Sunday, March 31, 2013

All Have Sinned - Except Mary? (Responding to Steve Ray)

Steve Ray (Roman Catholic) writes:
From the early centuries Mary was considered the All Holy One and considered as without sin. Rom 3:23 is a general statement but does not mention exceptions to the rule. For example, Jesus was a man without sin, therefore an exception.
Jesus did not come short of the glory of God, because Jesus is God. Recall that the text says:

Romans 3:23
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Moreover, it's not just Romans 3:23.

Romans 3:10
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Romans 5:12
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Job 25:4
How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?

Psalm 143:2
And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.

This falls into the category of manifest exceptions. A similar manifest exception is explained here:

1 Corinthians 15:27
For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.

I would love to see this testimony to Mary as "the All Holy One." While it may possibly exist (there are many extant writings, "Holy One" is a divine title and "all-holy" is a divine attribute. So, particularly in the early patristic period and among orthodox writers, one would not expect to find this attributed to anyone but one of the persons of the Trinity.

But certainly Scripture does not describe Mary as sinless. On the contrary, she herself recognized her need for a Savior:

Luke 1:47
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

Steve Ray continued:
The New Adam (Jesus) is without sin. From the 1st century Mary has been viewed as the New Eve. It would be appropriate, actually proper, that the New Eve be without sin also.
The bride of Adam was Eve, but the bride of Christ is not Mary, but the Church.

And the church will be sinless:

Ephesians 5:27
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

Indeed, Mary as a member of that church is now in heaven, holy and immaculate. But it was through the work of Christ purifying her - first sanctifying her and later glorifying her. She was not sinless, just as none of us are sinless.

Again, there may have been some fathers who called Mary a "new Eve," but she's hardly a close parallel to Eve.

Steve Ray continued:
Those who die before the age of reason, or who are mentally deficient are also exceptions. Job could even be called an exception if you take God’s report of him literally (Job 1:8).
This is just a rehashing of Pelagius' error. Both Pelagius and Julian of Eclanum cited Job as an example of a person who was perfectly holy before the law. But Augustine, in Section 12 of Book 2 of "The Punishment and Forgiveness of Sins," denies that Job was sinless (and more expressly in section 14).

The statement, therefore, “He that is born of God sinneth not,”[1 John 3:9] is not contrary to the passage in which it is declared by those who are born of God, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”[1 John 1:8] For however complete may be a man’s present hope, and however real may be his renewal by spiritual regeneration in that part of his nature, he still, for all that, carries about a body which is corrupt, and which presses down his soul; and so long as this is the case, one must distinguish even in the same individual the relation and source of each several action. Now, I suppose it is not easy to find in God’s Scripture so weighty a testimony of holiness given of any man as that which is written of His three servants, Noah, Daniel, and Job, whom the Prophet Ezekiel describes as the only men able to be delivered from God’s impending wrath.[Ezekiel 14:14] In these three men he no doubt prefigures three classes of mankind to be delivered: in Noah, as I suppose, are represented righteous leaders of nations, by reason of his government of the ark as a type of the Church; in Daniel, men who are righteous in continence; in Job, those who are righteous in wedlock;—to say nothing of any other view of the passage, which it is unnecessary now to consider. It is, at any rate, clear from this testimony of the prophet, and from other inspired statements, how eminent were these worthies in righteousness. Yet no man must be led by their history to say, for instance, that drunkenness is not sin, although so good a man was overtaken by it; for we read that Noah was once drunk,[Genesis 9:21] but God forbid that it should be thought that he was an habitual drunkard.

But let us see what Job has to say of himself, after God’s great testimony of his righteousness. “I know of a truth,” he says, “that it is so: for how shall a mortal man be just before the Lord? For if He should enter into judgment with him, he would not be able to obey Him.”[Job 9:2-3] And shortly afterwards he asks: “Who shall resist His judgment? Even if I should seem righteous, my mouth will speak profanely.”[Job 9:19-20] And again, further on, he says: “I know He will not leave me unpunished. But since I am ungodly, why have I not died? If I should wash myself with snow, and be purged with clean hands, thou hadst thoroughly stained me with filth.”[Job 9:30] In another of his discourses he says: “For Thou hast written evil things against me, and hast compassed me with the sins of my youth; and Thou hast placed my foot in the stocks. Thou hast watched all my works, and hast inspected the soles of my feet, which wax old like a bottle, or like a moth-eaten garment. For man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of wrath; like a flower that hath bloomed, so doth he fall; he is gone like a shadow, and continueth not. Hast Thou not taken account even of him, and caused him to enter into judgment with Thee? For who is pure from uncleanness? Not even one; even should his life last but a day.”[Job 13:26 - 14:5] Then a little afterwards he says: “Thou hast numbered all my necessities; and not one of my sins hath escaped Thee. Thou hast sealed up my transgressions in a bag, and hast marked whatever I have done unwillingly.”[Job 14:16-17] See how Job, too, confesses his sins, and says how sure he is that there is none righteous before the Lord. So he is sure of this also, that if we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us. While, therefore, God bestows on him His high testimony of righteousness, according to the standard of human conduct, Job himself, taking his measure from that rule of righteousness, which, as well as he can, he beholds in God, knows of a truth that so it is; and he goes on at once to say, “How shall a mortal man be just before the Lord? For if He should enter into judgment with him, he would not be able to obey Him;” in other words, if, when challenged to judgment, he wished to show that nothing could be found in him which He could condemn, “he would not be able to obey him,” since he misses even that obedience which might enable him to obey Him who teaches that sins ought to be confessed. Accordingly [the Lord] rebukes certain men, saying, “Why will ye contend with me in judgment?”[Jeremiah 2:29] This [the Psalmist] averts, saying, “Enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified.”[Psalm 143:2] In accordance with this, Job also asks: “For who shall resist his judgment? Even if I should seem righteous, my mouth will speak profanely;” which means: If, contrary to His judgment, I should call myself righteous, when His perfect rule of righteousness proves me to be unrighteous, then of a truth my mouth would speak profanely, because it would speak against the truth of God.

Steve Ray continued:
Romans is also discussing that it is not only the Gentiles that have sinned but also the Jews. All can be a collective of peoples. “You Jews think you are righteous because you are of Abraham? You think only the Gentiles are in sin. No, all have sinned, Gentile and Jew alike”
Yes, "all" can have that sense. But the "there is none righteous, no not one" does not have a similar semantic range.

Steve Ray continued:
This is born out in Psalm 14 from where Rom 3:9 (parallel passage to Rom 3:23) is quoted. Here is says, Psalm 14:2–3 “The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.”
This doesn't support the previous assertion that this is just about "both Jews and Gentiles."

Steve Ray continued:
Yet immediately following we find that God has his righteous. Psalm 14:5–6 ”There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would confound the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.”
This refers to those who are justified by faith, not those who are immaculately sinless.

Psalm 14:7 "Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad."

The "righteous" people Steve Ray is pointing to are those in captivity in a foreign land for their sins!

Steve Ray continued:
As a Baptist I used to use the Bible often for proof-texts and sound bites. Scripture is much more subtle than that. It is our tradition, whether Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, etc., that guides us in our approach to Scripture. The real question is, which tradition will you allow to direct your interpretation and study? I chose the tradition that was practiced from the first century until today – which is Catholic.
Of course, people's traditions can interfere with letting the text of Scripture speak for itself. We should not glory in that, but seek to minimize the effect of our traditions, allowing the text to speak for itself.

That said, the fathers writings are valuable. I happen to have two patristic commentaries on Psalms in front of me. On Psalm 14, Augustine (354–430) says:
There is no one who does anything good, no, not even to the very last one. This expression, not even to the very last one, can either be understood as including that particular one, which would mean nobody at all, or it can be taken to mean "with the exception of one," indicating the Lord Christ ... This latter interpretation is the better one, because nobody is deemed to have done anything good right down to Christ, because nobody can unless Christ himself has shown how.
(Expositions on the Psalms, Psalm 1-32, at Psalm 13[14]:1, The Works of St. Augustine, a Translation for the 21st Century, p. 175, trans. Maria Boulding, OSB)

Likewise, Cassiodorus (c. 485 – c. 585) states:
They are corrupt because in abandoning the sanity of the Scriptures they have demonstrably fallen into sinful thoughts. ... There is none that doth good But what about the patriarchs? Did Noah not do good when he was obedient to the Lord's commands, and entered the ark to be saved? .... Even today through the Lord's kindness good things are done through the action of just men. But so that this denial may become wholly meaningful to you, ponder the words that follow: None, even to one. In fact that only One is Christ, without whom human weakness has not the strength either to begin or complete any good thing. So the statement was justified that no man can do good unless through His mercy we have gained Christ. When we reach Him and do not abandon Him, every good is undoubtedly performed.
(Explanation of the Psalms, Vol. 1, at Psalm 13[14]:1, Ancient Christian Writers, vol. 51, p. 150)

Before posting, I thought I would check the catena found in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series. There I found some interesting words from Asterius the Homilist (4th/5th century):
"There is no one who speaks good," when all the disciples fled as they abandoned him. John ran off naked. Peter denied him, the disciples fled, the spear of doubt pierced the soul of Mary. There was no one who showed the fruit of love in his suffering. ... Even after his death, the soldier pierced his side. ... Surely he has visited us and wants to save, but none desires to be shown the medicine.
(Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Psalms 1-50, at Psalm 14:1, pp. 110-11, ellipses in ACCS, for discussion of Asterius' Nicene credentials, see Wolfram Kinzig's "In Search of Asterius: Studies on the Authorship of the Homilies on the Psalms")

So far from supporting Steve Rays "Jews and Gentiles" interpretation, Asterius even apparently ascribes sinful doubt to Mary!

I'm sure Steve Ray is very much enamored with traditions, but his traditions are not as ancient as he supposes. He ought rather to follow the still more ancient traditions of the apostles, who were inspired by God to inscripturate the revelation given to them. If he had done that, he could avoid the corruption of those who abandon the sanity of Scripture and fall into the sinful thought of ascribing sinless perfection and immaculate conception to Mary.


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