Who Wants to Be an Apologist?


December 28, 2013 by mattfradd



I’m trying something new.

Every week, on his site, my friend Brandon Vogt gives away free books and DVD’s. He’s inspired me to something similar.

If this goes well I’ll make it a regular feature.

Instead of me doing the hard work of a Catholic apologist, I’m going to invite you to do it!

I’m going to pose an objection to the Catholic faith which I’d like you to answer (in no more than 150 words) in the comment section below.


1st Prize: Whoever offers the best answer (in my opinion) will win Trent Horn’s new book, Answering Atheism (I’ll even pay the shipping), and my talk on the Blessed Mother, Behold Your Mother.

2nd and 3rd Prize: The second and third best answers will win just the talk.

To be eligible your answer will need to be in no later than Saturday the 4th at 9am (PST), or when (if) we get 50 comments or more.

Are you ready? Here’s the objection:

No where in Sacred Scripture does it say that Mary was sinless. Rather, it says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The Immaculate conception is an invention of the Catholic Church which every Christian should reject as false!

I’m looking forward to your answers! Let’s take this opportunity to learn how to defend this doctrine through, not only personal study, buy by reading each other’s answers!

53 thoughts on “Who Wants to Be an Apologist?

  1. Christina says:

    I say this: “Mary was “saved” in the way that a glass vase is saved before it hits the floor and shatters. She was one who “fell short” in that God still reached out to save her before she was born with the stain of sin.”

  2. Ashley says:

    I view Mary’s sinless nature as having to be completely holy to carry the Son of God. Jesus is taught to be both fully human and fully divine. In order to be carried (because of his sinless nature) in a woman’s womb, she would also have to be without sin. God cannot come in contact with sin. Not in Heaven and not on Earth.

  3. Will Powell says:

    When the angel Gabriel appears to Mary, he says “Hail, full of grace.” In order to be full of grace, one must be without sin. In other translations, Gabriel says “Hail favored one.” God has shown His favor toward Mary from the moment of her conception. For nothing shall be impossible for God, Mary was able to fully give her fiat because she was favored by God without sin weighing her down.

  4. Matthew says:

    In order for the Son of the Living God to enter the world, a perfect passageway had to have been prepared for Him. Although Mary was human, and therefore had the inclination to sin, she was “full of grace”, indicating her God-given perfection. Humans are inherently flawed beings, but God still retains the ability to transcend our nature as our Creator. Because Jesus was to enter the world for all mankind, God had to bestow a special grace on Mary–that of a sinless existence–in order for for Jesus’ entrance to be one of perfection. No part of Jesus’ gestation and birth could be flawed, otherwise He would cease to be the Son of God.

  5. David W says:

    If all is universal, then that means Jesus also sinned and fell short because He is fully human AND fully God. Also, what kind of sins can an infant who dies shortly after birth commit? If we believe “all” refers to all persons, ee have to accept the absurdity of Jesus and babies committing personal sin.

  6. Richard G says:

    Key text: “And the angel being come in, said unto her: ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.'” (Lk 1:28, Douay-Rheims)

    Being “full of grace,” Mary has no defect in her that would prevent the fullness of the grace God offers to be mitigated in any way: no personal sin and no tendency toward sin that comes with original sin. Additionally, it seems to just make sense that the womb in which Jesus rested for nine months would never have had any stain of sin defile it.

  7. William says:

    Matthew 2 23. Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel. And Luke 1 28 hail favored one The Lord is with you. These two passages as well as others show both Mary and Joseph where told if the vigin birth from the Angel if The Lord. Luke states the Angels greeted her with Hail Favored one. This clearly shows she had Gods favor and being God is without sin for her to be greeted in such away shows that she had the Lords grace and favor thus showing she was made free from Sin. Also states in Romans 3 26 that he might be righteous and justify the one who has faith in Jesus. Being that Mary trusted and believed the Angel she was the first believer and thus was justified.

  8. Diane says:

    There are many different interpretation by what the Bible says. Not everything that is believed is in the Bible. It Is a belief of our knowledge of what is written. If someone wants to reject that Mary has not sinned, then they must also reject the Trinity. For no where in the Bible does it mention the Holy Trinity.

  9. Jordan says:

    Many times in scripture the word “all” is used but there may be some exceptions- Similar to John baptizing all the nations (Matt. 3:5). Some exceptions to having sinned include Jesus, aborted babies, people with special needs, to name a few. Jesus (sinless) is the fulfillment of the Old Testment Adam. Mary is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Eve and also sinless as everything in the new perfects the old covenant.

  10. oldironhoss says:

    Christina wins it – the glass vase analogy is perfect

  11. Sean Flynn says:

    This response is God’s Truth.

    Without the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, you have no basis for your belief that “something in the Bible has to be true,” including Romans 3:23. With no external verification, the Bible might just be a bunch of old books as truthful or fictitious as Homer’s epics or the legend of King Arthur. If you believe the Bible is Truth because it claims for itself that it is Truth, then wouldn’t you be obligated to believe this post? After all, it says it is true right at the beginning.

    The Catholic Church was the first entity to consider St. Paul’s letter to the Romans to be the inspired Word of God. “The Bible is God’s Word” is itself, and necessarily so, an invention of the Catholic Church. If you believe that “invention,” why do you not believe our other “inventions?”

