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The Immaculate Conception Versus The Virginal Birth of Jesus
As an Empiricist and Materialist who constantly denigrates both the metaphysical claims of Abrahamic religions and the resulting pragmatic practices arising from such dogma that engender the human species with shame, sectarian friction and violence, and the untenable perpetuation in developing countries of unfettered anti-family planning programs and unchecked misinformation on disease control, I often receive the critique that I just don't understand faith. That may be so, in fact I don't see how believing in things with no evidential basis is a meaningful virtue in modern life. And while I don't understand the faithful, not fully, I consistently find that I do know more about their religions and have read more of their holy texts than have the people who would level this claim at me.
He is one example of a basic doctrinal distinction which most Christians fail to understand.
The Immaculate Conception
The Catholic Doctrine of, "The Immaculate Conception," does not refer to Jesus having been conceived by a virgin.
The immaculate Conception actually concerns Mary's conception. Through a singular act of god, Mary was conceived free from the stain of original sin and imbued with Sanctifying Grace that normally is conferred only through the ritual of baptism. She is considered, "free from all sin original and personal." She was, though, the product of a human father and a human mother, Saint Joachim and Saint Anne.
This peace of dogma was along time in the making; At The Council of Trent in the 16th century Pope Sixtus IV condemned both those who call it heretical to claim that our "glorious and immaculate mother of God was conceived without the stain of original sin" and those who called it heretical to claim that "the glorious Virgin Mary was conceived with original sin," because the Roman Catholic Church had not yet made a decree on this issue.
It was not until 1854 when Pope Pius IX stated that "We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful."
It would seem that the theological ramifications of Jesus being condemned to a womb infected with Adam's fall from grace did not sit well with the Roman Metaphysicians of the time.
The Virginal Conception
When people refer to, "The Immaculate Conception," they usually actually mean the."Virginal Conception of Christ."Though this is a very different theological tenet, the profundity of the confusion on these two points is startling among the self-proclaimed theologically literate.
The, "Virginal Conception," refers to the Doctrine that Jesus was conceived in Mary's womb by The Holy Spirit while yet a virgin. The Perpetual Virginity of Mary is a dogma stating that she remained a virgin throughout her life. This is doubtful considering that we have theological accounts of a "James, the brother of the Lord" (Galatians 1:19) and historical attestation by the Roman Jewish historian Flavius Josephus who also mentions, "James, the brother of Jesus," in his first century writing, "The History of The Jews."
While the bible is a highly questionable moral guide, to be generous, and logically self- contradictory on hundreds of point, it should be considered by all to be one of the most important pieces of literature from antiquity. So I encourage, especially those who claim to live by it, to read up and know what you are affirming when you dubbed yourself a Christian.