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Mary Versus Jesus February 15, 1993 LETTER 6


  1. Are elements of Christianity and the Bible in opposition?
  2. Mary or Jesus, who will you choose?
  3. Mary, Gate TO Heaven or Gate OF Heaven?
  4. The Glories of Mary by Alphonsus Liguori
  5. Mary cooperating with Jesus
  6. Jesus did it all, and we do nothing
  7. Are dead Saints truly dead or are they alive with Christ?
  8. Redemption, does Mary dethrone Jesus?
  9. Jesus is the Redeemer and Mary cooperates with Him
  10. Simeon was not dethroning Jesus when he spoke of Mary
  11. Should we take Martin Luther as our Guide?
  12. The wills of Mary and Jesus are the same

Are elements of Christianity and the Bible in opposition? I was once talking to an individual who wanted to debate with me on the issue of Faith versus good works. I didn't want to debate with him because, for me, there was no issue to debate. Faith and good works are both necessary according to the Bible. See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone (Jm. 2:24). However, the individual seemed very intent on speaking in favor of faith while suggesting that works of any kind were not necessary. Reflecting back, the one thing that always puzzled me is why a person would take parts of Scripture and put them in opposition to other parts of Scripture when in fact both parts have their legitimate place. At least it always puzzled me until Mark Bromley spoke of this very thing while visiting Milwaukee. Mark was previously a Baptist minister who came into the Church and now defends it using the Bible and history. One of Bromley's problems was that he could not find any Evangelicals prior to the 16th century; I had trouble saying well, all these people, Catholic monks, prior to the Protestant Reformation, were all non-Christian.

  • Mark spoke of a tendency to take elements of the Christian Faith and put them In opposition to each other, so that you have, the Bible versus the Church, the Word of god versus Tradition etc. They (the Fundamentalists) would often times set these elements In opposition to each other; it's either this or that. (Fundamentalism, sound tape, Nov 13, 1991 Mark Brumley). 

I then realized that this was a way of viewing the Scriptures that was taught too them all their lives, and what appeared to me as very strange was perfectly natural to them. I am now convinced that, in most cases, they are not even aware that they are putting one Biblical concept versus another.

Mary or Jesus, who will you choose? In addition, I realized that Mary is put at odds with Jesus in this type of thinking. It's either Mary or Jesus, this or that, one or the other. It can't be both of them working together. Now, when I hear people speak of Mary and someone says, I don't know why I need Mary; Jesus is my redeemer, not Mary, at least now, I understand why they speak this way. They have been taught the Mary versus Jesus tradition all their lives. This also explains why some people become defensive when Mary is brought up. They are not aware that this Mary versus Jesus tradition is not Scriptural. Both Mary and Jesus are in Scripture and, they were not at odds with one another. If I was going to put someone at odds with Jesus, it most certainly would not be Mary; it would be Satan, the great adversary. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour (Mt 4:10).
 
Mary, Gate TO Heaven or Gate OF Heaven?  There is the understanding by some Christians that certain beliefs about Mary and certain names given to her, exalt Mary to the detriment of God. If Mary is exalted to the detriment of Jesus, then of course they would have an excellent case for their allegation that Mary is being made a God in place of Jesus.  On the other hand if these same beliefs enhance the name and person of Jesus, they are most certainly good.

One name that is sometimes used in reference to Mary is, Gate OF Heaven.  Loraine Boettner, in his Bible of anti-Catholicism, objects to this usage.   He objects because in his mind, Mary should not be the gate in place of Christ (Roman Catholicism pg. 139, Loraine Boettner, 1989 edition). He then quotes three Scripture verses that he believes show that Mary cannot be the gate because, to him it is contrary to the Bible: I am the door (Jn. 10:1-7). I am the way (Jn. 14:6). Neither is there salvation in any other (Acts 4:12). 

To put it very simply, Boettner is saying that there are two ways to Heaven. There is the Mary Gate and there is the Jesus Gate. He is suggesting that Catholics are choosing the Mary Gate and thus are choosing the wrong gate. After all, doesn't Jesus say I am the gate (Jn. 10:9), so how can Mary be the Gate TO Heaven?  The answer to this is simple: Mary is not the Gate TO Heaven. 

