For some odd reason, Victor Reppert has chosen to defend the cult of Mary against the charge of idolatry. And a couple of Catholics have rushed to his aid.
The basic argument seems to be that Catholics can’t be guilty of worshipping Mary since they don’t regard her as God. Therefore, they don’t venerate Mary in the same sense that they venerate Jesus or the Trinity.
There are several basic problems with this argument:
i) To be an idolater, you don’t have to ascribe to your “god” the same set of attributes you ascribe to Christ or the Trinity.
For example, if a Viking worships Thor, this doesn’t mean that Thor is given the same attributes as Christ or the Trinity. Indeed, by Christian standards, if a Thor-like being existed, he’d be more like a fallen angel. A finite being with superhuman powers.
So it’s not as if the Viking is transferring to Thor the attributes of the true God. Yet the Viking is still an idolater.
Let’s take a limiting-case of idolatry: Satanism. Does a devil-worshiper apply to Satan the same attributes as a Christian applies to Jesus or the Trinity? Obviously not.
In the mind of the Satanist, the devil is the polar opposite of God. A supernatural antihero. The devotion of a devil-worshiper stands in conscious, defiant contrast to Christian piety.
Yet Satanism is a very aggravated for of idolatry. Idolatry taken to its logical extreme.
ii) Likewise, in polytheistic idolatry, the “gods” range along a continuum. High gods and lesser gods. A wood nymph doesn’t have the same attributes as Zeus. A pagan worshiper can distinguish between the attributes of one “god” and another. You pray to different “gods” for different favors.
But whether a Greek priest prays to Zeus or a lowly wood nymph, it’s still idolatry.
iii) This brings us to the final issue. The question is not whether Catholicism is able to concoct some face-saving distinctions which shield the cult of Mary from the charge of idolatry. The question, rather, is whether Marian devotions constitute worship in the way the Bible describes the nature of worship–as well as various perversions of worship. Is she the functional equivalent of a patron goddess?