Clearing the Heart to See the Truth

Mary, Mother of the Both/And

In my career as a Catholic catechist, I have noticed that one of the problems with Catholics attending some non-Catholic bible studies is that they begin to integrate assumptions that are actually non-biblical. These assumptions not only make it difficult to understand the bible in the spirit in which it was written, to paraphrase the Catechism, but also undercuts the foundation on which so many of our Catholic beliefs are based. The assumptions that undercut orthodox belief can be summed up in a series of either/ors:

Either one goes directly to Christ or indirectly (here read superfluously) to another;

Either Grace is given to us spiritually or it is not given to us at all (i.e. through visible/sensible means);poussin99

Grace is either a free gift or we must do something to receive it, in which case it is no longer free.

With these either/or assumptions, Catholic belief becomes untenable as a Christian faith system. This is why so many Protestants think that it is their duty to save us from certain damnation. But are these assumptions themselves biblical? In these next few blog entries, I intend to show how they are not only unbiblical, but that they attack an orthodox understanding of Christ. Today, I would like to examine the view that either we go to Christ, or we go to Mary.

According to this view, prayers to Mary and the saints are at best superfluous, at worst, an evil distraction that get in the way of “pure” belief in Christ.

The deeds and teachings of Christ and His Apostles in the New Testament offer clarity on the matter. There are so many references that show us how closely Christ identifies Himself and His mission with other men that I can’t begin to show them all. Let the following texts suffice: While speaking to His apostles, he says, “He who hears you, hears me. He who rejects you, rejects me, and whoever rejects me, rejects Him who sent me.” (Lk 10:16.) “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.” (Jn 14:12.) “He (the Spirit of Truth) will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore, I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (Jn 15:15.) In going to Christ’s Apostles, then, we not only go to them, but also go to Christ, hearing His voice, receiving His truth, enjoying His healing power, through them. Thus, it is not either/or, but both/and: we both go to Christ and go to one of His ministers/mediators. They bring Him to us, while bringing us to Him. And in the midst of this, there He is. “Where two or three are gather in my name, there I am in their midst.” (Mt 18:20.) This is the pure teaching of the Gospel.

I remember giving a class on Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant and I had a very sincere man come up to me afterwards to ask me why we need Mary at all when we can go straight to Christ. I confess that I was wondering under my breath whether he heard one thing I said the whole night. I realized right then that there must’ve been some obstacle hindering him from understanding what I thought was a solid biblical overview of one of Mary’s roles. He explained to me that it made no sense to him to go to Mary for anything, when we have direct access to Christ. At first, I was a little perplexed. This should be simple enough to answer, but I found myself struggling. In a flash of inspiration, I asked him the following questions: In the Acts of the Apostles, when people placed their sick on stretchers in the street so that when the shadow of Peter fell on them so that they would be healed (Acts 5:15), were they going straight to God for the healing, or straight to Peter? When people touched Paul’s forehead with handkerchiefs and then touched the sick with those same cloths (Acts 19:12), were they going straight to God or straight to Paul? In both cases, he responded that they were both going to God and to these apostles.

I then asked him when he wants to know God’s will on some matter does he go straight to God or straight to the bible? “I can stop you right there,” he said, “for the Bible is God’s Word!” The bible may be God’s word, but it is not God Himself—it’s a book. It therefore mediates God’s Word to us, and does such a good job of it, we call it His Word. But it is not identical with Him. He reluctantly agreed.

The idea that either we go to God or we go to some other mediator seems intuitive at first and seems to indicate that we as Catholics are always placing some obstacle between the believer and Christ. Yet, this approach is itself unbiblical. In the cases mentioned, we are able to go to God, both through communing with His Spirit in prayer and through His chosen ministers/mediators. He is the one who established these people and books to minister His grace to us. After all, Christ Himself teaches us that He is the vine, we are the branches. He works through us, so much so that when the sick were healed by one of the Apostles, it was precisely Christ who healed them. In going to Peter or Paul, believers were going to Christ. Isn’t it interesting that the inspired book of the bible known as the Acts of the Apostles is so called, and yet no Protestant that I know refuses to acknowledge that book of the bible because it follows the missionary activity of men instead of Christ. Thus, if it is not wrong for people in Peter, Paul, John, and the rest of the New Testament figures’ day to approach them for divine favors, it  is not wrong to go to Mary who gave flesh to the God Man.

In our next installment, we will explore the either/or assumptions on Grace.

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15 Responses to “Mary, Mother of the Both/And”

  1. Doug says:

    Mr Hinkel, your OP has to do with the right (duty?) of Christians to ‘go to Mary’ in prayer, because of her exalted position in dogma. It’s a position without support in scripture. Several of your other statements are also without support, especially from the scriptures you cite here.
    The “woman” in Gen 3:15 is Mary to Catholics, and not-Mary to other, equally respected theologians. One reason: that “woman” was in existence at the time of Gen 3; Mary was not, while Yahweh, Jesus and Satan were. (Col 1:15) In any case there is no mention of any sinlessness of Mary. Likewise, Luke 1:28 does not mention Mary’s alleged sinlessness. The RCC transition from “highly favored” to ‘without sin’ exceeds any reasonable stretch of language, logic or good sense, though not of course your Magisterium. Cf. Lu 2:22.
    I do not “accuse” Catholics of worshiping Mary as a goddess, I state observed facts: You pray to her, perform rites involving statues of her, hold festivals in her honor- all without command from your own Bibles. If it walks like a duck…
    Another impossibility is the statement from dogma, “she is therefore the Mother of God”. Mary lived ca. 20 B.C.E. Scripture says of God exclusively, “The world is indeed set firm, it can never be shaken; your throne is set firm from of old, from all eternity you exist.” Ps 93:2 He is eternal in both directions in time: “Before the mountains were born, before the earth and the world came to birth, from eternity to eternity you are God.” Ps 90:2; “Yahweh was enthroned for the flood, Yahweh is enthroned as king for ever” Ps 29:10
    “… according to the plan which he had formed from all eternity in Christ Jesus our Lord” Eph 3:10.11 (And shouldn’t Mary be given some credit here? If not, then what was Paul thinking?)
    “To the eternal King, the undying, invisible and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Tim 1:17 His “mother” would have to be older. All quotes are from the New Jerusalem Bible.
    My point stands: Catholic dogma about Mary is fueled by emotion, not scripture. (‘The Bible we Catholics gave you!’, remember?) The record about her shows that she was willing to listen to God’s messengers even though what she heard was disturbing (Lu 1:26-37), she was brave enough to act in harmony with what she learned (Lu 1:38; cf. De 22:23,24), she gave prominence to spiritual interests (Lu 2:41; Acts 1:14) and she appreciated moral purity (Lu 1:34). Truly an exemplary person. But not a goddess or a leader of the congregation or the ‘mother of God’ or of us. “Jerusalem above [God’s kingdom] is our mother.” Gal 4:26

    • Profile photo of Troy Hinkel Troy Hinkel says:

      In Lk 1: 43 Elizabeth says, “who am I that the mother of my Lord should visit me.” Since her Lord is THE Lord God, the bible does teach that Mary is the Mother of the Lord/God. Secondly, you and I can fling bible verses at each other all day in order to support our position. The history of Christianity since the Reformation proves that this only accomplishes division. This is why Christ founded a Church(Mt 16:13-ff) in order to ensure that we “agree and that there be no dissension among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment,” (1 Cor 1:10) “…and make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places.” (Eph 3:9-10.)

  2. Adrian says:

    Mary, John, Paul, Peter etc., are they alive? How can I choose as mediators between me and God, some dead people? The Bible is very clear …
    Deutoronomy ch.18 – v9.When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. v10.There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, v11.Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. v12.For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
    Ecclesiastes ch.9 – v4.For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. v5.For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. v6.Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.

    • Profile photo of Troy Hinkel Troy Hinkel says:

      Adrian, thank you for reading the article and for your comment. I agree with you, the Bible is clear: divination, that is, trying to contact the dead to foretell the future, is most certainly wrong, as it shows a desire to by-pass God and find special answers to give one a sense of security in this fallen world through contacting the dead. But clearly this is not what I am talking about. In Matthew 22:32, Jesus tells the Sadducees, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,’ He is the God of the living and not the dead.” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob may be dead, according to those who may think like you, but to Christ and those in His Body the Church, they are alive with God. Further, the book of Hebrews reminds us that “we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses,” (Heb 12:1.) To whom are these heavenly persons witnessing? Us, of course, meaning that those who have gone before in faith still help and are connected to those of us on earth. Death does not separate us from the love of Christ, and therefore does not separate us from those now perfectly incorporated to Him (cf. Rom 8:38.)

  3. Brian Crane says:

    Excellent article and excellent comments. The “either/or” mindset is so DEEPLY ingrained in our culture that it inhibits true understanding. Overcoming this is the key.

  4. Jeffrey Job says:

    I had an insight about this. I was thinking about Jn 3:16. for God so loved that He gave His only begotten Son- Stop the tape. HOW did God give the world His Son? Thru Mary! To use a Protestant question, “can you show me one verse of Scripture” that He ever stopped doing that?

  5. Jerry Rhino says:

    God spoke to Isaiah, who spoke to someone, and eventually it was written down for us to read. God sent an angel, who spoke to Mary, and this too was recorded. God spoke to Moses, and this was recorded. Not many of us have a direct connection from the throne of God (eg the bible) so why would any of us insist on ONLY a direct connection to God?

  6. art says:

    There is another example of Mary’s influence from scripture that was taught to me from the priest who gave me instruction when I converted. He knew that I had a problem asking our blessed mother for intercessory prayers and he pointed to Jesus’s first miracle. The wedding party went to Mary when the wine ran low and Jesus response to her tells us that he did not think it was his time to perform a miracle, but because his mother asked it was done. Fr. Kavocek said this was done to show us the importance of Mary’s intercessions.

    • sparks1093 says:

      art, this is the section of scripture I cite when anyone asks how we can pray to Mary. We approach God through the Son and we can approach the Son through the Mother.

      • Doug says:

        sparks, there is the plain statement of Our Lord at John 14:6 (NJB): “Jesus said: I am the Way; I am Truth and Life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” In all of John’s recording of the Last Conversation there is no mention of Mary. There is repeated emphasis on the sonship of Jesus and his return to his Father.
        What many of us non-Catholics see here is a desire on the part of Catholics to continue their worship of Mary, in spite of statements contrary to that from scripture. Emotion trumps the word of God. Or, as Jesus put it, “You put aside the commandment of God to observe human traditions.” Mr 7:8, ibid., and elsewhere. Paul found it necessary to warn early Christians against this: “Make sure that no one captivates you with the empty lure of a ‘philosophy’ of the kind that human beings hand on, based on the principles of this world and not on Christ.” Col 2:8, ibid.
        The factual history of Mariolatry is open to all at the Catholic Encyclopedia e.g. (newadvent.org). It dates from much later than Bible times, into the days of the “Fathers and Doctors”—propagators of “a ‘philosophy’ of the kind that human beings hand on”.

        • Profile photo of Troy Hinkel Troy Hinkel says:

          Thanks for your comment. I don’t think that you read my article very carefully, however. Catholics do not worship Mary. We seek to love her with the heart of her Son and therefore become more like Him. This should be the goal of all Christians (see Gal 2:20.) Mary’s role and the role of all the saints is to help God’s divine family achieve this same end. I don’t follow your reference to Colossians.

          • Doug says:

            I use “worship” instead of “veneration” and the other RCC substitutes because the evidence shows worship: requests in prayer to her (the subject of this blogpost), statues of her (cf. Ps 115:3 ff.), titles for her (Queen of Heaven; cf. Jer 7:18), sinlessness attributed to her (Job 14:4), and the doctrine of “Mother of God”, which of necessity would make her a Goddess. All these things come under various prohibitions going back as far as the Law covenant and up to Our Lord himself and his followers. (1 Cor 5:7) Myself, I learn from what religious people do, not what they say. (Mt 23:3)
            Col 2:8 is an ever-timely warning to Christians to avoid the teachings of Augustine, Thomas and others who contradict and contravene Bible teachings, as I pointed out.
            Perhaps the major point here is that asking someone for help or favor besides God, approached through Jesus, is something of which God disapproves. Daniel knew better, as you will find at Daniel 6.

          • Profile photo of Troy Hinkel Troy Hinkel says:

            As my post clearly explained, God established other persons as His ministers, and He works through them. “So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.” (2 Cor 5: 20.) “He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow co-workers.” (1 Cor 3:9.) “Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.” (2 Cor 6:1.) These persons(in this case angels) even receive our prayers on behalf of God (Rev 8:3.) By your logic, Doug, you would have to conclude that Paul is a god to be worshiped because people sought divine favors from him (Act 19:12; 20:12.) If you agree that he is a man through whom Christ acted but who is not therefore a god, then you are only acting inconsistently when you accuse Catholics of adoring Mary as a goddess when we seek divine favors from the Mother that Jesus gave us(Jn 19:27, Rev 12:17.) Her sinlessness is attested in scripture–Gen 3:15, Lk 1:28–and is a necessary state won for her by Christ so as to fulfill her mission of being the Mother of Christ. Since Christ is God (Jn 1:1; Jn 8:58, Jn 20: 28, etc.) and Mary is His mother (Lk 1:28, Mt 1: 23, Gal 4:4) she is therefore the Mother of God, as one is a mother of a person and not just a human nature. Does God disapprove of people coming to His ministers? “He will glorify me,for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (Jn 16:14.) Christ is thereby glorified when His power and ministry is instilled in someone else.

  7. Pat says:

    Troy
    I am in a Protestant bible study group (great guys that do like to “know” the Catholic version) and this topic has come up and my weak response has been that not everything has to come from the Bible.
    Your biblical answers definitely will help the next time this topic comes up.
    Thanks

  8. Basil Peutalo says:

    Thank you! Powerfully enlightening! God bless your Ministry always.

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