Sunday, May 10, 2009

Veneration of Mary Debate - Thoughts on Reflection - Part 3

This is the third part of a series of some reflections of mine on a recent debate with Mr. William Albrecht on the veneration of Mary (Part 1)(Part 2). Those posts dealt with whether "having been highly favored" is a title and whether the concept of veneration of Mary can be justified based on her being Jesus' mother. In this post I'll deal with an interesting theme I only brushed on briefly during the debate.

Early in the debate, Mr. Albrecht argues for the perspicuity of Scripture on this topic. He states: "Today I will make an attempt to come to the Scriptures as one who merely picks up the Bible and reads it and attempts to understand its plain meaning. ... We will see that no matter what denomination you come from you can see the plain truth of Mary in Scripture."

I was instantly reminded of what a Reformed apologist wrote hundreds of years ago in relation to those papists with whom he was dealing in the 16th century.
William Whitaker (1547-1595):
Indeed all the papists in their books, when they seek to prove any thing, boast everywhere that they can bring arguments against us from the most luminous, plain, clear and manifest testimonies of Scripture . . . For in every dispute their common phrases are,"”This is clear,"”This is plain,"”This is manifest in the scriptures, and such like. Surely when they speak thus, they ignorantly and unawares confess the perspicuity of the scriptures even in the greatest questions and controversies.
(A Disputation on Holy Scripture Against the Papists, Especially Bellarmine and Stapleton, trans. and ed. William Fitzgerald (Cambridge: The University Press, reprinted 1849), p. 401.)

As I pointed out in the debate, it is interesting how - when they are not dealing with the topic of Sola Scriptura, even those who deny Sola Scriptura recognize that it is perspicuous on many subjects. But it also important to recognize that just because Scripture is clear doesn't mean that there will never be any disagreements about what it says. As the same apologist pointed out:
For there is nothing in Scripture so plain that some men have not doubted it; as, that God is Almighty, that he created heaven and earth, that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, conceived of the Holy Ghost, and so forth: these are indeed plainly and openly set down in Scripture, and yet there are controversies about them. Things therefore are not presently obscure, concerning which there are many controversies; because these so manifold disputes arise rather from the perversity and curiosity of the human mind, than from any real obscurity. The apostle says that the minds of infidels are blinded by the devil, lest they should see that brilliant light and acquiesce in it: which is most true of our adversaries.
Id. at pp. 388-389.

However, as expected, Mr. Albrecht opened his closing argument, "I think that anyone who comes to the Scriptures without any preconceived notions or biases will find that ..." suggesting again that the Scriptures can clearly provide teaching on the subject.

It is a strange approach to the issue, and I think I adequately demonstrated that one cannot get veneration of Mary from the Scripture. In fact, to the contrary, Jesus disclaimed any special place of honor for Mary, making her and his brethren of only equal importance to all believers.



Pilgrimsarbour said...

Greetings Turretinfan,

Thanks for the debate with Mr. Albrecht.

I was struck by your simple explanation that Romanism takes a statement of fact about Mary and makes it a command. Mr. Albrecht evidently believes that he comes to the Scriptures without any preconceived notions about what he will find there. I have also found this to be the case with other Catholics I have spoken to, but I daresay not all.

I have listened to Catholics quote me Luke 1:28 with amazing confidence, all the while not recognising the imputation of their Mary system on the text. To me, it's one thing to make a huge leap from the plain meaning of Luke 1:28 to statues, candles and parades. But it's quite another when I see the unbridgeable chasm in the excesses of Latin America and other parts of the world of rusty water pipe stains and greasy grilled cheese griddle images of the Blessed Virgin. Why the Roman hierarchy hasn't been able to nip that kind of superstitious idolatry in the bud, I can't know.

But if we take a plain and simple statement of fact and turn it into a command from God, couldn't a case be made for the veneration of John the Baptist based on Jesus' statement in Matthew 11:11?

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.If we take some time to examine the statement, the answer is, of course, no. I understand this to mean that Jesus is pointing to the superiority of the new covenant, represented by Christ Himself and His disciples, as opposed to the old covenant as represented by John and the OT prophets. But still, didn't Jesus praise him, and so we should as well, whatever form that actually takes? After all, look at what the angel Gabriel had to say about John in Luke 1:13-25.

My point is, we can find statements elsewhere throughout the Scriptures in which believers are praised. What about the apostle John? Isn't he "the disciple whom Jesus loved?" Why do we not venerate him? Wouldn't it be appropriate, given the Roman reasoning, that we love him like Jesus loved him (whatever that entails)? Of course, I suspect the explanation would likely be that Mary is unique as the biological Mother of our Lord. I agree that she is unique, but despite that I cannot find any passage in Scripture that justifies or commands veneration or worship of her. Indeed, your presentation convincingly shows us that we are to think of her with honour, yes, but not elevate any of the brethren to nearly divine status.

I'm wondering if you think that pursuing this line of reasoning into other biblical passages and characters has merit.



The Squirrel said...

Thank you. I've never made that connection before, but you're right.

"I think that anyone who comes to the Scriptures without any preconceived notions or biases will find that ..." You mean, without the Magisterium explaining it?!?! Wow!!


Turretinfan said...


It is worth noting that, in fact, there is a lot of veneration of "the saints" in Catholicism as well as in Eastern Orthodoxy.

In the former, John the Baptist seems to have less of prominent role, but he is quite prominent in Eastern Orthodoxy, often getting a special mention in their liturgies and a special portrayal in their idolatry.