Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"Our Lady of Wheaton"

A class at the very Evangelical Wheaton College considers what Catholicism teaches about Mary:
...[T]he Virgin of Wheaton that slowly emerged in our course was a Protestant one, even if she came to light in conversation with the four traditional Catholic Marian teachings: Mary as Mother of God, her perpetual virginity (before, during, and after the birth of Christ), her immaculate conception, and her bodily assumption into heaven. How did each of these teachings fare with my Evangelical students? Our class had no difficulty assenting to the common Christian teaching of the Council of Ephesus in 431, that Mary is the Theotokos, the one who gave birth to God. “That which was formed in the womb is not itself God,” insisted the heretic Nestorius. .... Cyril of Alexandria’s question to Nestorius became ours: In light of Christ’s divinity even in utero, “How can anyone have scruples about calling the holy Virgin the ‘Mother of God’?”

In regard to the second Catholic teaching, the perpetual virginity, of course we accepted Mary’s virginity before the birth of Christ. As J. Gresham Machen argued, to dismiss this cardinal doctrine, as fashionable Protestants once did, was to invent a religion other than Christianity. Karl Barth, for whom there is much enthusiasm at Wheaton, asserted against his liberal Protestant colleagues, his own father among them, the necessity of the virgin birth as both a fact of revelation and an indispensable illustration of salvation by grace alone.

Most students were surprised to discover that the chief Protestant Reformers, Luther, Calvin, even Zwingli, as well as later lights like John Wesley, assented to Mary’s virginity after the birth of Christ, giving most of us pause before dismissing the notion as necessarily unbiblical. ....

Not surprisingly, our strongest objections arose in regard to the Immaculate Conception, the belief that Mary was preserved by God from original sin, and the Assumption, the belief that her body was taken into heaven at the end of her earthly life.... [more]