has never seen the color white before?*


#2

Some people refer to how St. Thomas Aquinas himself said that Mary was not conceived immaculately, but we must remember that this (the Immaculate Conception) was not defined as Dogma until Dec. 8, 1854, therefore it is not that big of a deal, as it was not taught otherwise in his time.


#3

The Church Fathers were not Infallible, and no one has claimed that they were. We look to them to see what the Church taught. For example, if several Fathers wrote about the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and there was no dissent from the other writers, it is understood that this was commonly taught by the church. However, if Jerome claims the Apochrypha Books should not be part of OT Canon, you’ll notice numerous writings of dissent, overwhelmingly claiming the Apochrypha Books as part of OT Canon.

The College of Bishops (is that the right term?), however, and the Pope taught infallibly. But one Church Father, i.e. Clement of Alexandria, was never considered infallible.

NotWorthy


#4

Here’s my :twocents: …

I suggest your friend reread Acts 15. She will see that disagreement among Christians is nothing new. The early Christians disagreed as to whether Gentile converts needed to be circumcised according to the law of Moses. Some Church Fathers like St. James, said, Yes. Some Church Fathers like St. Paul, said, No. The ordained leaders of the Church, Peter and the rest of the Apostles and the elders [bishops/priests], met in council to look into the matter and they decided, with the help of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised would guide his Church to the truth, that circumcision was not necessary for Gentile converts and their decision was promulgated and everyone in the Church was expected to submit to their authority in the matter. This is the typical way controversies have been resolved in the Church for the past 2000 years.

The situation with the Immaculate Conception of Mary is similar. Mary was always considered special, that she was all-holy, but exactly when she became all-holy was a matter of theological debate for a while. Was it when the Holy Spirit overshadowed her at the Annunciation? was it some time before? was it at her conception? In this case, however, because the debate had pretty much ended among theologians in favor of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, instead of convening a full Church council, like in Acts 15, the Pope, as Peter’s successor and leader of the ordained leaders of the Church, looked into the matter himself and decided, with the help of the Holy Spirit, in favor of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, and promulgated his decision and everyone in the Church is expected to submit to his authority in the matter.


#5

non-Catholics who try to find dissenting fathers on Catholic teaching run into a huge problem: If a few Church Fathers disagreeing with x Catholic doctrine disproves that doctrine, then not a single Church Father correctly identifying all the books of Scripture until the 3rd or 4th century disproves Sola Scriptura.

The Scripture verses quoted about not adding to what is written do not establish either Sola Scriptura, or that Scripture trumps Sacred Tradition. They run into the same problem: Don’t add to what is written? Well, what IS written? Which books fall under this category? It is a question answered not by Scripture itself.

Scott


#6

Thank you so much…you all helped me a great deal…I need to keep coming on here and learning more.

In Christ’s Peace,
Robin


#7

(cont.) Then some try to salvage the position by saying they are not against ALL tradition. My guess is that this position attempts to make the only legitimate tradtion the one that establishes Scripture, at which point Sacred Tradtion needs to go away. (The Scripture-swallows-Tradtion theory) Of course this is without any (even implied) scriptural or church father support. Back to the same problem: The Reformer’s decision that Tradition is legitimate, but another a Catholic corruption is completely arbitrary. They are essentially arguing that back in the old days, God dropped a completed KJV from space directly into the hands of Martin Luther and Calvin.

Scott


#8

To a certain extent, the discussions within the Church on the subject of infallibility are the deepest of all – as hard to understand as Einstein’s Special and General Theories of Relativity. The theology of infallibility affects our understanding of all of theology, and defines the essence of “Church.” There is even debate about whether infallibility is “transactional” – Can we point at a verbal transaction and say, “Yes, that is infallible!”? – or “phenomenal” – Is infallibility merely what “comes out of the washing machine,” so that it merely somehow “happens” in the Church, so that the Church is generally but not specifically reliable, and therefore to be obeyed?

My inclination is that it is both. Scriptural support may be found for both.

In any event, there is actually some interesting Scriptural support for the immaculate conception of Mary.

