Martin Luther On Mary’s Immaculate Conception

Q. What is the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception?
A. It is the Dogma of the Catholic Church that Mary was conceived without sin and remained sinless throughout her whole life.

The Catholic Church has always believed that Mary, just like Adam and Eve, was conceived without a fallen nature and unlike our first parents, she resisted temptation to sin by the grace of God, throughout her whole life.

Interestingly, Martin Luther, founder of the Protestant Reformation believed in Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

Luther’s words follow:

It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin.
(Sermon: “On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God,” December [?] 1527; from Hartmann Grisar, S.J., from the German Werke, Erlangen, 1826-1868, edited by J.G. Plochmann and J.A. Irmischer,

She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin- something exceedingly great. For God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil.
-Personal {“Little”} Prayer Book, 1522

[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ . . . She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures. (Sermon, Christmas, 1531)

No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity. (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation, 1537)

One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God’s grace . . . Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ . . . Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God. (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521)

Why Do You Refer to Christians as “Protestants?”

Q. I consider myself a Christian but you seem to refer to non Catholics as Protestants. Why?

A. Well, because Christian refers to followers of Jesus Christ. There are three major groups of Christians:

  1. Catholic Christians-Founded by Jesus Christ
  2. Eastern Orthodox Christians-Break away the result of schism 1000’s
  3. Protestant Christians-Break away the result of the Luther’s Reformation 1500’s

All Christians have the majority of their beliefs in common with each other. But, of course, there are differences. The differences between Catholics and Orthodox are very few. The primary difference would be that the Orthodox Churches reject the Primacy of the authority of the Pope.

All the various denominations of churches resulting from protests against the Catholic Church in the 1500’s are called Protestants. At first there were Lutherans, then Presbyterians and Baptists. These have continued to split and multiply, until today there are over 40,000 different denominations born of the Protestant Reformation. Although Catholics and Protestant share many of their beliefs in common they have many more differences between them than between Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Most Protestant denominations have carried forward the traditions begun by Luther, Calvin, and Henry VIII in opposition to Catholic doctrine. For this reason, it is easier, when addressing these difference to speak about Protestant beliefs rather than Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, or Calvary Chapel, etc. beliefs.

Sola Scriptura / Scripture Alone???

Q.Why doesn’t the Catholic Church base its theology on Scripture alone?

A. For several reasons:

1. For 400 years after the birth of Christ, the New Testament, as we know it today, was non-existent. The books of our present New Testament were in existence, of course, but, so were hundreds of other writings, both Gospels, epistles, and histories. There was a lot of debate about what was worthy of canonization and what was not worthy of trust. List of trustworthy writings were begun in the 150’s A.D. but the New Testament Canon was not definitively and finally defined and closed until the early 400’s.

2. Since there was no canon of sacred scripture for nearly 400 years, it would have been impossible for all theology to be based on something that did not exist. The Church evangelized the world after Pentecost with the teaching of the Apostles, taught by Christ, and after they died these teachings were preserved in the Sacred Tradition (with a capital “T”) of the Church. Of course, the writings of Apostles were available and used but all must align with what was known to have been taught by Christ to His Apostles. That is why there is nothing in the teaching of the Catholic Church that confilcts with Sacred Scripture.

The Church taught FIRST from the deposit of Teachings given to the Apostles by Jesus. Then as the need arose to write epistles or Gospels these were written, SECONDARILY. So, Sacred Scripture, is derived from the teaching of the Apostles or Tradition. Not the other way around as in most Protestant Churches.

But Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and King Henry VIII cut themselves free from historical Christianity so they were left with nothing except the Bible. Therefore they draw their theology OUT of the Bible. And because, interpretations, cut off from historical Christianity vary wildly, there are now more than 40,000 Protestant sects in direct opposition to Jesus’ prayer, “that all of them may be one” John 17:21

3. The only Christian Church in the world for over 1400 years based theology on both Sacred Scripture and Tradition (teaching of the Apostles) until the advent of Martin Luther.

4. There is nothing in Sacred Scripture that commands the faithful to base theology on Scripture Alone/Sola Scripture.

5. Until some time after the invention of the printing press, the Bible, was an extremely costly book. At today’s minimum wages of $8.00/hr and only counting the time for one monk to write the whole Bible, it would take 10 months at a cost of $16,000. But that doesn’t count the second monk who checked the pages for accuracy, which would raise the cost of one Bible in today’s US Dollars to $21,424 And that still does not include the cost of materials, or for the time for another monk to decorate the pages and for someone else to bind the pages together and put on a cover. At these prices it is easy to see why every person could not have their own personal Bible for study and devotions. It also becomes clear why Churches chained the Bible in the Church to prevent the theft of this precious possession used every day at every Catholic Mass.

