Thursday, October 29, 2009

On worshipping Mary

A charge frequently leveled at the Catholic Church is that Catholic worship the Blessed Virgin Mary, which would make the guilty of idolatry. The answer of Catholic theology it that this charge is untrue. The devotion given to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is designated by the Latin term latria. The high veneration given to the Virgin is called hyperdoulia, and the veneration given to saints is called doulia.

Protestants sometimes don't find this response satisfactory, because they think that the actual practice of Catholics in the devotion to the Blessed Virgin turns the distinction between hyperdoulia and latria into a distinction without a differences. Pilgrims to Our Lady of Lourdes will walk for miles on their knees, an act of dedication that few perform in devotion to the Godhead.

Nevertheless, the answer of Catholic theology is quite clear: Catholics do not worship Mary.

81 comments:

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

1. Worship Mary.
2. Redefine idolatry in your theology so that you aren't technically worshiping Mary.
3. ???
4. Profit!

Mike Almeida said...

Catholics plainly do not "worship" Mary, since no creature is worthy of worship. It would be good not to perpetuate these deliberately divisive caricatures, even to invite discussion from the theologically illiterate.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

I'm fairly sure that there is more to the Catholic apologia on hyperdulia and Marian practices than simply defining Marian devotion as not being "worship."

Catholics tend to be unimpressed by the ability of some Protestants to read the minds and souls of Catholics. When it comes to Marian devotion, some Protestants seem to believe that they can reach right into the minds of Catholics and pick out the thoughts by which Catholics give homage and devotation to Mary as God, Creator and Supreme Being.

It never seems to occur to them to ask the people walking on their knees if they think they are worshipping Mary. They undoubtedly would say no. If you asked them if their "knee walking" was directed only or exclusively to Mary, they would probably say that the devotion is directed toward Jesus through or with his mother.

The one thing they wouldn't say, though, is that they believe that Mary is anything other than a created being and subordinate and subsidiary to God. My sense of idol-worshippers, on the other hand, is that they actually believed the idol to be divine in its own right. Unlike Catholics, such idolaters would unmistakeably and readily admit that they were, in fact, worshipping the idol.

We all ought to be careful about critiquing the outward forms of another person's inward devotions until we have some access to that person's inner thoughts. I know that as a Catholic, nothing causes me to conclude that I'm dealing with an smug ignoramus quicker than when I'm told that I must be worshipping Mary when I know that I am doing no such thing.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

So Peter, you would disagree that it's possible to idolize something without believing that it is divine, then? So it's impossible to turn money, for instance, into an idol without having some kind of bizarre Money Cult where you actually consciously worship it as divine?

How is that not just an ass-covering redefinition of idolatry?

unkle e said...

It might be wise to differentiate between official Catholic theology, the actual beliefs of educated Catholics and the beliefs and practices of some "folk Catholics". There are surely some of the latter who overstep the official Catholic teaching and seem to be involved in superstition, but we would do well to avoid using such examples to judge others.

Victor Reppert said...

I had a Catholic student say in one of my classes that Catholics worship Mary, and I had to explain that Catholic theology does not teach this. When I first began teaching philosophy more than 20 years ago I had a Catholic student object to Copleston's arguing for theism against Russell on the grounds that he knew from 12 years of education in Catholic schools that belief in God is an article of faith and can't be proved by argument. (Vatican I, of course, made the provability of God de fide, but I suppose they didn't teach him about Vatican I in his Catholic school).

Of course, Protestants don't have this sort of problem, since they are all very Biblically literate and know exactly what they believe!

Victor Reppert said...

I have heard Catholics explain praying to Mary is a matter of praying through Mary to God, in much the way that you would have a living friend pray for you.

I would just add, Bnonn, that to substantiate the kinds of charges you are making here you are going to have to come up with a definition of "worship" which is our ordinary sense of the term, and then argue that Catholic devotion to Mary really fits that conception. Many Protestants think this is exactly what is going on with Catholic Mariology, but this has to be backed up by an argument.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

So Peter, you would disagree that it's possible to idolize something without believing that it is divine, then? So it's impossible to turn money, for instance, into an idol without having some kind of bizarre Money Cult where you actually consciously worship it as divine?

"Idolatry" is a term with a technical defition, as well as a colloquial meaning. The formally technical meaning of "idolatry" is "idol worship" and "idol" is a created object that is viewed by the worshipper as being divine. This is wrong in the Catholic sense inasmuch as it is blasphemous to worship a creature as if it were the Creator. I assume as a rule that Catholics engaged in Marian devotions do not believe that Mary was anything other than a created being, specifically a human being. I make that assumption on the grounds that this is what the Catholic Church teaches and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it is more charitable to assume that people are acting pursuant to what they have been taught.

The colloquial sense of "idolatry" is applied when someone treats a creature as if it was the highest good, even if they don't view it as somehow "divine." So, people who seem to prefer money to God are said to be "idolators," even though they don't actually worship money. The vice in this latter situation is that of lese majestie, failing to love God as the highest good, and often times, failing to worship God at all.

People engaged in Marian devotions really can't be accused of "idolatry" in that second sense inasmuch as they do worship God. I take it that these "knee walking" Catholics actually go to Mass where Mary gets as many mentions as Pontius Pilate and which is all about Jesus.

Might there be confused Catholics? Certainly, but the church's teachings provide the rule by which such misapprehensions can be corrected.

How is that not just an ass-covering redefinition of idolatry?

Well, unless you have an uncanny ability to look into the hearts and minds of Catholics engaged in Marian devotions, you probably ought to be careful about flinging around charges that you can't possibly support. Further, it is not in the spirit of Christian charity to engage in such detraction where you don't know that they in fact believe that Mary is God.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

I had a Catholic student say in one of my classes that Catholics worship Mary, and I had to explain that Catholic theology does not teach this.

Well, sure, and I've had Lutherans deny that Luther taught the doctrine of predestination. I also suspect that if we asked the average church going Protestant (or Catholic) who came first, the Father or the Son, we'd get the heretical answer "the Father."

Let's stipulate that catechesis in all denominations is poor and that for post-Vatican II Catholics, it is particularly abysmal.

But a little charity here, perhaps. I don't know the circumstances of your discussion with your student, and you were right to set him straight, but did you explain to him that the correct term was hyperdulia? I suspect that what may have been going on here is that the student probably had never heard the term "hyperdulia" and was not consciously aware of the concept and was locked in a cultural matrix - because American culture is Protestant - where things are either worshipped or not. So, since he knew that a prayer is said to or about Mary, then he figured that Mary must be "worshipped."

Rather than relying on his own confused testimony, a few questions might have been posed: Did he think that Mary was eternal? Was she the Creator? Was she the source of being, was she a human being? Was she the "mother of God"? Did he actually accord her the same status as the Trinity? Did he believe that she was more like the saints, but maybe entitled to more respect because of her maternal connection with Jesus? etc.

I could be wrong but if those kinds of questions had been asked we might have gotten a better understanding of what he meant by "worship." We might even have discovered that what he meant by "worship Mary" was actually something like "hyperdulia."

Or he could have just been horribly confused and negligently educated in his faith.

It happens.

Steven Carr said...

A Pope writes 'Archaeological research has shown that from time immemorial the site has been a place of Marian worship which is also dear to Muslims, who go there regularly to venerate the One they call "Meryem Ana", Mother Mary'

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Victor,

An example occurred to me of how the lack of nuanced words can lead to categorical error. The example arises from the question "Do Mormons 'worship' Jesus?"

The Mormons I've dealt with - well, at least one - will say "yes," but then hedge what they mean by worship by allowing that they don't necessarily treat the Son the same way they treat the Father. In an "either/or" world, where it's either worship or not, we often have some difficulty in defining the status of the Mormon relationship with the Second Person; we know that it's not "worship" as we mean, but it's not not worship as we mean it either.

Here is the concrete example of what I'm talking about: it is part of Mormon theology that they do not pray to the Second Person as the object of their request for divine intervention. This is a sometimes obscure point, but I take this from a speech by Bruce R. McConkie, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who said:

"Another peril is that those so involved often begin to pray directly to Christ because of some special friendship they feel has been developed. In this connection a current and unwise book, which advocates gaining a special relationship with Jesus, contains this sentence:

Because the Savior is our mediator, our prayers go through Christ to the Father, and the Father answers our prayers through his Son.

This is plain sectarian nonsense. Our prayers are addressed to the Father, and to him only. They do not go through Christ, or the Blessed Virgin, or St. Genevieve or along the beads of a rosary. We are entitled to "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

And I rather suppose that he who sitteth upon the throne will choose his own ways to answer his children, and that they are numerous. Perfect prayer is addressed to the Father, in the name of the Son; and it is uttered by the power of the Holy Ghost; and it is answered in whatever way seems proper by him whose ear is attuned to the needs of his children."


I would hope that in this context, even rock-ribbed Protestants might say, "well, that's not the worship I mean when I say 'worship.'"

The conclusion in my mind is that Mormons do not offer latrie ("worship") to Christ, rather they honor Christ with "hyperdulia," the highest respect that can be accorded short of that offered to the divine being. In other words, in the Mormon "divine economy," Christ replaces the role that Mary places in the Catholic "divine economy."

This makes sense when you think about it inasmuch in the Mormon theology, Christ is a divine being and subordinate to the Father, as Mary is in Catholic economy.

But without the idea of "hyperdulia" we might be tempted to equate the Mormon treatment of Jesus with the Protestant treatment. So, rather than an "ass covering" tactic, words - and nuances - matter.

Finally, before we have to deal with the issue of prayers "to" Mary, I would ask that the petition of that most basic of Marian devotions - the "Hail Mary" - be considered. That petition is that Mary should "pray for us now and at the hour of our death."

Again, if your student had reflected on the significance of that, and had been taught the nuance of hyperdulia, he might have been less heretical or scandalous.

steve said...

The basic argument seems to be that Catholics can’t be guilty of worshipping Mary since they don’t regard her as God. Therefore, they don’t venerate Mary in the same sense that they venerate Jesus or the Trinity.

There are several basic problems with this argument:

i) To be an idolater, you don’t have to ascribe to your “god” the same set of attributes you ascribe to Christ or the Trinity.

For example, if a Viking worships Thor, this doesn’t mean that Thor is given the same attributes as Christ or the Trinity. Indeed, by Christian standards, if a Thor-like being existed, he’d be more like a fallen angel. A finite being with superhuman powers.

So it’s not as if the Viking is transferring to Thor the attributes of the true God. Yet the Viking is still an idolater.

Let’s take a limiting-case of idolatry: Satanism. Does a devil-worshiper apply to Satan the same attributes as a Christian applies to Jesus or the Trinity? Obviously not.

In the mind of the Satanist, the devil is the polar opposite of God. A supernatural antihero. The devotion of a devil-worshiper stands in conscious, defiant contrast to Christian piety.

Yet Satanism is a very aggravated for of idolatry. Idolatry taken to its logical extreme.

ii) Likewise, in polytheistic idolatry, the “gods” range along a continuum. High gods and lesser gods. A wood nymph doesn’t have the same attributes as Zeus. A pagan worshiper can distinguish between the attributes of one “god” and another. You pray to different “gods” for different favors.

But whether a Greek priest prays to Zeus or a lowly wood nymph, it’s still idolatry.

iii) This brings us to the final issue. The question is not whether Catholicism is able to concoct some face-saving distinctions which shield the cult of Mary from the charge of idolatry. The question, rather, is whether Marian devotions constitute worship in the way the Bible describes the nature of worship–as well as perversions of worship. Is she the functional equivalent of a patron goddess?

terri said...

I think most Protestants simply think the worship/veneration distinction is merely hair-splitting. What else can one think when they see a giant Catholic Basilica bearing the nameMary, Queen of the Universe?

The title itself brings to mind Asherah, the "Queen of Heaven" from the book of Jeremiah.

Protestants see prayer, singing, and supplication as forms of worship.....all of which are sometimes directed towards Mary. Trying to convince them that that's not worship is pretty much impossible.

bossmanham said...

As I understand it, the veneration of the saints and Mary is simply a deep respect for them. As we protestants respect Luther, or as all Christians respect the apostles and early fathers. They have some traditions built around this respect. Prayer to the saints, as I understand it, is simply imploring them for intercession (which I see as unnecessary). Too often, each side criticizes without understanding. They claim that their veneration of Mary in no way begins to approach their worship of God.

Not to say there aren't un-learned lay Catholics that take things way too far. But official Catholic theology condemns the worship of any but God.

Victor Reppert said...

Though Catholics do ask Mary and the saints to intercede for them, and Catholic theology has Mary as co-mediatrix, to which Protestants object using I Tim 2:5 (one mediator between God and man).

On the other hand, we do ask one another for intercession here on earth.

terri said...

