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Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Postby mitchellmckain » 13 Mar 2009, 14:15

I believe that the original controversy about calling Mary "the mother of God" became mired in the talk of the two natures of Christ and thus in the limitations of the antiquated metaphysics of the age. But we have another example to draw from in which a scientific understanding can be helpful and thus avoid being misled by medieval metaphysics, which has more to do with the human language than the nature of reality. This is the example of two kinds of parents that human beings can have: biological parents and the parents that raised them. From one set we have the biological inheritance, the DNA that makes us biologically human, and from the other we have the inheritance of mind which I believe is where our true humanity lies. It is my belief that by the first, we are bretheren to all the forms of life on this planet, and by the second we are the children of God for I believe that this inheritance of mind first comes from God.

Thus to look at Mary's relationship to Jesus, I think a theoretical understanding of what it means to be a parent as the contributor of information and as one who provides a protected and nurturing environment is quite helpful. Clearly Mary provided the nurturing womb in which the infant Jesus grew and clearly she played the most important role in raising the child as well. The fact that Jesus was a carpenter like Joseph makes it clear that Joseph's role as a father in raising Jesus was also just as substantial as any father who raises a child. Perhaps we cannot say with too much clarity or certainty where the biological inheritance for Jesus came from, but that is the least important question as far as I am concerned.

But in any case, although Mary may have contributed information and a nurturing environment that played a role in the growth and development of human body and mind of Jesus, we must ask whether she made any contribution that played a role in the growth and development of Christ's divnity in any way. Clearly not! Chrisitians are not adoptionists that believe that Jesus became God and so since Jesus was always God then it is clear that Mary did not contribute to Christ's divinity in any way whatsoever. For that reason I think it is absurd to call Mary the "mother of God". The relationship between Mary and God is one of Mary being the the child and God being the parent.

There are logical difficulties here to be sure, for the following simple syllogism seems valid:

Mary is the mother of Jesus.
Jesus is God.
Therefore Mary is the mother of God.

But this is only the consequence of the deceptive simplicity of human language which makes statements that sound like absolutes when in reality they are no such thing. Mary is the mother of Jesus only in a certain sense even though this is the sense that is most typically used because the word typically refers to human relationships, but we also know that Mary's father is God in a sense quite different from the usual sense of human relationships, and this suggests to me that we have two very difference senses operating in the two first statements of the syllogism making them incompatable so that the syllogism is not valid and its conclusion cannot be drawn.

BUT I will speak to the problem in the original controversy to say that this should not be construed as a reason for a seperation in Christ between the human and the divine. I would in fact say that all that is human in Jesus in all its finitude and vulnerability is still an act of God and thus an expression of His divinity for it is by His infinitude and omnipotence that He could become fully human in the way that He did -- a power over Himself that is difficult for us to fathom.
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Re: Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Postby Stanley Anderson » 13 Mar 2009, 15:31

Whatever the actual justification (whether one agrees with it or not) for using the phrase "Mother of God", I suspect a lot of objection to the term can be traced to the idea that "motherhood" precedes fatherhood, or even precedes, in divine terms, the begotten. (And I would say this idea can often be held as a kind of subconscious a priori assumption so that the person holding it may not even be aware that it is being assumed but simply draws conclusions without realizing it is being used in the process).
So, with this assumption, there is an inherent conclusion that if God has a mother then the mother must somehow be "above" God and therefore has more claim to be "God" herself than the supposed god she is claimed to be the mother of.

I don't know if that assumption is part of your internal process (conscious or not) and objection to the phrase, but I would just make clear that this is not what the Catholic view is. Even though some religions might use "motherhood" as the root (eg "Mother Earth" and such), Christianity (and Catholicism in particular)sees it as a created thing. Genesis even shows the Eve as being brought out of the Adam and not the other way around as we might narrowly and naively "scientifically" imagine if we were devising a creation story ourselves. (As it is, even in evolutionary thought, "motherhood" came rather late into the game I believe.)

So however God can, in his mysterious way, cause his very creation to "beget" his nature (talk about circular references and tail-eating serpents! :smile: ), the phrase "Mother of God" is, for me (as an admittedly biased Catholic who is obliged to accept it anyway), a perfectly reasonable one, both in terms of accepting the doctrine on Church authority, but also simply in terms of it not seeming self-contradictory or meaningless. One may have other objections, but if one can wriggle around the assumption of motherhood preceding fatherhood and the divine as I have suggested above, it is at least something one can "work with".

By the way, I would also note that even though you mention DNA in the first paragraph, in the second paragraph you write "Clearly Mary provided the nurturing womb in which the infant Jesus grew..." and perhaps you meant for the DNA reference to carry over. And if so, that is good. But because it is separated from that reference, and because it seems to be another of those "unconsciously held" assumptions held by many people that Mary was simply a sort of "conduit" or "tube" which Jesus "slid through" to get from his heavenly "place" down to earth, I would clarify that Christ's humanity was "woven" (if I can use that term) from the very DNA of Mary so that she was an integral part of his being and not just a "carrier" of the divine fetus as though she were some kind of surrogate mother. You may not have intended that meaning, but it is easy for others to miss that so I wanted to clarify at least what the orthodox intention is.

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Re: Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Postby mitchellmckain » 13 Mar 2009, 16:21

Stanley Anderson wrote:So, with this assumption, there is an inherent conclusion that if God has a mother then the mother must somehow be "above" God and therefore has more claim to be "God" herself than the supposed god she is claimed to be the mother of.

I don't think this has anything to do with my conclusions. My conclusion is based on a frank apprasal of the relationship between Mary and God and it is not one of mother and son but of daughter and divine parent and it is on that basis that I do not think the title is appropriate.


Stanley Anderson wrote:I don't know if that assumption is part of your internal process (conscious or not) and objection to the phrase, but I would just make clear that this is not what the Catholic view is.

Sure and likewise to be clear, I do not make any argument here that Catholic tradition in this matter makes them non-Christian or anything like that. It and a number of ideas about Mary are certainly issues over which the Protestants diverge from the Catholic understanding of Christianity. But I consider it to be a minor issue, and the OP simply represents my personal view on the matter.


Stanley Anderson wrote:Even though some religions might use "motherhood" as the root (eg "Mother Earth" and such), Christianity (and Catholicism in particular)sees it as a created thing. Genesis even shows the Eve as being brought out of the Adam and not the other way around as we might narrowly and naively "scientifically" imagine if we were devising a creation story ourselves. (As it is, even in evolutionary thought, "motherhood" came rather late into the game I believe.)

I do in fact see something of a void in Protestant theology in regards to the femine side of God. But I would simply say that God is just as much Mother as God is Father rather than embrace, what seem to me, this rather peculiar position of almost semi-divinity that Catholicism has put Mary into, and which I see no Biblical basis for, but quite the opposite.


Stanley Anderson wrote:By the way, I would also note that even though you mention DNA in the first paragraph, in the second paragraph you write "Clearly Mary provided the nurturing womb in which the infant Jesus grew..." and perhaps you meant for the DNA reference to carry over. And if so, that is good. But because it is separated from that reference, and because it seems to be another of those "unconsciously held" assumptions held by many people that Mary was simply a sort of "conduit" or "tube" which Jesus "slid through" to get from his heavenly "place" down to earth, I would clarify that Christ's humanity was "woven" (if I can use that term) from the very DNA of Mary so that she was an integral part of his being and not just a "carrier" of the divine fetus as though she were some kind of surrogate mother. You may not have intended that meaning, but it is easy for others to miss that so I wanted to clarify at least what the orthodox intention is.

