Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next chapter and the four that follow, the Catholic apologist defends Catholicism’s “veneration” of Mary. In the first installment, Broussard attempts to counter evangelical Protestants’ insistence that Mary was not sinless with their argument from Scripture that “All Have Sinned.”
Broussard begins the chapter by reiterating the Catholic teaching that “not only was Mary conceived without original sin, but she also remained free from personal sin throughout her life” (p. 168). He notes that evangelicals object to this doctrine by citing such proof texts as Romans 3:23:
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
How could Mary have been sinless when God’s Word clearly declares that all have sinned? Broussard presents three arguments:
(1) Broussard contends that while the Greek word, pas, translated as “all” in Romans 3:23 can mean “every single one without exception,” it can also be used in a non-absolute, hyperbolic sense, i.e., “intentional exaggeration to make a point.” Broussard then presents several examples in Scripture where “all” is used in a hyperbolic sense, including Matthew 2:3 and Matthew 3:5-6. But what about Romans 3:10-12 that also speaks of the sinfulness of all:
“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.’”
This passage precludes all possible exceptions with the clarifiers, “no, not one” and “not even one.” Broussard points out that the apostle Paul was quoting Psalm 14:2-3, in this passage, yet in v.5 that follows, David refers to the “generation of the righteous.” Broussard concludes, therefore, that the writers of Romans 3:23, 3:1-12, and Psalm 14:2-3 were employing non-absolute, hyperbolic speech.
(2) Broussard then presents two exceptions to an absolute interpretation of “all have sinned” that he claims Protestants are bound to agree with: (1) unborn babies and young children who have not yet reached the age of accountability and (2) Jesus Christ.
(3) In his final rejoinder, Broussard notes that Romans 3:23 is part of Paul’s larger argument involving all of Romans chapter 3, that salvation is obtained apart from the Law of Moses. Broussard asserts that Paul’s statement, “all have sinned,” in its proper context, refers not to individuals, but rather to sin being characteristic of both Jews and Gentiles.
Let’s now respond to Mr. Broussard.
(1) There’s no argument that pas/”all” in Romans 3:10 and also ouk/”none” and “no one” in Romans 3:10-12 can be used either as adjectives signifying absoluteness or as non-absolute hyperbole. However, Romans 3:10-12 includes the significant clarifiers; “no, not one” and “not even one.” Broussard attempts to dismiss these phrases, which clearly signify absoluteness, as hyperbolic speech with his appeal to Psalm 14:5, but evangelicals are not fooled. The Old Testament saints were “righteous” NOT because they were sinless, but because their hope for salvation was in God their Savior. In Romans 4, Paul writes that Abraham was righteous not because he was sinless, he surely wasn’t, but because of his faith/trust in God for salvation.
(2) Evangelicals believe, as the Bible teaches, that all people are born with a sin nature, but that God won’t hold children responsible for their sins until the age of accountability (see article far below). Jesus Christ on the other hand was/is the sinless God Man. He is the Exception to Romans 3:10 and 3:10-12 by His very nature. Can Broussard claim an advantage in his argument for Mary by presenting these two exceptions? He actually fails to mention another exception. Evangelicals are also hopeful that God will pardon the mentally disabled as mercifully as He will children who die before the age of accountability. However, the Mary we read of in the New Testament was neither a young child, mentally disabled, or Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God. In fact, Mary openly acknowledged she was a sinner in need of the Savior in Luke 1:47, “…and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” More on that specific topic next week.
(3) In Romans chapter 3, Paul certainly writes about the sinfulness of both Gentiles and Jews in general and their shared need of salvation in Jesus Christ by faith alone. However, the clarifiers “no, not one” and “not even one” in vv.10-12 clearly refer to individuals, not to groups.
In the chapters that follow, we’ll discuss why the false doctrine of Mary’s sinlessness is so vitally important to Roman Catholics.
Where do I find the age of accountability in the Bible?
Next week: “Mary Needed a Savior”