Friday, January 17, 2014

R.C. Sproul, Roman Catholicism, Part V,"Marian Doctrines" Commentary by Teresa Beem

This is the last of the lectures of this series. The person who I am writing this for is only going to get just a general understanding of how the professor gets the topic wrong, because I have only so much time to work on this. However, here’s my quick comments about Dr. Sproul’s version of the Catholic dogma of Mary. 

Dr. Sproul used the terms without defining them as Catholics define them. Often Protestants read into these terms more than they mean. 
  • Veneration means respect or revere. (Not worship.)
  • Cultus means a system or variety of religious worship. Christians were called the cultus of Christ. 
  • The Rosary prayer is a prayer with Mary reliving her experiences with Christ. She prays with you to Christ. 
  • Prayer to a Catholic means petition, not worship. One can use prayer to worship God, like you can use praise to worship God, but they are not in themselves worship. You can also petition a local judge or praise your children. But that is not worship.
Dr. Sproul talks about the liturgy and the “Hail Mary” in it (as if weekly at mass the Hail Mary is in it.) No. There is only one day a year we give to remember Mary in the mass itself. Many churches have daily reciting of the rosary, but not during the worship of the mass.

The Church’s Veneration of Mary

While I, along with a lot of Catholics, might consider some of the Mary veneration way over the top (and like I said, a few may consider her almost divine.) I have never witness among even the maximalists anything that could be construed as worship--except on a History Channel Documentary on a remote area of South America where they have mixed idolatry with Mary and actually worship her as the pagans worshipped idols. (We need to talk about what worship means to Catholicism.) 

Dr. Sproul says there is a fine distinction in how we use the term worship and venerate. No, there is actually a very wide gulf in what venerating something it honor and worshipping something. That would be like saying there is a fine distinction between giving your mother flowers on Mother’s day and making love to your wife. That is nonsense.

Dr. Sproul doesn’t understand what worship is. Bowing down to Mary is not worshipping her anymore than bowing down to Queen Victoria is worshipping her. Dr. Sproul says bowing down is worship. Look at scripture. Everyone is bowing down to everyone. Even to the temple. He needs a study on what worship is. 

Pope Francis as well as the last three popes have cautioned the over veneration of Mary...but also cautioned against never giving her any honor since she professed that all generation would call her Blessed. We need to be balanced in our honor of Mary.

1854-Immaculate Conception Dogma
Mary was conceived without original sin. Mary was born as the New Eve sinless but not like God, not divine. (Please see end of post where there are early Church Fathers who used this comparison, showing the Catholic Church didn’t make it up later.) Lots of humans have never sinned, babies baptized and then who died before they sinned.

Mary could not have redeemed us from sin because she was a human. Her sinlessness was like Eve’s not Christ’s. She needed a Savior just like the rest of us. The church has always taught that Mary needed a Savior.

Dr. Sproul said it wasn’t until the middle ages that Mary was seen as sinless.  (See church fathers quotes at end.)

Then Dr. Sproul emphasized that the church’s greatest theologian, the angelic doctor, St Thomas Aquinas denied the sinlessness of Mary. No.

St. Thomas’ understanding of Mary’s holiness was far from the Protestant view and extremely close to the Catholic. St. Thomas claimed that Mary was conceived with original sin. But it was removed by God after she was conceived. She was also the recipient of an abundance of grace so that she was protected from all sin. Here is St. Thomas from Summa Theologica, III, q.27:

….even in her birth the Blessed Virgin was holy. Therefore she was sanctified in the womb. For it is reasonable to believe that she, who brought forth “the Only-Begotten of the Father full of grace and truth,” received greater privileges of grace than all others: hence we read (Luke 1:28) that the angel addressed her in the words: “Hail full of grace!”
…. The Blessed Virgin was sanctified in the womb from original sin, as to the personal stain; but she was not freed from the guilt to which the whole nature is subject, so as to enter into Paradise otherwise than through the Sacrifice of Christ; the same also is to be said of the Holy Fathers who lived before Christ.
…. Augustine says (De Nat. et Grat. xxxvi): “In the matter of sin, it is my wish to exclude absolutely all questions concerning the holy Virgin Mary, on account of the honor due to Christ. For since she conceived and brought forth Him who most certainly was guilty of no sin, we know that an abundance of grace was given her that she might be in every way the conqueror of sin.”
...But she would not have been worthy to be the Mother of God, if she had ever sinned. ...Secondly, because of the singular affinity between her and Christ, who took flesh from her: and it is written (2 Corinthians 6:15): “What concord hath Christ with Belial?” Thirdly, because of the singular manner in which the Son of God, who is the “Divine Wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:24) dwelt in her, not only in her soul but in her womb. And it is written (Wisdom 1:4): “Wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins.”

Dr. Sproul misrepresented the Catholic view of Mary’s need of a Savior.

Mary was saved from sin. There are many ways which God saves, but it is salvation in all of them. A person can be saved by a person sinning and then the person repents (the ordinary means of salvation from effects of sin). Saving grace can also help one resist temptation before sinning (extraordinary means of salvation from effects of sin.) A person is forever thankful to a fireman who rescues the person from a burning building and also one who sees a dangerous fire hazard and prevents the fire. Both are saving the person from dying. This second method is the one of Mary. Christ was her Savior by preventing her from sinning.

She could have sinned even without the stain of original sin... just like Eve. 

What is so frustrating about all this is that Dr. Sproul could have easily just quoted from the Catholic Catechism that states this clearly. Why does he not go directly to the Catechism?

1950-Assumption of Mary Dogma
One quick note, Dr. Sproul says Mary’s Coronation as Queen of Heaven is dogma. Not so. That is a tradition in which you can believe or not believe.  That was the pope’s personal opinion based upon the traditions of the Davidic Kingdom in Israel to put the mother on the right hand of the king and title her “Queen Mother.” In the Davidic Kingdom court you were required to address the queen mother with great veneration before you address the king about the purpose in coming. This can be supported Biblically.

Popes' Love of Mary
Dr. Sproul found the following comments by popes especially repugnant, I hope I can shed a little light.

Leo XIII, “nothing more sacred or dear as the veneration of Mary.”  

He probably said it because it is with Christ we love His mother. Jesus picked Mary of all women ever conceived from the beginning of creation to be God’s mother! Catholics think about how much He must have loved her while a little boy growing up and how much He loves her now and so we love her like He does. Catholics tend to pour out emotional and sentimental words of love for Mary because we know how much we love our mommies and then times that by millions for Jesus’ mother. And Catholics teach that when Jesus gave His mother to St. John while on the Cross, He was giving His mother to all believers, to the whole church. And that is how the early church treated her before she died. The Apostles often went to her for council and love. St. Luke went to her at Ephesus to learn the birth story for his gospel.

Tradition says that the early church was known for its vehement protection of her, for they secreted her away so the Romans could not get to her (some of her family was brought before Emperor Nero and threatened.) There were even secret codes they had in messages about her between each other so that her name was never recorded in early literature as far as if she were alive and where. 

Pius XI “with Jesus Mary has redeemed the human race.” 

How? By sacrificially giving birth to Him, raising Him, teaching Him and suffering with Him on the road to calvary. Catholics teach that when, in the most agony on the cross, when Christ couldn’t feel the Father near, that looking at His mother, the symbol of the church... He could see us ALL! That gave Him the love to continue the sacrifice. Not that He couldn’t have done it without her, but that she helped Him and we as Christians should see her as intimitely connected to Jesus and our salvation because JESUS wants to honor her for being there with Him.  We honor her through Jesus just as we can honor Jesus through her. She is not divine, but His precious mother.

Dr. Sproul found the conclusion of Pius XII encyclical of 1943 where he said of Mary that she gave her “consent” to bear Jesus and offered up Jesus on the cross as a sacrifice as the “probably the most repugnant statement ever to come out of the Catholic Church about Mary.”

Oh brother! The whole Catholic Church does that at each mass. We all and each individual must offer Jesus up to the Father as our sacrifice for our sins. Dr. Sproul said it may have meant that Mary was offering Jesus in the priestly position. That absolutely cannot be the Catholic interpretation because women can never, ever have the role of priest. That is an abomination to God. She was offering up her Son as a gift to the Father out of love, it was not sacramentally. Any educated Catholic could have explained that to Dr. Sproul in a few sentences.

Keep always in mind that to a Catholic Mary is also the symbol of the church. Everything Mary is given is a promise to be given to us--sinlessness, being one with Him, bodily assumption. She is a living promise of our future.

The Bible is clear that the prayers of a righteous man availeth much. So why would Dr. Sproul become so agitated that Mary’s prayers are powerful!? To say her prayers were the reason for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is just a true misunderstanding of Christ’s economy of salvation. All our prayers are powerful. When Jesus answers our prayers we say, “Jesus answered our prayers.” We give our prayers power but that does not mean God would not have done it without them! We just pray in obedience to Him and He wills what happens. 

Again, Dr. Sproul makes much ado about Pope Pius saying Mary is reigning in heaven. However that is exactly what is promised to the saints in heaven. We are co-heirs with Christ. Jesus has thrones in heaven that the elders sit on. He says we will be judging the angels and nations. This isn’t unbiblical. We glorify Mary because Jesus said we will be glorified in heaven. 

Mary as Eve
Dr. Sproul scoffs that the Catholic Church would compare Mary to Eve and assumed it was trying to make a parallel with Christ being the New Adam as if that was raising Mary to the dignity of Christ.  Mary is the New Covenant Eve, just like Peter is the New Covenant Moses and like John is the New Covenant Elijah. Dr. Sproul assumes that somehow a comparison is evil.

Then Dr. Sproul claims the church also titles Mary the “mother of  the faithful” in a direct comparison to Abraham who was “father of the faithful.” I have never heard nor read any official document of Mary being compared with Abraham in his position as “father of the faithful.” (And I have done a ton of reading about Mary because it seemed so much like idolatry to me when I was a Protestant.) I have read in Catholic unofficial literature Mary’s faith being compared to Abraham’s, but not the title. Wish Dr. Sproul had sourced that. Don’t know why that would be a big deal anyway.

Dr. Sproul read Revelation 12: 1 and Genesis 3 and says that these are doctrinally Mary but then he goes on to say that certain Catholics scholars are telling the church they are wrong. 

Okay, perhaps the church is wrong on these texts. 
(But I doubt these texts are defined by the church infallibly--so the church could say, “We were wrong.” These things are not about salvation but about trying to understand scripture.)

Dr. Sproul often uses the verbiage “the raging controversy in Catholicism” or something similar and I can tell you he may be talking about what a few scholars are debating, but these issues are not topics at all...raging or not... with lay Catholics. Most of them would never know anything about the controversy. Theologians are always debating, Dr. Sproul should know that. It certainly doesn’t mean anything to Catholic doctrine or day to day Catholic culture.

Significance of Mary’s Fiat:
Mary is giving consent to be impregnated by the Holy Spirit “Be it done unto me according to your word.” Dr. Sproul says that there are many Catholics who view this statement as a command to God by Mary. Okay, that is possible that some Catholic believe that, but I have never ever heard a whiff of that from any  source and I have spent a lot of time studying Catholicism. Where Dr. Sproul is digging up these extremely peripheral debates about Catholicism I don’t know and I keep my thumb on the pulse of Catholicism by daily reading its news outlets (both liberal and conservative, both local and international, both for the masses and for the educated, its major online newspapers, I have subscriptions to Catholic magazines, I listen to Catholic radio. I watch Vatican tv. He’s picking this stuff up from some weird esoteric source, not mainstream Catholicism.

He says that Catholic believe that if Mary had said no, then Christ wouldn’t have come. Well, no. (In fact, the official Catholic sites I have seen on this tell us we should not speculate too greatly on what would have happened if Mary had said no.)

But the Catholic mindset of Mary’s yes is important. This is a matter of God’s sovereignty. God had predestined Mary from the beginning to be His mother. He prepared her with sinlessness. If she had said no, that would have meant God’s salvation plan had failed! Not that He couldn’t come up with second plan, but the mystery of salvation would have been thrown into chaos because God’s sovereignty would have been undone.

It was a tense moment in the cosmos. (Not for Christ, of course) but for the angels watching. Would Mary submit to God? They had watched Eve it was theoretically possible. But the church never says that if Mary had said no that there would have been no further plans for man’s redemption. Only the unthinkable idea that this plan, God’s original plan, would have been thwarted--something that had never happened.

(Mariology) Maximalist and Minimalism
What I will tell you from experience is that the few Catholics who are maximalists--those who want to always be exalting Mary’s position and seem almost to consider her divine (just a small part really of even the maximalists), are the pushiest and most obnoxious of Catholics. They seem to have a couple in every church I have attended and they target new Catholics and bombard them with stuff about Mary that they insist is dogmatic, which when you prove to them it’s not, they will argue till they’re blue in the face that the rotten Vatican II weakened Mary’s role. They make you feel you cannot be a true Catholic without believing as they do. They insist you believe in all the Marian apparitions. (I don’t and I am a good Catholic. You absolutely don’t have to believe they are authentic because there is a cardinal who has spoken out loudly against them and even Pope Francis is telling the maximalists to cool it, that our focus should be on Jesus and not Mary.) And if you even hint that you are not daily doing the rosary or devoting your life to her and don’t have several statues of her...then they descend upon you with books and pamphlets and prayer cards and blessed Mary statues. They are obnoxiously sweet and pushy. They make up for their very small numbers by their aggressive theology!

So in this Dr. Sproul is correct, though small in number this is truly an issue in mainstream cultural Catholicism. He gives the impression that a lot of Catholics are maximalists but that is untrue.

He says that Mary’s bodily assumption is to assure us that one day we will be resurrected. Then he says Christians use Christ’s example for assurance and they don’t need Mary’s. That somehow Mary’s assumption takes away from Christ’s ascension! That is like saying that it was ridiculous for Hebrews 11 to be put in the Bible because the story of people’s faith takes away from Christ’s sacrifice. Like the story of those resurrected after Christ’s death and walked around Jerusalem--their resurrection took away from Christ’s death. Like St. John’s martyrdom is ridiculous because it takes away from Christ’s sacrifice. The Bible has stories about people throughout to bring us comfort and hope in our faith journey. We better not tell our personal testimony because that brings the focus on us instead of Christ. To suggest that Mary’s story takes away from Christ is to negate the stories of the early Christian martyrs as taking away from Christ.

One of the reasons the pope chose that time to add the Marian dogma of the bodily assumption into heaven was because it was a time of worldwide crisis about God versus evolution. Since the pope was already dealing with a bunch of people pushing him to dogmatize that belief which he wasn’t planning on doing--even though the church had officially taught it from the beginning. He rethought it and decided that perhaps it would serve as a sign of hope for those across the globe that there is a God and that one day we will see God. Mary is an example of that hope. She is a prophecy of the second coming, what happens to her is promised will happen to us. It was for the purpose of giving people hope of a life after death. That’s the stated reason for the dogma of the Assumption. So, even if he disagrees, Dr. Sproul doesn’t have a clue as to how Catholics see this. We are the Bride. We are Mary. She shows us by example who we are to Christ. She in no way takes away from Christ anymore than a wife’s accomplishments and beauties take away from her husband’s! They are His glory!

Sufficiency of Christ’s Sacrifice

Dr. Sproul says that the entire problem with Catholicism is that we don’t believe in the sufficiency of Christ. That we depend on Mary and works etc. Well, we could reverse that on Protestants to make the same exact point. You Protestants, you do not believe in the sufficiency of Christ because you need the Bible and prayer and a born-again experience. You teach sola scriptura and sola fide--terms unknown to scripture. 

Dr. Sproul has definitively shown in this series that he has a preconceived and warped view of Catholicism. He was not giving the lectures to explain Catholicism but expose Catholicism’s evil theology. He was not fair nor accurate.

I hold no ill will towards him. I am just sorry that we continue to spread slander against each other within the Body of Christ. I beg you Lord our humble forgiveness. For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. 

I could spend a dozen posts showing you the Biblical support for the Marian Doctrines. But instead, please go to Catholic Answers website and they have an abundance of articles, tracts, books, radio shows, blogs and articles on the Marian Dogmas. 

The following is a compilation of some of the early Church fathers‘ writings about Mary that show the Catholic Church’s doctrines have a paper trail all the way back to the Apostolic age.

