Luther; Calvin & Zwingli on The Immaculate, Perpetual Virgin, Mother of God.

The “Reformers” accepted every major Marian doctrine and considered these doctrines to be both scriptural and fundamental to the historic Christian Faith.
Martin Luther:
Mary the Mother of God
Throughout his life Luther maintained without change the historic Christian affirmation that Mary was the Mother of God:
“She is rightly called not only the mother of the man, but also the Mother of God … It is certain that Mary is the Mother of the real and true God.”
Perpetual Virginity
Again throughout his life Luther held that Mary’s perpetual virginity was an article of faith for all Christians - and interpreted Galatians 4:4 to mean that Christ was “born of a woman” alone.
“It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a Virgin.”
The Immaculate Conception
Yet again the Immaculate Conception was a doctrine Luther defended to his death, confirmed by Lutheran scholars like Arthur Piepkorn. Like Augustine, Luther saw an unbreakable link between Mary’s divine maternity, perpetual virginity and Immaculate Conception. Although his formulation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was not clear-cut, he held that her soul was devoid of sin from the beginning:
“But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul, it is piously and suitably believed, was without any sin, so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God to receive the holy soul thus infused. And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin.”

Although he did not make it an article of faith, Luther said of the doctrine of the Assumption:
“There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know.”

Despite his criticism of the traditional doctrines of Marian mediation and intercession, to the end Luther continued to proclaim that Mary should be honored. He made it a point to preach on her feast days.
“The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart.”
“Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honoured? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent’s head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing.” Luther made this statement in his last sermon at Wittenberg in January 1546.

John Calvin: It has been said, belonged to the second generation of the Reformers and certainly his theology of double predestination governed his views on Marian and all other Christian doctrine . Although Calvin was not as profuse in his praise of Mary as Martin Luther he did not deny her perpetual virginity. The term he used most commonly in referring to Mary was “Holy Virgin”.
“Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary was at the same time the eternal God.”
“Helvidius has shown himself too ignorant, in saying that Mary had several sons, because mention is made in some passages of the brothers of Christ.” Calvin translated “brothers” in this context to mean cousins or relatives.
“It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor.”
“To this day we cannot enjoy the blessing brought to us in Christ without thinking at the same time of that which God gave as adornment and honour to Mary, in willing her to be the mother of his only-begotten Son.”

Ulrich Zwingli:
“It was given to her what belongs to no creature, that in the flesh she should bring forth the Son of God.”
“I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin.” Zwingli used Exodus 4:22 to defend the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity.
“I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary.”
“Christ was born of a most undefiled Virgin.”
“It was fitting that such a holy Son should have a holy Mother.”
“The more the honor and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honor given to Mary should grow.”
We might wonder why the Marian affirmations of the Reformers did not survive in the teaching of their heirs particularly the Fundamentalists. This break with the past did not come through any new discovery or revelation. The Reformers themselves took a benign even positive view of Marian doctrine - although they did reject Marian mediation because of their rejection of all human mediation. Moreover, while there were some excesses in popular Marian piety, Marian doctrine as taught in the pre-Reformation era drew its inspiration from the witness of Scripture and was rooted in Christology. The real reason for the break with the past must be attributed to the iconoclastic passion of the followers of the Reformation and the consequences of some Reformation principles. Even more influential in the break with Mary was the influence of the Enlightenment Era which essentially questioned or denied the mysteries of faith.
Unfortunately the Marian teachings and preachings of the Reformers have been “covered up” by their zealous followers with damaging theological and practical consequences. This “cover-up” can be detected even in Chosen by God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective, an Evangelical critique of Mariology. One of the contributors admits that “Most remarkable to modern Protestants is the Reformers’ almost universal acceptance of Mary’s continuing virginity, and their widespread reluctance to declare Mary a sinner”. He then asks if it is “a favourable providence” that kept these Marian teachings of the Reformers from being “transmitted to the Protestant churches”
What is interpreted as “Providence” by a Marian critic may legitimately be interpreted as a force of a very different kind by a Christian who has recognized the role of Mary in God’s plan.