No I have deliberately avoided making any comment on the matter and said that perhaps we cannot make any assumption about this at all. Personally I certainly DO NOT believe in the magical creation of human beings from nothing and I reject the notion that the beginning of Genesis is a story of a necromancer creating a golem of dust and an golem of flesh as the first human ancestors. I do not believe that the method of creating something can be divorsed from the result and so I cannot consider any kind of artificial construction of this sort to be something that I would call human. Thus, IF I were to speculate on this matter of the genetic origin of Jesus, I would go even farther than you have to say that the DNA of Jesus most likely has an entirely human origin of both male and female lineages. The two lineages given for Jesus in the Bible can even be considered Biblical support for this idea.
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Re: Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Postby Stanley Anderson » 13 Mar 2009, 16:51

mitchellmckain wrote:...IF I were to speculate on this matter of the genetic origin of Jesus, I would go even farther than you have to say that the DNA of Jesus most likely has an entirely human origin of both male and female lineages. The two lineages given for Jesus in the Bible can even be considered Biblical support for this idea.


Just to identify what the Athanasian Creed says in this matter, here is a line from it: "He [the Son] is God of the substance of the Father begotten before the worlds, and He is man of the substance of His mother born in the world". I'm not sure exactly what you mean by your statement, but if you are suggesting that Jesus had an earthly biological father (that, say, Joseph impregnated Mary) then that would definitely go against traditional orthodox Christian theology. But perhaps you mean something less "direct"? Not sure.

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Re: Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Postby mitchellmckain » 13 Mar 2009, 21:19

Stanley Anderson wrote:
mitchellmckain wrote:...IF I were to speculate on this matter of the genetic origin of Jesus, I would go even farther than you have to say that the DNA of Jesus most likely has an entirely human origin of both male and female lineages. The two lineages given for Jesus in the Bible can even be considered Biblical support for this idea.

Just to identify what the Athanasian Creed says in this matter, here is a line from it: "He [the Son] is God of the substance of the Father begotten before the worlds, and He is man of the substance of His mother born in the world".

Well this is exactly the sort of antiquated metaphysics that I do not buy into at all. The english word "substance" used in this manner makes no sense at all. Jesus is not made out of either the material of God the Father or out of the material of Mary. To simply say that Jesus is of the same kind of substance in terms of spiritual and physical energy is clearly missing the intent of the creed since the same can be said of any human being. HOWEVER, I know of course that this word "substance" in this sentence simply refers back to Aristotle's "ousia" and I have fundamental disagreements with Aristotle on this concept because I think his concept is an artifact of language rather than having anything to do with reality. But I agree that Jesus certainly belongs to the linguistic category that "God" refers to as well as to the linguistic category that "human" refers to, and that is about all the meaning that I can really find in this statement of the Athanasian creed (which is not a creed with any authority that I recognize by the way). It was most probaby the work of Augustine of Hippo and his supporters, whom I view as a borderline heretic and extremist, however much he may have finagled the political support of Rome.


Stanley Anderson wrote:I'm not sure exactly what you mean by your statement, but if you are suggesting that Jesus had an earthly biological father

If by biological father you mean a human being from whom Jesus has an inheritance of DNA then yes that is exactly what I mean.


Stanley Anderson wrote:(that, say, Joseph impregnated Mary) then that would definitely go against traditional orthodox Christian theology. But perhaps you mean something less "direct"? Not sure.

Well now you seem to be talking about the virgin birth, which in this day and age should be clearly understood to be an entirely different issue because we do now have children whose conception was not a product of sexual intercourse, but this does not in the least change the fact that they have a biological father. I see no reason to doubt that God can accomplish what human beings themselves have already accomplished by the use of technology.

But if you are querying whether I actually believe in the virgin birth, I admit that I am certainly not any great defender of the doctrine, but as I said I have little reason to doubt it and I do recognize that the consensus of Christianity affirms it. But if for some unimaginable reason the doctrine was proven false, I certainly would not lose any faith or sleep over such a discovery, but I can imagine that Catholics, with all the other extra-ordinary things they believe about Mary, such a discovery would be quite a shock.
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Re: Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Postby Stanley Anderson » 14 Mar 2009, 14:30

mitchellmckain wrote:My conclusion is based on a frank apprasal of the relationship between Mary and God and it is not one of mother and son but of daughter and divine parent and it is on that basis that I do not think the title is appropriate.