Mary as the Gate TO Heaven is not Catholic terminology but Boettner's terminology.  In Catholic tradition she is called the Gate OF Heaven.  So when Boettner disagrees with this terminology he is disagreeing with himself. When Boettner refers to Mary as Gate TO Heaven, he is trying to force a division between Jesus and Mary that does not exist in faith or Scripture. Cardinal Newman, a convert from Anglicanism, explains that:

  • Mary is called the Gate OF Heaven, because it was through her that our Lord passed from Heaven to earth.  The prophet Ezekiel, prophesying of Mary, says, 'this gate is to remain closed; it is not to be opened for anyone to enter by it, since the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it, it shall remain closed.  Only the prince may sit down in it to eat his meal in the presence of the Lord' (Ez. 44:2-3), (Mary the Second Eve pg. 22, John Henry Newman, 1982 edition, TAN Books and Publishers Inc.). 

So, as can readily be seen, Mary is not an alternative gate in place of Jesus, but the Gate OF Heaven that allowed Jesus to pass from Heaven to earth. He, alone has entered this gate.  Mary as Gate TO Heaven is Boettners misrepresentation of Catholic understanding and Mary as Gate OF Heaven is Catholic understanding. 

The Glories of Mary by Alphonsus Liguori: Boettner quoting  The Glories of Mary  in one place it says, Our salvation is in her [Mary's] hands. He then attempts to refute Liguori by quoting this Scripture; There is no salvation in anyone else (Acts 4:12) and that name is Jesus Christ. This is one of Boettner's proofs that the Catholic Church is dethroning Christ, enthroning Mary. And so his point is this, Jesus is the savior so why would the words salvation and Mary be in the same sentence?

Mary cooperating with Jesus: Boettner makes no effort what so ever to give the full context of the The Glories of Mary.  It is not a book of Catholic dogmas as he would like everyone to believe.  The Glories of Mary is a book of pious statements made by hundreds of different people.  You don't take a book of pius statements and turn them into dogmas unless of course your name is Lorraine Boettner and you have an ax to grind with the Catholic Church.  If we read a little further, on page 170 of Liguori's book we find the the context of Mary and the word of Salvation.  Mary cooperated in the Salvation of man with so much love, and at the same time gave such glory to God, so all men through her intercession are to obtain salvation (The Glories of Mary pg. 170). 

We see here that Mary is cooperating with Jesus the savior.  Now we can go back to the quote: Our salvation is in the hands of Mary and realize that Mary is not the savior, but that she is part of the salvation process by her intercession.  And furthermore we play a part in Salvation by praying for one another.  Mary's intercession does not dethrone Jesus any more than our intercession for one another dethrones Jesus. It is no longer Jesus versus Mary as Boettner would have us believe, but Mary cooperating with Jesus.

Jesus did it all, and we do nothing: Some times I run into people who have what I call a do nothing theology. Jesus did it all and we do nothing, therefore Mary's intercession is not necessary.  Everyone one goes straight to Jesus without your help my help or Mary's help.  In fact, I was in a conversation with an Evangelical who was suggesting that any type of intercession from Mary for someones salvation is making Mary into a God.  I asked him if he had ever prayed for anyone for their salvation. He said, yes!  I then asked him why he was deifying himself? He said that's different.  Interesting, he didn't tell me why it was different.  I told him that, if Mary's intercession for someones salvation makes her into a God, then his intercession for someone's salvation makes him into a God as well.  This ended the conversation. 

Are dead Saints truly dead or are they alive with Christ?  Usually at this point I get the dead saints' argument.  That is the belief that all those, including Mary, who have gone before us our dead saints.  They are not alive in Christ and if they are not alive and have physically died; how can they possibly be interceding for us?  These saints are dead.  And to reinforce this even further one individual quoting in Mark said, Jesus is the God of the living, not of the dead (Mk 12:26-27). 

He was trying to show that Jesus cannot be the god of those who have died; after all he quotes from Scripture, Jesus is the god of the living. However, he left out three people who were no longer alive in verse 26; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God said that He was their God as well. And so does that mean that God is the God of the dead? No; Jesus is the God of the living, not of the dead (Mk 12:26-27). 

  • "God told him, 'I am the God of Abraham, (the) God of Isaac, and (the) God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled" (Mk 12: 26-27).  

Abraham Isaac and Jacob are physically dead and yet their souls are ALIVE.  And because their God is not the God of the dead but of the living and they do not qualify as dead saints. 

  • Some call them dead saints; however, Jesus says they are alive!  He is the God of the living!  

Redemption, does Mary dethrone Jesus: The Scripture There is no salvation in anyone else (Acts 4:12) is speaking of that part of salvation called redemption. Jesus died on the cross (redemption) and because of this our intercession now makes sense. Without Christ's sacrifice, on the cross all the intercession in the world, including Mary's, could not save us. That is why any intercession on our part or Mary's part is secondary. It is totally dependent on Christ redeeming us on Calvary. It is important to differentiate between Christ's part of salvation (redemption) and our cooperation with Christ (intercession); otherwise, along with Mary and the Apostle Paul (1 Tm. 2:1) we would all be false gods. One other point, Jesus is also an intercessor (Rom. 8:34).

When Boettner tries to show Mary enthroned and Christ dethroned, he is actually quoting Dr. Joseph Zacchello, editor of The Convert, Clairton Pennsylvania. Dr. Zacchello is the one who is quoting The Glories of Mary out of context (something he does frequently). And because he does this, I believe it would be helpful to cite the proper context of Liguori's book.
 
The examples quoted by our Saint (Liguori) are taken from various sources: some are from post medieval writers, some from his own experience, and others from the legends of the middle ages.---Without doubt many of the stories have a foundation in fact.  Others contain merely an historical kernel that must needs be viewed in its proper setting.---Some writer  or preacher of distinction may have narrated a story as an allegory or parable such as our Lord Himself employed. The same was repeated by others, embellished and passed on from one to another.---Their (the stories') object was to depict in graphic coloring the mercy of the Mother of God, and the power of her intercession for the repentant sinner (The Glories of Mary pg. 16-17, St. Alphonsus Liguori, 1931 edition, Redemptorist Fathers, Brooklyn New york).

Jesus is the Redeemer and Mary cooperates with Him: The book, The Glories of Mary gives hundreds of miscellaneous quotes and pious statements that are showing the high regard for Mary by people of Liguori's time and before. This is the context in which Liguori's book is written, and it is ignored by Dr. Zacchello.  Even though St. Alphonsus Liguori quotes many other people, he never the less tells us plainly what his relationship is to Jesus and Mary.
 
To Jesus through Mary. My most loving Redeemer and Lord, Jesus Christ, I thy miserable servant, well  knowing what pleasure he gives thee who endeavors to exalt Thy most Holy Mother, whom Thou lovest so much---Thou well knowest that, after Jesus. I have placed my entire hope of salvation in thee. It was, properly speaking, on Mount Calvary that Jesus formed His Church; and then it is evident that the Blessed Virgin cooperated in a most excellent and special manner in the accomplishment of this work (Ibid pg. 23-25).

Simeon was not dethroning Jesus when he spoke of Mary: So, you see, in its proper context, this book does not dethrone Christ and enthrone Mary as Boettner would allege. It is Jesus, the Redeemer, and Mary, the Mother cooperating with Jesus on Calvary. When Simeon prophesied about Jesus; he also spoke of Mary as well.

  • Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your [Mary's] own soul too (Luke 2:34-35).  This verse is referred too as one of the Catholic verses because it is ignored by many non-Catholics who would like to dismiss her.  To them Jesus is the only one who should have a role. Evidently, Simeon is not in agreement with them.

When Simeon spoke of Jesus and Mary, and a sword piercing her heart, he was not dethroning Jesus. He was speaking, first of the role of Jesus and also the role of Mary in the same breath, and a sword will pierce your [Mary's] own soul too (Luke 2:34-35).  

In the two thousand  year history of the Church, there have been thousands of pious statements made about Mary. As I have already pointed out, Luther made some pious statements of his own about Mary, and I don't see anyone, including Boettner, claiming that these are official Protestant Teachings.  Luther, in some of his lesser moments, also made some not so pious  statements.

You pigs, hounds, ranters, you irrational asses! Our German nation is a wild, savage nation, half devils, half men (The facts about Luther pg. 16, 1987 editions, Patrick F. Ohare, Tan Books and Publishers).  In his declining years he fell into a fury of antisemitism, denounced the Jews as 'a stiff necked, unbelieving, proud, wicked, abominable nation,' and demanded that their schools and synagogues should be razed with fire.  'And let whosoever can, throw brimstone and pitch upon them; if one could hurl hell-fire at them, so much the better...And this must be done for the honor of Our Lord and of Christianity, so that God may see that we are indeed Christians' (The story of Civilization The Reformation, Vol. 6, pg. 422, 1957 Edition, Will Durant, Haddon Craftsmen Inc).

Luther had an interesting way of honoring our Lord and Christianity. Would it be fair for me to take every quote that Luther made about the Germans, the Jews and other groups; and then call this Protestant Teaching. Someone might cry unfair.  We cannot take every single word uttered in the two thousand year history of the Church and say that this is an official teaching or doctrine of the Church. And this is true whether we are listening to Liguori, quoting St. Bonaventure, or Will Durant quoting Luther.
 
Should we take Martin Luther as our Guide?  By taking a line here or a line there out of context, Zacchello proves nothing. I could come up with my own, this versus that, argument, putting Luther against Jesus. Roland Bainton says that, there is  no better way to feel the wonder than to take Luther as our guide (Here I Stand A life of Martin Luther, pg. 288, Roland H. Bainton, 1978, Abington Press). 

  • I could say, I don't know why I need Luther as my guide; Jesus is my guide, not Luther. I am going to follow God's holy word, not Luther.  Bainton is obviously dethroning Christ and enthroning Luther. I could take a few more lines out of context in order to strengthen my Luther versus Jesus scenario. In the end, I would have proved nothing, except that I can successfully quote Bainton out of context and make a few people angry in the process.

This would be unfair on my part. In the same way, it is also unfair on the part of Zacchello and Boettner to quote Liguori out of context, when he speaks of Mary.

The wills of Mary and Jesus are the same: Mary is not versus Jesus. They work together and their wills are one. Some of the groups, that speak against Mary, will make the point that the only command Mary ever made was; Do whatever he tells you (Jn, 2:5). And in this they are correct. So when they did what Jesus told them to do, they were obeying Mary's command because she was the one who made the statement, Do whatever he tells you. Still others will say that when they did what Jesus told them to do, they were obeying Jesus. This of course is also true and precisely the point. When they obeyed Mary, they were obeying Jesus. And when they obeyed Jesus, they were obeying Mary. So you see their wills were the same.

The Bible does not say that Mary is at odds with Jesus.  When people say we should only follow Jesus, not Mary, this would make sense only if Mary's will did not line up with Jesus' will. It is true that there was some resistance from Jesus; My hour has not yet come (Jn. 2:4), but never the less, Mary insisted: Do whatever he tells you. And in the end, their wills were the same. I know it is very difficult for some to accept the fact that Jesus yielded to Mary on this occasion. Her intercession on behalf of the wedding party had an effect on Jesus. In fact, this is one of the reasons we believe that Mary can, and does, intercede for us today, because here is an explicit example of her interceding on behalf of the wedding party at the wedding feast of Cana.  The wedding party could have gone straight to Jesus without Mary; however, that is not what happened.
 
One well intentioned  Fundamentalist friend of mine tried to convince me that Mary interceding for us is not Biblical. I explained to him that Jesus worked His very first public miracle after Mary interceded on behalf of the wedding party.

  • I asked him these questions; if Mary cannot intercede for us, then why did Jesus work his first public Miracle at the request of Mary, on behalf of the wedding party?  And if this is an insignificant detail, then why is it even recorded in Scripture? He didn't know the answers to my questions and admitted that he had difficulty with Mary's role at Cana.

His difficulty with Mary's intercession had nothing to do with any prohibition in Scripture because there is none. It came from what he was taught in his own background. His theological tradition taught him that Mary's intercession was not Biblical when in fact there is a historical precedent for this in the Bible.