Was Mary really sinless?

Roman Catholicism teaches that Mary was conceived without original sin and lived a totally sinless life. Why do they teach such a thing? Because Mary holds such an exalted place in Catholicism and is claimed to share many of the offices of Jesus Christ (e.g., Advocate, Mediatrix, Co-Redemptrix, Channel of all Graces, etc.), Catholics argue she must necessarily have been sinless just as Jesus was since they allege she also played a role in redemption.

But doesn’t the Bible say all men are sinners?

“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 become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” – Romans 3:10-12

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23

How do Catholics get around those passages in defending the sinlessness of Mary?

A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to the 1/15/19 podcast of the “Called to Communion” Catholic talk radio show and apologist, David Anders (above photo), attempted to deftly sidestep Scripture’s clear and unambiguous teaching on the sinfulness of all mankind, including Mary. We begin at the 48:35 mark of the podcast:

Tom Price, show moderator: This (question) is from Andy, checking us out on Facebook. “My brother-in-law and I are discussing the sinlessness of Mary. He used Romans 3:23 as a proof-text that all have sinned, including Mary. How do I respond to that?”

David Anders: So Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. What’s Paul’s point in the argument? His purpose in writing the book of Romans is not to speculate on the doctrine of Mary. Mariology doesn’t enter into the thing at all. He’s talking about the grace and “Judential”* relationships in relation to the Law of Moses. It’s just not even concerned with Mariology. And we use this kind of language all the time in an imprecise way. I remember Colin Donovan (Catholic theologist) used this illustration when he said, “Everybody went to the ballgame.” Well, NOT EVERBODY went to the ballgame, but you know what he meant. Or “Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore because it’s too crowded” as Yogi Berra would say. This is just colloquial language in how St. Paul’s speaking. He’s not making an argument about Mariology one way or the other. If you want to go for Mariology go to the Gospel of Luke.

Tom Price: Yeah, and don’t get hung up on the word “all” in this particular case.

David Anders: Right.

We can all agree that people sometimes use “all” as a generality without meaning every specific case, but was that Paul’s intention in Roman 3:23? The “no, not one…not even one” of Romans 3:10-12 precludes Anders’ sophistry. Mary acknowledges she was a sinner in need of the Savior in Luke 1:47. She also offered up a sin offering along with a burnt offering in Luke 2:22-24. Yes, Mary was a sinner in need of the Savior as we all are. Catholic apologists must deviate from the precise and crystal clear meaning of Scripture in this example in order to justify their doctrine of the sinlessness of Mary.

*Anders routinely invents words during “Called to Communion” broadcasts, such as this example; “Judential.”

31 thoughts on “Was Mary really sinless?

  1. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is not widely understood among evangelicals. Many, many I am afraid confuse it with the Virgin Birth. Which is sad, because they miss a chance to engage Catholics on what their church actually teaches. What I find is that we “all know they just teach wrong,” but few are able to articulate exactly what the issues are.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Wally. Unfortunately, the push toward ecumenism is muddying the important doctrinal differences between evangelicals and Catholics. Catholicism’s focus on Mary is bad enough but the most important difference is the opposing views on justification, i.e., Does a person become righteous before God by sacramental grace and merit or by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone?

      Liked by 2 people

    1. We can all agree that we often use “all” as a generality without meaning every specific case, but was that Paul’s intention in Roman 3:23? The “no, not one…not even one” of Romans 3:10-12 precludes any such sophistry. Mary acknowledges she was a sinner in need of the Savior in Luke 1:47. She also offered up a sin offering along with a burnt offering in Luke 2:22-24.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi brother if Mary was sinless and we know she was not but would it not stand to reason she would not have offered up that sin offering is she was sinless but she was a sinner so she needed the Savior and offer up that sin offering so Catholics are wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi brother, Catholics use sophistry to get around Scripture. They say Mary needed to fulfill the requirements of the Mosaic Law even though she was without sin in the same way that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist even though He didn’t need John’s baptism of repentance. But Jesus’ baptism was a foreshadowing of his death, burial, and resurrection.

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      3. I’ve seen Catholic apologists worm around that verse also. They say her sinlessness was ultimately a gift dependent on the saving work of Jesus to come, hence she also needed the Savior. A lot of sophistry.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It never ceases to amaze me how Scripture is twisted and tortured until they make it say what they wanted to say. And the blind agree and the deception continues.
    Thank you Tom for this post. The truth needs to be heard.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a poor handling of Scripture by the show host. Romans 3 is not about Jewish relationship to the Law; it is the chapter that in the contextual flow of the book of Romans is making the conclusion that both Jews and Gentiles are ALL sinners. That of course would include Mary who was a Jew. He also doesn’t deal with Romans 3 context before Romans 3:23 where in verses 10-12 it states no exception:

    “as it is written,
    “There is none righteous, not even one;
    11 There is none who understands,
    There is none who seeks for God;
    12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
    There is none who does good,
    There is not even one.””

    His explanation is not proper exegesis

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for weighing in. Yes, Anders hastily dismisses Romans 3:23 without mentioning the disambiguous content of Romans 3:10-12. He (rightly) assumes he can get away with this because the vast majority of his audience are not familiar with the text.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yup, it angers me as well. He brushes aside the objection to Mariolatry based on Romans 3:23 as literalistic nonsense while he deliberately keeps the more specific Romans 3:10-12 out of sight.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Flawed logic. If you interpret St. Paul to mean literally all men, then you must also include Jesus Christ who was born with full human nature from a woman that is being claimed to have original sin and a propensity to sin. Of course, we also know St. Paul’s teaching about the new Adam and new Eve which clarifies What is misunderstood in the tendency to establish belief systems on one-liners. Grasping at straws again.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course it’s ridiculous. But, you don’t see the reason or rationale nor understand the full body of Sacred Scripture. You’re misleading people and building up the Catholic Church as a power to be attacked. Satan desires to tear down the Church; Christ desires to build Her up. Whose side are you on? Pray on it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. RE: Pray

        I pray that the Lord open your eyes to the legalistic chains of your institutional church and that you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and come out of the RCC.


  5. All babies are born ‘sinless’. Sin is not imputed when there is no law (Rom 5v13, 7v9). Of course when the child reaches the age of accountability and the law of conscience activates and/or the child becomes aware of the written law, then sin revives (Rom 7v9(b))-because ALL are born with a propensity to sin. Mary knew the law and we have evidence that she broke the ninth commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness…” when she called Joseph, Jesus’ FATHER (Lk 3v48).

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