We do ask for intercession.....but we don't ask the people praying for us to to do something in and of themselves. There is no expectation that a person here on earth can do anything other than ask God to be mindful of our situation.

And...we certainly wouldn't expect a person interceding for us here to be able to hear the thousands/millions of requests for intercession and be able to actually respond to all of them simultaneously.

That's another problem Protestants can't overcome....the perceived power that Mary or any popular saint is thought to have. The power to be close to omniscient and to be a couple of degrees below omnipotent.

Those sorts of attributes and expectations for miraculous intervention are held to be exclusive to God in most forms of Protestantism.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

The basic argument seems to be that Catholics can’t be guilty of worshipping Mary since they don’t regard her as God.

Catholics can't be "guilty" of idolatry because (a) they give exclusive devotion to God as God and (b) know that Mary is not God.

Shouldn't that end the discussion right there?

Therefore, they don’t venerate Mary in the same sense that they venerate Jesus or the Trinity.

Yes, true, exactly. This is the point.

"Veneration" means, inter alia, "respect" or "honor." We "venerate" our parents in some sense, but not in the same sense that we "venerate" God. Yet, no one accuses people who honor their parents as being crypto-idolators. Men who are wooing their future brides and expressing their devotion and fidelity in flowery terms are likewise not "idolators." Yet, make the issue about honor and respect for Mary and it turns into a session of the HUAC where outsiders start examining the conscience of people they've never met.

For example, if a Viking worships Thor, this doesn’t mean that Thor is given the same attributes as Christ or the Trinity. Indeed, by Christian standards, if a Thor-like being existed, he’d be more like a fallen angel. A finite being with superhuman powers.

But in Viking "theology," if there was any such thing, Thor was as "divine" as it got. Odin was not more divine than Thor; they belonged to the same family of Gods. Thus, Thor and Odin were of the same genus and shared the same essence of "godhood."

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Continued...

On the other hand, because of about 2,000 of Christian theology, which is to say Catholic theology, no one says that Mary is consubstantial with the Trinity. Mary is a created being. End of story. Hence, the comparison to Thor is inapposite.

Let’s take a limiting-case of idolatry: Satanism. Does a devil-worshiper apply to Satan the same attributes as a Christian applies to Jesus or the Trinity? Obviously not.

But the Satan worshipper rejects the true good of God for the false good of Satan. In other words, the Satan worshipper denies God the honor that God is due as the Creator.

Catholics do not deny God any such honor by according Mary a position of the highest respect and describe her as God's greatest creation. Mary is ordered to God as the final and true Good, and, hence, veneration for Mary is ordered to God as the final and true Good.


Likewise, in polytheistic idolatry, the “gods” range along a continuum. High gods and lesser gods. A wood nymph doesn’t have the same attributes as Zeus. A pagan worshiper can distinguish between the attributes of one “god” and another. You pray to different “gods” for different favors.

Two points:

First, do these "gods" actually exist, and, if they do, are they actually demonic entities. Both positions were held by Paul and the Early Church Father. In either case, these "gods" are not ordered to God as Mary and Marian devotion both are.

To put it bluntly, Jeepers, does Mary, the Theotokos, the Mother of God, have the same ontological status, or relationship to Jesus Christ, as a wood nymph, Shiva or Poseidon?

Second, doesn't this beg the question. I haven't heard any definition of "worship" and no one has taken me up on my discussion of Mormon "veneration" of Jesus as a counter-example of what is not the proper worship that should be accorded to the Trinity, such as permissibility of praying to each member of the Trinity directly.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

continued...

The question is not whether Catholicism is able to concoct some face-saving distinctions which shield the cult of Mary from the charge of idolatry.

Catholicism isn't in the business of concocting a face-saving distinction, rather it is applying well-developed theological principles that have been developed from reflections on the nature of God and the Trinity. These are the same considerations that informed Christianity as to why Arianism was a heresy. Again, please consider the Mormon approach to the non-worship of Jesus and tell me whether a religion that teaches that it is improper to pray directly to Jesus other than as an intercessor constitutes "biblical" worship. I don't think it does, which is why I don't think that praying to Mary as an intercessor constitutes worship.

The question, rather, is whether Marian devotions constitute worship in the way the Bible describes the nature of worship–as well as perversions of worship.

The bible teaches that Mary was to be called "blessed" by all geneations.

Where do Protestants follow this Biblical injunction?

Are Protestants unbiblical for the way that they take Mary out once a year for Christmas, but for the rest of the year treat her as the embarrassing unmarried daughter who has to be kept out of sight

Is she the functional equivalent of a patron goddess?

No, she is the "functional equivalent" of the Mother of God as defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431.

How should the Mother of God be venerated?

By ignoring her, except on Christmas? I'm not understanding that.

Instead of assuming that the present Protestant approach to Mary - which was not shared by Calvin or Luther and is a minority position held by a small number of the total Christians who have ever lived for a comparatively brief time - is normal, perhaps Protestants would benefit by providing an apologia of their position. Isn't the burden of proof here on the Protestant position?

Here is what I see as a weird disconnect in this discussion - it seems that none of the Protestants interlocutors have engaged with who Mary is. Isn't it the case that before anyone can discuss whether Catholic devotions are "excessive" they first have to answer the question of who Mary is? I mean, breaking open a bottle of champagne for you mailman might be weird, but for your future son-in-law it might not be so weird, because of who that person is to someone special to you.

Further, Protestants should be willing to ask themselves whether they are being biblical in their Mariophobia.

Lastly, what is "worship"? Does the Mormon approach to Jesus constitute "worship" in a "biblical" sense?

Peter Sean Bradley said...

There is no expectation that a person here on earth can do anything other than ask God to be mindful of our situation.

Yes, and this is true of the Catholic position on the intercession of saints.

Again, I asked everyone to be mindful of the petition that concludes the "Hail Mary" which ask Mary to "pray for us now and at the hour of our death."

we certainly wouldn't expect a person interceding for us here to be able to hear the thousands/millions of requests for intercession and be able to actually respond to all of them simultaneously.

I hear this argument frequently and I'm frankly puzzled why this is ever a real concern. I suspect that it betrays a tendency we all have to think that our existence after this life will be like the one we have in this life.

Orthodox Christianity teaches that saints in heaven share the "beatific vision", i.e., the presence of God. In this state, saints can't "hear" anything because they don't have sense organs. What they do have is direct communion with God who knows everything and who can directly "enlighten" the "intellect" of the saints.

Presumably, everyone would agree that God's ability to sort and direct prayers to the correct saints would not be above His pay grade.

If necessary I can supply the citations to Aquinas that back up what I'm indicating.

The power to be close to omniscient and to be a couple of degrees below omnipotent.

Of course, the knowledge of saints will be substantially greater than ours. Isn't this biblical? Didn't Paul teach that in this life we are looking through a dark glass but will see things clearly in the next life? I would certainly hope that the knowledge of those in the Divine Presence who share the Beatific Vision is as far above ours as ours is above the insects.

But omniscient? Not likely for creatures who remain fundamentally finite and only share the Beatific Vision but are not true source of all being.

Again, the sense I get is that there is a tendency to underestimate God's existence by viewing Him as like us only stronger and smarter.

terri said...

"Again, the sense I get is that there is a tendency to underestimate God's existence by viewing Him as like us only stronger and smarter."

That's rather my point....except in reverse order. The veneration given to the saints assumes that there is a great similarity between their abilities and those of God.

And here....I must really show my hand and say that even arguing about such a thing is useless with someone like me. I'm almost a strict materialist/conditional immortalist....meaning that I don't believe in a heavenly realm in which Mary and the saints are existing in some sort of spiritual existence looking down upon us.

Instead I see dead believers as simply awaiting a final resurrection and future eternal life.

I guess you could call me a heavenly atheist....which wipes out entire notions of purgatory, limbo, Beatific visions; all of which are ideas as meaningful to discussion to me as how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Blasphemous of me to say...I know...not only to Catholic sensibilities....but also to most Protestant sensibilities.

Anyway...the points I make are simply the ones most Protestants have in mind when they say things about worshipping Mary. They are focused on what happens in actual practice, not what is theologically specified by the Catholic Church.

It's a different paradigm.

Edward T. Babinski said...

If Catholic don't "worship" Mary then Hindus don't worship any of the zillion incarnations of Brahman either. They are simply praying "through" them to the true Brahman behind all things.

Sheesh, "worship," "adoration," whatever you call it, you can draw all the lines you want between them, but it all comes down to being in awe of some figure or other.

Some Catholics pray to heaps of saints, the apostles, Mary, Jesus, Joseph, and God the Father. Others probably pray to fewer. But Catholicism does encourage such behavior, in fact you earn time out of Purgatory, with holy ejaculations of the names of the saints and Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Some Catholic churches have statues galore, others have fewer statues. While Protstant churches often have none, not one statue, just a bare cross, a symbol.

Catholicism arose during a time when most people were illiterate, so pageantry and VISUAL stimulation were key, along with preaching too of course. And "holy mysteries" were so much more mysterious back then.

While Protestantism arose a thousand years later, after t he Renaissance but before the Age of Enlightenment, around the time of the invention of the printing press, and opted for the Bible to be published in everyday languages so all could read and study it, and they stressed the power of preaching, of HEARING, of AUDITORY inspiration, and less so the VISUAL stimulation, even going so far as to smash Catholic statues and stained glass.

Ah well.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Speaking of getting Armageddon going, you might also consider the two views among Christians that one can either "lose" one's salvation or "never lose" it.

Catholics believe you can lose it if you commit a mortal sin and die before it is confessed. In fact, if you deliberately miss Mass when you know you were well enough to attend, then that's a mortal sin according to a monk who told me that last year.

Many Protestants on the other hand are convinced "once saved always saved, period."

The author of 1st John even goes so far as to appear to teach that Christians cannot sin, not at all.

Whew!

But check out the "Viewpoints" series of Intervarsity and also Zondervan, the series keeps growing. What a wealth of differences among Christians who all agree that Bible is God's inspired word.

They even published a new book, The Historical Jesus: FIVE VIEWS.

steve said...

Peter Sean Bradley said...

“Catholics can't be ‘guilty’ of idolatry because (a) they give exclusive devotion to God as God and (b) know that Mary is not God. Shouldn't that end the discussion right there?”

No, that doesn’t end the discussion. Their devotion to Mary competes with their devotion to God.

“Yes, true, exactly. This is the point.”

No, that’s not the point–for reasons I give. The distinction is inconsequential.

“’Veneration’ means, inter alia, ‘respect’ or ‘honor.’ We ‘venerate’ our parents in some sense, but not in the same sense that we ‘venerate’ God. Yet, no one accuses people who honor their parents as being crypto-idolators.”

Since Catholics don’t venerate their parents the way they venerate Mary, your comparison is fatally equivocal.

Moreover, it’s quite possible for someone to idolize one or both parents.

“But in Viking ‘theology,’ if there was any such thing, Thor was as "divine" as it got.”

Which is irrelevant to the question of idolatry.

“On the other hand, because of about 2,000 of Christian theology, which is to say Catholic theology, no one says that Mary is consubstantial with the Trinity. Mary is a created being. End of story. Hence, the comparison to Thor is inapposite.”

You don’t know how to follow an argument. My argument didn’t turn on Mary’s consubstantiality with the Trinity. To the contrary, my argument made explicit allowance for such distinctions. Hence, your reply doesn’t leave a dent in my actual argument.

“But the Satan worshipper rejects the true good of God for the false good of Satan.”

Once again, you don’t know how to follow an argument. All you’ve done is to restate a premise of my argument, which does nothing to invalidate the conclusion.

“Catholics do not deny God any such honor by according Mary a position of the highest respect and describe her as God's greatest creation.”

Once more, you miss the point. Is there something about Catholicism that conditions you to suffer from this mental block?

Did my argument turn on equating Mary with God? No. The point of my argument was just the opposite. Try to get past your intellectual impediments so that you can engage the actual argument.

“First, do these ‘gods’ actually exist, and, if they do, are they actually demonic entities.”

Idolatry doesn’t depend on whether the idolatrous object is real or fictional. As long as the idolater believes it to be real, that’s sufficient. The ontological status of the object is irrelevant to the psychological state of an idolater.

“Second, doesn't this beg the question. I haven't heard any definition of ‘worship’…”

As usual, you’re unable to follow the argument. Is there something about Catholicism that conditions you so be so persistently uncomprehending?

I was simply responding to a Catholic argument with a counterargument. I haven’t, as of yet, tried to show that Marian devotion is idolatrous. Rather, I was clearing away some bad Catholic arguments against the possibility that Marian devotion is idolatrous.

“The bible teaches that Mary was to be called ‘blessed’ by all geneations. Where do Protestants follow this Biblical injunction?”

Mary was blessed to be the mother of the Messiah. See how easy that is?

At this same time, this is a prediction, not an injunction.

steve said...