[The above quote was in reference to this quote from the original post I believe]:
But in any case, although Mary may have contributed information and a nurturing environment that played a role in the growth and development of human body and mind of Jesus, we must ask whether she made any contribution that played a role in the growth and development of Christ's divnity in any way. Clearly not! Chrisitians are not adoptionists that believe that Jesus became God and so since Jesus was always God then it is clear that Mary did not contribute to Christ's divinity in any way whatsoever. For that reason I think it is absurd to call Mary the "mother of God". The relationship between Mary and God is one of Mary being the the child and God being the parent.


I just wanted to add a couple more comments to my previous posts here (and I don't expect to convince you or anyone else of anything, only to talk about what is reasonable to believe given the assumptions of parenthood and such).

If, say, a black woman were to have a child whose father was a white man, we wouldn't think of saying that she was only the mother of the black portion of the child, just as we couldn't separate the "black" portions from the "white" portions of the child (an issue perhaps addressed in an analogous manner by Shakespeare's "pound of flesh" being unseparable from the blood in Merchant of Venice). So whatever the "contributions" by Mary and God, she is still the "Mother of God" as an appropriate title -- ie, Jesus would not have been (if we can even use a "might have been" about God) the second person of the trinity in the manner that he is without Mary's assent and motherhood. Catholic theology does not suggest that she "contributed" any divine portion of his nature, and yet she was as instrumental in his "unified" birth as the black mother would be to her mixed-race child and is mother in any reasonable sense without qualification or "mix-up" of uses or "senses" of terminology.

And of course God is also her Father. Not only that, but Mary, in Catholic theology is associated directly with the Church and so is also associated with being the Bride of Christ (put that rather shocking relational tobacco in your pipe and smoke it), not to mention the title "Queen of Heaven". There is an interweaving of a lot of ideas here, but my point is that, given the theology (and of course many disagree with it), she is indeed properly referred to as Mother of God

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Re: Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Postby postodave » 14 Mar 2009, 22:41

Daughter of the Father
Mother of the Son
Spouse of the Spirit
So I drew my sword and got ready
But the lamb ran away with the crown
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Re: Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Postby mitchellmckain » 15 Mar 2009, 13:14

Stanley Anderson wrote:If, say, a black woman were to have a child whose father was a white man, we wouldn't think of saying that she was only the mother of the black portion of the child, just as we couldn't separate the "black" portions from the "white" portions of the child (an issue perhaps addressed in an analogous manner by Shakespeare's "pound of flesh" being unseparable from the blood in Merchant of Venice).

On the contrary we CAN and DO seperate such things. It is everyday language that we say, "you got that from your mother", or "you got that from your father". But in any case this is a category mistake, because you are not speaking of anything that already existed before conception and God the Son existed "fully formed" before the conception of Jesus in Mary's womb. I know you want to make it about this seperation of natures in Jesus, because that is the safe ground of the historical controversy, but this is not about any seperation of natures in Jesus, it is about the fundamental relationship between Mary and God, which is NOT mother and son.


Stanley Anderson wrote:So whatever the "contributions" by Mary and God, she is still the "Mother of God" as an appropriate title -- ie, Jesus would not have been (if we can even use a "might have been" about God) the second person of the trinity in the manner that he is without Mary's assent and motherhood. Catholic theology does not suggest that she "contributed" any divine portion of his nature, and yet she was as instrumental in his "unified" birth as the black mother would be to her mixed-race child and is mother in any reasonable sense without qualification or "mix-up" of uses or "senses" of terminology.

God became man by an act of God and wholly by the power of God and not by any act or power of Mary. The man that God became was born but God was not born, because it is not by this birth that God came into the world, for God was already in the world, it is only the man that God became that came into the world by this birth.


