The catholic Dialogues

The word “catholic,” with an intentional lower-case “c” has long been paired with the idea of universal Christianity, not in the sense of “universalism” whereby all paths lead to the same destination, but rather as a legitimate follower of Jesus Christ across all denominations and major church brands (think: Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism and Protestantism). A Catholic Christian is a person who aligns with Roman Catholicism, where as a catholic Christian is a general term for anyone, Roman Catholic or otherwise, who follows Jesus Christ regardless of what particular brand or congregation he or she worships with.

This thread is devoted to peaceful conversations between a Roman Catholic and myself, a Protestant. It is important to note that neither of us claim to be experts or to represent all of those who share our respective traditions. We are speaking from our own experiences, understandings and learning, nothing more.

This particular thread has been developing for awhile through a series of private emails between myself and a dear friend who has given me permission to reproduce the salient features of our emails. The purpose here is threefold:

1) To understand our friends’ respective Christian traditions better.

2) To promote unity among believers despite differences in those traditions, and

3) To respect those differences without trying to harmonize them or trying to get participants to proclaim unity in all beliefs.

Before we get started, I would like to make a few important distinctions:
This is not an “interfaith” discussion. On the most basic level, it is an in-house conversation among Christians. One of my most annoying observations about chatting with some fellow Protestants is that they talk ABOUT Catholics without talking WITH them, and that these Protestants refer to themselves as “Christians” in contrast with those “Catholics.” This is not acceptable. Catholics are no less Christian than Protestants are, and we must cease using such divisive language.

The follow-up protest I often hear from such well-intentioned Protestants is that they mean “cultural” Catholics, rather than “practicing” Catholics. I understand the distinction, but similar to sex-abuse cases, we are kidding ourselves if we think that this is a malaise unique to the Catholic church, for I know many people who were raised in Protestant homes and consider themselves “Christians” without ever actually following Christ, much less participating with a local congregation or reading the Bible. No, we cannot speak in terms of “Catholics” in contrast with “Christians.” That is plainly ignorant, and it must stop.

Welcome to the discussion.
-Corbin Lambeth

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About C_Lambeth

I currently live in the Pacific Northwest. I graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor's of Science and from George Fox Seminary (now Portland Seminary) with a Master's of Divinity. In addition to knowing Christ and helping others know him, I am passionate about peace, the environment, Christian feminism, justice for all (not just the wealthy) and being a lifelong learner. Please feel free to comment on any of the posts here or to suggest new posts altogether. Thank you for reading me! -CL
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31 Responses to The catholic Dialogues

  1. C_Lambeth says:

    MP,
    Hey, can we talk sometime about the differences between our Christian threads? I found myself recently trying to point out my Mom’s inconsistencies in one of her monologues against Catholicism (she means well, but is not often aware of her own denomination’s baggage and unhelpful attitudes). I don’t want to argue her side with you, but I am perhaps… confused on a few issues and need an “insider” to straighten me out. If you get the time, would you be open to this?

    your buddy,
    -CL

  2. MP says:

    No, I hate talking about religion;) Do you want to chat via phone or ask me some questions and I can answer them?

    Hope TX is treating you alright! Say hi to your spouse for us.
    MP

  3. C_Lambeth says:

    Awesome. In addition to my cousin, you are my go-to, insider friend on Catholicism. I think you know this already, but for full disclosure, I dearly love and respect my Catholic brothers and sisters and can find no reason not to like them or partner with them. That being said, I also deeply appreciate my Protestant roots and find that they suit me well.

    But on with the show. First off, it seems to me that Roman Catholicism has significantly backed off the dual thread approach to divine revelation (Bible and Church Tradition being on equal footing) that seems to have been fairly dominant from Constantine to Vatican II in Roman Catholicism. Is that a fair assessment in general, or does this need to be more nuanced/ edited/ tossed out? This is hopefully the less annoying of my two questions.

    However, the more annoying part is the reason that I ask about this: a certain family member of mine is adamant that Catholics not only worship the Pope but also regard him (and Catholic church traditions in general) as infallible/ beyond accountability or question. You can see how the tradition/ Bible issue can be blown out of proportion, and this has indeed been the path that my family member has taken.

    As always, I’ll appreciate your perspective on these (and other) issues.
    -CL

  4. MP says:

    I’ll send you the website about infallibility for a start. Basically it refers to the Pope teaching on matters of morals to the church as a whole. It doesn’t mean that he is perfect or sinless. As far as I know it has only been used once or twice…
    http://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/papac2.htm

    Here’s what I understand about tradition along with another website. This website if just some dude so I’m trying to find a more trustworthy site for you. It does give a decent overview.
    http://www.catholicbible101.com/sacredtradition.htm

    This website is written by a priest and I found it to be helpful to explain the idea of scripture and tradition better. My favorite quote is “Far from being separate from Scripture, Tradition was the living
    testimony both to what constituted Scripture and to its meaning.”
    http://www.ewtn.com/library/HUMANITY/THEOTRAD.TXT

    So the tradition is important to Catholics because we see it as another way which we receive God’s teaching. I guess we don’t see tradition and scripture as dual threads but more like an overall tapestry of our faith. Both are important and intertwined in each other.

    Let me know if this is confusing, helpful, or leads to more questions. What’s our next topic? Mary? Why only single men can be priests? This is a little more sophisticated than my usual faith discussions. I am usually answering children’s questions and they haven’t gotten Papal authority yet:)
    http://www.catholicbible101.com

    MP

  5. C_Lambeth says:

    Cool. Thanks for doing this, MP. I hope to devote some time to this soon, but just from your “tapestry” analogy, it seems (speaking in broad terms), that Catholics & Protestants aren’t so far apart.

    I think that a lot of the confusion on the Protestant side of the aisle is that many of our churches wrongly assume/ believe that they “just go by the Bible” when in fact our denominations and “non-liturgical” liturgies are oozing with traditions neither mandated nor prohibited by the biblical text itself. It’s very interesting to me, but I have found that I need to be careful concerning which people can handle which questions that I ask or which assumptions I challenge. That’s probably not unique to Protestants though.

    -CL

  6. MP says:

    Nice. Glad that you are finding this interesting.

    My next charge is to research biblical arguments against the death penalty. I have been having an on-line debate with a classmate from high school since Chicago got rid of the death penalty a few months ago. Hope that your Easter Season is very blessed. We have been “blessed” with snow today:) Gotta love our town!
    Take care and say hi to your spouse.

