Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Changing Evangelical Attitudes Toward Mary

Michael Spencer has an interesting interview with NT scholar Scott McKnight about changing evangelical attitudes toward Mary. Here's a snippet about how far evangelicals are willing to "ride the 'Mary Bus'":

Different evangelicals will get off at different stops. I encounter some evangelicals who won’t get on a bus with the name “Mary” on it or near it. My own experience with these sorts is that they have reacted, justifiably, to Marian extravagances in their past or in the their family. Others are quite happy to appreciate a Mary who learned, as did Peter, that the vision of Messiah Jesus was revealing was one that required they surrender their political vision for a cross vision. Some high church evangelicals, on the other hand, are quite happy to embrace the historic center of the Church on Mary — including perpetual virginity and immaculate conception. Recently an editor of a magazine said he embraced those things because the Church has always embraced those traditions.

I'll have to go look it up again, but I recall that the doctrine of the immaculate conception only emerged during the Renaissance, and was formally promulgated in the 19th Century. Anyway, I'll be glad to ride the Mary Bus as far as "Mary is a great role model for Christians", and thereafter get off. The Via Media has its limits.

UPDATE: Related: Why so many evangelicals are
converting to Roman Catholicism:

A major attraction of Roman Catholicism is the desire to belong to a church that is really, really big. Many evangelicals have acquired a morbid love of big churches. There is no megachurch as mega as the Church of Rome. A TV preacher might build himself an empire from an auditorium designed to look like a shopping mall, but that is no match for an actual empire, ruled by an actual monarch, from the Sistine Chapel. Both evangelicals and Catholics are attracted to theologies of glory.

(Hat tip) I agree. Additionally, there are many sectors of evangelicism which have a complete disdain for tradition -- only the new, the fresh, and the contemporary is valuable. It makes the church hip, but it also gives people a sense of rootlessness. Roman Catholics know that they are a part of something that always has been and always shall be. The Catholic Church is the very antithesis of the Church of What's Happening Now. It is unconcerned with marketing data, and therefore lacks the sense of crass commercialism and consumerism that pervades much of modern evangelicisim. If you look at a Catholic cathedral, you know that it'll be here a hundred years from now. If you look at a mall-like megachurch, you wonder if it'll be here when the current pastor leaves. One of the major appeals of Catholicism is its permanence and stability. In a world of rapid change, people crave stability. They yearn to know that they are a part of something that has a long history and a long future.


The Ironic Catholic said...

Gosh, I feel like I should comment, but I don't know what to say.

Personally, I don't see Evangelicals converting to RC in droves, but then again, I live in Minnesota. :)

I liked the links and the comments on the Internet Monk site...particularly one by a Catholic young woman who said "by Evangelicals focusing on Mary, they are taking her out of the context of the Gospel and the primacy of Jesus Christ. We aren't the ones messing that up." (or something like that). I do think that's key.

truevyne said...

So glad you wrote your own thoughts, because the excerpts didn't seem to match your usual grace or humor. Though I'm Catholic, criticism can get under my skin. I did not like the Falwell bashing I've run across lately either.
I believe people convert to the Catholic church, because they are drawn to a deep expression of Christ they find there.

John said...

I ignored Falwell in life, and in death. Except for this bizarre dream that I had about him a year ago. I dreamed that my mother and I showed up at his church on Sunday morning. It was a communion Sunday. We found the liturgy confusing, because instead of wafers and wine or a loaf and grape juice, the elements were Wonder Bread and grape jelly.

Sally said...

interesting post John- thank you for these thoughtful words... conversions to RC are for varied reasons in the UK, not least due to the acceptance of female clergy!