Do the Catholic Church’s Teachings on Mary Constitute Authentic Christian Doctrine?
James White debates Peter D. Williams at the London Oratory in St. Wilfrid’s Hall.
Do the Catholic Church’s Teachings on Mary Constitute Authentic Christian Doctrine?
James White debates Peter D. Williams at the London Oratory in St. Wilfrid’s Hall.
Dr. James White:
Why is the Reformation still important? Why is it proper for us to focus upon it this year in celebration of 500 years? Why do I pray that by the end of 2017 more and more of God’s people will embrace the Reformation, and Reformed theology as a whole? Well, here is a tweet from the current Pope. He encourages Roman Catholics to “entrust the new year to Mary.” Doing this, evidently, will result in “peace and mercy” growing throughout the world. And here I thought that could only happen as men and women bow the knee not to Mary, but to the Lord Jesus, in repentance and faith, trusting in His once-for-all work upon the cross as the perfect Savior. Rome’s departure from the Gospel remains complete, and defiant. She continues to blaspheme the cross every time a man-made “priest” pretends to “re-present” the once-for-all sacrifice of Calvary upon a Roman altar. And she continues to enslave men with her endless gospel of sacraments and penances, which can never bring them peace. And in this tweet the Pope demonstrates once again the grossly idolatrous nature of modern Roman teaching concerning Mary.
How many non-Roman Catholics today understand why they do not bow the knee to Rome? In what is loosely called Evangelicalism, very few. One either has the wild-eyed bigotry of the Jack Chick variety anti-Catholicism, or the luke-warm “it’s just a matter of taste” variety of synergistic Tiber-paddling that is so common today. May the number of those who knowingly, and out of a true commitment to sound biblical doctrine, reject Rome’s pretensions, grow in this the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Dr. Sam Storms – “10 things you should know about what the Roman Catholic Church believes about Mary” – article (original source here)
In our continuing series on 10 things every Christian should know, we turn our attention to the Roman Catholic Church and its beliefs about the Virgin Mary.
(1) Rome believes that when Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother she was preserved and protected from the taint of original sin. This is the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This dogma was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX on Dec. 8, 1854. We read this in the Catholic Catechism:
“Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, ‘full of grace’ through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854 – ‘The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin” (CC, 491).
(2) The RCC also teaches that “in consequence of a Special Privilege of Grace from God, Mary was free from every personal sin during her whole life” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 203; this view was endorsed by Augustine). Again, the Catechism declares that “By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long” (CC, 493).
(3) Rome also believes in the perpetual virginity of Mary. The dogma of the perpetual virginity of Mary was proclaimed by the Council of Trent in 1545-63. The Catechism affirms the following:
“The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ’s birth ‘did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.’ And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the ‘Ever-virgin’” (CC, 499).
(4) When Protestants object to Mary’s perpetual virginity by pointing to those texts that refer to the brothers and sisters of Jesus (Mt. 12:46-50; 13:55-56; Mark 6:3; John 2:12; 7:1-5,10; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5; Gal. 1:19), Rome responds in this way: Continue reading
Jordan Standridge is a pastoral associate at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, where he leads the college ministry. He is also the founder of The Foundry Bible Immersion. In an article entitled “7 Problems With the Roman Catholic Mary” he writes:
About 10 years ago I was walking around the Duomo of Milan and these ladies captured my attention as they were staring at this stained glass picture of Mary. Being spotted by one of the ladies she quickly came to me to hand me a rosary. As she tried to convince me to take it, I said that I only needed to pray to God and that I would not pray to Mary, her shock quickly turned to anger and she said “may Mary whip you with the seven whips of Satan!” As I booked it out of there I was wondering to myself first of all, why is Mary working with Satan? But second of all and more importantly, how in the world do you get to that point where one talks to Mary more than God? How do you get to the point where you pray 10 prayers to Mary for every prayer to God? Well in honor of the lady who cursed me that fateful day, here are 7 problems with the Roman Catholic Mary.
She’s the mother of God
495 Called in the Gospels “the mother of Jesus”, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as “the mother of my Lord”.144 In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. imagesHence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos).145
In order to refute certain heresies that taught against the Hypostatic Union, the early Church named Mary the Theotokos (wrongly translated the mother of God, it actually means the God-bearer), not in order to raise Mary to a God-like level but rather to correct the heresy about Jesus. Over time this developed into this strange idea that Mary was the spiritual mother of Human beings. As time went on, Mary received more and more honor to the point where the following statements about her began to appear. It’s fascinating how in order to protect the church from heresies about Christ, the Church unknowingly ended up creating one about Mary. Some say that when Constantine made all of Rome “Christian” the pagans now forced to be “christians” brought in several idols. One of these idols was the mother goddess. They say that they replaced the worship of the mother goddess with the worship of the Roman Catholic Mary.
She is sinless
493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature”.138 By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long. CCC (The Catechism of the Catholic Church)
The Bible clearly states that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23) Mary herself refers to her Son as her personal savior (Luke 1:47). 1 John 1:8 adds, “If any man says he has no sin he is a liar and the truth is not in him.” Mary was a sinner who needed to be born-again just like everyone else who has ever taken a breath. Claiming that somehow she was without sin leads us to have a view of her that is unhealthy. This is an example of adding to Scripture, we end up venerating her, looking up to her and this leads us into thinking that somehow she has grace to impart on us.
She ascended into heaven Continue reading
I can only imagine what the Lord will one day say to those who so clearly blaspheme Him by means of this prayer and likewise disrespect His mother in this way:
“O Mother of Perpetual Help, thou art the dispenser of all the goods which God grants to us miserable sinners, and for this reason he has made thee so powerful, so rich, and so bountiful, that thou mayest help us in our misery. Thou art the advocate of the most wretched and abandoned sinners who have recourse to thee. Come then, to my help, dearest Mother, for I recommend myself to thee. In thy hands I place my eternal salvation and to thee do I entrust my soul. Count me among thy most devoted servants; take me under thy protection, and it is enough for me. For, if thou protect me, dear Mother, I fear nothing; not from my sins, because thou wilt obtain for me the pardon of them; nor from the devils, because thou art more powerful than all hell together; nor even from Jesus, my Judge himself, because by one prayer from thee he will be appeased. But one thing I fear, that in the hour of temptation I may neglect to call on thee and thus perish miserably. Obtain for me, then, the pardon of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace always to have recourse to thee, O Mother of Perpetual Help.”
From the book “Devotions in Honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help” – Quoted by Dr. James White in his book “Mary—Another Redeemer?” (pp. 9–10)
James Swan sheds some much needed light on the subject here.
Dr. R. C. Sproul and Dr. John MacArthur address the question here:
From the archives, Dr. James White (Protestant) debates Dr. Robert Fastiggi (Roman Catholic) on the Roman Catholic doctrines concerning Mary.
When Roman Catholics find a Luther tidbit about Mary that seems to support Mariolatry, they run with it, even if the context contradicts the evidence they’re using. This quote is being entirely taken out of context. It has nothing to do with Mary’s immaculate conception. Rather than discussing Mary’s sinlessness, Luther’s later writings insist Christ’s sinlessness was due entirely to the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit during His conception.
James Swan writes:
The quote isn’t about Mary’s conception in her mother’s womb, it’s about Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb.
Here is the quote in context. In 1532 he preached:
Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according thy word.
14. That day, that moment when Mary assented to the angel Gabriel’s announcement, Christ was conceived. In that hour when she said, “Be it unto me according to thy word,” she conceived and became the mother of God; and Christ, therewith, became true God and true man in one person. Even though he is a tiny fetus, at that moment he is both God and man in Mary’s womb, an infant, and Mary is the mother of God.
15. The Turks and the Jews make fun of this article of faith and feel that they have excellent reason to deride it. For that matter, we could banter about it as well as they. But as Christians, we must firmly hold onto this article of faith and never waver. From the beginning of time it has been prophesied that God’s Son would become man and that his mother would be a virgin. The first prophecy given Adam and Eve soon after the fall (Gen. 3:15) stated: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel.” God does not say the seed of the man, but rather the seed of the woman. Therefore, the mother of this serpent crusher must be a virgin. Later the patriarchs and the prophets also prophesied of this, until finally the beloved apostles proclaimed it to all the world. We have been baptized into this faith and are called Christians because we believe and confess it to be true. Let us, therefore, persevere unwaveringly in this faith. And if, as time goes on, sectarian spirits deny it, let us take a staunch stand in behalf of it.
