Another immaculate conception

Nathaniel Sharpe nts at BETHLEHEMBOOKS.COM
Mon May 20 19:49:53 UTC 2013

Benjamin and John, I enjoyed hearing your analysis on the origin of this
common misconception :P.
As a "lifetime Catholic" I can vouch for it being held (embarrassingly)
by quite a few of my fellow believers. I find it refreshing to read an
accurate discussion of the term, as the virgin birth/immaculate
conception mix-up irritates me with its implication that, to a Catholic,
the only "clean" conception is a sex-free one. Yes, we do have numerous
(and obviously repressive!) thoughts on how sex (which we think is cool)
can often be abusive, demeaning and inhuman. However, we are adamant
that conception is ALWAYS a beautiful thing and go to great lengths to
protect the resulting little bundles of life, no matter how they got here.

Just my two cents.


On 5/20/2013 2:16 PM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Another immaculate conception
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> That is essentially what I'm saying, though the first time I encountered this misunderstanding, there was a lifetime Catholic there who didn't know the correct meaning. I suspect this misunderstanding is widespread among Catholics, as well as non-Catholics and non-Christians.
> Benjamin Barrett
> Seattle, WA
> On May 20, 2013, at 7:04 AM, "Baker, John" <JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM> wrote:
>> I don't think there is any extensive misunderstanding as to what is meant by "virgin birth."  Mainstream Christians worldwide, Catholics and Protestants alike, believe that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus.  (Catholics believe that Mary then stayed ever-virgin, while the majority of Protestants incline toward the view that Mary's subsequent virginity or lack thereof is of no great theological interest; the Gospels say only that Mary and Joseph had no sexual relations until she had borne Jesus and that Jesus had brothers and sisters, but as early as the second century some Christian writers argued that the brothers and sisters were from Joseph's prior, otherwise unattested marriage.)
>> The difficulty instead is with the exclusively Catholic term, "immaculate conception."  It is natural for Protestants, knowing about the virgin birth and not knowing Catholic doctrine, to interpret the term in the most transparent way, which is as a reference to the conception of Jesus.  It requires some degree of theological education to realize that, in the Catholic view, there were two conceptions that were immaculate, albeit in different ways, and that "immaculate conception" refers only to the first of these, the physical conception of Mary.
>> John Baker
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Benjamin Barrett
>> Sent: Sunday, May 19, 2013 5:05 PM
>> Subject: Re: Another immaculate conception
>> I don't think we're in the same discussion.
>> The issue I am trying to address is: Why do people think that immaculate conception refers to Mary having conceived while being a virgin?
>> As part of the language learning process, people seek for terms that match the concepts they want to express. Children get hungry and seek a way to express that feeling; fortunately, adults also get hungry and push that expression at the children, and the children figure out that "hungry" is the way to express that feeling.
>> When people want to express the concept of Mary _conceiving_ while being a _virgin_, "virgin birth" doesn't sound very appropriate, and so they latch onto "immaculate conception" as an expression seems to fit logically.
>> Benjamin Barrett
>> Seattle, WA
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