Continuing with Bradley:

“Are Protestants unbiblical for the way that they take Mary out once a year for Christmas, but for the rest of the year treat her as the embarrassing unmarried daughter who has to be kept out of sight.”

Since the Bible doesn’t enjoin us to “venerate” Mary in the way that Catholics do, the fact that we refrain from so doing is hardly “unbiblical.”

“No, she is the ‘functional equivalent’ of the Mother of God as defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431.”

And you honor her and pray to her the way pagans honor and pray to mother goddesses.

“How should the Mother of God be venerated?”

Mary should be honored in the same way the Bible honors her. No more and no less.

“Instead of assuming that the present Protestant approach to Mary - which was not shared by Calvin or Luther and is a minority position held by a small number of the total Christians who have ever lived for a comparatively brief time - is normal, perhaps Protestants would benefit by providing an apologia of their position.”

The church began with just 120 members in a private home. It was a miniscule sect within Judaism. By your yardstick, we should be reject the Messiahship of Jesus since that was a fringe position within mainstream Judaism.

“Here is what I see as a weird disconnect in this discussion - it seems that none of the Protestants interlocutors have engaged with who Mary is. Isn't it the case that before anyone can discuss whether Catholic devotions are ‘excessive’ they first have to answer the question of who Mary is?”

For an answer, try Who Is My Mother?: The Role and Status of the Mother of Jesus
~ Eric D. Svendsen.

“Further, Protestants should be willing to ask themselves whether they are being biblical in their Mariophobia.”

Further, Catholics should be willing to ask themselves whether they are being biblical in their Mariolatry.

“Lastly, what is ‘worship’? Does the Mormon approach to Jesus constitute ‘worship’ in a ‘biblical’ sense?”

It constitutes idolatry. Idolatry is a subset of worship: false worship. Mormonism is polytheistic. Mormon Christology is unscriptural.

“Presumably, everyone would agree that God's ability to sort and direct prayers to the correct saints would not be above His pay grade.”

Millions of daily prayers are directed to Mary. For God to redirect millions of daily prayers to Mary does nothing to solve the problem of how a finite human mind can process millions of prayers per day.

“If necessary I can supply the citations to Aquinas that back up what I'm indicating.”

Quoting one man’s opinion to prop up your opinion is not an argument. Aquinas is not a prophet.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Victor,

Concerning "co-redemptrix."

That term has never been officially defined as a de fide belief that must be held by Catholics, which means that Catholics may licitly hold a dissenting view on that title and not deny an essential truth of the faith. Nonetheless, a faithful Catholic probably ought not deny the principles that underlie the term without first thinking what the term means.

On which point, most of the ancient Marian titles - e.g., Theotokos - are important because they define an essential Christological truth. "Theotokos" is important because it defines the truth that Jesus was God and Jesus was human.

Modern Marian titles define important truths about humanity, which in turn define important truths about Christ because Christ had a human nature. The Immaculate Conception defines that truth that human nature in its unfallen state was sinless; the Assumption defines the truth that man's final end is toward God. It became important to define these truths in 19th and 20th Century in light of philosophies that would deny the supernatural origins and ends of human nature, and instead define human beings as - in the words of Christopher Hitchens - mere primates.

The title of co-redemptrix defines the truth of human free will and cooperation in salvation. I take it that you wouldn't deny that truth and that you would acknowledge that there are powerful forces that seek to make humans mere puppets to genes, providence, economics, etc.

We are all "co-workers" with Christ. We all cooperate in our salvation. Mary cooperated in a particularly unique way by her freely given assent to the incarnation. I have often heard Protestants describe Mary as something akin to a breeding mare or entirely incidental to the plan of salvation. In doing that they say something truly awful about human nature, namely that we are not really free or that we do not individually matter to God. If we accept the biblical narrative, we have to affirm that there was something unique about Mary's "fiat."

Now, I do not favor the use of the title "co-redemptrix" because it gives those who do not think through what the title really means another cheap shot. On the other hand, there is also something important about the thinking behind the title that is powerful, important and necessary.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Teri,

You do come from a different paradigm, but don't you think that if you are going to critique the Catholic understanding of Mary, you ought to do it from within the context of Catholic understanding.

I hope that by alluding to "consubstantiality" and the idea that the soul is basically intellectual, I have foreshadowed the notion that there is a lot more going on than can possibly be explained by assuming that humans in heavens are just like humans on earth, except they're, you know, in heaven.

Because if you don't take that approach you look silly. It reminds me of a scene in of a "show within a show" episode of Supernatural where someone raise a problem with the idea that the dead can hear the living, so the writers write in a line of dialogue explaining that "Gosh, the dead must have really good hearing." That's funny because it denies the basic premise of what it means to be supernatural in the first place.

My point is that there is about 2,000 years of intellectual development concerning other doctrines that inform what Catholics think about Mary. No one has to agree with the ideas that inform the doctrine, but the first thing that everyone ought to do is to try to understand the ideas before criticizing them as "stupid" or "unbiblical" or whatever other term translates as "it doesn't fit my worldview."

terri said...

"No one has to agree with the ideas that inform the doctrine, but the first thing that everyone ought to do is to try to understand the ideas before criticizing them as "stupid" or "unbiblical" or whatever other term translates as "it doesn't fit my worldview."

I never used the terms "stupid" or "unbiblical" so I am not sure why you are seeming to imply that I did.

As far as paradigms go....My paradigm has changed quite a bit. I would have viewed myself as a weak Calvinist many years ago...I used to believe in inerrnacy...I held many beliefs....some of which I have cast and others which have simply obtained a different focus for me.

you said:

"You do come from a different paradigm, but don't you think that if you are going to critique the Catholic understanding of Mary, you ought to do it from within the context of Catholic understanding."

So only people on the inside of a belief system have the right to critically think about it?

Of course not.

If Catholics, Protestants, or really anybody, wants to defend a particular belief, then they should at least be able to understand the obstacles to acceptance that their listener has before them.

Saying the equivalent of "you just don't understand" assumes that if the person you're trying to convince just perfectly understood what you meant then they would happily accept your point.

It's quite possible to understand and simply disagree or reject something.

I do understand the Catholic arguments put forth. I simply don't agree with them.

terri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glenn said...

This blog post ends with the same standoff it refers to: the "nevertheless" changes nothing. Catholics refuse to name their conduct towards mary as worship, while many Protestants maintain that whateber they choose to call it, it is identical to worship.

Jesse said...

Peter, you write:

::So, people who seem to prefer money to God are said to be "idolators," even though they don't actually worship money. The vice in this latter situation is that of lese majestie, failing to love God as the highest good, and often times, failing to worship God at all.

To which I respond, is there something about your Catholicism which conditions you to make such good points?

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Teri wrote:

I never used the terms "stupid" or "unbiblical" so I am not sure why you are seeming to imply that I did.

You did not use those terms, but other did, and you're objections to Marian devotion gesture at your belief - a quite reasonable belief based on your "first principles" - that Marian belief is incoherent, or "silly" with your first principles, albeit not with mine.

But we don't judge the coherence of beliefs based on our first principles, but on the first principles on which the belief is based. A belief may be entirely coherent in terms of its belief system, but, as you say, it may be wrong because the system is wrong. To say that a belief is wrong, you must be willing to offer an explanation about why your first principles are right, not simply assume that the other position doesn't make sense, particularly after an explanation is offered.

For example, what if anything about my explanation of sharing the beatific vision do you disagree with? I have no idea. I can speculate, but I don't know because all you've said is that you are a "Heavenly atheist."

Now, for the Protestant interlocutors, my arguments should be compelling, because they do accept the idea of "sharing the beatific vision", even if they use different terminology.

So only people on the inside of a belief system have the right to critically think about it?

Of course not.


Well, it depends. If you are going to critique a system for being incoherent, then you have to critique it from the inside. I think Calvinism is wrong, but I definitely do not think that it is incoherent; if anything, it is an entirely coherent and ruthlessly diagrammable scheme.

If you are going to say that "it is wrong", then you have to do two things: first, you have to frame the argument in the strongest terms possible, otherwise you are setting up a strawman. Second, you have to offer a first principle that we can both agree on and from which we can both argue, otherwise you are simply setting up a preference, e.g., I like lobster and you don't.

I read your first objections as setting up a strawman. That's why I offered the correction that I did. I notice, for example, that you haven't indicated any understanding about the role that sharing the beatific vision has on your initial objections. So, I assume that you may "understand" the point, but that your objection to Marian intercession is not to Marian intercession as such but to some more basic proposition, such as the existence of God or life after death. But again I can't tell from your comments.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Steve wrote:

No, that doesn’t end the discussion. Their devotion to Mary competes with their devotion to God.

Obviously, that is a naked assertion, rather than an argument or an offer of empirical proof. It is, in essence, a statement of Steve’s belief about Catholics, rather than a statement of Catholic belief, which is why I have repeatedly questioned the ability of third parties to read the hearts and souls of others. If a person can’t read the soul of another, than comments like this constitute the sin of “detraction” and unchristian conduct.

To address the assertion, I would have to say that the issue is deeper and more nuanced than Steve would allow. For example, ought a husband to have a devotion to his wife? Certainly, yes. Does that compete with his devotion to God?

Well, yes, it could, but not necessarily so. If a husband’s devotion to his wife was so obsessive that he disregarded his devotion to God, then it would happen, as it sometimes has. On the other hand, a husband’s devotion to his wife might be properly ordered to his devotion to God. By loving his wife, the husband is acting out and affirming his love for God. This notion was recognized by no less a “Protestant” than St. Augustine who made the point that it was possible to love created things so long as we loved them “in God.”

It is not the case that devotion to Mary competes with devotion to God inasmuch as Mary is ordered to God. I reiterate something that no one wants to deal with – Mary was the Mother of God.

Since Catholics don’t venerate their parents the way they venerate Mary, your comparison is fatally equivocal.

We also don’t honor our wife or the president or our neighbor the same way that we honor our parents. The point that I made previously, which has been ignored, is that honor is relative to the person. Not all honor is the same, and, moreover, honor is ordered – there can be greater and lesser honor accorded to persons based on their status, including proximity to God. So, I ask again, what is the honor that is appropriate to the Mother of God?

Which is irrelevant to the question of idolatry.

Is there an argument to support this claim, particularly since I offered an argument.

You don’t know how to follow an argument. My argument didn’t turn on Mary’s consubstantiality with the Trinity. To the contrary, my argument made explicit allowance for such distinctions. Hence, your reply doesn’t leave a dent in my actual argument.

On the contrary, your argument has asserted that Catholics worship Mary as if she were God. I have explained that the divide between the divine and the created is absolutely recognized in Catholicism, and therefore your basic charge is spurious.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Continued....

Your other argument – which you conflate with the first – is that respect for Mary competes with worship of God. I have explained repeatedly in the face of your naked assertions of that point as if it were self-evidently true, that this is not the case.

Hence, I’m following your “argument”, except you’re not making an argument. I’m offering data and reasons, and your offering prejudice as masquerading as self-evident truth.

Once more, you miss the point. Is there something about Catholicism that conditions you to suffer from this mental block?

I win, you lose with that. My suspicion was that you were offering prejudice that masqueraded as self-evident truth, and this proves that point. Nice going.

Look, my point about the ordering of creation to God is not “rocket science.” It has been around for millennia of orthodox Christian theology and is, you know, in the Bible. I could cite Aquinas for this, not as a prophet but as an example of the fact that what I’m saying is pretty conventional.

Idolatry doesn’t depend on whether the idolatrous object is real or fictional. As long as the idolater believes it to be real, that’s sufficient. The ontological status of the object is irrelevant to the psychological state of an idolater.

I don’t know about that, but I do know that Mary has a real ontological status for orthodox Christians – SHE’S THE MOTHER OF GOD!!!!!!!!!!

Do we agree with that. If so, doesn’t that make some different when you offer up wood nymphs as an example of idolatry, and then I respond that Mary is ordered to God (unlike Satan, wood nymphs and Loki) and then you say that I can’t follow your argument because I’m a simple-minded Catholic.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

What about “MOTHER OF GOD”!!!!! makes you think that any of your analogies make sense?

Mary was blessed to be the mother of the Messiah. See how easy that is?

And that’s all there is to it? Mary was the nearest convenient breeding chamber for God? Her fiat meant nothing? She ejected Jesus, cared for him, and then her relationship with the Son of God ended?

What a cruel, cold, inhuman, heartless picture of our Savior you ascribe to.

At this same time, this is a prediction, not an injunction.

Hmmm….if it was a prediction it would seem that only one group matches this prophecy and it isn’t evangelical Christians. Shouldn’t that be a concern?

Mary should be honored in the same way the Bible honors her. No more and no less.

So, how about repeating what the angel said to Mary – “Hail, Mary, full of grace, blessed art thou amongst women….” Also, you might want to say “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.”

