To maintain our faith in the full humanity of Jesus of Nazareth, the Anglican Communion should not, nay cannot accept the Roman Catholic doctrines of Mary’s Immaculate Conception or her Assumption into heaven. These doctrines are not founded on Scripture and are but recent attempts to buttress a well intended but flawed Christology. If there is one thing to which all the New Testament writers hold, it is the full and complete humanity of Jesus.
Augustine argued that a Savior required to do the redemptive task of overcoming Adam’s original sin had to be different from Adam. The difficulty with that argument is that if Jesus was fully to escape the taint consequent with involvement in human nature, he would need to have entered the world without human parentage or from a mother who also was without stain of sin.
The Roman Catholic Church handled this so-called “problem” with the 19th-century doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. As promulgated by Pope Pious IX, the virgin was miraculously delivered unstained from the corruption of Adam’s sin by the intervening power of the Holy God so that she would not pass on to the Savior the effects of original sin. Salvation was thus assured. Jesus, the sinless one, was qualified by his origins to make the perfect sacrifice. Is this tortured? You bet. Is it necessary doctrine? No. Does it make theological sense? No.
This strange heterodoxy impinges on the faithful’s simple belief in Jesus as our guide and example. If Jesus entered into life without moral choice, he could not in a full sense be our example because he could not be tempted.
Our Christian faith does not ask men and women to walk in the steps of one who was not truly and fully a man. It would be a cruel hoax to think the fix was in and Jesus just faked his way through this mortal life. At the peril of a central tenant of faith in Christ’s humanity, this pious story of Mary is not acceptable.
It is probably no coincidence that the doctrine of Mary’s bodily ascension into heaven came out in 1950, at the high tide of Mariology, when Pope Pious XII also claimed Mary to be co-redemtrix with Christ, an embarrassment of enthusiasm that I’m sure is not possible for Anglicans to believe. The Assumption doctrine, too, is an expression of earnest but fevered adulation that is neither scriptural or creedally based.
Let’s hold fast to a Jesus both divine and human but case these Roman Catholic doctrines aside, where they belong.