Not so; in fact the central belief of Christianity - the doctrine of the Trinity - is only implicitly taught in Scripture, yet Evangelicals believe it as firmly as do Catholics. A typical Evangelical "Statement of Faith" would express this doctrine in the following (or similar) words:
"We believe in one God who exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit."But where does the Bible contain the explicit statement: "God exists in three distinct persons"? Nowhere! Scripture never explicitly states anything of the sort. So when Evangelicals present the biblical basis for the Trinity, it usually goes something like this:
The Bible says that there is only one God (Isaiah 44:6). But it also calls three distinct persons "God": the Father (I Peter 1:2), the Son (John 1:1; 20:28) and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4). Since they can't be three separate gods, they must be one God. Therefore, there are three persons in the one God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.Note how this argument strings a few Bible verses together, then logically infers from them a truth not explicitly taught in Scripture. This is exactly what the Catholic Church does in presenting the biblical basis for Marian doctrines, for instance:
The Bible says that Mary is the Mother of Jesus (Acts 1:14) and that Jesus is God (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; John 20:28). Therefore, Mary is the Mother of God.This is a perfectly valid method of Biblical exegesis, which we can use to bring out implicit Scriptural truths, such as the Trinity and Marian doctrines. If Evangelicals commonly use this method to prove the central doctrine of the Christian Faith, how can they fault Catholics for doing the same thing regarding Mary?
We discussed each of these Marian beliefs in the previous articles, and saw that none of them make Mary "equal to Jesus" (and she's not a redeemer, by the way!). If the Church wanted to make her equal to Our Lord, she would simply teach that Mary is another Incarnation, a "God-Woman" equal to Jesus the God-Man. But the Catholic Church has never taught that and never will because it is rank heresy!
It is only fitting that the New Eve should bear some resemblance to the New Adam (as far as a mere creature could resemble God Incarnate, that is). Mary's life does parallel Jesus' in some respects because God willed it to be so. But she is not exactly like Christ in every respect, and her created resemblance to the God-Man does not make her God.
People who say this come up with that count, in part, by lumping together all the Infancy Narratives (St. Matthew chapters 1 - 2 and St. Luke chapters 1 - 2 inclusive) into "one mention" of Mary. This is specious, to say the least, since these four chapters contain many distinct events, and Our Lady appears in most of them: the Annunciation, Visitation, Joseph's dream and marriage to her, their journey to Bethlehem, Jesus' birth (two accounts), Visit of the shepherds, Presentation in the Temple, Visit of Magi, Flight into Egypt, Return from Egypt, Jesus in the Temple at age 12. One could hardly boil all those events down to "one mention"; twelve is more like it!
Our Lady also appears at the Wedding Feast at Cana in John 2:1-11 and with Jesus' cousins in Matthew 12:46-50 (with parallels in Mark 3:31-35 and Luke 8:19-21). She is mentioned by the people of Nazareth in Matthew 13:55 (with a parallel in Mark 6:3), by the woman in the crowd in Luke 11:27-28, by the people in the synagogue in John 6:42, and by St. Paul in Galatians 4:4. She appears again at the foot of the Cross in John 19:25-27, and with the disciples in the Upper Room in Acts 1:14. These eight mentions alone are twice the "three or four" claimed!
Then there are the three Old Testament prophecies which mention the Mother of the Messiah (Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:3), a possible fourth prophecy of her in Jeremiah 31:22, and her symbolic appearance in Revelation chapter 12. Mary is clearly mentioned more than "three or four times" in Scripture!
(See the new Appendix, Mention of Mary in Scripture, for a more thorough discussion).
The truth is, the Catholic Church does place more emphasis on Jesus than on Mary! The Church's official Creeds speak at length about Jesus, but only mention Mary once in passing. This is because He is the center of our Faith, not she (A fact which all Catholics should recognize).
Mary is a member of the Church who receives all she has from Jesus. The Second Vatican Council emphasizes this fact by putting its declaration on Mary in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) rather than releasing it as a separate document. The new Catechism does something similar: the largest section of the first part of the Catechism is devoted to Jesus (#430-683), and He is mentioned often throughout the rest of the book. In contrast, Mary just gets two relatively short mentions, one in the section on Jesus (#484-511) and the other in the section on the Church (#963-975). She receives hardly any mention outside of those two sections!
Finally, authentic Catholic spirituality is centered on Christ in the Eucharist. Mary plays a secondary role; she prays for us and guides us to Christ. All Catholics, even those who might seem to emphasize Mary in their personal devotions, recognize that Jesus is our God and Savior while Mary is a mere creature whose only aim is to bring us to Jesus.
As we have seen, devotion to Mary is entirely proper because she is our Mother in heaven, and God commanded us to honor our mothers (Exodus 20:12). She is Jesus' true Mother, and He has perfectly fulfilled the Law of Moses by honoring her as highly as He can. Surely all Christians should imitate Christ! If we truly love Christ, that love should naturally spill over into love for the holy Woman whom He chose to be His Mother.
Mary is not irrelevant. As the Mother of Our Lord, his closest human relative, anything said about her has a bearing on Jesus; whether good or bad.
