What is the Anglican Church's view of the perpetual virginity of Mary?

Discussion in 'Theology and Doctrine' started by Tom, May 30, 2017.

  1. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    our divines will also typically accept most of the 5th, and parts of the 6th. The 7th council is widely considered to have erred. The Western Church of the time of the 7th council did not sign it; the Roman Catholics only signed up to it in the 1200s. The Reformation happened not much later, in the 1500s, to reverse their reversal........... What parts of the 5th and 6th do they not accept and I am pretty sure that the Roman Catholics signed on the the 7th a lot sooner than the 1200's
     
  2. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    The Pope and his legates approved of it. Thanks to a bad translations some Frankish Bishops were against it but then were ok with it when the Pope responded to them and refuted the response of the Frankish Bishops. Their work was then not published for another 700 or so years.
     
  3. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    If Lancelot Andrewes' statement is correct, shouldn't the belief be optional after all? If I understand correctly, Mary was declared ever-virgin at the 5th council (Constantinople #2) in 553 A.D. This is beyond the bounds of the 'first 4 councils' as well as beyond the 'first five centuries'.

    Looking to very early church writers, possibly the earliest writer we have is Tertullian, and he denied perpetual virginity (early 3rd Century). Origen, his contemporary, embraced the concept... but he had heretical ideas and was eventually condemned at that same 5th Council. It took another century or two for the idea to snowball, with official acceptance not coming until the 6th Century.

    Since the Bible takes precedence in our theology, the issue essentially is one of understanding whether the brothers and sisters of Jesus mentioned in the Bible were literal, full siblings or merely half-brothers and half-sisters (or, as the RCs say, only Jesus' cousins). The most plain reading would suggest the former, while the latter is certainly possible (but not obviously definite); in light of this uncertainty, it seems strange that a clearly debatable matter would rise to the level of doctrine, either for or against.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  4. Religious Fanatic

    Religious Fanatic Well-Known Member

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    Tertullian was considered a heretic, from what I heard. And didn't the Council of Ephesus also call her 'ever virgin'?
     
  5. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Tertullian was a Montanist for a while, and that counted against him even though he didn't stay with that heresy.

    I can't say for sure about Ephesus, but I don't know that they did. That council proclaimed Mary to be Theotokos, however.
     
  6. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Sorry I should have been clear that what I’m defending is the Virgin Birth. I haven’t researched enough about the doctrine of Perpetual Virginity to speak on the historical consensus regarding it. I confused the two in my initial post, please disregard what I’ve said.
     
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  7. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Why is this so called 'doctrine' necessary?

    Is motherhood ok but sex sinful?

    Why should Mary need to be perpetually virginal?

    Surely she could only be virginal in a strictly technical sense anyhow since there was absolutely no possibility that her hymen was not ruptured during the childbirth of Jesus her eldest son. So perhaps someone in the 5th century was disaproving of the idea that Mary ever had intercourse with anyone except God The Holy Spirit, supposing that it would in some way have negated their pious notion that Mary was perpetually sinless. As was Christ himself.

    Mk. 3:31, Lk. 8:19.

    There must be a perfectly good Greek word for 'cousins'. Mark and Luke didn't use it. They used 'brothers'. Why?
     
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  8. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Tiffy, you've hit the nail on the head. Perpetual virginity is only important if one wishes to think that:
    (1) sexual intercourse, even in marriage, is inherently sinful, and
    (2) Mary was sinless all her life.
     
  9. Religious Fanatic

    Religious Fanatic Well-Known Member

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    I guess it would make sense as an act of piety if she remained virgin to devote more time to Jesus exclusively, and not because sex was sinful, per se.
     
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  10. A Garden Gnome

    A Garden Gnome Member

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    If one takes the view that Mary was sinless all her life, then I think there is definitely a case to be made for her perpetual virginity. If you go by Augustine, then sex within marriage, whilst not being sinful, is something like "impure", because lust is an inevitable part of it, plus there is loss of rational control.

    Throughout history the Church has always recognised the purity of virginity (hence saints can be categorised in the RCC as "virgins"), so it makes sense to me that Mary would have been a perpetual virgin (Of course there is nothing wrong about not being one, obviously).
     
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  11. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    If so, then she wouldn't have followed St Paul's advice then. 1 Cor.7:4-6. Not that she had to, but it would have made her a bit of a special case matrimonially, calling the shots, so to speak and depriving her husband, unless by mutual agreement or medical/physical necessity.
     
