What Is the Unique Role of Mary in Roman Catholicism and Is It Biblical?-Part 4
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2005|
|The Mary of Catholic teaching has nothing whatever to do with the Mary of the New Testament. Given Mary’s supreme impor¬tance in the Catholic Church, one is amazed at the complete absence of even the mention of her name in the New Testament epistles.|
The Biblical Mary
The Mary of Catholic teaching has nothing whatever to do with the Mary of the New Testament. Given Mary’s supreme importance in the Catholic Church, one is amazed at the complete absence of even the mention of her name in the New Testament epistles.
Apart from Acts 1:14, she is mentioned nowhere else outside the Gospels. And even in the Gospels, her spiritual power and authority are non-existent. Neither Jesus Christ, nor Paul, nor any other biblical writer ever gave Mary the place or devotion the Catholic Church has given her for a thousand years. This is all the more incredible when we consider that the New Testament letters were written specifically for the spiritual guidance of the Church, and that they have a great deal to say about both doctrine and worship. How then is it possible if Mary really performs the many vital spiritual functions we have just discussed, that Mary’s name could be entirely absent from the very heart of the New Testament teaching—exactly where one would expect her to be most prominent?
Even Catholics are forced to confess that scriptural support for all these doctrines of Mariology is lacking. For example, concerning Mary’s assumption into heaven, Keating writes, “Where is the proof from Scripture? Strictly, there is none.” And concerning Mary’s role as Mediatrix he comments, “Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces because of her intercession for us in heaven. What this means is that no grace accrues to us without her intercession…. True, scriptural proofs for this are lacking.”
Dr. Ludwig Ott in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma also frequently confesses that scriptural support for Rome’s traditions on Mary are not forthcoming. For example, “The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is not explicitly revealed in Scripture,” and “The direct and express scriptural proofs [of Mary’s bodily assumption] are not to be had,” and concerning Mary as Mediatrix and an intercessor in heaven, again, “express scriptural proofs are lacking.”
So, what does the Bible teach about Mary? Since Mary is nowhere said to be sinless, the Bible assumes that Mary was a sinner like the rest of us. Why?
Because the Scripture emphasizes that all men and women, universally, are sinful (Romans 3:10, 11-32; Psalm 51:5; Galatians 3:22; Romans 3:23; 5:12, etc.). Therefore, Mary’s prayer in Luke 1:46 ff that God is her “Savior” rings true.
By contrast, there are numerous statements in Scripture that declare only Christ was perfect and without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 7:26, etc).
If it were true that Mary were without original sin and hence sinless throughout her life, isn’t it reasonable to expect we would find at least some indication in Scripture? But we find not a trace.
Luke 1:28 says simply that Mary was favored by God for being chosen to bear the Messiah. A unique and profound privilege indeed, but God never says that, as a result, she has become omnipotent and can now bestow favors and grace upon all mankind.
In Matthew 13:55-56 and many other places we see that Mary was not a perpetual virgin because she had at least six other children after Jesus: “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us?… (Matthew 13:55-56).
There is no justification for the Catholic response that must assume Mary’s other children were really cousins, or more distant relatives or perhaps even adopted or through another marriage. The best Catholic apologists can do is offer a series of arguments from silence. (See also Matthew 12:46; John 2:12; 7:3-5; Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5.)
Further, the Bible is also entirely silent on Mary’s alleged bodily ascension into heaven and her subsequent coronation as Queen.
Luke 11:27 tells us that apart from her role as bearer and mother of the Messiah, she was not unique or especially blessed In fact, by Jesus’ words, “on the contrary” we see that those who obey God are more blessed than if they had given birth to Jesus. Here we find it is almost as if God were speaking to Catholic dogma: “…one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed,’ but he said, ‘On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.’”
Jesus acted similarly in Matthew 12:46-50, again denying Mary a special status. When she wished to see Him, He told the crowd that His true mother, brother and sister—i.e., His true family—was “whoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven.” In John 2:4 Jesus told Mary, “Woman, what do I have to do with you?”
How can the attitude of Jesus Himself be reconciled with Catholic teaching? Jesus often referred to Himself as “the Son of Man,” but never once, as Catholics do, as “the Son of Mary.”
Nor can Mary be a mediator in any sense between God and man because,
“There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). In contrast, consider the conclusions of an official publication of the Church: “There is one mediator between Christ and men, the Holy Mother Mary. Mary is the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to Jesus but by Mary.”
Unfortunately, by equating tradition with Scripture, the Roman Church will find Jesus saying the same words to it as He did to those who held to Jewish tradition and placed it above Scripture: “Why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” and, “But in vain do they worship me, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15:3,9) and, “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down” (Mark 7:13).
All this is why the Apostle Paul himself warns us to “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition… rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
There is one final consideration. In dozens of countries around the world Marian devotion has become mixed with occult phenomena. There are seemingly endless revelations that have come from apparitions and physical materializations of “Mary” throughout the world—revelations which universally support unbiblical Catholic teachings. As we discuss in our next chapter, the most logical explanation for these thousands of supernatural manifestations is not that the biblical Mary herself has appeared in order to lend her support to the Church of Rome, but rather that supernatural powers are imitating Mary to lead people into false teaching. Having read a good deal of Marian revelations, we have yet to find one that is in accord with biblical teaching and authority.
In conclusion, despite Catholic denials, the Church’s teaching on Mary not only casts a lengthy shadow over the saving efficacy of Jesus Christ but it takes away from the worship due Him alone.
No Christian who loves Jesus Christ can accord to Mary the spiritual privileges and functions granted her by the Catholic Church.
- Robert C. Broderick, ed., The Catholic Encyclopedia, revised and updated (NY: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987), p. 275.
- Ibid., p. 279, emphasis added.
- Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, 1974), p. 200.
- Ibid., p. 208.
- Ibid., p. 214.
- Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, The Attack on “Romanism” by “Bible Christians” (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1988), pp. 282-289.
- Walter Martin, The Roman Catholic Church in History (Livingston, NJ: Christian Research Institute, Inc., 1960), p. 49, emphasis added.