The Theotokos: The Mary of Roman Catholicism

THE THEOTOKOS- Introduction
Both Catholics and Protestants recognize Mary as the mother of Jesus Christ. However, beyond this, their views are vastly divergent. Just how different are they?

THE THEOTOKOS- The Beginnings of a Conflict
Of the many issues which divide Catholics and Protestants, the question of Mary’s status within the church is definitely one of the most prominent ones. In fact, the beginning of the problem can be traced all the way back to the Council of Chalcedon, which took place in 451 A.D. Here, Mary was officially given the title Theotokos (which means “God-bearer” or “mother of God”). Well, this designation was meant to underscore the fact that Jesus is God in the flesh — one person who possessed two distinct natures, rather than two persons who were somehow joined together. Unfortunately, the title paved the way for extreme Marian devotees to filter into the church.

THE THEOTOKOS- Blessed, or Venerated?
In confessing Mary to be “the mother of God,” we simply mean that it was within Mary’s womb that the eternal Son became united to a human nature and entered the world as theanthropos, the God-man. Mary was truly Jesus’ mother, but let’s make an important distinction here — she was Christ’s mother with respect to His humanity and not His deity. We affirm with Catholics that Mary was indeed “blessed among women” (Luke 1:28). After all, God chose her to give birth to the Messiah. But we firmly disagree with those Catholics who hold that Mary deserves to be exalted or venerated because of her unique relationship with Christ. Jesus Himself, in several instances, down played His physical relationship with His mother while at the same time emphasizing His spiritual relationship with all believers (Matt. 12:46-50; Luke 11:27-28).

THE THEOTOKOS- False Doctrines
Unfortunately, the exalted position that Mary holds in the Catholic church has given rise to several unwarranted doctrines. One of them is that Mary remained a virgin throughout her lifetime (cf. Matt. 1:25; 13:55-56). Another is that she herself was conceived without sin (cf. Rom. 3:23); and also that she was assumed or taken up to heaven either before she died or shortly thereafter.

THE THEOTOKOS- Conclusion
It’s important to note that this is a far cry from the Mary of the Bible — a Mary who saw herself simply as God’s humble servant (Luke 1:38, 48), a sinner who (like you and I) was also in need of a savior (Luke 1:47). These are important issues, and we simply can’t just afford to ignore them.On the Mary of Roman Catholicism, that’s the CRI Perspective. I’m Hank Hanegraaff.