Baptists Seeking Mary

Carl Olson points to an article in First Things by Dr. Timothy George, who is dean of the divinity school at Samford University. Samford being a Southern Baptist school, it is more than a little bit strange that he begins the article by referring to the Virgin Mary as "Mother of God." This is not historically how Baptists talk.

In the Baptist church where I went in my youth, we didn't learn much about Mary. The most I saw of her was a statue in front of the Catholic church down the street. Another kid once told me that the Catholics worshiped that statue. I saw no other evidence of this but it did seem a little odd. My church had no such statues.

I have since learned Catholics don't worship statues of Mary or anyone else. They do, however, take seriously what Mary said in Luke 1, verse 48: "From now on, all generations will call me blessed." They know there must be a reason the angel said Mary is "full of grace."

Dr. George sees this too, and suggests that maybe evangelicals should take another look at how they view Mary:

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. When it comes to the gospel, Mary cannot be shunted aside or relegated to the affectionate obscurity of the annual Christmas pageant. In the New Testament, she is not only the mother of the redeemer but also the first one to whom the gospel was proclaimed and, in turn, the first one to proclaim it to others. Mary is named a “herald” of God’s good news. We cannot ignore the messenger, because the message she tells is about the salvation of the world. MORE

His line about the annual Christmas pageant is right on the mark. Here is a little-known fact: many Baptists actually own statues of Mary! These statues are kept carefully hidden eleven months of the year so that no one will will be tempted to worship them. In early December, they enter a non-idolatrous phase and can be safely uncovered. A few weeks later (or sooner if someone is seen bowing to them) the Mary statues are put under wraps again for another eleven months.

Catholics find this cycle more than a little bit strange. They look at Luke 1:48, recognize that they are included in the category of "all generations," and attempt to observe this scripture on a year-round basis. The statues are not idols; they are reminders.

Dr. George does a fine job explaining Mary from both perspectives. Evangelicals should read the article because it will show them an important aspect of the faith that they are missing. Catholics should read it to understand why their Marian devotion is often misunderstood by other Christians. Everyone will learn something. Check it out.

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