6. The idea of the necessity of Scripture alone for personal reading, salvation, and growth in holiness was a very late invention by Martin Luther etc. It could not be an eternal Christian principle because the majority of people, until the last several hundred years could not read. Even today, 20% of the world population cannot read. So, Our Heavenly Father, in His infinite wisdom and mercy would not make salvation dependent upon personal reading of the Bible, as some Protestant sects teach.

Martin Luther on Scripture

“We are obliged to yield many things to the Papists (Catholics)–that they possess the Word of God which we received from them, otherwise we should have known nothing at all about it.” Martin Luther–Commentary on St. John, ch. 16

Historically, the Catholic Church used the authority given to her by Christ to infallibly determine which books would be included in the canon of Sacred Scripture. The canon of scripture was not officially recognized until 400 years after the birth Jesus. To put that in perspective, it has been 400 years since the Pilgrims landed in America. So, for nearly 400 years the Christian Church evangelized the known world. And, all this was done without a complete canonized Bible.

And, due to the fact that there were no printing presses (until 1440 A.D.) most Churches did not probably even own all four gospels let alone all of the epistles. Even if each church had most of what eventually was canonized as sacred scripture, most people could not read and so faith and the pursuit of holiness could not possibly have been dependent upon personal Bible study. If Martin Luther, born in 1483, had been born 50 years earlier, long before the proliferation of printing presses, his theories of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide would never have gotten any traction.

The Gospel has always been proclaimed, from the earliest times until now, by those ordained to the Apostolic Succession of the Diciples of Jesus. The celebration of Holy Mass teaches through every word and action about the holiness of God, the sacrifice of Christ and our calling to worship God, repentence, forgiveness of sin and the pursuit of holiness. And, precisely because most of the faithful could not read scripture for themselves, it was read to them at every mass.

Christian liturgy draws our souls to Christ through all five senses. Because, in addition, to hearing, the faithful see the stories of the Old Testament and the life of Christ depicted in sacred art in the churches. We also smell the incense and best of all touch and taste the Body of Christ in Holy Communion.
Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Luther on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary?

Q. What did Luther and the other reformers think about the perpetual virginity of Mary?

A. All three of the first reformers, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, accepted and defended this doctrine completely. So, if the Catholic Church believes in this doctrine and the reformers believed in this doctrine–by whose authority and when was this doctrine rejected by all the Protestant Churches?

Martin Luther: “It is an artcle of faith that Mary is the Mother of the Lord and still a virgin…Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact.” (Works of Luther, V. 11, pp319-320; V. 6, p 510)

John Calvin: “there have been certain folk who have wished to suggest from this passage (Mt 1:25) that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what folly this is! For the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards; he simply wished to make clear Joseph’s obedience and to show also that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was God who had sent His angel to Mary. He had therefore never dwelt with her nor had he shared her company…And besides this our Lord Jesus Christ is called the firstborn. This is not because there was a second or third, but because the gospel writer is paying regard to the precedence. Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether or no there was any question of the second.” (Sermon on Matthew 1:22-25, published 1562)

Ulrich Zwingli: “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 Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, in Evang. Luc., Op. comp., V6,1 P. 639

The Reformers on Mary the Mother of God

Q. If the Catholic Church has such good reasons for calling Mary the Mother of God then why did the Protestants stop using this title?

A. It is not known when the Protestant churches dropped this title for Mary or by what authority they did so since all of the principle reformers vigorously affirmed and defended this doctrine.

Martin Luther: “In this work whereby she was made the Mother of God, so many and such good things were given her that no one can grasp them…Not only was Mary the mother of Him who is born in Bethlemem but of Him who, before, the world, was eternally born of the Father, from a Mother in time and at the same time man and God” (Weimer, The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Souis, V7, P572)
Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . “brothers” really means “cousins” here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. (Sermons on John, chapters 1-4, 1537-39)

He, Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary’s virginal womb . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. (Ibid.)

God says . . . : “Mary’s Son is My only Son.” Thus Mary is the Mother of God.(Ibid.)

God did not derive his divinity from Mary; but it does not follow that it is therefore wrong to say that God was born of Mary, that God is Mary’s Son, and that Mary is God’s mother . . . She is the true mother of God and bearer of God . . . Mary suckled God, rocked God to sleep, prepared broth and soup for God, etc. For God and man are one person, one Christ, one Son, one Jesus, not two Christs . . . just as your son is not two sons . . . even though he has two natures, body and soul, the body from you, the soul from God alone.(On the Councils and the Church, 1539)

John Clavin: “I cannot be denied that God in Choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of His Son, granted her the highest
honor…Elizabeth calls 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.” (Calvin Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Braunschweig-Berlin, 1863-1900, V. 45 p 348, 35)

Ulrich Zwingli: “It was given to her what belongs to no creature, that in the flesh she sould bring forth the Son of God.” (Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, in Evang. Luc., Op. comp., V6,1 P. 639