    What do you all think about/ believe about saints? Is that just a Catholic thing? And what’s your stance on Mary?
    That’s all for now.

  7. C_Lambeth says:

    Thanks for the questions. For a disclaimer, I imagine that I represent a common Protestant perspective on these issues, but certainly not the only one.

    Saints: Of the 45 verses where the word appears in the NT, Protestants would say that the best definition of the term is something along the lines of: “true followers of Christ Jesus,” (as opposed to people merely going through the motions, playing church etc). I think this definition fits fairly well, and I often have made use of it. One verse that might be cited in support is Eph. 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus…”

    The addressees are Christians, both specifically those in Ephesus and those in the broader regional context. In that sense, Protestants hold that all true believers at all times and places are “saints.” We may provide accolades and praise of outstanding Christian forebears, but there is no two-tiered sainthood between us and them. No mandate for 3 miracles or being canonized (?) by the Pope etc. To be honest, I am not sure which of those (or other requirements) are actually promoted by Roman Catholics today and which ones are caricatures that I’ve picked up elsewhere. Please set me straight so I don’t sound like an idiot.

    The accusation I often hear against Catholics is that you’uns pray TO a special class of saints and Mary, and this really twists the Protestant tail because of Jesus’ words in John 14:6 (even though that verse is talking about salvation [I’d say], and not prayer per se). However, as per my church history class at George Fox, we were taught that Catholics originally practiced the petitioning of the “saints” to pray FOR them (the individual person) TO God rather than praying TO the saint themselves INSTEAD of God. So, if I was a good Catholic brewmaster, I would petition St. Arnold to take my case before the throne so that he, being the brewmaster of all brewmasters, could best explain my situation and need before the Almighty. Perhaps you could be so kind as to tell me if my education was worth anything on that point?

    Something(s) About Mary: As for Mary, the Roman Catholic position (or at least what we imagine to be the Roman Catholic position) is completely bewildering to us Protesters. We think she’s cool and played an important role in the history of humanity. That just about sums it up. So when we imagine that RCs pray to her, worship and revere her etc, we are scandalized because all of these actions are reserved for members of the Trinity alone. So we (well, some of us) like to bluster around about Catholic idolatry etc.

    We Protestants affirm the immaculate conception and virgin birth, but not Mary’s perpetual virginity. Personally, I find the case for Mary’s perpetual virginity to be completely absent within the pages of the Bible itself, but when all the chips are down, it really just doesn’t matter to me one way or the other. Nevertheless, I bet Joseph was pissed if it turned out to be the case. I think that would make for a good contemporary comedy routine, but anyway.

    As Protestants, we also affirm that Mary became pregnant through the Holy Spirit in a mystical way, but not that the HS took on physical form and knocked her up the ol’ fashioned way. Nevertheless, this would be a good one-off excuse for teenage pregnancy perhaps. Have you seen the movie, “Saved”? It pokes fun at much that is wrong with contemporary Evangelical culture.

    Regarding the nature of Christ through the virgin birth, Protestants also affirm that Jesus was 100% human while concurrently being 100% God. There is no 50/50 dualism in our theology that I know of, nor 50% human DNA & 50% glowy-green, heavenly DNA etc. nor any other oddball concept.

    I hope that is helpful. Let me know how to be sharper in my understanding of Roman Catholicism and if I failed to address something that you wanted to know.

    -CL

  8. MP says:

    Let me respond for each section individually. Saints: I don’t know off the top of my head the requirements to be come a Saint. All I know is that the Church hierarchy decides based upon the persons life, death, and any related miracles (i.e. healings after meeting the saint, etc.).

    Your professors were right. We see saints (including Mary) as intercessors. We pray (talk) to them and they bring our prayers to God for us. Praying to a certain saint helps give me focus in prayer and give me a real human person to connect to. Its like asking a friend for spiritual help.

    However, in practice many Catholics tend to become superstitious with saints. One example of this include is burying a statue of St. Joseph upside down in ones backyard to help sell your house.

    We do believe that we are all called to be saints although I don’t think the average Catholic always remembers this.

    I’ll read over the Mary part and get back to you on that.

  9. MP says:

    [CL, I recently read your comments on Mark Driscoll]. So, all I’ve managed to do about [him] is read his bio and that lead me to another question. It said that he trains young men to “plant new churches”. Does that mean he is starting yet another protestant denomination?

    My real question is this: as someone who has been a pastor at The Peak, what is the appeal of creating another church? I guess I have never really understood Non-denominational churches and my knowledge of them is very limited but I don’t understand why there is a tendency in Protestantism to faction even more. Yes, there are off shoots of Catholicism but they tend to be on the very fringe. Why is there a desire/ need to faction off. I don’t see eye to eye with everything in Catholicism but I say with it because I believe that much more learned people than myself have been guided by the word of God (and in the case of the Apostles) the creator him/herself. Please help me to understand more about all of these “new” Christian churches.

    Thanks again,

  10. C_Lambeth says:

    MP,
    I’m glad that my professors at Fox were worth their salt. They haven’t disappointed me yet.

    On to Driscoll: I think it is helpful to distinguish between “church planting” and church “splits.” The first is when an established CONGREGATION gets too big or wants to reach a geographically distant location and decides to start a new congregation of the SAME denominational affiliation and usually incorporates the same local leadership hierarchy.

    A “split” however, happens when either a denomination or a local congregation finds a polarizing issue that divides allegiances and becomes irreconcilable. So like mature adults they say, “Fine, we’re not gonna play with you anymore. We’ll start our own thing and we don’t need your permission. So there.”

    So I hope you can see that “creating another church” can have different meanings. It can be healthy, but it can also be divisive and against Jesus’ prayer in John 17. The fact is that most humans would rather be “right” than unified. And to be fair, I think there are some lines that ought to be drawn. All of our churches draw them (Catholic, Protestant, Anglican & Eastern Orthodox), but sometimes we draw them for ridiculous reasons. I tend to have a very generous orthodoxy, but I can’t affirm a church that teaches polytheism or denies Christ’s uniqueness as the incarnate, executed and physically resurrected savior. Most everything else allows for disagreement in my paradigm.

    Does that help at all?
    -your brotha

  11. MP says:

    Ok, so what church is this Driscoll guy a part of? And when you have church plantings, who makes sure that they stay close to the original intent of their larger church?