16. This article is really the bottom line. Christ wanted his beginning to be like ours, but without sin, because he wanted to sanctify us wholly. We begin life in sin, we are conceived in sin, born in sin, no matter whether we be emperor, king, prince, rich, or poor; every human being is conceived in sin according to Psalm 51:5. Only Christ has the distinction and the honor to have been conceived by the Holy Ghost’s power. Since from our conception we are sinful, we are people whose flesh and blood and everything about us are soiled by sin, as indeed we see in ourselves; or when we look at those around us in the world, beset by evil desire, pride, multiple devils, and miserable unbelief. Thus we are conceived and born. For all of mankind is conceived and born in accord with creation’s decree, as recorded (Gen. 1:28): `Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” Christ could not be subject to such impure sinful conception and birth. He, indeed, was a genuinely true, natural human being, but not conceived or born in sin as all other descendants of Adam. That is why his mother had to be a virgin whom no man had touched, so that he would not be born under the curse, but rather conceived and born without sin, so that the devil had no right or power over him. Only the Holy Spirit was present to bring about the conception in her virgin body. Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood. The Holy Spirit permitted the Virgin Mary to remain a true, natural human being of flesh and blood, just as we. However, he warded off sin from her flesh and blood so that she became the mother of a pure child, not poisoned by sin as we are.
17. Thus what the angel spake came true: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest.” For in that moment when she conceived, she was a holy mother filled with the Holy Spirit and her fruit is a holy, pure fruit, at once true God and truly man, in one person. In time, then, this godly mother gave birth to God’s Son, a genuine man, but without any sin. Undoubtedly, his blood was red, his flesh, white; he suckled at his mother’s breasts, ate porridge, cried, and slumbered like any other child; but his flesh and blood were holy and pure. He is a holy person, the son of a pure virgin and God’s Son, true God and man in one person. [Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 7 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), pp. 291-293].
In 1534 Luther explained that Christ was “born of a young maiden, as you and I are born of our mothers. The only difference is that the Holy Spirit engineered this conception and birth, while in contrast we mortals are conceived and born in sin.”[Ibid., 294.]. As Jaroslov Pelikan has noted, Mary functioned in Luther’s theology as “the guarantee of the reality of the incarnation and of the human nature of Christ.”
On a related matter, James Swan once again writes:
A Roman Catholic blogger (Tiber Jumper) sent me over the following quote, attributed to Luther:
“When in his frailty, a man invokes the saints, he invokes Christ, and without fail he will reach Christ whenever he calls upon their names, for wherever they are, they are in Christ and Christ is in them, and their name in Christ’s name and Christ’s name in their name.”
Most of the relevant hits you’ll get on this one are back to the Tiber Jumper blog (and a few others citing it without a reference). The Tiber Jumper blog uses it for an “All Saints Day” post: “All Christendom since the first century after the disciples have taken advantage of the intercession afforded them through the martyrs and saints who have gone before them and the earliest recorded date of a worldwide remembrance of all saints day is recorded in 373 AD. Even Luther had this to say regarding the communion of saints”, and then follows the mystery Luther quote.
There are a handful of quotes from Luther affirming the invocation of the saints. Those quotes typically date pre-1521 or 1522. Typically, after that, Luther did not approve of or teach such a practice. For instance, in a sermon from August 15, 1516, Luther says, “O blessed mother! O most worthy virgin! Remember us, and grant that the Lord do such great things to us too.” In 1519, Luther still could exhort his congregation to “call upon the holy angels, particularly his own angel, the Mother of God, and all the apostles and saints” as a comfort in the hour when each was to face their own death. By 1522 things were changing. Erfurt Evangelists questioning Luther on the intercession of saints received this response,
I beseech in Christ that your preachers forbear entering upon questions concerning the saints in heaven and the deceased, and I ask you to turn the attention of people away from these matters in view of the fact…that they are neither profitable nor necessary for salvation. This is also reason why God decided not to let us know anything about His dealings with the deceased. Surely he is not committing a sin who does not call upon any saint but only clings firmly to the one mediator, Jesus Christ [Martin Luther, “Letter to Erfurt evangelists July 10, 1522,” What Luther Says, Vol. III, 1253].
It took me awhile to track this mystery quote down. It was this citation from What Luther Says that intrigued me about the quote and if whether or not it was from the same context. Plass also states, “A few paragraphs later Luther says: ‘Let them [the weak] call upon the names of the saints if they are bent on it, but under the condition (so fern) that they know how to guard themselves against lacing their trust and confidence in any saint. They must trust only in Christ’ ” (Ibid.). The thought about “the weak” was similar to the mystery Tiber Jumper quote.
Julius Köstlin presented a helpful overview on this topic. He states:
He had still, in the year 1519, spoken in unquestioning simplicity of the Invocation of the Saints, although he had already exposed the fallacy of the Catholic theory as to the meritoriousness of such prayers, and refused to give any countenance to the canonization of saints. As late as the year 15 21, when undertaking to expound the Magnificat, he, in the same spirit in which it was customary, in the sermons of the day, to interject the Ave Maria as an ejaculatory prayer, expresses the devout wish: “Would that the same tender Mother of God might secure for me the spirit to properly and thoroughly expound this her song,” etc. Yet, in this very work, he applauds especially the humility of the holy Virgin. She does not herself desire that we should honor her or expect to receive good from her. Only God should be praised in her. Although we are permitted to call her the Queen of Heaven, yet she is not a goddess, to bestow gifts or help. She gives nothing, but God alone gives. The Sermon in the Church Postils upon the Epistle for the Second Sunday in Advent shows us further the path by which he advanced to a total rejection of saint-worship. He here avails himself (though in the Latin postil he had not yet done so) of the words of the apostle glorifying the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to emphasize a warning against any worshiping of saints in which the worshiper does not press on into the presence of God Himself. He is filled with anxiety lest an abominable idolatry may by such means be introduced. He grants that some employ the worship of saints and of the Mother of God in a proper spirit. Nevertheless, it seems to him to be a dangerous custom, which should not be observed in the general congregation. Though there were nothing wrong in the practice otherwise, it seems to him at the outset, a suspicious circumstance that it has the support of no scriptural text or example, but that it rather contradicts those passages which teach us to place all our confidence in God. With reference to the miracles, which were commonly adduced in support of the custom, and which he had still acknowledged in his Unferricht auf etliche Artikel, etc.,’ he now declares, that we are to build, not upon these, but only upon the doctrine of Christ; and that the miracles in question may have been wrought upon the saint-worshipers by the devil himself.” Luther, therefore, accords at once in principle with the Wittenberg agitators, who wished to have saint-worship entirely abandoned. He fears it more than the worship of images, which was at most but a rare occurrence. He wishes here too, however, first to see only such an efficient use of the Word as may set free the consciences of men. It would have been his desire, indeed, that this question might be allowed to rest for a while, since its agitation was not a pressing necessity, and Satan was already trying by useless questions to draw the attention of men away from faith and love. If it be only once established that saint-worship is nothing, it will fall into disuse without any special additional effort upon our part, and Christ will then remain alone upon Tabor. This, says Luther, was his own experience ; he does not know how nor when he ceased to address prayers to the saints, contenting himself with the one Christ and God the Father.
He then comments on the 1522 letter to Erfurt:
In harmony with this is the advice given in 1522 to the Christians at Erfurt, among whom a dispute had been occasioned by “certain sermons upon unnecessary things, namely, upon the worship of saints.” He writes to them that, although it is not necessary to honor the saints (that is, by invoking them), he yet does not think that one who does so should be condemned, if he only do not place his confidence in them, since what such a one does to them is done to Christ, because Christ is in them and they in Christ. We should, therefore, bear with the weak. We must, at any rate, all at last forsake the saints and ourselves, to know nothing but of Christ, and let all else go.’ But when the evangelical teaching, which by its very nature could lend no sanction to saint-worship, had become thoroughly established in preaching and in the life of the people, and when, upon the other hand, such worship was cultivated but the more assiduously by the adversaries of the Gospel, Luther finally announced, as his position and advice, an entire and absolute rejection of the practice. It is true, he still, in a Sermon upon the Day of John the Baptist (June 24), which he also included unaltered in his Postils, granted that one might say to such a saint as Peter, ” Pray for me,” and only advised that it would be better to address one’s self to Christ alone, inasmuch as the Scriptures say nothing about such a prayer as the one mentioned, and we are only thereby led into a whole series of fruitless and improper questions concerning the condition of departed saints. But in the year 1523, he expresses his decided approbation of the Bohemian Brethren for their course in not calling upon saints at all, but resting content in Christ. It was probably in the same year that he advised Urban Rhegius at Augsburg to abandon the worship of saints, because it was an uncertain thing, and we should confine ourselves to that which is certain. He gives this advice when sending to his friend a sermon of Carlstadt upon the intercession of Mary (which appeared in 1523), in which the latter had declared the invocation of Mary to be not only unnecessary, but “not good.”‘ Moreover, he insisted that the invocation of the saints should no longer find a place in the regulations or hymns of the Church.’ The opinion that, according to I.k. xvi. 9, the saints may ” receive us into everlasting habitations” is combated expressly, in 1522, in a sermon preserved in the Church Postils, It is, he maintains, the poor living with us upon the earth who are there spoken of, who are standing witnesses of the faith which we have manifested in our treatment of them. We are to serve them, and in general all our fellowmen upon earth. The saints require no service upon our part, no foundations, etc.
