Volume 12, Issue 1: Stauron
Why Giovanni Can't Fly
Modern Evangelical Churches are heirs to a rich heritage of historic Christian truths recovered during the sixteenth century Reformation. Yet many of these heirs now manifest all the symptoms of historical and doctrinal Alzheimers.
We think of Luther’s “wild boar” attack on the papal fund-raisers as a quaint tidbit of disconnected Renaissance trivia. We fail to see any continuing application of his stand against the Roman system. After all—that was five hundred years ago, we say. As if time alone had somehow broken down the walls between error and truth—or invalidated Trent. Nothing betrays the bankruptcy of the modern Protestant church so clearly as the ease with which several of its well-known men have been seduced into signing declarations of theological unity with Roman Catholics.
Both Luther and Rome understood what these authors do not: seldom does any single truth (or error) stand disconnected from other truths. When Luther refuted the sale of indulgences, all concerned readily recognized the connection, for example, to the sacrament of penance. This in turn would call into question the Roman doctrine of salvation. Going off in another direction, challenging indulgences granted by the pope led to the more basic questions regarding the extent of papal authority and from there to the nature of the church itself.1 Luther and other early reformers were not simply taking pot shots at Roman teachings. Rather, they were intent on having the same effect as one who rams a broomstick through the spokes of a speeding bicycle. They wanted to bring heresy to a screeching halt and land the robed riders on their skullcaps.
While declaring theological unity on the doctrine of the gift of salvation, the authors of the 1997 ECT document confess unresolved “interrelated questions.” These include: justification—imputed or transformational righteousness, merit, purgatory, indulgences, and Marian devotion. To illustrate our incredulity here, let us explore Marian devotion as it is connected to one of the document’s supposed united confessions, viz., that [salvation] “is absolutely dependent upon Jesus Christ, . . . for he is ‘the one mediator between God and men.’” (1 Tim. 2:5). Only by seeing just how “absolutely” Romans depend upon Jesus Christ, and how they interpret that Bible verse, can one understand how misleading that ECT statement is.
Rome’s own Catechism says “what the Catholic faith . . . teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.”2 Let’s see what that pedagogical spotlight reveals.
Roman definitions of even simple words like “absolutely” can be quite different from that of either a dictionary or Scripture. “Absolute” normally means perfect, complete, free from mixture, having no qualification or exception, being self-sufficient. You get the picture. But Rome mixes dependence on Jesus with dependence on Mary, thereby making Jesus incomplete, insufficient, and imperfect as both a Mediator and Redeemer.
Rome teaches that Mary is our Mediatrix3 and Co-Redemptrix.4 The current pope, John Paul II, has used the Marian title, Co-Redemptrix, six times during his pontificate.5 But no papal statements have been quite so poignantly memorable as Pope Leo XIII’s metaphor in Augustissimae Virginis Mariae: “Yet our manner of praying to the Blessed Virgin has something in common with our worship of God, . . . whoever in his need will not have recourse to her is trying to fly without wings.”6
Rome says 1 Timothy 2:5 is not destroyed because Mary’s mediatorship is ancillary to Christ’s. She is still “man,” and so Christ is still Mediator between man and God. They claim the Greek word for “one” can mean “primary,” and that Paul would have used monos to mean “only” or “exclusive.” There are three flaws here. First, the verse begins “For there is one God . . .” The words used for “one (heis) God” and “one (heis) Mediator” are identical. Is God then only our primary god? Secondly, the Mediator is “the man, Christ Jesus.” Jesus could become Mediator because He alone is true man and true God. Thirdly, God’s law demands blood—death—not “suffering.” Christ is Mediator by His sacrificial death on the cross: “Who gave Himself a ransom.” These words echo Christ’s: “The Son of Man . . . [came] to give His life a ransom” (Matt. 20:28).
Rome teaches a false Jesus. The singular sacrifice of His blood and life on the cross is joined to the sacrifice of His mother’s suffering. But Hebrews 9:15 gives us the reason He is the mediator: “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the New Covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions. . .”.
God will not share His glory with another (Is. 42:8). Christ reminded us that we must worship and serve only the Lord (Matt. 4:10). The “flying” metaphors of Pope Leo XIII and the strong Marian devotion of the current Pope teach contra scripturam. Prayer to or through Mary is blasphemous. We are to pray to our Heavenly Father in the name of our one and only High Priest, our Mediator and Redeemer: Jesus Christ (Jn. 16:23).
Rome has designed an intricate, and to some, even plausible Marian doctrine. But the wisdom of men is often fatally wrong (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). As with the mythical Icarus of Crete, Rome’s finely crafted Marian wings will melt and plunge them into the abyss