All Have Sinned


Q. This passage in scripture clearly eliminates any possibillity that Mary was without sin.

Romans 3:23...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

And also as seen in

Acts 4:10-12-12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”.

A. I would like to address the second verse submitted first. It is unclear why, since you gave no explanation for it in the context of the immaculate conception of Mary but I will take a stab at what you may have been getting at.

As a Protestant the sinlessness of Jesus was emphasized as being very bound up in salvation itself. Only one without sin could have been the savior of the world. And that is very true. But it is not true that sinlessness makes one automatically a savior. But that is the conclusion to which many jump when they hear that we believe Mary was without sin. It sounds blasphemous! As if we are making her a goddess–a member of the Trinity…uh quadrinity?Another Savior!

That is not what is taught in the Catholic Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. I even had a good friend question me after my conversion as to why Jesus had to die on the cross.

“Why didn’t God just have Mary crucified if she was sinless?”

My friend was serious because in the minds of many Protestants: Sinless=Savior. Or sinless = Divinity.

They forget that both Adam and Eve were created without sin. Most of the Angels did not sin and people in Heaven do not sin and that does not make any of them God. So sinlessness is a human trait that God desired. Mary is human. Her sinlessness makes her special but not divine in any way. And she is the mother of our Savior she is not a savior.

And further Mary needed a savior as well to save her from the stain of original sin. Jesus saved Mary from sin BEFORE she sinned rather than AFTER she sinned.

Is it not fitting that the God the Son would create His mother PERFECTLY PURE for His indwelling of her womb?

Now, as for the “all have sinned” passage. This does need some explanation for the Protestant.

First: If all means absolutely all, no exceptions then in order for Jesus to be fully human He would have sinned. But we all agree that Jesus’ humanity is an exception to the rule. But, if there is one exception, why not two? or three? Nothing in scripture specifically says Jesus is the only exception. In general it is certainly true that most people, nearly all people have sinned. But the passage does not state that there are absolutely NO EXCEPTIONS.

Second: “All”certainly does not necessarily always mean absolutely every single person without exception. In normal everyday speech we say things like, “Everyone was there.” The whole town came to the game.” “All the other kids have one.”

These are hyperbolic uses of “all” and “everyone” and “the whole town”. I don’t think Paul was being hyperbolic however. I believe he was making a generalization without mentioning exceptions.

Third: “All have sinned” cannot mean absolutely all, because babies and small children have not sinned. Until the age of reason they are unable to choose to sin. They may possess a sin nature, a fallen nature and be subject to sin but they have not actually committed sin of their own free will. Therefore they have NOT sinned. So, at any given moment in time there are thousaands of human beings who have not sinned….yet.

Therefore, the Catholic Faith teaches us and has taught us from the very beginning of Christianity that Mary was without sin.

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28 Responses to All Have Sinned

  1. Kevin says:

    Thanks for you relentless clarification of The Faith…. I haven’t the patience for it yet…

  2. happy says:

    you do such a great job! :)
    I think this has been brought up before, but also what about sinlessness of babies or the mentally ill?

  3. bfhu says:

    Happy, I mentioned babies under #3. Due to your or someone’s suggestions previously.

    And you are correct, the culpability of the mentally ill for sin is known only to God.

  4. happy says:

    Oh, yes, I see #3. Also, i was just visiting with a friend about it, Once we confess our sins are are forgiven(slate wiped clean) are we sinless until we sin again? Would there be little bits of time that all of us are considered sinless? Or are we considered still full of sin that has been forgiven?
    :)

  5. bfhu says:

    Happy,

    I don’t think so in the sense that we still possess the sin nature, which Mary did not have, and the temporal effects may not necessarily be forgiven yet. We are FREE of the Eternal Consequences of sin afte confession but to consider ourselves sinless…I have never read o heard it taught or explained that way.

  6. happy says:

    No, I really haven’t either. It was really me just throwing it out there. I would think it would only be momentary….” Hey, I am without sin… yay… I am so proud…whoops there I go again in sin….” ha. I know if we are sinless it is probably not long. So, being human is it thought that Mary (or even Jesus) had the nature or ability to sin, but the perfect alignment and relationship with God the Father would keep you from sin, just as we are all striving for?

