I have some very sad news to report. Breigh Gallagher, the little 11-yr. old girl who many of you have been praying for the last several months, died Tuesday at Duke University Hospital. She had been through a tremendous amount of suffering this past year (for more information on that see "General Comments" in Issues #115, 118, 120, and 122 on the website).
She fought very hard, but apparently her little body just had had enough. She coded for 5 minutes a couple of weeks ago, but was revived and continued to fight. The bone marrow transplant from her little sister was showing some positive results, but the stress of the long fight apparently caused her organs to just finally give out.
Please pray for the repose of her soul, although I cannot imagine that she did not fly straight to the side of Jesus and was welcomed with a big hug from His mother. And also pray for her family - I simply cannot imagine the pain and agony they are going through at the loss of this precious little girl.
Finally, I want to add that in the last communication I received from Breigh's grandmother a couple of weeks ago, she said that one of the doctors treating Breigh had said that his faith in God had been restored because he had witnessed at least 3 separate miracles during Breigh's struggle for life. So, again, what seems initially to be a tragic loss of life, a defeat, could actually have been an occasion for the salvation of at least one soul, and possibly many more. We will know one day...
If you would like to read more about Breigh's life, this link will take you to her obituary: http://www.legacy.com/thetimes-tribune/Obituaries.asp?Page=Lifestory&PersonId=133393159.
Chapter 6 - Mary
There are several teachings of the Catholic Church in regard to Mary that Protestants often object to. Those teachings are:
1) The Immaculate Conception; 2) Mary being without sin her entire life; 3) The perpetual virginity of Mary; 4) The Assumption of Mary; 5) Mary as "Mother of God"; 6) Mary as "Queen of Heaven"; and 7) Mary as the mother of all Christians.
The Immaculate Conception
First, before discussing how to defend this dogma from the biblical, historical, and logical perspectives, let me state exactly what this teaching is: "The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin," (CCC # 491).
One objection I often hear when someone is challenging the Church's teachings on the Immaculate Conception is this: "Nowhere in the Bible does it use the words 'Immaculate Conception.'" The assumption is that for something to be considered authentic Christian teaching, it has to be found directly in the Bible. I addressed that in an earlier chapter, but suffice it to say that if that's true, then we need to also throw out Christian belief on the Trinity and on the Incarnation - because neither of those words is directly mentioned in the Bible either. We also need to stop with all the altar calls, Wednesday night church services, and Bible studies, amongst other things, because none of those things are directly mentioned in Scripture.
Someone might then say, "Well, even though the words 'Trinity' and 'Incarnation' are not found directly in the Bible, there is a lot of Scripture that directly addresses those beliefs. However, there is nothing in the Bible that speaks of Mary's Immaculate Conception either directly or indirectly."
When faced with that response, you need to first ask the question: "Is there a passage in Scripture which directly states that Mary was not conceived without Original Sin, or that she was not immaculately conceived?" They will not be able to answer you, because there is no such passage. They will, however, attempt to answer you by bringing up Romans, chapter 3. Rom 3:9-12, “…I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one.’” And, Rom 3:22-23, “For there is no distinction since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” “See”, they will say, “The Bible says that all are under the power of sin and that all have sinned. No one is righteous, no, not one." Therefore, Mary had to have sinned.
Don't get thrown off by this. You were asking about the Church's teaching on Mary being immaculately conceived, and they are responding to the Church's teaching on Mary being sinless her entire life. Point out the difference, tell them that you will get to Mary's sinlessness in a moment, and then once again ask the question: "Is there a passage in Scripture which directly states that Mary was not conceived without Original Sin, or that she was not immaculately conceived?" There is no such Scripture passage so they have to either say, "No," or remain silent, or bring up a passage that is unrelated to the question.
Then, you can say, "Okay, we've established that there is no passage of the Bible which states that Mary was not immaculately conceived. Since there is nothing in the Bible that says this did not happen, why do you have a problem with me believing it?" At which point they might say, "Because the Bible nowhere says it IS true!" To this you simply respond, "Do you believe contraception is okay?" Since most Protestants do, they will probably say, "Yes." You then respond, "But the Bible nowhere says that contraception is okay. So, the Bible does not say contraception is okay, yet it's okay for you to believe it is. The Bible, according to you, does not say the Immaculate Conception is okay, yet it's not okay for me to believe it is." This will point out the double standard that many have regarding Protestant beliefs and practices and the Bible vs. Catholic beliefs and practices and the Bible.
You can then continue by telling them you want to look at some Scripture verses that do, in fact, indirectly support the Church's teaching on the Immaculate Conception. First, go back to the Old Testament, Genesis 3:14-15: "“The Lord said to the serpent…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
This is a clear reference here in Genesis to Jesus Christ conquering Satan, bruising Satan’s head - dealing a death blow to Satan. And Jesus is the seed of what woman? This is the only place in Scripture that I know of where it mentions the woman’s seed, and not the man’s seed. We normally associate the seed with the man, not the woman. And, of course we know why it says "her seed" here in Genesis, because Mary conceived Jesus of the Holy Spirit – not of man. The Virgin Birth.
Again, the seed of "the woman" is described as bruising the head of the serpent - Satan. All Christians know that this verse is referring to Jesus Christ. Genesis 3:15 is often referred to as the proto-evangelium - the first good news - a promise of One to come Who will defeat the power of Satan. So, if "her seed" refers to Jesus, then who does "her" refer to? Obviously, "the woman" spoken of here in Gen 3:15 is Mary.
What else do we see in Gen 3:15? God Himself tells Satan that He, God, will put enmity between Satan and the woman, Mary. Enmity, in my dictionary, is defined as “hostility between enemies”. That is an amazing thing! God Himself tells Satan that He, God, will put hostility between Satan and Mary. That He, God, will make Satan and Mary enemies. If you have sin in you, can you say that there is enmity between you and Satan? If one is conceived in sin, or if one sins by willfully disobeying God and His commandments, then are you not in both cases on the side of Satan? If you are a sinner, aren’t you actually on Satan’s side, at least until such time as you repent and confess of your sin? So, the question is: If God Himself put enmity between Satan and Mary, how can anyone say that she was conceived in sin, or that she ever committed a personal sin? Did God not do what He said He would do? Or, was it that God put enmity between Satan and Mary, but Satan was stronger than God and occasionally overcame what God had done? Ask someone who doubts the Immaculate Conception to explain to you what it means when God says He will put enmity between Satan and the woman.
From the first book of the Bible we move to the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation.
[to be continued...]