  12. “Thanks, teacher, you saved me!” Two kinds of student can say that: those who got extra credit after failing, and those who went to the teacher’s pre-test tutoring session and passed to begin with. Which student did the teacher save? Both! Mary is like the student who passed to begin with: she is the greatest credit to Jesus’ saving power. That’s why John portrays Mary as the “woman,” the New Eve (Jn 2:4, Jn 19:26). Jesus saved Mary at pre-test tutoring, he saved Eve with tons of extra credit. Luke calls her “full of grace” (Luke 1:28) and Revelation compares her to the Ark of the Covenant (Rev 11:19-12:2, 12:5). As for Paul’s use of “all” in Rom 3:23 – he means both Jews and Gentiles, not necessarily “all” without exception, otherwise his “all” in Rom 11:32 would make him a universalist.

  13. Adam Zangari says:

    There are exceptions to Romans 3:23. The way “all” is used is saying that every human has sinned. What about infants that die? What about the mentally handicapped that are incapable of committing sin?
    Mary is told by the angel Gabriel in Luke 1:28 that she is “full of grace” BEFORE she conceives Jesus. She is also greeted by Gabriel with the word “Hail”. The word “Hail” is only used when speaking to royalty. When an angel is greeting a fourteen year old jewish peasant girl with the word “hail”, there is something special about her. Being “full of grace”, is to be “full of God.” That would make Mary sinless.
    Mary proclaimed she “exalts in God her Savior”. Many will say that she wouldn’t have needed a savior if she was sinless, but she DID need a savior. God saved Mary from falling into sin.

  14. In Romans 3:23 when St. Paul says “all have sinned…” he didn’t mean “all” without exception, because clearly Jesus is excepted from that statement, but by using hyperbole (which was a common practice in Jewish literature and preaching) it becomes clear, within the context of the book of Romans, that his use of “all” is meant to convey that both Gentiles and Jews are sinners, not that every individual person ever born has committed sin. Considering we can now obviously include one clear exception to this statement, the Catholic Church, which Paul calls “the pillar and foundation of truth” in 1 Timothy 3:15, has recognized one other person, who by a singular grace from God, had also been excepted from this statement, namely Mary, Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God.
    Peace in Christ!

  15. That is not the beginning of the sentence. Let’s go back to verse 22 and read it all: “For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

    “For there is no distinction…”? What distinction is this? Both earlier (v 9) and later (v 29), St. Paul explains what distinction he means: the distinction between Jew and Gentile, Jew and Greek, circumcised and uncircumcised. “All have sinned” refers to all of those groups without distinction: Jews have sinned and Gentiles have sinned.

    This leaves the door open for exceptions. Jews have sinned but perhaps not all Jews. Gentiles have sinned but perhaps not all Gentiles. We can search scripture, tradition, and common sense for those exceptions. Have the severely mentally handicapped sinned? Have newborn babies sinned? If “all” means “all human beings” (which St. Paul has no trouble saying explicitly in v. 9), then you must accept that even the mentally handicapped and the very young have sinned.

    What about Jesus? If he is without sin, yet all human beings have sinned, then Jesus isn’t human. There was no incarnation.

    These are high prices to pay just to reject the possibility that God so highly favored Mary that he filled her completely with his grace, leaving no room for sin.

  16. Myles says:

    As a Catholic I would say amen to that verse. But also as a Catholic I would make sure I was reading this verse using the correct context. Paul was quoting from Psalm 14 where it talks about evil doers, none of whom do right, and then it talks about Gods people. the generation of the righteous. Paul couldn’t have literally meant everyone has sinned because the old testament scripture he was quoting when taken in context separates the ones that sinned “the evil doers” from the generation of the righteous or Gods people. If the wages of sin is death “Romans 6:23” then what about Enoch and Elijah? They never died. They couldn’t have sinned. Makes sense that the Mother of God would be sinless as well. Could God have created Mary without sin if he wanted to? God created Eve without sin. Mary was the instrument by which salvation came into the world, while Eve who was created sinless was the instrument by which sin came into the world. Wouldn’t you say Mary is greater than Eve?

  17. Colin Karr says:

    In 2 Samuel, we are told the story of Uzzah, a man who was struck dead simply for steadying himself with the Ark of the Covenant after he tripped. Uzzah did not have the qualifications necessary to touch the ark. Was the ark God? No. Was the ark perfect? No. By itself, the ark is not special. God’s presence within it is what gave the ark value. Uzzah disrespected God’s dwelling place and defiled it. Is Mary special? By herself, no! However, God chose to dwell physically inside Mary through Jesus who is God. She is the “New Ark” because she contained God. The Ark of the Old Testament demanded certain grace because it contained God. In the same way we believe God’s new dwelling place (Mary) demands a certain amount of grace, namely, the grace of purification from sin. Not because Mary deserves it, but because God does.

  18. wordsaver says:

    Catholic Church is Immaculate Conception, She is our Mother and is sinfully established in Holly Spirit by Jesus Christ, the Lord. Therefore, Mary is Immaculate Conception because Mary is Catholic Church.

    Thank You, Matt, very much for Your blog, I cannot reach mine for now and I have to write You this way. Merry Christmas to You and Your family. Best regards, Gordana

  19. Chris says:

    (written as though answering an actual questioner)

    Scripture does not say Mary was not sinless, so it’s at least logical and scriptural to assume this is a possibility.

    Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned”, but Jesus “…was like us in all things but sin.” (Hebrews 4:15). Therefore, either the scriptures are self-refuting, or we need to understand how to read scripture contextually and determine the exception(s).

    So how do we choose a hermeneutic, a lens, or an interpretive tradition with which to read God’s word? How do we start? How do we understand apparent exceptions or contradictions?

    We know the proposed Immaculate Conception is at least logically possible, and that we need more than scripture to understand scripture. For my money (and under 150 words) the Catholic Church, who understands herself to be the pillar and bulwark of truth mentioned in 1Timothy3:15, has answers that satisfy.

    But don’t take my word for it. Read for yourself.

  20. Darren says:

    There are in fact biblical references: “Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. (Jude 1:24-25).” And Luke 1:28-30: “And [the angel Gabriel] came to [Mary] and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Thus, God can keep one from falling, as Jude suggests, and the manner in which St. Gabriel addresses the Blessed Virgin – “Hail, full of grace” – is indicative of that – Mary was conceived without sin and saved from sin by receiving the grace to be preserved from it.

  21. Nathan says:

    St. Paul, of course, is right, but he isn’t speaking literally when he says ALL have sinned. How do we know this? Because Christ is like us in all things Except Sin (cf. Hebrews 4:15). If all men had sinned and Christ was a man then obviously there is at least one exception to what Paul is telling us in Romans. Is Christ the only one to have not sinned? No, we can think of a few others. Babies that die in the womb never commit actual sin neither do the severely mentally handicapped. So Christ isn’t alone in having never sinned. Could Mary also be in this group? We see in scripture that she is hailed by the angel Gabriel as being “full of grace.” When are we in a “state of grace”? When we are not in a state of sin. We know that we are saved by being in grace (cf. Eph 2:8-9) and that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). Thus, being in a state of grace is the opposite of being in sin. We are freed from the state of sin by being Baptized saves us from original sin and puts us into the state of grace, but Mary wasn’t baptized when she was greeted by Gabriel because baptism wasn’t available yet therefore she must have been freed from sin without baptism, she must have been preserved from even original sin, which is removed by baptism ordinarily, to be rightly called “full of grace.”

    Further, we know that the Old Testament prefigured the New or as the fathers said, “the old is fulfilled in the new and the new is hidden in the old.” So we must look into the Old Testament to see if we can learn anything more about Mary being conceived without sin. What is Mary? She is the theotokos, the carrier of the Word of God. Why? Mary holds Jesus in her womb and Jesus is the Word of God (cf. John 1:1). Where was the Word of God carried I. The OT? Inside the ark of the covenant, which was both God’s presence among His people (as is Jesus, Emmanuel) and which held the Ten Commandments, God’s word in stone (as Jesus is God’s word in flesh). Was the Ark anything special? Was it required to be pure? Indeed it was. In fact, Uzza is killed for even touching the Ark (cf. 1 Chron 13:10)! How much purer must Mary have been to contain Christ than the Ark was to hold the 10 commandments!

    We also know that Mary is the new Eve, as Christ is the new Adam. Just as Eve is Woman in Genesis 3, so too is Mary called Woman by Christ in John 19. Just as death entered the world through the fruit Tree of Knowledge, so too does life enter he world through the fruit of the Tree of Life (as the fathers called the Cross). Christ does what Adam couldn’t (offer perfect obedience unto death) and He is joined by the Woman, Mary, who (being greater than Eve) was (like Eve) created from the first instant of her life without sin.

    Perhaps the best argument for the Immaculate Conception is that of Blessed Duns Scotus. He argued that God had the power to preserve Mary from Original Sin, that it was fitting for Him to do so (to provide a worthy receptacle for the Word made Flesh), so God did so. Honestly, why wouldn’t God have preserved Mary from sin? If you had the chance of creating your mother wouldn’t you honor her so?

  22. Wow! This activity is so fun and thanks for doing it.

    On Mama Mary’s purity: I believe Mary was set apart by God (Father) because she was destined to carry God (Jesus) in her womb. Since God will be carried by a human vessel, this vessel has to be pure and holy enough to contain the personified God inside her.

    On the Immaculate conception: This is also true and as stated on the story of the annunciation, Angel Gabriel said “Hail Mary full of grace The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb”. From these words, the angel has already claimed a fruit in her womb even if she doesn’t have any intimate relations with a man.

    Thanks for this! I am enjoying this activity as it allows me to recall concepts taught from my Catholic school. 🙂

  23. Alex says:

    Alex Aguilar Genesis 3:15 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed” as well as Luke 1:28 “Hail, full of grace” which in the original Greek “full of grace” translates as “Kecharitomene” meaning “[she] that has already been perfected in grace.” Mary is all holy because of God’s will.
    10 hours ago · Like · 1

  24. If Paul’s statement is to be taken as proposed, it would mean that Jesus has also sinned. If you do not agree that Jesus has sinned then it is clear that the proposed interpretation is taken out of context.

