Monday, August 24, 2009


(theology as it relates to Mary, the mother of Jesus)
I would like to categorize this as tension, or even simple theology. Mariology should be a minor issue which Christians can disagree on peaceably.

For me, one of the criteria for distinguishing "heterodox" (strange teaching) and "heresy" (dangerous teaching) is the net effect on our faith and behavior.

It is with this in mind that I must say that the most common forms of Mariology are dangerous, based on the outcomes it has had in people's lives.

This is all driven by an article linked on Insight Scoop (which is apparently from 2006, I have to be careful, they sometimes rerun articles - I got all in a huff about an article, until I realized I had already done that one!).

Also relevant is that I am trying to finish the Orthodox Study Bible (yes, from last year, the thing is enormous).
  1. "our spiritual mother" - I don't think there is any Biblical basis for this (no, John 19:27 does not count, I think I'll have to do another post on hermeneutics). Our spirits are born through the Holy Spirit - it's hard to imagine how Mary is involved at all
  2. "a type of the Ark of the Covenant" - The Ark held the Law, and was fatal to the touch. Not sure if you want that image, and I have no idea how to justify it.
  3. Confusion between Mary and the Church. Perhaps the most dangerous, it confuses an individual with a group. Placing Mary as Bride of Christ, Queen, and ruler - elevating her to be an equal with Christ.
  4. "Theotokos" (especially popular with the Orthodox) can mean "Christ bearer", which is certainly fit. It can also mean "Mother of God", which is certainly wrong. Mary is the mother of Jesus, and Jesus is God. That does not mean Mary is the mother of God. God is eternal, and has no mother.
Maybe we need to review some code. We had:
class Jesus : public God, public Man {};

Let's add
class Man : public Person
Woman *mother_;

Jesus only has a mother through Man::mother_, on the God:: side there is nothing there...

Ok, so where is the danger? Don't women need someone to look up to and identify with?

I've touched some on the danger of elevating Mary to being equal with God. This is also at work when Mary is called "co-redemptrix" (an idea which can range from a little odd to a lot disturbing - "Mary, though conceived and born without the taint of sin, participated in a marvelous way in the suffering of her divine Son, in order to be Co-Redemptrix of humanity" JPII - a lot disturbing).

There can develop a feeling that God and Jesus are unreachable, distant - or even, disinterested. That we must appeal to Mary as an authority in motherhood, to convince her son to help us.

Also, we have Marian apparitions. This is actually a large thrust of my argument, and I am running long. It will have to wait until tomorrow...


TheDen said...

Hello Ned,

I understand that Mary’s role in salvation history is hard to grasp for a protestant but it’s actually very sound and has been taught since the beginning of the Church. You touched on a lot and I have responded in kind. In regards to your objections:

“Our Spiritual Mother”

As I’ve mentioned before, as we are united in Christ—through Baptism into His death (per Romans) then Mary is our spiritual mother as she is the mother of Christ. Since we are united to Him, then she is our mother as well.

John 19:27 is very relevant. To understand the significance, you have to think about the circumstances. Around Jerusalem, you have the 12 apostles and these apostles are all scattered about in hiding. One has betrayed Jesus, one has denied Him three times and nine others are nowhere to be found. ONE apostle is at the foot of the cross watching Him suffer and die. That apostle loved Jesus enough to risk His life to be with Christ during His suffering and death.

In our spiritual journeys, we have to ask ourselves which apostle represents us. Are we like Peter who claims to love Jesus and then denies Him in the time of need? Are we like Judas who follows Him for three years then betrays Him for worldly possessions? Are we like the other nine who are silent and disappear in times of trouble? Or are we like John who is faithful at the foot of the cross. Jesus wants us to be like John. He wants us at the foot of the cross. It’s to John…the one who shows his love for God in the time of suffering to whom Mary is entrusted.

As we are united to Christ in His Cross, we strive to be like John. It’s in that desire to be at the foot of the cross that Mary becomes our “Spiritual Mother.”

"A type of the Ark of the Covenant"

Please read:

The new Ark is something that comes from the Early Church Fathers. This isn’t a recent creation. The Ark didn’t hold the law. It held (per Hebrews 9:4):

1. A golden jar holding the Manna (The Bread of Life)
2. Aaron’s Rod that had sprouted (The Priesthood of Christ)
3. The Ten Commandments (The Word of God)

Mary is the new Ark as within her, contained Christ and through her, Christ was delivered to the world.

TheDen said...

“Bride of Christ”

This is wrong. Mary is the Mother of Christ. The Church is the “Bride of Christ” as per Ephesians 5. Mary is the “spouse to the Holy Spirit.” She’s the spouse as her consent (fiat) allowed the Holy Spirit to impregnate her with Jesus. Actually, Mary has a unique relationship with the Trinity:

God | Mary

Father | Daughter (of Zion)
Son | Mother
Holy Spirit | Spouse

“Queen of Heaven”

The Catholic (and Orthodox) Church springs forth from the Jewish beliefs and faith. It wasn’t created after the Scriptures but rather from the Jewish rites and traditions. Per the Old Testament, the mother of the king becomes the queen (1 Kings 2: 19-20) Again, this is very old teaching from the Early Church Fathers.

These do not put her as “Equal to God” but rather it holds her in higher regard. She is quite simply the greatest creature that ever lived. So she’s elevated higher than the rest of humanity but lower than God.

“Mother of God”

Christ’s humanity and divinity cannot be separated. That is heresy and was settled at Chalcedon. To say she is the Mother of Christ and not the Mother of God is heresy as it splits Christ into two beings. As she is the Mother of Jesus, she is thus the Mother of God and it doesn’t really make sense any other way.

Mary = Mother of Jesus
Jesus = God
Mary = Mother of God


This is again a hard concept to grasp. First off, Christ redeemed the world. Mary participates in the redemption of mankind. How? Through her fiat. Through the giving of her life to Christ. Her “Yes” to God in Luke 1 allows God to be delivered to the world and paves the way for our salvation. Her participation extends from His birth through His upbringing through His ministry and finally through His death. Mary was present throughout His entire life and through her participation in Christ’s life, Christ was able to redeem the world.

We too participate in Christ’s salvation. We must assent to Christ living within us for us to be saved and it’s through us that Christ brings others to salvation.

nedbrek said...

"Or are we like John who is faithful at the foot of the cross."

Sometimes I feel like Judas, make sure to read the next post ;)

nedbrek said...

I will have do Nestorian heresy as part of my "Know Your Heretics" series.