Friday, July 14, 2006

Something About Mary

I was digging through some old articles I had filed away and came across one in Christianity Today written by Timothy George, a Southern Baptist theologian entitled 'The Blessed Evangelical Mary'. The article was an explanation of why evangelical Christians and other non-Catholics should pay more attention to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. You can access the article here:

I know, the title ain't exactly an American original but it strikes at the heart of something very dear to me, and to many Catholics. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, has played a unique role in salvation history in spite of many who have attempted to paint her as a mere box that incubated Jesus for 9 months. Some minimize her duty as a mother--she breastfed God, she changed God's pampers, she taught Jesus how to pray, and she played kick ball with God! In short, she was not some impersonal Jetsons-like robot that popped food capsules into Jesus and sat in a corner while He self-actualized. Mary was Jesus' mother--his ONLY mother chosen from all women born and to be born through all of time--and, as a good Jewish male, you can bet the farm that Jesus honored her perfectly. So why do many openly wish to erase her role from Jesus' life and ours? Many extol the greatness of 'reformers' like Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Zwingli, the whole time ignoring their undying devotion to Mary as the first Christian and as Mother of God. These men wrote sermons about Mary's necessarily elevated role in salvation history and did not hold back reverence and even prayers to her! Martin Luther put it best when he wrote:

Whoever possesses a good (firm) faith, says the Hail Mary without danger! Whoever is weak in faith can utter no Hail Mary without danger to his salvation.

Now I'll be the first to admit the excesses of some Catholics in their devotion to Mary. Heck, many Catholics have elevated Mary to a deity and attribute 'powers' to her that even she would scoff at. Great numbers of Central and South American Catholics have wrongly mixed their previous pagan beliefs, in which female goddesses were on par with male gods of the pantheon, and the result has been extreme Marian devotion, dare I say, worship. This is blasphemous and downright dangerous and the Catholic Church's official teaching authority has said as much. Let's be clear. Fundamental Catholic teachings about Mary are these:

1. Mary is not God. There is but ONE God, the Triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Labeling her 'Mother of God', if one understands the teaching, does not make her divine.

2. Mary did not save herself. She required a savior just as we all do.

3. Mary is nothing more than what God made her. The grace that God provided her to birth and mother the Son of God is a free gift given her by God, not earned by her own merits. The intercessory priveleges given Mary do not take away from Her Son's glory because Her Son is the one who bestowed them.

4. Mary does not compete with God, she points to and serves him as the handmaiden of the Lord. She is God's 'masterpiece', a perfect example of fulfilled humanity and, as the angel said, 'Full of grace'. When we look at Mary, we see God glorified because of the grace and goodness found in Her perfected. Still, let us not forget that if Mary says 'no' to God's proposition, the Son of God does not enter this world to redeem us.

And so, out of devotion to our Mother of God, I will explore the true historical teachings of the Catholic Church about Mary. Devotion to her did not start out of superstition, out of apostasy, or out of desperation--it started with Christ. One major criteria I had when I was deciding to follow Christ was that the teachings I follow were His and that they were true from the beginning. If a teaching existed as part of Christ's deposit of faith, it would be seen (in acorn form allowing for honest development or fully actualized) in the first Christians and their writings. Marian devotion, improperly understood, is a major stumbling block for new Catholic converts and is also a lightning rod for those who would assail the Catholic faith.


Blogger Rico said...

I'm glad to see the things you have posted here. I grew up around those who worshiped Mary as God. I think so many Catholics (or Christians as a whole) spend too little time understanding the meaning behind ritual and too much time practicing the ritual.

10:19 PM  
Blogger Ron said...

Ritual without understanding is idolatry, in my opinion. We begin to worship THINGS (routines, motions, memorized incantation, etc) rather than God. I've seen it in Catholic circles (too many hold up Mary as God) and in Protestant circles (too many hold the Bible as God). Liturgy has always been the way God's people worship Him but going thru the motions is precisely what Jesus was talking about when he hammered the Pharisees in Matthew's Gospel.

7:22 AM  

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