Stanley Anderson wrote:And of course God is also her Father. Not only that, but Mary, in Catholic theology is associated directly with the Church and so is also associated with being the Bride of Christ (put that rather shocking relational tobacco in your pipe and smoke it), not to mention the title "Queen of Heaven".

That may be a title conferred on Mary by the Catholic church, but I do not recognize the authority of the Catholic church to do any such thing. I do not believe that Mary is any kind of "Queen of Heaven" and I certainly see no evidence whatsoever for this in the Bible. All the fantastic claims of the Catholic church about Mary are not Biblical and some even directly contradict the Bible and therefore I see no basis for believing any of these things.

Matthew 12:46, Mark 3:31,Luke 8:19 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister, and my mother."

Mary was neither perpetually virgin nor perpetually in accord with the will of God. She was likely saved since she is mentioned in Acts as praying with the rest of the body, but it is clear that she has no special status apart from any of the women of the church, which seems rather at odds with all the things that the Catholic church has tried to claim about her.


postodave wrote:Daughter of the Father
Mother of the Son
Spouse of the Spirit

That sounds good and it might even work except for one thing. The Son is not just the man Jesus who was born on earth to Mary. The Son is also God who created all things in the beginning. That, at least is what Christians believe. Now there may indeed be some pseudo-Christian groups that believe that this person of the Trinity, the Son of God, came into existence as the son of Mary - it would go hand in hand with the adoptionist Christology of some of these groups (like the moonies). BUT in Christian theology, God the Son who created all things in the beginning was not born to Mary and was not a son of Mary. He was the Son of the Father not of Mary and the creator of all mankind including Mary. It is only after this that the Son became the man Jesus who was born to Mary and was thus her son while in human form and remains her son in regards to His human spirit. Thus Mary is the mother of Jesus, the man that God became, but Mary was NOT the mother of God. Jesus is fully man and as a man He is the son of Mary, but Jesus is fully God and as God He is NOT the son of Mary but Son of the Father (NOT of Mary and the Father -- clearly you can see the error of saying that sort of thing).

You see however much you may say that you cannot seperate divine and human natures in Jesus, these natures ARE seperated in the wider context by the fact that the Son of God BECAME a human being. The Son of God was NOT ALWAYS a human being . This is in fact made necessary by the very fact that Jesus is FULLY human and FULLY God, because that which is human has a beginning and that which is God DOES NOT. For the Son of God to always have been human is a logical contradicition in terms because it is NOT human nature to always have existed, just as it IS the nature of God to have existed always and without beginning.
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Re: Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Postby Stanley Anderson » 15 Mar 2009, 15:26

(by the way, for the most part in my posts here, I am only describing what I believe the Catholic positions are - accepting any corrections from better Catholics than me - and have no illusions of "convincing" you or anyone else of those positions. I am well aware of their disagreeable and at times even seemingly repugnant nature to many Protestants, because of both my own pre-conversion feelings in the past as well as numerous contact with those views from others.)

mitchellmckain wrote:
Stanley Anderson wrote:If, say, a black woman were to have a child whose father was a white man, we wouldn't think of saying that she was only the mother of the black portion of the child, just as we couldn't separate the "black" portions from the "white" portions of the child (an issue perhaps addressed in an analogous manner by Shakespeare's "pound of flesh" being unseparable from the blood in Merchant of Venice).

On the contrary we CAN and DO seperate such things. It is everyday language that we say, "you got that from your mother", or "you got that from your father".


Of course. Nevertheless she is still the mother of those "that"s.

I know you want to make it about this seperation of natures in Jesus, because that is the safe ground of the historical controversy...


You know a lot about what I want to make it about, eh? In that case you must know a lot more about me than I do about myself.

..., but this is not about any seperation of natures in Jesus, it is about the fundamental relationship between Mary and God, which is NOT mother and son.


I'll agree with the first part of that statement and disagree with the second part: "This is not about any separation of the natures of Jesus, it is about the fundamental relationship between Mary and God, which IS mother and son. (and of course I will qualify "God" in that sentence to be referring to the second person of the Trinity, the son.)