2nd Century

Justin Martyr (Mary compared to Eve)
"[Jesus] became man by the Virgin so that the course which was taken by disobedience in the beginning through the agency of the serpent might be also the very course by which it would be put down. Eve, a virgin and undefiled, conceived the word of the serpent and bore disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced to her the glad tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, for which reason the Holy One being born of her is the Son of God. And she replied ‘Be it done unto me according to your word’ [Luke 1:38]" (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 100 [A.D. 155]). 
Irenaeus (Mary compared to Eve, Mother of God)
"Consequently, then, Mary the Virgin is found to be obedient, saying, ‘Behold, O Lord, your handmaid; be it done to me according to your word.’ Eve, however, was disobedient....was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race. . . . Thus, the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith" (Against Heresies 3:22:24 [A.D. 189]). 
"Furthermore, the original deception was to be done away with—the deception by which that virgin Eve (who was already espoused to a man) was unhappily misled. That this was to be overturned was happily announced through means of the truth by the angel to the Virgin Mary (who was also [espoused] to a man). . . . So if Eve disobeyed God, yet Mary was persuaded to be obedient to God. In this way, the Virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin. Virginal disobedience has been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience. For in the same way, the sin of the first created man received amendment by the correction of the First-Begotten" (ibid., 5:19:1 [A.D. 189]). 
"The Virgin Mary, being obedient to his word, received from an angel the glad tidings that she would bear God" (Against Heresies, 5:19:1 [A.D. 189]). 
 3rd Century
“It was while Eve was still a virgin that the word of the devil crept in to erect an edifice of death. Likewise through a virgin the Word of God was introduced to set up a structure of life. Thus what had been laid waste in ruin by this sex was by the same sex reestablished in salvation. Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel. That which the one destroyed by believing, the other, by believing, set straight" (The Flesh of Christ 17:4 [A.D. 210].   
Hippolytus (Mother of God)
"[T]o all generations they [the prophets] have pictured forth the grandest subjects for contemplation and for action. Thus, too, they preached of the advent of God in the flesh to the world, his advent by the spotless and God-bearing (theotokos) Mary in the way of birth and growth, and the manner of his life and conversation with men, and his manifestation by baptism, and the new birth that was to be to all men, and the regeneration by the laver [of baptism]" (Discourse on the End of the World 1 [A.D. 217]).                                       
"The Book [the Protoevangelium] of James [records] that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end, so that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word . . . might not know intercourse with a man after the Holy Spirit came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the firstfruit among men of the purity which consists in [perpetual] chastity, and Mary was       women. For it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the firstfruit of virginity" (Commentary on Matthew 2:17 [A.D. 248]). 
Gregory the Wonderworker
"For Luke, in the inspired Gospel narratives, delivers a testimony not to Joseph only, but also to Mary, the Mother of God, and gives this account with reference to the very family and house of David" (Four Homilies 1 [A.D. 262]). 
"It is our duty to present to God, like sacrifices, all the festivals and hymnal celebrations; and first of all, [the feast of] the Annunciation to the holy Mother of God, to wit, the salutation made to her by the angel, ‘Hail, full of grace!’" (ibid., 2). 

