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Unread 05-03-2016, 09:30 AM   #1
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Mary

So some churches believe Mary never experienced physical death? And some deny the virgin birth? There are so many more divisions among the church than I had ever guessed. I find it disturbing the lack of education among the general population. Why is it so hard to find information written in terms easily understandable to the common man?

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Unread 05-03-2016, 12:12 PM   #2
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So some churches believe Mary never experienced physical death? And some deny the virgin birth? There are so many more divisions among the church than I had ever guessed. I find it disturbing the lack of education among the general population. Why is it so hard to find information written in terms easily understandable to the common man?
I have never met anyone who believes that Mary never died but I'm sure they're out there. As far as the virgin birth goes, well, that's one of those non-debatable things as far as I'm concerned. However, I realize there are those who don't hold to the view.

As far as finding information, are you talking about outside of Scripture?
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Unread 05-03-2016, 12:29 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by jwbrownlula View Post
So some churches believe Mary never experienced physical death? And some deny the virgin birth? There are so many more divisions among the church than I had ever guessed. I find it disturbing the lack of education among the general population. Why is it so hard to find information written in terms easily understandable to the common man?
Nobody (as far as I know) claims that the blessed Theotokos never died. Rather, the ancient churches (the Roman communion as well as the Eastern Orthodox) maintain, with some variation, that 'having completed the course of her earthly life', she was either taken into heaven without first dying (i.e. at the moment of what would've been her death, which I guess is kinda saying she never died?), or, as in the East, that she died and then was resurrected and taken into heaven.

Eastern Christians (Eastern Orthodox and those Orthodox who've re-united with Rome, the Byzantine Catholics) maintain that the Mother of God died ('fell asleep'), and on the third day after her death, was resurrected by her Son and taken into heaven. We celebrate this with a feast called the Dormition ('falling asleep' i.e. dying) of the Theotokos. In terms of the theme of the day, it's profoundly resurrectional in its content - we understand Mary to be the most blessed of all women, and indeed of all human beings besides Christ, since she bore Him whom nothing can contain within the space of her womb - 'more spacious than the cosmos', as some of the Church's hymns say. That we believe she was raised from the dead and taken into heaven confirms the general Resurrection which we all wait for.

You'll search in vain for justification for this in the Bible. Of course, Orthodox Christians and Catholics will simply respond with a shrug and "So what?", since we reject the idea of Sola Scriptura Scripture is profoundly important to us (just go to the average Orthodox service and see how much Scripture we read in our worship!), and it is the 'heartwood' of the Tradition of our faith, but there is more to the Tradition than the Bible (for instance, the tradition that led to the creation of the Bible in the first place )
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Unread 05-03-2016, 12:36 PM   #4
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But, to focus this thread a little: what exactly are you asking?
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Unread 05-03-2016, 12:58 PM   #5
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Yes. Outside of scripture. Where are the commentaries on this written in layman's terms? I have been doing my best with limited time to understand the differences between Christians. It's not easy at all. There are a lot of things that should be simple, but it's not. It's so cloudy. Pretty much what Ryan just showed, there are so many different views. The article I read this morning said that outside of Peter there was no true church. It linked Peter with the pope. Orthodox Christianity rejects this from what I understand as does most protestant churches except the Baptist denomination I attended for a while who tried to show they were linked throughout history
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Unread 05-03-2016, 01:28 PM   #6
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Yes. Outside of scripture. Where are the commentaries on this written in layman's terms? I have been doing my best with limited time to understand the differences between Christians. It's not easy at all. There are a lot of things that should be simple, but it's not. It's so cloudy. Pretty much what Ryan just showed, there are so many different views. The article I read this morning said that outside of Peter there was no true church. It linked Peter with the pope. Orthodox Christianity rejects this from what I understand as does most protestant churches except the Baptist denomination I attended for a while who tried to show they were linked throughout history
Are you asking where there's a concise summary of the differences between different Christian traditions? And what does this have to do with the Mother of God?
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Unread 05-03-2016, 02:00 PM   #7
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Sure. Mary is the example that I'm using. What is true? Where did the division start? There should be something in history of the mother of the Messiah.
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Unread 05-03-2016, 10:03 PM   #8
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jbrownlula, first, these are big questions and they can be troubling if you've never encountered this stuff. I would like you to know that you're not the only person who has had to struggle through this before, and as one who spent a few years in deep doubt as I examined what I had been taught about Christianity, I want you to know that you don't have to be afraid of where these questions will lead. There are answers for them, and the best people to go to for those answers are people who know the Bible and the history of Christianity better than anyone else you know. I hope that's not CGR, but if it is, my prayer is that you'll be pointed in the right direction.

Second, I've spent 20 years in the careful study of religion and the Bible (including a Religious Studies degree and a Master of Divinity degree), including the history of world religions, the history of Christianity, cults, archaeology, ancient Biblical languages, the formation and transmission of the Bible, and interpretations of the Bible that range from very traditional to extreeeeeemely anti-Christian. In all that time, I've never yet found a challenge to the Good News of Jesus Christ, or the reliability of the Scriptures, that has come close to overturning those things. My faith has been stronger, and weaker, but the Gospel has been confirmed time and again. And though I've spent the majority of my life studying this stuff, the people I turn to make me realize that I'm just an intellectual guppy, and they say the same thing. The guys who know the Bible best, and know the background of the Bible best, believe it. So don't let this stuff scare you.

Now, the short version of what you're asking about is called the Assumption of Mary. It's a dogma of the Catholic Church, which is a technical term for specific things which the Catholic Church teaches must be believed by all who choose to be Catholic. This isn't a sort of "optional" portion of being Catholic. It's standard, literally, for Catholicism. And while you won't find it in the Bible, it has Biblical precedence in at least the cases of Enoch and Elijah. Genesis 5:24 has been understood for most of Christian history to mean that Enoch did not experience physical death in the same way that most people have, but that God simply took him into his rest at the end of his days. Likewise, Elijah is taken directly to heaven in a whirlwind as chariots of fire separated Elijah from Elisha in 2 Kings 2:11. In the case of Moses, Deuteronomy 34:5-6 tells us that the Lord Himself buried Moses. There is no implication that Moses was "assumed" into heaven, but Jude 9 does indicate that Moses' body was protected by God through the work of the archangel Michael.

So there's nothing at all unbiblical about the Assumption of Mary from the perspective of "Has God ever done this before?" The distinction between Christians on this issue comes down to the function and role of Scripture in forming doctrine. Protestants have historically held that non-biblical sources must play a secondary role, affirming what the Scriptures teach but not adding to it in terms of doctrine. The Bible alone is our "rule," our "measuring stick," by which we judge other claims regarding our faith and manner of life. In contrast to the Catholic church, we say that rather than a "dogma" that you must believe, we must not require anyone to believe in the Assumption of Mary precisely because you can't prove it from the Bible. It's not a belief that bugs me, because it doesn't change anything else about the Gospel, but I have no reason to believe it or teach it or require others to believe it. So I don't believe it.

As for the non-virginal birth of Jesus, that's something you get only by actively disbelieving the Bible, and Christians who take that road are in grave danger, listening to a voice saying, "God didn't really say..." I was once a doubter of the Virgin Birth, though I never actively disbelieved it. But I'm glad that God put people in my life who reaffirmed and re-confirmed the trustworthiness of the Bible, because there's not much sadder for a Christian than to doubt the words of his Savior, especially since the first sin sprang from disbelieving God's Word in Genesis 3:1-7.
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Unread 05-03-2016, 10:21 PM   #9
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By the way, there are tons of great resources on the history of Christian belief. Most of them are written as college or seminary textbooks, like Quasten's Patrology.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a great resource specifically for Catholic beliefs, and can be read by an average reader, for the most part.

If you want a Protestant's analysis of Catholic beliefs about Mary, you can't do much better than James White's Mary - Another Redeemer. As a warning, James White is not sympathetic to Catholic beliefs and is often criticized for being overly hostile to those with whom he interacts. However, this is a good resource.

As for attempting to understand all the different things people believe, I think it's important to remember that just because a group teaches something doesn't mean everyone in that group knows, understands, or agrees with that thing. Also, don't forget that wherever there's lots of different opinions, many of the opinions aren't even worth your time to investigate. Just because there are a hundred different theories surrounding 9/11 doesn't mean I need to examine all the crackpots before I can agree that the World Trade Center towers fell because planes were flown into them. I also don't need to waste my life reading nonsense on the internet about Jesus being an alien. That's a real "theory," by the way.

Instead of being very worried at how many views there are on a subject, just focus on the "credible" ones. With Mary, the "credible" ones to investigate are:

1) Was she a virgin when she conceived and gave birth to Jesus, and did she remain a virgin?
2) Was she conceived without original sin and did she remain sinless by grace throughout her life?
3) Was she "assumed" into heaven?

These are the big ones. All three have very competent answers by the major streams in Christian thought, and while they represent very different conceptions of Mary, it doesn't have to be a bewildering variety or throw your faith into question.
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Unread 05-04-2016, 01:03 AM   #10
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I think if it's not found in written history (of which the Bible is very much a primary source at this point in time) then we simply don't know. I am speaking specifically about whether Mary died or was taken into heaven or what-have-you. I am curious what, if any, role she played in the early church. But there is no mention of her in Acts or the Epistles as far as I know, so...
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Unread 05-04-2016, 07:36 AM   #11
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It's not a crisis of faith. I had an encounter with God which removed all of my doubt. Not that I don't question my sanity at times, but I believe this to be common. It is bothersome to me we as "christians" have so much separating us. I guess I expect continuity throughout the faith. All I have found is separation. If God is not the author of confusion, why so much confusion? Truth should win
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Unread 05-04-2016, 07:47 AM   #12
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Human pride got in the way. Rather than recognizing the faith of the Apostles and the Church which is the pillar and foundation of the Truth (1 Tim 3:15), people thought they knew better. Rome's primary error was elevating their Patriarch above the 'first among equals' role he had always been given, thus violating the conciliarity of the rest of the Church, as well as an erroneous understanding of original sin and a number of other things. Luther's error was maintaining that Scripture is perspicuous and its 'plain meaning' can be understood apart from the breadth of the rest of the Tradition of the Church (though I can't really blame him too much given that what he was coming from - medieval Roman Catholicism and a Western Christianity which had been profoundly influenced by Augustine - was already profoundly corrupt and had been for probably 5-600 years)
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Unread 05-04-2016, 08:43 AM   #13
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It's not a crisis of faith. I had an encounter with God which removed all of my doubt. Not that I don't question my sanity at times, but I believe this to be common. It is bothersome to me we as "christians" have so much separating us. I guess I expect continuity throughout the faith. All I have found is separation. If God is not the author of confusion, why so much confusion? Truth should win
Truth will win. But in the meantime, remember that several of Paul's letters were written because Christians in AD 65 were already splitting, dividing, disagreeing, abandoning the Faith, and believing heresy. If we saw continuity in the New Testament, we might be surprised by division later. But if there were that kind of unity, we wouldn't have much of the New Testament. So we should expect the same.

Note, though, that the mechanism for healing those divisions was the teaching of the Apostles, both in person and in the New Testament Scriptures. So we should expect that if we are to see any healing of division in Christianity, that healing will come through the faithful preaching of the Gospel from the Word.

Just thinking through this, the following were written at least partially because of division, heresy, apostasy:
1 and 2 Corinthians
Galatians
Colossians
1 and 2 Thessalonians
1 and 2 Timothy
Titus
James
1 John

The following were written to encourage and build up Christians, and to prevent division, heresy, and apostasy:
Hebrews
1 and 2 Peter
2 John
Jude
Revelation

So the assumption of the Apostles was not that we would have unity, but that we would need to be called to unity. If, within the first generation of Christianity, we see that need, it doesn't bother me to see the same later.
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Unread 05-04-2016, 09:23 AM   #14
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I think it's a breakdown of vocabulary between my southeastern Oklahoma upbringing and most theological texts. I have completed some pretty intense courses between my bachelor's and my CSCS, but reading some of these books make me feel like I'm thoroughly uneducated. Which I guess is the truth. I will try to get some of those suggested readings this summer. I really enjoy the feedback on here. I seriously appreciate Ryan bringing the Orthodox view. Thanks Ted, Ben, and Leboman.
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Unread 05-05-2016, 10:17 AM   #15
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The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God - Gudsmoders Beskyttelse

This is a short-ish pamphlet (which you can buy in hard copy here) written by St. John Maximovitch the Wonder-worker (of blessed memory), who was a Bishop in Shanghai and San Francisco (he fell asleep in 1966 in Seattle, WA). The foreword is written by the late Fr. Seraphim Rose, who also translated it from the original Russian. The aim of the pamphlet is to trace the origin of the Orthodox doctrine concerning the Mother of God, and to critique a particular instance of Roman Catholic excess concerning her.

St. John is one of the patron saints of my church!

Also worth noting: a lot of conservative Protestantism maintains this idea of complementarianism - that is, that men and women are different and complementary. Orthodox Christianity affirms this, but takes it a whole step further - whereas the image of God was corrupted by the deception of Eve and the sin of Adam, so it is restored, first by the belief of Mary in the word of the Angel, making her a 'second Eve' (the Church Fathers talk about this a great deal), then by the assent of the second Adam (Christ) to the way laid out for Him. As the assent of the first Eve to the deception of the serpent made possible the deception that led to the sin of Adam, so the assent of the second Eve to the word of the angel made possible the saving work of the second Adam whose flesh was broken and whose blood was shed for the life of the world.

Mary isn't God, but she is honored above every other human being besides Christ the God-Man and called upon for her maternal care and protection and intercession. She is looked at as sort of a 'mama bear' figure in the Church's hymnography - referred to as the 'champion leader of the triumphant host', a sort of General of the army of the Church, under her 'Commander in Chief', Christ (in most Orthodox icons of the Mother of God, she is holding Him in her left arm while she points directly to Him with her right). So, while the Church may have a male-only priesthood, the Mother of God outshines every man on earth, even the saintliest priest or bishop. It makes our complementarianism a lot easier to deal with.
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