Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ave Maria

In my observation, Catholic apologists deploy two basic arguments to justify prayers to Mary. Each argument can be assessed on its own terms, or in relation to one another. Let's begin with the latter analysis:

i) Asking Mary to intercede for us isn't essentially different from asking a Christian friend to intercede for us.

ii) We should pray to Mary because Mary is special. She's in a unique position to intercede on our behalf.

Now, whatever the individual merits of these two arguments, when taken in combination they invalidate each other. Hence, it is not even possible for a Protestant to agree with both arguments. So a Catholic apologist needs to decide which one we should believe, since we can't very well believe both. 

iii) The first argument is a common ground argument. It isn't overtly based on Catholic distinctives. It attempts to build a bridge by appealing to something a Protestant already concedes–or does. 

By contrast, the second argument is just the opposite. It appeals to Marian dogmas. We should pray to Mary because she's the Queen Mother. We should pray to her due to her unrivaled holiness–given the Immaculate Conception. 

Again, though, whatever else we might say about that claim, it's the polar opposite of a common ground argument. And it stands in point blank contradiction to the rationale of the first argument. The first argument contends that we ought to pray to Mary because that's not essentially different from asking fellow Christians to pray for us. By contrast, the second argument contends that we ought to pray to Mary because she's in a fundamentally different, and superior position, to ordinary Christians. We should pray to her because she is decidedly not like ordinary Christians. She's in a class apart. 

Once again, my point at this stage of the argument isn't to assess the merits of that claim, but to note that if the first argument is true, it invalidates the second argument–and if the second argument is true, it invalidates the first argument. If a Catholic apologist insists on both, then they cancel each other out, without remainder. These are two diametrically opposing arguments. 

iv) Now let's briefly consider each argument on its own terms. One essential difference between asking Mary to intercede for us and asking a Christian friend to intercede for us is the difference between asking for prayer and praying to someone. If I ask a friend to pray for me, I'm not praying to my friend. 

But in the case of Marian devotions, the very act of asking Mary to pray for us is, in itself, a prayer to Mary. You can't ask Mary to pray for you unless you pray to Mary. You're not just soliciting prayer. You're praying for prayer. You're praying to Mary to pray for you. Praying to someone, and asking someone to pray for you, are not the same thing. So that's just one point at which the argument from analogy breaks down. 

v) Is Mary holier than other Christians? I'll grant you that Mary in heaven is holier than Christians on earth. But that doesn't make Mary in heaven holier than other Christians in heaven. Mary is sinless in heaven. But so are other Christians in heaven.

Conversely, there's no Biblical reason to think that before she died and went to heaven, Mary was holier than every other Christian or Jew on earth. No reason to think she was holier than Anna or Elizabeth (Lk 2).

Of course, at this point a Catholic apologist will counter that she was holier by virtue of the Immaculate Conception. She was sinless all her life. And, in fact, she never died. She went straight to heaven. 

But, of course, that invokes presuppositions which a Protestant doesn't grant. That's an appeal to evolving traditions. Traditions which become more theologically embellished as they become more distant in time and space from historical events and historical sources. 

There is much more one could say in objection to Marian prayer. For now I'm just clearing some of the underbrush that obscures the real issues.

No comments:

Post a Comment