4th Century 
Pseudo-Melito (The Assumption of Mary)
"If therefore it might come to pass by the power of your grace, it has appeared right to us your servants that, as you, having overcome death, do reign in glory, so you should raise up the body of your Mother and take her with you, rejoicing, into heaven. Then said the Savior [Jesus]: ‘Be it done according to your will’" (The Passing of the Virgin 16:2–17 [A.D. 300]).
"While the old man [Simeon] was thus exultant, and rejoicing with exceeding great and holy joy, that which had before been spoken of in a figure by the prophet Isaiah, the holy Mother of God now manifestly fulfilled" (Oration on Simeon and Anna 7 [A.D. 305]). 
"Hail to you forever, you virgin Mother of God, our unceasing joy, for unto you do I again return. . . . Hail, you fount of the Son’s love for man. . . . Wherefore, we pray you, the most excellent among women, who boast in the confidence of your maternal honors, that you would unceasingly keep us in remembrance. O holy Mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in you, and who in august hymns celebrate your memory, which will ever live, and never fade away" (ibid., 14). 
Peter of Alexandria
"They came to the church of the most blessed Mother of God, and ever-virgin Mary, which, as we began to say, he had constructed in the western quarter, in a suburb, for a cemetery of the martyrs" (The Genuine Acts of Peter of Alexandria [A.D. 305]). 
"We acknowledge the resurrection of the dead, of which Jesus Christ our Lord became the firstling; he bore a body not in appearance but in truth derived from Mary the Mother of God" (Letter to All Non-Egyptian Bishops 12 [A.D. 324]).
Cyril of Jerusalem
"The Father bears witness from heaven to his Son. The Holy Spirit bears witness, coming down bodily in the form of a dove. The archangel Gabriel bears witness, bringing the good tidings to Mary. The Virgin Mother of God bears witness" (Catechetical Lectures 10:19 [A.D. 350]).  
Ephraim the Syrian
"Though still a virgin she carried a child in her womb, and the handmaid and work of his wisdom became the Mother of God" (Songs of Praise 1:20 [A.D. 351]). 
Hilary of Poitiers
"If they [the brethren of the Lord] had been Mary’s sons and not those taken from Joseph’s former marriage, she would never have been given over in the moment of the passion [crucifixion] to the apostle John as his mother, the Lord saying to each, ‘Woman, behold your son,’ and to John, ‘Behold your mother’ [John 19:26–27), as he bequeathed filial love to a disciple as a consolation to the one desolate" (Commentary on Matthew 1:4 [A.D. 354]). 
"Let those, therefore, who deny that the Son is by nature from the Father and proper to his essence deny also that he took true human flesh from the ever-virgin Mary" (Discourses Against the Arians 2:70 [A.D. 360]). 
"The Word begotten of the Father from on high, inexpressibly, inexplicably, incomprehensibly, and eternally, is he that is born in time here below of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God" (The Incarnation of the Word of God 8 [A.D. 365]). 
Ephraim the Syrian
"You alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others, for there is no blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these?" (Nisibene Hymns 27:8 [A.D. 361]). 
Epiphanius of Salamis
"Being perfect at the side of the Father and incarnate among us, not in appearance but in truth, he [the Son] reshaped man to perfection in himself from Mary the Mother of God through the Holy Spirit" (The Man Well-Anchored 75 [A.D. 374]).
"And to holy Mary, [the title] ‘Virgin’ is invariably added, for that holy woman remains undefiled" (Medicine Chest Against All Heresies 78:6 [A.D. 375]). 
Gregory of Nazianz
"If anyone does not agree that holy Mary is Mother of God, he is at odds with the Godhead" (Letter to Cledonius the Priest 101 [A.D. 382]). 
"We believe that God was born of a virgin, because we read it. We do not believe that Mary was married after she brought forth her Son, because we do not read it. . . . You [Helvidius] say that Mary did not remain a virgin. As for myself, I claim that Joseph himself was a virgin, through Mary, so that a virgin Son might be born of a virginal wedlock." (Against Helvidius: The Perpetual Virginity of Mary 19, 21 [A.D. 383]).  
"As to how a virgin became the Mother of God, he [Rufinus] has full knowledge; as to how he himself was born, he knows nothing" (Against Rufinus 2:10 [A.D. 401]). 
"Do not marvel at the novelty of the thing, if a Virgin gives birth to God" (Commentaries on Isaiah 3:7:15 [A.D. 409]). 
Didymus the Blind
"It helps us to understand the terms ‘first-born’ and ‘only-begotten’ when the Evangelist tells that Mary remained a virgin ‘until she brought forth her first-born son’ [Matt. 1:25]; for neither did Mary, who is to be honored and praised above all others, marry anyone else, nor did she ever become the Mother of anyone else, but even after childbirth she remained always and forever an immaculate virgin" (The Trinity 3:4 [A.D. 386]). 
Ambrose of Milan
"Mary’s life should be for you a pictorial image of virginity. Her life is like a mirror reflecting the face of chastity and the form of virtue. Therein you may find a model for your own life . . . showing what to improve, what to imitate, what to hold fast to" (The Virgins 2:2:6 [A.D. 377]). 
"The first thing which kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater [to teach by example] than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose? What more chaste than she who bore a body without contact with another body? For why should I speak of her other virtues? She was a virgin not only in body but also in mind, who stained the sincerity of its disposition by no guile, who was humble in heart, grave in speech, prudent in mind, sparing of words, studious in reading, resting her hope not on uncertain riches, but on the prayer of the poor, intent on work, modest in discourse; wont to seek not man but God as the judge of her thoughts, to injure no one, to have goodwill towards all, to rise up before her elders, not to envy her equals, to avoid boastfulness, to follow reason, to love virtue. When did she pain her parents even by a look? When did she disagree with her neighbors? When did she despise the lowly? When did she avoid the needy?" (ibid., 2:2:7). 
"The first thing which kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose?" (The Virgins 2:2[7] [A.D. 377]). 
"Come, then, and search out your sheep, not through your servants or hired men, but do it yourself. Lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam. Lift me up not from Sarah but from Mary, a virgin not only undefiled, but a virgin whom grace had made inviolate, free of every stain of sin" (Commentary on Psalm 118:22–30 [A.D. 387]). 
"Imitate her [Mary], holy mothers, who in her only dearly beloved Son set forth so great an example of material virtue; for neither have you sweeter children [than Jesus], nor did the Virgin seek the consolation of being able to bear another son" (Letters 63:111 [A.D. 388]).
Pope Siricius I
"You had good reason to be horrified at the thought that another birth might issue from the same virginal womb from which Christ was born according to the flesh. For the Lord Jesus would never have chosen to be born of a virgin if he had ever judged that she would be so incontinent as to contaminate with the seed of human intercourse the birthplace of the Lord’s body, that court of the eternal king" (Letter to Bishop Anysius [A.D. 392]). 
"Besides, there is a great mystery here: that just as death comes to us through a woman, life is born to us through a woman; that the devil, defeated, would be tormented by each nature, feminine and masculine, as he had taken delight in the defection of both" (Christian Combat 22:24 [A.D. 396]). 