    I’m still working on Mary now. This is a tricky one for me.
    MP

  12. MP says:

    I went to see “The Passion” with [a good friend] and afterward she said to me, “I don’t understand how some people don’t get Mary.” Coming from a Buddhist it made me take notice. Maybe I’m a little biased because I am a Mom now but Catholics recognize that she raised and formed Jesus to become the man he was. Yes, he was God and recognized it at a young age but the role of Mary was very significant to his life.

    If that weren’t enough, she was the model disciple of Christ right to the end. She was one of only three at his feet on the cross. She isn’t on the same level as God/ the Trinity but she is still an important figure for Catholics and especially women. We are called to look at Mary as a symbol of modest and virtue.

    I find it interesting that you accept the Immaculate Conception and virgin birth but don’t give her props. If God thought that she was special enough to carry his only son, shouldn’t we elevate her somewhat?

    Perpetual virginity…personally I don’t care one way or the other about this one. I have learned that these non-sex marriages were common back in the day but I don’t remember the circumstances which they occurred. One thought is that Joseph had been widowed and was older than Mary so perhaps she was more of a companion. If you want me to find more about this, I can.

    I am with you on the “knocking-up” of Mary too. I think (but am not certain) that Catholics believe her pregnancy came about in a spiritual manner. And yes, I own the movie Saved and find it awesome (“Of course Jesus was white!). Also, on the same page with true God and true man; we don’t believe in some weird ratio.

    I know that you have a blog and I considered doing that but I don’t want to be seen as an “authority” by people I don’t know. It is so easy to take things found on the web and treat them like truth. If you want to paraphrase things, I am fine with that. I just don’t know enough yet (you at least have a degree in ministry. I won’t start mine for a few more years.)

    Peace out bro.
    -MP

  13. C_Lambeth says:

    MP,
       I think you are probably right that would be easier for me to give Mary better “props,” as you say, if I were a woman and a mother at that. Nevertheless, it seems that Catholics’ esteem for Mary is predicated on the idea that she was already saintly and generally awesome etc. BEFORE her encounter with the Holy Spirit. And don’t get me wrong, that certainly could be the case. But what I see when I read the Bible is that most of the people God chose or those who are “favored by God” are broken, sinful failures on several levels, but have nevertheless been chosen by God to be the conduit through which his power and love would flow. If the narratives of Adam, Moses, David, Peter and Paul are not enough to make this point, then I also ask that we consider the genealogies of Jesus as found in Matthew and Luke. Gentile dogs and prostitutes are there as the ancestors of Jesus. That being said, I lean towards Mary’s awesomeness being grounded not in anything about her per se, but rather that God chose yet another bewildered and broken vessel through which he could do his thing. I think most Protestants acknowledge Mary as being significant, but that importance pales in comparison to Jesus, and to a lesser degree, even Paul, Peter, James and John. I hope that’s not too offensive, but I want to shoot straight with you.

  14. C_Lambeth says:

    I don’t  know what denomination the Drsicoll’s represent if any, but they certainly have a strong Calvinistic bent, so I imagine that they are loosely connected with the Presbyterian thread of Protestantism.

    I also don’t know how familiar you are with the 2 “mainline” denominations in Western Protestantism (Presbyterian and Methodist), but oftentimes most other denominations and congregations align with one or the other (even if they don’t know it), and it’s all over the issue of “election” and “predestination” as explored throughout the Bible, but especially in the Letter to the Ephesians.

    I think it’s really interesting, but ultimately I align with Arminius/ Wesley (Methodism) in the idea that “election” means that God selects certain individuals as prophets, evangelists and leaders in general, IN ORDER THAT they can faithfully carry the Gospel of salvation forward into the world SO THAT other people might hear, repent, believe and allow God to save them too. Everyone ELSE is either saved or not-saved, not because God appointed them for salvation or condemnation prior to the creation (Calvinism), but because of how they used their legitimate free-will. Did they let Christ save them or did they refuse? Salvation remains the complete work and gift of God, but humans’ free-will plays a part in accepting or rejecting that gift, just like on your birthday or with Christmas gifts. You accept the gift, but you are not responsible for it being offered in the first place.

    Alternatively, Calvinists (Presbyterians) get all in a twist over the idea that people have to “accept” the gift of salvation in order to be saved. They cry “foul” and say that if anyone must “accept” Christ to be saved, then he or she has “worked/ earned” that salvation, and that is clearly at odds with the whole of Scripture and overturns the entire movement that started with Martin Luther. So, they teach that “predestination” for both heaven and hell was set before the creation of the universe and there is absolutely nothing that anyone can do to change where they are going after they die. And thus you get an idea of the divide between Methodists and their Calvinistic brethren. 

    Like I said, we love to be right, rather than unified. When the chips are down, I align with the Methodists in this disagreement, (primarily because of 1Tim 2:4 & 2 Pet. 3:9), but what we tend to forget is that this particular theological debate and split didn’t occur until more than 1000 years after the church came into existence. If anything, this tells me that Christ and his disciples and the early church leaders etc. were quite comfortable in letting the tension between these ideas REMAIN as tension instead of trying to make everything nice and tidy or imposing an external perspective that dictated which verses had to be focused on and which ones had to be explained away.

    Sorry for the length of this reply.
    -Corb

  15. MP says:

    I did want to make a couple more points about Mary. In the OT there are several instances of God talking directly to Moses. Moses was indeed a sinner and had his share of issues yet God selected him to be a great leader to his people. There were many other leaders of the Israelites (some even chosen by God) but Moses was the man until Jesus came along. I don’t think that Mary was a spiritual leader in the same sense but she was a leader for Christ as his mother. She was around throughout his life and was his follower.

    I’m losing my train of thought…Ok, now I remember. For the Israelites, the idea of the Queen mother (gebhirah) was very important. I’m too tired to look up examples but I can do that for you tomorrow. Anyway, in the book of John, Jesus’ first miracle occurs at Mary’s request (water to wine) not only showing her influence over him but also her faith in him. She was with him at the foot of the cross when almost all of his followers had abandoned him. That is also why we pray to her so much. She is the strongest intercessor to her son.

    Having bore several children I can tell you for certain of the connection a mother has for her children because for 9 months (and sometime longer) they are the same being. They share their life force and the child is completely dependent upon each other. Indeed even today, the baby needs the mother for survival in parts of the world that have no access to formula or other forms of food for newborns.

