Thursday, May 19, 2011
A false problem
A question came up recently about the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IC). To Anglicans this is no dogma, but it is considered "a pious belief" that some Christians hold. "Pious" does not mean true, but that Anglicans are willing to tolerate it.
I do not have any intention of arguing the doctrine one way or the other; but, I offer critical thought about the underlying idea that it serves any purpose. To begin with, it is not a doctrine of Universal Church, even though the See of Rome, a single diocese, asserts its own ideas as "universal." The Eastern Orthodox do not teach it. Rome itself did not dogmatize the idea until the middle of the 19th century. Saints, including Thomas Aquinas, did not believe it, despite all sorts of sophistry employed to rewrite his position. The Fathers of the Church never mentioned it, and more so, seem never to have imagined a need for it. They never even discussed the alleged problem that it allegedly solves.
And, that itself is why IC cannot be a dogma. A doctrine that is wholly unnecessary cannot be a dogma (not to mention the fact that no such revelation appears in Holy Scripture). IC is the fruit of human speculation concerning an academic question. And, the question itself, especially when posited as a problem, presents a deeper problem still, and exposes a seriously flawed state of mind.
The same flawed state of mind is discernible in the "big rock question." You have all heard it: "Can God make a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it?" This is supposed to make us cringe, and feel deeply challenged. The same people who consider it profound are the kind who think that the El Greco Fallacy should be taken seriously. The El Greco Fallacy was used by a professor of psychology at Harvard as an intelligence test, to weed out students who lacked sufficient intelligence.
This is well described on the HSFP Journal website: