the mother of God?
The sole care of the author of this article is to make Mary worthy of the worship position in which the Roman Catholic doctrine has put her in opposition to what the Bible teaches… While he worked on this agenda, he did not care that in his arguments the Lord Jesus is losing all His glories, and the Roman Catholic version of Mary is getting all of those glories… Our previous studies in this series have revealed how this author takes all of the glories of the Lord and gives them one by one to his version of Mary. He first made his Mary the source of true light, although the Bible says that Jesus is the Light… Then he gave to her name the meaning of “Lord of the sea”, thus indirectly giving to his Mary the Lordship of Jesus (therefore Mary is called by them “our Lady”, meaning the feminine of “Lord”)… Then he gave the whole glory of the virgin birth to Mary, as if that were a merit of Mary and not a glory of Christ… Then he placed Mary at the center of worship, and he justified that by saying that he’s just blessing her with the blessing that is due to the remnant, although the Bible says that this blessing belongs to Christ, as we have seen… Then he threw out Jesus who is the true Ark of the Covenant, and he made his version of Mary the true Ark instead… Then he emphasized the unimportant issue of the ever-virginity of Mary to make us be preoccupied with a creature instead of Christ… We have seen all of the details in our previous studies. And now, he passes to the title “Mother of God” which the Church used in opposition to heretical teachings about the Person of Jesus Christ: this author uses this title to teach a false doctrine about who Mary is and to place her in a position that only belongs to Christ, although he himself admits that this title was not really about Mary, but about Christ… Although he admits that the title is about Jesus (thus indirectly revealing the reason why the Protestant Reformers generally accepted this title in order to give a true teaching about Christ’s Person), and yet he uses this title in this Marian Catechism of his, thus revealing his dishonesty and his agenda that wants to use all of the glories of Christ to the glory of Mary…
Now, let me give a preliminary explanation about how the title “Mother of God” was invented and accepted by the Church, and then we will see how it is not a perfect title and how we should be careful while using it if needed (we should rather avoid using it, because it is not needed anymore in today’s way of thinking which is not exactly the ancient Greek culture’s way of thinking anymore).
In another article, we have seen how theological terms were invented by the Church in the first centuries. The Scripture has concrete forms of expression and does not speak in the humanly philosophical way, so during the first centuries the Church had the challenge to find a way to communicate those truths that she already knew in a way that could be understood in the language of the Greek philosophy which, contrary to the Scriptural accounts, centered its attention on the question of metaphysical being or what is “real”. So there was a shift in thought pattern from the Scriptural way of expression to the way a Greek philosopher could understand. It is in this way that the term “Trinity” was commonly accepted in the Church in order to present the biblical truth about God’s Nature. God, who is One, cannot be divided to separate persons. And indeed, this is what the Bible teaches. Those who deny the biblical truth about the Son think that we believe God is divided to three separate persons. But this is not true. As we have seen in the article about the Church and the Nature of God(*), the biblical truth is that God cannot be divided to three separate persons or gods. It is an error to think that God is the addition of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And the three Persons of the Trinity are not three separate Persons, as we have seen. In fact, we have seen that even the term “Person” is not a very precise word to express the biblical truth, but it is the best human expression of the biblical truth. Brief, in all these efforts to reach the Greek mind, the lacking part was the technical vocabulary to express the different truths, and the Church had to find the best way of expression step by step during time. Besides this, it was not enough just to find the best way of expression; this best way had also to be the unified way of expression in the whole Church, as the Church is one body and needs to keep that unity when going out to reach the world with the Gospel. It is in this process that the Church reached the best way of expression in the third century A.D., especially beginning with Tertullian who was of big help as he was the first to use the Latin expression Trinitas about God, and that helped very much to express the Nature of God as revealed in Scripture. In his way to this discovery of this better expression of this doctrine (and not a new doctrine), Tertullian used some key ideas from the previous Church Fathers and apologists as well as some other key expressions that helped him reach that word, like the Latin term substantia (substance) and persona (person). In this way Tertullian was able to express in a better way the biblical Nature of God that the