Thursday, May 21, 2015

Marian Doctrine and the Church Fathers

The reason why many Evangelicals and Baptists and Pentecostals do not like to be labeled Protestants even though we are mostly considered under that umbrella by outsiders is because the Reformation and those today who revere the early Reformers are not rejecting the traditions of men entirely, they just want to identify a specific point on the timeline were things went wrong and reform back to that, even if they tout Sola Sciprtura as a tag line they don't truly follow it.  They still have their own variation of the Doctrine of the Nicolatians.

See my Appealing to the Early Church Fathers.

Triablogue is a Calvinist blog that dedicates much of it's time to trying to prove how the Pre-Nicean fathers favored what we today call Reformed theology over Catholic theology.  They have some good research I occasionally draw on, like in the above post.  But this appeal to the Pre-Nicean fathers ultimately works out far more consistently for Arminian Protestants.

What's interesting is how I've come to see the Marian doctrines as where this desire to interpret the Church Fathers as Protestant is most blatantly flawed.  Their view of Mary is one of the most easy Catholic Dogamas to refute scripturally.  It's one of the goals I had in my post on the Brothers of Jesus.

Triablouge has a series of posts trying to prove the the Early Fathers were against that doctrine.  Saying Specifically it was unheard of before Hilary.  It is true you won't find it fully formed among the Pre-Nicean fathers being expressed in exactly the same terms it is today.  But the seeds were there, and in my view those seeds were just as in conflict with Scripture as what Catholics today teach.

And yes that they took so long to fully develop it could hurt the Catholic position to an outsider.  But because of the Catholic view on Tradition and Church authority and Apostolic Succession it wouldn't necessarily matter to them if it was developed yesterday.  My point here is these same Church Fathers protestants want to revere deserve plenty of blame for these doctrines developing at all.

And the Reformation didn't reject the Perpetual Virginity right away.  Luther and Calvin (who took all his ideas from Augustine) both upheld it.  And it was upheld in the footnotes of the Geneva Bible that certain sects of Calvinism still revere.

There are two main doctrines, with links to lesser ideas.  The Perpetual Virginity of Mary, and the Immaculate Conception/Sinlessness of Mary.  The former could be viewed as merely a symptom of the latter, that one can reject while believing the latter depending on how they view Sex.  And that's how I had defined it very recently in comments I've tried to leave on other blogs.  But as I've thought about it, one could stress the latter without caring about the former, especially since some Catholics take the notion that denying the perpetual virginity might as well deny the Virgin Birth all together.  If anyone questions my belief in The Virgin Birth they can read this and this.

The point of the above digression is, there could have been examples of one believing some of the Marian concepts but not all.

The claim that the Perpetual Virginity idea didn't exist at all before Hilary is absurd in the face of the Infancy Gospel of James which is dated to the Early Second Century.  It has it's title character, James the brother of Jesus, as the product of a prior marriage of Joseph.  And it depicts Mary's own Birth in a scene that strongly stresses an Immaculate Conception.

It wasn't a Gnostic text, it's over all Theology is legit.  Besides it's endorsement of Marian heresies it has nothing majorly objectionable.  It is even used in a round about way to back up viewing Heli of Luke's genealogy as the father of Mary.

Tetullian is often cited by Catholics as the one and only Church Father to ever argue against the Perpetual Virginity.  And he also clearly says he viewed Mary as having sinned.  But he is still cited by Catholics due to in one work showing some support for the idea of viewing her as the new Ark or Tabernacle.

One post on the Triablogue blog seeks to laugh off Jerome's discrediting Tertullian as not a true Church Father.  But it is well known independent of Jerome that Tertullian was a supporter of the Montanists, who came to be viewed as heretics.  I for one think much of the accusations against the Montanists were false and that they were as valid Christians as modern Pentecostals.  But how many mainline Protestants would be ok with that view of the Montanists?  It implies the Early Fathers, even before Constantine, sometimes lied about and persecuted fellow believers for petty reasons, just as the Post-Niceans fathers did.

Tertullian does seem to be alone among the Church Fathers in arguing for the brothers and sisters of Jesus as being sons and daughters of Mary.  As early as Origen we see people who are adamant about them being Joseph's children by a prior Marriage.  And many others also seemed to be for some reason very uncomfortable with the issue of his siblings.

Maybe there were reasons independent of the Perpetual Virginity or one's view of Mary at all to be uncomfortable with it.  The notion that there were flesh and blood human beings who were siblings of God in The Flesh, who shared his DNA, can be a deep thing to contemplate.  But also even well past the Bar-Kochba revolt Jewish-Christian communities in the Middle East were lead by the decedents of Jesus siblings, and there seems to have often been conflicts between them and the Greek fathers.  Maybe people like Origen were motivated by nothing more then wanting to discredit the lineage of those descendants.

Ireaneus refers to the Mary as the New Eve concept, and Hippolytus to her as the New Tabernacles/Ark concept.  Triablouge rejects the notion that any of those typological speculations need to have anything to do with either doctrine.  But I do view them both as inappropriate, and view those kinds of games being played with Mary as inevitably being at the root of the Catholic heresies.

Well to be fair comparing Mary to Eve is perhaps necessary to fully understand the Seed of the Woman doctrine.  But the Ark/Tabernacle issue is very dangerous, giving that as a title to an individual absolutely opens the door to deifying that individual.

The Tabernacle/Temple analogy is unambiguously Anti-Biblical because The New Testament does apply that to the Body of Jesus (John 2) and to The Church, and to the Body of each individual NT Believer.  Because of how since Pentecost the Holy Spirit indwells within us.  Mary was at Pentacost, but the Catholic logic comes from applying it to her right from the Annunciation.

The Eve thing may seem Biblically supportable because of the way the Virgin Birth doctrine has it's roots in Genesis 3:15.  But my study on The Bride of Christ doctrine shows that Eve too is a type of The Church.

Mary does relate to typological themes of The Bible, but she does so because she herself is a Type.  In the context of their relation to both Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 12 I view both Eve and Mary as types of Israel.  I view The Church and Israel not as distinct as typical Dispensationalism does, but not as completely the same like most opposing Dispensationalism do.  Mary and Eve are both among women who could be viewed as a type of either one in different ways.

One Triablogue post puts the Assumption of Mary right up there with these two doctrines.  I don't believe Mary was Raptured early, but I don't care so much because it doesn't contradict scripture the way the other two do.  The concept of her as the Queen of Heaven should be more important to object to, as that is what full blown makes her a Goddess whether the Catholics admit that or not.

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