A Pentecostal Response To Roman Catholic Teaching On Mary

A Pentecostal Response To Roman Catholic Teaching On Mary

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A PENTECOSTAL CATHOLIC RESPONSE TO ROMAN TEACHING ON MARY by Jerry L. Sandidge The ninth meeting of the Dialogue between the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church and leading representatives of some of the Classical Pentecostal Churches was conducted in Vienna (Austria), October 4-10,1981.1 The major topic of discussion was the doctrine of Mary. It was anticipated by both sides to be an extremely controversial exchange. But the dialogue ended with a deeper sense of understanding and consensus than was first expected. lThe first quintennium (five years) of the Dialogue was held in 1972-1976. The second series of five will conclude in 1982. For a report on the first quintennium see Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B. (ed.), Presence, Power, Praise: Documents on the Chan’smatic RenewaL Vol. ill, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1980, pp. 373-395; Arnold Bittlinger, Papst and Pfingstler: Der romisch katholischpfingstliche Dialog und seine okumanische Relevanz. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1978. Jerry L. Sandidge (Ph.D. cand., Catholic University of Louven, Belgium), is an Assemblies of God missionary to Europe. He is the founder of University Action, an outreach to students, a ministry he has directed for eight years. He has ministered extensively throughout Europe, participating in a variety of evangelical and Pentecostal theological conferences. – 33- ========1========paper forced me into a serious Being the author of the Pentecostal study on Mary, the Mother of Jesus.1 As I began searching the sources, several practical issues began to emerge. First, there is a great dearth of material written by Pentecostals about Mary. Outside around the Christmas Jesus, and a few lines about Mary at the wedding of Cana, there is cussion centered practically nothing on the subject. Nlary in prayer meetings that Pentecostals songs, and poems; of some dis- story and the virgin birth of There are comments by Pente- for their veneration of So, it could almost be said of Mary, unless it would has an official statements; legends, and study groups; liturgical costals criticizing Roman Catholic charismatics and conferences. have no “view” or “theology” be in negative terms, i.e., those things which are not believed about her. By contrast, the subject of Mary in Roman Catholic tradition unending supply of books and articles; societies, libraries, practices and popular devotions reaching back to patristic times. Facing of material, it is difficult for a non-Catholic to know what sources are the best and which period should get the most atten- tion. How can a Pentecostal ever absorb so much especially when he is basically repelled by the whole subject in the first such an abundance place? Thirdly, I very soon discovered understand information, that in order to fully appreciate and concerning the role of subjects must important to know something tradition, the saints and ecclesiology. Finally, during my investigation, “Which view of Mary do I pursue the rich tradition and teaching Nlary in the body of Catholic truth, that other related be studied as well. There is, in Catholic theology, harmony and applied consistency among doctrines which overlap and touch each other. It is difficult to isolate one topic and ignore the related topics. Thus, it is about Scripture and exegesis, the role of as well as Catholic teaching concerning the communion of I had to ask myself the question, as best representing Catholic teaching?” Not every Catholic agrees at every point about Mary. There are, first of all, papal documents and various Council statements con- cerning Mary. Then, there are the books and journal articles by leading lThe title of my paper was “A Pentecostal Perspective of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.” The Roman Catholic paper was presented by the Rev. Laurence R. Bronkiewicz, Academic Dean of the North American College, Rome and was entitled, “The Catholic Veneration of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” – 34- ========2========theologians, Lastly, there is the her which do not always agree with each other and often are different from the official ecclesiastical documents. wide variety in the practice of these Marian doctrines. Some Catholics their devotion to Mary while others almost repudiate are watching with interest the position the charismatic renewal will finally give to Mary in its prayer exaggerate role altogether. Pentecostals Catholic groups and charismatic worship. Vatican Council adequately me that we Pentecostals there is room within the of Mary.”l