Should the Catholic Church Elevate Mary’s Status to Co-Redeemer, Mediator of All Graces, and Advocate of Mankind? – Program 4
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©1997|
|Was Mary assumed, body and soul, into Heaven where she was crowned as “Queen of Heaven”?|
Mary: Queen of Heaven
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 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 for the people of God. Will Pope John Paul use his papal infallibility to make these new doctrines Catholic dogma? In this series of programs we are asking the question, Should he? Is this the faith the Catholic Church is supposed to defend?
- If this growing movement in the Roman Catholic Church succeeds in persuading the Pope to declare these beliefs official Catholic dogma, it would mean that every Roman Catholic would be obliged as a matter of faith to accept three extraordinary doctrines. First, that Mary participates in the redemption achieved by her Son; second, that all graces that flow from the suffering and death of Jesus Christ are granted only through Mary’s intercession with her Son; and third, that all prayers and petitions from the faithful on earth must likewise flow through Mary, who then brings them to the attention of Jesus.
- But even Newsweek commented that these new ideas seem to contradict the basic New Testament belief that, “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” [1 Tim. 2:5]
- Now, on today’s program we will examine the claims that at death Mary was bodily assumed into Heaven where she was coronated by God as Queen of Heaven; and second, that she is a Co-Redeemer with Jesus Christ of all mankind. The bodily assumption of Mary into Heaven was not known in the early Church and was not proclaimed official Catholic doctrine until the year 1950 when Pope Pius XII spoke infallibly and declared this to be official Catholic doctrine. How did this particular claim about Mary come about? Is there any biblical support for it?
- According to Catholic theologian Dr. Ludwig Ott, the answer is no. In his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma under the section entitled, “The Bodily Assumption of Mary Into Heaven,” Ott states: “Direct and express scriptural proofs [for this belief] is not to be had.”
- Well then, how about historical evidence? When did Mary die? Where was she buried? The answer is, no one knows. The Catholic Encyclopedia in an article entitled, “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” states: “Regarding the day, year and manner of Our Lady’s death nothing certain is known.” The simplest explanation for the lack of information concerning Mary’s death is that her death passed with no unusual notice: it wasn’t important. When Mary died, the practice of venerating her and others like the apostle Paul would have to wait for a few hundred years.
- But in spite of the lack of biblical or historical evidence, the Catechism of the Catholic Church relates the following about Mary’s bodily assumption into Heaven: “Finally, the Immaculate Virgin preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things….”
- But we must ask, iIf there is no scriptural evidence for the bodily assumption of Mary into Heaven and there is no historical record as to when she died or how she died, then how do Catholic theologians know that Mary was bodily assumed into Heaven, coronated as Queen of Heaven, and now rules with Jesus? The answer is, they make five assumptions to arrive at their ideas. These assumptions supposedly are implied from different biblical texts, but at first glance these texts do not teach these assumptions. Still, I’d like for you to hear these assumptions and judge for yourself whether they form a basis for elevating Mary’s status.
- I’m going to play for you an excerpt from our debate with Roman Catholic Priest and Jesuit Professor, Father Mitchell Pacwa and Protestant scholar, the late Dr. Walter Martin. We will join the discussion right at the point where I asked Father Pacwa to show us the biblical evidence that led Catholicism to elevate Mary. Listen:
- Ankerberg: “Taken up to Heaven, she did not lay aside this saving role, but by her manifold acts of intercession continues to win for us gifts of eternal salvation. Therefore, the blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the title of ‘Advocate and Mediator.’” Now, let me ask you this: “Where does that come in, in Scripture?”
- Pacwa: Okay. Three important texts. First of all, Christ at the cross says to the unnamed, but we assume John, this calls him the “beloved disciple,” “Behold, your mother,” and “Behold, your son.” [John 19:26-27] And we understand that to be a giving of His mother to all of us, which must be understood if the Body of the Church is the Body of Christ, the mother of Christ is therefore our mother as well.
- Ankerberg: Now this is one of the assumptions that has led some to elevate the status of Mary. The argument goes like this: When Jesus was dying on the cross, He looked down and saw His mother standing next to the apostle John and said something which indicated Mary was now to be considered the mother of the human race and mother of the Church. Judge for yourself whether this is true or not.
- Here is the account in John 19:25-27: “When Jesus therefore saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour, the disciple took her into his own household.” That’s it!
- What do you think this passage means? At face value, it looks as if Jesus was simply arranging for the care of His mother after His death. There is not one word here about Christ declaring Mary to be the mother of mankind or that she is now to be recognized as the Mother of the Church. Well then, what is Catholicism’s second assumption? Once again, listen to Father Pacwa.
- Pacwa: Secondly, more direct relationship to that is, in f Revelation 12, where the “woman, clothed with the sun, crowned with twelve stars, standing on the moon,” gives birth to the Messiah. And it’s no nation. And it cannot be the Church there, because the Church does not give birth to Jesus, Jesus gives birth to the Church. Only one woman gave birth to Jesus, and that’s the woman who is “clothed with the sun and crowned with the stars with the moon under her feet.” That is in a cosmic queenship.
- Ankerberg: Here is a second assumption which is used by Catholic theologians to elevate Mary’s status. It’s Revelation 12.
- Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott in his Dogmatic Theology writes: “The woman of the Apocalypse clothed with the sun, which in its literal sense must be taken to mean the church, scholastic theology sees also as the transfigured mother of Christ.” Here, Ott admits that the literal sense of this Scripture does not really refer to Mary, it refers to the Church. Most biblical scholars would agree with Ott that Revelation 12 has nothing to do with Mary.
- But on the other hand, many scholars believe the woman referred to here is a symbolic reference to the nation of Israel. Why isn’t this the Church? Why is this a reference to Israel?
- First, there are four symbolic women in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 2:20, Jezebel symbolizes the wicked, pagan world. In Revelation 17 the scarlet woman represents the apostate church. In chapter 19, the bride of the Lamb is the Church.
- By the way, nowhere in the Bible is the Church ever called “a wife,” or “a woman.” The Church is always referred to as a bride. The Church doesn’t become a wife until the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19. So the woman referred to here must be Israel, not the Church.
- The second reason why this must be a reference to Israel is that the Old Testament many times refers to the nation of Israel as “giving birth.”
- For example, in Isaiah 26:15-17 we read: “You have enlarged the nations, O Lord… as a woman with child and about to give birth writhes and cries out with pain, so were we in your presence, O Lord. We were with child. We writhed in pain but we gave birth to wind…we have not given birth to people of the world.”
- For other similar references of Israel as a nation giving birth, see Isaiah 54; Isaiah 66; Hosea 13; and Micah 4.
- Third, this must be a reference to Israel as Jesus the Messiah was predicted to come from the Jewish nation in many passages in the Old Testament. For example, Isaiah 9:6 says, “For unto us [notice, this must be a reference to the nation] a child is born; unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders.”
- This is the same son mentioned in Revelation 12:5 where it says, “She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”
- Fourth, it’s surprising that some Catholic theologians would claim the woman referred to in Revelation 12 is Mary since in verse 17 we read: “And the dragon was enraged with the woman and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring.” If this is Mary, are Catholic theologians prepared to say that the Virgin Mary had other children? I don’t think so. So, the woman clothed with the sun and on her head a crown of twelve stars is a reference to the nation of Israel and its twelve tribes.
- By the way, for the same imagery of the moon, stars, etc., see Genesis 37:5-10, which is a reference again to Israel. And it is out of the Jewish nation Israel the Messiah will be born. He is the One who will rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But from Revelation 12 there is certainly no evidence of Mary’s cosmic queenship. But let’s continue and listen to the third assumption that is given for elevating Mary’s status. Listen:
- Pacwa: Also, in Luke’s gospel, we see that when Simeon confronts her at the temple, he says, “And a sword shall pierce your heart, so that the inner thoughts of many might be revealed.” So that she has a role there, by her suffering, and her heart being pierced, to reveal the inner thoughts of many others.
- Ankerberg: A third assumption used to elevate Mary’s status is found in Simeon’s words to Mary when Jesus, Mary and Joseph visited the temple. You can judge for yourself whether you think Simeon’s words are reason to elevate Mary’s status.
- Luke tells us when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people in Israel.’ The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed and a sword will pierce your own soul, too.’” [Luke 2:27-35]
- Here, it is Jesus, not Mary, who will be the One that will cause the thoughts of many hearts to be revealed. All scholarly commentaries dealing with the Greek words in these verses will tell you this is the plain, clear meaning. Simeon’s words to Mary give no biblical reason for elevating Mary’s status.
- But let’s continue. There is a fourth assumption that has been made to elevate the status of Mary. Listen:
- Pacwa: One of the other things that is important to understand her role as the reparatrix, mediatrix and so on, is that when it’s defined, it is said to in no way add to what Jesus does, or subtracts from what Jesus does.
- Martin: How about “equal”?
- Pacwa: She cannot…it can’t be “equal” in any sense of adding or subtracting.
- Martin: “Co-redemptrix”?
- Pacwa: Co-redemptrix in many ways, the way all of us have to be in that role.
- Martin: “Co” means with.
- Pacwa: “Co” means with. But again, the Church is clear to make sure that you can’t do it without her in the sense that you would never know who Jesus is without her, unless Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, God as Trinity and God as Incarnate could not be made known to us. It’s through her that the personality of God is revealed.
- Ankerberg: Actually, Father Pacwa just made two additional assumptions here. His first assumption was, that when Catholicism elevates Mary to Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces, etc., this in no way adds or subtracts from who Jesus is or what He does. But is this really true? Think about this and let me ask you a question.
- In 1 Timothy 2:5 the Scriptures teach: “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Now, here’s my question to you: When the Bible says there is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, how many mediators do you think there are? There is only one, right? If your best friend tells you there is another mediator between God and men in whatever sense, how many mediators would you have then? You would have two, right? But then, in light of the Bible verse, who would you believe – God or your friend? To say there are two mediators contradicts what God said: that there is only one.
- Do you want to be the one who tells God that He is wrong on how many mediators there are between Him and man? I don’t think so. When God said there was one Mediator, that’s what He meant. Jesus agreed with this as He Himself taught: “No man comes to the Father but by Me.” [John 14:6]
- But Pope Pius XI stated, “Christ is the source of blessing but Mary is the channel…. Every blessing that comes to us from the Almighty God comes to us through the hands of Our Lady.”
- Pope Leo XIII declared, “Every grace granted to men has three successive steps: by God it is communicated to Christ, from Christ it passes to the Virgin, and from the Virgin it descends to us.” According to the Pope, the knowledge about God and salvation also comes through Mary.
- Pope Leo XIII prayed, “O Virgin, most holy, none abounds in the knowledge of God except through thee. None, O Mother of God, obtains salvation except through thee. None receives a gift from the throne of mercy except through thee.”
- Pope Leo would have been biblically correct if he had put Jesus’ name in place of Mary’s. Why? It’s because the Bible teaches that only through Christ can we know God. Look at John 1:18. It states: “No man has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made Him known.”
- Second, the Bible clearly tells us salvation is only found in and through Christ, not Mary. In Acts 4:12 we read, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
- Third, the Bible teaches that the sole reason that God the Son left Heaven and came to the earth was so that He could die and pay for our sins, and that He would be the only Mediator we would ever need to present us to God.
- Fourth, the Bible, over and over again, tells us it is God the Son who became incarnate to walk among us so He could sympathize and help us with our weaknesses. Because He experienced temptation just like we do, yet He never sinned, He knows what we face. And because He is the One who personally died and paid for our sins, it is through Jesus, not Mary, that we have been given the privilege to confidently approach the very throne of God.
- Look at what Hebrews 4 says: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest…Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess; for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of God with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” [Heb. 4:14-16] This is the biblical formula for approaching God. It is solely through Jesus.
- But let’s get back to the claim that if we elevate Mary to being a Co-Redeemer and Co-Mediator with Jesus, that this in no way will detract or subtract from who Jesus is or what He does.
- Again, do you really think that is true? Let me give you an example. You know that Roger Maris is the only ball player who ever hit 61 home runs in a season. As such, Roger Maris is unique and in a class by himself. Nobody else has done that. But what if Mark McGwire or Ken Griffey, Jr., hit 61 home runs this year? If that happens, would their accomplishment in any way detract or subtract from what we think about Roger Maris? Will Roger Maris still be unique, in a class by himself? Well, of course not. Someone else would also have the status of hitting 61 home runs.
- And the same is true concerning Jesus and Mary. If we recognize Mary as a Co-Redeemer with Jesus, as the Mediatrix of All Graces flowing from Jesus, this will rob Jesus of sole, unique status of being our only Redeemer and the one Mediator between God and man. Then, Jesus wouldn’t be unique; He wouldn’t be our sole means of salvation.
- Now next week we are going to look at the second assumption which is one of the most important assumptions made about Mary. That assumption is that Mary cooperated with Jesus in the plan of salvation; so much so that it can be said that we wouldn’t have had salvation unless Mary cooperated in God’s plan. The reasons undergirding these assumptions have motivated the current movement to request that the Pope declare Mary to be a Co-Redeemer with Jesus Christ. Now, this may sound blasphemous to you and completely contrary to the biblical record, but these assumptions are held as fact by many. Next week we will examine these assumptions.
- But to close today’s program, let’s return to our debate with Roman Catholic Priest Fr. Mitchell Pacwa and Protestant scholar Dr. Walter Martin.
- Pacwa: The issue is that God chose from all eternity that this woman would be chosen and thereby making her blessed of all women, so much so that when she approaches and she speaks the first announcement of this birth of Jesus, John in the womb is quickened by the Spirit and so is Elizabeth, and they respond in the Holy Spirit to her and again repeated through Elizabeth…. “Blessed of all women… blessed is the fruit…”
- Martin: But you want to respond to the Mary of Scripture, not to the Mary of dogma. The Mary of Scripture, says, “Whatever my Son says to you, do it.”
- Pacwa: “Do that.” Absolutely.
- Martin: The Son said that you are to consider Him the Mediator. “There is one God, one Intercessor between God and man, the Man, Christ Jesus.” [1 Tim. 2:5]
- Pacwa: But also…
- Martin: Now, let me finish this now. Now, in New Testament theology, no one is Mediator but Messiah. It’s Christ who offers the one sacrifice for sin forever, sits down at the right hand of God, enters the heavenly tabernacle established forever after the order of Melchizedek, Christ alone who intercedes.
- Pacwa: Absolutely. Right.
- Martin: Now, no one is ever given any position of mediation except for the prayer that we can offer on earth for each other. But no one is “Mediatrix of All Graces.” No one is “Co-Redemptrix of the Universe.”
- Pacwa: Well, again, so say you.
- Martin: But so says the New Testament.
- Pacwa: No, the New Testament doesn’t say that. You assume that the New Testament means that…
- Martin: That’s an argument from silence.
- Pacwa: Exactly. Which you are also making!
- Martin: I’m saying that the text says, “There is one Mediator.”
- Pacwa: “One Mediator.” But at the same time look…
- Martin: That’s not silence.