Friday, December 08, 2006

Luther and the Immaculate Conception

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Today is the feast of the Conception of Mary. Many people find it surprising that Martin Luther (the "Father of the Reformation") defended doctrine of the Immaculate Conception to his death (as confirmed by Lutheran scholars such as 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..."

The teaching would eventually become dogmatized in the Roman Catholic Church. The dogmatic definition of Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1854 reads: “From the first moment of her conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary was, by the singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of all mankind, kept free from all stain of original sin.”

You can read more about the reformers and Mary at Also, see my post from last year about the Anglican teaching on the purity of Mary.

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