Sunday, August 31, 2014

A (Poor) Mary Apologetic

As an ex-Catholic, I often bristle at the way in which our Catholic brethren are looked down on by Protestants. Obviously I agree with our theology or I wouldn't have left the Catholic church; but I feel in general that Catholics--even those who are very sincere believers and accept everything Biblically required for salvation--are treated as cultists.

But then I read something like this. And I remember, "Oh yeah - the Mary thing. The worst part of Catholicism." And then I remember the nine-part series I started, of which I completed three parts before feeling like I was picking on them and getting distracted by a shiny object or a squirrel or something.

Maybe one day I will finish that series. Until then, let me take apart this argument in the meantime.

The link above is to a Catholic site, offering a supposedly airtight argument to prove that adoration of Mary as the Queen of Heaven is Biblical.

The priest in question sets up an imaginary dialog between a Catholic Christian (CC) and a Non-Catholic Christian (NCC).

The problem is that this is the mother of all straw-man arguments:  our poor NCC is apparently a moron incapable of properly defending his faith or having a rational argument, and that is not exactly a fair representation.

So I thought I'd add in a bit to this conversation, as "RC"--Rebooted Christian. Let's investigate the argument at that point. My part will be in red.

NCC (non Catholic Christian) – Why do y’all say that Mary is Queen of Heaven? Don’t you know that’s a pagan title? That’s the name the pagan people in the Old Testament times gave to their goddess. Just look it up in Jeremiah 44.17-25. That’s the term they used for the goddess Astarte, and you Catholics worship Astarte you just call her Mary!

CC (Catholic Christian) – Whoa! Hold on there a minute. First of all we don’t worship Astarte. For that matter we don’t worship Mary either. We worship God alone. We honor Mary, and we sure do honor her above every other creature–including the angels. We have three words to describe the different types of religious honor. Latria  is the worship given to God alone. Dulia is the honor we pay to saints and angels. Hyperdulia  or “super dulia” is the honor we give to Mary.

RC (Rebooted Christian) -- The question though is whether this is a distinction without a difference. It is fine to give a different name to it, but if it still amounts to actual worship in the end, then calling it "honor" is no different. The simple fact is that in orthodox Judaism, you do not see anything like this. You do not see honor or prayers given to the angels or to kings or to prophets; quite the opposite, in fact. During every encounter in Scripture between a man and an angel, the man falls to his face and the angel quickly tells him to arise, for the angel is not to be worshipped.

In the end, we must see if there is a practical difference versus just a naming difference. The Catholic devotions to the Trinity include: feast days of honor, prayers, communion, and the like. And they believe that God did and does continue to perform miracles. The Catholic devotions to Mary and the Saints include:  feast days of honor, prayers, statues, and the like. And they believe that Mary did and does continue to perform miracles. Indeed, the Rosary includes 10 times more prayers to Mary than to Jesus or the Triune God.

So while it is nice that the CC has such nice fancy terms, in practice there is no distinguishable difference between what they call 'worship' and what they call 'veneration'...which is why Orthodox Jews and all Protestants have always called it idolatry.

NCC – Yes, but where do you find that in the Bible?
CC – Jesus points to Mary and says, “Here is your mother” and he tells us to keep the commandments and the fourth commandment is “Honor Your Father and Your Mother.”
NCC – You’re just being tricky.
CC – So you asked for Biblical support for the honor of Mary, and when I give it you’re not happy?

RC (Rebooted Christian) -- Not if that is the best you've got, no. You cannot POSSIBLY really believe what you're selling here, right?

First of all, you can't possibly believe that the fourth commandment really was a reference to Mary. Not if you want to treat the Scriptures with absolutely any seriousness.

Secondly, you cannot say that because Jesus pointed to Mary and called her His mother, that this makes her our spiritual mother as well. Let's look at Matthew 12:46-50, shall we?:  "While Jesus was talking to the crowd, His mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to Him. Someone told Him, 'Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to You.' He replied, 'Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?' Pointing to His disciples He said, 'Here are My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.' "

Do you see that your logic actually defeats itself? Here Jesus points to all of us followers as His mother. If then His mother deserves spiritual honor due to the fourth commandment, THEN SO DO WE ALL, for in Matthew He calls us all His mother if we follow Him! So therefore, then, Mary deserves the same honor as any other follower.

Your logic literally defeats itself. If Jesus pointing to Mary and calling her Mother makes her specially deserving of veneration, then Matthew 12 makes us all deserving of exactly the same; which means veneration is equal for Mary and for the Christian down the road.