God became man by an act of God and wholly by the power of God and not by any act or power of Mary. The man that God became was born but God was not born, because it is not by this birth that God came into the world, for God was already in the world, it is only the man that that God became that came into the world by this birth.


This is bordering on certain heresies or at least tending in that direction. I'm not going to tease that statement apart -- it is potentially reasonable, but the subtleties of orthodox teaching and the heresies those teachings were meant to correct are probably too delicate to go much into here (at least for me -- I have much more basic sins and issues to resolve and spend lots of analytical time on)

For the most part, though, your comment above and the later ones in your post (eg, "...but Jesus is fully God and as God He is NOT the son of Mary but Son of the Father") seem to demonstrate to me something you denied in an earlier reply to me. Here is the exchange:

I wrote:
[regarding the phrase "Mother of God"]...I suspect a lot of objection to the term can be traced to the idea that "motherhood" precedes fatherhood, or even precedes, in divine terms, the begotten...So, with this assumption, there is an inherent conclusion that if God has a mother then the mother must somehow be "above" God and therefore has more claim to be "God" herself than the supposed god she is claimed to be the mother of.

[and for clarification, I continued with] I would just make clear that this is not what the Catholic view is...[Catholicism] sees [motherhood] as a created thing


You replied:
I don't think this has anything to do with my conclusions.


Now of course you go on to explain what you think your conclusion is based on instead, but at the heart of your objection, it still seems to me that you are objecting because the term seems to put Mary, as "mother", "above" or as preceding God, or perhaps at least "equal" to God in divine terms. Again, I would say that motherhood is a created thing. The further effect in Catholic theology may in fact be something like that motherhood has been taken up into divinity (as we all shall be by Christ's actions), but the "born-ness" of the son by Mary is a result of God's creative acts and not by Mary's innate "independent" or a priori divine nature.

Stanley Anderson wrote:And of course God is also her Father. Not only that, but Mary, in Catholic theology is associated directly with the Church and so is also associated with being the Bride of Christ (put that rather shocking relational tobacco in your pipe and smoke it), not to mention the title "Queen of Heaven".

That may be a title conferred on Mary by the Catholic church, but I do not recognize the authority of the Catholic church to do any such thing.


And of course I did not in any way expect you would. Again, just another comment about what the Catholic Church teaches and used in that excerpt merely as one more example of the many "faces" of Mary, not meant as any kind of persuasive argument to convince.

I do not believe that Mary is any kind of "Queen of Heaven" and I certainly see no evidence whatsoever for this in the Bible. All the fantastic claims of the Catholic church about Mary are not Biblical and some even directly contradict the Bible and therefore I see basis for believing any of these things.


Again, I'm sure you wouldn't accept the Catholic teaching (which involves both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, the former which you would likely not agree with the interpretation and the latter which you would likely not accept on any terms at all as authoritative), so this is not meant to be convincing, but Catholics first say that the Church's teaching must not contradict Scripture, so it would probably say that the things you think directly contradict the Bible are misunderstandings on your part (to which I'm sure you would disagree, but that's ok). And as at least a partial (but unconvincing, I'm sure) Scriptural example, Revelation 12:1 plays into it: "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars". I know Protestants interpret this differently, but I'm only giving it as an example.

Stanley Anderson wrote:Daughter of the Father
Mother of the Son
Spouse of the Spirit


Just for clarification, that was not posted by me but by Postodave, though it sounds reasonable to me and I wouldn't object to it (postodave, is that a standard phrase that I haven't run across before?)