In the Parable of the Two Eagles in Ezekiel 17, the eagler is the Holy Spirit. The uppermost branch of the cedar tree which it plants in a “fertile field” or “seedbed” so that it grows up to become a vine is Christ.

The “fertile field” or “seedbed” is Mary’s immaculately conceived womb.

Why?

Because in the Bible, types, or symbols, such as “desert” or “wasteland” or “wilderness” always symbolize “the world in need of salovation.”

A fertile field or seedbed would be the opposite.

So, the Old Testament actually features a reference to Mary as not being in need of salvation.

“Seed” is always “grace” or “faith” or “the grace of faith” in the Bible. So, the “seed” which the eagle plants with the “uppermost branch of the cedar tree” – Ezekiel 17:5 – would be the grace of the immaculate conception which preserved Mary from sin.

At any rate, there you have it – a reference to Mary’s immaculate conception in Scripture.


#9

[quote=Scott Waddell]non-Catholics who try to find dissenting fathers on Catholic teaching run into a huge problem: If a few Church Fathers disagreeing with x Catholic doctrine disproves that doctrine, then not a single Church Father correctly identifying all the books of Scripture until the 3rd or 4th century disproves Sola Scriptura.
[/quote]

That argument is the silliest argument I have ever heard. You have no argument that makes sense, so you resort to nonsense.


#10

[quote=sonseeker]That argument is the silliest argument I have ever heard. You have no argument that makes sense, so you resort to nonsense.
[/quote]

It took only 9 posts for this thread to degenerate into a mindless ad hominem attack. A new record.


#11

[quote=Fidelis]It took only 9 posts for this thread to degenerate into a mindless ad hominem attack. A new record.
[/quote]

Not surprising. Dave Armstrong made the very point I described to James White and got deafening silence. The only choices are:

  1. Abandon Sola Scriptura (the best choice, but not likely)
  2. Keep Sola Scriptura, but give up trying to cherry pick a minority of Early Church Fathers as if they disprove Catholic doctrines. (a ok choice as far as it goes).
  3. Ignore or engage in ad hominem. (The only choice I’ve seen employed so far.)

Scott


#12

*[size=4]How do you handle contradictions in church tradition by its many church fathers? (For example, Some Church fathers accepted the immaculate conception of Mary, while others did not.) *

[/size] *

*This is something to watch for when dealing with fundamentalists. They will create a strawman argument. It is akin to asking questions such as “How long have you been stealing money?” or “How long have you been beating your wife?” Only the context will change to “Why do you worship Mary.” *
**
In this case, the belief of one Church father does not establish the Tradition of the Church. The fact that some Church fathers accepted the Immaculate Conception of Mary while others did not does not mean there is a contradiction in Tradition.
**
[size=3]That being said, the earlier post was correct in stating that St. Thomas Aquinas was not a proponent of the Immacualate Conception. However, the concept of Mary being “preserved” from the stain of original sin was not common during that time.[/size]
**
*

*[size=4]In an earlier email, you said that God prevents His chosen teachers from preaching anything that is untrue. Shouldn’t there be a recognized standard of truth whereby to measure all teachings, one that is as unchangeable and infallible as God Himself? *

[/size] *
[size=3]The first part is only partially accurate. The chosen teachers does not necessarily equate to every individual Church Father. Your friend misunderstood your explanation of infallibility. The comment concerning a recognized “standard of truth” misses the fact that Truth is a person. The Second Person of the Trinity. The Church, is the Body of the Second Person of the Trinity. Scripture is the Word of God. They are not different standards, but really the same.[/size]
[size=3][/size]
*[size=3]cont…[/size]


#13

[size=4]*And, since there are documented contradictions in the traditions of Rome, doesn’t that argue against traditions’ infallibility?
*

  • [/size]

Again, this is a strawman.

[size=4]I am not arguing against all tradition; I am just saying that since the Scriptures are “God-breathed”, more weight should be given to them when there is a discrepancy in tradition vs. tradition, or tradition vs. scripture. After all, Scripture has God as its author, man is tradition’s author. If the “repository of truth” rests within man’s tradition, why would it ever disagree or not be proved true by God’s stated truth in the Scriptures?

