With Scripture and Reason's Response
with a tad of common sense
with a tad of common sense
Stan Williams, Ph.D.
Mary was just a regular girl with nothing special about her.
Don't make more of her than God did.
Mary is not the only person in Christ's lineage.
She shouldn't be considered more important THAN say the incestuous Judah,
the prostitute Rahab, or the adulterer David.
In Scripture, Mary is proclaimed as part of God's salvation plan before the world was created.
Rev. 12:1-6; 13-19
In Scripture, Mary is found as the only human being consistently mentioned and associated with the incarnation and the eternal plan of salvation from Genesis to Revelation.
n Rev: 12 (what we just read) - the woman is part of God's plan. 21 references to the woman.
n Gen 3;15 - the woman is not a spur of the moment concept. God sees time as we see space, all at once.
n Note: These two references are perhaps not coincidence to Jesus' use of the term to his mother in John 2
n Is 7:14
n Micah 5:2-3
n Matt (Mark?) Luke, John
n John 19:26-27 - Mary the mother of the church
n Galatians 4:4 - fullness of time - born of a woman
Mary was born in sin and she sinned throughout her life
just like everyone else.
This objection uses Romans 3:23 that says "all have sinned." and 1 John 1:8 says "If we say, 'We are without sin,' we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." "ALL" means just what it says "ALL, everyone, without exception…except Jesus of course."
The problem we face here is that there are other Scriptures that imply the opposite and
there are Evangelical doctrines that likewise believe the opposite.
there are Evangelical doctrines that likewise believe the opposite.
First, these verses do not refer to original sin (a topic to be considered later) but to sin committed willfully or by omission.
Second, to properly understand Scripture ALL of Scripture must be considered as true and a doctrine devised that allows for ALL Scripture and doesn't exclude some. So we must consider passages like Mark 1:5 that says the people of ALL Judea and ALL Jerusalem were going to John the Baptist and being baptized. The word ALL here clearly does not always mean everyone.
Third, there are exceptions that Scripture suggests other than just Jesus (and in the case of Catholics, Mary) who were born sinless:
-- Luke 1:15 says John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb.
-- Jeremiah 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I consecrated you…"
Fourth, there is the widespread Evangelical doctrine that holds that all children before the "age of accountability" go to heaven and do not suffer the consequences of sin. This Evangelical (and Catholic) belief includes: babies lost to abortion, miscarriages, still-births, and all early childhood death. It also holds true for the severely mentally retarded or comatose child.
So, before we ever get to Mary, there is not one exception (Jesus), but millions upon millions of exceptions to the use of the term ALL in Romans 3:23 and 1 John 1:8 as being comprehensive.
What then does "all" in these passages mean? The solution is a simple grammatical function true in English and Greek. It is the difference between the "distributive" function and the "inclusive" function of a modifier. All can mean "everything," OR "from all parts," or "all types," or "generally all," or "everyone currently before me."
In a similar vein, if "all" means inclusively "all" then when Luke says "nothing" will be impossible for God" (1:37) perhaps he really means NOTHING. Why is the impossibility of the incarnation possible but Mary being saved from sin at her conception, impossible? Is one more impossible than the other?
Fifth, regardless of how a particular Evangelical may interpret Romans 3:23 and 1 John 1:8, the Christian Church back way before the Reformation has interpreted these verses to be perfectly consistent with Luke 1:28 referring to Mary as being without sin. By the way, Gabriel names the Jewish virgin "full of grace." His words are not "Mary, full of grace." He does not use a modifier but a proper noun.
Sixth, Genesis 3:15 says that it will be the woman's seed (Mary's seed) that will bruise Satan's head. To the church, this Scripture means that Mary was not of the devil's seed or of sin, but something quite different.
Seventh, the church does not teach that Mary was divine any more than you and I are divine. (And we do have some divine attributes insofar as we are created in God's image -- and we will have more when we are glorified in heaven.) The church simply teaches that Mary's "unique grace and privilege" were granted "in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race." For just as a mother can clean you up after you get dirty, so also a mother can prevent you from getting dirty in the first place. The same thing can be applied to Jesus as Savior. He can forgive sin after it is committed and can prevent sin from ever happening.
Eight, we have the Scriptural record of Mary's life. At the annunciation she does not doubt as Sarah or Zechariah did about their miraculous births, but says YES. And while there are places Mary did not fully understand her son's mission, she is always there being obedient to God, and encouraging others to do the same. From Cana when she provides Christianity the best and shortest of all sermons—"Do whatever he says "—to the Upper Room praying with the Apostles for the Holy Spirit.
Ninth, we have the witness of the Early Church Fathers, some of who knew Mary personally. Their writings about her tells us she was above reproach, and honored more than others alive at the time.
Now there's more that could be said on this issue but let me go quickly on.
Mary is not the Mother of God and we shouldn't call her that.
In Luke 1:43 Elizabeth calls Mary the Mother of her Lord. And since Jesus is fully God, and the son of Mary, Mother of God refers to Jesus not the Trinity.
Mt 1:23 says Mary is the mother of Jesus, or Emmanuel -- which means God with us
Mary was not assumed into heaven.
There is Scriptural precedence in 2 Kings 2:11 when Elijah is taken into heaven, and in Gen 5:24 when Enoch is also taken without death.
But the church believes that Mary first died, and then was assumed into heaven. There is nothing in scripture that counters this traditional claim, and in fact there is evidence in Rev. 12:1-2 that John sees Mary (whom he cared for until her death) bodily in heaven.
We should not be praying to dead people in heaven.
There is one intercessor and that is Jesus Christ.
And we should not be worshiping anyone but God.
Matt. 22:31-32 (Mark 12) - Jesus says, "have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob!' He is not God of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong."
Rev. 5:8 - the prayers of the saints fill golden bowls that are presented before Christ…the one intercessor before God.
Ephesians 6:18 (as many others) commands us to pray and intercede for everyone, including the holy ones or saints.
Most Christians are correctly taught that prayer is simply communication or conversation with God. Communication and conversation does not necessitate worship. But there are other usages of the term. For instance, in English courts "to pray" is simply to make a formal request. That is how Catholics use the term, …whereas Evangelicals, since they restrict the concept of prayer to worship, think of it differently. For an Evangelical to claim a Catholic is worshiping Mary when they pray to her is to commit the fallacy of equivocation—same word, different definition.
Prayer in the sense of prayer to Mary, or any other Saint, is simply a request that is sent…perhaps taken by angels…we don't know how the request is received or processed. Some things are mysteries. Someday we'll understand more clearly.
The church believes that those that are in heaven are more alive than we are. They are glorified and no longer contain in them the effects of sin that leads to death.
Praying the Rosary is vain repetition and is fruitless
Read Luke 1:28, 42.
Explaining this is either very simple or very complex as there are books written on all its meanings and benefit. I'll take the simple route. Two short points.
The concept of vain repetition requires two words. Vain and Repetition. Something that is repetitious is not necessarily vain. In fact, Christ said that God will answer our prayers if we persevere, as any man would give his neighbor bread in the middle of the night because he keeps asking.
Catholic prayer goes beyond and much deeper than any prayer we practiced as an Evangelicals. I'm referring here to Contemplation of the monastic type. It is a deep prayer of the heart and soul that really does not require any words, but draws us closer to God's heart and mind. Although the Hail Mary is what is said during the Rosary prayers, what is actually going on in the mind and heart of the person praying is much deeper. The words of Gabriel and Elizabeth—the Hail Mary—are only the front porch of a mansion that teaches us how to live out the virtues of Christ's life that we learn from the 20 scenes in Christ's life we meditate on. It takes practice. Thus, the Rosary is one of the most fruitful prayers ever conceived and helps mold our character to be like Christ.
Jesus had brothers so Mary could not have been perpetually a virgin
There are too many Scriptures to take you through all of them. But here is the primary evidence that Mary did not have other sons or daughters.
John 19:26 - Jesus assigns the care of his mother to the Apostles John. Under the custom of those days, any other sons of Mary would have cared for her, not John.
Of the many passages that refer to Jesus' brothers there are several explanations
What Scripture never says. No person, such as James is ever described as James the son of Joseph and Mary, as many people with similar names are identified, e.g. James the son of Zebedee, or Mary the wife of Clopas, etc. A comprehensive diagram of these relationships shows that there is no Scripture that mentions the mother of Jesus as having another child.
But, by some traditions Joseph is thought to have been much older than Mary—perhaps a widower, and in fact may have had sons by an earlier marriage. If that was true, Jesus may have had half-brothers.
In Hebrew and Greek, there is no name for brother, as opposed to cousin, as there is in English. In Genesis 14:14 KJV, Lot is referred to as Abram's brother but he is actually Abram's cousin. So it is common to find descriptions of relatives or close associates (as in today's churches) referred to as brothers.
Protestants and Evangelicals are Right to criticize Mary and these beliefs about her.
Consider Rev: 13-19
To me this says that by attacking Mary, and discrediting her Providential and honored place in God's plan of salvation we are undermining the humanity of Christ, without which our salvation is jeopardized. This passage in Revelations (especially in conjunction with Genesis 3) says that the one human being that exercised her free will and enabled God to come and save us, was Mary…and that Satan knew that and so with the Reformation—a raging river of water—he has tried to discredit her by waging war on the Church. Rev. 12 makes it clear that Mary was of incredible importance to God, because that is where Satan has attacked.
It is wrong to build statues of her and honor her with feasts and observances
As a country we build massive monuments, hundreds of schools, and put on our money the picture of Abraham Lincoln because he made and lived-out a courageous decision that changed the course of history. We do the same thing with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and thousands upon thousands of other famous American personages. Each of these we honor in incredible ways including the proclamation of national holidays, parties, memorial services and countless television specials and books. Why? Because they made and lived-out a decision that bettered society for generations to come.
By comparison, Mary, made and lived-out a decision that brought about the salvation of all people of all history. She said yes to God and became the mother of our Lord through his gestation, life, suffering, death, and the birth of his church. Her YES ushered in the incarnation—the focal point of all history. She should not be worshiped as Christ is worshiped, but she should be honored far more than Abraham Lincoln or any one else we feel obligated to build a monument to. So the next time you walk into the Lincoln, Jefferson, or Washington memorials, or see the statue of Henry Ford in front of the Dearborn Library, or look up at the statue of Joe Lewis in Detroit's Cobo Hall, ask yourself if their decisions and lives more or less important than Mary's.
Much of this Mary stuff is just plain bad doctrine
because it isn't explicitly taught in the Bible
There are many things Evangelicals as well as Catholics believe that are not taught explicitly in the Bible. We've mentioned some of them here such as
n "the age of accountability."
n the doctrine that defines Christ's dual nature, avoiding many heresies,
n the doctrine that defines the Trinity and how the three persons interrelate,
n many of the phrases recited in the Apostles and the Nicene Creed,
n the prohibition against abortion,
n that the Bible alone is the authority for determining doctrine,
n the list of what books are to be included in the Bible,
n that salvation is by faith-alone,
n infant baptism or dedication,
n the form and structure of a Christian wedding ceremony,
n that the New Testament Greek for "young woman" actually implies and means "virgin."
And there are many, many others.
So, what's the problem with Mary? It's a matter of interpretation of the Scripture and the Sacred Traditions of the Church that matters, whether those traditions are Evangelical or Catholic.
But, here's what's important. All doctrine the church holds about anything must uphold, strengthen, and reinforce God's Incarnation and Christ's suffering, death and resurrection. While the church continues to refuse to declare doctrines that have not been taught or historically accepted by the Apostles and the Early Church, she finds no conflict in any doctrine that is fitting and supportive of the central truth of the incarnation and God's Salvation plan. In every case the doctrines surrounding Mary focus singularly on this most important of all doctrines: that God sent his son Jesus, who was fully divine and fully human, to live, suffer and die for the sins of the world, that he was raised from the dead, and will come again to judge us all. So, if it appears that something the church believes detracts from Christ then the Catholic Church asks you to study more carefully what it teaches, or get help from someone that understands it. Most likely there is a misunderstanding of Christ and his Church.
O Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of life, as you overshadowed Mary that she might be the Mother of Jesus our Savior, so work silently in our hearts, to form within us the fullness of his redeemed and redeeming humanity. Give me Christ's loving heart, to burn with love for God and love for my neighbor; give me a share of his joy and sorrow, his weakness and his strength, his labor for the world's salvation. May Mary, blessed among all men and women, be an example to us as to how we should live our lives in perfect obedience to you. And may our hearts be with her heart which is with her son Jesus Christ, your son, our Lord and Savoir. Amen.