Thus, it seems to cussed-both posite picture of our understanding Indeed, it is true as Kilian McDonnell points out that as “the Second demonstrated, [Catholic] church for various theologies have a dual task before us if we are to make any progress with Roman Catholics on the subject of Mary. We must study carefully all the texts of the New Testament where Mary is dis- directly and indirectly-in order to put together a com- of her role in God’s economy. Then, we must stretch ourselves and seek to understand more perfectly current Roman Catholic teaching concerning Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Only after this is done are we in any position to make a meaningful in charismatic renewal to spiritual contribution tance, and faithful understanding. unity, mutual accep- introductory remarks, census and disagreement Pentecostals concerning After having made these brief, but important, i must move to discuss what I consider to be the major points of con- between Roman Catholics and classical Mary.2 Points of Agreement In surveying four important Pentecostals Catholic teaching on Mary, there seem to be at least points where Pentecostals call the virgin birth of Jesus. (For Catholics, can agree. The first is what it is called lkilian McDonnell, “Protestants, Pentecostals, and Mary,” New Covenant, Vol. 6, No. 9 (March 1977), p. 29. Mackenzie, pp. 21 have purposefully omitted any discussion on Mary and the Reformers. This theme has been treated in such articles as: Walter J. Hollenweger, “Ave Maria: Mary, the Reformers and the Protestants,” One in Christ, Vol. XIII, No. 4 (1977) pp. 285-290; Ross “Calvin and the Calvinists on Mary,” One in Chris4 Vol. XVI, Nos. 1-2 (1980) 68-78. I have also omitted articles and opinions of evangelicals, since I am seeking to discover what is uniquely the issues facing Roman Catholics and Pentecostals. – 35- ========3========the virginal conception of Jesus.) Both Catholics and Pentecostals consider this truth a part of what is essential to salvation. For Pente- costals to debate this point with biblical scholars of whatever per- suasion would largely be a futile effort, since there would seem to be no “middle-ground” or meeting point. There would be no compromise because of the Pentecostal’s respect for the integrity of the Bible and the desire to preserve the truth of the divine nature of Christ. By Mary accepting to be the bearer of Jesus’ humanity and accept- ing the divine plan for her life (Lk. 1:38), “she is an example to all the children of God to obey His will at all costs and leave the future in His loving hands.”l Throughout her life, Mary was a model of faith and devotion and reliance upon the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals, along with Catholics, see Mary as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (7:14) about a virgin (or young unmarried woman) bringing forth Emmanuel, i.e., “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Secondly, even though Pentecostals do not refer to Mary as the “Mother of God” as Roman Catholics do, it seems that, nonetheless, we do accept the theological truth of this title for Mary. The term “Mother of God” was defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. It was done to refute the Nestorian error which saw the term theotokos (“God-bearer”) for Mary as incompatible with the full humanity of Christ, and the word christokos (“Christ-bearer”) was proposed in its place. Thus, the definition was not meant to be Marian but Christo- logical in focus.2 In spite of the fact that the decision at Ephesus provided a major thrust to Marian devotion,3 Pentecostals should not raise objcctions to the title “Mother of God” since we believe that Christ was God “in the . lFrancis P. Hoy, “Mary’s Experience with the Holy Spirit,” Paraclete, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Winter 1978), p. 16. 2A very good discussion of theotokos is contained in Walter J. Burghardt and William F. Lynch (eds.), The Idea of Cathiolicism, New York: Meridian Books, 1960. The chapter entitled “Theotokos: The Mother of God,” pp. 166-183, is a discussion of the Council of Ephesus and its significance for today. 3J. M. Carmody, “Theotokos,” New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 14, London: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1967, p. 75. – 36- ========4========preserved later, historically, truth contained with and flesh” (Jn. 1:14).l What may have happened this teaching should not cloud the Christological in the “Mother of God” title for Mary. Jesus received His human nature from His human mother, thus He can be called Son of Mary (or Son of Man) and Mary can rightly be referred to as Mother of God. holiness of Mary. Pentecostals Holiness is an everpresent teaching. In fact, the movement century holiness denominations. Thirdly, Roman Catholic theology puts heavy emphasis upon the should be able to identify with this truth. theme of Pentecostal scriptural emphasis The angel announced is an outgrowth Indeed, Catholic preaching and of the nineteenth theology carries But on the most favored one! The or special function for her. Catholics Pentecostals her holiness is essential upon the earth. Fourthly, Pentecostals Nlary’s holiness beyond the explicit teaching of Scripture. of this truth, there should be agreement. to Mary: “Greetings, Lord is with you” (Lk. 1:28, NEB). The Pentecostal would emphasize her simple faith and trust in God, rather than any uniqueness honor Mary as the model virgin, whereas see her as the model wife and mother. But in both cases to her special role in the coming of Jesus reference to and Catholics would agree on Mary as a model and example of Christian faith and trust. Catholics see Mary as the New Eve. The first Eve fell short of God’s plan for her life. The New Eve (Mary) did not. Although there is no Scriptural Mary as the New Eve, the symbolism could be allied. (Indeed, Paul sees Jesus as the New Adam (Rom. 5:12-21). Her serenity during the Annunciation ful response to the Lord (Lk. 1:46-55) serves as an example of faith for The quiet ponderings every Christian. thoughts (Lk..’ 1 :26-38) and her beauti- of her heart (Lk. 2:19) about lThe Council of Ephesus was called to convene on Pentecost, 431 A.D. The year 1981 1 was the 1550th anniversary of the Council. It was also the sixteenth centenary of the Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.) to which we owe one of the great Christian creeds and a special emphasis on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Pope John Paul II, in a letter to Catholic Bishops said: “The anniversaries of the two great Councils this year direct our and hearts in a special way to the Holy Spirit and to Mary, the Mother of God.” The Pope called for a great ecumenical celebration in Rome on Pentecost, June 7, 1981. That meeting was held in the Marian Basilica of Rome, in spite of the personal injury to the The Pentecostal world was represented by the Rev. David J. de Plessis. (cf. “Letter of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II to the Bishops of the Catholic Church…”, Rome: Vatican Polyglot Press, 1981). Pope. – 37- ========5========(Lk. 2:51) provide as a parent living. Her continual the events taking place in her life, and her faithfulness an ideal model for Christian trust in Jesus, even when He gently rebukes her, shines as an example of humility and obedience. (Notice how explicit a French Catholic priest very favorable to charismatic Mary at Pentecost. Acts 1:14 lists “Mary, the mother of Jesus” as among “the women” present in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. Luke is with regard to Mary). Rene Laurentin, renewal, makes three good points about 1) “Mary is the model for the Church in her recep- tivity to the Holy Spirit, who forms Christ in the people 2) “Mary is the model for Christians for the charismatics tongues that is characteristic baptized in the Spirit.” of God. 3) Mary for the praying in movement.”l Here is is also a model of the charismatic life.” She is “the model not only in general but specifically of the Pentecostal an example of a Catholic scholar putting Nlary in proper perspective, to the joy and satisfaction service of the Catholic charismatic renewal. which hopefully, important Points of Difference For most Pentecostals Catholicism. theological theological of Pentecostals, is one easy to object to the Roman level rather than a both by But the Catholic view of She appears as a could sit together in it is rather Catholic teaching regarding Mary. We have not understood her role in Usually, we object on an emotional level. But to do this falls short of what is required Christian grace and academic respectability. Mary is still a stumbling block for most Pentecostals. great obstacle in any discussion on spiritual unity today. It is for these reasons that I began with positive elements; to try to show that progress in this difficult area is possible. Ten years ago who would have believed that Roman Catholics and classical Pentecostals dialogue and discuss, of all topics, Mary? From my study and discussion with Catholics, I see four major areas us concerning the place of Mary in the plan of God. The first of these has to do with elements surrounding on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. The objection three points: and sisters,” which taken literally would indicate of disagreement.between teaching summarized in the following Jesus having “brothers 1) Scripture the Catholic could be speaks of pp. lrene Laurentin, Catholic Pentecostalism, Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1978, 222-225. – 38- ========6========ginity is not necessary 2) Mary’s perpetual vir- that Mary had other children after Jesus.1 in order to recognize and preserve her openness to the call of God for her life and the fulfillment of her role as the Mother of Jesus. 3) Mary’s marriage to Joseph is cast into a rather strange mold if, indeed, they both took a vow of virginity and at the same time exchanged the vows of marriage. purpose of marriage, and full parenthood. The Immaculate Conception for Pentecostals. This doctrine i.e., the procreation This would be contrary to a major of children, ‘ sexual union, of Mary is the second major problem through many centuries of developed Catholic history. It was finally defmed by Pope Pius IX in 1854 in the encyclical Ineflabilis Deus. This document … states that: her conception, God … preserved vealed by God and, therefore, believed by all the faithful.2 the most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of by the singular grace and privilege of almighty immune from all stain of original sin, is re- Pentecostal objections firmly and constantly to be 2) It seems contrary to impression to or identification comfortably close to damaging could be summarized as follows. 1) The doctrine is not taught explicitly in Scripture. the biblical doctrine of original sin. 3) The doctrine seems to give the that both Jesus and Mary must be spared any connection with sex. 4) This doctrine, or clouding it seems, comes un- the fullness of Jesus’ humanity. Professor Walter J. Hollenweger was speaking for all Pente- costals when he asked, with its implication of the immaculate is the need for the doctrine requires of mild despair: “… where conception?”3 Mary Scholars, Philadelphia: lThe matter of Jesus’ “brothers” and “sisters” is a whole subject in itself, which much careful exegesis. Biblical evidence proving Mary had other children is inconclusive. A good discussion of this problem is the book edited by Raymond E. Brown, in the New Testament: A Collaborative Assessment by Protestant and Roman Catholic Fortress Press, 1978. 2J. Neuner and J. Dupuis (eds.), The Christian Faith, Bangalore, India: Theological Publications in India, 1978, pp. 196, 197. 3Walter J. Hollenweger, “Ave Maria: Mary, the Reformers and the Protestants,” One in Christ, VoL xm, No. 4, (1977), p. 287. , – 39- ========7========Assumption assumption. of Protestants, Orthodox, and Deus reads in part: “the Immaculate The third major objection follows on the previous one, namely, the of Mary. The peak of what some have called the “Marian Age” came in 1950 when Pope Pius YII defined the doctrine of l?Iary’s This was over misgivings some Catholics alike. The definition, lvfunificentissimus Mother of God, Mary ever Virgin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven.”I Concerning tions as to that of the Immaculate this teaching, Pentecostals would voice similar objec- Conception. It is an unscriptural embellishment which fosters an teaching, it seems to be an unnecessary devotion to Mary, and since it was defined ex cathedra2 exaggerated there seems to be no possibility for Catholic theologians to treat the doctrine with flexibility in dialogue with non-Catholics. Yet, the Roman Catholic Church will probably doctrines of Mary’s Immaculate Pentecostals will probably Conception never rescind its and Assumption. We and churches theological, psychological, acceptance, the Holy Spirit, charismatic biblical truth. It is an openness never embrace them. So the best we can hope for in this case is to seek for continual understanding-historical, and personal. The charisms of grace, mutual and respect are called for in this day of the outpouring renewal, together in theological dialogue. Such an attitude is not a compromise to see what the Holy Spirit is doing of being able to sit of 1Neuner and Dupuis, The Christian Faith, p. 220. authority supreme pontiff’-E.G. 2The term ex cathedra “symbolizes the Roman pontiffs title to that supreme and to the charism of infallibility that accompanies it: because he is the successor of Peter, head of the college of Apostles…. Through succession to his chair, or office, in the Church, the authority and infallibility of Peter lives on in the Roman Hardwick, “Ex Cathedra,” new Catholic Encyclopedia, VoL 5, p. 699. cathedra, i.e., infallibly; It was not until the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) that the dogma of the infallibility of the pope was defined. To the best of my research, I only find twice when the pope spoke ex in 1854 (15 years before Vatican n when the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Concepticn was defined, and in 1950 (12 years before Vatican II opened) when the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary was defined. -40- ========8========by the special venera- on this point in the context of traditions other than our own. It is simply the recogni- tion that the Holy Spirit is speaking to all the Churches. Finally, Pentecostals are often scandalized tion given to Mary by Roman Catholics. It is probably where we Pentecostals are the most vocal and display our greatest concerning Mary.1 Such charges as are leveled at Catholics, which stem desire to honor Jesus Christ as the the other members of the God-head) to Whom Catholic/Pentecostal concern about what we considered with regard to the veneration admitted there were certain made it very clear that proper veneration ignorance of Catholic teaching “idolatry” and “pagan practices” from the Pentecostals’ sincere only One (besides worship is due. At the 1981 Roman costals expressed in current Catholic practice The Catholic delegates Mary is always to be Christological. Church,” Chapter replaces steps have been taken to correct excesses, tion of the Second Vatican Council, “Dogmatic 8, and the encyclical Pope Paul VI. For Roman Catholics, Mary in no way substitutes the one Saviour and Mediator Jesus Christ (lTim. Pentecostals do not invoke the help or attention other saint because it is not considered to be a valid biblical practice. So, once again, the gulf between the two positions seems impossible bridge. Yet, can we Pentecostals Dialogue, the Pente- to be excesses of Mary. excesses and (“Honor” not “worship”) of They also showed that practical according to the instruc- Constitution on the Marialis Cultus (1974) by for, or 2:5, 6). of Mary or any to deny that the Holy Spirit is doing a wonderfully unique thing today in the Catholic charismatic renewal? We cannot deny this and still be true to our own theology of the Holy Spirit which allows Him to “bloweth where He listeth” Just because we “came out from among them” 30, 50, or 70 years ago, are we holding that practice (Jn. 3:8). as a “Pentecostal tradition” to be expected and imposed upon everyone who receives the baptism in the Holy Spirit? If so, we are guilty of the very sin committed when, in the early days of the outpouring, evangelical and holiness churches. Can we not rejoice in what is happen- upon against us we could not remain in our 1 If there are objections to Catholicism by classical Pentecostals, they should be based the latest statements and documents of the Catholic Church and not upon extreme cases, medieval excesses, or pre-Vatican II practices. It is necessary to read the docu- ments of Vatican II and then to read the books and journal articles by scholars reflecting the spirit and direction of Catholic theology today. – 41- ========9========ing and at the same moment continue to maintain our own Pentecostal hour. But it is also its distinctives? This is Pentecostalism’s greatest test. _ In conclusion, greatest steps have been taken: it must be admitted that there are yet many diffi- culties to be worked out between Roman Catholics and Pentecostals concerning Mary. But two important in theological dialogue; and 2) The publication Praeurrza of two articles, one by a Roman Catholic and one by a Pente- discussion of Mary 1) The in together” the Holy Spirit has an and indicate the way each other, strip away misunderstandings, the differences, start has been made. By going to the biblical sound principles of exegesis and costal, on the subject of Mary. In the process of “reasoning opportunity to enlighten show the consensus, highlight ahead. A significant accounts of Mary and applying hermeneutics, can be learned. By Pentecostals refreshing insights about Mary’s role in God’s economy recognizing their prejudices and concerning excesses in by made. the veneration Rene Laurentin ignorance of Roman Catholic teaching about Mary; and by Catholics being sensitive to the Pentecostal conscience of Mary, can any significant progress a fitting conclusion to this discussion of Mary, who was so singularly blessed of God and was the Mother of our provides Lord. … many theological or pious theories about Mary, many honorific titles have been forgotten, devotions have been jettisoned, have proven untenable and many sometimes hastily and in an excessively radical spirit; but amid this collapse of a “Mariology” and a “arian” devotion that were marked by extremism and an inflated narrowness, something life. It is essential solid and inescapably true has clear that Mary, as make this rediscovery, for been coming to the fore. It has become Mother of Jesus, is at the very heart of revelation and the Church that Christians Mary’s real place has often been mistaken; her true stature has been hidden by too many superstructures.1 1Laurentin, Catholic Pentecostalism, p. 227. – 42- ========10========

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