Too Immaculate?

Scotus and The Immaculate Conception and Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

(Recently revisited, August 2018)

Although developing an interest and sympathy for the theology and philosophy of John Duns Scotus there are issues on which I cannot completely agree with him. One point of argument is the status that he gives to Mary the mother of Jesus as having been conceived by “Immaculate Conception” without taint of sin and preserved from sin thereafter.

It is clear that Scotus’ view on Mary is very much linked to his view of the Primacy Of Christ (also in Bonaventure) that God’s original intention for the Incarnation was for God’s glory to be made present in Christ quite apart from the necessity of human salvation. It is because of this special-ness in bringing forth the Christ that there is the special-ness of the preparation of Mary to help that event take place. As Mary bears the Christ she has a special role in that divinely ordained event and is chosen for it. For Scotus this choice and will involves the special grace of preserving her from the taint of Original Sin.

It’s at this point that I step into my Protestant shoes because I think it is making unwarranted assumptions for which there is no canonical scriptural warrant. I also think it detracts too much from the possibility of God becoming human through an ordinary and fallible human being in need of salvation as much as anyone else. I would prefer an ordinary Mary, a potentially sinful Mary, through whom God reveals His radical grace to all humanity, including her. A Mary who gets things wrong and fails, even sometimes failing to believe in her son and his vocation.

It may be true that she finds favour with God because of God’s love for her and all humanity. Perhaps Scotus wants us to think that God’s radical love is given to her prior to her birth, to Justify and bless and specially sanctify her beforehand, because of what God would do later in her and in Christ.

But Scotus’ argument seems to go onto imply that following that special grace of status given to her she is also preserved from committing all other actual sins in her life. A prior graced status of being acceptable in God’s sight is one thing but I still believe in an ordinary Jewish girl, like all other potentially sinners as the womb of Christ, not a superwoman and paragon of virtue incapable of sin. I may grant some degree of thinking she may have been specially led by the Holy Spirit, intentionally more responsive than most of us. But still not sure of her complete freedom from sin and sinfulness, at least in her earthly life.