    I know that those I discussed this with argued that even mentally ill or babies are selfish by nature. I would identify sin as an understanding of what is wrong and CHOOSING to do so anyway. If you are incapable of understanding what that entails then I would think it would not be possible for you to enter into sin. Basic Human characteristics aside I would think would be different from having an knowledge and understanding and choosing to do it anyway. Not realising that you missed a holy obligation day in all honesty, would not be sin. Knowing you are suppose to go and choosing not togo would be sin.

  7. bfhu says:

    Jesus being God the Son would not sin against Himself. I am not competent to answer if it was theoretically possible for Jesus to sin (maybe yes, since He had human nature but why would He since He is God?)….

    Mary could have sinned just like Adam and Eve. They were able to sin or not sin and they were immaculate–no sin nature–before they fell. But MARY chose with her free will to not sin.

    Yes, babies and the mentally ill are born with the selfish sin nature of fallen mankind. And they too need to be saved but they are unable to commit actual sin until and unless they obtain the ability to:

    1) Know that X is a sin
    2) Choose to sin anyway
    3) Freely, uncoerced

    Innocently missing a Holy Day is not sin.

  8. happy says:

    yes, that is the point I was trying to make.
    As you know it is not protestant belief that Mary was sinless. Is it believed Mary was sinless from birth? How did the Protestant faith loose this belief?
    :)

  9. bfhu says:

    Yes, the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary and her sinlessness from her very conception. It does NOT refer to the Incarnation of Jesus. I have no idea how Protestant lost this belief. Even Martin Luther believed it. Click Here to see a quote from him.

  10. happy says:

    Wow, let me add to this one.

    I was at a birthday party last night for my husband’s brother in law. Let me precede by saying this area is a tiny German community with 98% Catholic. This family has 7 children and all but one married Catholics from either the community or surrounding areas. (We live in a larger town 45 minutes away with a population of 150,000, so we attend 3 different Catholic churches, just in our neighborhood.) Out of ALL of these people(all cradle Catholics) not one agreed with me that it is a Catholic belief of the sinlessness of Mary!!!????? They all argued that they had NEVER heard that taught and that Jesus was the only sinless person! So, we are talking about people ranging from mid 40’s to mid 70’s , growing up in about 8- 10 different parishes and no one agreed with that teaching!Matter of fact they told me that I had misunderstood anything I had read on that, that Mary being sinless is not a Catholic teaching. I felt like I was in the twilight zone!

  11. bfhu says:

    Happy,

    I am shocked! But I think many priests have played this down. But we have a feast of th Immaculate Conception!

    Here is the Catechism:

    The Immaculate Conception

    490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.”132 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”.133 In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.

    491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God,134 was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

    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.135

    492 The “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son”.136 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love“.137

    493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature“.138 By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long. 2853 Victory over the “prince of this world” was won once for all at the Hour when Jesus freely gave himself up to death to give us his life. This is the judgment of this world, and the prince of this world is “cast out.” “He pursued the woman” but had no hold on her: the new Eve, “full of grace” of the Holy Spirit, is preserved from sin and the corruption of death (the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, ever virgin). “Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring.” Therefore the Spirit and the Church pray: “Come, Lord Jesus,” since his coming will deliver us from the Evil One.

  12. happy says:

    well, yes, thank you … I am not crazy!
    :)

  13. happy says:

    I think, like we talked about on BFHU, perhaps there is confusion to some on exactly what “immaculate conception” is. I think most perhaps equate it with “Virgin Birth”. Thinking it is one in the same?!

  14. Joel says:

    I have thought a lot about this but have not found a way to put it into words as eloquently as I hope to one day, but here is my best shot to date.

    As evidenced in John Chapter 1, Christ has an eternal relationship to time, just as the Father does. That leads me to believe temporal events he experiences are also eternal events. Given the process of firtilization, implantaion and development of a human in the womb, the dependance on Mary God experienced as He grew in the womb, and the fact that EVERYTHING Jesus is as a human came from Mary, she must enjoy eternal grace with God.

  15. Joel says:

    While I was doing my running around this morning I thought more about Mary and thought that she is the Living Ark of the Covenant. If I am not mistaken, that is also the position of the Church, so anything that the Old Testament says about the Ark can be applied to Mary as well.

  16. happy says:

    Joel, thank you. That is an interesting reference.

    I was in conversation this morning with a member of the Church of Christ. He argued that the Catholic Church is not the Church established by Christ. That the Catholic Church broke off from the Church of Christ.

    I don’t know alot about the Church of Christ, but I do know it is a relatively new denomination.

