Thursday, May 30, 2019

"Behold Your Mother" by Tim Staples - a Review by TurretinFan

"Behold Your Mother," by Tim Staples, "respectfully but clearly answers every conceivable Protestant objection to Mary, the Mother of God," according to Mitch Pacwa. Of course, Protestants don't object to Mary, but we understand he means the Marian dogmas of Roman Catholicism. Al Kresta, with unintentional irony, states that Tim "addresses objections I haven't seen addressed elsewhere." Robert Spitzer puts it this way: "Tim Staples presents a remarkable defense of the six major Marian doctrines, including a veritable compendium of source material from the Bible, Fathers, and Church documents." These quotations come from the endorsements on the back cover of Tim's book. Absent from the book are any official nihil obstat or imprimatur. Tim may have "street cred" with Mitch Pacwa, but he lacks the official approval of the magisterium.

Tim's book is dedicated, "For Valerie," presumably referring to his wife.

The book is not written to an academic audience. "Behold Your Mother" has about 473 footnotes and 352 pages. The list of works cited is the last five pages of the book. After Pacwa's claims for thoroughness, you may be surprised to discover that notable Protestant responses to the Marian dogmas are not listed. For example, Svendsen's "Who is My Mother," is not listed (though his much less relevant "Evangelical Answers: a Critique of Roman Catholic Apologists," is listed). Tim does include a few Protestant works, notably James White's "Mary--Another Redeemer" and Lorraine Boettner's "Roman Catholicism." Nevertheless, Tim does not provide much evidence of a deep familiarity with Protestant or other historical scholarship on the issues involved.

The book is structured around the five Marian Dogmas. After a brief introduction, the book is divided into the following parts:
  • Part I "Mother of God" (pp. 17-50);
  • Part II "Full of Grace" (pp. 55-127);
  • Part III "Ever-Virgin" (pp. 131-192);
  • Part IV "Assumed into Heaven" (pp. 197-230); and
  • Part V "Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix" (pp. 235-272).

The book then includes a section on "Queen of Queens: Mary's Regal Role in the Kingdom of God" (pp. 273-289) and a section on "Mary's Ongoing Place in our Lives" (pp. 291-92). A set of appendices follow, addressed to a variety of topics including things, namely: "Patristic Evidence for Theotokos," "Patristic Evidence for Mary's Perpetual Virginity," "Mary's Virginity in Partu," "Mary's Freedom from the Pains of Labor," "Answering Four False Charges about Patristic Mariology," and "Queenship has its Privileges."


The introduction is subtitled "Why Mary Matters." In some ways, the introduction serves to mis-frame the issues. It is true that among the Protestant objections are objections that Roman Catholic emphasis on Mary detracts from Jesus. That would be an objection that might be raised, even if the Marian dogmas were all true. What is even more significant, however, is the fact that Rome has dogmatized false doctrines. Some of the errors Rome teaches on these topics are allegedly essential to the Christian life.

Tim tries to address the first objection by suggesting that Mary should be an instrument of faith to lead us to Jesus. That doesn't fully answer the objection. You cannot fully answer a pragmatic objection with a merely theoretical response. The answer to "the emphasis on Mary detracts from Jesus" is not really answered by "well, it's not supposed to be that way." Even if we grant that Roman Catholicism teaches that Mary should point people to Jesus, we still often see that in practice the emphasis on Mary does not lead to Jesus, but rather leads to Mary.

Moreover, the emphasis on Mary is not a Biblical emphasis. The last clear reference to Mary is in Acts 1, where she and her other sons (described as Jesus' brothers) finally join the disciples. The Biblical emphasis is on Jesus, not Mary. Scripture is Christocentric.

Tim argues that "In seeing the truth about Mary's Immaculate Conception and Assumption, we will not only see the glory of Mary, but we will see the immeasurable dignity and calling of all Christians in her" (emphasis original). That has a vaguely Scriptural sound to it, but recall that Tim has (perhaps unwittingly) stolen from Abraham to give to Mary: "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed" (Galatians 3:8) or perhaps from Jesus himself: I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:" (Galatians 1:6) or "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;" (1 Peter 2:9).

In point of fact, Christians are not called in Mary. They are called in Jesus. "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles." (Isaiah 42:1) "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began," (2 Timothy 1:9).

Similarly, Tim argues that "we will see God's glory and faithfulness to his promises concretized--his grace perfected--in the life of a real human person." Once again, Tim is stealing from Jesus to give to Mary: "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you" (1 Peter 5:10) and "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Tim's comment about "real human person" leaves one wondering whether Tim is refusing to acknowledge that Jesus is one person who is fully and really human while also fully and really divine.

Tim tells us that "Our Lady will teach us of the holiness of marriage ... ." This is truly a most curious assertion. According to Rome's view of Mary's virginity, she never knew her husband, Joseph. What a curious model for marriage!

Tim argues that "Behold your mother" (John 19:27) were Jesus' words not only to John but "to each of us." No argument is presented (at least, in the introduction) for this assertion. The text states: "When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home." (John 19:26-27) I've maintained the KJV wording here partly to make clear that the text says "thee" singular and not "you" plural. There is nothing in the text or the context that imply that Jesus had in mind something other than John caring for his mother after Jesus' death. There is nothing here to suggest the universal motherhood of Mary any more than there is anything to suggest the universal sonship of John. Is John the son of every woman? Surely not. Likewise, Mary is not the mother of every Christian. The text itself shows how John interpreted this command. He did not start praying the not-yet-invented rosary, he took her to his house.

In the next post in this series, we will take a look at "Part I" of Tim's book.