I mean, what could it hurt inasmuch as it is all orthodox Christian belief recognized by the Orthodox, Coptic, Nestorian, Jacobite and every other Christian church that existed prior to 1517.

It constitutes idolatry. Idolatry is a subset of worship: false worship. Mormonism is polytheistic. Mormon Christology is unscriptural.

You’re simply begging the question. You’re telling me that idolatry is false “worship” but I’m asking whether Mormons “worship” Jesus in the first place. This requires you to say what “worship” is, which no one heretofore has done.

Is it worship when Mormons don’t pray to Jesus as the object of their prayers, but only pray to the Father?

I said no, and I said that the problem with this is that it treats the Creator as a creature, which was the heresy of Arianism.

Millions of daily prayers are directed to Mary. For God to redirect millions of daily prayers to Mary does nothing to solve the problem of how a finite human mind can process millions of prayers per day.

OK, so you’re saying that “With God all things are NOT possible.”

It is revealing how a disorder in one area causes other areas to become disordered.

terri said...

It is silly to assume that just because someone disagrees with your beliefs that they think your beliefs are silly. You are imputing way too many motives/emotions to my posts.

Generally, I don't like heated rhetoric...so if you think that's what I am trying to do you are operating under a false assumption.

I don't think your beliefs are silly. I simply don't agree with them.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia

Beatific Vision

The immediate knowledge of God which the angelic spirits and the souls of the just enjoy in Heaven. It is called "vision" to distinguish it from the mediate knowledge of God which the human mind may attain in the present life. And since in beholding God face to face the created intelligence finds perfect happiness, the vision is termed "beatific".


I believe in God. I don't believe in "heaven" in the way in which you are referring to it. I believe there is a heaven, but that the goal of salvation is not to reside in some spirit world with God.

Instead, I see the goal of salvation as providing eternal life....a real, physical, material life at some point in the future. In between death and resurrection, I don't think there is conscious, willful existence such that Mary, saints, or anyone else is intervening in our lives.

Now...I used to think of salvation much more in terms of living in Heaven forever with God, so I do understand where you are coming from....and thusly do not think you are silly.

You are discussing two different themes here:

1....what exactly worship is.

2...the assumption that dead humans share in a beatific vision and have knowledge of what is happening here on earth.

There is no real way to reconcile #1 with most Protestants, no matter how hard you might try. For Catholics the highest peak of Worship is the Eucharist....the receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ. So, implying that what Catholics do in Mary's name is nowhere close to what is offered to God in the mass seems off-base to you. I

However, Protestants do not have such a high view of communion and tend to see it as only part of a whole list of things that constitute worship....praise, prayer, supplication, singing to God, giving...etc.

That is where you need to get on the inside in order to understand the accusation that Catholics worship Mary.

I'm not setting up a strawman...I'm simply explaining why Protestants think the way they do.

This is one of those areas that is so impacted by numerous points of doctrine and differing opinions that it can't really be discussed in a vacuum from the whole.

BTW.....There are many Protestants who would be happy to convert to Catholicism if it weren't for the Catholic stance on Mary and the saints. I don't think I can overstate how huge of a stumbling block it is for most Protestants.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Continued...

Quoting one man’s opinion to prop up your opinion is not an argument. Aquinas is not a prophet.

Well, yes it is if I am saying that a view is well-recognized as orthodox Christian belief, as opposed to a new-fangled innovation and the person lived in the 13th Century is recognized by all Christians as a fundamental shaper of Christian thought.

But I guess it would be better to defer to “steve” then to Aquinas about such matters.

Gregory said...

I think that an informed Catholic will quite easily respond to accusations of "idolatry".

I believe the proper theological term is "veneration".

And I believe that veneration is quite appropriate, in terms of Mary, because she bore and raised the Son of God, the Savior of the World. That is a terribly daunting and fearful task. Therefore, she deserves the MVP Award amid the team of Saints.

Veneration is also a practice in Scripture. For instance, the Patriarch, Jacob, gave each of his son's a blessing. And even though the Messianic promise was conferred to his son Judah, he still gave the highest praise and blessing to Joseph (Genesis 49:22-26). And it is Joseph, above all of Jacobs other sons, whose story was chronicled by Moses in Genesis. And he is venerated, again, in the book of Hebrews (11:21,22). In fact, Hebrews 11 is devoted entirely to venerating Old Testament Saints.

Here's other examples of veneration:

John is called "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 13:23; 19:26; 21:7,20).

Jesus praises the Centurion's "faith" (Matt. 8:5-13).

Jesus positively commends a Gentile woman for her "faith" (Matt. 15:21-28).

St. Paul also says this:

"...much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty...but our presentable parts
have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another." (1 Cor. 12:22-25)

Women had the status of 2nd class citizenship in the New Testament era. Peter, reflecting that value, goes so far as saying that wives are the "weaker vessel" (1 Pet. 3:7). Therefore, God saw it fitting that women should have the honor of finding the empty tomb, and of having the greatest of all Saints, Mary, be a woman!! (see also 1 Cor. 1:26-29)

As to "praying" to the Saints...well, Victor correctly pointed out that it's no different than asking friends to pray for you.

For Scripture itself says this:

"'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.'

God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matt. 22:32).

Therefore, Saints can never be said to be really "dead" (i.e. non-existent).

Furthermore, Jesus said this:

"The Kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say 'see here!' or 'see there!' For indeed, the Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:20, 21 compare with Deut. 30:11-14 and Rom. 10:6-10).

So, if Jesus is always with His Saints (Matt. 28:20; Deut. 31:6; Heb. 13:5; Rev. 1:11-20), and Jesus is in our hearts, then Saints are always in earshot of our prayer requests. So, why shouldn't we ask them to pray for us?

terri said...

Gregory,

For Scripture itself says this:

"'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.'

God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matt. 22:32).

Therefore, Saints can never be said to be really "dead" (i.e. non-existent).



You have taken this out of context....Jesus declares them to be living on the basis of a future resurrection, not on the basis of heavenly existence. He was refuting the Sadducees who did not believe in any resurrection:

At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."

Victor Reppert said...

Theotokos does follow the fact that Christ's divinity and Mary's motherhood. Unless you think Nestorius got it right.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Terri,

I would likewise caution you about reading things that aren’t there. I clearly defined my use of the term “silly” as connoting “illogical,” which I pointed out means “internally incoherent.” When you say that you consider a valid objection to Mary as being that she can’t hear prayers, I take it that in some way you think that idea is “illogical.” Hence, I pointed out the logic of why it isn’t “illogical” for Catholics to believe that those in the presence of God can receive the prayers of those on Earth.

Now, you brought up the pragmatic issue and I responded to it. I still don’t see your response to that idea, such as an argument about how God could not communicate the prayers to the saints or how it is that the saints must be bound to the dimensions of time and space as we are such that – as Steve argues – they couldn’t “hear” millions of prayers a day.

I take it that one of your reasons for not believing in Marian devotion is the pragmatic issue that you brought up. I’ve provided an answer to it. If you have a further objection based on my explanation – apart from reiterating that you just don’t believe it – I haven’t heard that explanation. If you want further information on the logic of the argument I’ve sketched, I can direct you to sections of the Summa that you can read on your own, which might answer your objections.

Instead, I see the goal of salvation as providing eternal life....a real, physical, material life at some point in the future.

So do Catholics. It is in fact a fundamental tenet of orthodox Christianity. Please see the closing sentences in the Nicene Creed.

In between death and resurrection, I don't think there is conscious, willful existence such that Mary, saints, or anyone else is intervening in our lives.

Ok, that’s your belief. You are entitled to it. It’s not biblical (See the Transfiguration and Lazarus and the Rich Man.) It’s not logical, therefore, within the accepted traditions of Christian orthodoxy, but it’s your belief. i will note that you haven’t offered any argument for your belief.

The reason I say that it is illogical, in part, is because I assume that you believe in the existence of a soul. As the logic of the soul was developed over the centuries, it became to be understood that by definition, a soul is something that survives the death of the corporal body. Further, if you believe I such a thing, you have to ask what evidence we have for it, and the best answer is to be found in our intellectual operation, which something that appears to function apart from any corporal organ. Therefore if you accept the soul, you should logically accept a continuing intellectual existence.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Continued....

On the other hand, you may deny the existence of the soul, in which case your position would not be “illogical” under your first principles, but we would have to discuss that issue to see if it was consistent with other principles that you accept.

Now...I used to think of salvation much more in terms of living in Heaven forever with God, so I do understand where you are coming from....and thusly do not think you are silly.

Most Christians do think of salvation as continuing non-corporal existence. But you are wrong about what I believe – you are in fact reading into what I have written things I never said.

I am an orthodox Catholic and this very morning I affirmed with Catholics everywhere that I believe in the “resurrection of the dead.”

I am also a student of St. Thomas Aquinas, and I can’t tell you in a few words how significant the idea that the intellectual life of the soul is fitted for and perfected by a corporal existence plays in his thought.

Professor Philip Cary has some excellent lectures on how most Christians are subverted by a Platonic notion of the afterlife. Suffice it to say, I’m not.

You are discussing two different themes here:

I have certainly discussed two different themes, because two different issues have been raised, and often are by Protestants on this issue, as if they were the same issue. You raised the pragmatic issue, to which I’ve responded.

I’ve also addressed the “worship” issue and no one else has addressed that issue, other than to argue about others “I know it when I see it.” That’s rather disappointing for people who read a philosophy blog.

There is no real way to reconcile #1 with most Protestants, no matter how hard you might try.

That’s obviously true, but there are others who are reading who will be influenced.

Further, I’m interested in seeing if any Protestant can actually explain why they believe what they do in terms that aren’t tailored made to address Marian devotions. I’ve raised the Mormon issue, but no one wants to bite, because, I suspect, that no one wants to admit that the Mormons clearly don’t worship Jesus in the way that is meant by “worship”, which would lead to an admission that Catholicism doesn’t “worship” Mary. It’s hard to give up a convenient stick.

Also, I’ve raised the issue of honoring the Mother of God as a biblical precept and I’ve heard nothing about how Protestants properly honor the Mother of God.

I think that those two points are sore spots for Protestants that ought to move them to a grudging acknowledgment that maybe, just maybe, there is something to be said for some richer Marian devotion than is currently allowed under Protestantism.

…to see it as only part of a whole list of things that constitute worship....praise, prayer, supplication, singing to God, giving...etc.

Well, then, the burden is someone to explain how asking a politician for help isn’t “supplication” and therefore worship.

Or how praising your wife for her goodness, isn’t worship.

Or how telling the one that you love that “you perfect me” or “you make me want to be a better man” isn’t worship.

Obviously those things aren’t worship for two reasons – first, the person doing those things isn’t under any confusion that the object of their prayer, supplication, praise etc. is the Creator and, second, well, heck, we’re Americans and that kind of thing is perfectly normal. Which is why I made the point about prejudice masquerading as first principles.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Continued...

I'm not setting up a strawman...I'm simply explaining why Protestants think the way they do.

No, you are not setting up a strawman. I believe that what you describe is true, but what that means is that Protestants are reacting against a strawman.

There are many Protestants who would be happy to convert to Catholicism if it weren't for the Catholic stance on Mary and the saints. I don't think I can overstate how huge of a stumbling block it is for most Protestants.

I know that it is, which is strange because these issue make up a minor but distinctive part of Catholic spirituality. As I’ve noted before, you can’t get more Christocentric than a Catholic Mass, and, ultimately, Marian devotion is Christocentric. Mary is honored because she is – again – the mother of God.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Victor,

Nestorianism is the risk in the Protestant position, at least as it has developed in internet discussions in the early 21st Century.

I notice, for example, that Steve defines Mary as the "Mother of the Messiah."

I suspect this is a way of avoiding saying that Mary is the "Mother of God."

Of course, the circumlocution of "Mother of the Messiah" seems to nuance the idea that Christ's role as "messiah" was not necessarily his role as second person of the Trinity incarnated in human flesh. I would note that a "messiah" might be totally human, but that incarnate Son of God is necessarily divine (and human.)

Of course what this does is to drive a wedge between Christ as human and Christ as divine, so that Mary might be Christotoukos - Christ-bearer - but not Theotokos - God-bearer. At that point, we are at full blown Nestorianism and we have to start wondering about the integrated person of Christ, e.g., Is He reall God? Was his human nature vitiated by his divine nature? etc.

These are, of course, the issues that drove orthodoxy Christianity into the acceptance of Marian devotion.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Nestorianism is the risk in the Protestant position, at least as it has developed in internet discussions in the early 21st Century.

I notice, for example, that Steve defines Mary as the "Mother of the Messiah."

I suspect this is a way of avoiding saying that Mary is the "Mother of God."


That's patently absurd. And it's not often that I get to use that phrase. The phrase "Mother of God" is one which Protestants naturally want to distance themselves from following Catholic abuses. It's also not as technically accurate as something like "Mother of the Messiah", since Mary is not the mother of the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. She is only the mother of the Son Incarnate.