    Divine Truth can be revealed both explicitly and implicitly in scripture.

    Let’s see what scripture implies when it comes to Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

    1) Adam and Eve was created sinless. Wouldn’t the New Adam and New Eve be created sinless too?

    2) In Genesis, God said that He will put emnity between the Woman and the Devil. Both are in a state of conflict. If the Devil is the the epitome of sinfulness, the Woman has to be the epitome of sinlessness. Jesus always refers to his mother as ‘Woman’ to make it clear that she is the one foretold in Genesis.

    3) God uses Old Testament events to prepare us to recognise and accept Truths to be reveal in the New Testament (e.g. Manna and Eucharist, Noah’s flood and baptism etc). The Ark of the Covenant which carried the written Word of God in the OT prepares us to recognise the holiness and purity of Mary who is the New Ark which carries the Living Word Himself. In the OT, God was very specific in the making of the Ark using the finest materials. HE DID NOT USE ANY ORDINARY WOODEN CHEST. Anyone unclean who touches the Ark will be struck down immediately. Such was the importance and sacredness of the Ark. What do you think God will do for the New Ark who will carry His only Son?

  25. Pat Dempsey says:

    Let’s get there through reason: Jesus is sinless. Jesus keeps the fourth commandment, to honor his parents. Jesus is God, participating with His Father in the creation of all things, including his own mother. How could he honor his mother better than to preserve her (save her) from the stain of sin? As God, he had the capacity to do so. As Mary’s son, he had the responsibility to do so. One could argue that not preserving her from the stain of original sin, when he clearly has the capacity to do so, would be to dishonor her.

  26. Tyler says:

    You really can’t answer this question succinctly to a Protestant who is looking for Biblical evidence. First, I would reply to Romans 3:23:

    If you take Paul’s words literally in Romans 3:23 then you have to say Jesus sinned, too. The new Adam is the exception, the new Eve is the exception.

    Then I would walk him through Scripture like so:

    Exodus 25:11-21 – the ark of the Old Covenant was made of the purest gold for God’s Word. Mary is the ark of the New Covenant and is the purest vessel for the Word of God made flesh.

    2 Sam. 6:7 – the Ark is so holy and pure that when Uzzah touched it, the Lord slew him. This shows us that the Ark is undefiled. Mary the Ark of the New Covenant is even more immaculate and undefiled, spared by God from original sin so that she could bear His eternal Word in her womb.

    1 Chron. 13:9-10 – this is another account of Uzzah and the Ark. For God to dwell within Mary the Ark, Mary had to be conceived without sin. For Protestants to argue otherwise would be to say that God would let the finger of Satan touch His Son made flesh. This is incomprehensible.

    1 Chron. 15 and 16 – these verses show the awesome reverence the Jews had for the Ark – veneration, vestments, songs, harps, lyres, cymbals, trumpets.

    Luke 1:39 / 2 Sam. 6:2 – Luke’s conspicuous comparison’s between Mary and the Ark described by Samuel underscores the reality of Mary as the undefiled and immaculate Ark of the New Covenant. In these verses, Mary (the Ark) arose and went / David arose and went to the Ark. There is a clear parallel between the Ark of the Old and the Ark of the New Covenant.

    Luke 1:41 / 2 Sam. 6:16 – John the Baptist / King David leap for joy before Mary / Ark. So should we leap for joy before Mary the immaculate Ark of the Word made flesh.

    Luke 1:43 / 2 Sam. 6:9 – How can the Mother / Ark of the Lord come to me? It is a holy privilege. Our Mother wants to come to us and lead us to Jesus.

    Luke 1:56 / 2 Sam. 6:11 and 1 Chron. 13:14 – Mary / the Ark remained in the house for about three months.

    Rev 11:19 – at this point in history, the Ark of the Old Covenant was not seen for six centuries (see 2 Macc. 2:7), and now it is finally seen in heaven. The Jewish people would have been absolutely amazed at this. However, John immediately passes over this fact and describes the “woman” clothed with the sun in Rev. 12:1. John is emphasizing that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant and who, like the Old ark, is now worthy of veneration and praise. Also remember that Rev. 11:19 and Rev. 12:1 are tied together because there was no chapter and verse at the time these texts were written.

    Rev 12:1 – the “woman” that John is describing is Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, so Mary, with the moon under her feet, reflects the glory of the Sun of Justice, Jesus Christ.

    Rev. 12:17 – this verse tells us that Mary’s offspring are those who keep God’s commandments and bear testimony to Jesus. This demonstrates, as Catholics have always believed, that Mary is the Mother of all Christians.

    Rev. 12:2 – Some Protestants argue that, because the woman had birth pangs, she was a woman with sin. However, Revelation is apocalyptic literature unique to the 1st century. It contains varied symbolism and multiple meanings of the woman (Mary, the Church and Israel). The birth pangs describe both the birth of the Church and Mary’s offspring being formed in Christ. Mary had no birth pangs in delivering her only Son Jesus.

    Isaiah 66:7 – for example, we see Isaiah prophesying that before she (Mary) was in labor she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she was delivered of a son (Jesus). This is a Marian prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

    Gal 4:19 – Paul also describes his pain as birth pangs in forming the disciples in Christ. Birth pangs describe formation in Christ.

    Rom. 8:22 – also, Paul says the whole creation has been groaning in travail before the coming of Christ. We are all undergoing birth pangs because we are being reborn into Jesus Christ.

    Jer. 13:21 – Jeremiah describes the birth pangs of Israel, like a woman in travail. Birth pangs are usually used metaphorically in the Scriptures.

    Hos. 13:12-13 – Ephraim is also described as travailing in childbirth for his sins. Again, birth pangs are used metaphorically.

    Micah 4:9-10 – Micah also describes Jerusalem as being seized by birth pangs like a woman in travail.

    Rev. 12:13-16 – in these verses, we see that the devil still seeks to destroy the woman even after the Savior is born. This proves Mary is a danger to satan, even after the birth of Christ. This is because God has given her the power to intercede for us, and we should invoke her assistance in our spiritual lives.

  27. Bryan M says:

    There is still the possibility that when Paul says “all” he doesn’t literally mean “every human that ever existed and will exist.” To say that would be to imply that Jesus himself sinned, and we know this is not the case (Hebrews 4:15).
    [Yes, but Jesus doesn’t really count when Paul talks about sinners.]
    True, but even today we can find examples of humans who are without sin. The unborn, for example. The severely mentally disabled. Knowledge of right and wrong is required for sin (Genesis 2:17), and since they are incapable of discerning, they are incapable of sinning.
    [Fine, but what about original sin? They still retain the stain of original sin on their souls, regardless of their knowledge of right and wrong later in their lives. Besides, this is the whole point right? Mary being conceived without original sin? The so-called “immaculate” conception?]
    You’re absolutely correct. But Paul doesn’t say “all retain the stain of original sin” but rather “all have sinned,” implying a conscious decision to sin, completely separate from original sin. This is the key point. If it is possible that Mary was conceived without sin (like Adam, Eve, and Jesus), which Romans 3:23 does not object to, it’s possible that, because of the purity of her soul and the absence of the stain of original sin from the moment of her conception, she was able to live a sinless life.
    [Possible? Sure. But you still haven’t shown that Mary was indeed conceived without original sin. That’s because it’s an invention of the Catholic Church.]
    Not so fast. There’s plenty of writings by theologians throughout the centuries on the matter, fully backed by scripture. Since I don’t have the time needed to cite them all, I’ll simply provide you with this imagery: Mary is the Ark of the new Covenant. The original Ark of the Covenant was a holy vessel designed by God (Exodus 25:10-22) that held the remains of the ten commandments, the physical outward sign of the covenant God made with Israel on Sinai. Later, when God would make a new covenant, he crafted a new vessel, more beautiful and more holy than the previous, which would contain the sign of the new covenant. This new ark is Mary, who held Jesus inside her for nine months. If you compare the account of David’s interaction with the ark with Mary (2 Samuel 6 and Luke 1), the parallels are too obvious to be missed or ignored. Consider, for example, 2 Samuel 6:9 (“How can the ark of the Lord come to me?”) and Luke 1:43 (“Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”). That’s just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg. If Mary was truly meant to be the Ark of the new Covenant, how could she not have been holy and perfect, crafted by God to hold the savior of the world?
    [So… you’re saying Mary didn’t need to be saved?]
    Not at all! She needed Jesus just as much as you and I. But, since she was meant to hold Christ before He came into this world and died on the cross for us, God, who works outside of time, would have been able to apply the sacrifice of the Son to His mother before it was ever made fully known to us in this world. And since He could, why wouldn’t He?
    [Woah… this is wrinkling my brain.]
    Yeah. The Catholic Church will do that to you.

  28. John Guise says:

    God could have come into the world any way he wanted. He chose to come into the world via Mary and her womb. To ensure He had the best Mother possible he redeemed Mary at her conception through His later crucifixion to ensure she was sinless (by preventing her from sinning or even considering it) as well as to represent the new Eve and the Ark of the New Covenant (Christ was the new Adam).

    By doing this Christ not only ensured He had the best Mother possible but gave the Church a model of holiness to follow when He gave Mary to St. John and all of us at His death on the cross.

  29. Jon says:

    I think we can all agree that Christ has the power to do all things. If YOU could have made YOUR mother, you would have preserved her from all sin. Why is it hard to believe God would not, in His infinite power, prepare His way into our world thusly? Believing this about Mary does not take away any of the power and glory of God, the Trinity, it reinforces it.

  30. Richard Conlin says:

    Not one of us had the power to make our own mother. If we did, we would have made her the most beautiful woman in the world. Our Lord preexisted His own mother. Therefore, He could make her the perfect mother.

    Jesus Christ brings exception to Paul’s statement in Romans that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. As an exception, our Lord also willed from all eternity that his mother too would be free from sin. Mary, the perfect mother, was immaculately conceived, saved from original sin, as the tabernacle of the Holy of Holies, to bring forth the Savior of the world!

  31. Kevin Noles says:

    Great idea Matt! I love this.
    “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So you mean to say that even Jesus had sinned? Of course not since we know, even though He was tempted, He committed no sin as Hebrews 4:15 reads, “but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning”. So if there is at least one exception there could be two exceptions. As Adam and Eve were made without sin it would be fitting that Jesus and Mary who represent them be created without sin as well. As we know God likes to use His second children to make up for the deficiencies of the first children such as Solomon being the first born son of God (2 Samuel 7:14) (while also being the second born of David) while Jesus is the second born son of God. Esau and Jacob, Cain and Abel also show us that the second born has been shown such preference in God’s eyes. Eve in this case is represented by Mary. Eve was the mother of the creation narrative and if we are to enter a new creation as 2 Corinthians 5:17 reads, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” then it would be fitting that we have a new mother as well. In order for Mary to perfect what Eve did not Mary would have been made without sin and persevere without sin as well.

  32. Joanne says:

    Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man. God, by definition is pure perfection, and can not dwell **in His fullness** where there is sin. It is a contradiction to imagine Him doing so. Mary had to have been Immaculate to have carried God in His fullness.

  33. Luke says:

    If Paul literally means ALL have sinned, and you admit no exceptions whatsoever, then you must include Jesus in your register of those who have sinned. If it seems unreasonable to you that Jesus has sinned, then perhaps there is more context in the rest of Paul’s writings. Let’s explore those together, shall we?

  34. “ALL” does not mean “all”; rather it means “the NORM”

    Mary was not the Norm; She is the Exception.

    Because God is “All Good things perfected”; once the Incarnation became God’s plan; Mary had to first be perfected [through the merits of Her Son for whom time does not exist]; and then choose using her freewill NEVER to sin.


  35. The Catholic Church is the “invention” of Jesus. Reject Her, reject Christ.

    [[Yea, I know it doesn’t address the primary part of the posted question, just the most important part.]]

  36. Paul Kelly says:

    Does Mary come under the term “all”? Jesus obviously doesn’t and he is part of Mary and she too is part of Jesus-God of all creation. And to have lived a life of a human being and never sinned i think shows you do not come under the term “all”. Faith to God is what gets you closer to God and any apparent question of supposed contradiction to God is just a test of that faith to God.

  37. It is evident St Paul is speaking of personal sins people commit, as opposed to original sin we inherit. He does not mean “all” in an absolute sense, which would include every single person. Some obvious exceptions are Jesus, Adam and Eve before the fall, and children below the age of reason. Catholics believe Mary is another exceptions. Earlier in Romans 3:9-10, St Paul says “all men both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God.'” St. Paul is quoting Psalm 14. When he quotes the OT. So what did King David mean by, “there is non that does good, no, not one” (verse 3)? David is lamenting widespread rebellion in Israel. David’s enemies are not just the Gentile nations, but also fellow Israelites such as Absalom and Saul, members of his own covenant family. David is using “all” in the collective sense of including large proportions of each group (Jews as well as Gentiles), not in the distributive sense of including each and every individual. We know this because David immediately distinguishes “all the evildoers” from “my people” St. Paul is using this quote in the same collective, not distributive sense: Gentiles are not the only group sinning against God; even God’s covenant people, the Jews, are rebelling Likewise Romans 3:23 uses “all” in a collective, not distributive sense.

    In Luke 1:28, the angel Gabriel calls Mary “full of grace” to indicate that she has fullness of grace. This would be impossible if Mary were touched by any sin, because every sin diminishes grace.

    In Genesis 3:15 “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”. God is speaking to the serpent (Satan) after Adam and Eve had succumbed to his temptation. The woman’s offspring who will strike (crush) the head of the serpent (defeat him) is acknowledged by all Christians to be Jesus. The enmity, or opposition, between the woman and the serpent is the same enmity that exists between Jesus and the serpent. This enmity is total; the devil never ensnared Jesus in sin as he did Adam and Eve. Therefore, the woman, the mother of Jesus, would also never be enmity with the serpent. This woman must be Mary. She cannot be Eve, who embraced the devil and turned away from God. Furthermore, Eve did not literally give birth to Jesus, Mary did.

  38. I hope you post the answer Matt. I’m currently in discussion with a young lady about this very issue. She has rejected most of these arguments I’ve used. HELP!!!

    • mattfradd says:

      I will. Next Saturday (when the time is up), I’ll select my three favorite and give my 2 cents, also. Just because your friend rejects your arguments doesn’t mean they’re not good. I’d invite you to reflect upon the reasons you have given, consider the counter objections she has raised and consider for yourself which is more convincing. Thank God it’s not our job to convert anyone, it’s his.

  39. Edward Mensah says:

    No where in the Bible does it say that Jesus Christ was sinless. Actually, Jn 1:10 says, the word became flesh, literally, Jesus became man. Do we then conclude that, the “all have sinned” in the book of Romans also applies to Jesus who was also fully man? The answer lies in 1Tim 3:15, that is, “the Church is the pillar and bulwark of the Truth”. And what does the Church say? That Jesus was human yet sinless. That Mary was human yet sinless.

    • Sorry to get off track here, but to claim that “nowhere in the bible does it claim that Christ was sinless is a HUGE error: Here is just one of several possible passages that refute that position.

      Heb.4:15″ For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin”

  40. Greg (Seminarian) says:

    I haven’t read all the comments, but I see that many try to answer using ONLY bible (Scripture) and we forget that our Church is from Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium. I think that in my simplicity, I would say that we can’t rely only on bible for the Dogma of Immaculate Conception but also in Magisterium as is the case of Papal infallibility. Sorry if I am wrong. I am just a seminarian.

    • This post is an exercise in attempting to answer a Protestant (although Matt didn’t specifically say that a Protestant asked this question, the way it’s worded leads me to believe that Protestant asked it) who has challenged the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as not being scriptural. Considering Protestants don’t accept the validity of appeals to Tradition or the Magisterium, we must use Scripture to first show back Doctrine are at least implicit in Scripture. Only once a Protestant becomes open to the reality of the divinely appointed authority which Christ granted His Church, will appeals to Tradition and the Magisterium become convincing. God bless you in your discernment and your studies!

      • Slight correction, I meant that the challenge was of the Catholic understanding of Mary’s sinlessness.

      • Greg (seminarian) says:

        I totally hear you Christopher and I understand your good point. I just wonder how much we can go into trying to explain something (a Dogma and we have quite a few) that needs more than Scripture. It is like going to a mechanic and tell him what is wrong with a car just by pointing at the “problem” but not explaining more things. Would he be able to see what’s wrong if we don’t give more details? (really weak example I know). My point is that as Catholics we really need much more than just Scripture to difine/ explain Dogmas such as The Immaculate Conception or papal infalability (another one that keeps on coming up in conversations). Our firts action should be to make a Protestant understand that if he/she asks me something like that then he/she needs to hear what we Chatolics are about in these type of conversations. Maybe THE POINT OF THIS QUESTION WAS THAT, TO REALIZE THAT WE CAN’T JUST USE SCRIPTURE TO EXPLAIN OUR BELIEFS. This is really my simplistic opinion and I AM PROBABLY WRONG. I am just a seminarian and I am not trying, in any way, to defend my position but trying to engage in these kinds of amazing conversations to be a well prepared priest and also a humble one. I am not an amazing academic person (an English is not my first language) but these conversations are so good to help us articulate our faith and that is what Dogmas might help us with, to go deeper into explainging that for us SOLA SCRIPTURA is not enough. Again, not the smartest kid here and not trying to fight or compete with anybody, only just trying to be part of an amazing conversation to learn and get more prepared to serve the people of God.

      • Greg, thank you for clarifying the point you were making and let me assure you that you are not wrong, we definitely cannot use Scripture alone to explain our beliefs. But, the first step when dealing with Protestant questioners, is to show that Catholic teachings are Biblically sound, in the sense that they are not UNBiblical, and that our interpretation is at least reasonable from within the Protestant interpretive paradigm, viz. Sola-Scriptura (SS).

        Then I think the Catholic needs to shift the conversation to the issue of interpretive authority and why under SS, the Protestant has no principled way of differentiating between Divine Revelation and theological opinion; But that the Catholic, who is not bound by the UNBiblical doctrine of SS, looks to the Church’s Magisterium as the Divinely appointed interpreter of Scripture & Tradition; which through Apostolic Succession, has given Christians of every generation (like during those 300+ years when there was no Canon of Scripture) a principled means of locating precisely the Divine Revelation Jesus passed on to the Apostles, which is binding upon the consciences of Christians.

        So again, you are correct, but we have to start with milk before we can go to the meat. 🙂
        Peace in Christ!

      • I absolutely agree.

        When we catechize non-Catholic Christians, we must “meet them where they are,” Many hold to Sola Scriptura, or at least hold the bible as some sort of authority.

      • That’s excellent advice! And it follows directly on the two pieces that St. Thomas Aquinas said for such debates:

        1) “Some [groups in error], such as the Mohammedans and the pagans, do not agree with us in accepting the authority of any Scripture, by which they may be convinced of their error. Thus, against the Jews we are able to argue by means of the Old Testament, while against heretics we are able to argue by means of the New Testament. But the Muslims and the pagans accept neither the one nor the other. We must, therefore, have recourse to the natural reason, to which all men are forced to give their assent.” (Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 1, Chapter 2)

        2) “Whatever come from the Supreme Truth cannot be false, and what is not false cannot be repudiated by any necessary reason. Just as our Faith cannot be proved by necessary reasons, because it exceeds the human mind, so because of its truth it cannot be refuted by any necessary reason. So any Christian disputing about the articles of the Faith should not try to prove the Faith, but defend the Faith. Thus blessed Peter (1 Pet 3:15) did not say: ‘Always have your proof’, but ‘your answer ready,’ so that reason can show that what the Catholic Faith holds is not false.” (De Rationibus Fidei, 2)

  41. Jason K says:

    I am not sure I can top these wonderful answers without plagiarizing them. I will answer another day, suffice to say, I am thankful that this did happen. Pray for us oh Holy Mother of God.

  42. Andy E. says:

    To get the conversation started, I would first identify the Greek word that the angel Gabriel used when he told Mary that she is “full of grace.” This word is “kecharitomene.” This is the perfect passive participle of the verb, meaning that Mary was filled with grace in the past, and continues to be so. This seems to imply that something happened in the past that made her special, and continues to make her special.
    I would also bring up the vase analogy mentioned earlier in the comments – Mary was saved from Original Sin before she was born. This does not make her salvation any less real or awesome!

  43. Chris says:

    I’ve been thinking about this the past few days, and It seems like if two people come from different hermeneutical schools of thought, you can only get so far in attempting to build a case for how we can know something to be true, such as the Immaculate Conception.

    One can choose to defend an idea through a certain systematic school of thought that deals with revealed truth, such as the Catholic understanding, but if another person disagrees with a basic premise (i.e. how one can know something from scripture, or what a given passage is supposed to mean) each person is just talking past the other.

    So, it seems that in defending the Immaculate Conception it is necessary to defend, at least in part, an entire ethic of interpretation (scripture+tradition, etc), rather than postulating a result on premises that are likely not to be shared to begin with. Sheer reason we can presumably all share, but when it comes to revealed truth need to set the groundwork for discussion.

  44. Two of the best arguments for Mary’s sinlessness come from sacred scripture itself!

    The first is by proper understanding of St Paul’s words in Romans: “… all have sinned…” (this being the verse in scripture most often mistakenly quoted by those who claim that Mary was a sinner).

    Romans 3, verse 10 says, “…as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one.'” Yet, James 5:16 says that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much. If absolutely no one is righteous, then who is James talking about? Luke 1 says that Elizabeth and Zechariah were righteous before God. If absolutely no one is righteous, then how can that be? Is Scripture contradicting itself? No, the folks who interpret Romans as saying absolutely, without exception, no one is righteous, are misinterpreting verses in that chapter. They are failing to realize that the key to understanding Romans 3:10, for example, is the phrase, “IT IS WRITTEN…”

    Here, Paul is quoting from the Old Testament, Psalm 14 to be exact. This Psalm speaks of the general corruption of man before our redemption by Christ. It says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God. ‘ They are corrupt…there is none that does good.” But then that same psalm goes on to talk about the “righteous”. Well, if none has done good, then who are the righteous the psalm is talking about? Obviously, when the psalmist says that none has done good, he is talking about the fools who say there is no God. He is not talking about absolutely everyone.

    So too, Paul, when he quotes from this psalm, is not saying absolutely no one is righteous. If he was, then how do you explain all the Old and New Testament passages that refer to the righteous? Again, in Romans 3:11 it says that no one seeks for God. Does that mean that absolutely no one is seeking God? No, to interpret it that way would be ludicrous!

    Just so in verse 23 which says that “all have sinned”. Babies haven’t sinned, have they? Little children haven’t sinned, have they? No! This is not an absolute. There are exceptions. What about John the Baptist? Did he sin? Scripture says that he was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb. Can someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit even before being born ever sin?

    So, it is perfectly legitimate to say that these passages from Romans, when interpreted in context, in no way conflict with the Church’s teaching on Mary being without sin.

    ‘All’ here is the Greek word, ‘pas’, which is not necessarily an absolute, as is clear from many verses of scripture.

    John 12:19: “ALL the world has gone after him!” Did everyone in the entire world really go after Christ?

    Mt 3:5-6: “Then went out to him, Jerusalem, and ALL Judea, and ALL the region about the Jordan; and they were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.” Were all of the people of Judea, and the region about the Jordan baptized?

    Luke 2:1: “And an order went out from Caesar Augustus that ALL the world should be counted.” Was everyone in the whole world counted?

    Rom 11:26: “ALL Israel shall be saved.” Will everyone in Israel truly be saved?

    Rom 15:14: “… you yourselves are full of love, filled with ALL knowledge…” The only person filled with ‘ALL’ knowledge is God Himself.

    Thus, the Greek word ‘pas’ in many verses in Scripture simply means a ‘great number’, ‘most of’, or ‘a lot’.

    The other passage of scripture that provides absolute certainty about Mary’s sinlessness is God’s own promise in Genesis to put “enmity” between the serpent and the “woman”. Who was this woman that God was talking about? It couldn’t be Eve, because she had already “befriended” the serpent – by believing his lie and giving in to his temptation to reach for Godlike greatness. No, the “woman” would have to be another who would not make the same mistake – someone who the serpent could never count on his side against God!

    In Jewish scriptural terms, the word “enmity”, when used in its fullest sense, signifies far more than just dislike or even hatred. It means “having nothing whatsoever to do with” or “not having a bar of” someone or something – in this case Satan or his works and pomps. People who understand this (i.e., people who are learned biblical scholars, with in depth knowledge of Judaism and its expressions, metaphors and meanings) understand straightaway that in that promise in the Garden of Eden, God Himself was prophesying the Immaculate Conception of His own mother! Therefore to entertain any notion that Mary was a sinner, tantamounts (however inadvertently) to saying that God’s own promise to the serpent failed, and that the serpent won the day by seducing even the one who God Himself had vowed to make his “enemy”! There is only one being who would like us to believe that blasphemous suggestion – Satan himself!

  45. John says:

    Rom 3:23 is talking about personal sin, not original sin. So therefore there are exceptions here, like children under the age of reason etc. Mary was saved from original sin, free from concupiscence, full grace thereafter .

    It was for Christ’s glory, that Mary was full of Grace. In the Old Testament God was very specific about every detail of the ark, it was a place where God would dwell, covered with gold inside and out. It had to be perfect! Now how much more would God want His Word-Jesus now in the womb of a Mary to have a perfect dwelling place? Would this new ark of the New Covenant not be perfect? Sinless?

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