I was reading recently the address from Pope Benedict XVI given August 12 at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. The message is wonderful in that in very few words, the Pope clearly defines the God, or more properly, god, of Roman Catholicism. This god not being one who is Sovereign that does as he wills, when he wills, with whomever he wills. Rather, this god is one who needs man’s help, is dependent upon him, and is unable do anything without his approval.
Below we will find how deeply rooted this doctrine is in Catholicism where even the incarnation of Jesus Christ was not something that would happen because God decreed it, rather it was an act dependent on man, or in this case woman. We read,
When God decided to become man in his Son, he needed the freely-spoken “yes” of one of his creatures. God does not act against our freedom. And something truly extraordinary happens: God makes himself dependent on the free decision, the “yes” of one of his creatures; he waits for this “yes”.
St Bernard of Clairvaux explained dramatically in one of his homilies this crucial moment in universal history when Heaven, earth and God himself wait for what this creature will say.1
This is truly astonishing and as we will see below, total contrary to the clear words of Scripture. Astonishing because in just a few sentences the Pope has begun the process of crafting an idol2 with his tongue not unlike how the artisans of Catholicism do with their hands as they fashion their statues and paint their canvases. I stress an idol because after Benedict lays this unscriptural foundation he will quickly build upon it and point his priests and followers not unto the Lord Jesus as the apostles did, but rather unto the Mary of Catholicism.
Continuing with the address, the Pope states that:
Mary’s “yes” is therefore the door through which God was able to enter the world, to become man. So it is that Mary is truly and profoundly involved in the Mystery of the Incarnation, of our salvation. And the Incarnation, the Son’s becoming man, was the beginning that prepared the ground for the gift of himself; for giving himself with great love on the Cross to become Bread for the life of the world. Hence sacrifice, priesthood and Incarnation go together and Mary is at the heart of this mystery.3
And so we see that the Roman Catholic Mary preached by the Pope is “the door through which God was able to enter the world.” Likewise, she is, because of the Incarnation, said to be “…profoundly involved in … salvation.” All because she said “yes” and graciously granted the Lord permission to enter the world which, according to Catholicism, placed Mary at the heart of “…sacrifice, priesthood and Incarnation.”
If the Pope ended here, things would be bad enough, yet he does not. Rather, he follows in the footsteps of his predecessor Pope John Paul II and points his clergy not unto the Lord Jesus as the “chief Shepherd”, but rather unto the Catholic Mary where they are told to invoke her as “Mother of the supreme and eternal Priest, as Queen of Apostles, and as Protectress of their ministry.”4 All with the intent for priests to “…always venerate and love her, with a filial devotion and worship.”5
All because, according to the Pontiff, Mary said “yes” and graciously granted God permission to act. But is this teaching in accordance with the Scriptures? Most assuredly it is not as we will see next.
Looking to the Scriptures
To test the words of the Pope against what is recorded in God’s word, let us turn to the gospel of Luke where we read about Gabriel’s visitation to Mary and what transpired.
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. (Luke 1:26-32 – Bold added)
What should immediately jump out at us when we read these words is that we do not find a question put forth to Mary by Gabriel as he delivers his glad tidings from God. That is, we do not find Gabriel saying unto Mary something like,
Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou may conceive in thy womb if thou sayest yes, and bring forth a son, and you may call his name JESUS if you agree. He may be great if you allow him to be born, and he may be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God may give unto him the throne of his father David, but only if you say yes. So now Mary Heaven, earth and even God himself wait for what you will say.
As preposterous as I hope these words sound unto the reader this is exactly the heart of what the Pope is saying. Yet his words are in total contradiction to the Word of God that records Gabriel coming forth and issuing a declaration to Mary not about what may be but rather what shall be. What shall be because Mary was already chosen by God to be the blessed vessel to bring forth the promised Messiah with Gabriel delivering “glad tidings” and not a multiple choice test.
These “glad tidings” of course being a fulfillment of prophecies recorded throughout the Old Testament including one of the more familiar from Isaiah.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
A fact not lost on the early church where we have Matthew citing this very prophecy when he writes his gospel account and speaks specifically to the birth of the Lord.
Now all this [pregnancy of Mary by Holy Spirit and birth of Jesus] was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matthew 1:22-23)
Mary of course recognized God’s Sovereignty and bent her knee in humble submission to the LORD’s decree much as an obedient child would unto his or her parent.6 Her reply, after her valid concern about not knowing a man was answered by Gabriel, was, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38) That is, do unto me Lord as you have declared by thy word for you are the potter I am the clay, you are the master I am your handmaid.7
But the Pope would have us believe that God was in fact servant unto Mary’s word as he sat on the edge of his heavenly throne waiting patiently for what her answer would be. This dear readers is not the God of the Bible and whether it be Mary or John, Peter or James, or anyone else, God is Sovereign and does as he wills where none can stay his hand. His actions are not dependent on man giving him approval and contrary to the Pope’s word, God does in fact act against man’s so-called freedom. For we are all his creatures subject to his supreme will as he acts in accordance with his heavenly will; a will that is always perfect, always right, always holy.
Likewise, be it known that a god who is dependent on man is no God at all. A god who waits for man to give him approval to act is not Sovereign. A god who does as man wills is not a God who does as he wills. This is why the god the Pope is preaching unto his followers and the world is not the God of the Bible who is declared as one who, “…doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Daniel 4:37)
And so I close with a plea unto the Roman Catholic and those who hold the doctrine of what might be called the sovereignty of man, or free will, to repent and believe on the God as declared in the Scriptures. A God who is Sovereign over all things where not even a sparrow falls to the ground and dies apart from his will. A God who is beholden to no man who from the same lump of clay will create one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor (see Romans 9:21). All so that he might show forth his power where “…his name might be declared throughout all the earth” (Romans 9:17) as “…he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.” (Romans 9:21)
– End –
1. Pope Benedict IX. On Mary, Mother of Priests “The Perfect Model for Their Existence.” Zenit.Org August 27, 2009. <http://www.zenit.org/article-26696?l=english> Bold added for emphasis.
2. idol – Any thing on which we set our affections; that to which we indulge an excessive and sinful attachment. An idol is any thing which usurps the place of God in the hearts of his rational creatures. Def. 4a., 4b. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.
3. On Mary, Mother of Priests “The Perfect Model for Their Existence.”
5. It is beyond the scope of this paper to address the elevation of Mary to the heavenly heights the Pope is raising her unto for “filial devotion and worship”, but suffice to say this Mary is not the humble, servant of the Lord found in the Scriptures. Rather, she is a creation of the Roman Catholic religion who is often referred to as the Queen of Heaven. For more information on the Roman Catholic Mary please see this paper here.
6. Compare Mary’s humble submission unto God’s will verses that of Zacharias found in Luke 1:18 (see Luke 1:5-25). Yet note in this situation that even though Zacharias did not submit as Mary did, everything still happened exactly as God decreed down to the very naming of the child!
7. handmaid – The word in Greek is doulē which is defined as female slave.