Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mary as a Guide and Model of Holiness: Mutual Monologues With Several Protestants, Plus a Real Dialogue With Calvinist Pilgrimsarbour


[ source ]

This discussion took place on the anti-Catholic Reformed Protestant blog Boors All from October 12th-14th. The only true dialogue or debate below is with "Pilgrimsarbour," and that is precisely because he is not an anti-Catholic, which makes an entire difference in terms of the potential for an actual exchange. I have not resolved to stop debating and engaging in theological dialogue with ecumenical Protestants (not at all): only anti-Catholics who make it absolutely impossible due to hostility and unyielding false premises. Color code:

Me = black
Pilgrimsarbour = blue

Louis = green
Constantine = orange
Andrew = brown

* * * * *

A Guide To Becoming Holy

Mary is the star that guides us to holiness, says Holy Father during Angelus

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2009 / 11:27 am (CNA).- Presiding over the Sunday Angelus following the canonization Mass for five new saints, Pope Benedict XVI stressed that "the Virgin Mary is the star that guides" us in every "area of holiness."

The Pope then thanked the faithful from all around the world who traveled to Rome for the canonization Mass and remarked that Mary’s fiat, her "yes," makes her a "model of perfect adherence to the divine will." [source]

Christ is our model of holiness. All the promises of God have their "yes" in Him. Assigning that role to any other is idolatry.


[my citation, leaving out the middle sentence] Christ is our model of holiness. . . . Assigning that role to any other is idolatry.

Of course this is directly contradicted by the passages I presented [see bracketed note soon below]. The Bible (especially St. Paul, over and over) expressly commands us to imitate holy people and to see them as models for holiness, worthy of honor and veneration. None of this is seen as the slightest contradiction to Jesus being our model. He certainly is, but so also are those who are being perfected by His grace, and His grace alone.

It's not either/or. That is the goofy man-made tradition and illogical thought. Assuredly that is not the biblical worldview.

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthian 3) Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

"He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God...." (Col. 1:15). "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his SON..." (Rom. 8:29). "there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ" (1 Tim. 2:5).

[At this point I posted a great number of biblical passages having to do with imitation and spiritual models, which is what the pope was talking about. I later expanded the theme by adding many more Bible passages, and made my own paper about it.]

Sorry for providing too much Bible support. My bad . . .

Roman Catholics don't pray to Paul and King Asa, or call them co-redeemers with Christ. You know very well that you are attributing something entirely different to Mary, and that is what we are responding to here.

We certainly ask St. Paul to pray for us. You thought otherwise? I don't have to call Paul a co-redeemer or co-mediator of graces and salvation because he called himself that:

Romans 11:13-14 (KJV) For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [14] If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

2 Corinthians 1:6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

Ephesians 3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to youward: (RSV: “assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you”)

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (RSV: “impart grace . . .”)

James 5:19-20 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; [20] Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. (RSV: “whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins”)

1 Peter 4:10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

If the Apostle Paul can "save" others and be a mediator of God's grace by his prayers and preaching and suffering, why not Mary also? What is the big huge difference? The Bible even says that we participate in our own salvation:


Acts 2:40-41 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. [41] Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Philippians 2:12-13 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. [13] For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (RSV: “Take heed to yourself and to your teaching: hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers”)

I will be happy to post Holy Scripture here, unless and until such time that is forbidden too. As always, anyone is more than welcome to come argue these things on my blog, in the combox under my new post. I don't waste my time trying to personally debate anti-Catholics any longer. But others who frequent my blog are under no such constraint and will be more than happy to debate y'all.

The Holy Spirit leads people to Christ.

Exactly. He sure does, and praise Him for that! And sometimes (many times; probably in most or even almost all instances) He uses human beings to accomplish that purpose, and imitation of holy persons as models along the way (precisely what has been denied in this clueless post and claims) is one way He does that:


1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

1 Thessalonians 1:6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord . . .

Ephesians 3:2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you

Simply repeating one biblical truth that Catholics agree with anyway does not magically wish away dozens of other relevant biblical passages that one rarely hears about in Protestant sermons, radio talks, books, etc.

To pretend that what the RCC says about Mary's role is somehow comparable to the scriptural command for Christians to imitate Paul, or some other holy individual (including Mary) is laughable.

* * *

All I did was feel a necessity of providing some Scripture relevant to the discussion. Truth (i.e., Scripture) has its own inherent power; hence it is never unfruitful to post Holy Scripture: whether its message is heeded or not.

* * *

Actually, I consider the folks here my brothers in Christ. It is they who consider that I am not even a Christian. So who is regarding whom as a heretic? We think Protestants have some serious errors, of course, but we don't deny the essential status as fellow Christians.

