Saturday, April 21, 2007

Couldn't Resist

I have refrained from blogging lately in preparation for an uncoming debate--but this article caught my attention, and I could not let it slide. The article (Evangelicals and the Mother of God) is by Timothy George, a man for whom long ago I had some respect. It is sad when formerly sound-thinking theologians, blinded by the draw of ecumenism, go down this path. As one whose doctoral thesis was on this very issue, I can say with confidence that the depth of George's knowledge of this issue rivals the depth of Jon Meacham's paltry knowledge of Christianity whenever he attempts an article about Jesus in TIME magazine.

When one begins an article with "It is time for evangelicals to recover a fully biblical appreciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary," it fast becomes clear where he is headed. George proceeds from there to make every exegetical error that characterizes Rome's view of Mary, even inexplicably conceding the Roman Catholic distinction between latria and hyperdulia--on what basis, we are never told.

In answer to the question, "Why should evangelicals participate in and celebrate the Marian moment that seems to be upon us?", George offers this answer: "Precisely because they are evangelicals, that is, gospel people and Bible people. Mary has a pivotal and irreducible place in the Bible, and evangelicals must reclaim this aspect of biblical teaching if we are to be faithful to the whole counsel of God."

George goes on to engage in the very same symbolic reading of supposedly Marian-centric OT passages that even Roman Catholic scholars have abandoned these days. In other words, George is clearly a novice in this area, and has not yet discovered that the supposedly biblical defense he gives for an exalted Mary has long ago been rejected as time-worn nonsense by his more informed Roman Catholic counterparts. Only RC polemists use these kinds of arguments anymore. But if that's the case, what business does a supposed evangelical have in resurrecting them?

George's treatment of Mary's perpetual virginity and title of theotokos is lamentable. He somehow thinks that upholding the virgin birth is equivalent to upholding continued virginity after that birth, shamelessly evoking J. Gresham Machen as someone who would support his thesis:
Though he was a straitlaced Presbyterian and could never be accused of “cozying up to Rome,” Machen rightly recognized that evangelicals had much more in common with Catholicism on this than they did with what he disdainfully called that “totally foreign religion-liberalism.” “Let it never be forgotten,” he wrote, “that the virgin birth is an integral part of the New Testament witness about Christ, and that that witness is strongest when it is taken as it stands. . . . The blessed story of the miracle in the virgin’s womb is intrinsic to the good news of the Gospel.

George's woeful ignorance on what constitutes agreement with Rome is simply stunning. Because Machen was a staunch defender of the virgin birth--something that is explicitly biblical--he somehow implicitly agreed with Rome's doctrine of Perpetual Virginity--something that is demonstrably unbiblical?

But George's ignorance does not stop there. Note well what he thinks about the Christological controversy:

The Church was right to reject Nestorius’ preferred title for Mary, Christotokos, “mother of Christ,” as an inadequate description of Mary’s role in the mystery of the Incarnation. We are not at liberty to construct a merely human Christ, cut off from the reality of his entire person.

Nestorius' alternative title, Christotokos, did not "construct a merely human Christ"; quite the opposite. The title "Christ" accounts for both the human and divine in Jesus, whereas "mother of God" does not. That George does not know this is just stunning.

George's focus in this article is on all the typical Roman Catholic polemical points (with which he substantially agrees), and he somehow ignores all the exegetical points regarding Mary's staus in the NT. Yet it remains a well known fact that whenever Jesus and Mary appear together in the NT, Jesus is at pains to distance himself from her and to put down any supposed privileges she might assume based on biological ties--indeed, going so far as to sever biological ties with her. George seems oblivious to this, which disqualifies him from speaking on the issue in the first place.