5th Century 
Timothy of Jerusalem
"Therefore the Virgin is immortal to this day, seeing that he who had dwelt in her transported her to the regions of her assumption" (Homily on Simeon and Anna [A.D. 400]).  
John the Theologian
"[T]he Lord said to his Mother, ‘Let your heart rejoice and be glad, for every favor and every gift has been given to you from my Father in heaven and from me and from the Holy Spirit. Every soul that calls upon your name shall not be ashamed, but shall find mercy and comfort and support and confidence, both in the world that now is and in that which is to come, in the presence of my Father in the heavens’" (The Falling Asleep of Mary [A.D. 400]).
"That one woman is both mother and virgin, not in spirit only but even in body. In spirit she is mother, not of our head, who is our Savior himself—of whom all, even she herself, are rightly called children of the bridegroom—but plainly she is the mother of us who are his members, because by love she has cooperated so that the faithful, who are the members of that head, might be born in the Church. In body, indeed, she is the Mother of that very head" (Holy Virginity 6:6 [A.D. 401]). 
"In being born of a Virgin who chose to remain a Virgin even before she knew who was to be born of her, Christ wanted to approve virginity rather than to impose it. And he wanted virginity to be of free choice even in that woman in whom he took upon himself the form of a slave" (Holy Virginity 4:4 [A.D. 401]).
"And from that time forth all knew that the spotless and precious body had been transferred to paradise" (ibid.).  
Theodore of Mopsuestia
"When, therefore, they ask, ‘Is Mary mother of man or Mother of God?’ we answer, ‘Both!’ The one by the very nature of what was done and the other by relation" (The Incarnation 15 [A.D. 405])
"It was not the visible sun, but its invisible Creator who consecrated this day for us, when the Virgin Mother, fertile of womb and integral in her virginity, brought him forth, made visible for us, by whom, when he was invisible, she too was created. A Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual. Why do you wonder at this, O man?" (Sermons 186:1 [A.D. 411]). 
"Having excepted the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, on account of the honor of the Lord, I wish to have absolutely no question when treating of sins—for how do we know what abundance of grace for the total overcoming of sin was conferred upon her, who merited to conceive and bear him in whom there was no sin?—so, I say, with the exception of the Virgin, if we could have gathered together all those holy men and women, when they were living here, and had asked them whether they were without sin, what do we suppose would have been their answer?" (Nature and Grace 36:42 [A.D. 415]). 
"Heretics called Antidicomarites are those who contradict the perpetual virginity of Mary and affirm that after Christ was born she was joined as one with her husband" (Heresies 56 [A.D. 428]). 
"We confess, therefore, that our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, born of the Father before the ages, and in times most recent, made man of the Holy Spirit and the ever-virgin Mary" (Document of Amendment 3 [A.D. 426]).  
John Cassian
"Now, you heretic, you say (whoever you are who deny that God was born of the Virgin), that Mary, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, cannot be called the Mother of God, but the Mother only of Christ and not of God—for no one, you say, gives birth to one older than herself. And concerning this utterly stupid argument . . . let us prove by divine testimonies both that Christ is God and that Mary is the Mother of God" (On the Incarnation of Christ Against Nestorius 2:2 [A.D. 429]).  
Cyril of Alexandria
"I have been amazed that some are utterly in doubt as to whether or not the holy Virgin is able to be called the Mother of God. For if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, how should the holy Virgin who bore him not be the Mother of God?" (Letter to the Monks of Egypt 1 [A.D. 427]). 
"This was the sentiment of the holy Fathers; therefore they ventured to call the holy Virgin ‘the Mother of God,’ “ (First Letter to Nestorius [A.D. 430]). 
"If anyone will not confess that the Emmanuel is very God, and that therefore the holy Virgin is the Mother of God, inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Word of God made flesh [John 1:14]: let him be anathema" (ibid.)
"[T]he Word himself, coming into the Blessed Virgin herself, assumed for himself his own temple from the substance of the Virgin...Therefore he kept his Mother a virgin even after her childbearing" (Against Those Who Do Not Wish to Confess That the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God 4 [A.D. 430]).  
Council of Ephesus
"We confess, then, our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, perfect God and perfect man, of a rational soul and a body, begotten before all ages from the Father in his Godhead, the same in the last days, for us and for our salvation, born of Mary the Virgin according to his humanity, one and the same consubstantial with the Father in Godhead and consubstantial with us in humanity, for a union of two natures took place. Therefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord. According to this understanding of the unconfused union, we confess the holy Virgin to be the Mother of God because God the Word took flesh and became man and from his very conception united to himself the temple he took from her" (Formula of Union [A.D. 431]). 

Pope Leo I
"His [Christ’s] origin is different, but his [human] nature is the same. Human usage and custom were lacking, but by divine power a Virgin conceived, a Virgin bore, and Virgin she remained" (Sermons 22:2 [A.D. 450]). 

6th Century
Gregory of Tours (Assumption of Mary)
"The course of this life having been completed by blessed Mary, when now she would be called from the world, all the apostles came together from their various regions to her house. And when they had heard that she was about to be taken from the world, they kept watch together with her. And behold, the Lord Jesus came with his angels, and, taking her soul, he gave it over to the angel Michael and withdrew. At daybreak, however, the apostles took up her body on a bier and placed it in a tomb, and they guarded it, expecting the Lord to come. And behold, again the Lord stood by them; the holy body having been received, he commanded that it be taken in a cloud into paradise, where now, rejoined to the soul, [Mary’s body] rejoices with the Lord’s chosen ones and is in the enjoyment of the good of an eternity that will never end" (Eight Books of Miracles 1:4 [A.D. 584]). 
"But Mary, the glorious Mother of Christ, who is believed to be a virgin both before and after she bore him, has, as we said above, been translated into paradise, amid the singing of the angelic choirs, whither the Lord preceded her" (ibid., 1:8). 

1 comment:

Jay Rogers said...

Thanks for your series. I am a member of R.C. Sproul's church. He is a wonderful teacher. Although I disagree strongly with Roman Catholic doctrine, I see that many of my Protestant friends make errors in exaggerating what Roman Catholicism teaches. Since I was raised Catholic, I know a little about what the Church does and teaches. This does not mean that I think that there was no reason for the Reformation -- or that Protestants should immediately recant of the principles of the Reformation.

What I dislike is the caricature of Roman Catholicism by so many Protestant theologians. So I liked what you said in several places when you explained that the Roman Catholic doctrine is fairly simple to understand and is stated succinctly in the Catechism.

Roman Catholics don't worship Mary when they pray to her. That was NOT one of the issues of the Reformation. In fact, even Luther called it a "trifle" compared to the dividing issue he saw which was justification by faith and the bondage of the will. Ironically, we live in a time when MOST Protestants don't hold to this doctrine either.

I appreciate too where you admit that some Catholics do idolize Mary -- but this is simply not taught by the Church.

While I don't agree with everything you wrote in your series, I appreciate its balance.

As for Dr. Sproul, I can only say that it is common for a person who is highly intelligent to miss the forest for the trees. If what Sproul CLAIMS about the Roman Catholic Church were true, then you would certainly have to flee from it. What I have a hard time understanding is how some Protestants can say "The RCC teaches this," when the Church flatly denies it.

We can pray for each other that our limitations in understanding and errors can be enlightened by the wisdom of God. God bless you.