Mary and Mariolatry
One very sad thing in this dark and degenerate day is that people (even professed believers) are becoming more and more tolerant of the errors of Roman Catholicism.
Many errors might be mentioned but we have been appalled recently at the rapid spread of Mariolatry (idolatrous veneration of the virgin Mary). This is not only in Roman Catholicism, but also very much so in the Church of England.
We deplore prayers for the dead but we were shocked, on a visit to one of our English cathedrals recently, to find that prayer was made that the faithful departed might be blessed with eternal fellowship with the blessed virgin.
Let us be clear. We honour Mary as a most gracious woman, the one specially chosen and given the honour to be the mother of the Lord Jesus. We admire her godliness, her humility, her submission to God’s will. It is very wrong for christians to speak disparagingly of such an eminent saint.
But very little really is said about Mary in holy Scripture; in the epistles she is not even mentioned. There is not a hint of prayer being made to her or of her being a mediator (or mediatrix – the feminine form of the word).
True it is that officially the Roman Catholic church denies worshipping the virgin; yet more and more she is given an exalted position.
Many Ave Marias are said to her, approach is made through her to the Lord Jesus, and prayer is made to her. One of those largely responsible for the increasing veneration of Mary is the present Pope. It is said that when an attempt was made to assassinate him, he cried to the virgin Mary for help; and year by year since he has blessed her for his deliverance. She is referred to as “the Mother of God,” “the Queen of heaven.”
Two most unscriptural doctrines held by the Roman Church concerning Mary are the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and the Doctrine of the Assumption.
The Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was declared an official belief by the Pope in 1854 (so this year marks the 150th anniversary). The doctrine is that Mary was born completely free from original sin.
But Mary was a sinner saved by grace and herself confessed it: “My soul
doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46-47).
Many christians misunderstand completely the meaning of “the Immaculate Conception,” thinking it refers to the Lord Jesus.
Years ago we heard a minister preach a sermon on the birth of Jesus in which he constantly exclaimed, “We believe in the immaculate conception.” Well, we do – but the immaculate conception of Jesus, not Mary.
The Doctrine of the Assumption was declared officially by the Pope in 1950. This doctrine is that the third day after her burial, Mary rose from the dead and ascended bodily into heaven. There is not the slightest scriptural authority for this.
All this is very solemn – but it is not something doctrinaire, something that is not important. Immortal concerns are at stake.
1. Christ alone is to be exalted and to have all the honour and glory.
His glory He will never share with another. Mary is so exalted, almost to become a fourth Person in the Godhead, and often is certainly exalted above the Lord Jesus.
We once ourselves witnessed (in a church in Nazareth itself) an ornate screen behind the “high altar” where Mary was shown as exalted far above her Son Jesus.
How often Jesus is portrayed in pictures or images either as a helpless Babe in His mother’s arms or as a dead Christ on the cross, while Mary appears in all her glory!
2. Christ alone is the way to heaven.
“There is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” – not Mary. It is a soul destroying error to depict Mary as a mediatrix by whom sinners can venture. A sinner must be eternally lost whose hope is built on Mary, not the Lord Jesus.
3. Nor can Mary (or any other saint) answer prayer.
We believe Mary’s glorified spirit is in heaven, yet only as one among many of “the spirits of just men made perfect.” She has finished with all below, and has no influence, good or bad, on the affairs of this world.
We feel we must warn against the increasing toleration of erroneous Romanist beliefs which are destructive of the soul.
In conclusion, let us say it is hard for christians to understand the love and veneration which Romanists have for the virgin Mary. Not too long ago we received a most distressed letter from a family (seemingly Italian) who somehow had come into possession of our children’s book “The Birth of Jesus.”
The point which distressed them was where we said it is wrong to pray to Mary.
“What hope is there for us,” the letter read, “if we cannot pray to Mary, if we cannot go to her for refuge?”
We believe that in speaking to Roman Catholics on this subject we should always speak with the greatest of tenderness and compassion – pointing out that we love Mary as a godly woman, but she cannot save and cannot answer prayer. It must be “none but Jesus.”
In all this we seek the honour of His name alone. “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.”
By B.A. Ramsbottom