    So my last point is difficult to explain as well as understand so I will do my best. Catholics believe (although it isn’t always taught well) that because Mary gave birth to Jesus and because God’s will works outside of our concept of time and space that Mary was without sin. We even believe that when she died she was assumed into heaven, body and soul. I think she is the only one that happened to but I’m not sure. That’s why we take her so seriously; because God takes her seriously.

    I could write more on this subject but I need to get some sleep. I really like that we are doing this. It keeps me searching for more answers about my faith and makes me remember why I commit to being Catholic (especially in times when I want to bang my head against the wall).

    God bless and say hi to your wife.
    MP

    PS: Any capital punishment thoughts or should we start a new thread?

    • Great points MP. If you will allow me, I will add more to what you have already gracefully articulated on Mary.

      Please read my words with the understanding that I am not a theologian. I am unstudied in this area and the Catholic Church should not be held to account where I err. I am not only a layman, but a simple man. I do my best to learn and study as much as my other life obligations allow, but in areas out of my reach, be it through my inability to understand or lack of time to absorb understanding, I must resign myself to faith in Christ that he will make all things right and new. Most people, like me, lack the mental dexterity and depth of intelligence to comprehend some of life’s more complex phenomena, be they spiritual or physical. God only asks us to make the best choices possible on the information we have, not based on information we do not have (Rom. 2:14-16). And if my life doesn’t allow me to commit to the deepest study of the sciences or theology of the Church, I’m given three easy directions by my Lord: Love God. Love my neighbor. Trust that God is good. If I can understand nothing else, these things I must do.

      Concerning Mary, I don’t think most Catholics can understand how difficult Marian doctrines are for Protestants. Nothing I write here, I am sure, can do much to ease Protestant skepticism. If it were easy enough for me to do it, it would have been done by someone more capable long ago.

      Here’s my attempt either way: The significance of Mary’s role in the church is more profound than most allow credit for. From the its early beginnings the Church fathers venerated Mary, and not even Luther or Calvin disputed Catholics on this. The disputes only became a subject of division later when Protestants began looking for reasons to fortify their position against the Catholic Church. This is not meant as an isolated jab to Protestants, as I agree corrupt Catholic clergy provoked intense criticism. On reasons why we should not dismiss the Church based on corruption of some of its members, see my post on Organized Religion here: http://bit.ly/nAm0HM

      The following are reason why Both Catholics and Orthodox venerate Mary:

      1. Mariology is an extension of Christology. The veneration of Mary is only possible and justified by the person of Christ. Without the divinity and works of Christ Mary is nothing. Likewise, her humanity is one of the reasons we can claim Jesus was 100 percent human. We bestow on Mary great honor because Christ has honored her greatly as his physical mother. In this we strive to follow his example. But our doctrine confesses, “This very special devotion [to Mary] differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 971). In the words of Orthodox Theologian Timothy Ware, “[Mary] is not so much an object of faith as a foundation of our hope, a fruit of faith, ripened in tradition.”

      2. Mary is considered to have succeeded where Eve failed, and we thus consider her our Mother. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience.” Ware wrote of Mary, “God, who always respects our liberty of choice, did not wish to become incarnate without the willing consent of His Mother . . . Mary could have refused; she was not merely passive, but an active participant in the mystery.” One might argue that Christ, not Mary, “loosened the knot of Eve’s disobedience” and I would agree at a “high” level. But in another sense the faith of people is mysteriously tied to Christ’s willingness/ability to work grace in us (Mark 6:5). Both Eve and Mary were asked to give up their own will, and choose the will of God. Eve, with Adam, chose to honor herself. Mary, in a very literal sense, gave up her honor and her will in order to bear Jesus, risking the scorn of many in conceiving out of wedlock, especially by someone other than Joseph.

      3. Immaculate Conception: This doctrine agrees that Mary, like all others, needed the grace and redeeming power of Christ. It’s only that it was granted to her at conception so that Christ’s grace preserved her as a holy and worthy vessel to operate as the Holy of Holies. She had the free will to deny this privilege and grace (like the rest of us). Thus her womb is considered, and indeed honored as, the Holy of Holies in the Temple, the very dwelling place of God. Because her womb held God, she was preserved by grace as spotless. This was not her own effort or ability. This phenomenon is similar to how the Jewish Temple worked. Nearly all the holy items were consecrated and made holy, but each was subject to corruption of contaminated through contact with something unclean. However, the very alter in the Holy of Holies, once atoned for and consecrated, worked differently. The alter represented the very presence of God and therefore, “Whatever touches the alter shall become holy,” (Exd. 29:37). The common doctrine on Jesus in the universal church is that Jesus works like this. Those whom he touches become clean, not the other way around. Mary’s preservation from sin by grace worked in a similar way, as the vessel bearing Christ to the world. This is biblical in that Gabriel announced to Mary that she was “full of grace.” Grace will do the same work in all who are redeemed.

      I will also note that this is consistent with your Armenian position on grace. We must willfully accept, instead of being predestined without choice to be saved.

      Miscellaneous note:

      Mary’s assumption into heaven was not like that of Jesus who ascended in a new incorruptible body as the first born, and as is promised to us all. It was also unlike that of Enoch or Elijah, for they were taken alive. Instead church doctrine holds that Mary underwent a physical death, and she was then assumed, body and soul into heaven where she entered into her glorified state. If we are to take the account of Elijah and Enoch, it takes no greater trust to believe Mary could have been assumed in this way.

      I am open to anyone’s feedback or corrections. Thanks for the opportunity to post.

      • As an afterthought I would add this: veneration of the saints I think, is a natural reaction of the attraction to holiness. We study and uplift people and ideas who do best what we consider interesting. The early church appreciated holiness to such a degree they studied the saints’ lives in order to learn how to be more holy. As Church history progressed the medieval era, which was also fascinated by holiness, created a “scientific” field called hagiography (the study of holy men and women). As one of my English professor’s wrote, “Today, we don’t even know what hagiography is. But we have also invented a “scientific” field out of a study of certain kinds of behaviors: We call it criminology–the study of the criminal mind. Does this tell us anything about ourselves?”

        I believe this is telling. I understand how veneration of Mary and the saints can give cause for questioning, but if we understand it is not worship, but admiration of people who got a few things right, then it seems much more palatable.

      • C_Lambeth says:

        Russ,
        Thank you for engaging on the issue of Mary. This remains an area that I struggle to find common ground on with my Catholic friends and family. You offer that the early church fathers venerated Mary and that even the Protestant Reformation’s best known figures did not dispute Catholic traditions concerning her. That may well be the case (I don’t know), but there are two things I think should be said here, the first of which is that merely not speaking out against something should not necessarily be interpreted as affirmation of it. Perhaps you know that Calvin and Luther did specifically affirm the Catholic veneration of Mary, so if you could point me in the right direction concerning some source material, that would be helpful indeed.

