There’s Something About Mary. . .
Vol: 73 Issue: 25 Thursday, October 25, 2007
Quietly, and without a lot of fanfare, Roman Catholic and Church of England leaders have been holding high-level meetings aimed at reconciling the two denominations and merging them into a single mega-church for both Anglicans and Catholics.
Recently, the Times of London reported hat the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches have studied the possibility of joining forces under the authority of the Pope.
A 42-page document called ‘Growing Together in Unity and Mission’ outlines how the two churches could re-unite, hundreds of years after the Church of England emerged from its Roman Catholic roots.
Jointly led by the Right Rev. David Beetge (an Anglican bishop from South Africa) and the Most Rev. John Bathersby, (Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, Australia), the commission’s recommendations are being considered by the Vatican and the meeting in Dar es Salaam.
(Maybe it’s just me. But Dar es Salaam as the choice for a Christian religious summit seems a bit off-key, but in this context, somehow, not.)
If the Commission’s recommendations are accepted, the world’s approximately 1 billion Roman Catholics and 78 million Anglicans could find themselves as one big church.
Efforts on both sides to unite the two have been ongoing in a semi-formal manner since at least 1965, when the Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation in the United States was established, but it went global in 2000 with the establishment of the International Anglican – Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission.
(Again, maybe it’s just me. But the fact that it went global in 2000 kinda makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.)
But the big stumbling-block to unification is the Vatican’s elevation of Mary to the status equal to that of a goddess. Even the Anglicans have trouble with that.
And, without being unduly unkind, the Church of England was created by Henry VIII who declared himself its head, because the Pope wouldn’t grant him a divorce from Anne Bolyn.
The establishment of the state Church of England tore British society apart and the conflict created what remains the longest word in the English language.
The word, ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ was coined to describe the movement that was opposed to Henry VIII’s dis-establishment of papal supremacy in English Christianity.
But the principle doctrinal difference between the High Anglican Church and the Vatican is what non-Catholics call “Mariolotry” or the worship of Mary.
The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission issued a joint statement called, “Mary: Grace and Hope” addressing the problem.
The Anglican side agreed to “reject any interpretation of Mary that would obscure the unique mediatorship of Jesus Christ.”
In other words, Mary can still be a “co-Mediatrix with Christ” — in keeping with Vatican teachings, provided the “mediatorship of Christ” remains “unique.”
Since even the Vatican doesn’t teach that Mary went to the Cross for the sins of mankind, the statement on Mary makes a distinction without a difference.
In essence, the new Trinity would be a quartet with a silent partner.
Addressing the Vatican’s doctrines concerning Mary is always difficult to do without diminishing Mary’s actual role in the Greatest Story Ever Told.
The two Marian doctrines that create the most division are those of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception.
In 1950, Pope Pius XXII issued the ex-cathedra (“infallible”) statement that Mary did not die a normal human death, but was bodily assumed into Heaven.
By this Papal Bull, (that’s not an editorial comment — that’s what papal pronouncements are called) Pius XXII declared this to be a doctrinal truth of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Second Vatican Council in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium added a new doctrine in 1965, that of the “Immaculate Conception.” This doctrine concluded that Mary was, “the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things.”
Wow. Quite an elevation from the humble picture of Mary presented by the Bible. The Mary of the Bible never saw herself as Queen of Heaven. Indeed, the Scripture records that pretty much every idea Mary presented to Jesus drew from Him a stern rebuke.
When Jesus was twelve, she lost Him in Jerusalem and didn’t realize He was gone until they were halfway home to Nazereth.
Since Joseph and Mary traveled for a full day before discovering Jesus wasn’t with them, it took another day for them to return to Jerusalem, which means Jesus was left alone with no apparent place to sleep or food to eat during those two days.
(It was part of God’s plan, and I don’t fault her for it, but had it happened in 2007 instead of AD 12 or so, Jesus would have been raised by social workers.)
Having lost her Son in the first place, when she found Him, the first words out of her mouth were to blame Him for getting lost.