In an earlier article we briefly mentioned the ancient slander that accused Mary of being an adulteress who conceived Jesus by a Roman soldier named Panthera. This slander of Mary's character is really intended as a swipe against her Son! It illustrates how what we believe about Mary ultimately affects what we believe about Jesus.
All the great things we Catholics believe about Mary redound to Jesus' honor. She is the Mother of God, thus Jesus is God. She is Immaculate, thus Jesus is the perfect Savior. She is Ever-Virgin because Jesus is the All-Holy God who was born of a sacred vessel which could never be used for ordinary purposes. She is the highest of all creatures, but Jesus - who exalted her to that level - is infinitely higher. She is the New Eve only because He is the New Adam, she is the Ark of the New Covenant because He is the God who establishes that covenant. She was taken into heaven because Jesus rose from the dead, she is Queen Mother because Jesus is the Son of David, the King of kings.
As long as we profess these truths about Mary, we are safeguarded from denying any truths about Jesus Christ.
Perhaps, but for how long? After mainline Protestantism rejected Mary, its teachings on Jesus started to decline over the centuries, to the point where many mainline denominations today no longer believe that Jesus is God! The truths about Mary which they rejected long ago would have reinforced the truths about Christ.
The facts are that older Protestant denominations which have rejected Catholic Mariology have largely softened their teachings on Jesus, while the Catholic Church never rejected these Marian doctrines and still officially teaches all the truths about Christ. This only reinforces the truth of the old Catholic saying, "Abandoning the Mother is one step from abandoning the Son".
On the contrary, many Evangelicals have already begun to embrace heterodox notions about Jesus, some even resurrecting ancient heresies, in an attempt to downgrade Mary.
Some Evangelicals argue that Mary is not the Mother of God because she only gave birth to Jesus' Humanity, not His Deity. This is a revival of the ancient Nestorian heresy, which divided Jesus' two natures. Interestingly, Nestorianism also rejected the Marian title Mother of God'; in fact the Church declared that title at the Council of Ephesus as a refutation of Nestorianism! It is not surprising that those who reject the title today end up slipping into the very same heresy it was intended to combat.
In rejecting the Immaculate Conception, many Evangelicals end up with heterodox notions about the Incarnation. Some argue that Jesus did not inherit Mary's (alleged) sin because original sin is carried in human blood (!) and that Jesus gets His Blood from the Father, not Mary. Besides being theologically bizarre (God the Father - a pure Spirit - has blood? Physical blood can carry a spiritual state such as original sin?) and scientifically inaccurate (preborn infants make their own blood out of their body cells; they don't get it from their fathers), this notion denies that Jesus acquired a full physical humanity from Mary. This means that He is not fully human, in blatant contradiction of Hebrews 2:14, as we saw in an earlier article.
A few Evangelicals go even further, actually denying that Jesus acquired any flesh from Mary at all! They argue that Jesus' humanity was created in heaven and "implanted" in Mary, like some kind of divine in vitro fertilization. This is not only a denial of the Incarnation, but a practical revival of the ancient Valentian heresy, which taught that Jesus passed through Mary "like water through a pipe", receiving nothing from her. It is both unbiblical and very dangerous; if Jesus did not assume our humanity, how could He redeem us?
One argument used against Mary's spiritual Motherhood states that our rebirth is purely spiritual and so has nothing to do with Jesus' physical birth from Mary. Yet belief in a purely spiritual salvation is Gnostic; the Bible clearly teaches that our salvation has a physical aspect (see the full discussion in the article on Mary's Spiritual Motherhood). Evangelicals are all too willing to throw out part of the biblical teaching on salvation in order to deny Mary.
Finally, rejection of Mary's Queenship and exalted status in heaven leads to a more subtle heterodoxy about the nature of God. He inevitably comes off looking like a stingy, insecure Deity who refuses to glorify even His most obedient servants out of an almost neurotic fear that they might "overshadow" Him! This is clearly a God made in the image of Mary's detractors; a God who has a "problem" with Mary.
Catholics do not believe that God suffers from such hangups. He is an infinitely generous Father who is not afraid to lavish grace and glory on His children. He is secure in His Infinity, knows that even the highest creature could not possibly overshadow Him, and so does not mind if His servants receive a lesser, creaturely honor as long as He alone receives the divine worship which is His due.
Please remember that the mainline Protestant denominations, which you consider "dead", were once vibrant sects which sprung out of the same "Reformation" which you yourself extol. If they went so badly astray, what makes you think that Evangelicalism will not follow them? It may not happen in your lifetime, but it will happen; in fact it has already begun, as we have seen.
So far, the Bible has not kept some Evangelicals from embracing Nestorianism and Docetism. Also, some who reject the Immaculate Conception have embraced some odd doctrines with no biblical basis (such as the notion that original sin is inherited from ones father, or that the Holy Spirit acted as a kind-of "force-field" around Jesus in Mary's womb which prevented Him from contracting original sin). Despite a professed belief in "Scripture only", they seem all too willing to fabricate unbiblical beliefs as an excuse to reject Catholicism.
When the Church says that "Abandoning the Mother is one step from abandoning the Son", she knows of what she speaks. She has seen this happen over and over again throughout the centuries. We would be unwise not to heed her.
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