Monday, August 30, 2010

The White-Ferrara Marian Debate - Some Follow-Up

On Saturday, August 28, 2010, Dr. James White debated Mr. Christopher Ferrara on the topic of Mary's alleged sinlessness and immaculate conception. While the debate audio/video are not (to my knowledge) yet available for purchase, here are a few points that I'd like to address.

1) Does Ineffabilis Deus lie about the patristic testimony?

During the debate, Dr. White brought up the fact that Ineffabilis Deus lies in claiming that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is something that was passed down from ancient times. Mr. Ferrara alleged that the doctrines that were passed down were simply doctrines that form some kind of alleged basis for the doctrine, such as the view of Mary as "the new Eve."

However, Ineffabilis Deus itself states:
And indeed, illustrious documents of venerable antiquity, of both the Eastern and the Western Church, very forcibly testify that this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the most Blessed Virgin, which was daily more and more splendidly explained, stated and confirmed by the highest authority, teaching, zeal, knowledge, and wisdom of the Church, and which was disseminated among all peoples and nations of the Catholic world in a marvelous manner -- this doctrine always existed in the Church as a doctrine that has been received from our ancestors, and that has been stamped with the character of revealed doctrine.
(Ineffabilis Deus)(emphasis added)

From this, it can be seen that the claim "this doctrine always existed in the Church as a doctrine that has been received from our ancestors, and that has been stamped with the character of revealed doctrine" is in direct reference not to the "new Eve" idea or any other pre-requisite doctrine or interpretation, but specifically in reference to "this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the most Blessed Virgin."

As Dr. White demonstrated during the debate, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception did not always exist, was not a doctrine that was received from the eary patristic period, and is not rightly to be considered a revealed doctrine (just as it was not considered a revealed doctrine in Aquinas' time)

2) Thomas Aquinas' (and Christopher Ferrara's) Reliance on Pseudo-Augustine

During the debate, Christopher Ferrara raised as allegedly a work by Augustine, the work referenced by Thomas Aquinas in the following sentence: "But as Augustine, in his tractate on the Assumption of the Virgin, argues with reason, since her body was assumed into heaven, and yet Scripture does not relate this; so it may be reasonably argued that she was sanctified in the womb." (Summa Theologica, 3rd Part, Question 27, Article 1)

The Cambridge University Press 2006 edition (essentially a reprint of the edition released by the English Dominicans in the 1960's and 1970's) provides the following footnote for that sentence: "Tract on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, in the Preface: PL 40, 1141."

The reference PL 40, 1141 is a reference to column 1141 of volume 40 of Migne's Latin Patrology (PL). In Migne's PL, one finds that Migne has designated this work as "incerti auctoris," meaning that the authorship is uncertain (link to evidence).

Allan Fitzgerald O.S.A., editor of Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, does not include the work in his list of Augustine's works, and the work is usually cited as "Pseudo-Augustine" in works that cite it.

For example, internationally renowned Mariologist (and Marianist priest) Luigi Gambero writes:
The text in question is one mistakenly attributed to St. Augustine, published in PL 40, 1140-48. It has been studied by G. Quandrio, Il trattato "De Assumptione B. M. B." dello Pseudo-Agostino e il suo influsso nella teologia assunzionistica latina, Analecta Gregoriana 7 (Rome, 1951).
- Luigi Gambero, Mary in the Middle Ages, p. 78, footnote 15.

3) Did Augustine Believe in the Immaculate Conception?

Ferrara seemed to assert that Augustine did. Luigi Gambero, however, writes:
There seems no doubt that Augustine considered Mary's exemption from sin to be a great grace. But what sins does he mean? Undoubtedly he excludes any personal sin from Mary. Is it possible to hypothesize that Augustine also intended to exclude original sin? Some scholars think so and make him a forerunner of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. A full treatment of the question would call for a lengthy discussion. To us it seems safer to adopt the contrary position, which is held by many experts and appears more in accord with numerous Augustinian texts.
- Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church, p. 226.