  12. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    The notion that sex is in some sense 'impure', even within marriage, is probably a misconception of its role in God's plan for humankind. It would seem to me that men and women are perfectly designed by God, to obey the first command in scripture. "Go forth and MULTIPLY". So I would surmise that God created sexual intercourse, blessed it and declared it "Good". God designed it to be "pleasurable" for both partners and an ultimate expression of tender devotion and affection that the one should have of the other in a Godly relationship.

    But like most other 'good things' provided for us by God, we have often abused it, misused it and become obsessed by it, to our and our partner's mutual detriment, even within marriage. A healthy sexual relationship between man and wife is evidence of 'salvation' i.e. 'healing' of the rifts in relationship caused by sin and a restoration within the individuals of a God oriented purposefulness.
    .
     
  13. Liturgyworks

    Liturgyworks Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Whereas an Eastern perspective would disagree with St. Augustine on the basis of St. Paul’s authoritative statement as to the undefiled nature of the marriage bed, it is interesting to note that the canon law regarding sodomy (excommunication for twice the length of excommunication for adultery) tended to be applied vigorously to married couples who engaged in unnatural acts, and not merely against, as one might otherwise assume, homosexuals. Thus, a “healthy sexual relationship” is one that clearly does contain boundaries of conduct which should not need to be expressed explicitly, but which rather should be obvious. And in general, non-procreative sex is unhealthy, I think we can assert.

    There is also the related concept of “marital fasting”, which is to say the abstention from sexual relations during Lent, Advent and on fasting days throughout the year. This has historically been somewhat less strictly enforced and I think oikonomia would rule out its application in the West as a general principle. But in the Eastern church there is a definite “Lenten spirit” which is very proper for certain days.
     
  14. Religious Fanatic

    Religious Fanatic Well-Known Member

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    That's also a good point. They say when she asked the angel "How should this be, since I do not know a man?" meant that she was withholding her virginity even at that point, because if she was active in it, it should be obvious to her how this would happen. Yet, we should also expect to find some comments from Joseph asking why she was doing this even before she saw the angel, and any possible contentions they would've had over it.
     
  15. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    At that point though Mary was only betrothed, not married. It would have been entirely appropriate for her to remain celebate until the marriage ceremony which had not yet taken place. Betrothal was a serious commitment then, but not as serious a commitment as marriage. It could still be broken off under certain circumstances. Matt.1:18-20.
    .
     
  16. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    St Augustine was not the best judge of 'healthy' sexual activity because he had some serious 'hang ups' in that department due to his pre-conversion sexual activities. Even after conversion he continued to be a poor example of 'husbandhood' and remained a somewhat less than caring 'spouse'.
    .
     
  17. Liturgyworks

    Liturgyworks Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I think that such a remark is a bit below the belt regarding a Church Father, a man whose personal holiness and ascetisim is universally celebrated in both the Eastern and Western church. What is more, the sins committed by a person before their conversion unto Christ are totally washed away by baptism. Ergo, we should apply the principle Nil Nisi Bonum, that great Roman virtue, and dispense with all untoward speculation about the conduct of those late persons venerated in the church before their baptism and how this may have affected their post-conversion theology.

    But on this point I lament at the trend among the heterodox would-be Babylonian captors of traditional Anglicanism towards anti-Augustinian theology, specifically, the deplorable embrace of Pelagianism by some in the Episcopal Church USA and of Universalism by still others. These are pernicious monergist doctrines; the writings of Pelagius and of the contemporary Universalist, such as the people at the parish they dared to name after St. Gregory of Nyssa (whose beliefs were nothing like theirs, and who also along with his brother St. Basil the Great, is one of only a few Church Fathers, but certainly, very exceedingly important church fathers, who, one might assume owing to some pastoral neccesity owing to the perseverance of corrupt Pagan cultural mores, or the lack thereof, in Asia Minor, felt it neccessary to promulgate a canon condemning homosexuality in specific terms).