    Could any of you wonderful historians, rich in the Catholic history give me some specifics to give back to him.

    This is from Wikipedia:
    The History of the Catholic Church from apostolic times covers a period of nearly 2,000 years, [1] making it the world’s oldest and largest institution. It dates its beginning to the confession of Peter, and the establishment of the Church by Jesus Christ. [2] [3] [4] [5] Catholic doctrine states that Christ is the head of this Mystical Body, the Catholic Church.

    Thanks!
    :)

  17. Joel says:

    Happy,

    I would love to discuss Church history with you, but a combox would hardly suffice. The claim that the Catholic Church broke away from the Church of Christ is so laughable it hardly merits mention! You can e-mail me if you would like and I would be happy to send you some e-mails discussing the Apostles and development of the Church before the time of Constantine (Early Fourth Century). My addy is joeltg3@yahoo dot com.

  18. Robert says:

    Joel,

    Do you think this is “trail of blood” type history?

  19. Joel says:

    Robert,

    What do you mean a “trail of blood?”
    I think it is definately a continuous history that has been clearly documented from the time of the decent of the Holy Spirit on Pentacost up until today. Some of the First Century history is cloudy but there is enough there to delineate history and show it is an unbroken chain from that time to this.

  20. Robert says:

    I’m sorry for my lack of clarity.

    There’s a type of Baptist “history” which tries to show a “trail of blood” throughout the ages which marks the persecution of the true church back to the apostolic times. They sometimes claim succession via heretical and gnostic groups which were suppressed or persecuted in various times. In this way they claim to have a true historical Christianity.

    But it’s just fanciful. I was wondering if the history that was prevented to happy was along these lines.

    -Rob

  21. Joel says:

    Unfortunatley, I can not speak to the history of the Church of Christ. My sister and brother-in-law are members of the CoC. I should pick my sister’s brain about it, but I am not so sure how much info it would yeald. She would prefer to be Roman Catholic, but her husband wants her to stay in the CoC, so she does. I’ll get back to you on it.

  22. happy says:

    Hi! sorry, I haven’t had a chance to email.
    I just think the comment was that I was wrong to believe that Protestants are all break offs from Catholic Church. They said the first Church was Church of Christ. Established by Christ.(It didn’t get much deeper than that.) My mother is a retired Methodist Pastor and got rather tickled at that. I think most Protestant would agree that we are all from Catholic origins. I will research and study, I just wanted a fast rebuttal for him! The conversation started with my asking which service they attend Christmas eve or Christmas Day. The answer I recieved was we don’t celebrate Christmas!WHAT? I had never heard that! I thought all celebrated Christmas!

    I will get with you for futher dicusssion.
    Thanks so much!
    :)

  23. Nan says:

    Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t. One of my high school choir classmates was restricted to handing out music once we started singing any Christmas music.

  24. happy says:

    When I ask them further, Do you have a tree, have a dinner…etc. They said ” Oh we celebrate Chritmas, you know candy canes, gifts, trees, Santa.” You will not find any services preached on the birth of Jesus and the same for Easter. It always amazes me the amount of people who celebrate Christmas without Christ! I have an aunt and uncle who are atheist or agnostic, I am not sure and they have a nativity out at Christmas!!?? I am like What?
    I was just shocked, I thought all “Christians” celebrated the birth of our Lord. I did speak with a CoC member who said she attended her first Christmas season in the Meth. curch and spoke on advent and Christmas services and how she had felt robbed of this as a child.
    The couple I was talking to explained, well that is not when Jesus was born anyway and I supplied them with the “4 therories on the date of Christmas!” (Thank you, Fr.J)

    :)

  25. happy says:

    Hi Friends,

    Just a quick question. I am studying and I have two different sources as Feast of Candlemas -Presentation of the Christ. Feb.2 or Feb. 3. I have seen both listed. My calendar lists it as 2nd.

    In the Methodist Church, Ash Weds. is a service. I noticed on the calendar it does not list it as a holy day of obligation, is this correct?

    God bless, :)

  26. bfhu says:

    Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation. I don’t know about the dates for Candlemas.

  27. Joel says:

    I have not been able to reach my sister this weekend. Her family may have gone to her in-laws house for the holiday weekend. I did find a good article that highlights the major developments of the Church of Christ which was founded at the end of the Eighteenth Century. You can find it here:

    http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/who.html

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