“And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto Him, Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us? behold, Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”
Jesus rebuked her by reminding her Who His Father really was:
“And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought Me? wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:48-49)
The Catholic Mary might be sinless and Divine, but she didn’t seem to ‘wist’ much at all. Then there was the time when He was teaching and Mary sent word summoning Him.
“While Jesus was still 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.”
So Mary, Ever Virgin, was not only standing outside, but she was accompanied by His brothers.
Jesus refused to see her, rebuking the messenger by saying, “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.” (Matthew 12:46-50)
Jesus wasn’t denying that Mary was His mother, so it doesn’t wash that He was denying He had brothers — instead He was using the occasion to teach a wider truth about what Hal Lindsey calls “the forever Family of God” of which the Church are all members.
The dilemma facing the Anglican Unification Squad is the same one that faced the Vatican.
For a Christian to reject the perpetual virginity of Mary is no insult to her. In fact, for a married woman (including Mary) to remain a virgin after being married, is unscriptural:
“Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. . . The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” (1st Corinthians 7:5)
So, which is it? Was Mary sinless? Or was she a married ever-virgin? According to Scripture, you can’t have it both ways.
The Anglican Roman Catholic Unity USA disagrees, concluding in a statement:
With regard to the definition of the Immaculate Conception (MGHC 59), the assertion that Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, preserved immune from all stain of original sin means that she never contracted the inherited guilt of original sin, and implies that she began her human existence in the state of supernatural grace. On the other hand, as a member of the human race she shared the universal need of redemption. Her redemption was accomplished, through a singular privilege of grace, by being preserved from contracting the guilt of original sin, rather than by being justified during her lifetime. Her immunity from original sin was due to the merits of Jesus Christ, the sole Redeemer of all humankind. The gift of supernatural grace with which she was endowed was essentially the same as ours, the difference being that she never lacked what we receive in baptism.
In other words, Mary could be both sinless and in need of Redemption, but since she got her immunity from sin from Jesus Christ . . . oh heck, I can’t make sense of it.
The document similarly got around the problem of a virgin having three sons and two daughters in addition to Jesus, and her bodily assumption into Heaven.
But you see what the problem is. It is impossible to contrast the Biblical picture of Mary with the Vatican’s Mary without sounding like one is disrespecting her.
Let me try and balance the record. Mary was a godly women, “blessed among women” and uniquely privileged to bear the Savior of the world.
She risked both her marriage and her life to obey God. In Mary’s world, adultery was punishable by stoning. She was a woman of great faith and great courage and one highly favored by the Lord.
But Mary is never presented by Scripture as more than that.
I am reluctant to pronounce the present-day Roman Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon of Revelation, because at the present time, it is not. But it is in the process of constructing the edifice on which it will be based.
Despite the Vatican’s doctrinal flaws, I believe that there are many sincere, born-again Catholic Christians, and their presence is what makes the difference during the Church Age.
But the system, on the other hand, is a letter-perfect match for the system described by the Apostle John in the Book of the Revelation.
John describes its doctrine as having two horns like a Lamb but the teachings of the Dragon. He describes the seat of that religion as a ‘great city’ that sits on ‘seven mountains’. To this day, Rome is known as the City of Seven Hills.
The Vatican teaches that anyone who is not a Catholic is not truly a Christian — but it welcomes its erring ‘brothers’ (like the Anglicans) to return to the Church, apart from which, Pope Benedict recently proclaimed, “there is no salvation.”
What we really see developing is a great, global religion, based on Christianity (two horns like a Lamb) but one that has embraced another gospel and another Trinity, a system that diminishes salvation by faith in Christ and re-introduces the ancient Babylonian practice of goddess worship as ‘Christian’ doctrine.
There are yet two remaining developments that must take place before the system attains the status assigned it by John. First, the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit must be withdrawn from its midst.
After that, it can take on its destined role as the spiritual herald that proclaims the new gospel of “him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:9)
According to the Scriptures, the reign of the antichrist lasts but seven years — not enough time to create a brand-new religion. But more than enough time to seize control of the one currently under construction.
It’s almost ready now.