Obviously, as noted above, Luigi Gambero is a Mariologist and Marianist priest. I don't accept everything that Gambero says, and neither should anyone. If, however, a scholar were to have a bias to want to find the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as anciently as possible, Gambero would be one to have such a bias. Nevertheless, even he is willing to acknowledge that the evidence favors the position that Dr. White took during the debate, namely that while Augustine may have believed that Mary lacked any actual sin, Augustine believed that Mary had original sin.

4) Sanctified in the Womb Does not Equal Immaculate Conception

Although conception takes place in the womb, a child remains in the womb from conception until birth. As Dr. White pointed out during the debate, even among those in the middle ages who thought that Mary did not have personal sins, there were those who believed that Mary was conceived with original sin, but then purified of it.

Thus, for example, Catherine of Sienna asserted:
The eternal Word, therefore, was given to us by the hand of Mary, and of the substance of Mary He put on nature without the blemish of original sin, and this He did, because that conception was not of man, but made by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This indeed was not so in Mary, because she did not proceed from the mass of Adam by the operation of the Holy Spirit, but of man. And because that whole mass was corrupt, her soul could not be infused but into corrupt nature, nor could she be purified but by the grace of the Holy Spirit, of which grace indeed, a susceptible body is not the subject, but a rational or intellectual spirit, and therefore Mary could not be purified of that blemish, till after her soul was infused into her body, which in truth was so done out of reverence for the Divine treasure, which was destined to be placed in that vessel. For as a furnace consumes a drop of water in a moment of time, so does the Holy Spirit the blemish of original sin: for after her conception she was immediately made clean of that sin by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and was endowed with great grace. Thou knowest, O Lord, that this is the truth.
On the other hand, a woman named Brigitta (known as St. Brigitta among the Roman Catholics) claimed to have a revelation in which Mary said to her:
It is the truth, that I was conceived without original sin, and not in sin.
(source for these conflicting alleged revelations)

As we previously observed, Thomas Aquinas agreed with Catherine of Sienna, and against Brigitta (link to first discussion)(link to second discussion). Incidentally, when you go to the link to that first discussion, you will note Aquinas is trying to rely on Augustine again, but his copy of Augustine seems to have some interpolations. As Dr. White pointed out in the debate, this problem of having an inaccurate and distorted view of the patristic period was something that frequently beset Aquinas.

5) John the Baptist - Sanctified in the womb?

Multiple times during the debate Mr. Ferrara asserted that John the Baptist was sanctified in the womb. He insisted that the Bible taught this, and argued - in essence - that if God did that for John the Baptist, wouldn't have done that for Mary? As a first point, as I've discussed before, it's not clear that John the Baptist is less than Mary (link to some discussion of this issue). Indeed Jesus himself said:

Matthew 11:11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Luke 7:28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

But even worse for Mr. Ferrara, the Bible does not say that John the Baptist was sanctified in the womb. What it does say about John the Baptist is this. First, it is prophesied that he will be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb:

Luke 1:15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

Second, it is explained that when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, John the Baptist jumped within her womb.

Luke 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
...
Luke 1:44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

Nevertheless, although these very unusual comments are made regarding John the Baptist, there is no statement that John the Baptist was sanctified in the womb.

There is one Old Testament prophet who was described that way: the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

And finally, of course, there is no good reason to think that "sanctified" in Jeremiah 1:5 means "cleansed of original sin" or anything like that. It refers to the fact that he was set apart to be holy all along.

Thus, Paul similarly declares:

Galatians 1:15-17 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.

Yet it would be foolishness of the worst kind to suppose that Paul was kept sinless from the time he was in his mother's womb. Paul himself declares:

1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

And Mary herself recognized that she was one of those sinners by acknowledging God as her Savior:

Luke 1:47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

- TurretinFan

16 comments:

John said...

