I was riding the eliptical machine the other day and was thinking about the Catholic teaching on the “Immaculate Conception” (as you do). Basically, the thrust of this doctrine is that Mary was cleansed from original sin so that Jesus could be born sinless. While we Protestants have always emphasized the virgin birth, we reject the idea of an immaculate conception. Or do we?
First, the mistake with the immaculate conception is that it misses the key miracle of Christ’s incarnation – that he can take on our condition, in the midst of its brokenness and sinfulness – and not be tainted by it. Christ sinlessly takes on our sinfulness. He does not need a perfect incubator to keep him clean, he is such by nature of his person.
Second, and back to the original issue, do Protestants have a version of the immaculate conception? Yes, I think we do. It might not be a blatant piece of of our conscious theology, but it tends to thrive in our subconscious theology. We think that God cannot exist in our brokenness so when we sin we try to “pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off’ and get our lives situated so that God can be near again. We think our sin controls God’s ability to work in our lives. We think God’s presence is ultimately predicated upon our own actions. We believe in a sort of immaculate discipleship – except this time we are the ones who are doing the perfecting. It strikes me that much of the moralism in evangelicalism derives from this mistake. What are your thoughts?
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10