NCC – Let’s go back to Mary Queen of Heaven. I never heard of anything so crazy. Why do you imagine that this simple girl is the Queen of Heaven?
CC: Do you believe that Jesus is the King of Heaven? You sing that hymn “Crown Him with Many Crowns” don’t you? The “Lamb Upon the Throne”?
NCC – We’re not too big on those old fashioned hymns, but sure, Jesus is the King of Heaven.
CC – And Jesus talks about “his Kingdom” and “the Kingdom of God” all the time right?
NCC – I guess.
CC – And he’s the Son of David. You’re still with me?
NCC – Sure.
CC – And according to Luke 1: 32-33 Jesus inherits the throne of his father David correct?
NCC – OK. So?
CC – Well, if Jesus has inherited the throne of his Father David, and he is now the King of Heaven, you have to remember that in King David’s time, and in the understanding of the Jews the Queen of a Kingdom was not the wife of the King, but the Mother of the King. In David’s kingdom the Queen is the Queen Mother. You can find this in the Old Testament if you like. Check out I Kings 1. Bathsheba was Solomon’s mother and she reigns as the queen–not one of Solomon’s many wives.
NCC – How does that connect with Mary?
CC – It’s not that hard is it? If Jesus inherits the throne of David and is the King of Heaven, and Mary is his mother, then Mary is the Queen Mother of the restored Kingdom of David, and not that Jesus is King of Heaven that makes Mary the Queen Mother of the Heavenly kingdom.

RC - Need I point out the absurd logic of this one as well? If you are going to say that Jesus' earthly physical blood relationships equate to global, spiritual relationships and kingships, then you must take that fully to its logical end. Therefore Joseph is also the King of Heaven, as Jesus' father. Therefore James and Jude and His brothers and sisters are Princes and Princesses of Heaven. Therefore John the Baptist is a Duke or something, as His cousin.

Who knew? When we get to Heaven, apparently the peerage system comes into play.

But even if that were the case, above we have the classic bait-and-switch. The CC uses the terms for David's earthly kingdom and Heaven--the spiritual fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant--as interchangeable. So he assumes that just because David's earthly kingdom becomes Jesus' spiritual kingdom, that the traditions common to David's earthly kingdom will somehow transfer up to Jesus' spiritual kingdom. It is like he is arguing that the picture is more real than the item being painted:  David's kingdom was a type of Jesus' kingdom, not the other way around. Jesus' kingdom will not have to name His earthly mother the queen just because in David's time a king's mother would be named queen.

NCC – That’s far out! How can you spin all of that out of one little verse in Scripture?
CC – Let’s not go there shall we? If we start talking about spinning stuff out from one verse of Scripture you may have some explaining to do don’t you think?
NCC – OK. Point taken.

RC - Umm, no. Great straw man argument here. Look Catholics love to say this one about Protestants, that we take too much from one Scripture. But the fact is that most every Protestant doctrine can be found wholesale throughout the Bible (which is not surprising, given sola scriptura). Catholicism, on the other hand, generally gets its theology from the Catechism and goes searching for verses as proof-texts, like the one above. Hence, no context whatsoever.

I too think often NCC's misunderstand Scripture or miss context. But nowhere near as much as the CC has done in this very article. This is the perfect example of the pot calling the kettle black.

CC – Besides. The idea that Mary is the Queen of Heaven is in Scripture.
NCC – Now what kind of trick are you going to pull?
CC – Let’s open our Bibles brothers and sisters to the Book of Revelation chapter 12 and verse 1. Here we see the Mother of the Redeemer who is a sign in heaven and hey look! She’s crowned with twelve stars. The mother of Jesus in heaven with a crown? Sounds like a Queen of Heaven to me.

RC - I knew eventually we would get here because this is the only thing remotely close to an actual relevant Scripture on the topic.

But it's so convenient how Catholics forget portions of their own history when it does not suit them, isn't it? Most ancient commentators--Catholic and otherwise--interpreted the woman of Revelation 12 as the Church; indeed, Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary of the 19th century still says that if this refers to Mary it is only secondary to its main purpose of depicting the Church.

Other ancient commentators (with whom I agree, by the way) identified this as ancient Israel, due to the twelve stars around her head (the twelve tribes of Israel). This is, by the way, what the commentary of the official Catholic Bible, the New American, says.

In the Middle Ages, when Marian doctrines began to form, people began changing this to be a reference to Mary. Others saw it as a reference to Eve. But these have been very minor interpretations historically, certainly not enough to justify worshipping Mariam of Nazareth.

NCC – That’s very interesting.
CC – Do you want to become a Catholic now?

RC - Actually, reading this I remember precisely why I stopped being one.

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