Do you know how many people attended this debate?

ChaferDTS said...

On the live stream I and others were only able to hear Dr. James White's voice clearly. I did like the information that Dr. White presented and was right on. I was very pleased he correctly pointed out to the so called claim usually made of Augustine on the matter. The usual problem is Roman Catholicism claims unanimous consent of the church father on things when when we read them we find no such thing.

natamllc said...

A couple questions TF.

One, were you present during the debate?

Two, it seems a pattern is coming forth clearly to my mind as I go along now these many months, maybe now the past couple of years, that when you get into debates with RC's, there arises somewhere in the debate the question of Pseudo-graphs of one kind or another such as the objection raised in this debate about Pseudo-Augustine?

It makes perfectly good sense to me that this should happen in light of what Jesus Himself said, recorded in Acts 26 by Luke, to Saul of Tarsus:

Act 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'

And we know who the god of this world is? He is Satan, who has been a liar from the beginning. So it should not come as a surprise I suppose then that this kind of housekeeping keeps becoming a part of these kinds of debates when you have one representing the Truth and the other not.

Damien said...

John - I was there, it seemed like there were only about 50-60 in attendance.

I'm also curious if TFan was there. Is it possible I was in his presence unknowingly? Anyway, good summary.

While driving home I thought of a question I wish I had asked Mr. Ferrara. He kept chiding Dr. White for having debates with fellow Protestants, but there was a quick admission on his part that was quite telling. At one point, he said something to the effect of "Liberalism is in the Catholic church as well, and we're fighting that now, too." That statement, combined with the fact that he writes for magazines like Latin Mass and The Remnant, plus I see he wrote a book against EWTN, just begs the question, how has papal infallibility prevented him as a Catholic from intramural disagreement? How would a faithful Catholic know if the views of Mr. Ferrara are any more representative of the truth than Scott Hahn, Mother Angelica, Mitch Pacwa, Marcus Grodi and others on the network he has written against?

Well, I suppose I'll never get to ask it. . .

Fredericka said...

In Anselm's Cur Deus Homo, Boso denies the immaculate conception: "First, then, how does God, from a sinful substance, that is, of human species, which was wholly tainted by sin, take a man without sin, as an unleavened lump from that which is leavened? For, though the conception of this man be pure, and free from the sin of fleshly gratification, yet the virgin herself, from whom he sprang, was conceived in iniquity, and in sin did her mother bear her, since she herself sinned in Adam, in whom all men sinned." (Anselm, Cur Deus Homo, Chapter XVI). Anselm himself wants to stress Mary's faith, which can hardly have been operative prior to her conception. He has her being purified prior to Jesus' birth, not her own birth: "Moreover, the virgin, from whom that man was taken of whom we are speaking, was of the number of those who were cleansed from their sins before his birth, and he was born of her in her purity." (Cur Deus Homo, Chapter XVI). He is very dependent on Augustine.

Fredericka said...

"So then, after the assent of the holy Virgin, the Holy Spirit descended on
her
, according to the word of the Lord which the angel spoke, purifying
her
, and granting her power to receive the divinity of the Word, and
likewise power to bring forth." (John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book 3, Chapter 2). Notice the Holy Spirit purifies her after her assent. Why, if she was already pure?

The guy who came up with this was John Duns Scotus. In his defense of the immaculate conception he refutes the church fathers who taught otherwise. I wish I could find his Lectures, that would list them all in a row.

Fredericka said...

TF, do you have Augustine's Commentary on Genesis? I can't seem to find it, but it says something like, "Levi fuit in Adam secundum rationem seminalem, et non Christus, - et ideo Christus non contraxit peccatum originale. Omnes igitur qui secundum rationem seminalem fuerunt in Adam, contraxerunt peccatum originale; et sic fuit beata Virgo in Adam; ergo etc." (quoted http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/marian/scotus&immac.htm). Ergo Augustine was not an immaculate conceptionist.

Fredericka said...

"For as justice was everywhere failing and the whole world was given over
to vanity and wickedness, if the Divine Power had not deferred its
judgment, the whole of mankind would have received the sentence of
damnation. But wrath was changed to forgiveness, and, that the greatness
of the Grace to be displayed might be the more conspicuous, it pleased
God, to apply the mystery of remission to the abolishing of men’s sins at
a time when no one could boast of his own merits." (Leo the Great, Sermon 32, I).

But at this very time - the incarnation - Mary could boast of her own merits, if she was without sin. An odd omission if Leo believed in the immaculate conception.

Turretinfan said...

Fredericka,

Thanks for your comments. I will be incorporating some of those quotations in forthcoming posts.

Regarding Augustine, he wrote three commentaries (that I'm aware of) on Genesis: one against the Manichaens, and two on the literal meaning (one of those was left unfinished).

This looks like it comes from his Commentary on the Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book 10 (Chapter 20, Section 35)

20. 35. Hic existunt illi qui traducem animarum defendunt, et dicunt confirmatam esse sententiam suam, si Levi constat etiam secundum animam fuisse in lumbis Abrahae, in quo eum decimavit Melchisedech, ut possit ab eo Christus in ista decimatione discerni: qui quoniam decimatus non est, et tamen in lumbis Abrahae secundum carnem fuit, restat ut secundum animam ibi non fuerit, et ideo sit consequens ut ibi Levi secundum animam fuerit. Hoc ad me non multum attinet, qui utrorumque collationem adhuc audire sum paratior, quam utrorumlibet iam confirmare sententiam. Interim Christi animam ab origine huius traducis per hoc testimonium secernere volui. Invenient isti quid eis pro caeteris fortasse respondeant, et dicant, quod etiam me non parum movet, quamvis nullius hominis anima sit in lumbis patris sui, secundum carnem tamen in lumbis Abrahae constitutum Levi decimatum, et ibi constitutum secundum carnem Christum non decimatum. Secundum rationem quippe illam seminalem ibi fuit Levi, qua ratione per concubitum venturus erat in matrem, secundum quam rationem non ibi erat Christi caro, quamvis secundum ipsam ibi fuerit Mariae caro. Quapropter nec Levi, nec Christus in lumbis Abrahae secundum animam: secundum carnem vero et Levi, et Christus; sed Levi secundum concupiscentiam carnalem, Christus autem secundum solam substantiam corporalem. Cum enim sit in semine et visibilis corpulentia, et invisibilis ratio, utrumque cucurrit ex Abraham, vel etiam ex ipso Adam usque ad corpus Mariae; quia et ipsum eo modo conceptum et exortum est: Christus autem visibilem carnis substantiam de carne Virginis sumpsit; ratio vero conceptionis eius non a semine virili, sed longe aliter ac desuper venit. Proinde secundum hoc quod de matre accepit, etiam in lumbis Abrahae fuit.

- TurretinFan

Fredericka said...

TF, thanks. Another IC-skeptic is Tertullian, talking about Jesus' refusal to go outside to talk to His mother and brothers (Mark 3:33, Matthew 12:50, Luke 8:21): “But there is some ground for thinking that Christ’s answer denies His mother and brethren for the present, as even Apelles might learn. 'The Lord’s brethren had not yet believed in Him.' So is it contained in the Gospel which was published before Marcion’s time; whilst there is at the same time a want of evidence of His mother’s adherence to Him, although the Marthas and the other Marys were in constant attendance on Him. In this very passage indeed, their unbelief is evident. Jesus was teaching the way of life, preaching the kingdom of God and actively engaged in healing infirmities of body and soul; but all the while, whilst strangers were intent on Him, His very nearest relatives were absent. By and by they turn up, and keep outside; but they do not go in, because, forsooth, they set small store on that which was doing within; nor do they even wait, as if they had something which they could contribute more necessary than that which He was so earnestly doing; but they prefer to interrupt Him, and wish to call Him away from His great work. . .And did not Christ, whilst preaching and manifesting God, fulfilling the law and the prophets, and scattering the darkness of the long preceding age, justly employ this same form of words, in order to strike the unbelief of those who stood outside, or to shake off the importunity of those who would call Him away from His work? . . .When denying one’s parents in indignation, one does not deny their existence, but censures their faults. . .How strange, then, would it certainly have been, if, while he was teaching others not to esteem mother, or father, or brothers, as highly as the word of God, He were Himself to leave the word of God as soon as His mother and brethren were announced to Him! He denied His parents, then, in the sense in which He has taught us to deny ours — for God’s work.” (Tertullian, On the Flesh of Christ, Chapter 7). Catholics have a love/hate relationship with Tertullian; he is an awful heretic when they dislike what he is saying, a Catholic when they like him. Besides I think he is too harsh in accusing Mary of unbelief, though as some here have pointed out, we do not go to visit living people lugging perfumes and unguents.

Jason Engwer said...

There are probable references to some of Mary's sins in scripture, and patristic sources refer to her as a sinner either directly or indirectly as early as the second century. Several Roman bishops denied her sinlessness. See here and here.

Coram Deo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fernando said...

And indeed, illustrious documents of venerable antiquity, of both the Eastern and the Western Church, very forcibly testify that this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the most Blessed Virgin, which was daily more and more splendidly explained, stated and confirmed by the highest authority, teaching, zeal, knowledge, and wisdom of the Church, and which was disseminated among all peoples and nations of the Catholic world in a marvelous manner -- this doctrine always existed in the Church as a doctrine that has been received from our ancestors, and that has been stamped with the character of revealed doctrine.


can't you see the difference between "illustrious documents of venerable antiquity" and "this doctrine always existed in the Church"... hummm? do you not? I guessed so...

Fernando said...

Whate tha problem on the "Reliance on Pseudo-Augustine"? Ain't many of the NT books Pseudo-someone? AInit he a Church father in its own right? Only because his anme was lost and someone thgought thate he was Augustine, does it make his thought less it is?

Fernando said...

"And Mary herself recognized that she was one of those sinners by acknowledging God as her Savior"... And that's also the Catholic believe... wahte are you trying to say? poor soul... al the other points you also made are so easely refuted... porr soul... Tradition is not homogenous, butt thate does not mean thate the theological meaning of a latter formulation was not preasent in a way or another in the mind of earlier Chrsitians... poor soul...

Turretinfan said...

"can't you see the difference between "illustrious documents of venerable antiquity" and "this doctrine always existed in the Church"... hummm? do you not? I guessed so..."

I think the real question is, what's the significance of that difference? My criticism was of the latter phrase, but the former may escape criticism only by being vague.

"Whate tha problem on the "Reliance on Pseudo-Augustine"?"

It's a claim that the doctrine dates back to the age of Augustine, when - in fact - the doctrine does not. It also attempts to lend credence to the doctrine by attaching his name to it, while he did not accept it.

"Ain't many of the NT books Pseudo-someone?"

No.

"AInit he a Church father in its own right?"

No.

"Only because his anme was lost and someone thgought thate he was Augustine, does it make his thought less it is?"

What makes you think this wasn't an example of a fraudulent forgery?

"'And Mary herself recognized that she was one of those sinners by acknowledging God as her Savior'... And that's also the Catholic believe... wahte are you trying to say? poor soul... al the other points you also made are so easely refuted... porr soul... Tradition is not homogenous, butt thate does not mean thate the theological meaning of a latter formulation was not preasent in a way or another in the mind of earlier Chrsitians... poor soul..."

All your soul-pouring aside, Rome doesn't teach that Mary was a sinner.

The issue isn't just that tradition is heterogeneous - the early patristic period is completely devoid of patristic support for the Immaculate Conception.

-TurretinFan