By all means, explain how this is like Nestorianism.

Of course, the circumlocution of "Mother of the Messiah" seems to nuance the idea that Christ's role as "messiah" was not necessarily his role as second person of the Trinity incarnated in human flesh. I would note that a "messiah" might be totally human, but that incarnate Son of God is necessarily divine (and human.)

You're reading your own inept and/or heretical ideas about the Messiah into Steve's position, I'd say. Biblically speaking, there is no way the Messiah could be only human.

Of course what this does is to drive a wedge between Christ as human and Christ as divine, so that Mary might be Christotoukos - Christ-bearer - but not Theotokos - God-bearer.

Utter hogswash.

terri said...

Peter,

There's nothing quite like condescension to keep a conversation going! ;-)

"The reason I say that it is illogical, in part, is because I assume that you believe in the existence of a soul. "

No...not really! ;-) If by soul you mean a wispy, spirit that fills this body and continues living without a body and really has no need of a body...then no I do not believe in "souls".

" It’s not biblical

It's quite biblical. In fact the Old Testament makes no mention of a conscious after-life. Jesus consistently refers to "eternal life" on the one hand and destruction on the other. Eternal life always has in mind resurrection, not heavenly existence.

Lazarus and the Rich man is a parable....the point of which is that people unwilling to believe what they already have will not be convinced even by someone rising from the dead....foreshadowing of Christ's resurrection.

The thing is....for every slight description of a conscious intermediary life....there are dozens more about resurrection for the just and destruction of the wicked.

I have written extensively about this on my blog....though not for a while because I got burned out on the subject.

There really is vast number of things that have gotten me to where I am right now and it would take too long for me to relate them all in a comment box. Needless to say, I think that where I stand theologically has merit and the that it has the support of Scripture.

I am under no illusions that there aren't problem passages in my view. But the truth is that there are problem passages for virtually every theological stance in existence. You choose the mess you want to deal with.

As far as "Mother of God"....I think Dominic pretty much nails it.

I wonder who gets the title "Father of God"?

"God" has no mother....or father. Jesus does have a mother, what with being human and all.

There is no conflict whatsoever in believing in Jesus' divinity and Mary's motherhood of him.

terri said...

I forgot to add....

Praise in and of itself is not wrong. Praising your wife, children, friends...no problem at all.

It's not the act of praise, but what you are praising them for that is at issue. If I praise my husband for attributes which are found in God alone, that's a problem. If I praise him for being a good husband, that's not a problem.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Dominic wrote:

That's patently absurd. And it's not often that I get to use that phrase. The phrase "Mother of God" is one which Protestants naturally want to distance themselves from following Catholic abuses. It's also not as technically accurate as something like "Mother of the Messiah", since Mary is not the mother of the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. She is only the mother of the Son Incarnate.

By all means, explain how this is like Nestorianism.


Actually, your argument is the definition of what Nestorianism means.

I've already explained this, but let me sketch the argument again. You may also want to study Nestorianism for yourself.

Orthodox Christianity -i.e., the Chalcedonian doctrine accepted by Orthodoxy and Catholicism and, even, the Monophysite Jacobite Orthodox churches - rejected the doctrine advanced by Nestorius. Nestorius argued that Mary was the Christotokous, but not the Theotokos, because Mary was only the mother of the human nature of God.

The problem with that approach is that it seems to make the person of Christ into two separate persons - one divine and the other human, and that apparently the divine nature took up residence in the human person of Christ after birth. Further, Nestorianism has some implicatons for the doctrine of the Trinity because it argues that Christ in some ways was not God. For example, if we say that Mary did not give birth to God, then how can we say that God died for us or that Christ was fully and completely God for that matter?

The Chalcedonian response was to affirm that whatever can be affirmed of Christ can be affirmed of God. Hence, we can affirm that God died for us, in the Second Person and in His human nature, but nonetheless it was the "person" of Jeus Christ who is God who died for us. Likewise, Mary gave birth to God by giving birth to Second Person of the Trinity in His human nature, but nonetheless Christ is one person who was born by the Virgin Mary in His human nature.

It is not true that "Protestants" want to distance themselves from the title of "Mother of God." Most Protestant denominations affirm the Nicene Creed and are Chalcedonian, although their individual members may not be aware of this. I clearly don't know what denomination you belong to, but if you belong to any of the historic denominations, your denomination is Chalcedonian, for good reason.

I believe that many Protestant denominations that don't make a big deal of creeds are Chalcedonian. Pastor Jan Van Oosten of New Covenant Baptist Church here in Fresno is a Chalcedonian and accepts the historic 7 "ecumenical councils".

I trust that explanation helps. I suspect that you are actually a Chalcedonian, but aren't aware of it. If you are not, then there are a whole bunch of questions that we can ask that will undoubtedly lead you into taking positions that contradict other positions that you hold, because that's why doctrine developes over time, i.e., to make theology more coherent.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Dom wrote:

You're reading your own inept and/or heretical ideas about the Messiah into Steve's position, I'd say. Biblically speaking, there is no way the Messiah could be only human.

Well, tell that to all Jews who lived prior to the Resurrection and to Jews living today.

Seriously, the Resurrection changed everything. We read the bible today in light of the Resurrection. If we forget that, then we will be tempted to take a "boastful" - and I know how Protestants hate "boasting" - about our personal sagacity and intuition.

But reflect on the difference between the depiction of the apostles in the Gospels and in Acts. After Acts, the apostles are all about how the scriptures forecast the death and resurrection of a different kind of unexpected messiah. What happened? Well, the Resurrection happened and that changed everything.

By the way, this idea is not original with me. The idea that all of Christian theology is a footnote to the Resurrection was a core concept of St. Hilary of Poiters. Robert Louis Wilken's excellent "The Spirit of Early Christian Thought" does an amazing job of laying out the significance of this insight.

Finally, the claim that it is clear that the messiah could not have been human is not even born out by Christian history. There was, of course, a long history of arguments about the nature of Christ, ranging from the notion that he was a human who was promoted to divinity to the notion that he was a subordinated divine creature. The fact that it is obvious that the messiah must be consubstantial with the Creator is a tribute to the Holy Spirit working through the Church to lead the Church to all truth, such as, for example, through ecumenical councils like Nicea, Ephesus and Chalcedon.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Terri wrote:

There's nothing quite like condescension to keep a conversation going! ;-)

I couldn't agree more. What do you think about the fact that in this thread I've been accused of being "inept and heretical" and have being made a invincibly ignorant of the ability to follow an argument because of my religious faith.

To a certain extent, when one is in that kind of discussion, there is a tendency to conflate arguments. I've made the unbiblical comment because it seems that that "argument" carries some weight. As for the illogical point, I explained what that meant and offered you a way to say that you aren't being illogical with your first principles.

But, seriously, do you believe that I've treated you worse than I've been treated in this thread? And you will note that I have not respond to those comments in kind by engaging in retaliatory name-calling. Instead, I've answered the objections.

No...not really! ;-) If by soul you mean a wispy, spirit that fills this body and continues living without a body and really has no need of a body...then no I do not believe in "souls".

No, I don't mean any such thing. As I've said, I'm a Thomist and an Aristotelian. I've outlined the fact that my position is that the soul is the subsistent, incorporeal, intellectual "form" of the living human.

If you read the link I've provided and read Aristotles de Animus, you will learn that there is a far more sophisticated and subtle understanding of what a soul is than a "wispy, spirit" that has no need of a body. In fact, the soul very much has "need" of a body for a variety of reasons, such as sensing, thinking, imagining, remembering etc.

But, again, when you start with a childish caricature - a strawman - it's pretty easy to reject that strawman.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

It's quite biblical. In fact the Old Testament makes no mention of a conscious after-life.

The Transfiguration???? Where Moses and Elijah speak to Jeus???

Saul and the Witch of Endor???

Peter's reference to Jesus preaching to the souls in Hell?????

Paul talking about being surrounded by a "cloud of witnesses"???

The souls of martyrs in Revelations asking "how long"????

Look, I'm not persuaded by the tag "unbiblical." Calling something "unbiblical" is usually the conclusion of an argument, not the argument itself, notwithstanding how many times my Protestant interlocutors think that calling a position "unbiblical" is the clinching argument. So, yes, you can certainly call everything I've said a metaphor or parable, and you can count up the number of references and base your answer on numbers.

But, me, I'd ask, "how did people at the time think?"

Lazarus and the Rich Man is a parable, but the significance is that Jesus didn't think it was odd to describe the dead as being sentient in some sense and aware of their condition. And no one said, "hey, what are you talking about? That wouldn't happen."

Likewise, all of the other tacit assumptions in the bible of consciousness post-death (which I've outlined.)

By all means, you can distinguish them all, and under "private interpretation" you are free to do so. Personally, I feel compelled to look at the historic understandings of those interpretations since I don't believe I'm as competent to interpret them as my wiser brothers and sisters in Christ.

Which means that we can have no further discussion unless we can appeal to some common principle that we can both agree upon. There might be such a principle but that is not this discussion.

But that also means that your objection to Marian devotion is not the same basis as other Protestants who accept the notion of the survival of consciousness after death. In fact, you are farther from the orthodox Protestant position than I am.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

"God" has no mother....or father. Jesus does have a mother, what with being human and all.

So, you are saying that Jesus is not God?

This is pure Nestorianism.

Because if Jesus is God and if Jesus had a mother, then God had a mother.

What denomination, if any, do you belong to? I'd be curious to see what its position is.

I'd also note for Victor that this is essentially identical to the statement by the Catholic student that he "worshipped" Mary.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Victor,

I think I've done enough at this point to show that the Catholic Church is not merely defining Marian devotion as not being worship by fiat.

In a few posts we have gone a fair way to to having apparently orthodox Protestants deny the consubstantiality of the Trinity, all because of their fear of according Mary the honor that is due to her being the Mother of God.

Mark Shea makes the argument that Marian doctrines are Christological doctrines. Marian doctrines affirm something important about the person of Christ and his relationship to the Trinity. I think this thread has done a terrific job of making that point.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Before I lapse into semi-nestorianism, let me unpack some of what I wrote previously about Mary being the mother of Christ in his human nature.

The orthodox position is as follows:

Jesus Christ is a person.

Jesus Christ is God.

That person is composed of two natures.

Mary is the mother of the person who is Jesus Christ.

Mary is therefore the Mother of God.

There are obviously a lot of nuances and developments after this, but this is the core of Christian theology accepted by the Western Christian churches.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Praise in and of itself is not wrong. Praising your wife, children, friends...no problem at all.

It's not the act of praise, but what you are praising them for that is at issue. If I praise my husband for attributes which are found in God alone, that's a problem. If I praise him for being a good husband, that's not a problem.


OK, that's getting pretty close to a definition of "worship."

So, let me ask you, where does the Catholic Church teach that Catholics should praise the Blessed Virgin Mary in terms of attributes which belong to God alone?

Answer: it doesn't. It teaches that Mary is a creature and it teaches that it proper to ask her to pray on our behalf to God. It never says that she is the Creator.

Isn't that the point I've been making from the beginning.

Likewise, my point about the Mormon hypdulia of Jesus is based on the fact that a Mormon leaders says that it is blasphemous to attribute to Jesus things that belong to God alone.

Hence, my point that Mormons don't "worship" Jesus.

QED.

I take it that we have now answered Victor's question and this thread has done its job.

terri said...

Peter,

As far as name calling.....if you have been blogging/been commenting on blogs for any length of time....you should just learn to ignore it. Some people can't discuss things without being harsh.

That's just life on the internet.

Saul and the witch of endor is the only reference to life after death in the Old Testament. If you are going to bring that up, I have to ask if you believe witches and their powers are real? Do they really have the ability to call dead people from Heaven to Earth? Accepting the story as literal fact is just as problematic for more "orthodox" Christians because it opens the door wide to more questions...not answers. Your own example of Lazarus and the RIch Man contradicts the notion that there is any interaction between the dead and the living.

You said:

But, me, I'd ask, "how did people at the time think?"

And that goes to my point, not yours. What people thought during the time that the various books of the Bible were written is very different than what people think today. Read the gospels and find me instances where Jesus teaches that salvation=heavenly existence. You're not going to find it. Read 1 Corinthians15 and tell me where you find it. Read the full context of Matthew 22 and Jesus refutation of the Sadducees and their lack of a belief in the Resurrection.

Jesus and Paul both refer to the dead as "sleeping".

Here's a post a I wrote some time ago about this:Asleep, Not Dead.

Cloud of witnesses--the writer of hebrews is transitioning from Hebrews 11, the great list of the faithful, which ends with Hebrews 11:39-40:

39These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Souls in hell--it's actually translated spirits in prison....and good luck finding someone who can completely explain what it's referring to. It certainly doesn't work for a typical Christian theology of dying and either ending up in Heaven or Hell. And people aren't usually referred to as "spirits"....leading one to believe that he might be referring to angels...but still that's just more speculation.

