Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Biblical Christianity Statement on Mary

I read with mixed emotions — almost all bad — Chuck Colson's reflections on the passing of apostate Lutheran Richard John Neuhaus, co-perpetrator with him of ECT. Among other troubling and baffling things, Colson bubbles that the dithering of ECT has continued apace. Particularly, "We've been dealing with Mary for the last year and a half."

My. For a year and a half.

Well, I'm always willing to help.

So let me just step up and slice the Gordian knot for them. Here's my statement on Mary:
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a pivotal yet relatively minor figure in the New Testament, of no more ongoing direct personal impact on the lives of Christians than any other exemplary (yet flawed) redeemed sinner depicted in the Bible.
There. Done.

Glad to be of help.

PS — you might find amusement in this old post on B2W, and my comments on it. Doesn't look like I've shifted much.


Anonymous said...

And to think people have written books on the subject.

Your statement on Mary saved a lot of trees.

DJP said...

I'm all about the environment, bro.

Physical and doctrinal.

VcdeChagn said...

Dan, you're assuming Chuck is talking about Mary the mother of Jesus in this quote. Determining WHICH Mary is being discussed will add at least another year to the discussion.

Someone needs to do a study on the faith of the various Marys in the NT.

JackW said...

... had a little Lamb.

Worthy is the Lamb.

Becky, slave of Christ said...

I remember years ago hearing some guy on the radio (to be specific) say that Catholics have been "grafted in". Apparently the people who think so have not attended a Catholic funeral in a while.

My husband comes from a huge family, many of which are Catholic. Their weddings and funerals are always tough events.

We just attended a funeral last weekend and somewhere in the midst of the pagan ritual, there were moments where we did get to hear about this beloved aunt's life, but the mass was oppressive and heartbreaking.

They pray to Mary and the saints. They speak with confidence that, because of the good works of the one who died, she will have no trouble gaining entrance into heaven.

When they read Scripture (and they do) I pray that God will let those words penetrate the souls of any of His elect who might be floundering there.

The one thing that we were encouraged by was how few actually went forward for communion. It revealed to us many family members who are not practicing Catholics.

Thanks for the post Dan.

ThirstyDavid said...

Well thanks, Dan. You've just saved me years of arduous research.

Daniel said...

My favorite Mary quote is Luke 1:46-47 for obvious reasons.

Stefan said...

Luke 1:38 is pretty good, too.

The verification word is "piteto." Is that like a potato, but not?

RT said...

Yes, it is awfully fun to "proof-text" -Try Luke 1:48- "from now on all generations will call me blessed." Reminds me of the Ave Maria. Forgive my Anglican intrusion but I think the devaluation of one whom God chose out of millions to be the vessel of the incarnation is less than scriptural. Dan's point about "no more ongoing direct personal impact, etc." goes to the true heart of the matter of Marian idolatry without, I believe, detracting from the honor rightly due to her memory as one who responded obediently to God's call at a truly "pivotal" moment in salvation history.

Mike Riccardi said...

...one whom God chose out of millions...

What's special about the one God chose? Unless she did something better than others, that she was chosen is no reason to "honor" or "value" her.

Remember those other "chosen" people of God... you know... the not many mighty, wise, noble, the foolish, the base, and the things that "are not".

Being chosen is no hat tip to anything in the one chosen. It's cause for praise, but praise to the God who chose, not to the broken vessel whom He chose.

Oh, and my favorites are John 2:1-4, and Matthew 12:46-50.

DJP said...

I think Mary was a remarkable woman. The faith she showed in response to the terrifying, shattering word from God through Gabriel shows a towering faith, and the Magnificat reveals a command of Scripture most Christians couldn't touch. She was a redeemed sinner whose responses displayed strong grace and faith. I do consider her to be blessed.

But of course, considering her blessed and addressing prayer to her in a tacit attribution of deity are worlds removed from each other.

I think the good woman herself would be horrified to her very soul, to see what's been done with her in Romanism or anything like it. I think she'd say as she said: "Do whatever He tells you" (John 2:9).

Pivotal, remarkable, but relatively minor, compared to the space the Holy Spirit devoted to Jesus, Paul, and the apostles.

Solameanie said...

Colson's been soft on Catholicism for some time. I don't know why evangelicals even bother to try with these "ecumenical" exercises. The usual outcome is that the evangelical compromises, while Rome stands unchanged. "Come home to Rome" is their ultimate goal.

I think it's high time Rome did some doctrinal adjusting, and I'm not interested in talking until they do. They can start with justification.

Daniel said...

Dan! Are you suggesting that we ought not to worship other sinners saved by grace???

DJP said...

It is a thought I had, yes.

RT said...

Mike -

Even supposing, as perhaps you do, that God chose Mary by flipping a coin, it was her response to God's choice that is both remarkable and worthy of praise and emulation. I simply hate to see such a fine example of humility, patience and obedience cast aside in exaggerated response to Roman excess.

It is, moreover, hasty at best to suppose that God's choices are made irrespective of the characteristics of the one chosen. St. Paul's towering intellect, St. Luke's writing ability, Joshua's military prowess were all characteristics created, redeemed and used by God and must, in my view, be recognized as interwoven with God's purpose in choosing the instruments of His divine will.

Susan said...

(Typo, Dan? It's NeuhauS.)

I was on my way home some days ago listening to Colson's radio snippet ("Breakpoint"), and he was commenting on Neuhaus's passing and the ECT. He spoke of not looking for differences but for common ground of faith between Catholics and Protestants (hence ECT), and I remember thinking, "Heresy!" Perhaps devout and practicing Catholics would have thought the same thing I did, except from a different vantage point. The difference in Mariology, for one, would be an elephant in the room that few can ignore.

And Dan, you said:

"I think the good woman herself would be horrified to her very soul, to see what's been done with her in Romanism or anything like it. I think she'd say as she said: 'Do whatever He tells you' (John 2:9)."

Agreed to the nth power--although, in a very odd way, wouldn't it be fair to say that the Catholics' worship of her is almost a divine affirmation of Luke 1:48, albeit misguided on their part? How inscrutable the ways of the Lord to honor those He has chosen!

Susan said...

And, Becky, thanks for sharing about the funeral you attended. I had to attend one myself late last year, and yes, it was very painful for me as well. It was for an elderly member of a friend's family, and she was someone dear to me, but I never really had the courage to ask about her faith. Her funeral rituals had no life in them, and the idea of family members can do penance for the deceased saddened me. I most certainly hope that there are some who do read Scripture on their own and be convicted by it, and that my elderly friend was one of them....

Wascally Wepublican said...

I think this somehow fits what do you say to a young christian that keeps sending you stuff like this http://www.theinterviewwithgod.com/??

DJP said...

Susan, thanks for the typo correction.

And I'd have to say no. The apostles tore their robes with horror when the crowds tried to honor them as gods (Acts 14:14ff.). I think Mary would be no less appalled.

Susan said...

I'm not saying she wouldn't be appalled--I agreed with your assessment of her would-be reaction. What I'm saying is that generations are indeed calling her blessed (whether she would like it or not, whether they are doing it the right way or not, whether God wants them to do so or not). I wasn't looking at the absurdity of Mary-worship but instead at the reality of it. This is why I tried to qualify my point with "in a very odd way"--it is ironic that the reality of Mary-worship echos Mary's words (not her motives) in Luke 1:48.

Susan said...

(Sorry, I hope I wasn't sounding too contentious for the sake of clarification.)

(On a completely different note, my word verification is "nuler". Could that be short for "new ruler"? Wonder if they updated this for the new administration....)

Mike Riccardi said...


I suppose we can only speculate about God's choice of Mary to bear the Messiah.

But in terms of divine election unto salvation, we know that Scripture teaches that God chooses His people irrespective of anything in them.

Also, it is not, as you flippantly suggest, that God "flips a coin." There are reasons, but are known only to God Himself, and are not based upon anything about the people themselves (cf. Rom 9).

NoLongerBlind said...

Wow--I always thought that Mary was chosen because she was able to be "The Immaculate Conceiver". =;)

A friend on mine asked a priest about that once, saying something like "If Mary had to be sinless, so that Jesus could be born without sin, how is it that she was sinless?"

The priest was understandably stumped... sad, very sad......

lee n. field said...

"Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a pivotal yet relatively minor figure in the New Testament,..."

Well said, sir, well said.