Church was struggling to express in the best way. With those Latin words that he used, Tertullian could explain how the three Persons (the key term Persona is used) share the same essence or substance (the key term substantia is used) and thus are One, but each has His personality. Thus Tertullian succeeded to explain how there is a unity in God as well as trinity, and how God is not multiple gods although He is revealed as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This stress on the unity of substance and the distinction of persons helped the Church very much in the expression of what she already believed, i.e. of the Faith which was once for all received in the days of the Apostles. Of course, just like all human terms, the word “Trinity” was not the perfect word to express who God is, and yet it was the best human way. If it were the perfect word, the Holy Spirit would use it in the Bible. And indeed, the later Nicene Creed didn’t use this term “Trinity” but explained what we believe, i.e. it explained the Trinity concentrating on the Son who revealed God to us. Even Tertullian who first used it had to elaborate more on what this term did mean and what it did not mean. The same is true about his terms “substance” and “person”. In the usual Latin that anyone would understand in those times, the term persona meant an entity totally distinct from other entities. And yet, when explaining the Nature of God, Tertullian uses this term Person in a relational way: for him the Father cannot be the Father without the Son, and the Son cannot be the Son without the Father; although the two are distinct, and yet they are inseparable. The Holy Spirit likewise shares this divine essence or substance, although He is a distinct Person. Thus the three members of the Godhead share both an interrelatedness and a distinctiveness. It is in this way that especially the Eastern Church reached the Syriac term qnoma instead of the Latin persona; qnoma more closely expresses this relational meaning of the term persona that Tertullian tried to explain. Of course, the term qnoma also has its own difficulties as it is not a perfect word either. Today this term qnoma (Arabic version: ouqnoum) is widely used among the Arabic speaking Christians instead of the term Person. But if the term “Trinity” (with the terms related to it) is not the perfect word, this doesn’t mean we can’t use it to explain our Faith which we received once for all in the first century A.D. It is the best human way to explain this truth. And as the word “Trinity” as well as the words “Substance” and “Person” are the best human way to express our Faith without compromise, so the Church continues to use these terms in order to communicate the truth about God. If anyone would like to suggest any other way of expression of our Faith, he needs to do a hard work similar to the work the Church had to do all over the first three centuries A.D. to discover this best way of expression, and he has to prove to be able to keep the harmony between all those three points that we have seen at the beginning of the above mentioned article and that are the clear revelation of the Word of God about God. Besides this, he needs to be able to make his “better” word accepted by the whole Church, as we need a unified way of expression as well as the best way. Till now, the word “Trinity” proved to be the only best term.
Now, the next challenge that the Church faced with the Greek mind after the challenge of the Nature of God was the Nature of Jesus: Is Jesus two persons or one person? Are there two Sons or One Son?… As the previous challenge had resulted in the unified expression “Trinity” and had explained the biblical truth of the Nature of Christ as being the same Nature of the Father, then the question rose: How is Jesus a human as well as God? How do those two natures (divine and human) exist in the same Person of Christ? It is with these questions of the Greek mind that the Church began to look for an explanation that could present the biblical concrete truth in a way that could satisfy the Greek metaphysical mind… Once again, the Church had to use the terms that she had already reached previously (like the terms “Trinity” and “person”) in order to build on them an explanation of the Person of Christ that could answer the questions of the Greek mind. The Church tried to explain how Jesus has both the divine Nature and the perfect human nature (body and soul and spirit). Jesus has a fully human body, a fully human soul, and a fully human spirit. And at the same time, that fully human body, and fully human soul, and fully human spirit are God incarnate… The Church had to express this in a way that the Greek mind could understand… The Church had to express how these two natures (human and divine) are inseparable in Christ, but at the same time distinct, just as she had to express how the three Persons in the Trinity are inseparable yet distinct… In the process, Apollinarius suggested that the Word (Logos) became the soul or mind of Jesus, while the body was human… In other terms, according to Apollinarius, the Logos was for Jesus’ human nature what the mind is for any human. But this was not an exact presentation of what the Bible teaches about Jesus; the Logos didn’t just become the mind of a human, but He became flesh, He became a human (body, and soul, and spirit)… As a reaction to this explanation of Apollinarius, the Cappadocian theologians saw that the formulation of Apollinarius was docetic: it made Jesus only “seem” to be a true human person… So the Cappadocians began to stress the real humanity of Christ… Thus, Gregory of Nazianzus writes that the Logos “comes to His own image, and bears flesh for the sake of my flesh, and conjoins Himself with an intelligent soul for my soul’s sake, cleansing like by like, and in all points, sin excepted, becomes man.” Thus, the Cappadocians stressed the fact that Jesus has two distinct but inseparable natures. Gregory of Nazianzus thus could use what is called the “communication of the properties” concept, i.e. what is true about one nature could be used while talking about the other nature. Thus Gregory describes God as being “born from a virgin”, although it is the human nature and not the divine Nature that was born from a virgin. The communication of properties in speech made it possible to talk about God while meaning the INCARNATED God. In other terms, when Gregory said that God was “born from a virgin”, he meant God INCARNATE was born from a virgin, but without separating the incarnate from the One who was not incarnated. Gregory could also say “God crucified”, meaning “God INCARNATE crucified”, and yet without separation from the divine Nature… Again (and this is our topic), Gregory could call Mary “God-bearer” or “mother of God” (Theotokos), meaning “mother of God INCARNATE”, and yet without separation from the One who was not incarnate… Please, before we go any further, notice with me how the whole matter is about Jesus and not about Mary… Gregory was trying to express the Nature of Christ, thus he used the biblical expression “mother of the Lord” in a way that could answer the Greek mind that asked about the “co-existence” of the two natures in the same Person of Jesus. Here again, just like it was in the case of the word “Trinity”, a human term was used to express this truth, and this term or expression is “Theotokos” or “mother of God”… And just like the term “Trinity”, this term also is not perfect, or else the Holy Spirit would use it in the Bible. But it would become the best way to express the biblical truth about Christ’s Nature to the Greek mind. However the Cappadocians thus communicated all the properties of the human nature to the divine Nature, and thus they didn’t detail the human experiences of Jesus concretely. They could not satisfactorily resolve the issue of the relationship of Christ’s divinity to His humanity. This would be better expressed by the Antiochene school. The previously mentioned theologians made the mistake of taking the Logos-flesh framework, considering “flesh” to mean “body”… Thus they could not clearly express the double nature of the body and soul and spirit of Christ, because they could not clearly relate the Logos to the soul of Christ, as they saw the flesh as being the body, while biblically it is the human nature (cf. John 1:14)… The Antiochene theologians succeeded to see this fact, so they used the Logos-human framework instead of the Logos-flesh framework. Jesus became HUMAN (biblical term “flesh”), and not just body… The danger in the Cappadocian framework was to confuse the two natures of Christ, which indeed happened with Monophysitism, as we will see… So the Cappadocian framework would later lead to a confusion of the two natures of Christ, which is a heresy, and the Antiochene framework would later lead to the separation of the two natures, which also is a heresy. The term “mother of God” that the Church accepted tended to solve this problem, but of course it was not the perfect way to do that, and thus Roman Catholics today have adopted the heretical explanation of this expression rather than the one that the Church tried to communicate. Later, the Reformers, who tried to reform the doctrines of the Church which were corrupted by the Roman Catholics, used the same expression “mother of God” in the true sense, stressing on the two natures of Christ in unity of Person. And yet, Roman Catholics still insist today on their false doctrine… But let me continue to explain how this term “Theotokos” or “mother of God” was adopted by the Church… The Antiochene stress on the human nature of Jesus later led to a total separation of the two natures in the thought of some theologians. Thus, there came a bishop called Nestorius who studied at the school of Antioch. Nestorius stressed on the distinction between the human and divine natures of Christ in a way that separated the two natures, and this was a heresy. When challenged by Cyril of Alexandria concerning the expression “Theotokos” (“mother of God” or “God-bearer”), Nestorius refused the expression, and rather preferred the expression “Christotokos” (“Christ-bearer”), thus putting a clear separating line between the human nature and the divine Nature of Jesus. This was a serious heresy, because it denied the incarnation of Christ at least in the way it expressed the Nature of Christ, therefore the Church strongly opposed it and condemned it by adopting the expression “mother of God” to emphasize the fact that the divine Nature and the human nature in Christ are not separate. But this in no way means that the Church had a common way of understanding this expression, because at times the Church in a place or another stressed on one side of the truth of the union of the two natures, using the SAME expression “mother of God”. For instance, we had two main reactions to Nestorianism, one being the Chalcedonian theology of the two distinct natures in unity of person, and the other being Monophysitism. In both of these reactions, the expression “mother of God” is accepted, but in the first one it means that there is communication of properties between the two distinct but inseparable natures, while in the second reaction it means that Christ has only one nature… The second reaction was always considered a heresy… As the Protestant Reformation happened in the environment of the Chalcedonian theology, so the Reformers adopted the Chalcedonian interpretation of the expression “mother of God” which was NOT about Mary, but about Christ. But Roman Catholics are dishonest when they use this fact to prove that the Reformers agreed with their interpretation of the expression “mother of God”, because they didn’t. The Reformers in no way believed that Mary could be worshiped because her son was God, because they understood and stressed the distinction between the two natures of Christ. Biblical Christians today prefer not to use this expression in order to avoid the confusion that it causes, and because it is not needed, especially that we do not live in the context of the Greek metaphysical thought. And even if they have to use it for any reason, biblical Christians prefer to emphasize the true purpose of its use by saying “mother of God INCARNATE”, rather than “mother of God”. Mary is the mother of a 100% human, and she is in no way the mother of God in absolute. If she were the mother of God, then she should have also been the mother of the Father and of the Holy Spirit, because the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are INSEPARABLE (although distinct); They are ONE God, as we have seen. And saying that Mary is the mother of the Father is a huge heresy and blasphemy which Roman Catholics indirectly commit when they insist on their false interpretation of the expression “mother of God” and when they try to give any divine glory to Mary derived from this expression.
The Bible is clear about the Nature of Christ. Let’s read it together:
“In [the] beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we have contemplated his glory, a glory as of an only-begotten with a father), full of grace and truth” (John 1:14)
Note how the Holy Spirit is precise in the way He expresses truths: He didn’t say God became flesh. Although that would be correct, but that would not be precise. God didn’t exactly become flesh, because God is not only the Son who became flesh. The Father didn’t become flesh, and the Holy Spirit didn’t become flesh, and these Two are One with the Son and yet distinct from Him. Yet again, in the Son the whole of God did become flesh, because the Son is the whole of God, although the whole of God is not only the Son… The Holy Spirit is precise, and He avoided all confusion about the Nature of God by expressing the truth of the incarnation in the way that we read above. Roman Catholics and other heresies who make a big problem around the use of this expression “mother of God” are indirectly saying that their human-made terms express the biblical truths better than the way the Holy Spirit expressed them… The Word is God who BECAME flesh (human), and not only took a human body. The Word became body and soul and spirit, and not just took on Himself a human body. Mary didn’t exist before Him, for the verse says He was in the beginning, when nothing was created yet. Jesus is the Creator of Mary as He is One with the Father. And when He was born as a human from Mary, His divine Nature didn’t change nor ceased to exist with the Father in Heaven. It is He who is the Cause of Mary, and not Mary His cause… As the divine Logos, Jesus doesn’t even have a mother as the Word of God reveals: “Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.” (Hebrews 7:3) When the Holy Spirit teaches us that Mary is “the mother of my Lord” (Luke 1:43), He doesn’t give any divine glory to Mary, but expresses the biblical blessedness of Mary, i.e. the fact that she received GRACE from God, a grace that she did NOT deserve, or else it would not be grace, as we have seen in our previous studies. The expression does not make it possible to jump to other expressions like “mother of Light” or “mother of Life”… That is blasphemy. Mary is the mother of God incarnate, and not the mother of God in absolute. She is the mother of Him who is the Light incarnate, and not the mother of the Light in absolute. She is NOT the source of Life, and Salvation cannot be asked from her, as Roman Catholics do… With such expressions, Roman Catholics give Mary divine attributes that only belong to Christ. Mary is not the source of the Logos; HE is her Cause of existence. He graced her by His incarnation through her, and she didn’t deserve it by any righteousness in her, as she also confessed.
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ
Posted in Religious Movements | Roman Catholicism and similar heresies
This is part 7 of the series: Roman Catholic desperate defense of Marian worship