Thursday, December 17, 2009

Strange Dogma

Matthew 12:46-50
(46) While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.
(47) [Someone told him, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak to you."]
(48) But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"
(49) And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!
(50) For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

I was always confused about the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary when I read this passage. How could Jesus have brothers and sisters if she remained a virgin? And how is it that the Catholic church says that Mary has special access to Jesus that we don't have? He doesn't seem to treat her with any kind of special reverence here and in fact seems to do the opposite.

What's even more puzzling is how Luther and Calvin could have just taken the virginity of Mary as a given. Didn't they read their Bibles?

I would maintain that they were too busy with the matter of justification by faith to worry about this stuff. I also know that the dogma was not nearly as developed then. The perpetual virginity of Mary as well as the other baggage such as her assumption have only really been codified since the 20th century. Therefore, this was not a big deal to them.

My point is that we need a little history to understand why certain things are and aren't emphasized. Some folks wonder why we don't read more about homosexuality from the church fathers. Back in their day it was considered a given that homosexuality was wrong because they took the straightforward meaning of Scripture. It's only fairly recently that this has become such a hot topic.

Let's be sure to let history give us some context as we examine issues and quote men and women from the past.


Joshua Allen said...

While Luther and Calvin both had ideas that their spiritual heirs don't consider reasonable, I wouldn't be too quickly dismissive of their thoughts about perpetual virginity. It just doesn't seem credible that someone with either man's mental powers would just "overlook" that verse because they were "too busy" with something else. I mean, Luther had 95 theses, so obviously *he* didn't consider himself to be too busy to stick to just one issue.

Personally, I don't take a strong position on the issue of Mary's perpetual virginity, other than to wonder why anyone would make it an issue. Is there any theology that hinges on the issue being decided one way or another?

Jason said...


Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It is important to me because this has become a fairly defining difference between the Catholic and Protestant faiths. It shows the problem with the idea of Sacred Tradition. This is a dogma that has snowballed on them because they went from Mary starting off as a virgin (the biblical stance) to her now being "co-redemptrix" with Christ. This is a dogma that has developed over the years because of the internal logical inconsistency that starts with declaring her perpetually virgin.

In direct answer to your question, the Catholic Church's attitude toward Mary hinges on this. This then speaks to our approach toward Scripture. At least, that's how I understand it, but I would welcome correction if the Catechism of the Catholic Church or some other official Church document says otherwise.