(Yes, I have seen Catholic comment on Colson/Neuhaus/ECT: http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2009/01/were-charles-colsons-comments-justified.html . "One of several reasons this makes me a bit huffy is that it's not at all evident (far from it!) that what an Evangelical such as Colson believes about justification, faith, and charity is what Luther believed.")

Gilbert said...

And then there's this:


That was one of the "top stories" on our local news this morning on the radio...

So why doesn't the Catholic church strongly rebuke garbage like that?

Just asking.

RT said...

Mike -

Well, if I were referring to "divine election unto salvation" presumably I would have said so. Instead I was referring to God's choice of instrumentality, between which and the characteristics of which there is evidently (and I use that word carefully) a connection. As to divine election unto salvation I presume we are in violent agreement.

DJP said...

If I'm understanding... well, everything, correctly, I think Spurgeon would agree with the point RT is making.

Nature and grace seem to confluesce in the tasks to which God puts us. I was actually startled to hear how much Spurgeon applied this principle in his giving thumbs-up or thumbs-down to pastoral aspirants, and actually feel like he could be a bit precipitous and cruel.

But (for instance) if a candidate had a sunken, small chest, he'd say "No" to him - because the man couldn't get enough breath to preach.

And no doubt God used Luke's and Paul's learning, and Jeremiah's and Ezekiel's very differing characters, in His purposes.

I would hasten to say, though, that He's equally free to use a person despite marked weaknesses, and all the more to His glory. I call in witness Moses' stuttering, or whatever his speech-impediment was. His grace is made perfect in weakness.

Mike Riccardi said...

I guess I hear that, guys.

But I'm more hesitant to make qualitative distinctions in God's choosing, whether it be for salvation or for "instrumentality," as we're putting it.

I would more quickly declare that God had actively endowed Luke, Paul, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel with those qualities that were so useful in achieving His purposes, than I would say that God, seeing the fitness of these men's skill levels, abilities, and personalities, on that basis chose them from among others for their particular tasks.

Bringing it back to Mary, can her example of believing be appreciated and used to exhort others to similar obedience? Of course. Without a doubt. But God Himself worked even those things in Mary, such that only He can be "valued," "honored," and praised for it.

As far as what Spurgeon said, I've read similar things as well, specifically about the man with the small chest. That was an obvious impediment for preachers who had no advantage of a sound amplification system. I believe Spurgeon was just acknowledging the reality that (and he himself has put it this way) if God meant a man to fly He would have given him wings.

God meant Mary, Luke, Paul, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and the host of others, to fly. So He gave them wings. I'm just cautioning us about admiring too much, and for its own sake, the beauty of the bird in flight, rather than the One who graciously gives these things to wretches.

DJP said...

I thought I anticipated that when I said that "nature and grace seem to confluesce." Nature is created by God.

Spurgeon himself is an example. By the time he was converted at 15, the Biblical and theological study he'd already done would, I daresay, dwarf many pulpiteers today. He used the information and culture he accumulated after Christ had mastered it all through redemption. But God was the giver of both.

Aaron said...

I'd like to know why Catholics refer to Mary as the blessed virgin Mary. Where do they think Mary's other sons came from?

Solameanie said...

I find the notion of "co-redemptrix" and "mediatrix" doubly appalling. As if what Christ did on the cross wasn't good enough.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I think Mary, mother of Jesus, would be appalled that she would be a point of disunity among those claiming to follow Christ.

DJP said...

I think she'd be appalled that she was even an issue, or mentioned more frequently than expositions on the relatively few passages bearing her name, or explications of the Incarnation.

Becky, slave of Christ said...

"Where do they think Mary's other sons came from?"

A friend of mine, who grew up in the Catholic church, said she was always taught that in Mark 6:3 the words for brothers and sisters there can also mean cousins.

Twisting Scripture to fit a particular system of belief and the tradition of doing so finds its origin all the way back in Genesis 3 with the father of lies.

RT said...

There is actually an amusing footnote in the Catholic Study Bible at the first verse (I don't remember where that is) that mentions the brothers of Jesus. Of course the text is rendered "cousins" and the footnote explains that this translation is possible but then goes on to say something like "the rendering of the word as 'brothers' would not be in question were it not for the Church's doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary." !

DJP said...

As the kids might say, "True dat."