Veneration of Mary Debate – Thoughts on Reflection 5a

One Eastern Orthodox reader (he calls himself “orthodox” – we’ll just call him “O”) has provided five points against part 5 of my thoughts on reflection. He may be the only one to think this way, but just in case it may be edifying to others, here are some brief responses to his points:

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1) O’s First Point: “Lack of an imperative only helps you if you want to argue that Mary is bemoaning the fact she will be called blessed instead of rejoicing in it.”

My response:

a) O seems to have forgotten that the Romanist in this debate argued the verse as an imperative, suggesting that it is a command to call Mary “blessed” – or something to that effect. That’s far from the meaning of the verse as has already been demonstrated.

b) Mary is clearly happy. Why on earth O thinks that anyone would need to think otherwise is totally obscure.

c) Mary’s happiness is expressed, in part, by her comment about all generations considering her happy. It’s not the other way around: she’s not happy because other people will consider her to be happy. What an absurd concept that would be! Yet it is, apparently, the position that O wants to take, as though Mary were not rejoicing in Christ but in other people considering Mary happy.

2) O’s second point: “How can a single word μακαριοῦσιν be an idiom? Idioms are characterised by a set of words.”

I answer:

Idioms don’t have to be more than one word. There are lots of counter-examples. One example in English is the use of “heart” for the seat of emotions. Another, and a more germane, example of a single-word idiom is the potential one previously discussed in Luke 1:28. One idiomatic usage of χαῖρε (Chaire) is as a greeting. As previously noted, it can convey either a literal sense of “Rejoice” or it can serve in an idiomatic capacity as a greeting.

3) O’s third point: “You say “Solomon’s being considered blessed “by all nations” was primarily fulfilled by the respect he received from nations”…. Errr, isn’t respect and veneration synonyms? Isn’t that the exact point?”

I answer:

What an amusing attempt to equivocate. If saying, “Wow, that king is really lucky to be so wise and rich” is veneration then I guess everybody who says “Wow, Mary was really lucky to have borne Jesus in her womb” is also venerating Mary, and we all venerate the winners of Lottery Jackpots when we call them happy too. What silliness!

While there certainly may be some semantic hopscotch that can be played among the words, people recognizing the wisdom and riches of Solomon is not religious veneration of Solomon.

4) O’s fourth point: “The Magnificat is not inspired?! Wow, are we grasping at straws today. How do you know if any of Luke is inspired for that matter? So Mary botched up this one, eh?”

I answer:

a) Luke’s inspiration is beyond question.

b) Not ever conversation and speech recorded in the inspired Scriptures is itself inspired. To take an obvious example, the inspired book of Job relates Satan’s words to God. Nevertheless, no one in their right minds would think that Satan was inspired.

c) Why should it be shocking that Mary’s monologue of happiness be uninspired? When Luke wants to tell us that Elizabeth was inspired, he does so. With Mary he makes no similar claim. And Elizabeth isn’t a one-off instance for Luke: he also tells us the same thing about John the Baptist (Luke 1:15); Zacharias (Luke 1:67); the disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2:4); Peter (Luke 4:8); the disciples after Peter and John opposed the elders of Israel (Acts 4:31); Paul (Acts 9:17); and again Paul (Acts 13:9).

d) The term “botched” is so pejorative. Just because someone is not inspired and expresses their joy in hyperbolic language, we wouldn’t normally say that they “botched” anything.

5) O’s fifth point: “The rest of the article is straw man, since the debate was not about whether Mary is “shining little beams of blessing”, but whether scripture teaches veneration of Mary. And your statement about Psalm 72:17 indicates that you just conceded this debate.”

I answer:

If all that were involved in the Romanist veneration of Mary were recognizing (as Reformed believers do) that she was greatly blessed by God, then we wouldn’t be having the debate in the first place. But the meaning of words is important, despite attempts by certain folks to equivocate their way to victory.

And that’s also true of the term “blessed.” It is important to distinguish between a view of Mary as “blessed” in the sense of irradiating a sort of spiritual energy, and Mary as “blessed” in the sense of happy, fortunate, or the like. The latter sense is Biblical, the former sense is a common (but unbiblical) superstition.


UPDATE: Mr. Burgess has chimed in with similar comments. He stated:

Who inspired Mary to say what she did? Who inspired Luke to write it? Why do you deny that the statement is an imperative command from God given the (known) answers to the above questions? Why bifurcate? It’s pedantically disingenuous of you.

I respond line by line:

“Who inspired Mary to say what she did?”

People speak without inspiration all the time. See the discussion above.

“Who inspired Luke to write it?”

The Holy Spirit.

“Why do you deny that the statement is an imperative command from God given the (known) answers to the above questions?”

The statement is plainly not an imperative command to anyone who can parse the Greek word used. It is a simple indicative statement declaring what will happen (perhaps, as already discussed, merely by way of hyperbole) not what should, ought, or must happen.

“Why bifurcate?”

To bifurcate is to split into two. In context, it’s a little unclear what Mr. Burgess is trying to suggest. If he is noting that I have distinguished between Luke being inspired to write Scripture and the people he records not being inspired themselves, it’s actually an important distinction. Otherwise, you end up with absurdities like Satan being inspired, simply because his words are recorded in Scripture.

“It’s pedantically disingenuous of you.”

To be pedantic is to focus on trivial details and to be disingenuous is not to be open and frank. I guess Mr. Burgess’ clumsily worded criticism is intended to suggest that whether or not Mary was inspired or the word is actually imperative is simply a trifling detail, and that by focusing on trifling details I’m somehow masking my real position. Well, despite Mr. Burgess’ thoughts, it’s neither a trifling detail (for the reasons already explained above) nor is it an attempt to hide my position (I’ve been candid about the position I advocate throughout this discussion). And, of course, if Mr. Burgess himself were sincerely interested in understanding what the text of Scripture said, he would not be inclined to characterize issues of inspiration and grammar as trifling details.


One Response to “Veneration of Mary Debate – Thoughts on Reflection 5a”

  1. natamllc Says:

    I would throw a couple [o]bservations into the mix here.First, being happy is what I am called to be, Elected of God, to be as much and moreso. It is right to call me “blessed”.Second, one fails to account for all the other “unlucky” “Chosen” virgins of the day in question when the Holy Ghost overshadowed Mary and started this whole debate! I dare say, no one saved out of this mess, the world we were born into, counts their Happy Blessings any less than Mary does rejoicing in the blessing bestowed upon her even though she must be dumbfounded at being the unfortunate central figure in this debate!On second thought, maybe she is just content with her place in the Eternal plan of Salvation as all of God’s Chosen should be!I think that one parable Jesus tells points to the parity of the “Blessed” state of being the Elect lay hold of, Eternal Life:Mat 20:8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ Mat 20:9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Mat 20:10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. Mat 20:11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, Mat 20:12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ Mat 20:13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Mat 20:14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Mat 20:15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ Mat 20:16 So the last will be first, and the first last.” So, in a nut shell, cracked open and the meat to be dined on, we all get “one” veneration, one only!It is the Gift of Eternal Life! Mary gets nothing more for being the bearer of the Good News physically. I get nothing less for being a bearer of the Good News. One plants, another waters, God provides the increase and gets all the Glory!We, the Elect, are the Happy Recipients “one” Blessing only, being called “Blessed of God”!

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