Tiber Jumper’s mystery quote appears to be from Luther’s letter July 10, 1522 to Erfurt. I’m uncertain as to which secondary source he got it from. The quote appears to be found in WA 10 (2), 166. I find it surprising this short letter has (to my knowledge) never been translated into English. A helpful overview of the letter can be found here:
As to Karlsladt and Gabriel Didymus, who had occasioned the Wittenberg disturbances, it must be remarked that the latter had retraced his steps and become a different man, concerning Karlstadt, however, it was not known what he would do. He felt himself aggrieved that Luther had set aside his regulations, though the latter had not rejected his doctrines, having only declared his dissatisfaction that Karlstadt had busied himself wholly with ceremonies and outward things, and on account of these had neglected the true Christian doctrine concerning faith and love. Luther was now only concerned that they might imitate the Wittenberg tumult at Erfurt, in the removal of the images, the abolition of the mass, of one kind in the sacrament, and all the other matters. He accordingly repeatedly wrote to John Lange, and it being especially the invocation of the saints about which they were at variance at Erfurt, he drew up the writing: “Concerning the Saints. An epistle or instruction to the Church at Erfurt, assembled in God.” In it he exhorts the ministers to avoid the questions concerning the saints in heaven and concerning the dead, and to draw the people off from them, because there would be no end to questions here. That it was the object of Satan to detain them with that which is unnecessary, in order thus to hinder that which is necessary. That he did no sin who did not invoke the saints, but relied firmly upon the only Mediator, Jesus Christ, yea, that such a one was perfectly right and secure. That the others, however, should not be despised in their weakness. “Let them call upon the name of the saints if they will do so, only let them know and be on their guard that they do not put their confidence and trust in any saint but alone in Christ. For confidence is the highest honour which is due to God alone, who is the truth himself.” He in particular warns them against insurrection, saying: “There are many inconsiderate men who imagine themselves able to help the cause of the Gospel by means of the sword and the arm of flesh, thinking to have attained their object if they weaken or injure priests and monks. But they do not know that our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against the wicked spirits of the air. (2 Cor. x. 3, 4.) Satan is a spirit, having neither flesh nor bone, wherefore iron and an arm of flesh will accomplish nothing. The hearts of men must first be torn from his grasp by means of the Word of truth; that is our sword and might which no one can resist: with it the friends of Christ divide Behemoth and cut him asunder. Behold wherewith I defeated the papacy and the spiritual power, which before was a terror to all the world, when all men acknowledged: Who can prevail against the beast? For it had power to make war even upon the saints, and to overcome them. (Rev. xiii. 4, 7.) Yet I never raised a finger against it, and Christ has destroyed it with the sword of his mouth.” (2 Thess. ii. 8.) Finally, he adds: “I fear, too, that much of all the evil is owing to ourselves, because we preach a great deal of our inability to do anything without the grace of God, and yet attempt to begin and to accomplish all manner of things of ourselves, without first, in humble prayer, beseeching God that he would begin and accomplish them through His Spirit. Thus it happens then, that we journey to Egypt, and begin the work in obedience to our own spirit, never first asking at His mouth concerning it. Therefore, my dear friends, let us act as we teach, committing all things to God, and without ceasing praying Him to direct us, to counsel and to help us, both in great and small matters, and not to permit us to follow our own opinion and reason in beginning anything.”
The quote in question comes from a transitional writing from Luther. Therefore, citing it as a support text for invoking the saints is unjustified.
According to the Roman Catholic Church, ed Mary was the only person other than Jesus who was born without original sin (immaculately conceived), she remained a virgin throughout her life, she was bodily assumed into heaven, she is to receive prayer and devotion from God’s people, she is a mediatrix between God and man, and she dispenses grace to those in need. There is no biblical basis for any of these doctrines whatsoever. Yet in an over-reaction to the idolatrous and even blasphemous excesses, many Christians have ignored Mary altogether. Mary tells us herself that she was a sinner (and Scripture records it). She is not referred to even once outside of the Gospels. The Apostle Paul never mentions her in all his Epistles (think about that). Yet there’s no doubt that Mary was a truly remarkable woman, chosen by God to have a hugely significant role in the life of her Son. I am a Protestant by conviction and not mere preference, and yet… I thank God for Mary.
This song by Mark Shultz is very moving: