Saturday, December 31, 2011

Theotokos in Protestant Theology


Now, we also celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. This is actually to celebrate the oldest of the four Marian Dogmas which the Fathers of the Council of Ephesus declared Mary as "Theotokos"--the God-bearer--to refute the heresy of Nestorius, who said that Mary was only the mother of Christ's human nature. Now, even the most Biblically-savvy Protestants MUST admit that it is because of Mary that made the saving mission of Jesus Christ possible because of her "fiat".

And to explain this stuff is no less than my friend, apologetics idol, fellow blogger, and Mariologist extraordinaire, Atty. Marwil Llasos, O.P. from the Company of St. Dominic.

Original post HERE



The All-Holy Theotokos


Marwil N. Llasos, O.P.

The author: Marwil N. Llasos, O.P.

            Classical Protestantism regarded Mary as the Mother of God. Despite the break from Rome, nearly all Protestant reformers held the historic doctrine on Mary’ Divine Maternity. Mary remained to them as the Theotokos – the God-bearer.

Martin Luther

            Martin Luther

            The man who started it[1] all, Fray Martin Luther, O.S.A. was deeply devoted to the Mother of God. Even after his publication of theNinety-Five Theses in 1517, Martin Luther’s high view of Mary was not significantly altered.[2] For the former Agustinian monk, she is“preeminent among all God’s creation only because God chose her to be the mother of his son.”[3]

Far from discarding the ancient and traditional belief in Mary as Mother of God, Martin Luther affirmed and emphatically preached it. Martin Luther said:

God is born … the child who drinks his Mother’s milk is eternal; he existed before the world’s beginning and he created heaven and earth. … these two natures are so united that there is only one God and Lord, that Mary suckles God with her breasts, bathes God, rocks him, and carries him.”[4]

Luther's Works edited by Jaroslav Pelikan

Throughout his life, Martin Luther used and defended Mary’s title Theotokos. Luther argued:

“She is rightly called not only the mother of the man, but also the Mother of God. … It is certain that Mary is the Mother of the real and true God.”[5]

Mary, according to the founder of Protestantism and faith alonetheology, “is the model of by faith alone through grace alone.”[6] In the Sermon Preached at Erfurt on the Journey to Worms, John 20:19-20, April 7, 1521, Martin Luther maintained that even “the holy mother of God did not become good, was not saved, by her virginity or by her purity or her motherhood, but rather by the will of faith and the works of God, and not by her purity, or by her own works.”[7]

God indeed chose and prepared Mary and filled her with His grace alone to be His mother. In his Commentary on the Magnificat,Martin Luther expressed:

“Men have crowded all her glory into a single phrase: the Mother of God. No one can say anything greater of her, though he had as many tongues are there are leaves on the trees.”[8]

It is clear that for Martin Luther, all praise and glory to Mary is summed up in her title as Mother of God:

“In this work whereby she was made the Mother of God, so many and such great good things were given her that no one can grasp them … Not only was Mary the mother of him who is born [in Bethlehem], but of him who, before the world, was eternally born of the Father, from a Mother in time and at the same time man and God.”[9]
John Calvin

            John Calvin

John Calvin is considered to be the most systematic of the Reformed theologians and the most guarded about Mary.[10] Yet he also held Mary’s Divine Maternity:

“It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor. … Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary was at the same time the eternal God.”[11]

The successor of Ulrich Zwingli: Charles Drelincourt

Charles Drelincourt

Charles Drelincourt is among the last Reformed theologians to treat at length the Blessed Virgin Mary. He was pastor of the Reformed church of Paris.[12] He wrote:

“We do not simply believe that God has favored the holy and blessed Virgin more than all the Patriarchs and the Prophets, but also that he has exalted her above all Seraphim …. The holy Virgin is not only the servant and the creature, but also the Mother of this great and living God.”[13]

Reformed Confessions

Although Protestant reflection on Mary weakened further from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century,[14] there were nevertheless some references on Mary in Reformed confessions. The Formula of Concord of 1576 defended the title “Mother of God” and the reality of Mary’s motherhood.[15] Dr. Tim Perry reports that Mary “is similarly treated in Reformed confessions.”[16]

Contemporary Protestants

After the first generations of Protestant reformers, the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary gradually faded away. As already mentioned, Charles Drelincourt was among the last Reformed theologians who treated Mary at length and discussed her Divine Maternity.

Jimmy Swaggart

Fundamentalists critique Mary as Mother of God. Television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart emphatically asserted:

 “No. Mary is not the Mother of God. Mary was the Mother of the human being, Jesus.[17] Mary served a biological function that was necessary to bring about a unique situation[18] … The unbiblical worship[19] of Mary has its foundation in the insupportable misnomer, ‘Mother of God.’ The correct scriptural description of Mary is the simple biblical expression, ‘Mary, the Mother of Jesus’[20] [Acts 1:14].”[21]

Anti-Catholic Dave Hunt echoed Swaggart, stating –

“”Mother of God”? Yes, Jesus is God and Mary is His mother, but she is not the mother of Him as God, which He was and is from all eternity before Mary was ever born.[22] She is the mother of the physical body[23]which the son of God took when He became man, but she is not the Mother of God!”[24]

Another critic of Catholic Mariology, James Tolle, argued:

“[Mary] is referred to in the New Testament as ‘mother of my Lord’ [Lk. 1:43] and ‘mother of Jesus’ [Jn. 2:1] – but never as mother of God … It is in keeping with the scriptures for us to call Mary the mother of Jesus but not the mother of God.”[25]

The Gospel According to Rome: James G. McCarthy's anti-Catholic book

Finally, noted anti-Catholic writer, James G. McCarthy, criticized Catholics for calling Mary “Mother of God”:

“Though there is no biblical precedent for it, Roman Catholicism honors Mary as the Mother of God.Since Jesus is God, and Mary is the mother of Jesus, then Mary must be the Mother of God, so the argument. The Bible on the other hand, never calls Mary the Mother of God for the very simple reason: God has no mother.[26]As someone has rightly said, just as Christ’s human nature had no father, so His divine nature had no mother.[27] The Bible, therefore, rightly calls Mary the “mother of Jesus” (John 2:1; Acts 1:14),[28] but never the Mother of God.”[29]

It must be pointed out, however, that there are Fundamentalists hostile to the Roman Catholic Church and its Marian devotion who admit that “Mother of God” is an unavoidable title. Nevertheless, they downplay its significance.

Famous anti-Catholic writer Lorraine Boettner narrated that –

“The phrase ‘Mother of God’ originated in the Council of Ephesus, in the year 431.[30] It occurs in the creed of Chalcedon, which was adopted by the council which met in that city in 451, and in regard to the person of Christ it declared that He was ‘Born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the manhood.’

“The purpose of the expression as used by the Council of Ephesus was not to glorify Mary, but to emphasize the deity of Christ over those who denied His equality with the Father and the Holy Spirit. A heretical sect, the Nestorians, separated the two natures in Christ to such an extent that they held Him to be two persons, or rather a dual person formed by the union between the divine Logos and the human person Jesus of Nazareth. They were accused of teaching that the Logos only inhabited the man Jesus, from which it was inferred that they held that the person born of Mary was only man. It was therefore only to emphasize the fact that the ‘person’ born to Mary was truly divine that she was called ‘the Mother of God.” …”[31]

The Bible of Anti-Catholicism

Boettner expressed apprehension about the title Mother of Godin this wise –

“The term [Mother of God] today has come to have a far different meaning from that intended by the early church.[32] It no longer has reference to the orthodox doctrine concerning the person of Christ, but instead is used to exalt Mary to a supernatural status as Queen of Heaven, Queen of the Angels,[33] etc., so that because of her assumed position of prominence in heaven, she is able to approach her Son effectively and to secure for her followers whatever favors they ask through her.”[34]

Another Fundamentalist, Evangelical writer Paul G. Schrotenboer traced the phrase Theotokos to the councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451) to affirm the true humanity of the Lord:

“The phrase theotokos, traceable to the councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451)[35] was originally used in the context of Christology to affirm the true humanity[36] of our Lord.”[37]

Roman Catholicism: A Contemporary Evangelical Perspective
Schrotenboer, however, charged that “[i]n time it underwent a radical shift, however, serving eventually to elevate Mary as ‘Mother of God.’”[38]

Paul G. Schrotenboer finally concluded –

“She was the mother of God, and all ages of believers will acknowledge her as such, but after she made this once-for-all-contribution, she, like John the Baptist, had to decrease as John the Baptist decreased.”[39]

For his part, Elliot Miller of the Christian Research Institute (an Evangelical ministry headquartered in Southern California) wrote inThe Cult of the Virgin –

“At this council [the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451] the church officially assigned the title Theotokos(‘God-bearer’ or ‘mother of God’) to Mary. The original intent behind the title, which was first employed in the fourth century by such church fathers as Athanasius and Gregory Nazianzen, was not to exalt Mary … One hotly debated theory, the identified with Nestorius, the bishop of Constantinople, contended that the divine Word and the man Jesus were two separate persons … The orthodox rightly rejected this theory … In his preaching Nestorius consistently used the title ‘Mother of Christ’ for Mary. Suspecting a theological motivation was implicit in the title, the orthodox emphatically insisted that Mary is the mother of God. By this they meant to uphold the truths that the man born of Mary was truly God, and, conversely, that the second person in the Godhead had indeed taken upon himself the full nature of man …”[40]

The Cult of the Virgin by Elliot Miller of Christian Research Institute

Under the title “Natures do not have mothers,” Miller argued that “[t]hough some Protestants have disputed any use of the term, in the sense that the person she gave birth to is – by identity – God, Mary is the mother of God.”[41] Although conceding the title, Elliot Miller, however, downplayed it by stating that “[t]he term mother of God can only be applied to Mary in one narrow sense. It therefore follows that to use it without strict qualification will naturally result in serious confusion,[42] especially to the theologically confused.”[43]

Supporting Miller’s views, Norman Geisler is categorical:

“The Bible speaks of the Virgin Mary as ‘the mother if my Lord’ (Luke 1:43), and orthodox Christian creeds speak of Mary as the ‘Mother of God.’ Indeed she was the mother of the one person who is both God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ.”[44]

Erwin Lutzer

Analyzing the doctrines that divide Catholics and Protestants, Erwin Lutzer essayed –

“Many Christians today have Appollinarian tendencies without realizing it … I’ve met many believers who assume that the physical body of Christ came from Mary, but all the immaterial aspects of his nature (soul and spirit) were divine. But he had to be fully human – body, soul and spirit – to be our Redeemer…

[Nestorius] thought that the myth of Mary could be countered by insisting that she gave birth only to the human person of Christ. But Nestorianism was condemned because it separated the person of Christ and actually denied the Incarnation. If Christ was two separate persons, then the Word did not actually become flesh. As mentioned, the Creed of Chalcedon used the phrase ‘the Mother of God,” it did so not to honor Mary as much as to emphasize the deity of Christ.”[45]

Finally, in a book of essays by Evangelicals criticizing Catholic Mariology, Peter Toon averred:

“The two basic Christian beliefs concerning Mary, namely: her virginal conception of Jesus and her role astheotokos (traditionally translated as ‘mother of God’), have been clearly affirmed in this book. Further, we have seen how these beliefs are also aspects of foundational beliefs concerning Jesus, who is both Mary’s son and the eternal Son of God.”[46]

With the resurgence of Protestant interest on Mary as reported by Time,[47] contemporary Protestant writers are beginning to write more favorably about her. Protestants are giving a second look on Mary and her Divine Maternity.

Logo of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Commenting on the intercessory verse of the Ave Maria added after the formal break between the Lutheran and Roman [Catholic] Churches, Very Rev. Dr. H.W.M. Tajra, a Lutheran member of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, stated –

“We contemplate here the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary within the Communion of Saints which we confess in the Apostle’s Creed. Just as all Christians ask other Christians to pray for them in a common cry for help (auxilium) from our Lord, so too the faithful should ask the Mother of God for her prayers; she who lives everlastingly in the Kingdom of Heaven, in that (to us) invisible realm which we confess in the Nicene Creed. We pray to our Lady to look with mercy and pity on our human deficiencies. This is the great lesson which St. John taught in the second chapter of his Gospel when he related the great Sign at the wedding at Cana in Galiliee. In that periscope, the Evangelist drew a mighty portrait of her essential ministry – a ministry springing out of that motherhood and rooted entirely to it – her ministry of Mediatrix of the living grace which is Jesus Christ her Son, and Mediatrix of all the graces which he, in his divine power and glory and total sovereignty, chooses to accord as a result of her prayer to him. These graces, which the Blessed Mother of God mediates, were symbolized in the story of the miracle at Cana by the abundant and heady Messianic wine poured out at the wedding feast, poured out by Jesus Christ our Lord so that his disciples and the world beyond might believe.”[48]

Dee Jepsen's Jesus Called Her Mother

In Jesus Called Her Mother, Evangelical writer Dee Jepsen, wife of former U.S. Senator Roger Jepsen, noted –

“Throughout the church’s early centuries, Mary was regarded as the “mother of God” by all believers. This title was given to her not to elevate her, but to emphasize the truth that Jesus Christ was truly Gog andtruly man, a doctrine under attack.”[49]

Jepsen cited leading Evangelical scholar Kenneth Kantzer’s comment on the practice of calling Mary the Mother of God –

“While the phrase may be awkward, Protestants generally have agreed that it is faithful to the real sense of Scripture, and that to deny it is to suggest that we really do not believe in the full deity of Him who was born of Mary.”[50]

Scot McKnight's The Real Mary

Evangelical author Scot McKnight shares the same observation in his book The Real Mary. McKnight noted that –

“Roman Catholics have never hesitated to call Mary the “mother of God.” The expression gives evangelicals alarm. Should it? If Jesus is God and Mary is his mother, then Mary is the mother of God. Please note, “mother of God” does not mean the one who existed before God and gave birth to God, but the one who “carried” God in her womb as the “God-bearer.”  It is reasonable to connect Jesus to God, Mary to Jesus and Mary as mother of God, but the Protestant impulse is sola scriptura:  “to the Bible we go first.””[51]

Having said thus, McKnight asked the question: “Does the New Testament teach that Mary is the “mother of God”?”[52] The Evangelical author proceeded to answer his own question:

“Elizabeth asked this of Mary: But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Mother of God, Mother of the Lord – is there a difference? For most of us, it is far easier to speak of Mary as the “mother of the Lord” than to speak of her as the “mother of God.” Still, we have to admit that there is some biblical support for calling Mary “mother of God” or “mother of the Lord.””
Evangelical author Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight traced the history of the expression “mother of God” in this wise:

“What we can agree on is that the expression “mother of God” played a very significant role in one of the major clashes in the development of our orthodox Christian understanding of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the trinity. In AD 431, the Council of Ephesus addressed the teachings of Nestorius, who maintained that Mary gave birth to a man named Jesus but that she did not give birth to the Word. In effect, Nestorius divided Jesus into a God part and a human part. The Council of Ephesus disagreed and settled for a major, major conclusion: Jesus deity and humanity, his two natures, were perfectly fused into one person, so that Jesus was not both God and man but the God-man. If Jesus is the God-man of one person and not just God andman, then Mary gave birth to the single person who is the God-Man. If she did, then Mary is in some sense the “God-bearer” and not simply the “Christ-bearer” (as Nestorius thought).”[53]

McKnight further observed:

“The expression “God-bearer” soon shifted into the expression “mother of God.” So, when theologians speak of “mother of God” they mean “God-bearer.” We Protestants can, and rightfully should, stand with the whole Church on the importance of what the Council of Ephesus decided. If “Mother of God” means “God-bearer” as the one who gave birth to the human Jesus, who as a single person was the God-man, then we can also stand together with Roman Catholics in affirming Mary as the “Mother of God.””[54]

As Protestant, Scot McKnight expressed his apprehension over the title Mother of God and clarified –

“For many of us neither the “God-bearer” nor “Mother of God” is the issue. The question we ask is this: Does addressing Mary as “mother of God” involve veneration, adoration, and devotion of Mary as well? Does it get mixed up with “Wife of God”[55] or even “Mother of the Trinity”? Does it result in giving attention to Mary or does it, as it originally was intended to do, give attention to Jesus Christ as fully God and fully human as the God-man? Because of the implications of what “mother of God” might mean, most Protestants shy away from calling Mary the “mother of God,” but we should have no hesitation in referring to Mary as the God-bearer.”[56]

Mary for Evangelicals

In the scholarly theological field, Dr. Tim Perry proposed theTheotokos as “ground of Mariology.” Thinking that Mariology naturally arises from Christology, Dr. Perry posited that “the point at which Mariology and Christology intersect is the confession of Mary asTheotokos, Mother of God.”[57] However, Dr. Perry admitted that such assertion is “not uncontroversial and must therefore be unpacked further.”[58]

After demolishing the misconceptions and fallacies on the titleMother of God, Dr. Tim Perry discussed the historical circumstances that led to the title in the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. Thus –

“… The councils of Nicaea (325) and Constantinople (381) affirmed that the Son of God was of one substance with the Father, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary. And it was Cyril’s conviction that, by assuming all that being human is in the manner described by Nicaea, God the Son redeemed humanity.”[59]

Evangelical author and professor Dr. Tim Perry

Prescinding therefrom, the Evangelical scholar proceeded:

“From this perspective he [Cyril] spotted that, whatever the legitimacy of Nestorius’ worries, his position had the undesirable effect of sundering the humanity and divinity in the incarnation, effectively creating two sons in the one Jesus Christ. If Nestorius’ views were to win the day, then Nicaea would ultimately have to be repudiated for, even if Nestorius himself did not recognize it, his argument led to a devastating conclusion. On the one hand the human son of Mary was born, grew, suffered, died and rose, while on the other hand the divine Son of God remained eternal, impassible and (crucially) consequently uninvolved in the human condition. To maintain this position, Cyril countered, was to deny the Nicene conviction that the Son of God actually assumed a human nature. If Christians cannot confess that the incarnate was conceived and born of Mary, then God has not embraced their lot and they are not saved. To put it in the starkest of terms, if Mary did not bear God in her womb – if she is not Theotokos – human beings are not saved.”[60]

To elucidate the point, Dr. Tim Perry presented the Greek metaphysical terminology of natures and persons from Cyril of Alexandria’s point of view:

“Cyril’s theological worry, as expressed in the metaphysic available to him, has to do with the identity of the subject of the Gospels and just how we predicate actions or states to that subject. When we read, for instance, that Jesus became enraged and drove the merchants out of the temple, are we reading about a man or a God? When we read that he suffered death, are we reading about his humanity or divinity? Cyril’s answer is that the Gospels predicate anger (or any other human emotion) and death (or any other human limitation) neither to a human nature nor to a divine one, but to a person. And that person is the incarnate God. We cannot dissect the Gospels seeking to attribute this or that emotion or act to either Jesus’ humanity or divinity; we predicate them instead to the one fully divine, fully human person. The Gospels are God’s own human story. The conclusion is now inescapable. If God the Son entered human time and space as a human being and he did so by taking on the humanity given to him by his mother; then Mary is the Mother of God. No less a title will do.”[61]

Wrapping up, Evangelical professor and theologian Dr. Tim Perry queried: “How can we evangelical Protestants be true to the witness of Scripture and avoid joining our voices with those of Gabriel and Elizabeth and generations of Christians thereafter who name her blessed?”[62]  Dr. Perry argued: Once it is granted that Theotokos encapsulates a profoundly biblical concept necessary for a fuller understanding of the identity of Jesus Christ, we ground Mariology…”[63] 

Moments with the Savior by best-selling Evangelical author Ken Gire

On the devotional aspect, Ken Gire composed a prayer to Jesus in Moments with the Savior[64] in which we close this study:

“Dear Jesus:

What a remarkable person she was, your mother. So highly favored. So greatly blessed. Mary, Mother of God. Help me to hear beyond the liturgical familiarity of those words to their far-reaching implications. Mother of God. Who could be equal to such a task? Who, in any stretch of the imagination, could be qualified?

The honor bestowed on her was staggering. So was the responsibility. To be the one not only to bear you but to protect you, raise you, teach you.

I pray that even across so many centuries she could teach me too. There is so much I could learn from her. What wonderful things would be birthed in my life if I could learn to pray, “I am your servant. May it be to me as you say.”

If that were my prayer, how would it affect the thoughts I think, the plans I make, the words that come from my mouth? If I read my Bible this morning with such a response, how different would this afternoon be? How different this afternoon would I be?

“I am your servant.” The words seem so religiously correct. But are they really true? Am I really your servant? Am I willing to submit to whatever plans you have for my life, regardless of the risk, the cost, the consequences?

“May it be to me as you say.” I can say the words so easily. But can I say them honestly? Say them and mean them. Live them?

For years she taught you, Lord, with so many words and in so many ways. It’s sad so few have been saved for us. But thank you for saving the words, “I am your servant. May it be to me as you say.” If I learn nothing else from her, those words have given me a model not only how to pray but how to live …”[65]

Mary, Mother of God


[1] The Reformation.

[2] Tim Perry, Mary for Evangelicals (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2006) p. 214.

[3] Ibid., p. 215.

[4] Jaroslav Pelikan, ed., Luther’s Works (St. Louis: Concordia) 22:492-493.

[5] Ibid.,  24:107.

[6][6] Tim Perry, Mary for Evangelicals (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2006) p. 214.

[7] Ibid., citing Luther’s Works 51:62.

[8] Luther’s chief work on the period 1519-1522 is his commentary on the Magnificat (1521): seeLuther’s Works 21:295-358.

[9] Jaroslav Pelikan, ed., Luther’s Works (St. Louis: Concordia) 7:572.

[10] Tim Perry, Mary for Evangelicals (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2006) p. 218.

[11] Calvini Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Braunschweig-Berlin,1863-1900, vol. 45, p. 348, 35.

[12] Tim Perry, Mary for Evangelicals (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2006) p. 223.

[13] Quoted in Max Thurian, Mary, Mother of All Christians (New York: Herder and Herder, 1964) p. 89.

[14] Cf. Tim Perry, Mary for Evangelicals (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2006) p. 223.

[15] Ibid., citing Formula of Concord 8.8-7 and 12.1 (Creeds of Christendom, 3: 150, 174).

[16] Ibid., citing Belgic Confession 28 (Creeds of Christendom, 3: 402-3).

[17] Jimmy Swaggart’s position here is Nestorian. By stating that Mary is the mother of the human being, Jesus, Swaggart made Jesus Christ into a human being and a divine being – which is heresy. Jesus is only one being, a divine Being who is the Eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity who is consubstantial with the father.

[18] Jimmy Swaggart betrayed his low view of motherhood. There is more to motherhood than mere “biological function.”

[19] Contrary to the false accusation of Jimmy Swaggart, Catholics do not worship Mary. They simply venerate her.

[20] Swaggart glossed over Luke 1:43 where Mary is extolled as “the mother of my Lord” by St. Elizabeth.

[21]  Jimmy Swaggart, Catholicism and Christianity (Baton Rouge: Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, 1986) p. 97, 101.

[22] This is red herring considering that Catholics do not deny this.

[23] Dave Hunt did not realize that mothers give birth to a person and not just to a physical body.

[24] Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1994) p. 438.
The late Fr. Robert F. Fox's apologetics book

Fr. Robert J. Fox critiques this position. He wrote:

“The fundamentalists divide the humanity of Christ from His divinity. Fundamentalists are so disturbed with the title “Mother of God” and can feel only comfortable only with “Mother of Jesus” and present Mary’s role as giving birth only to the human nature of Jesus Christ. What happens to the Person of Jesus Christ which is the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity? Was Jesus not a Person? Did Mary give birth to a human nature that was not a person? If so, she would have given birth to a monstrosity …” [Robert J. Fox,Protestant Fundamentalism and the Born Again Catholic(Alexandria, South Dakota: Fatima Family Apostolate. 1991), pp. 165-168].

[25] James Tolle, Mary: Fact and Fiction (San Fernanado, California: Tolle Publications) p. 4.

[26] Catholics do not believe that Mary is the Mother of the Trinity or of the divinity of Christ. In Answering a Fundamentalist, Albert J. Nevins explained –

“The Church does not say that Mary is the mother of the father or of the Holy Spirit but solely the mother of the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. Before His incarnation Jesus was pure spirit as is the father and Holy Spirit. In a humbling act that no human mind can comprehend, the second person of the Trinity was joined to a human body, subject to all the laws of nature, and became God-man. It was as God-man that Jesus rose from the dead after His crucifixion, and it is as God-man that He live today in heaven, promising to return to earth again at the end of time.

If Jesus Christ is God and Mary is not the mother of God, then Jesus has to be two persons – a human person and a divine person. But no fundamentalist holds that Jesus is two people. The distinctions theologians make is that Jesus is one person with two natures – a human nature and a divine nature, joined together in the hypostatic union. Mary is the mother of the human nature, but because Jesus is one person and Mary is the mother of that person, Mary is the mother of God” [Albert J. Nevins, Answering a Fundamentalist(Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 1990) p. 99].

Answering A Fundamentalist

[27] Just like Dave Hunt, McCarthy failed to realize that mothers give birth to a person and not just to a nature.

[28] James G. McCarthy deliberately omitted the title “mother of my Lord” given Mary by St. Elizabeth under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:43).

Fr. Robert J. Fox discussed:

“Notice that Elizabeth under the influence of the Holy Spirit called Mary, who had only recently conceived the Christ Child, “the Mother of my Lord.” “Lord” is the title commonly used for God in the Old Testament (Adonai). It is commonly applied to Christ in the New Testament (Kyrios). The consistent way that St. Paul as well as other New Testament writers use the term for Christ indicates that they regarded Him as God. “The mother of my Lord” is certainly the equivalent of “mother of my God.” To say there is nothing in Scripture to indicate that Mary became God’s mother is unbiblical …” [Robert J. Fox, Protestant Fundamentalism and the Born Again Catholic (Alexandria, South Dakota: Fatima Family Apostolate. 1991), pp. 165-168].

[29] James G. McCarthy, The Gospel According to Rome (Eugene, Oregon, Harvest House Publishers, 1995) p. 190-1.

[30] Lorraine Boettner erred in claiming that the phrase “Mother of God” originated in the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. Unknown to Boettner, Christians acclaimed Mary as the “Mother of God” long before the Council of Ephesus. Funk and Wagnall’s New Encyclopedia reported that “[a]s early as the 2nd century Christians venerated Mary by calling her Mother of God, a title that primarily stresses the divinity of Jesus” [Funk and Wagnall’s New Encyclopedia Vol. XVII (U.S.: Funk and Wagnall’s Corp., 1993) p. 43]. 

[31] Lorraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1961) p. 134.

[32] Boettner failed to document this sweeping allegation. The title ‘Mother of God’ is understood in the Catholic Church in the same way as the creedal formulation of Ephesus.

[33]  Anent this allegation of Boettner, Robert Payesko commented that [“the doctrine acknowledged and reflected the “exaltation” of Mary that was prevalent before the actual definition of the doctrine”] [See:Robert Payesko, The Truth About Mary: A Scriptural Introduction to the Mother of Jesus for Bible-Believing Christians  Vol. 3 (Sta. Barbara, California: Queenship Publication, 1996) p. 3-114.

[34] Lorraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1961) p. 134.

The Truth About Mary Vol. 3 of Robert Payesko

 Payesko analyzed that, in a nutshell, the Fundamentalists’ claim is that “the title is theologically correct but must be avoided or ignored because it leads to excesses of Marian devotion” to which he replied –

“But the obvious reply to this line of reasoning is that the question of whether devotion is excessive is a matter of arbitrary interpretation. In the first place, Christians honored her as Queen of heaven before she was defined as Mother of God; Marian mediation was accepted long before the definition as well …” [Robert Payesko, The Truth About Mary: A Scriptural Introduction to the Mother of Jesus for Bible-Believing Christians  Vol. 3 (Sta. Barbara, California: Queenship Publication, 1996) p. 3-117].

            Furthermore, Eric L. Mascall explained:

“Although the immediate purpose of the Council of Ephesus was to declare the truth about our Lord Jesus Christ, it indirectly emphasized the unique place  in the whole work or redemption which was held by His mother, and so it dis in fact give a stimulus to a great development of Marian devotion, and not only of devotion, but also theology” [Eric L. Mascall, “The Mother of God,” in Mary’s Place in Christian Dialogue, Alberic Stacpoole, ed. (Middlegreen, Slough: St. Paul Publications, 1982) p. 93.

[35] Paul G. Schrotenboer repeated the error of Lorraine Boettner in tracing the ‘Theotokos’ to the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon. Fundamentalists routinely commit this mistake. Dr. Anthony Pezzotta made a similar claim in Truth Encounter: “The term ‘mother of God’ was used for the first time in the fifth century, during the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431)” [Anthony Pezzotta, Truth Encounter (Makati City: Foreign Mission Board, SBC, 1996) p. 147].

Fundamentalists Boettner, Schrotenboer and Pezzotta’s ignorance of church history and development of doctrine is readily apparent. Theotokoswas not used for the first time or traceable to the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. Mary’s title antedates the Council of Ephesus. Even long before the Council of Ephesus, early Christians already believed that Mary is the Mother of God. The most ancient Marian prayer, the Sub Tuum Praesidium(ca. AD 250), which was found in Egypt, directly addresses Mary as Mother of God.

The Fundamentalists seemed to have no acquaintance with the early Church Fathers’ pronouncements on Mary as the Mother of God. For instance, St. Athanasius of Alexandria (d. 373 A.D.), the mighty defender of orthodoxy and the Divinity of Christ, championed the title of Mary asTheotokos even before the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. The Bishop of Alexandria vigorously asserted and defended the teaching of divine revelation on the Mother of God. Against the Arian heretics, “he unequivocally holds that Jesus is the Son of God, generated by the Father from eternity, and thus possessing the Father’s identical divine nature” [Luigi C. Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church – The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought (San Francisco, California, 1999) p. 101]. Based on this premise, “he does not hesitate to give the name ‘Mother of God’ to her who generated him in his mortal nature” (ibid.). St. Athanasius argued: “Christ, being God, became man for our sake and was born of Mary, Mother of God, to free us from the devil’s power” (ibid.). He further asserted: “It was for our sake that Christ became man, taking flesh from the Virgin Mary, Mother of God” (ibid.).

[35] Lorraine Boettner erred in claiming that the phrase “Mother of God” originated in the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. Unknown to Boettner, Christians acclaimed Mary as the “Mother of God” long before the Council of Ephesus. Funk and Wagnall’s New Encyclopedia reported that “[a]s early as the 2nd century Christians venerated Mary by calling her Mother of God, a title that primarily stresses the divinity of Jesus”[Funk and Wagnall’s New Encyclopedia Vol. XVII (U.S.: Funk and Wagnall’s Corp., 1993) p. 43].

The Truth About Mary Trilogy

[36] Actually, the title “Mother of God” affirmed the true divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in much the same way it affirmed his true humanity. Robert Payesko underscored that the definition [of Mary as Mother of God] pointed, on one hand, “to the fact that Jesus was a real human being because He had a human mother, and on the other, to the fact that Mary was the Mother of a Person Who was divine” [Robert Payesko, The Truth About Mary: A Scriptural Introduction to the Mother of Jesus for Bible-Believing Christians  Vol. 3 (Sta. Barbara, California: Queenship Publication, 1996) p. 3-117.

[37] Paul G. Schrotenboer, Roman Catholicism: A Contemporary Evangelical Perspective (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1987) pp. 32-33.

[38] Ibid. Commenting on this statement of Schrotenboer, Robert Payesko wrote: “This charge is amusing because the phrase theotokos means “Mother of God.’ So how can you charge that the two  Councils defined the doctrine that Mary is Mother of God and in the same breath say that “eventually” she was elevated to the title “Mother of God” [?][Robert Payesko, The Truth About Mary: A Scriptural Introduction to the Mother of Jesus for Bible-Believing Christians  Vol. 3 (Sta. Barbara, California: Queenship Publication, 1996) p. 3-114-115].

[39] Ibid., p. 91. Robert Payesko commented that this is another arbitrary interpretation. He asked Schrotenboer, “[How does he know that she “had to decrease?” What about  “all generations will call me blessed?]” Robert Payesko, The Truth About Mary: A Scriptural Introduction to the Mother of Jesus for Bible-Believing Christians  Vol. 3 (Sta. Barbara, California: Queenship Publication, 1996) p. 3-116].

[40] Elliot Miller and Kenneth R. Samples, The Cult of the Virgin(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1992) pp. 19-20.

[41] Ibid.

Fr. Mateo's Refuting the Attack on Mary

[42] In Refuting the Attack on Mary, Fr. Mateo replied:

“But the same is true of every other Christian doctrine. When worshippers sing the final verse of the grand, old Protestant hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” they segue into “God in three Persons, Blessed trinity” and finish with a triumphant “Amen” – all without adding any “strict qualification.” Yet if any doctrine needs careful explanation, the Trinity does. So we are bound to teach and explain every doctrine, but never to muffle or drop a single one” [Father Mateo, Refuting the Attack on Mary(San Diego, California: Catholic Answers, 1999) pp. 3-4.

[43] Ibid., p. 21.

[44] Norman L. Geisler, “Foreword” in Elliot Miller and and Kenneth R. Samples, The Cult of the Virgin (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1992) p. 11.
[45] Erwin W. Lutzer, All One Body – Why Don’t We Agree?(Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1989) p. 45, 53.

[46]  Peter Toon, “Appreciating Mary Today,” in David F. Wright, ed., Chosen By God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective (London: Marshall Pickering, 1989), p. 216.
[48] H.W.M. Tajra, The Psalter of Mary a Lutheran Approach to the Holy Rosary (London: Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1997) p. 8.

[49] Dee Jepsen, Jesus Called Her Mother (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers: 1991) p.  27.

[50] Ibid., p. 27-28, citing Kenneth S. Kantzer, “A Most Misunderstood Woman,” Christianity Today, December 12, 1986, p. 20.

[51] Scot McKnight, The Real Mary (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2007) p. 124.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Ibid., pp. 124-125.

[54] Ibid., p. 125.

[55] Catholics do not refer to Mary as the “Wife of God” or “Mother of the Trinity;” hence, the apprehension of Protestants referred to by Scot McKnight is misplaced and utterly bereft of basis.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Tim Perry, Mary for Evangelicals (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2006) p. 269.

[58] Ibid. See pp. 269-270.

[59] Ibid., p. 271.

[60]  Ibid.

[61] Ibid., pp. 271-271.

[62] Ibid., p. 272.

[63] Ibid.

[64]  A Devotional Life of Christ.

[65] Ken Gire, Moments with the Savior (Manila: OMF Literature, 1999) pp. 27-28.

The author's icon of the Mother of God written by iconographer Christina Dochwat


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