Should the Catholic Church Elevate Mary’s Status to Co-Redeemer, Mediator of All Graces, and Advocate of Mankind? – Program 2
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©1997|
|What do Roman Catholics really mean when they say Mary is the “Mother of God?” In what sense do they say Mary was “immaculately” conceived?|
Mary the Mother of God
Newsweek magazine on August 25 reported that a growing movement in the Roman Catholic Church wants the pope to proclaim a new controversial dogma: that Mary is a Co-Redeemer, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate for the people of God. Such a move would elevate Mary’s status dramatically beyond what most Christians profess.
- Dr. Walter Martin: What I’m objecting to, from a biblical perspective, is that the Mary of the Bible is not the Mary of Catholic theology. We have now developed what Bishop Strossmayer said in 1870, “We have made a goddess of the Virgin Mary.”
Still, Newsweek has reported that in the last four years the Pope has received more than four million signatures from 157 countries, an average of 100,000 letters a month asking him to speak ex cathedra, that is, “infallibly” declare these new ideas as official Church doctrine. Among the thousands of Catholics supporting this dramatic new doctrine are the late Mother Teresa, 500 bishops and 42 cardinals, including Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, Joseph Glemp of Poland, and half a dozen cardinals at the Vatican itself. Newsweek said, “Nothing like this organized petition drive has ever been seen in Rome.”
If this movement succeeds, Catholics would be obliged as a matter of faith to accept that Mary participates in the redemption achieved by Jesus Christ; that all graces that flow from the suffering and death of her Son are granted only through Mary’s intercession with Jesus; and third, that all prayers and petitions from the faithful on earth must flow through Mary, who will then bring them to the attention of Jesus.
The question is, “Will Pope John Paul use his papal infallibility to officially proclaim Mary as Co-Redeemer, Mediator of All Graces, and Advocate of mankind?” If he does, what will it mean? Where did such elevated ideas about the Virgin Mary come from? If the Catholic Church embraces these new ideas, will they be turning away from the very faith they are supposed to defend?
To help answer these questions, we’ll hear excerpts from our debate with Roman Catholic priest and Jesuit Professor Fr. Mitchell Pacwa and the late Dr. Walter Martin, Protestant scholar and authority on American religious institutions. We invite you to join us.
- Ankerberg: Welcome. More than four million Roman Catholics have petitioned the Pope to use papal infallibility to elevate Mary’s status to new heights, namely, to be Co-Redeemer with Jesus Christ, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate before Jesus for the people of God. Will Pope John Paul use his papal infallibility to make these new doctrines of Mary Catholic dogma? What we want to look at in this series of programs is, should he? Are these ideas of Mary biblically based?
- Now, last week we saw that when Catholics say their “Hail Mary,” that is, “Hail Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death,” the phrase “Mother of God” is technically correct in and of itself. It is a phrase that goes back to the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon about 431 AD. These councils were trying to define and safeguard the fact of Scripture that Jesus was both God and man.
- A theologian by the name of Nestorious, for various reasons, preached against the phrase, theotokus, which meant literally “bearer of God” or “Mother of God” and this stirred up controversy. The Council members thought Nestorious was teaching that Mary’s baby, Jesus, was not truly God and man. And of course, this would be heresy. The Council reasoned that since Jesus is God and Mary is the mother of Jesus, then Mary must be the Mother of God. Of course, they carefully defined what they meant in saying this so that no one would imagine that Mary in any way contributed to Jesus’ divine nature. As someone has said, “Just as Christ’s human nature had no father, so His divine nature had no mother.”
- So the Councils agreed that it was proper and right in safeguarding who Jesus was to say that Mary was theotokus, the God bearer or Mother of God. But there was a change taking place, an evolution of thought. The Councils of 431 and 451 only added momentum to this change. A subtle shift in thought was occurring in that some Christians, instead of thinking about and defining who Jesus was, started speculating about Mary. The Council’s identification of Mary as Mother of God seemed to trigger the growth of many non-biblical, false assumptions about Mary which continue to this day.