Mind if I use the word reformers without quotes?

I don’t kow about calvin or Zwingli, but of Luther, it seems his marian piety is used to served both those for and those against marian teachings. And my take is that the most imprtant position Luther took regarding them was that the individual Christian can hold either belief, as they are adiaphora and not articles of faith.

I, myself, accept sempre virgo, and a general view of the assumption.


Use the thread as is most convenient to you :slight_smile:

Remember that everything that is attributed to the Theotokos is in light of her son’s virtues. Nothing is taken from Jesus that isn’t already given to her by virtue of being the Theotokos, Aeirparthenos, Kecharitomene.

Luther, Calvin and Zwingli would agree and would probably by now have returned to the One, True, Catholic and Apostolic church.

Gospa Mir, ora pro nobis- dona nobis pace qui est filius tuo…Iesus Christos.

Luther maybe, but Calvin et al; not a chance. Read about the sacraments and the things they said about Luther for further proof.

Concerning Mary I know for a fact that to this day there are Lutheran pastors who believe in the Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity and even celebrate the Dormition of Mary as part fo the Liturgical Year.

God Bless

That’s good,

It brings them a step closer to returning home. The Theotokos tends to do that…bring her wayward children back to Jesus and back to the fullness which is in the Catholic church.

Dormition…that’s good that they celebrate the Dormition.

That’s helpful for me to remember that about Catholic teaching.

As an evangelical tool, I’m content with the Catholic love of Mary as it seems to bring a lot of people together. When I was a haughty agnostic, I thought that the stupidest people in the world were those 3-rd world peasants with run-down lives who were playing with those silly beads in their pocket. As I’ve gotten a bit smarter, I realize the joke was on me. Anybody who can focus on the divine in such circumstances has my admiration.

Form a Lutheran practical viewpoint, my shortest explanation is that the Covenant is more important than the Ark. But like I said, I’m content with Catholic teaching.

10 years later, and the same out-of-context quotes are still being posted. Let’s all practice what we preach: “To go deep into history is to cease being Protestant.”

OK- go deep with these quotes, and provide the contexts and historical backgrounds.



Where did you get these quotes from? I seriously do not believe that Calvin at least really believed what you are implying. The doctrines of Mary at least contradict a Reformed and Protestant theology of salvation. At least their views of Mary should be seen in light of the rest of their theology. The Lutheran confessions make this a “cult of saints”, if I remember correctly, because it contradicts Lutheran theology.

Which parts are the “cult of saints”? The only marian doctrine contradicted in the Confessions themselves, AFAIK, is invocation of the Blessed Virgin and the Saints.
The confessions clearly refer to her as Mother of God (Theotokos) as doctrine, and in regards the person of Christ the* sempre virgo *(not doctrine). Regarding the Assumption and IC, Lutherans consider these idiaphora (things indifferent).


Hi Jon,

I can understand Lutherans being indifferent, but can Lutherans deny the Assumption and IC?

Mark, I didn’t say Lutherans are indifferent (though I suspect some are :D). I said that the two teachings are adiaphora, or things indifferent. Indifferent in the sense that they are not articles of faith for Lutherans. The articles of faith regarding the Blessed Virgin are the virgin birth and Theotokos.
Yes, Lutherans can deny the Assumption and IC. This Lutheran accepts the Assumption, though probably more like the Orthodox Dormition. On the IC, I’m not tied to it, but am more inclined to think the she was filled with grace at the time of the visitation.


My point was the most controversial Marian doctrines are contradicted by the doctrine of Justification of Faith Alone. Mary cannot be a “co-redremptrix”, she cannot give grace to believers along with every other saint out there if the Protestant view of salvation is true. If you wish to believe in her perpetual virginity than fine, more power to you. But, and I mean no offense to any Catholics or otherwise, it is of little consequence in the grand scheme of things. Her perpetual virginity does not prove any other Marian doctrine.

I guess a Catholic would have to better define co-redemptrix. And again, I don’t believe it is dogmatic for Catholics. Perhaps one could say that to the extent that she helped in the plan of God by consenting to being His mother, she “assists” in God’s plan of redemption. Then again, so did my parents when they took me to the font.

And yes, her perpetual virginity does not prove any of the other doctrines, ISTM.


For what is worth:

I posted a link to this document on another thread… lots of threads about the Blessed Virgin Mary lately!

Here’s is the Roman Doctrine on the Immaculate Conception from Ineffabilis Deus (Pius IX):


Now inasmuch as whatever pertains to sacred worship is intimately connected with its object and cannot have either consistency or durability if this object is vague or uncertain, our predecessors, the Roman Pontiffs, therefore, while directing all their efforts toward an increase of the devotion to the conception, made it their aim not only to emphasize the object with the utmost zeal, but also to enunciate the exact doctrine.[6] Definitely and clearly they taught that the feast was held in honor of the conception of the Virgin. They denounced as false and absolutely foreign to the mind of the Church the opinion of those who held and affirmed that it was not the conception of the Virgin but her sanctification that was honored by the Church. They never thought that greater leniency should be extended toward those who, attempting to disprove the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, devised a distinction between the first and second instance of conception and inferred that the conception which the Church celebrates was not that of the first instance of conception but the second. In fact, they held it was their duty not only to uphold and defend with all their power the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin but also to assert that the true object of this veneration was her conception considered in its first instant. Hence the words of one of our predecessors, Alexander VII, who authoritatively and decisively declared the mind of the Church: “Concerning the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, ancient indeed is that devotion of the faithful based on the belief that her soul, in the first instant of its creation and in the first instant of the soul’s infusion into the body, was, by a special grace and privilege of God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, her Son and the Redeemer of the human race, preserved free from all stain of original sin. And in this sense have the faithful ever solemnized and celebrated the Feast of the Conception.”[7]

Moreover, our predecessors considered it their special solemn duty with all diligence, zeal, and effort to preserve intact the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. For, not only have they in no way ever allowed this doctrine to be censured or changed, but they have gone much further and by clear statements repeatedly asserted that the doctrine by which we profess the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin is on its own merits entirely in harmony with the ecclesiastical veneration; that it is ancient and widespread, and of the same nature as that which the Roman Church has undertaken to promote and to protect, and that it is entirely worthy to be used in the Sacred Liturgy and solemn prayers. Not content with this they most strictly prohibited any opinion contrary to this doctrine to be defended in public or private in order that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin might remain inviolate. By repeated blows they wished to put an end to such an opinion. And lest these oft-repeated and clearest statements seem useless, they added a sanction to them.

Link from New Advent:



Further from Ineffabilis Deus:


Wherefore, in humility and fasting, we unceasingly offered our private prayers as well as the public prayers of the Church to God the Father through his Son, that he would deign to direct and strengthen our mind by the power of the Holy Spirit. In like manner did we implore the help of the entire heavenly host as we ardently invoked the Paraclete. 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.
[Declaramus, pronuntiamus et definimus doctrinam quae tenet beatissimam Virginem Mariam in primo instanti suae conceptionis fuisse singulari Omnipotentis Dei gratia et privilegio, intuitu meritorum Christi Jesu Salvatoris humani generis, ab omni originalis culpae labe praeservatam immunem, esse a Deo revelatam, atque idcirco ab omnibus fidelibus firmiter constanterque credendam.] 

Hence, if anyone shall dare – which God forbid! – to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should dare to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he thinks in his heart.

Just to elaborate on my point. Just because you can quote any Reformer saying something Catholic doesn’t make them closet Catholics who have been distorted by later thinkers. It is interesting to see these quotes and gives much food for thought and I thank the OP for providing them, I did not know that Calvin said that.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit