Thursday, April 5, 2012

*Best of DTB #169* Immaculate Conception debate show notes

These show notes correspond with this Blog Talk Radio program.


The show notes for this debate can be found at This link will be posted in the chat room. If you have any questions, please email them to

In our first debate, my opponent made the charge that Mary is a goddess in the Catholic religion. In our second, he contended that Catholics "praise, worship and idolatrize Mary". He has also stated this in several online debates and, even as I prepare this monologue, hours before our scheduled 4th debate, I am absolutely certain that I will hear this ludicrous assertion leveled yet again. Now, I am not saying this to get this debate off on the wrong foot, I'm saying it to get it off on the right foot. Let's please dispense with the super-heated rhetoric and the endless supposition about gods and goddesses, pagans and hobgoblins and things that go bump in the night.

What the Catholic Church claims about Mary's Immaculate conception is hardly extraordinary in the context of a God who placed eternity inside Her womb and who spoke the universe into existence. It also doesn't elevate Mary any further than the way God chose to elevate Her as enunciated clearly in Scripture.

In these opening remarks, I will make the affirmative case for this doctrine. I will deal with objections during the question portion and in my closing remarks.

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception begins with a proper understanding of Grace.

Many protestants contend that grace is nothing more than unmerited favor. This view directly contradicts scripture. Grace is something we receive. It is something that saves us and enables us to do good.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed

John 1:16-17 From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, 17 because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Acts 15:11 On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they."

Ephesians 3:2 if, as I suppose, you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for your benefit,

Ephesians 3:8 To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ,

Ephesians 2:8-10
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith ; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God ; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Let us quickly summarize;

  1. With sufficient Grace, a person is capable of every good deed.
  2. Grace can only come from Christ, the Mosaic law could not provide it.
  3. All who are saved are saved by this grace.
  4. The church are the stewards of this Grace, both for our benefit and to preach.
  5. You cannot earn this grace, it can only be given as a free gift through faith.
  6. The purpose of this Grace is to enable us to do the good works that God has prepared for us to do.

It must be emphasized that Ephesians 2 does NOT state that Salvation is a free gift from God, as so many assert, it states that GRACE is a free gift from God.
This fact refutes the protestant notion of imputed salvation but that's a debate for another day.

Let's cut to the chase. By Grace you are saved, therefore, for a lack of grace you are lost. Those who do little good have little, those who do much have much. Those who don't have any, commit unrepentant evil and are damned for it. Grace is necessary for Salvation and grace can be quantified.

Now that we have looked at this, let me outline what we hold to be true, with regard to how this grace applies to Mary.

1) Mary is saved by the same Savior you and I are.
2) Mary is saved by the same Grace you and I are.
3) By the reception of this Grace, Mary is no more made Divine than you and I are.
4) What differs is the timing and the degree of the Grace Mary received.
5) This special provision was provided by God for the purpose of Mary's integral and crucial role in bringing us the Savior.
6) All of this can be deduced from Scripture.

When the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary (Luke 1:28), the first words he says to her are "Chaire, kecharitomene!" [Χαιρε, κεχαριτομενε!].

Let's break it down. Chaire means Hail! It is a salutation of royalty.

In fact, it is used twice in the gospels with respect to Jesus

Matthew. 26:49, where Judas greets Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane with “Hail, Rabbi!”

Matthew. 27:29, where Pilate’s soldiers mock Jesus with the greeting: “Hail, King of the Jews!”
Here, the Angel is clearly recognizing Mary as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Queen Mother, the Mother of the King. We'll cover that in another debate.

Kecharitomene is actually a conjunction of three words- Ke, Charitoo and Mene.

Let us start with charitoo, and let us start with the King James Bible. charitoo is a variant of Charis. Including every variant of Charis, the KJV translates Grace 86% of the time. However, when the variant charitoo is used, the percentage rises to better than 96% with the only exception being- you guessed it- Luke 1:28 (link in the show notes). The oo variant at the end actually adds emphasis.

The prefix Ke actually states that something perfectly exists that was the result of a past action. An example would be "You are a college educated professor"

The suffix mene notes that the action was completed by another (in this case, God). Mary did not endue Herself with Grace, God did it.

Kecharitomene is literally "endured with perfected Grace" or, as every Bible prior to 1611 stated, and many after, "Full of grace". This includes the Protestant bibles of Luther and Tyndale and proto-protestant Wycliffe. In fact, even the original KJV placed "endured with Grace" in the margin notes.

It is very clear that the KJV and other version have played polemic politics with the very text of sacred Scripture.

Χαιρε (which means both "Rejoice" and "Hail") is the salutation, like the word "hello" in "Hello, Cathy!" The word that follows, κεχαριτομενε, is the direct address. In the previous example, the name "Cathy" is the direct address. A direct address is usually a name or title (or pronoun taking the place of a name or title) which represents the identity of the person being spoken to. Gabriel identifies Mary with a single term: not the name "Mary," but the word κεχαριτομενε.

In other words, Gabriel is literally addressing Mary "Hail!, Full of Grace" as if "Full of grace" were here name. Kecharitomene is not merely grace but emphasized Grace, preexisting Grace, endowed grace and perfected Grace. In other words, Fullness of Grace and the complete absence of sin, even original sin.

The great Baptist Greek scholar A.T. Robertson exhibits a Protestant perspective, but is objective and fair-minded, in commenting on this verse as follows:
"Highly favoured" (kecharitomene). Perfect passive participle of charitoo and means endowed with grace (charis), enriched with grace as in Ephesians. 1:6, . . . The Vulgate gratiae plena "is right, if it means 'full of grace which thou hast received'; wrong, if it means 'full of grace which thou hast to bestow'" (Plummer).

(Word Pictures in the New Testament, Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930, six volumes, Vol. II, 13) Source
Greek scholar Marvin R. Vincent noted that even Wycliffe and Tyndale (no enthusiastic supporters of the Catholic Church) both rendered kecharitomene in Luke 1:28 as "full of grace" and that the literal meaning was "endued with grace" (Word Studies in the New Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1946, four volumes, from 1887 edition: New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons; Vol. I, 259).

Even the Protestant amplified Bible states that the literal translation is "endued with grace"

In terms of making a linguistic refutation of the Catholic interpretation of Luke 1:28, it cannot be done. Now let's address the practical case.

Whether or not you accept that Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant or the New Eve or the New holy of holies, there is one thing you cannot deny- between Eden and the Resurrection, to come in direct contact with God, for anyone but God's high Priest, meant death. This was true for Uzzah, this was true for an unworthy Priest. In fact, a Priest entering the Holy of holies was secured with a rope so that his dead body, if need be, could be pulled out.

My protestant friends argue that Jesus could have been protected from the contagion of original sin, by God, even if Mary wasn't sinless. I will gladly concede the point. God could have done this in some way, if He chose.

What cannot be argued, however is that Mary, if a sinful woman, could not share direct contact with the almighty Himself inside her. God cannot share the same space with sin. Direct access to God only occurs after the Resurrection when the veil in the Temple is torn in two.

However, perhaps the biggest reason why Mary's immaculate conception was necessary was because of the necessity of her fiat.

Consider this.

The first woman, Eve had some pretty simple instructions. You can go anywhere you want, eat anything you want....but see this tree, right here? don't touch it.

Eve, as you know, blew it.

Mary, on the other hand, had a very difficult assignment. Mary was to become pregnant in a time when the accusation of adultery meant stoning. Her only argument in defense? "I am carrying God". That would go over well.

Yet, Mary simply said "behold the hand maiden of the Lord. be it done to me according to your word"

Mary said yes. She cooperated with God's plan. Let me repeat that. Mary CO- Operated. There is that word "Co". "Co" means "with", not "equal to", as some suggest.

God is the Operator, Mary is the Cooperator.God is the redeemer, Mary is the Co-redemtrix. God is the Mediator, Mary is the Co-mediatrix. These titles do not make Mary an Operator or a Redeemer or a Mediator. It simply states a simple and unarguable fact. Without Mary's "Yes", The redeemer doesn't come. Without Mary's "Yes", there is no mediator between God and man.

Eve said "no" and sin entered the world. Mary said "yes" and salvation entered the world.

Now, the so-called "Bible alone" Christians will say that if Mary had said no, God would just find another way. That is a philosophical argument, not a Biblical one. There is no evidence God had a plan B and He didn't need one. Jesus knew plan A was going to work because He poured enough Grace into His own Mother to ensure it.

Lastly, the Bible alone Christians will claim we invented this doctrine in 1854. Hogwash! The historical record is clear that the Christian church believed and guarded this doctrine from day one.
(Quotes in the show notes)


Justin Martyr
[Jesus] became man by the Virgin so that the course that was taken by disobedience in the beginning through the agency of the serpent might be also the very course by which it would be put down. Eve, a virgin and undefiled, conceived the word of the serpent and bore disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced to her the glad tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, for which reason the Holy One being born of her is the Son of God. And she replied, "Be it done unto me according to your word" (Luke 1:38) (Dialogue with Trypho 100 [A.D. 155]).
Consequently, then, Mary the Virgin is found to be obedient, saying, "Behold, 0 Lord, your handmaid; be it done to me according to your word." Eve . . . who was then still a virgin although she had Adam for a husband — for in paradise they were both naked but were not ashamed; for, having been created only a short time, they had no understanding of the procreation of children . . . having become disobedient [sin], was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient [no sin], was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race. . . . Thus, the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith (Against Heresies 3:22:24 [A.D. 189]).
This Virgin Mother of the Only-begotten of God is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one (Homily 1 [A.D. 244]).
He [Jesus] was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle [Mary] was exempt from defilement and corruption (Orat. In Illud, Dominus pascit me, in Gallandi, Bibl. Patrum, II, 496 ante [A.D. 235]).
Ephraim the Syrian
You alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others, for there is neither blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these? (Nisibene Hymns 27:8 [A. D. 361]).
Ambrose of Milan
Come, then, and search out your sheep, not through your servants or hired men, but do it yourself. Lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam. Lift me up not from Sarah but from Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace had made inviolate, free of every stain of sin (Commentary on Psalm 118:22-30 [A.D. 387]).
Gregory Nazianzen
He was conceived by the virgin, who had been first purified by the Spirit in soul and body; for, as it was fitting that childbearing should receive its share of honor, so it was necessary that virginity should receive even greater honor (Sermon 38 [d. A.D. 390]).
We must except the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honor to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin (Nature and Grace 36:42 [A.D. 415]).
Theodotus of Ancrya
A virgin, innocent, spotless, free of all defect, untouched, unsullied, holy in soul and body, like a lily sprouting among thorns (Homily 6:11[ante A.D. 446]).
Proclus of Constantinople
As He formed her without any stain of her own, so He proceeded from her contracting no stain (Homily 1[ante A.D. 446]).
Jacob of Sarug
[T]he very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary, if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary[ante A.D. 521].
Romanos the Melodist
Then the tribes of Israel heard that Anna had conceived the immaculate one. So everyone took part in the rejoicing. Joachim gave a banquet, and great was the merriment in the garden. He invited the priests and Levites to prayer; then he called Mary into the center of the crowd, that she might be magnified (On the Birth of Mary 1 [d. ca A.D. 560]).

Closing remarks

Once again, The show notes for this debate can be found at This link will be posted in the chat room. If you have any questions, please email them to

The principal objections to the doctrine of the immaculate conception are, in my view, unfounded and they were certainly unfounded in the minds of those who gave us the Bible and before.

In fact, it is often said, "Show me evidence of someone praying to Mary in the Bible". I can do better than that. I can show proof of a prayer to Mary as Theotokos (Mother of God) that predates the Bible by about 150 years! (picture in the show notes)

On to the objections;

  1. Mary needed a Savior. Of course she did. In fact, the coolest thing about the Immaculate conception is that the savior saved the mother before the mother brought forth the savior who created the Mother. Wow! I have a headache!
  2. It makes Mary a goddess. Nonsense. Evil Knieval couldn't make that leap. God prepared Mary for a specific job. God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called. Bringing God to us through a purified human vessel only shows God's greatness all the more. Mary spoke true of herself saying that her soul magnifies the Lord. (Luke 1:46)
  3. The Bible says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The Greek Word Pantes means "all mankind".In context it is referring to all types of people, not every person. Otherwise, it would include babies- born and pre-born and Jesus Himself- an indefensible position.
  4. If Mary was conceived immaculately, her mother would have had to have been, and her mother and so on. Seriously? The one who held back the Red Sea and protected three Jewish boys from the furnace, the one who brought down Jericho's walls and protected Jonah in a whale, and stayed the Lions from devouring Daniel, could not keep Satan's grubby hands off His own Mother? come now.
  5. Didn't the Catholic church invent this doctrine in 1854. No. The councils of the church do not invent doctrine, they defend doctrines against challenge. It is quite interesting that it took that long for anyone to seriously challenge this doctrine.
  6. Romans 3:10 says there is none righteous, no not one. Not one? I'll give you two- Zechariah and Elizabeth, who Luke call Righteous and blameless before God. Paul says "It is written- there are none righteous". He is quoting Psalm 14, talking about the fool who says in his heart there is no God.

Pretty amazing stuff if you ask me.

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

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