So let's get the proper perspective here. Some on this blog think I am a troll, a liar, a sophist, etc. That largely comes (no question about it) from not regarding me as a brother. Makes a huge difference. This is how Satan divides and conquers.

I don't despise people; I object to lousy reasoning and closed-mindedness, which are objectionable traits of people.

* * *

This post, frankly, is a bit too vague by itself for me to understand for certain what is being said here. If Mary is being upheld as an individual that we should admire and whose faith we should model ourselves after, I would heartily agree with that. Dave Armstrong's lengthy Scripture argument seems to enforce that interpretation.

Good, but your comrades did not agree, which is the point. The whole gist of the original post was to disagree with the notion that Mary could be any sort of guide or model to holiness. That was its entire purpose: it was trying to imply to a Protestant (mostly) anti-Catholic audience (with their usual profound lack of understanding of Catholic theology) that Catholics are guilty of idolatry and placing human beings on the level of Christ.

But I'm happy to hear that you disagree with your pals on this blog and so don't have to rationalize or wish away so much plain Scripture.

If, on the other hand, it is saying that Mary actively guides us from heaven in our daily lives, intercedes for us, etc., then Protestants would oppose that idea as unbiblical.



The homily (I just know about the little bits that were quoted) seems to be about Mary as a model, based on her life, and particularly the "yes" of the Annunciation. Her intercession is mentioned, too, however.

Intercession of those in heaven for those on earth is an entirely biblical phenomenon. Revelation 6:9-10 gives an account of an imprecatory prayer of dead martyrs for those on earth:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; [10] they cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?" (RSV)

Jeremiah 15:1 refers to a hypothetical of Moses and Samuel praying for Israel. Hypotheticals aren't offered unless they are possible. Therefore, it was possible that they could have done so. God cannot say an absolute falsehood in the sense that it could have possibly happened and would have His approval.

That being said, I offer these comments to Dave Armstrong
IF Pope Benedict was saying that Mary's role for the Christian is a living, active, guiding and intercessory one.

Of course it is. But that was not my particular argument in this thread, because I was centering on the "model" aspect.

That was expressly denied by Louis in his first sentence. It is the typical Protestant anti-biblical either/or mentality: if Christ is our model of holiness, no one else possibly can be. The next two posts were all about Christ, as if Catholics don't accept everything written about our Lord in Scripture. Then it was off to the dog races, with no one even understanding the point I was making (until now, and your comments).

* * *

I should clarify that I was referring mainly to Mary's intercession, when I said "of course it is". [two paragraphs above: beginning sentence] She is alive and active. In the sense of "guidance" however, it is not so much as you guys are making out: as if Mary assumes the role of the Holy Spirit.

No; we agree that the Holy Spirit guides us, as the Helper, Who lives inside of us. I've experienced concrete instances of this many many times in my own life, both before and after becoming Catholic.

Mary's guidance is by her holy, sinless example. The pope was not saying that Mary is guiding us minute-by-minute from heaven, as if we had a direct phone line to her. He mentioned the "yes" of the Annunciation, which is an example. She prays, she loves us; she helps distribute God's grace in a profound way. We don't believe that she usurps what Protestants and Catholics agree is the guiding function of the Holy Spirit.

Protestants think that because they dig up the most flowery Marian devotional language and pretend that we believe she can save us, as if that means it is her alone and not merely her acting as a vessel for God's purposes (I've refuted several such efforts of radical out-of-context pseudo-argumentation).

Protestants routinely think we are trying to exclude or denigrate God because they have little concept of how God uses His creatures for His purpose. Calvinists in particular deny the biblical motif of God and men working together for His purposes. That is what we are talking about when we venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Back to "either/or" -- the false dichotomy that lies behind so very many serious Protestant errors . . .

In quoting commenter Louis, Dave Armstrong said...
Christ is our model of holiness. . . . Assigning that role to any other is idolatry.
Dave, First, let me quote the statement which Louis posted and from which you launched your argument.


Christ is our model of holiness.

All the promises of God have their "yes" in Him.

Assigning that role to any other is idolatry.

When you quoted Louis, you left out his second sentence. The second sentence modifies both the first and the third and is key to understanding what he was saying. Without it, I can understand why you would answer in the way that you did. I'm curious as to why you removed it from his statement.


Because I was concentrating on the "model" aspect. The second sentence is not in dispute: rightly understood. But it is the either/or insinuation that I was attacking: that because Christ is our model, no human being can possibly be also.

If you guys think Mary can be a model for holiness for us today, then great. That was not the impression I received from the original post or subsequent comments.

While your Scripture references are good in themselves, I think you went wide of the mark in your response to Louis.


Perhaps I misunderstood him a bit. But I don't think I misinterpreted the intention of the original post and the comments about Christ: they implied that Catholics somehow wish to denigrate and demote Christ. Not at all, of course.

The complete quote is in keeping with the concept of this post, namely, that it is only God Himself--Father, Son and Holy Spirit who grants and fulfills His promises.

Of course. No one disputes that. The post was not entitled "Only God Grants Promises" but rather, "A Guide to Becoming Holy" [i.e., Mary]. Therefore, the unspoken argument was that Mary ought not to be considered such a guide, and it is that false notion to which I replied with tons of Bible that blow it out of the water.

The fact that he uses His people to bring the gospel to others and to assist them in many other ways, does not negate Louis' point that
it is God's promises, not those of any created person that is in view.

But Louis's point in his second sentence was not the original focus of the post. That's precisely why I omitted it in my citation, because I am responding to what I believe to be falsehoods, not truths.

Perhaps Protestants are confused by this term "dispenser of grace(s)," as we regard that as the role of the Holy Spirit in making the dead sinner's stony heart into a heart of flesh. Is Mary granted this power in Catholicism?


She is in the same sense as Paul is, per my many Bible citations. She is an instrument that God uses to distribute the grace that comes from Him alone. If Paul can be used in such a way: indeed any of us to some degree, if we are willing, so also can Mary the Mother of God the Son.

Mary can save no one in and of herself. She can only participate in God's plan to save whomever He wishes to save.

Your edited quote from Louis then serves, as I said, as the launching point for your argument, an argument that no Protestant would argue against since all Christians understand and believe in emulating "great heroes of the faith."

That's why, I think, my biblical argument had force. But then what was the point of the original post, if not denying (by implication of the standard method on this blog of mocking every Catholic thing) that Mary can be a guide to holiness?

Both Catholic and Protestant literature, in addition to the Bible, are full of examples for us to follow, as well as those people whom God has been pleased to bring into our lives in the "real" world.
Your argument is fine as it goes,

Indeed. You, not being anti-Catholic, can see that and fully agree. But the ones who are obsessed with tearing down Catholicism at every turn either cannot see it, or wish to engage in a distorted presentation that seeks to offer a pseudo-Catholicism, that can be rejected, in straw man fashion.
You can agree with me when agreement is warranted by Scripture. See the humungous difference between ecumenical and anti-Catholic Protestants?

but I don't think anyone is arguing that we should not emulate others who are strong in their faith in Christ and who live exemplary lives.


Then I look forward to your next response, to explain the thrust of the post itself and the early comments about it.

Protestants, of course, argue against the unbiblical idea that Mary is dispensing grace and guiding our lives from her throne in heaven.

I don't see (from what we know) that this was the pope's argument. The guidance was from things like her saying yes to God at the Annunciation. I'm sure you would agree that this was a good thing. That's the Virgin Birth, after all, and Protestants are very big on that, as we are, though, due to liberal theological influence in the last 250 years, they reject her perpetual virginity, unlike Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, and even the wicked English so-called "reformers."

* * *


I would agree with TF that Mary's life is merely sketched in the Scriptures. There really isn't much to go on as far as modeling oneself after her, apart from those biographical traditions which fill out the picture of her considerably, though, I would add, unreliably. What I have said in general, however, is that what we do know of her is certainly commendable as an example of a child of God's surrender in faith to His will. As it is, there are many more finely drawn examples of faith in the Scriptures for us to follow which dwarf the material given to us on Mary, and I think, that purposely.

Here is how I defend Mary's sinlessness from Scripture. There is a solid argument that can be made:


"All Have Sinned . . . " (Mary?)

A Straightforward Biblical Argument For the Sinlessness of Mary

Luke 1:28 (Full of Grace) and the Immaculate Conception: Linguistic and Exegetical Considerations

Dialogue on the Exegesis of Luke 1:28 ("Full of Grace"), and the Immaculate Conception (vs. Ken Temple)

Dialogue with an Evangelical Protestant on Catholic Mariology (including an explicitly biblical argument for the Immaculate Conception, from Luke 1:28, related exegesis, and the meaning of grace) (vs. Jack DisPennett)

The pope's comments were that Mary is a model of "perfect" adherence to the divine will. Behind this statement, of course, lies all of the Roman dogma about Mary and her sinlessness and status as co-redemptrix. That is the context here. That is what I and others have objected to. All of Dave Armstrong's posts about models of the faith are irrelevant. And it is so obviously irrelevant that I have to wonder whether it is an intentional distraction. It is the special place of Mary in RC theology that is the issue here. And I will say it again: RC "reverence" for Mary is idolotry [sic]. Christ, and Christ alone, is our redeemer.

Good for you. An A+ for Christianity 0101.

Only he is the image of the invisible God.

No kidding?

Only He perfectly obeyed the will of the Father.

One would expect that God would be in line with God's will. That's a no-brainer, ain't it?

Now if you could just get a clue about Catholic theology, which is every bit as Christian as yours, and far more biblical . . .

Heaven and earth were searched, and only Christ was found worthy, no one else. (e.g.,Rev. 5).

* * *

Maybe I've been arguing against a straw man, then. Please enlighten me about Roman Catholic theology. First, is or is not Mary considered a co-redeemer? Second, is or isn't it claimed of Mary that she perfectly obeyed the Father?

In the past (online from 1997-2007) I would have been happy to interact further, as you seem to be a cordial person, and seem quite sincere in your latest question, but I set a policy for myself two years ago, to no longer debate anti-Catholics, after 12 frustrating years of trying, due to the futility of all such attempts in the past.

To go down this path will certainly lead to such a debate, and so I choose to not go down the path at all. Nothing personal. In this thread mainly I wanted to post some relevant Scripture, but even that was mocked by all (even you) excepting Pilgrimsarbour, who at least "got" and accepted (even largely agreed with) what I was driving at, but wondered if it was a sidetrack to the initial post. I have given reasons why I thought it was not and eagerly await his counter-reply.

I have a very extensive web page on the Blessed Virgin Mary, that deals with all these questions in great depth (you've already seen some of the ways I would deal with these questions above).

Also, you and anyone else here are welcome to visit my blog anytime. Many people would be glad to interact with you, minus the insults and nonsense that we see here, in virtually all Catholic-Protestant interaction. Ken Temple, who participates here, has often been on my blog and is treated respectfully.

I simply don't participate in those discussions, per my policy, but I'm not the only one on my blog, and many others engage in such discussions.

Also, please stop with the sarcasm. I'm not getting personal with you, I expect the same in return.

I used sarcasm because we Catholics get sick and tired of having it implied that we don't understand the most basic, essential elements of Christianity, having to do with God and Christ. I've been defending Christianity and proclaiming and defending the gospel as an apologist and evangelist for over 28 years, both as a Protestant and as a Catholic. Do you realize how insulting it is to be presented with such elementary preaching about Jesus Christ, when I was writing very extensive defenses of His deity in 1982?

Catholics don't deny these things that you appear to think we deny. That's not the issue. In this instance, the issue is the extent to which God uses His creatures to accomplish His purpose of saving people, and distributing grace to do so. Grace is distributed every time someone prays for someone else. It's not like it is some controversial notion: that God's grace flows through people as vessels. Paul is very explicit about that, as I showed in this very thread.

But condescension towards Catholics is how it has always been, ever since Luther and Calvin started in with their insults and polemics, making out that virtually all Catholics were clueless ignoramuses. This is what Calvin in particular believed, because he said so more than once.

If anyone truly wants to see how Catholics reason through things, and how we defend our beliefs, there is plenty out there to read along those lines. Then perhaps it will be possible to talk to a Catholic as a spiritual peer and brother in Christ, rather than at or about them, which is the modus operandi on this blog, per the standard anti-Catholic view of the Host that it is a counterfeit gospel, etc., etc., ad nauseum. This is why dialogue is impossible, with all that baggage from the outset; why I no longer engage in such debates, and why I will soon leave this place for good (praise God!).

* * *

I would hasten to add that no one, unless he's mentally unbalanced, prays to Martin Luther.

John Calvin prayed to Philip Melanchthon. Does that prove that he was mentally unbalanced?

I suppose if I were a "follower" of Calvin or Luther, that would indeed give me pause.

But since what I believe is derived from the Scriptures, I choose to exercise my Christian freedom and overlook the eccentricities of my fellow believers throughout history and today. ;-)


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3 comments:

Giovanni A. Cattaneo said...

Not to be uncharitable but, how do you do it?

Protestant thought process sometimes can be hard to digest.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

How do I do what? Overlook the foibles of believers?

As I said, I don't follow persons. But as it is, no one is perfect. If I thought I could find a perfect person to follow, I would be terribly disappointed my whole life.

In addition, I have my own sins to worry about. I don't investigate and chastise others for their sins, unless such is proving to be harmful to others.

Regarding Calvin, I'm not convinced that Calvin's cry to Melancthon could be properly called "praying" to him. And there is no evidence, as far as I know, that he continued it as a regular practice for the rest of his life.

No, that being the case, Calvin is no more mentally unbalanced for that than the man who sits at his wife's graveside and speaks to her headstone, telling her how much he misses her. There is no intercession involved in asking someone to "wait for me." In both cases it's more cathartic than anything.

Leslie Lim said...

I would like to share it with all my friends and hope they will like it too.

Bryle
www.imarksweb.org