        Secondly, and regarding the church fathers, I must confess that I am cautious when it comes to church traditions not affirmed by Christ himself or the New Testament. Church tradition can be important and valid, but it has limitations and is often more a function of culture than of core Christian faith and practice. Stated another way, even if the early church fathers did engage in the practice of giving Mary special accord and praying to her/ asking her to pray for them, that fact alone would not render it as valid or necessary for all Christians to engage in. Maybe they took it too far?

        Your point (#1) on Mariology is helpful and that certainly seems to be the track that my friend, Mandy, takes on Mary, but I still have some questions. As you stated, “Without Christ, Mary is nothing,” but cannot the same be said of all us sinners? Yes, Christ honored her as his mother, but he has honored us all by entering in to a special and unique, saving relationship with us as well. Similarly, as Jesus said in Matthew 12.48-49, whoever does the will of God is in a precious family relationship with him, but not necessarily those who are merely related to him by blood/DNA. In this sense, my friend Mandy, and my wife, and my mother are Christ’s mother too. You and I are his brother, and son and father too. I love how Jesus defines his family.

        And as I think I stated elsewhere, the only way I can understand Mary’s alleged sinlessness is in relation to the restoration that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and resurrection brought along after he was born. I find no reason at all to think that Mary was somehow any more ethical or morally “perfect” than anyone else, and appealing to her status as Christ’s mother doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. Jesus’ lineage included various prostitutes and adulterers. We may like to think of Mary as some sort of angelic figure, but I suspect that it has a lot more to do with human need and projection than it does with any objective standard or testimony. As far as I can tell, Mary’s alleged perfection did not become Catholic dogma until Pope Pius IX in 1854, long after the European wars between Catholics and Protestants.

        Regarding point #2 and the comparison between Eve and Mary, I am still having trouble. I agree that it must have been difficult for Mary to have been pregnant prior to the final marriage ceremony, but to say that she gave up her own will to bear Jesus perhaps overstates the case. It wasn’t convenient, but she didn’t begrudge the Spirit over the affair. And while Eve clearly failed in a catastrophic way, I don’t think it accurate to say that she NEVER did God’s will anymore than it is accurate to say that Mary ALWAYS did. According to the whole of the biblical text, ALL have fallen short of the glory of God and ALL are in need of a savior. I see no special exceptions granted to Mary either implicitly or explicitly.

        Point #3 and the Immaculate Conception: I think that this is perhaps where I misunderstand the most. Somehow your post connects sex with being unclean, and that those who engage in this activity (even in the proper context of marriage) are not holy and therefore unworthy vessels. Please tell me I am wrong on my assessment here. If I am not, it would seem that Catholics have more in common with the Puritans than perhaps they should. To me, it doesn’t seem that the virgin birth of Christ had so much to do with keeping Mary pure as it did a special incarnation of God. That perhaps it did both in this case is fine, but I refuse to acknowledge that sex within marriage is an any spiritual sense “dirty.”

        Finally, I have no problem with the idea of an immaculate conception for Mary’s first-born, but there doesn’t seem to be any biblical reasons to believe that she was either a perpetual virgin or that she was sinless. The text speaks very clearly of Jesus’ brothers. I know that Catholic tradition has asserted that these were only half-brothers, allegedly from a previous marriage on Joseph’s side, but that strains credibility and would seem to have more to do with letting the facts be bent to the tradition rather than the other way around. That sounds really gruff, and I don’t intend to be/ sound that way at all, so please lend me some of your grace here. I just have this Protestant baggage that I can’t seem to see around on this issue. Is there a biblical case that can be made for special treatment of Mary? I think that will probably be the only thing that can fix my wagon (to mix metaphors).

        I appreciate your perspective, Russ.
        your friend and brother,
        -Corbin

        • Hello Corbin,

          As someone who once was Protestant, I don’t expect to be able to “pull” you over to see it the Catholic way, because, as it is the Bible is silent in many areas and can also be interpreted in different ways. I also understand how difficult it is for Protestants to see Mary in the Way Catholics do. I will say since I have become Catholic, my Christ centered devotion hasn’t been distracted by Mary.

          Concerning Jesus brothers, I do not think it would be too much of a stretch to consider Jesus’ brothers his half brothers. Men often outlived their wives (e.g. from death during childbirth) in antiquity and remarried, and in fact almost needed to remarry to maintain a living. Recall detailed laws in Leviticus surrounding just this issue, (albeit concerning the death of the husband) obliging a man to marry their brother’s wife in the event of his death. Life expectancy was much more unpredictable then. Regardless of this, however, I prefer not to spend energy on this because if the Catholic Church is wrong here, it doesn’t change the glory, divinity or all-surpassing greatness of Christ, who we owe all our energy uplifting anyhow. I’m not much on Marion devotion myself, but I respect the Tradition of the Church.

          Concerning Luther’s Mariology, I read somewhere before about this and cannot remember, and do not have the drive right now to look too deeply into it, namely for the same reason above. I’m not passionate about defending Marion devotion and it doesn’t get under my skin that Protestants don’t share this approach with us. With that being said, I know Wikipedia is not the best academic source, but it is as far as I’m willing to go in defense of Luther’s position on Mary. The article here does provide sources on its content: http://bit.ly/IBS8iV

          As for the documentation of the position of Mary from Pope Pius IX in 1854, I would simply say formalizing an oral tradition in writing doesn’t mean that tradition originated at the time it was put in writing. I am sure you will agree the Pentateuch didn’t reach its current form until after the Babylonian exile, but it doesn’t mean the truths recorded are null because they were derived orally or from different written sources.

          Finally, I wanted to clear up any perception in my last post that might have seemed to suggest that sex within marriage is “dirty.” If that were my position, it would be in opposition to established Catholic doctrine. People often misunderstand the doctrine on the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Virgin Birth. They are two different events. The Immaculate conception refers to Mary’s conception between her two parents and claims that God’s saving grace was with her from her conception, and that was miraculous because it happened in a way that is outside theological norms. I think most Catholics would agree it wasn’t Mary’s virtue that made her without sin, but the Grace of Christ, just like the rest of us. The difference being that she was a specially prepared vessel created for the purpose of being a literal living Most Holy Place, compared to that of the Jewish Temple, in that God resided in her womb, and just as the alter in the Most Holy Place had to be prepared and made ritually pure, so did Mary. So, sex has nothing to do with it really. And, since all this is purely metaphysical conjecture, it is difficult to defend, although fun to think and talk about. I acknowledge I won’t convince you or others on this, but I don’t think it should serve as a lodge between our two camps. For if I saw a Catholic brother giving worship due to Christ, to Mary instead, I would be the first to gently intercept.

          As I said before, I’m aware this doesn’t help you much. But I’m okay to leave it as it is, and agree to disagree. If, when we reach the Eternal Kingdom, I find I was wrong, I’ll be the first to laugh at myself if it is trivial to God, and if it is grave to Him, I will be on my knees at His mercy, which is where I am anyway on everything. I think we’ll all find in the end, that we each have our own flaws and misconceptions in our reasoning, be it through ignorance, bias, or self interest.

          Thanks!

  16. MP says:

    Are you familiar with the Catholic Catechism? That is a great book for explanations about why Catholics do what we do. Not sure what is covered in seminary.

  17. MP says:

    Hey,
    So I have two completed unrelated questions for this “round” of our discussions. I hope you find them interesting, so here goes.

    1. What do you (Corbin, not the Protestant position) believe happens to animals when they die? I am of the mind that only people go to heaven but My Spouse is not of that mind. I don’t know what the “Catholic position” is…

    2. This one is a little deeper…Why do Protestants support the use of birth control? This one has always been a curiosity of mine and I figured that you are the best person to ask without getting all weird. I am prepared to give you the Catholic perspective but children are both up from naps and I hear ripping paper so that will come at a later time.

    Hope you are well and enjoying the summer,
    MP

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Good topics you’ve introduced. I don’t want to ignore your follow-up on Mary or the issue of capital punishment, so let’s do that before animals and birth control, yes?
      SO many things to discuss! It’s great!
      -Corb

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Mandy,

      These are great (and fun) questions. Thanks for the asking!

      I suspect that with its ethnocentrism and anthrocentrism, if Protestants had a central, governing authority and if it an official position on whether or not animals go to heaven, it would probably be that they don’t because ostensibly Jesus only died for what he became (human).
      Personally, I suspect that the first part is malarkey without denying the second part (Christ’s full humanity). So I cut and paste my officially unofficial opinion on the matter from a blog post in my “Core Beliefs” section titled: https://corbinlambeth.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/the-resurrection-of-the-dead/

      The resurrection of specific animals is not addressed in the Bible, so I adopt no official stance on the issue and do not presume that animals have souls. Nevertheless, the biblical text indicates that animals will be present in heaven and that God does indeed care about his physical creation and its creatures. Therefore, while the issue of non-human life being resurrected remains unknown, it is certainly up to God’s discretion, and I affirm that nothing is too difficult for him to accomplish. Furthermore, I am persuaded that God has given us intelligent creatures for both assistance and companionship as part of the created order, and I see no reason that this should change in a restored or perfected heaven and earth. It is God’s nature to give life, and there is no reason that this should be limited to humans alone in heaven.

      And just between you and me (and the internet), I personally believe that all animals go to heaven, dogs in particular. Part of this is because it is the only way I can understand how an all good all powerful God allows creatures to suffer and die through no fault of their own. Secondly, I think that loved creatures are good and perfect gifts from a good and perfect Father, and I see no limits to his goodness or his desire for his creatures (humans and otherwise) to be happy and in healthy kinship with each other. Plus I really miss my old St. Bernard, Princess Goldi Rox.

      Let me know what you think.
      As for birth control, let’s start a thread on that at the bottom of this page when you’re ready. I hope I can continue to keep it “not wierd.”

      your friend,
      -Corb

  18. C_Lambeth says:

    MP,
    So let’s talk about Mary just a little bit more. You said that you think Mary was a leader for Jesus as his mother, and his follower as a disciple. I can’t see many Protestants taking issue with this. I certainly don’t, but in light of Matthew 12:47-49 (“Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”), I am resistant to making too much out of Mary. It just doesn’t seem that Jesus measures relationships like we do, and he doesn’t seem to accord his mother special status.

    I like your example of Jesus’ alleged first miracle with the water and wine. I say “alleged” because everything about this story indicates that Mary had previous experience with her son’s uncanny ability to reorder things as he saw fit. But given what the text says, perhaps we should consider that this was his first “public” miracle. Either way, Jesus clearly took “honoring his mother (and father)” very seriously, and obviously she held her son in high regard and had a deep connection to him as perhaps only a mother could. It would be silly to suggest otherwise.

    Nevertheless, I do not feel comfortable praying to Mary or any other human for several reasons, not the least of which is that there seems to be a complete absence of examples or precedents for the practice in the Bible itself. Despite her undeniably deep connection to the incarnate Jesus, I just don’t see a need for an intercessor (Mary) to THE intercessor (Jesus). In fact, the only place I see this theme touched on is in Romans 8:26-27, but there it is the Holy Spirit who intercedes on our behalf, not a special human. Undoubtedly this is a distinctive feature between Catholics and Protestants, but it is just too much of a stretch for me to “pray to” Mary. I don’t want to overstate the case, but on the surface this practice seems to have far more to do with Catholic tradition than with the Bible or the earliest church gatherings. Are there any examples in the text or otherwise that you know I have not taken note of?

    As for Mary’s sinlessness, the only way I can understand this is in relation to the restoration that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and resurrection brought, and I don’t think that’s what you mean. I affirm that God works well beyond our concept of time and space, but I see no reason to apply this to Mary’s alleged sinlessness. As far as I can tell, the dogma originated with Pope Pius IX in 1854. I have a similar issue with Mary’s alleged ascendance to heaven: what is the source material? The only two examples I am aware of in the Bible concern Elijah in 2Kings 2:1 & 11, and Jesus in Luke 9:51 and Acts 1:2.

    I don’t want to be overly critical of Mary. If you find her elevated status or praying to her helpful in your relationship to God, then it’s not my place to criticize these things. All I can say is that it is a tradition that I am uncomfortable with in my own faith and practice because not only does it seem absent in the Bible, but it also seems to elevate a mere human to the same status and perfection of Christ himself. Mary is a very special human, but a human nonetheless, and I simply don’t understand why I would want a her as a mediator when Christ knows me (and himself) best.

