Saturday, May 31, 2008

"Quadrinity"

A Protestant pastor quotes a "Rabbi" (another Protestant pastor of Jewish upbringing) for the proposition that Catholics have incorporated Mary into the Trinity (now a "Quadrinity"), here. This view is based on the latter's experience while attending a mass celebrating Mary's crowning as Queen of Heaven.

No doubt, some of what he saw would have made me uncomfortable in my pew, e.g., "The priest spoke of Jesus as “Mary’s only begotten Son." The word "begotten" seems like an unnecessary qualification under the Catholic scheme.

But the thrust of his criticism seemed to be that the Biblical support for the priest's (and the Catholic Church's) views on Mary were lacking.

I am sympathetic. Unfortunately, I am plagued by the view that Biblical support for the view that everything must be supported solely from the Bible is lacking too.

24 comments:

Principium unitatis said...

Tom,

I'm puzzled by your discomfort with claiming that Jesus is Mary's "begotten" son. The term "begotten" came from humans in the first place, before it was applied to the relation of Jesus to the Father. It means something like "offspring of", [as opposed to adopted]. Jesus is surely Mary's *begotten* son (setting aside the question of whether He is the "only-begotten" son of Mary). Right? Jesus is begotten of the Father, and begotten of Mary. Opposition to this is what the Council of Ephesus (431) was trying to oppose, in its teaching that Mary is the God-bearer, one who begat and birthed God. Why should we hesitate to affirm that Mary begot Jesus, or that Jesus is Mary's begotten Son?

I'd post a comment on Reformed Catholicism, but I [and Dave Armstrong] are both banned from commenting there.

As for the "Quadrinity" 'rumor' referred to on "Reformed Catholicism" by Kevin quoting Steve Schlissel, well there are such things as slanderous rumors, and this seems to me to be one of them. I think such rumors should not be spread without substantiating them first. Spreading such rumors seems to me both uncharitable, and not conducive to building unity between Protestants and Catholics.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

Tom,

A couple more thoughts on Steve Schlissel's remarks. He wrote:

I’m made once again to wonder just why it is that Romanists deny that they pray to Mary,

We do pray to Mary and all the saints in heaven. But for Catholics, as in old English, the word 'pray' means 'ask' or 'request'. It doesn't mean "a form of communication directed properly only to a divine being". In that sense of the term, which in my experience is the common Evangelical sense of the term 'pray', we [Catholics] do not pray to Mary or the saints.

why they deny that they hold Mary to be the functional equivalent of a Fourth member of the Godhead.

Because we don't hold Mary to be the "functional equivalent" of a "Fourth Member of the Godhead". Anyone who says the phrase "functional equivalent of a Fourth Member of the Godhead" doesn't understand the Trinity. That's because you can't be a functional equivalent of a fourth member of the Trinity without being an ontological equivalent of the Fourth Member of the Trinity. And we all know that the Catholic Church teaches that Mary is created. Ontologically, her being is derived from God by an act of creation. She is not eternal. She is not a necessary being. She is not divine. Therefore, since she is not *ontologically* divine, she cannot ever be the "functional equivalent of a Fourth Member of the Trinity". She can do things that God also does, just as you and I can do things that Christ also does, i.e. live, love, forgive, receive honor, give honor, etc. But just because a human can do some of the things that Jesus can do, it does not follow that that human is the "functional equivalent of a Fourth Member of the Trinity". God allows us to participate in His activities, even in the salvation of the world. But, in our cooperation with God, we (and Mary) are always and only participants, we (and Mary) are not the ultimate source of all things, as is God. We (and Mary) are not the ultimate sustainer and director of all things, as is God. We (and Mary) are not the ultimate end of all things, as is God.

We might well ask, if the world rumor about Rome being ready to officially rank Mary as a member of the Quadrinity—

As I said above, it seems to me that we should not spread rumors without substantiation. And this looks to be a harmful rumor that is presented without any substantiation.

if they were to do that, what changes would be necessary to Romish faith and practice? I answer that question: none.

Why not let a Catholic answer that question, instead of presuming to answer it for the Catholic? The very notion that the Church could do something like this reflects a failure to understand what the Church can and cannot do. The Church cannot deny previously laid down dogma and Tradition. The Church has always believed and taught that Mary is a mere creature. It is therefore not in the Church's power to declare Mary to be a "Fourth Member of the Trinity". The Church can't possibly do that, any more than the Church could declare Jesus to be a mere creature. So the very question Steve asks here carries with it an assumption that is contrary to Catholicism, and so his question in that respect begs the question.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Thos said...

Bryan,

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I hope that I did not come across in a way that seems to perpetuate rumors. I would like to know more about how it came to be that you and Dave Armstrong are banned from commenting on this other blog. I used to read it regularly, stopped for a long time, and am recently back to it. I did not remember it previously being exclusively related to Kevin's church, so think it might have changed a bit since I last was a regular reader.

Thank you for bringing up "begotten" and I believe I may be in plain error here. I do not use the word in regular speech, and probably know it exclusively from the Creed. There, where it is juxtaposed with "made" I suppose in my mind the word simply meant something like "proceeding from but not made". Let me look it up... past tense of beget: "To father; sire" or "To cause to exist or occur; produce". I agree with you, so do not think the application of the word to Mary is erroneous, but also think in the (Protestant?) church, the term has a special theological dimension exclusive to the Father. I have no reason to believe that the priest quoted meant it in that sense (if the account is accurate that the priest even said this).

I felt that "Rabbi" Schlissel's comments, particularly on the "Quadrinity" were not substantiated, but were an expression of his view that Catholic beliefs are not sufficiently rooted in (his interpretation of) the Bible. I believe his assessment is inaccurate (inter alia) because even the 'excessive' Marian Catholic (if I may intimate that such people exist) believes she was created.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Anonymous said...

Thos,

"Rabbi" Schlissel also claims to be a rabbi, but he's Protestant. Would you believe anything I said if I introduced myself as Super-dynamo-electron-warrior?

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Areopa said...

Uhh..."Rabbi" means teacher, something our Lord was called, and which is in general agreement with other titles used in the New Testament such as "elder", "bishop", "deacon", "father", and "pastor". Given Pastor Schlissel's Jewish heritage it's not out of order to refer to him in this way especially when nothing overtly serious is meant other than the man knows what he's talking about.

Come on guys. I'm disappointed here. Could you raise the level of discussion on this just a teeny bit?

Joseph said...

Aeropa,

I'm sure that if you walked into a Synagogue (I mean a real one, not one of the Messianic Jew/Protestant sects) and explained your definition of "rabbi" to them along with the argument that a Christian of Jewish descent considers himself "Rabbi", they will totally agree with you... riiiigggghhhhttt.

Thos said...

areopa,

Thank you for your point. You said "come on guys", but I suspect you were at last in the larger part speaking to the anonymous contributor, and his super-hero quip. I hope that's the case, because I did not mean for my post to be about Schlissel's or Johnson's use of "Rabbi". My post was about Schlissel's observations, and mostly meant to link over to it.

I started this post thinking that he was a Rabbi of the Jewish religion, and thought the Trinitarian remarks odd. I had some problems with Schlissel's blog page, and getting his bio (the links weren't working for me). Eventually I sorted it out, realized he was not a Rabbi of the Jewish religion, and had to amend my post. What you see in this post is not meant to communicate a belief that Schlissel is not entitled to use "Rabbi". What you see is my effort to communicate who he is (by vocation) and who he is not (as Rabbi carries a much more specific connotation in our society than simply "teacher", as I'm sure you'll agree).

May we have peace and be one, especially on this, our Lord's Day.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

R. E. Aguirre. said...

This is a prime example of a strawman argument with a vengeance and reveals a complete lack of understanding of the position that you are supposedly representing (in this case a bad representation of Catholic development of doctrine by a Steven Schlissel).

Catholics (unlike Schlissel and Protestants) have a rule of faith to measure and gauge any statements be they of faith or morals. Thus, be definition nobody can introduce novel doctrines (such as St. Mary as the fourth member of the Trinity) since it has absolutely no historical precedent in the patristic tradition. I find this a polar opposite of new pet theories daily advanced by Protestant scholars as truth claims over and against their own reformed tradition, (such as the novel view's on justification by the "New Perspective School" J Dunn, and Tom Wright, etc).

Moreover as Cross has ably shown, from a philosophical stand point it is ridiculous to claim the ontological equality of St. Mary with the divine nature of the Triune Godhead.
_____________

R.E. Aguirre
regulafide.blogspot.com

Areopa said...

Well, again, no one is claiming that Catholics believe in a fourth member of the Trinity as a matter of faith for Catholics only that in practice it often can appear that way from the outside. I don't know why this is so hard for some to see or even why some feel compelled to argue against what is merely a matter of observation from the perspective of others who may very well come to this subject with a number of differing presuppositions in mind. It seems more strawmen are being set up here against what was originally said than perhaps necessary.

I'm sorry I gave the wrong impression in the original post about Pastor Schlissel being an actual Rabbi in the modern sense of the term--I was speaking tongue-in-cheek. But, in terms of New Testament usage, it's not a real stretch in that sense to consider ministers teachers/rabbis since they are explicitly called that in the pages of Holy Writ. In fact, we could use a bit of a return to Jewish culture in that regard. And I suppose I was reacting to the silly 'super' comment most of all in terms of this thread.

>>>Kevin D. Johnson
www.reformedcatholicism.com

R. E. Aguirre. said...

Well it is the burden of those charging with slanderous accusations to correctly separate mere perceived notions from actual dogma. To pass one off as the other is disingenuous at best and hardly requires a serious response.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

You wrote:
no one is claiming that Catholics believe in a fourth member of the Trinity as a matter of faith for Catholics only that in practice it often can appear that way from the outside.

The claim you posted on your website is not only about appearances; it includes explicit reference to "the world rumor about Rome being ready to officially rank Mary as a member of the Quadrinity".

If this not a slanderous unsubstantiated rumor, then how is it different from a slanderous unsubstantiated rumor? How is spreading a critical and unsubstantiated rumor anything other than a participation in slander?

The ecumenical effort should not be characterized by slandering those separated from us. Nor can it rest with describing mere appearances from within our paradigm. It should be seeking out what lies behind the appearances. That is, I hope you agree, what charity does.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Areopa said...

Bryan,

Asking a question about a perceived rumor is not the same as spreading the rumor. If you are going to tiptoe through the technicalities on this issue then at least give me the same ability to do so with the original statements of Rev. Schlissel.

His point was not about the legitimacy of the so-called rumor but whether or not Catholics treat Mary as if she is divine. To call the question by Schlissel slanderous is to be something other than accurate. Schlissel even specifically speaks here not strictly of dogma but of Catholic practice--what he observed from the service in question.

But, you speak to me of charity and ecumenicity. I don't see any effort here on your part to give his comments a different and more plausible reading. Charity in this sort of discussion is a two way street.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

Asking a question about a perceived rumor is not the same as spreading the rumor.

True. But asking it publicly is.

Consider a situation in which someone 'merely asks' on his blog or on the radio whether the rumor is true that a certain pastor is having an extra-marital affair, having no substantiation for the charge. That is slander packaged in sophistry.

If it is not slander, then how is it different from slander? Merely rewording a slanderous charge into question form doesn't turn slander into non-slander; it simply repackages it. If you or Steve want to know whether a harmful rumor about the Catholic Church is true, charity would call you to ask your local Catholic priest or bishop instead of posting it on the internet.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Tim A. Troutman said...

First - Super-dynamo-electron-warrior was funny. He may even earn a role in my upcoming finale to my fictional dialogue on authority.

Mr. Cross & Mr. Aguirre are clearly right on both accounts: 1. the charge is preposterous and 2. it is slanderous in its method of delivery especially when we say things like:

if they were to do that, what changes would be necessary to Romish faith and practice? I answer that question: none.

Which was contradicted later saying "I only meant practice".

This reminds me of a rather shameful set of accusations that a PCA minister leveled at the Church last year which I responded to here by reposting my email to him.

Joseph said...

Thos & Tim,

I want to make sure that my "super..." comment doesn't just get thrown into the "quip" bin. Though the choice of words were intended to draw a laugh, I was quite serious.

It's clear that my comment sent the conversation in a direction that Thos did not intend for it to go, so I will cease beating the dead horse.

Rob said...

Thos

I like to put things as simply as they can be said. Mary being the mother of our lord, deserves at least the respect you would give a friends mother. We can only speculate the relationship that our Lord Jesus had with his mother, but just the fact God chose her above all other women speaks volumes to me. Do you think our Father in Heaven needed to use Mary to bring Our Lord into this world? Or did he chose her for a reason. If Mary was good enough to be the Mother of our Lord then she should be good enough for all of us. As I would pray to Mary to pray for us, may I also pray that you pray for us

Peace
Rob

Bob said...

It's a very interesting paradox that Catholics are accused of loving a woman so much that they're willing to promote her to (a) God, while at the same time they're accused of hating women so much that they refuse to ordain women.

It's interesting how when Protestants lower Mary, they lose their objections to raising women to the priesthood.

Is there some connection between the two? I'm not certain I could prove it, but it seems to me that Catholics are capable of maintaining distinctions in what appears to be a contradiction.

I'm certain that the Church will always teach that Mary is a creature. Yet God chose her. At the moment of the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit over shadowed her, took her flesh, and conceived the Christ child in her womb. Begotten both of woman and God, Jesus inherited both the nature of Man and the nature of God. She held Jesus in her womb for nine months. She was a living precious vessel for our Lord, the living Ark of the Covenant.

How intimate was the Holy Spirit with Mary at the moment of conception. How favored she was to be so close to God. As mother, mothers receive an echo of the Incarnation after men drop off their seed (for the moment of conception occurs later), and the mother is present when the Holy Spirit breathes the life and soul into the child. And yet Mary is a virgin, she has completely given herself to God.

That Catholics recognize the closeness of Mary to God, doesn't mean that they have forgotten her distance from God. She is still a creature, even if only a highly favored one, touched by God, receiving numerous and overflowing graces, gifts from God not merited by any human, and yet God did give.

But she did choose. Mary said yes, as Eve said no.

And Mary had a relationship with Jesus, a thing that no other human can have. Jesus was her son, Mary was His mother.

Any yet for His love of Mary, His obedience toward her at the Wedding in Cana, He did not make her a priestess. There is something essentially different between the way that a mother/wife serves and the way that a man serves. Man does not understand, but God does. The Church may not understand why, but she listens.

George Weis said...

I suppose the question of all this comes down to Honor/Respect vs. Reverence. I agree with Rob on the respect aspect, however I scratch my head why she is in some CCs put above Christ (actually in statue form).

Can someone shed light on that for me? I believe that Mary might be first in line to bow in front of our Lord. Yeah, I know that is purely an assumption, and perhaps even an uneducated one. However, I think, that might be one of the highest respects someone might be given.

Much love to all of you.

-g-

Anonymous said...

George,

That's interesting. No complaint about the statues of St. Joseph (which are usually in the same proximity)? Or what about any of the other saints in the Catholic Church? In my Catholic parish we have many first-class relics, which are venerated after each weekday morning Mass. Why is it only Mary that bothers Protestants so much. I think that Bryan Cross does a good job of discussing this issue on his blog.

Also, Catholics don't actually worship the statue of Mary, nor the ones of St. Joseph and the other Saints... they are statuary intended to give us a mental picture of those they represent and to help us contemplate the holiness of the Saints, which they merited through Christ; same with icons. So, any contemplation of these sacred items immediately turns to Jesus.

Not only that, a statue of Jesus, though there are many in Catholic parishes (Child of Prague, Madonna and Child, Sacred Heart, etc.) is not even necessary since He is really and substantially present in the tabernacle. The parish church is only a parish church because of the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Jesus Christ, in the Flesh, is the center of the Catholic parish church.

joseph

Principium unitatis said...

George,

Mary's relationship to Jesus is not a simple relationship. There are multiple aspects to it. Jesus created Mary. And yet, it is also true, without contradiction, that Mary begot Jesus, and in that respect gave being to Him. Even though He is Life, and the ultimate source of Life, it is still nevertheless true that as His mother, she gave Him life. To whose womb was his umbilical cord attached? Hers. She nurtured Him in her womb for nine months, protecting Him from bodily harm in her daily choices. She raised Him from infancy, again, protecting and nurturing Him and training Him in wisdom and knowledge and virtue. Even though He is the Ancient of Days, yet, nevertheless, it is also true, without contradiction, that she is His parent, His elder.

[Sidebar: The fundamental basis for our obligation of honor due to our parents is because they image God in giving us being. They are pro-creators of us. When Jesus was asked about taxes and He asked whose image was on the coin, He said, "Give to God what is God's. Whose image are we? We are made in God's image. So our whole being belongs to God, our lives are to be lived entirely for Him. And yet, without contradiction, when we look in the mirror we see that we are also, in a different sense, made in the image of our parents. God gave them the privilege of participating in our coming to be. And so, similarly, we owe to them our being, forever. Our lives are to be lived in honor and gratitude to our parents. Now, these two obligations (i.e. living our whole lives for God, and honoring our parents our whole lives) are not contradictory. They are not in competition. That is because monocausalism is false. Loving and honoring God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is fully compatible with loving our neighbor as ourself, and honoring our parents. In honoring our parents, we are (if our hearts are rightly ordered) at the same time, and in the same act, also honoring and loving God. End-of-sidebar]

So, because her relationship to Him is complex, it is not bad theology to depict Jesus as a child in His mother's arms. That is good theology, for it helps us understand and embrace His humanity, which we (non-liberals) tend to downplay. :-) But that same son-to-mother relation didn't magically end when Jesus reached legal voting age. That son-to-mother relation between Jesus and Mary is everlasting; it will endure forever and ever, for Jesus will always remain the son of Mary, because the past cannot be undone. And so Jesus' debt of honor and gratitude to His mother for what she gave to Him will also endure forever and ever.

Yes Mary would be the first to bow to Jesus. And yet, at the same time, without any contradiction, Jesus is the first to honor Mary as His mother. We, in imitation of Jesus, also honor Mary as our Mother, for Christ gave her to us as our Mother, when He said from the cross: "Behold, your Mother". And so, in union with Christ, we honor Mary as our Mother. And, at the same time, without contradiction, in union with Mary our Mother, we adore Christ our Creator and Redeemer.

George, I hope that helps. And I hope and pray that we can be united in full communion together, by the help and prayers of all the saints, and the power of the Holy Spirit who seeks to effect that unity among Christ's followers, the unity for which the heart of Jesus still prays (John 17).

In the peace of Jesus Christ our Savior,

- Bryan

George Weis said...

Joseph and Brian,

Thank you ever so kindly for your thoughts! I absolutely agree that Mary is due honor, and great honor. She was the chosen vessel to bring our Lord into this world in flesh. Indeed she is the most blessed among women.

Brian, I believe your response was very kindly and heartfelt. Often you seem like an intellectual giant with your detailed thoughts and posts, however this time I sensed a great deal of kindness and gentleness in your response to me.

I am in agreement with you on what you mentioned (both you and Joseph) however, the statues for a completely different issue are difficult for me. That is a topic for another time. Yes, Jesus is the Son of Mary forever. Yes to the fact that He honors her, and that we ought to do the same. Now, where I may differ is the statement "here is your mother" - why is that statement taken to include everyone beyond John the beloved? Could not that statement mean in essence, "John, take care of my mom... Mom, love John as a son"? I wonder if this passage is taken further than the obvious. Please tell me what I am missing if I am missing something.

May His peace be your peace, and may you all be blessed for the sake of His glory.

-g-

P.S. Again, thank you both for your genuine kindness. I do indeed desire the unity of the Body.

George Weis said...

One other thing, how best can we honor the mother of the Son of God?

The thought that comes sweeping into my mind is "Honor Her Son".

Would you call that a true statement gentlemen?

Blessings,
George

Anonymous said...

George,

We do more than just honor Her Son, we worship Her Son, something that we do not do to Her. Christ does receive higher "honor" because He is God. She is not God, but She is the Mother of God Incarnate. I think that if I continue I'll just end up repeating everything in Bryan's post. To avoid redundancy, I'll suggest reading his post again.

God bless you, George.

joseph

George Weis said...

Joseph,

Yeah, I'm picking up what you are laying down. I well know that you do not worship her. Although I will say that some statements on her are more than difficult to swallow. But I can leave it at that for now. I appreciate all of you guys who take the time to explain these issues from your perspective. You make catholicism look and sound good :) Again, not to say that it isn't... but I have come across many who would much more turn me away from even the possibility of it.

God bless you Joseph, and the same to each of you!

-g-