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Re: Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Postby Stanley Anderson » 15 Mar 2009, 20:42

(by the way, it appears that you must have edited your post sometime between when I read it and before I posted my reply, since there seem to be additions and corrections to your post - eg, the incorrect reference to my quoting the three-line bit that was really posted by postodave, as well as extra Scriptural references, etc)

(Unavoidable in the "real-time" effect of posting sequentially with the expected time delays, but I just wanted to clarify that for anyone reading my post that may have been confused by, say, my "correction" of your quote attribution)

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Re: Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Postby postodave » 15 Mar 2009, 21:39

Daughter of the Father
Mother of the Son
Spouse of the Spirit

I found this years ago in a magazine published in English by the Ukrainian Catholic Church who are Catholics of the Eastern Right (RCs using Orthodox liturgy). It made good sense to me. Mitch's position sounds like some form of Nestorianism to me and anything I would want to say has already been said by Cyril of Alexandria in his first epistle. Unfortunately I can't find you an online translation of that.
Mitch: the point is that a mother is the mother of a whole person and the person in whom the two natures of Christ are united is divine. I don't think modern discoveries about the way biological inheritance works have made the slightest difference to what the Fathers were saying and the arguments you are using sound exactly like those used by Nestorius 1500 years ago.
You might like to follow this link: http://www.monachos.net/forum/showthread.php?t=5059
Indeed this might be a good place to continue the discussion. If the guys a Monachos can't explain the traditional view probably no one can. As a protestant I might differ from my Catholic and Orthodox brethren on some aspects of the role of Mary but I can see no problem with the title 'Mother of God'
So I drew my sword and got ready
But the lamb ran away with the crown
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Re: Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Postby agingjb » 15 Mar 2009, 22:24

I don't pretend to understand the Marian dogmas (they were not a part of the beliefs of my former church) - but the Immaculate Conception has always seemed either to imply that anyone could have been freed from original sin, or that there was something special about the (non-biblical?) St Anne.

And the Bodily Assumption, together with the Ascension, would imply that the DNA of those involved in the Incarnation is inaccessible - does that also imply that considering the Divine Y chromosome is an improper curiosity?

As I say, I really haven't a clue, so I hope these ramblings don't upset anyone.

So, from this position of ignorance, dare I say that "Sister of the Spirit" would make more sense to me than "Spouse of the Spirit"
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Re: Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Postby mitchellmckain » 16 Mar 2009, 00:26

Stanley Anderson wrote:
God became man by an act of God and wholly by the power of God and not by any act or power of Mary. The man that God became was born but God was not born, because it is not by this birth that God came into the world, for God was already in the world, it is only the man that that God became that came into the world by this birth.


This is bordering on certain heresies or at least tending in that direction.

Oh please... please call me a heretic. For that would be a badge of honor letting me stand side by side with all the others whom the Catholic church has also in their arrogance declared to be heretics!

I have a different idea about the meaning of this word "heresy" which is all about the sort of exclusivity that demands that others conform to their ideas and dogmas in order to be acceptable to them (which they often pretend is equivalent to being acceptable to God).


Stanley Anderson wrote:
I suspect a lot of objection to the term can be traced to the idea that "motherhood" precedes fatherhood, or even precedes, in divine terms, the begotten...So, with this assumption, there is an inherent conclusion that if God has a mother then the mother must somehow be "above" God and therefore has more claim to be "God" herself than the supposed god she is claimed to be the mother of.


You replied:
I don't think this has anything to do with my conclusions.


Now of course you go on to explain what you think your conclusion is based on instead, but at the heart of your objection, it still seems to me that you are objecting because the term seems to put Mary, as "mother", "above" or as preceding God, or perhaps at least "equal" to God in divine terms.

That is largely off base because there is no idea of being above or being equal in my understanding of what "mother" means. I mean come on! I am an evolutionist that believes that all forms of life on this planet have a common ancestor and so such an idea of motherhood would be logically inconsistent with this. The sentiment of a mother should be a desire for her children to be better and greater than herself. What you raise is therefore a red herring that has absolutely nothing to do with the issue under discussion.

I think perhaps we can say that my understanding of the word "mother" finds no commonality with any meaning in the word as it is used in this title "mother of God" for Mary -- which is after all the whole point of my OP. I must think that this is basically what Catholics do -- they redefine the word to make it fit the title, just as homosexuals would redefine the word "marriage" to make it fit their relationships. A mother most definitely precedes her son and that is part of the meaning of the word "mother". The mother provides an inheritance and a nurturing environment in which her child can grow. That is what it means to be a mother. Thus Mary is the mother of Jesus but not the mother of God, even though Jesus is God.


Stanley Anderson wrote:[and for clarification, I continued with] I would just make clear that this is not what the Catholic view is...[Catholicism] sees [motherhood] as a created thing

Again, I would say that motherhood is a created thing.

I don't think that statement has any meaning whatsoever.


Stanley Anderson wrote:The further effect in Catholic theology may in fact be something like that motherhood has been taken up into divinity (as we all shall be by Christ's actions),

And this has no place in my theology at all, for there is nothing that can be added to God or taken into His divinity that is not already there, now and before creation. Motherhood as well as Fatherhood in all its perfect realization was already to be found within God before the creation of the world. For God is and was perfect, fulfilled, complete and infinite. His act of creation was not for any need or self-fulfillment but pure act of self-less giving. That is my theology.


Stanley Anderson wrote: but the "born-ness" of the son by Mary is a result of God's creative acts and not by Mary's innate "independent" or a priori divine nature.

Huh? No idea what this can mean besides what I have already said: "God became man by an act of God and wholly by the power of God and not by any act or power of Mary." Jesus being born to Mary was a physical event in physical time and space -- and the fact of this physical event is the only "born-ness" there is....????...
Last edited by mitchellmckain on 16 Mar 2009, 05:31, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Postby Peter P » 16 Mar 2009, 01:01

This is a fascinating and excellent discussion - thanks.

Can't add anything at this point, but my feeling (and I mean just that, i.e. my "feeling" as opposed to a thought-out position or theological knowledge) is that there must be a place for the Mother - the Material - the Matter....a place in our theology for that which (She Who) connects the utterly unknowable to this time and place (to Time and Place).

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Re: Mother of God, is this title appropriate?

Postby rusmeister » 16 Mar 2009, 01:28

The problem with all such discussions becomes one of what you accept as Authority to define the faith you accept. Catholics, as well as Orthodox (and possibly others), admit that the issues are beyond what they could figure out on their own - that even having the Bible in front of them in their native language does not enable them to truly clarify the matter. Other Christians, who claim that their Authority is the Bible, do not identify the authority that interprets the Bible for them, for the obvious reason that the authority is self. That, I think, puts the problem of Sola Scriptura into one sentence and eliminates the sophistry. Thus, the individual C/O Christian cannot hold an individual opinion on dogma, based merely on what they personally know and have read. Non-C/O Christians can, and so everyone's opinion is their own dogma. That's how you break a religion into a million denominations - make personal interpretation of oral or written Tradition (2 Thess 2:15) the ultimate authority. The individual is supreme.

In Orthodoxy, it depends on the language, but the Russian "Bogoroditsa" (Birth-giver of God) and the Greek "Theotokos" (ditto) accurately describe what Mary did for Christ. She did literally give birth to Him, He was uncreated and existed before all the ages, He did say "I keep sending you prophets..." and "before Abraham was, I AM". The title, which, until fairly recently, was rendered in English as "the Mother of God" has been phased out in favor of the Greek term - and I would say it is because of the misunderstandings caused by the history of English-speaking countries, dominated by Protestantism - which, without reference to the more ancient Christian Tradition (being of necessity limited to post-16th century in any such reference) understood the term automatically as "Mother of God the Father", which is not what the term means at all. For us, the trinity is a Mystery, and we're OK with that. How it is that God can be Three and One, how it is that Mary can be the Theotokos but not the mother of God the Father is a Mystery to us - and that's OK. Who said we need to understand God?

In all Church language and references, the term "Theotokos" is generally used for direct address, although various permutations of "Mother (of God, of Christ, the Savior, etc)" are also encountered and make no waves. We don't take such references to mean "Mother of the Father".
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