Friday, August 12, 2022

A Lot Of Problems With The Assumption Of Mary

Cameron Bertuzzi just interviewed Gavin Ortlund about the Assumption of Mary. It's a good overview of the number, variety, and depth of problems with the claim that Mary was bodily assumed.

Some of the comments below the video bring up comparisons to sola scriptura, rejection of baptismal regeneration, or whatever other belief Catholics or those who sympathize with them allege to be comparable to or worse than an assumption of Mary. We have posts in our archives about those issues (e.g., here). And see here regarding the false reasoning about doctrinal development that often accompanies those kinds of comments.

In the video and in the comments below it, there are occasional references to how one or more of the documents referring to an assumption of Mary date or might date prior to the fourth century. Gavin addresses the subject in the video, but I want to add some other points. The New Testament authors address various false beliefs that existed in their day. Earliness is one of the factors we take into account when evaluating something, but it isn't the only factor. Gavin gave many examples of figures Catholics (and others) consider orthodox who rejected the assumption of Mary or discussed issues significantly relevant to an assumption of Mary without mentioning that she was assumed (e.g., church fathers referring to figures who were assumed into heaven without including Mary). Even if we were to accept the earliest dating being proposed for the earliest document to mention an assumption of Mary, we'd still have to take into account that the belief is coming from such a dubious source, it seems to be reflecting a view only held by a small minority at the time, and belief in an assumption seems to be absent and sometimes even contradicted in such a larger number and variety of sources who are of a more credible nature. Arguing for an earlier date for some highly problematic heretical or apocryphal documents doesn't do much to advance the argument for an assumption of Mary. As Gavin explains in the video, the problems with the belief are of such a nature that assigning an earlier date to something like a Gnostic document mentioning the assumption wouldn't do much to improve the Catholic argument. Remember, Catholicism has dogmatized the Assumption of Mary, and the Catholic Church claims to be the one true church founded by Christ, which allegedly is infallible and has maintained all apostolic teaching throughout church history. Catholics claim Mary is God's greatest creation, superior to all angels and other humans, the mother of the church, and so on. Pope Pius XII claimed that Mary's assumption is a belief "based on the Sacred Writings, which is thoroughly rooted in the minds of the faithful, which has been approved in ecclesiastical worship from the most remote times" (Munificentissimus Deus, 41). He refers to the assumption as "a matter of such great moment and of such importance" (11) and claims that the arguments for the doctrine are so good that it "seems impossible" (38) to avoid the conclusion that Mary was bodily assumed.

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Exalted And Stooping

"This passage [in Isaiah 40] begins with God gathering his lambs in his arms (40:11) and ends with his giving strength to the faint who have no might (40:29-31). Between these two pictures of God's stooping to help the helpless are the most exalted glimpses of his majesty: 'the nations are like a drop from a bucket' (40:15); 'the nations are as nothing before him' (40:17); 'earth's inhabitants are like grasshoppers' (40:22); '[he] makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness' (40:23); he created the stars and calls all their billions by name (40:26). This juxtaposition of God's self-exaltation and self-humbling is pervasive in the biblical picture of God's providence and is near the essence of his peculiar and wonderful glory." (John Piper, Providence [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2020], approximate Kindle location 4684)

The Servant Songs begin shortly after, at the start of chapter 42. "I, the Lord, will answer them myself, as the God of Israel I will not forsake them….'Present your case,' the Lord says. 'Bring forward your strong arguments,' the King of Jacob says. Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; as for the former events, declare what they were, that we may consider them and know their outcome. Or announce to us what is coming" (Isaiah 41:17, 41:21-22).

Sunday, August 07, 2022

The Underestimated Value Of Papias' Comments On Mark

In his Church History, Eusebius cites some comments Papias made about the gospel of Mark. Those comments are often brought up in certain contexts, like discussions of the authorship of the second gospel. But the passage has been neglected in other contexts.

It's quoted below. I suspect all of the comments in the passage are from Papias, but the closing sentence could be taken as a comment by Eusebius. And the extent to which Papias is quoting the source he refers to as "the elder" (or "the presbyter") is disputed. In the quote below, I'll use regular text for the words of Papias, italics for the words of the elder, and bold for the words of Eusebius. This assumes a more pessimistic interpretation of the passage, in which Papias only quoted a smaller rather than larger amount of what the elder said and the closing comments came from Eusebius rather than Papias. I suspect this sort of interpretation is overly pessimistic. But let's assume it for the sake of argument, since I want to point out how much valuable information can be drawn from this passage even under such a pessimistic interpretation: