Tuesday, October 27, 2015

610 CE - Religion in decline - The exaltation of Mary

This is the continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first part here and the previous part here. This is also part of a longer series called "The Koran from a Christian Perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
In future posts we will look in great detail at how Muhammad and the Koran perceive Jesus. However, here we want to consider how Muhammad understood the church's view of His mother, Mary, His mother. In The Koran Muhammad wrote, "And when God said, 'O Jesus son of Mary, didst thou say unto men, "Take me and my mother as gods, apart from God"?' He said, 'To Thee be glory! It is not mine to say what I have no right to [that which I know not to be the truth]." (Koran 5:115) Muhammad did regarded Jesus as a prophet and apostle like himself. He did not, however, believe Him to be divine or God in human flesh. Similarly, Muhammad did not believe Mary, His mother, to also be divine or someone to be worshiped as God. However, that is how Muhammad understood that the church in his day did perceived Mary; as one who was divine, worthy of worship and adoration, one to offer your prayers to, and one who was wholly without sin and without need of salvation and forgiveness,

For nearly the first four hundred years of the church, Mary was predominantly refereed to as simply "the mother of our Lord" or "the mother of Jesus." However, as the worship of saints and the veneration of Mary became more entrenched within the church and her practices we find her more consistently being called "the mother of God." Philip Schaff speaks of this transition form "mother of our Lord" to "mother of God." "The worship of Mary was originally only a reflection of the worship of Christ, and the feasts of Mary were designed to contribute to the glorifying of Christ... The Catholic church, however, both Latin and Greek, did not stop with this. After the middle of the fourth century it overstepped the wholesome Biblical limit, and transformed the 'mother of the Lord' into a mother of God, the humble 'handmaid of the Lord' into a queen of heaven, the 'highly favored' into a dispenser of favors, the 'blessed among women' into an intercessor above all women, nay, we may almost say, the redeemed daughter of fallen Adam, who is nowhere in Holy Scripture excepted from the universal sinfulness, into a sinlessly holy co-redeemer." (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume III, Section 81. The Exaltation of the Virgin Mariology) It is easy to see why Muhammad would have believed that the church had exalted Mary along with Christ to be gods equal with the Father in heaven,

It is interesting to ponder here how Jesus spoke of His mothers place in the Kingdom of God. One day when Jesus was teaching, He was told that His mother and brothers had come to speak to Him. His response was, "'Who is My mother and who are My brothers?' And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, 'Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.'" (Matthew 12:48-50) Thus making all who believe on Him as precious to Him and as important in the Kingdom as His own earthly mother. We are brother and sister to her just as he is her lord and ours. Also, at His death, Jesus spoke to His mother and the one He loved and said, "'Woman, behold, your son!' Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' From that hour the disciple took her into his own household." (John 19:26-27) Thus not only making provision for her care after His death but, as some have argued, also severing His familial relationship with His mother; making her now the mother of John. Her place was no longer as the mother of the eternal Son of God but that of John, the one whom Jesus loved.

Mary will always be blessed among women and will always have a peculiar place in the church, but the church of the seventh century had let their exaltation of Mary obscure the truth of the Gospel that there is "one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 2:5) No matter how great our veneration for Mary may be, we must never allow it to supplant our love, worship, and honor to the one true Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

More to come...
David Robison

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