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Book Review

Mary For All ChristiansMary the mother of Jesus

We associate an emphasis on Mary with Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. This book aims to introduce Catholic ideas on Mary to a wider audience: Mary For All Christians by John Macquarrie (2nd edition, T. & T. Clark, 2001, ISBN 978-0-56708-751-5). It is available also in Logos/Libronix software format.

It failed completely to win my sympathy. I once preached on Mary to a 'new church' in Poland, drawing from the NT data alone to show how Protestantism has neglected Mary as much as RCism has exaggerated her importance. Macquarrrie, however, relegates the NT to a low rank in his scale of values for establishing doctrine and elevates 'the tradition' to the No.1 position.

The Immaculate Conception (the dogma that Mary was born free from the taint of original sin) is either true or it isn't. On NT grounds it isn't. The same applies to the Assumption of Mary (that at the end of her life she was taken up to heaven, body and soul, like Enoch and Elijah): it either happened or it didn't. Biblically, it didn't, and waffle about it being a 'theological event' rather than a factual one remains, in my view, nonsense. The section on Mary as 'Co-redemptrix' is equally unconvincing.

The best parts of this book are those where the author addresses peripheral topics. He has a good section, for instance, on the questionable side of some Reformed doctrines like 'irresistible grace'.

Mary can be rightly called ‘Mother of God’ only in the strictly Christian sense that she is the mother of Jesus Christ, whom the Church confesses as Son of God and an equal person of the divine Trinity. (p25)

How does one distinguish between the genuine development of a doctrine, the drawing out of truths concealed in the original, from illegitimate accretions which get added by later generations but may be quite at variance with the intention of the original affirmations from which they claim to be derived? (p48)

If one believes, as [Paul] did, that Jesus was sent by God, then there must have lived a woman through whom he was born into the world, and if one believes further that all this happened in the providence of God, then that woman must have been conceived and elected by God in the beginning as the indispensable handmaid needed to co-operate in his work. (p63)

As we approach the dogma of the Assumption, it is obvious that we face problems very similar to those we met when considering the Immaculate Conception. There is no clear scriptural foundation… (p81)

There have been times in the history of Christianity when Christ himself has become such a divine, exalted, numinous figure that the worshippers found him so distant that they needed a new mediator or mediatrix closer to their own humanity to fill the space that had opened between themselves and the original mediator. (p100)

...our picture of Mary is based not just on the few scraps of information we have about her in the gospels but even more on the construction of her personality by generations of devout Christians who have concentrated upon her the most essential qualities of the Christian life. (p120)

[On this subject, see also my Shades Of Grey essay: Mother of Jesus]

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Mary For All Christians

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