- As Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott writes, “The veneration of Mary was greatly promoted by the definition of her dignity as Mother of God.” But the Bible nowhere teaches that Mary is to be called the Mother of God. Why? For a very simple reason: God has no mother. The Bible only calls her Mary, the mother of Jesus, in John 2:1 and Acts 1:14. Jesus, the apostles or others in the New Testament never refer to Mary as the mother of God.
- So although it is technically correct in defining who Jesus is to say that Mary is the Mother of God, I would advise that we stay away from using that as a title and only use the proper biblical identification of her, namely, Mary, the mother of Jesus. Now, in support of this I’m going to play an excerpt for you from our debate with Roman Catholic priest and Jesuit Professor Fr. Mitchell Pacwa and the late Protestant scholar Dr. Walter Martin. In this excerpt you will hear that the different titles concerning Mary developed over time, that they are not found or taught anywhere in Scripture, that the title “Mother of God” may be proper in defining and protecting who Jesus is, but it would be better to stay with the use of the simple biblical designation, Mary, the mother of Jesus. The reason for this being that if we continue referring to Mary as Mother of God, it can lead to a false syllogism and false conclusions about Mary. I’d like you to listen:
- Pacwa: The titles of Mary are titles that did definitely “develop” and in no way do we deny that. But they developed in the Councils because of defining who Christ is. To call her the “Mother of God” is essential for the faith, because otherwise it’s to say that Jesus, “God and Man,” is not God….
- Ankerberg: As long as we all understand what we mean…
- Pacwa: …and that is the point….
- Ankerberg: I don’t see any problem with that statement. Maybe Walter does. I did the Greek on that myself…
- Martin: I do.
- Ankerberg: …and, well, if you’re saying that she is the one that produced God…
- Pacwa: No. And Catholics never taught that. Never!
- Ankerberg: No, but it sounds like that, doesn’t it?
- Pacwa: No, that is only what people who teach heresy would teach, because the Catholic Church never teaches that a human creature can ever produce divinity. She is the Mother of Jesus Christ, God and Man, and therefore, the Mother of God because Jesus is God.
- Martin: It’s based on a false syllogism. I was taught: Jesus is God; Mary is the Mother of Jesus, therefore Mary is the Mother of God. You were, too. Alright, let’s take that syllogism and apply it. God is Trinity…
- Pacwa: Yeah.
- Martin: …Mary is the Mother of God. Mary is the Mother of the Trinity. The same logic holds and is devastating…
- Pacwa: And it’s…
- Martin: She is the Mother of God the Son, Second Person of the Trinity.
- Pacwa: Absolutely.
- Martin: God in human flesh. She gave Him a human nature.
- Pacwa: But also…
- Martin: Period!
- Pacwa: …not “period.” We never have said that she is the Mother of the Trinity.
- Martin: I know that. I’m just trying to show that the syllogism which we have, which leads us to the conclusion that she is the Mother of God.
- Pacwa: Only if you take it to the point of heresy,…
- Martin: It makes her the Mother of the Trinity.
- Pacwa: …and that that is never taken to that point.
- Ankerberg: But right now, let’s turn to the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. What does it mean? Well, if you would ask ten people walking down the street what they thought this referred to, they would probably say, “The Immaculate Conception refers to the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin.” But that is not correct.
- The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in the Catholic Church doesn’t center on Mary’s bearing Jesus. Rather, it centers on Mary’s own birth, with Mary’s own conception in the womb of her mother Anna. It was made official Catholic doctrine in 1854 by Pope Pius IX when he used papal infallibility to proclaim that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was now to be held by all the Catholic Faithful. The Pope defined this new doctrine about Mary in these words: “The most holy virgin Mary was, at the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin.”
- By this the Pope meant that Mary was conceived naturally, but at the moment when her soul and body were joined together, God intervened, giving her a soul untainted by sin. Once it was proclaimed that Mary was born without original sin, it was only logical to conclude that she was also entirely free from all inordinate sinful desires and sinful acts during her life. Of course, this, too, would have to be a special gift from God provided for Mary. And of course, this is what the Catholic Church eventually claimed.
- The Council of Trent declared, “No justified person can for his whole life avoid all sins, even venial sins, except on the ground of a special privilege from God such as the Church holds was given to the Blessed Virgin.”
- Pope Pius XII in 1950 in his encyclical concerning Mary taught, “She was immune from all sin, personal or inherited.”
- But on the other hand, since Jesus’ mother would be one of the sinful children of Adam, even Mary would need to be redeemed. Catholic theologians said Mary was redeemed. How? She was redeemed by the merits of Christ. When? Before her conception by a special act of God.
- To quote Ludwig Ott in his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, “Mary was redeemed by the grace of Christ but in a more perfect manner than other human beings.” He said all other people are “freed from original sin present in their souls. But Mary was preserved from the contagion of original sin.” That is, God specially intervened for her before her soul was joined to her body so that her soul was never contaminated.
- Ott goes on to say, “Therefore, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in no way contradicts the dogma that all children of Adam are subject to original sin and need redemption.” At the same time, Ott honestly admits: “The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is not explicitly revealed in Scripture.”
- Well, then where do Catholic theologians find verses that seem to imply Mary’s sinlessness? The first is Luke 1:28, where the Angel Gabriel says to Mary, “Hail, favored one, the Lord is with you.” The Douay Rheems Catholic Bible states, “And the angel… said unto her, Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” The crucial word here in Luke 1:28 is the one that is translated “favored” or “full of grace.” On this one word Catholics have built their view of Mary’s unique experience of grace and all that flows out of it. We heard this in our debate between Roman Catholic priest Fr. Mitchell Pacwa and Dr. Walter Martin. Listen:
- Ankerberg: Then, “The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception maintains that the most blessed Virgin Mary in the first instance of her conception…”
- Pacwa: Right.
- Ankerberg: “…when she was born, by a unique grace and privilege of the Omnipotent God and in consideration of the merits of Christ Jesus, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”
- Pacwa: Right.
- Ankerberg: “It is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore must be firmly and constantly held by all the faithful.” Would you tell me where the Council got that from Scripture?
- Pacwa: Okay. First of all, when Mary is addressed by the angel, she is said to be the “one of grace…”
- Martin: Never theotokos. Not till the third century.
- Pacwa: Again, we’re talking about theotokos. We’re talking about dealing with her in terms of Immaculate Conception.
- Martin: Yeah.
- Pacwa: And the thing about the angel’s address is to call her “the gracious one,” the one filled with grace. St. Jerome translated it “the one full of grace.” And the sense then of grace and sin being incompatible with each other led to the doctrine of the Church being believed by everybody… As a matter of fact, the doctrine that you give there is defined only in the 1850’s and it’s based on the faith of the community….
- Ankerberg: Now, remember what Fr. Pacwa just said. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception took until 1854 to be defined, and it’s based on the faith of the community. The faith of the community is the majority of the bishops and people in the Catholic Church agreeing this is what the Church should believe, even though the Bible does not explicitly state or teach it. In other words, you would never believe this if you held only to what the Bible taught.
- Now let’s look at the important passage in Luke 1:28. If Mary is said to be full of grace, does that lead us to conclude that she was conceived without sin, lived a sinless life, and later was assumed bodily into heaven? Mariology says, “Yes.” Logic and Scripture say, “No.” Why?
- It’s because the Bible says the same about Stephen in Acts 6:8, “Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.” Yet even though the Bible clearly says Stephen was full of grace, no one in the Church says that he was conceived without sin, lived a sinless life, and was assumed bodily into Heaven?
- And the same is true concerning Luke 1:28. In spite of Mary’s being identified as full of grace, the New Testament knows nothing of her Immaculate Conception or sinless life. Rather, the apostle Paul taught after her life that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
- I also want you to keep in mind that there is only one other place in the New Testament that the word found in Luke 1:28 translated “full of grace,” kecharitomene from charitoo, is used. That is in Ephesians 1:6. In Ephesians Paul writes about the rich grace God has poured out on all Christians and states, “To the praise of His glorious grace which He favored on us in the One He loves.”
- The word “favored” here is the same Greek word used in Luke 1:28 about Mary and it is why the King James and the NIV both translate Luke 1:28: “And the angel came unto her and said, ‘Hail, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you.’” In fact, Arndt and Gingrich, the standard Greek Lexicon, says the word means “to bestow favor upon; favor highly.”
- Then how is this same word used in Ephesians 1:6 in the Catholic Douay-Rheems Version? It is translated this way: “Unto the praise of the glory of His grace in which He hath graced us in His beloved Son.”
- Now let’s assume the Catholic translation, “He hath graced us,” or “full of grace” is correct. If this same word “full of grace,” used in Luke 1:28, means that Mary was conceived without sin, lived a sinless life and was assumed bodily into Heaven, then shouldn’t the same word used here in Ephesians 1:6 logically mean that all Christians are conceived without sin and live sinless lives. But of course, that would be ridiculous. To say that the Bible teaches that God has graced us, favored us, does not mean we were conceived without sin or lived a sinless life. And that’s why biblical scholarship, including some biblical scholars in the Catholic Church, deny that Mary’s sinlessness can be drawn from the words of Luke 1:28.
- As Ludwig Ott says, “The Bible does not explicitly teach this.” In the Catholic Encyclopedia under its article for “The Immaculate Conception,” it makes an even stronger statement. It says, “No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception can be brought forward from Scripture.”
- The Bible says in Psalm 51:5 that men are conceived in sin. Romans 3:10, 12 specifically teaches that, “There is none righteous, not even one;… There is none who does good. There is not even one.” In Luke 18:19 the Lord Jesus Himself said, “No one is good except God alone.” Was Jesus lying? Didn’t He know about His own mother’s sinlessness? Wouldn’t Jesus have wanted people to know about Mary’s sinlessness if it were true?
- The fact is that Scripture leaves no room for any exceptions. It states, “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” (Ecc. 7:20).
- Mary, like every other human being, was a sinner who needed to be redeemed. The Bible does not teach that she was given special privileges by God and was immaculately conceived. When Mary in Luke 1:47 said: “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior,” her words ring true: that she too needed a Savior who would redeem her of her sin. In all of the recorded statements Mary herself makes in Scripture, she never once makes any special claims with respect to sin.
- And one final thing. Let’s assume for a moment that Mary was without original sin and lived a perfectly sinless life for 50 or 60 years. If that really happened, don’t you think others would know about it? Isn’t it amazing that Jesus never mentioned this; that the apostles never say anything about this? Mary’s Immaculate Conception and sinless life are never mentioned in any of the sermons that are recorded; she is never used as an illustration in any of the epistles.
- And finally, there is the most important reason of all why the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception should be rejected. That is, this doctrine takes away from the high position of our Lord Jesus Christ. Vatican Council II protested that its doctrine of Mary in no way detracts from the unique work of Christ. But it’s difficult to see how this can be.
- Let me illustrate. Think back to the first astronaut. If you had been the first and only astronaut and the only man to fly to the moon, you would have been unique. But as soon as another astronaut stepped on the moon, you could hardly say you were still unique.
- There are numerous statements in Scripture that declare only Jesus Christ was perfect and without sin, not Jesus and Mary. For example, 2 Corinthians 5:21 states, “God made Him [that’s Jesus] who had no sin, to be sin for us [that would include Mary], so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
- Hebrews 4:15 says, “He was tempted in every way just as we are, yet was without sin.”
- What is the significance if we conclude that Mary was indeed a sinner? Well, if Mary was a sinner and was not immaculately conceived, then all of the other elevated positions given to Mary would crumble. For example, if Mary was not immaculately conceived and was a sinner during her life, then there’s no reason to assume that she ascended bodily into Heaven at her death. There is also no reason to believe that she is Queen of Heaven now. Further, there is absolutely no reason to believe that Mary could be the Mediatrix of All Graces or participate as a Co-Redeemer with Jesus in the salvation of mankind.
- The Bible says in John 3:17, “For God sent not the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
- Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me.” All sinners are invited by our Lord to come directly to Him to find forgiveness of sins.
- Next week we’ll continue looking at this topic of: “Should the Pope Elevate Mary’s Status in Catholic Dogma?” and we will examine the question: Was Mary a perpetual virgin or did she have other children besides Jesus? I hope you’ll join me.