    I hope that is not too offensive or counterproductive for our conversation. Thanks in advance for your grace.
    -CL

  19. Hello friends,

    I hope my comment here won’t be considered an interruption. I just wanted to throw in some thoughts, if permitted.

    I love seeing this civil discussion between two different camps, and I applaud it, and hope you accept me into it. For the purpose of perspective, and to be candid on my own bias, I am of the catholic faith, and my extension is Roman Catholic.

    On Mary, I would only add this: if we look back at the pivotal issues in the Protestant Reformation, we will find differences on how to interpret Mary to be absent. Neither Calvin nor Luther demonstrated any objections (that I know of) to the RC or Orthodox conventional understanding of Mary. Additionally, one of the many areas catholic faithful agree is how life doesn’t end for people after their bodies die And in fact, it could be argued the saved have greater perspective, understanding and love than those of us still chained to the corrupted flesh (not to be confused with our new, uncorrupted flesh we will one day receive, as our new body), because they enjoy the blessed presence of the Trinity. Now, if we are willing to trust those who are still with us on earth to pray for us when in need, I don’t see how it is different to ask a living person who has departed to also pray. When I ask my friend to pray for me, I am not worshiping him or giving him honor only due to God. I ask him for prayer because I know prayers from faithful people can be effective. And if this is the main reason I ask a friend or priest to pray for me, in what way does his physical death change my original motivation to ask for prayer? True, an example of intercession of the saints may not be found in our canon, BUT the early church fathers seemed to affirm it in their actions (pardon the lack of an example, but I can examples if you wish).

    I like this thread (on Catholics and Protestants) because you both demonstrate an idea best framed by C. S. Lewis. He wrote: “[Christianity] is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. … The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. … But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. …

    “When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”

    This advice I see being played out here. Peace be with you!

  20. C_Lambeth says:

    Russell,
    I love the C.S. Lewis quote and the hall analogy. I seem to recall Jesus saying something about his Father’s house and the many rooms therein. Well done.

    And thank you for the additional exploration on prayer and (departed) saints. I understand the tradition and its theological underpinnings as you clarified above, but it seems that sometimes Catholics mistake asking the departed to pray for them, for praying TO the departed themselves. Do you think the latter poses a problem, even if a minor one?

    Thank you for your comments. Much appreciated.
    -CL

  21. Thank you for the reply Corbin.

    Yes twice. There are Catholics, no doubt, who in their petition to saints transgress from intended brotherly love for the saint to inappropriate devotion. And yes, I believe this causes a problem.

    But I don’t believe this problem (once the layers are peeled back) is unique to, or found only in the Catholic Church. And I don’t think the problem stems from the nuance of the saint inhabiting an earthly body or not.

    What makes the practice vulnerable to abuse is the inherent inclination of people to gravitate toward idolatry. As I think you would agree, idolatry takes many ugly (and much more subtle) forms beyond the conventional ideas of carved images and devotion to pagan gods. The word “idolatry” itself is probably no longer effective in communicating its real meaning because it functions more like a caricature. Perhaps a more appropriate word in the west would be “arrogance” or “pride” or even “self worship” and these things are behind some of the church’s ugliest problems, problems of which I note you have appropriately taken upon yourself to address.

    I don’t believe avoiding petition to the saints will keep us safe from what we as a universal church struggle with most.

    I don’t want to be misunderstood. I’m not here to make an apology for petition to saints or convince you or any other Protestant to engage in this practice. Indeed, Catholics are not obliged to this practice, and many do not engage the saints. Instead I want to highlight our similarities. I place a high value on unity for many reasons, not the least of which that Jesus prayed for this (John 17).

    The point I am taking so long to get around to is this: we are in the same boat as far as the temptation to idolatry is concerned. If you will allow me to provide an example from the Protestant Church, I hope you will receive it with patience and understanding. For I do not wish draw a line of distinction between us, but to demonstrate that we are of the same blood, merely encased in different skin.

    In the Mass we celebrate the Eucharist, and the whole service centers around this mystery: the sacrifice of Jesus, his command to consume his flesh and blood and receive redemption. The Eucharist is the climactic moment in worship just as The Crucifixion, death and Resurrection of Christ are climactic in salvation history. In most Protestant services (I cannot venture to know all since there are tens of thousands denominations, but I have been to many as I once was a Protestant myself) the worship centers around the sermon, with communion as a seemingly brief and hurried supplement usually tacked onto the collection. In many Protestant circles communion is celebrated infrequently. It is usually the sermon, its effectiveness and by extension the pastor, who makes or breaks the merit of the service.

    In fact, many believers in Lewis’s metaphorical hall will make their choice of church by how much they connect with the pastor, and how articulate he is from the pulpit. Like petition to the saints, this by itself is not a problem, but it lends itself to abuse in that over time parishioners can begin to idolize the pastor, putting their stock of faith in him and not Christ. Additionally, this problem has a double edge because pastors begin to fight severe temptations of pride and power. The best of pastors struggle under this weight, and in fact, Jesus himself struggled in this area when people tried to give him political power. You will recall his greatest temptation was in this area multiple times from the desert to the lips of Peter.

    This problem can incubate within a church unnoticed until it boils over. When a pastor who has been idolized falls, the problem becomes most apparent because many who have (mis)placed their faith in him realize their faith was in a house of cards that is prone to weakness. Embarrassment and disappointment may lead to one of three outcomes you eloquently defined in your Harold Camping post. We hope, as you professed, option No. 1 will be the choice.

    I am not suggesting Protestants are wrong here. (Some of my closest, most trusted mentors and friends are from Protestant circles). I am only pointing out a weakness in structure that could give way to idolatry, perhaps in a similar way to a different weakness in Catholic practice. The point is not to do away with the practice (although I do believe Protestants would benefit from re-centering their worship around what they call communion instead of a person), but to be aware of its weaknesses and reinforce accordingly with sound teaching.

    Ultimately, I do not think either weakness discussed (saints/pastors) need be a point of division between “rooms” in the house. I have my own criticisms of the Catholic Church that carry more weight than either of these. We recognize the fallibility of the universal church as a whole and I likewise understand that if I were to find a room that completely suited each of my fancies, I may not only be rather lonely, but also be at greater risk than ever before.

    Please forgive the length of this post. Peace be with you.

    brother,
    Russ

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Russ,
      Thanks again for engaging. You needn’t worry about offending me or creating divisions between us. We are indeed brothers in the house of Christ, and the labels that our respective traditions bear are completely secondary to this fact. May we feel free to speak our minds in love without cause for offense.

      I appreciate your insight into the problems that “praying to the saints” can engender. This is what most of us Protestants get hung up on with this issue, but I am still interested in the issue and special reverence that many Catholics devote to Mary. Perhaps this is an issue you would help me understand better? There is a post above in this thread that may be a helpful jumping-in point.

      In the meantime, I would like to affirm your double critique of the Protestant tendencies to rally behind a pastor AND to ignore Eucharist-Communion-Lord’s Supper. These are both problems that I have encountered in my circles. Of course as you deftly hinted, not all of our churches fall into these traps, but it is undeniable that many do. I personally would rather experience the “cult” of Christ than a cult of personality centered around a merely human pastor. As one who aspires to add his voice to church leadership, this is a danger that I must constantly be aware of (and seek to circumvent). Nevertheless, I must also suggest that this is not, in fact, a problem unique to Protestants. Indeed, it would seem that the office of the pope makes the same mistake, perhaps even to a greater degree. This is yet another issue that Protestants (in general) feel entitled to criticize their Catholic brethren on. Planks and specks of dust in eyes and all that. But be that as it may, is it fair to suggest that both Christian traditions try to recapitulate with the triune God at the core of their worship experience rather than his eloquent creatures (and try to self-police efforts at the opposite)?

      As for the Eucharist, I am still hesitant to make it, as you said, the center of the worship experience, but only if this is at the expense of worshipping God himself. I realize that this is probably not what you mean, but it is likely a prelude to another point of misunderstanding between Catholics and Protestants on their gatherings/ services. That being said, I affirm that the Eucharist IS a literally phenomenal and mysterious recurring event in the life of a Christ-follower. I don’t know about all Catholics, but it certainly seems to me that they do have a better understanding of this than many of us Protestants. At the very least it seems that Communion is “mysterious” to many of us Protestants for the wrong reasons, not completely unlike the mysteries of quantum mechanics: we often don’t “get it” so we just don’t bother about it at all. And in so doing, clearly we are missing out on something important. I am speaking about Eucharist here, not subatomic particles. Nevertheless, I’d like to think that some of us do “understand” the mystery for the right reasons and seek to recover it and help our fellow Christians get excited about it and partake. As the stories of the church are always being written and re-written, this is an area of our faith that I hope can experience regeneration.

      your friend,
      -Corbin

  22. Thank you for your gracious reply Corbin. Your observation on the Pope is well founded. This very subject is part of what I had in mind when I wrote earlier that other criticisms of the Catholic Church carried more weight. The office of the Pope is perhaps the most controversial in my heart, not because I have reservations about it, but because some of the claims about the office are questionable to me, as far as my limited understanding goes. Additionally, from historical records, I believe the Catholic Church has greater culpability over the gradual split with the Orthodox Church and near complete culpability for the cause of the Reformation. And personally, I favor the Orthodox position on Papal authority: namely that the Church authority should be distributed to a handful of selected bishops, and not ultimately and completely on one man. If the Pope hold’s Peter’s office as RC claims, distributed authority holds water biblically. Nevertheless, while the Orthodox question specific claims of Papal authority set forth in the first Vatican Council of 1870, they grant that the Bishop of Rome (The Pope) is the first among equals and to him belongs the primacy of honor.

    As a Catholic I remain subservient to the Pope not only as my spiritual leader and superior, but also my better in education and social office. (This submission would be consistent even if RC adopted the Orthodox understanding of the Pope.) I pray for the Pope and my bishop and my clergy. If they fail in any way, I am willing to take partial blame. (Wasn’t it Einstein who said humanity’s only real illusion is that there is more than one of us?)We are all connected in this disease called sin. I believe good Protestants should also submit themselves in a very real way to their spiritual superiors in whatever way their denomination qualifies and organizes its leadership. We should take our clergly’s directions as seriously as we take directions from our bosses at work. This should make church leaders tremble. Sadly, in both Catholic and Protestant circles, some parishioners do not feel obliged to consider with gravity the admonitions of their leaders. Many church leaders avoid admonition where it’s due because society is ready to pounce when this happens. I believe one of our society’s deepest flaws is the inherent impulse to spurn authority – and approve of those who do it best. There are times when this is necessary, but most cases today do not qualify. I think somewhere along the line we have confused the virtue of courage to resist a corrupt authority, with the idea of contempt for all authority in general. This demonstrates laziness, I think. It is much easier to slap a quick and easy conclusion on a complex issue than to take time to investigate and make an informed determination. And this applies across all our organizations, not just the religious. But I digress.

    Concerning Mary, I will do my best to supplement MP and articulate the Catholic position in my own words. As you suggested, I have posted my contribution in an appropriate place above.

  23. Mandy P says:

    Corbs,
    I have been working on my Mary rebuttal for months now and have come to a very concise defense of this holy woman. I have great respect for Mary and believe her to be the most holy person to ever live (Jesus was God and Man so he doesn’t count) because of who she was: the Mother of God. She was hand selected by God to become pregnant with the Word. She was given the vocation to raise up the Son of God. That is why she is awesome! She is the moon to Christ’s sun; she reflects the light that comes from the one true God. She was one of a handful of Jesus’s followers at the foot of the cross.
    I don’t see us ever settling this matter. I just don’t understand how Muslims have more respect for Mary than Protestants do. Without her yes, Christ isn’t born.
    That’s all I got, my brother.
    Mandy

  24. C_Lambeth says:

    Mandy,

    Thanks for your reply. I do appreciate it, but I still don’t necessarily understand this issue for Catholics. As it seems to me, the persistent veneration of Mary has more to do with a specific ecclesiological culture than it does with the Bible and accepted standards of faith and practice as a biblical Christian. This is not to say that it is wrong in any sense of the word or even anti-biblical, but it is certainly extra-biblical in the sense that it goes well beyond what the text says and asks of Jesus followers. We Protestants are certainly not exempt from such cultural impositions. Our hang-ups on baptism and alcohol come to mind. Nevertheless, if a Christian finds value and a point of connection with God by limitedly focusing on Mary, then who am I to say that they ought not to do that? That would be stupid and inappropriate on my part, so I will continue to resist such hurtful and careless sentiments so often expressed by Protestants. However, I don’t harbor any special feelings for Mary, and I don’t anticipate that changing. I am not going to ask her to pray for me and I will certainly never pray to her. I don’t want to disrespect Mary, but that is as far as it goes for me.

    your friend and brother,
    -Corb

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