[/size] *
**
This is a total misunderstanding of Catholic Tradition. Man is not the author of Catholic Tradition. If you agree with your friend that man is the author of Catholic Tradition, then she would have a point. However, the CCC states:
**
*80 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal."40 Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own “always, to the close of the age”.41


**
*

*[size=4]Seems to me that there should be an “outside” source to prove that the Church holds the repository of truth, more than the Church just saying that about itself. Otherwise, where is the proof? *

[/size] *
**
History is the best judge. A reading of the Church Fathers and the historical record, along with a thorough examination of what the Church teaches.

cont…


#14

[size=4]For example, I can say that I my shirt is white. I can prove it by laying an accepted colorwheel against my shirt. If I have no accepted standard showing the color white, can I really prove my shirt is white to someone who has never seen the color white before?

[/size]
*
Always ask how one knows that the bible they hold is undoubtedly “The Bible.” Remind them that the bible did not drop from heaven, leather bound, with gold-leaf pages, and a table of contents. Also remind them that the Canon was not established (by the Church Fathers, at a Church Council) until 393-417. I hope this helps. Just be careful to scrutinize the question being asked. Many times, it will create a strawman or illustrate a tremendous assumption.

Peace,

MilesJesu


#15

I suggest you tell your little friend to read his holiness Pope Pius IX’s encyclical on the Immaculate Conception and he/she will see how the Popes preceding him have supported the doctrine. Also, you should explain to her that not all the Church fathers were infallible only the Pope is infallible and the Bishops are infallible only in ecumenical council guided by the Holy Spirit. Also, the Apostles were infallible.

Also guess what your little friend decided to leave out in the scripture:

**" **Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.

1 I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, so that you may learn from us not to go beyond what is written, 2 so that none of you will be inflated with pride in favor of one person over against another." 1 Cor. 4:5-6

Clearly here St. Paul is talking about judging others about their sins (which is going beyond the writings), not about how to teach faith. And again he emphasizes the authority of the Apostles (modern day bishops). You can’t make conclusions without reading the entire text. That abreviation was meant to trick you into a misinterpretation.

“Every word of God is tested; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Add nothing to his words, lest he reprove you, and you be exposed as a deceiver.” Prov.30:5-6

**The Old Testament Book of Proverbs meant what it meant. It meant to add nothing to the scriptures which is the word of God. However, it does not condemn the Church’s interpretations of scripture, in which in the case of the Immaculate Conception is an infallible interpretation of scripture just like the doctrines of the Trinity and Original Sin. **

“In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin upon you, you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.” Deut. 4:2

This line of scripture your friend did not want to type out in the e-mail because clearly here is talking about the commandments of God. This is going off topic. The Church does not add or subtract from the commandments. The thing is that you have to figure out what the commandments are and how to define them. For example, Gay marriage, homosexual acts, abortion, contraception, etc are not mentioned in the Ten Commandments but are part of them. The Ten commandments were left broad.

**"**Seems to me that there should be an “outside” source to prove that the Church holds the repository of truth, more than the Church just saying that about itself. Otherwise, where is the proof?"

**The truth is out there and closer than you know. It is within the same Bible she uses. All the apostles had successors and the Bible proves it. The Catholic Church was the first Christian Church and the only true one since the time of Christ. Martin Luther messed some Christians up with his *Sola Scriptura ***in 1600 A.D. completely contradicting the following:

“Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation,
for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.” 2 Peter 1:20-21

By the way that piece was written by St. Peter our first Pope guided by the Holy Spirit. In that verse those Human Beings that were moved by the Holy Spirit were the Old Testament Prophets, Priests, Biblical writers, and the Apostles and their successors.

Also, why can’t your friend back his/her charge up about the contradicting Church fathers?


#16

Ooops… I should’ve posted everything preceding 1 Cor 4:5-6.

You should read that entire chapter, it’s not long. It shows the entire context of that line of scripture. In going “beyond what is written” St. Paul was talking about chastising and judging people on their sins and reputations. We are not to be favoring someone over another. I assume that in the Apostolic age some people had favorite Apostles.


#17

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