    The morality of the early Church Fathers is august and worthy of emulation, and people who would have us condemn St. Augustine for various reasons, or St. Cyril owing to the unholy alliance of Pagans and Nestorians from antiquity who sought to implicate him in the death of Hypatia, a practising witch who, unlike those wrongly condemned by Cotton Mather, could have been justly condemned on the charge of actual witchcraft, if this were the sort of thing the early church concerned itself with, which it was not (consider, for example, St. Ambrose of Milan’s furious protestation against Emperor Theodosius taking it upon himself to burn at the stake the heretic Priscillian, which had the effect of setting a template for numerous later offenses by the corrupt medieval church, including those by which Cranmer met his end, not to mention St. Jan Hus, who of the early reformers to be burned at the stake is unique in that he is also venerated as a saint by the Orthodox, along with his colleague St. Jerome of Prague), means that the blame for this abhorrent practice cannot be imputed to the Church Fathers but is rather the unambiguous result of Cesaropapism in the later schismatic Roman Church post-1054, from which the Church of England was one of many local churches that correctly, at the time, disassociated itself therefrom.
     
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  18. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Well said. St Augustine lived literally a more holy life than anyone in this thread, and maybe even in the world today. He also left a body of writings that was second to the Scriptures in teaching Christendom the doctrines of our Lord (far more than any other single Western or Eastern writer). A complete collection of his writings occupies a whole bookshelf.

    Wow? I didn’t know that. Amazing.
    Also, did you know that Jan Hus was asked by the Popes to attend the Council of Florence and defend his theses. He objected that elsewhere he was threatened by Roman authorities. They promised him safe passage upon the Word of God. When he arrived to the Council they promptly arrested and burned him at the stake.
     
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  19. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    All things sexual came to be seen culturally as inherently sinful. Complete chastity became elevated. In the church, monastic orders and vows of celibacy began to flourish. A connection was made between sex and the sin of Adam & Eve in the Garden. In conjunction with this puritanical movement, Mary's life became reevaluated and redefined, particularly in the 3rd Century and beyond (centuries after everyone with actual knowledge of her life had passed).

    In addition, certain writings which clearly were influenced by Gnostic heretical thinking began to circulate. The Protevangelium of James, the Book of Mary's Repose, the Pistis Sophia, the Gospel of Bartholomew, and the Six Books Dormition Apocryphon trace a timeline of growing Marianism while simultaneously exhibiting progressively greater Gnostic influences and increasingly extra- and un-Biblical allegations of fact within the writings.

    You are correct in noting the link between the idea of Mary's sinlessness and the idea of her perpetual virginity. This link is actually a crucial point. The reason the Roman church developed the concept of Mary's sinlessness came about, part and parcel, with their concept of her ever-virgin status.

    But what is the point, the purpose, the importance of regarding Mary in this light? Mary herself said she rejoiced "in God my Savior." She tarried in the upper room with all the other disciples (followers) and received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Scripture tells us that "all have sinned" with the lone exception of Jesus; thinking that Mary was another exception flies in the face of scripture truth, and it should never have risen above the level of idle speculation; instead, the Roman church lifted it to the status of 'settled' doctrine! So I ask, why was it so important for the Roman church to do this? Why, the did it to elevate Mary herself above all others, of course. And what did the Roman church gain by doing this? In an era when Christianity suddenly went from being outlawed to being made virtually the state religion, in an era when it suddenly became socially acceptable as well as socially advantageous to become 'a member of the club' (so to speak), many new "converts" (I use the term very loosely) brought religious baggage with them. Goddess worship had been a prominent feature in the previous anti-Christian society, and having a goddess-like figure in the Christian church served to help people feel comfortable with their transition. In that era, not only were more and more pagans joining the church, but we can be quite certain that some pagans inevitably became ordained leaders in the church. (Horrible to contemplate, but we see it happen in today's churches, so why be surprised that Satan would have some success in worming his way into the ranks?)

    Once things began flowing vigorously in this Marian direction, there was no turning back; the Roman church will never admit its mistakes in doctrine or the fallibility of its Magisterium. Instead the rushing waters enlarged the channel over time. Mary became seen as ever-virgin, and that enabled her to be seen as sinless, and that necessitated the idea of her immaculate conception and enabled the belief in her bodily assumption into heaven. Mistakes snowball, and this mistake turned into the mother of all snowballs. Today a great many RCs think that Mary is Co-Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix with Jesus, and the RC rosary contains 10 prayers to Mary for every 1 prayer to God! This is what the 'ever-virgin' and 'sinless' idealogical seeds bore as their fruit.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2019
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  20. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Recalling historical fact is rarely if ever 'below the belt' IMO. Even my rector has remarked on Augustine's wild-oats-sowing earlier in life. At the same time, my rector thinks Augustine one of the smartest and best theologians who ever lived.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2019