Souls in Revelation----a purposely apocalyptic, provocatively written book. Does God store souls under an altar? Is the Heavenly City really made of gold and precious gems? Do gold and gems have any value to God? Is there really a literal Book of Life with names written in it? How big are the pages? Is a literal dragon going to rise from the sea?

These are pictures, metaphors, animated expressions of deeper things. I don't take them at face value.

The Transfiguration---Well technically Elijah didn't die...so hey, it could have been him! ;-) No great explanation for this....but as I said....every theological stance has its problem passages.

One more point.....something that occurred to me. It's no coincidence that Catholics believe that Mary ascended into Heaven. It actually goes more to the point of believing that she should somehow be physically "alive" and escape death. So....in a way a good tactic your argument with me would be to say that Mary is a special case and isn't "sleeping" in the same way as everyone else. I wouldn't buy it because I see the ascension of Mary as post-biblical....but it's still something interesting.

terri said...

You said:

Because if Jesus is God and if Jesus had a mother, then God had a mother.

This is just a word game. No God, with a capital G, did not have a mother...because He is eternal. Jesus, the God-man, divinity incarnated in to human flesh, did have a mother for at least the human part of him. The divinity incarnated was not created by Mary. She did not assume maternal status over the part of Jesus that was the fullness of Deity.

She may have carried it within her during her pregnancy, but that also occurred through God's own choosing. Her only contribution to the existence of Jesus was in her willingness to say, "Yes."

As far as what denomination I belong to...that's really neither here nor there. My thoughts are my own.

I don't really want to continue to sidetrack the discussion....I feel bad enough that I did.

So consider this my last comment.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

The problem with that approach is that it seems to make the person of Christ into two separate persons - one divine and the other human, and that apparently the divine nature took up residence in the human person of Christ after birth.

What are you talking about? Christ is not two separate persons, and nothing about my response implies or entails this. But he certainly does have two separate natures. Persons and natures are not the same thing.

The Chalcedonian response was to affirm that whatever can be affirmed of Christ can be affirmed of God.

Well, that's obviously absurd. Christ had a beginning in time. God did not. Christ did not know the time of his return. God does. Maybe what you meant to say was that anything which can be affirmed of Christ as God can be affirmed of God—but that's just a tautology.

Well, tell that to all Jews who lived prior to the Resurrection and to Jews living today.

So...because the Jews believed the Messiah could be merely human...what? What is your argument? What point are you even trying to make?

Seriously, the Resurrection changed everything. We read the bible today in light of the Resurrection

Of course we do. So what? Are you suggesting that we shouldn't understand the nature of the Messiah in light of all revelation?

If we forget that, then we will be tempted to take a "boastful" - and I know how Protestants hate "boasting" - about our personal sagacity and intuition.

Again, what are you talking about? I never said I was relying on my intuition to know that Christ had to be God as well as man. It's right there in Scripture. What are you even trying to get at?

In a few posts we have gone a fair way to to having apparently orthodox Protestants deny the consubstantiality of the Trinity, all because of their fear of according Mary the honor that is due to her being the Mother of God.

Lolz, n1. Smearing your opponents with the Nestorian label when you can't adequately answer them as regards your worship of Mary.

AndyMo said...

Well, that's obviously absurd. Christ had a beginning in time.

Bald-faced heresy. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The Father and I are one.

Do all these things sound familiar?

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Bald-faced heresy. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

You don't follow too well, do you Andy? Did the man Jesus Christ have a beginning in time, or not?

Are you claiming that the man Jesus Christ has always existed?

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Dom wrote:

What are you talking about? Christ is not two separate persons, and nothing about my response implies or entails this. But he certainly does have two separate natures. Persons and natures are not the same thing.

Yes. That's the point. Mary was the mother of a person. That person was God. Therefore, Mary was the Mother of God. QED.

Look I hate to break this to you and Teri, but I am not doing anything other than running an argument based on the 4th Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, which confirmed the decision of the 3rd Ecumenical Council of Ephesus defining the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos - the Mother of God. You can look up everything that I've written and see that I'm not holding some weird, idiosyncratic position, but, rather, I'm being as vanilla-flavored orthodox as can possibly be imagined. The fact that you don't recognize this isn't surprising and is a piece with Victor's story about his Catholic student.

Nonetheless, the reason for the definition of Mary as Theotokos is the problems that you have been running into in this thread. Specifically, only persons get born, only persons have mothers. Natures don't get born or have mothers. So, by denying that Mary is the Mother of the Person Jesus who is God, you are either splitting Jesus into two persons by saying that Jesus was not the Logos in the womb of Mary or you are saying that Jesus is not consubstantial with the Father. The first option is a Christological heresy, the second is a Trinitarian heresy. Both have substantial consequences for our understanding of Christ and salvation.

If you deny that Jesus was the Logos in Mary's womb, you now have problems with passages in Luke which say that Jesus was the Lord in the womb of Mary (Consider Elizabeth being honored that the mother of "my Lord" should visit me and what "Lord" means in the Gospels.)

If you take the second route, then you are accepting an "adoptionist" theology, which has its own problems. Not the least of which are the passages cited by AndyMos, as well as taking a step toward Arianism (or Mormonism, if that's a bigger concern for you.)

I can tell that you are getting angry, but your problem is not with me. I'm just telling you what the facts are with respect to early Christian theology. There is no shame in being Nestorian, but you should be aware of the fact that that is where you tending to go.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Dom wrote:

You don't follow too well, do you Andy? Did the man Jesus Christ have a beginning in time, or not?

Are you claiming that the man Jesus Christ has always existed?


Did the person Jesus - i.e., the Second Person of the Trinity - have a beginning in time?

By the way, since you place such an emphasis on "the man Jesus," do you believe that there is a "man Jesus" and a "god Jesus"? Wouldn't that mean that they are separated and wouldn't that mean - since they are both persons - that you are defining two persons?

As an orthodox Christian, I believe that there is only a single person who is Jesus, and that this Jesus had both an eternal and timeless begetting by the Father and human birth through Mary, which makes her the mother of a single person who is both divine and human and is God.

Your problem with this is.....?

Incidently, I'm not "smearing" anyone with the label of Nestorianism, but that's the position you are staking out in your effort to deny that Mary is the Mother of God and therefore entitled to some honor and respect as the Mother of God.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Terri wrote:

As far as name calling.....if you have been blogging/been commenting on blogs for any length of time....you should just learn to ignore it. Some people can't discuss things without being harsh.

Oh, I thought you were concerned with tone. Because it seemed that you were upbraiding me about my tone. Yet, when I point out that other people have been far harsher than I, apparently it's all good and so much water under the bridge.

I must have been confused into thinking that there was one standard that should apply to everyone. Or perhaps you weren't complaining.

Saul and the witch of endor is the only reference to life after death in the Old Testament.

Well, no it's not. Read Second Maccabees. You will find repeated references to life after death. Also, you might want to explain where Enoch and Elijah went. I think there is also references to life after deathe in Wisdom. Other old testament passages include Psalm 65.12, Isaiah 4.4, and many others. The practice of praying for the dead was normative for Jews other than Sadducees in the First Century

Before you object that Maccabees and Wisdom are not canonical in your denomination, whatever that is, consider the fact that it is evidence of what Palestinian Jews would have accepted as normative at the time of Jesus, and why it is the case that Jesus' parables assume a conscious life after death prior to the Resurrection. Those parables include not just Lazarus and the Rich Man but the Matthew 5 and Luke 12 have long been accepted as evidence of life after death and prior to the Resurrection by Early Church Fathers, including Origen, Augustine, Jerome and Hilary.

In light of that tradition, understanding what is meant by the "harrowing of Hell" described in 1 Pet. 4:6 isn't difficult, and it wasn't considered difficult by the early church. Rather, it was understood that prior to his Resurrection Christ preached the gospel to those waiting in "Abraham's bosom." Cf. Luke 16:22-25.) This is why the early Apostles Creed confesses that "Christ descended into Hell."

Obviously, I'm not going to convince you of anything, and that isn't my intent. My intent has been to show that the majority, historical and universal understanding of Christianity has been that there is a continuing sentient existence between death and the general resurrection. I believe that proposition is beyond contradiction.

I asked you for your denomination to see if we could find some common ground. If you don't want to share, that's your choice. I will note that I have not played "hide the ball" with my theological background.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Yes. That's the point. Mary was the mother of a person. That person was God. Therefore, Mary was the Mother of God. QED.

You just don't know what the fallacy of equivocation is, do you? God is not the Son. The Son is God. It is not a symmetrical relationship such that you can bandy about such statements without qualification.

You can look up everything that I've written and see that I'm not holding some weird, idiosyncratic position

I don't really care about whether your position is weird or mainstream. I care whether it is sensible and true.

Nonetheless, the reason for the definition of Mary as Theotokos is the problems that you have been running into in this thread. Specifically, only persons get born, only persons have mothers.

Indeed. Yet being a person does not entail being born or having a mother.

So, by denying that Mary is the Mother of the Person Jesus who is God, you are either splitting Jesus into two persons by saying that Jesus was not the Logos in the womb of Mary or you are saying that Jesus is not consubstantial with the Father.

I'm not saying either of those things; you've obviously misunderstood me. Allow me clarify what I meant when I said that "Mary is not the mother of the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. She is only the mother of the Son Incarnate." Mary is not the mother of the Godhead. Neither is she the source of the Son such that the Son began to exist when Mary conceived. I have no problem with referring to her as the mother of the Son in the sense that she bore the Son. But that is why "God-bearer" is a much better term than "Mother of God". The term "mother" in ordinary usage implies something which is absurd with regard to God—namely, begetting.

I can tell that you are getting angry

You're not very good at this.

There is no shame in being Nestorian, but you should be aware of the fact that that is where you tending to go.

There's no shame in being an unsaved heretic? Really? Is that an orthodox view?

Did the person Jesus - i.e., the Second Person of the Trinity - have a beginning in time?

Nope. But that isn't what I was addressing now, is it?

By the way, since you place such an emphasis on "the man Jesus," do you believe that there is a "man Jesus" and a "god Jesus"?

I believe there is a man Jesus, who is God the Son incarnate.

Jesus had both an eternal and timeless begetting by the Father and human birth through Mary, which makes her the mother of a single person who is both divine and human and is God.

Your problem with this is.....?


Nothing, provided that we understand Mary's motherhood is not motherhood as typically defined—ie, a relationship wherein the mother begets the child.

terri said...

I said I wasn't going to comment anymore, but I had to at least point out that most of the references you mentioned do not prove your point and some are altogether off-topic. If there's one thing that gets my goat it's someone trying to twist things to shore up their arguments. Disagree with me. Think I'm wrong.....just don't be manipulative with the texts.

You assumed that I wouldn't actually look up your references. T

They are as follows:

Isaiah 4:4:

4 The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire.

This says nothing about eternal life

Psalm 65:12

12 The grasslands of the desert overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.

Once again....has nothing to do with eternal life.

2nd Maccabees 7:9

9 At the point of death he said: "You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for his laws that we are dying."

Seems pretty clear that his hope is in resurrection

2nd Maccabees 7:14

14When he was near death, he said, "It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the God-given hope of being restored to life by him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life."


same here...hope in the resurrection

Matthew 5-- no mention of a conscious after-life...hell can be understood as "the grave" or gehenna, where they threw the bodies of criminals to rot in the open air....an incredible shame in that culture to be denied a proper burial. It's better to enter life with one eye than it is to rot in the grave with a whole body.

Luke 12 has a companion verse in Matthew 10:28

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

How can something immortal be destroyed?

It's no coincidence that Luke has Lazarus and the Rich Man, the theif on the cross being promised to be in Paradise, and the absence of "soul" in Luke 12.

There is a theme here, and it's not hard to see that Luke is putting forth something which is absent in the other gospels...not a coincidence at all. Make of that what you will.

I was just kidding with you about tone ...it was a playful jab....that's all.

I wasn't playing "hide the ball". I simply don't think its any of your business what denomination I attend. It seemed more like an attempt to try and pigeon-hole me.

I stand on my own...and whether or not I am in agreement with a particular denomination has no bearing on what I believe.

Brian Britton said...

Old heresies don't die. They are just re-invented.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Dominic wrote:

You just don't know what the fallacy of equivocation is, do you? God is not the Son. The Son is God. It is not a symmetrical relationship such that you can bandy about such statements without qualification.

At this point, you are denying the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. You are also confused about the fallacy of equivocation.

Would you mind telling me what your church adherence is. I think if I know that I can show you from your own dogmatic constitution why you are mistaken.

Apart from that let me refer you to St. Agustine's definition of the Trinity, which I'm providing from an Episcopalian site:

"St. Augustine restated the doctrine of the Trinity as we profess it in the Nicene Creed in 7 statements: (from: On Christian Doctrine):

1. The Father is God

2. The Son is God

3. The Holy Spirit is God

4. The Father is not the Son

5. The Son is not the Holy Spirit

6. The Holy Spirit is not the Father

7. There is only one God."

In other words, orthodox Trinitarianism - as explained by St. Augustine and considered normative thereafter - is that the Son is God, but the Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit.

So, what I've been saying is absolutely correct under orthodox, Nicene Christian theology. Your interpretation on the other hand is not.

Incidently, the distinction between the Father and Son is why it is imcorrect to affirm that what is true of the Son is also true of the Father. Failing to recognize that distinction leads to the heresy of Patripassionism.

By the way, have you noticed that thus far you have offered no argument based on reason or commonly accepted "data"? Basically, you've simply made a series of assertions about things that you think are true, which is fine, but the discussion might advance better if you make a reasoned argument in support of your position.

Indeed. Yet being a person does not entail being born or having a mother.

Yes, certainly. The Son is a person, but until the Incarnation, the Son did not have a mother.

On the other hand, if the Son was born, then the Son must have had a mother. Further, what that mother gave birth to must have been a person since that is what giving birth entails; mothers do not give birth to natures, only persons.

That's the point I made previously, which followed up on your point about natures and persons. At this point will you acknowledge that we are in agreement on this point? If not, please provide a logical argument why we aren't.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Dom wrote:

I'm not saying either of those things; you've obviously misunderstood me. Allow me clarify what I meant when I said that "Mary is not the mother of the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. She is only the mother of the Son Incarnate."

The Son is God. See Augustine and about 2,000 years of orthodox Christian theology.

Again, it's fine with me if you are not orthodox, but then I am entirely confused by what you mean by "heretical."

Mary is not the mother of the Godhead.

Well, now you've introduced a new, undefined term into the discussion.

I don't know what "Godhead" could mean other than "God" and, pace St. Augustine, "there is only one God."

It sounds to me that you are moving in a non-trinitarian direction similar to that of the Hindus and Mormons who discuss the unity of their gods within a "godhead."

Is that where you really want to go?

Neither is she the source of the Son such that the Son began to exist when Mary conceived.

I agree and I've already discussed why I agree, namely because this is what the Nicene Creed teaches.

But the Nicene Creed also teaches that the person who is the Son is the same person who was born of the Virgin Mary. There is only one person and one natural birth to a human mother. Also, there was not a time when what Mary bore in her womb was not the person who is the Logos. Mary gave birth to the Logos.

Your problem is that you think that a person's existence necessarily begins with conception. This is certainly true of human beings, but is undoubtedly not true in the case of the Logos. The Logos was a person before his human existence began and a person after it began, and He was the same person all the way through.

The term "mother" in ordinary usage implies something which is absurd with regard to God—namely, begetting.

Read the Nicene Creed and see where it refers to "eternally begotten."

There's no shame in being an unsaved heretic?

In our pluralistic society there is not.

Also, Nestorians shared in a valid baptism which makes them our separated brethren. Further, many Nestorian churches returned to the Catholic faith at various times in history, and are still doing so.

Finally, there are Nestorian saints on the Catholic calendar of saints.

Nope. But that isn't what I was addressing now, is it?

I'm not clear what you think you are addressing, but it appears to contradict the Nicene Creed.

Nothing, provided that we understand Mary's motherhood is not motherhood as typically defined—ie, a relationship wherein the mother begets the child.

Mothers never "beget" children. Mothers give birth to children.

The Son is "eternally begotten of the Father."

Do you belong to a church that says the Nicene Creed as part of its services?

I hope that people are getting a sense that theological definitions such as the Theotokos are not randomly imposed but flow from fundamental Chistological concepts.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Terri wrote:

I said I wasn't going to comment anymore, but I had to at least point out that most of the references you mentioned do not prove your point and some are altogether off-topic. If there's one thing that gets my goat it's someone trying to twist things to shore up their arguments. Disagree with me. Think I'm wrong.....just don't be manipulative with the texts.

It seems that every time I respond to you I have to point out that you are doing the things that you attribute to me. For example, I’ve provided you with a plethora of New Testament citations that attest to sentient pre-resurrection, post death existence. Your approach is to waive your hand at them and pronounce them as parables, complicated or stories, although you acknowledge that you can’t account for the presence of Moses in the Transfiguration. But having declared every bit of evidence against your as a mere metaphor – or something you can’t explain so that you can ignore it – you then declare that there are no texts in favor of life after death. Well, gosh, yes, once you eliminate all the problematic passages, then certainly the interpretation will pretty clearly be the one that you want.

How precisely, then, are you not “manipulating texts”?

At least on my side of the discussion, I am not manipulating texts. I am simply telling you how these texts have universally and historically been understood by those who formed the Christian orthodox tradition. Mayby they were manipulating texts, but they are not me. On the other hand, as far as I can tell, you are manipulating texts inasmuch as you appear to have set yourself up as a one-person magisterium.

Also, what kind of argument is “manipulating texts”? All interpretations involve an attempt to understand the texts, which requires that we “manipulate” the texts to put it into some context that we can understand in light of our current situation. I at least am trying to understand the texts in their historical setting, none of which have you addressed. The question is, how tenable is the interpretation?

Peter Sean Bradley said...

You assumed that I wouldn't actually look up your references.

Nope, I didn’t. I would have.

Isaiah 4:4:

I quote St. Francis De Sales concerning this passage:


“This purgation made in the spirit of judgment and of burning is understood of Purgatory by S. Augustine, in the 20th Book of the City of God, ch. 25. And in fact this interpretation is favoured by the words preceding, in which mention is made of the salvation of men, and also by the end of the chapter, where the repose of the blessed is spoken of; wherefore that which is said- the Lord shall wash away the filth- is to be understood of the purgation necessary for this salvation.And since it is said that this purgation is to be made in the spirit of heat and of burning, it cannot well be understood save of Purgatory and its fire.”

St. Augustine may have been wrong, but I don't think you can waive your hands and make his interpretation disappear.

Psalm 65:12….
Once again....has nothing to do with eternal life.


You are aware of the fact that the Catholic numbering for Psalms is different than the Protestant numbering?

In any event here is De Sales again: “This place is brought in proof of purgatory by Origen (Hom. 2 5 in Numeros), and by S. Ambrose (in Ps. xxxvi., and in sermon 3 on Ps. cxviii.), where he expounds the water of Baptism, and the fire of Purgatory.”

2nd Maccabees 7:9

De Sales again: “The answer is that in this place they do not pray for the resurrection either of the soul or of the body, but only for the deliverance of souls. In this they presuppose the immortality of the soul. For if they had believed that the soul was dead with the body they would not have striven to further their release. And because among the Jews the belief in the immortality of the soul and the belief in the resurrection of bodies were so connected together that he who denied one denied the other; -to show that Judas Machabaeus believed the immortality of the soul, it is said that he believed the resurrection of bodies. And in the same way the Apostle proves the resurrection of bodies by the immortality of the soul, although it might be that the soul was immortal without the resurrection of bodies.”

By the way, Pamela Eisenbaum, a Jewish New Testament scholar, makes the same point in her excellent recent book “Paul was not a Christian” by pointing out that both the Pharisaic Jews and St. Paul assumed that Resurrection necessarily implied the immortality of the soul. In fact, according to Eisenbaum, and many others, that equation was essential to the Pauline message.

Matthew 5 has Jesus saying:

“26 Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.

The part you have missed is “not be released until you have paid the last penny.” If the soul is destroyed, how does it pay the “last penny”? If the soul is destroyed, how is it released after it has paid the “last penny”? Cf. Luke 12:59.

As for “destroy”, I take it in light of Jesus’ other comments about the “worm which does not die” that he is talking about an eternal punishment or separation from the Good, which we might view as a kind of destruction.

Incidentally, the point here is not to exegete in a vacuum, but to ask what the text meant in its original context. Since Jews of the First Century prayed for the dead, sacrificed for the sins of the dead and had a tradition equivalent to purgatorial suffering, the inference is that they understood it as meaning “life after death.”

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Terri wrote:

It's no coincidence that Luke has Lazarus and the Rich Man, the theif on the cross being promised to be in Paradise, and the absence of "soul" in Luke 12.

There is a theme here, and it's not hard to see that Luke is putting forth something which is absent in the other gospels...not a coincidence at all. Make of that what you will.


I don’t know what you mean by this, but I do know that we are not permitted under the standards of Christian exegesis simply to disregard what is said in one Gospel because it is inconvenient to our theory. That canon of construction has obtained since Marcion.

I wasn't playing "hide the ball". I simply don't think its any of your business what denomination I attend. It seemed more like an attempt to try and pigeon-hole me.

My point is to reach a common consensus and work from there. Your views don’t exist in a splendid vacuum, rather they are integrated into other beliefs. I suspect, by the way, given your emphasis on “soul sleep” and the destruction of souls in Hell, that you hail from a Seventh Day Adventist tradition. Alternatively, given your belief in the absence of an immortal soul, you might have been influenced by the JWs or Garner Ted Armstrong. In any event, one belief implies other beliefs, and unless you've had lifetimes to work them out, the best way to see how coherent a belief system is would be to look at that system in gestalt.

I’ve put my cards on the table. Anyone can look up what I’m saying and point out where I’ve been inconsistent with my first principles. They can see that I’m a Nicene Christian, and, hopefully, we can use that commonality to have a fruitful discussion. The “hide the ball” approach doesn’t forward that agenda in the slightest.

I stand on my own...and whether or not I am in agreement with a particular denomination has no bearing on what I believe.

Well, no you don't. No Christian stands alone. All Christians are part of a living community. That's how the Gospel was and is received and understood and lived.

You may think you stand alone, but then you are definitely not understanding other core principles of Christianity such as the "body of Christ" and the "communion of saints."

See what I meant about theological principles having to hold togethe

You might also be interested in reading Augustine's Confessions, particularly where he talks about Victorinus' question, "Do walls then a Christian make?"

Victorinus' answer, to which Augustine concurred, was "yes."

terri said...

Peter,

Much of what you quote is simply part of what I like to call the exponential IF/THEN, wherein someone starts with an unclear, obscure assumption and then builds a huge tower of suppositions and arguments.

It doesn't matter what Augustine or De Sales claim about the passages if the passages themselves clearly don't say what they're are claiming they say.

So what if Augustine claims Maccabees is evidence for the immortality of the soul? If the text doesn't actually say that ....why should we accept that interpretation?

You consistently appeal to epistemic authority without any concession that you might be appealing to an incorrect interpretation?

I am not an inerrantist. I think that forcing texts to say something they clearly don't, and working backwards to try and prove that what Christians currently believe is the same as what the Jewish writers of Scripture believed is a dubious, dishonest practice.

Yes...I can see how if you take theology developed in the 4th, 13th, or 20th century and assume that it is the same as what 1st century Jewish people believed, or the Israelites believed in 600 BCE....then you will most definitely find what you're looking for....even if it isn't there.

terri said...

Well, no you don't. No Christian stands alone. All Christians are part of a living community. That's how the Gospel was and is received and understood and lived.

I actually agree with you on this.

When I say I stand alone...I merely mean that I won't believe something simply because a large group of people with authority or power believe it.

that is all

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

At this point, you are denying the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. You are also confused about the fallacy of equivocation.

Perhaps I am confused—the doctrine of the Trinity is confusing. But remember the context of my statement is the context of your argument; and your argument was about persons. In terms of personhood, the Son is God, but God—at least as far as I understand Trinitarianism—is not only the Son. God includes the Son. Isn't that the very point of distinguishing between essence and persons? If it is univocally true that the Son is God, then does that not imply that God is complete without the Father and Spirit?

You were arguing that Mary is "the mother of God" because Mary is the mother of a person who is God. But, unless I am quite mistaken about personhood as regards God, this amounts to no more than a slipping in of essence into an argument ostensibly about persons. You yourself said that motherhood pertains to persons, not natures or essences. Yet your argument has to switch mid-stream from talking about persons to talking about essence, in order for the inference "the Son is God; therefore Mary is the mother of God" to hold. Ie:

P. The Son is God (in relationship to essence).
C. Mary is the mother of God (in relationship to personhood).

That's the very definition of equivocation. Remove the equivocation, and the argument no longer holds:

P*. The Son is God (in relationship to essence).
C*. Mary is the mother of God (in relationship to essence).

Hmm, nope. (C*) is false; as you say, motherhood does not pertain to essence. But how about this instead (which is how the argument should proceed given the original context):

P**. The Son is God (in relationship to personhood).
C**. Mary is the mother of God (in relationship to personhood).

Nope, that's not good either, as far as I can see. (P**) is false, so (C**) is false too. But even if I am mistaken and it is acceptable to say that "the Son is God" as regards personhood, the conclusion is still equivocal because you can then generate the following argument:

P1. The Father is God.
P2. Mary is the mother of God.
C1. Mary is the mother of the Father.

Substitute in "Spirit" for a second erroneous conclusion.

This is why I object to the unqualified statement that Mary is the mother of God. What is wrong with saying that Mary is the mother of God the Son?

On the other hand, if the Son was born, then the Son must have had a mother. Further, what that mother gave birth to must have been a person since that is what giving birth entails; mothers do not give birth to natures, only persons.

Agreed. As I said, I have no problem with the term "mother of God" provided that it's properly qualified. I just don't see why it's necessary when a perfectly biblical term—"God-bearer"—already exists. The term "mother of God" seems calculated toward (and popularized by) idolatry of Mary.

> The term "mother" in ordinary usage implies
> something which is absurd with regard to
> God—namely, begetting.

Read the Nicene Creed and see where it refers to "eternally begotten."


Er, yes. Eternally begotten of the Father. Not eternally begotten of Mary.

Mothers never "beget" children. Mothers give birth to children.

You can't be serious. Look up the word "beget". Admittedly mothers don't do it alone, but this is hardly the place for a lesson about the birds and the bees.

Finally, there are Nestorian saints on the Catholic calendar of saints.

That doesn't mean much to me, since the Catholic Church is a false church with a false gospel.

ELC said...

Saying that Mary is the Mother of God is a shorthand way of saying that Mary is the Mother of God the Son; that is, her son is God the Son. Belabored demonstrations that it must mean that she is the mother of all three Divine Persons, or of any of them, are therefore irrelevant except insofar as they reveal a misunderstanding of the dogma; they refute nothing but strawmen.

The reference to the Nicene Creed's phrase "eternally begotten" seems to be an implication of the distinction between (1) being eternally begotten and (2) being begotten in time; that is, (1) God the Son is eternally begotten of God the Father and (2) God the Son is begotten in time of Mary of Nazareth. (I am not asking anybody to agree with that; I am merely pointing out the distinction.) It may be admitted that the implication was rather oblique.

steve said...

Peter Sean Bradley said...

“Obviously, that is a naked assertion, rather than an argument or an offer of empirical proof.”

i) I was responding to your naked assertion (clothed as a rhetorical question) that this “should end the discussion right there.”

ii) And empiricism is irrelevant. Idolatry is not simply a sense datum.

“It is, in essence, a statement of Steve’s belief about Catholics, rather than a statement of Catholic belief, which is why I have repeatedly questioned the ability of third parties to read the hearts and souls of others.”

i) “Empiricism” is not about reading hearts and souls. You don’t grasp the significance of the words and concepts you intone.

ii) Naturally we’d expect idolaters to deny that they are idolaters. So what? Suppose a Catholic were an idolater. Would he admit it?

Spiritual self-delusion is blind to the reality of its delusive thoughts and actions.

“If a person can’t read the soul of another, than comments like this constitute the sin of ‘detraction’ and unchristian conduct.”

We can judge idolatry by the x-ray vision of Scripture.

“For example, ought a husband to have a devotion to his wife?”

The marital analogy is only as good as the Marian analogue. But to play along with your analogy, there’s a reason OT Jews were forbidden to marry pagan women. Their heathen wives would lead them into idolatry. So thanks for bringing that up. It nicely underscores my point.

“It is not the case that devotion to Mary competes with devotion to God inasmuch as Mary is ordered to God.”

You’re citing one Catholic dogma to prop up another Catholic dogma. Viciously circular.

“I reiterate something that no one wants to deal with – Mary was the Mother of God.”

I reiterate something that no Catholic wants to deal with – God was the Father of Mary.

“The point that I made previously, which has been ignored, is that honor is relative to the person.”

And, for that reason, Catholics dishonor Mary.

“So, I ask again, what is the honor that is appropriate to the Mother of God?”

Answer: “While he [Jesus] was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Mt 12:47-50).

“On the contrary, your argument has asserted that Catholics worship Mary as if she were God.”

Now you’re equivocating. I never said Catholics actually view Mary as a goddess. Rather, she’s the functional equivalent of a patron goddess. They pay lip-service to her humanity while elevating her to the practical status of a mother goddess.

The way of Roman might pray to Juno to placate the wrath of Mars. Since Mars is her son, his mother has leverage.

“Look, my point about the ordering of creation to God is not ‘rocket science.’ It has been around for millennia of orthodox Christian theology and is, you know, in the Bible.”

What you need to show is that Catholic Marian devotion is, you know, in the Bible. Your fallback appeal to Aquinas is a tacit admission that Catholic Marian devotion is not, you know, in the Bible.

steve said...

[PSB] “Do we agree with that. If so, doesn’t that make some different when you offer up wood nymphs as an example of idolatry, and then I respond that Mary is ordered to God.”

Crickets are also “ordered to God.” Do you pray to crickets?

“What about “MOTHER OF GOD”!!!!! makes you think that any of your analogies make sense?”

I realize it’s hard for you to break through your Pavlovian Catholic conditioning, but the analogies illustrate the point that an idolater doesn’t have to think the idolatrous object has the attributes of the Trinity to be an idolater.

“And that’s all there is to it?”

I responded to you on your own terms. You said, “The bible teaches that Mary was to be called ‘blessed’ by all geneations. Where do Protestants follow this Biblical injunction?”

My answer is directly responsive to your chosen framework.

“Her fiat meant nothing?”

Of course, that’s another bit of Catholic dogma rearing its ugly head. It’s not as if the angel Gabriel was bargaining with Mary. This was not a negotiation of terms. Rather, it was a formal announcement of God’s prior decision.

“And then her relationship with the Son of God ended?”

Once a mother, always a mother. But precisely because he is the Son of God, Mary has no special leverage. She’s the creature–he’s the Creator.

“What a cruel, cold, inhuman, heartless picture of our Savior you ascribe to.”

What a childish picture of our Savior you ascribe to.

“Hmmm….if it was a prediction it would seem that only one group matches this prophecy and it isn’t evangelical Christians. Shouldn’t that be a concern?”

To the contrary, evangelicals fulfill the prediction by honoring the terms of the prediction, whereas Catholics dishonor the name and memory of Mary by their sacrilegious impieties.

“So, how about repeating what the angel said to Mary – ‘Hail, Mary, full of grace, blessed art thou amongst women….’”

I’d be happy to repeat what the angel said if that’s what he said. Unfortunately for Catholics, Gabriel didn’t say that. The Greek word doesn’t mean “full of grace.” That’s a traditional mistranslation. In Greek, Mary is the object of divine favor, not the source of divine grace. That’s also clear from the context.

So, yes, I can agree with everything Gabriel actually said. Mary was the object of divine favor. And Mary was blessed to be the mother of the Messiah.

“Also, you might want to say ‘Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.’”

And why would I want to say that? Does the Bible ever instruct me to say that?

“I mean, what could it hurt inasmuch as it is all orthodox Christian belief recognized by the Orthodox, Coptic, Nestorian, Jacobite and every other Christian church that existed prior to 1517.”

i) Actually, to utter an idolatrous prayer on my deathbed wouldn’t be a very propitious way of preparing to meet my Maker. Indeed, that could be quite harmful to my immortal soul.

ii) I’d add that Scripture never put much stock in the wisdom of the majority. Baal-worshipers outnumbered true believers in the time of Elijah. Pagans outnumbered Christians in the 1C.

iii) And to say it’s “orthodox” belief assumes what you need to prove. More to the point, is it Scriptural?

steve said...

[PSB] “You’re simply begging the question. You’re telling me that idolatry is false ‘worship’ but I’m asking whether Mormons ‘worship’ Jesus in the first place.”

Mormonism is irrelevant to my argument. That’s your hobbyhorse, not mine.

For the record, Mormons worship as false Jesus as if he were the true Jesus. That’s a form of idolatry. Idolatry takes many different forms. Mariology is another case in point.

“Is it worship when Mormons don’t pray to Jesus as the object of their prayers, but only pray to the Father?”

Since Mormons have a false doctrine of Jesus and a false doctrine of God, they are idolaters on both counts. To worship a false concept of God is a form of idolatry.

“I said no, and I said that the problem with this is that it treats the Creator as a creature, which was the heresy of Arianism.”

And Catholics treat the creature (Mary) as if she were the Creator, which is the heresy of idolatry.

“OK, so you’re saying that 'With God all things are NOT possible.'”

Unless you think Mary is a goddess, prooftexts for divine omnipotence are hardly prooftexts for Marian omniscience. The issue is not what is possible for the omnipotent Creator, but what is possible for a finite creature. The fact that you conflate the two nicely illustrates the way in which your Marian devotion is interchangeable with idolatry. Thanks for the confirmation.

“Well, yes it is if I am saying that a view is well-recognized as orthodox Christian belief, as opposed to a new-fangled innovation and the person lived in the 13th Century is recognized by all Christians as a fundamental shaper of Christian thought. But I guess it would be better to defer to ‘steve’ then to Aquinas about such matters.”

An elementary question which intelligent men to ask in such situations is whether the speaker is in a position to know what he’s talking about.

Aquinas was a brilliant man, but he was just a mortal like you and me. He knew nothing about the afterlife than what is revealed to us in the Scriptures. He didn’t die and return from the dead to tell us what he saw.

So, no, Aquinas knew no more about the Beatific Vision, or the postmortem activities of the saints, or their enhanced aptitudes, than Dr. Seuss.

But, as with so many other Catholics, you’re like a character in a novel of manners–where artificial rules of aristocratic etiquette are elevated to laws of nature.

“Of course, the circumlocution of ‘Mother of the Messiah’…”

“Mother of the Messiah” is no more circumlocutionary than “Mother of God.” They are syntactically equivalent (unless you think the anarthrous construction is highly significant.)

bossmanham said...

I would like to distance myself from the fundamentalist anti-Catholics here who, for some reason, will not accept the historic Christian position that Mary is the mother of God. Even RC Sproul says we should not be afraid of that terminology.

For the Catholics here, know that not all of us evangelical protestants are of the ilk you have encountered here. The ilk here upset most of us, too, although I still love them as brothers in Christ.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Bossmanham,

Thank you for your charitable comment.

My point is not to convince Dom or Steven. They are obviously locked up in the very dogmatic worldview that they have so readily projected onto me. My point, frankly, has been to offer an explanation that answers the question set by Reppert in such a way that a reader not so locked into anti-catholicism can say, "Ok, I get it, but I don't necessarily agree with it, but at least it's something more than 'ass covering.'"

To that end, I have offered history, creedal statements, biblical texts and logical arguments. What I've gotten back is, frankly, what I've already described as "prejudice masquerading as first principles," or a reasoning from the need to adhere to the calumny that Catholics worship Mary.

The interesting thing to me is how quickly this has led some people to affirm, first, a Nestorian Christology, and, second, a denial of the consubstantial nature of the Trinity. (Even now, Steve's final "logical" argument, with P's and C's, obviously doesn't understand Augustine's point and is implicitly arguing for more than one God. Obviously, all that his argument leads to is that Mary is not the mother of the Holy Spirit, which no one claims.)

I don't think that these people are Nestorian or polytheists, or that "Protestantism" is crypto-nestorian or denies Trinitarian theology (although if I applied the standards set by Dom and Steve I could be making that argument.) I think that people can get in over their head with respect to nuances of Christology and theology that they aren't prepared to discuss. At some point, they will - I hope - come to realize where they went wrong, but this forum - where positions harden - is not the place.

I also would ask for a little charity in the future, when some story is told about a Catholic who doesn't know their faith and say that they are "worshipping" Mary. Let's not use them as an emblem of Catholicism. Let's take the lesson of this thread that these issues are nuanced and complicated and in all traditions there are doctrines that the average person can start out on a wrong foot and lock into some wrong conclusions.

That's been my point throughout this thread, so I will leave it at that.

steve said...

Peter Sean Bradley said...

“To that end, I have offered history, creedal statements, biblical texts and logical arguments. What I've gotten back is, frankly, what I've already described as ‘prejudice masquerading as first principles,’ or a reasoning from the need to adhere to the calumny that Catholics worship Mary.”

What he offered was logical fallacies and biblical spooftexting. Equivocation of terms and Scripture-twisting.

As for history and creedal statements, that doesn’t being to establish the truth of his position. Church Fathers and Doctors have no special insight into the nature of the afterlife. At most, they only know as much as God as revealed in Scripture.

steve said...

Peter Sean Bradley said...

"(Even now, Steve's final 'logical' argument, with P's and C's, obviously doesn't understand Augustine's point and is implicitly arguing for more than one God."

Bradley has me confused with Bnonn. And while his confusion is very flattering where I'm concerned, I doubt Bnonn has done anything sufficiently wicked to justify such an invidious case of mistaken identity.