Reply to Steve Christie on Catholic Mariology, Pt. 2

Reply to Steve Christie on Catholic Mariology, Pt. 2 July 11, 2023

Steve’s Seven-Minute Rebuttal: Mary’s Immaculate Conception, Bodily Assumption, Perpetual Virginity, and Calling God Her “Savior” 

Steve Christie was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools up through college. He became a Protestant in 2004 at age 34, and is a frequent lecturer at Protestant churches and events, has led home Bible studies for sixteen years, and is a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Toledo, Ohio. He has participated in many oral debates with Catholics, and authored the self-published book, Why Protestant Bibles Are Smaller: A Defense of the Protestant Old Testament Canon in 2019. If my memory is correct, I have not interacted with him until now.


See the first installment:

Reply to Steve Christie on Catholic Mariology (Part I: Steve’s 15-Minute Opening Statement, Covering the Perpetual Virginity, Immaculate Conception, & Bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) [7-10-23]

I will be responding to Steve’s portions of his two hour long audio debate with Catholic apologist Trent Horn (it originally appeared on Pints with Aquinas with Matt Fradd): posted in transcript on the Catholic Answers website (5-2-22), under the title, “Debate: Do the Marian Dogmas Contradict Scripture?” I have not read Trent’s replies, so mine can be completely “fresh.” Steve’s words will be in blue. My biblical citations are from RSV, unless otherwise noted.

This is a response to Steve’s seven-minute rebuttal.

As I had mentioned, the way a dogma can contradict scripture is if it’s explicit, implicit, or partial. For example, a Mormon dogma that says that Jesus is not God contradicts scripture explicitly, such as in John 20:28, when Thomas sees Jesus and calls him, “My Lord and my God.” Implicitly would be liberal Catholics and Protestants who condone abortion, which contradicts scripture stating that life begins at conception, and scripture condemns the shedding of innocent blood. And another is a partial contradiction, such as the dogma of Jehovah’s Witnesses on the identity of Jesus. While scripturally affirming Jesus is the son of God, they contradict scripture by claiming that Jesus is Michael the archangel, because scripture affirms Michael is a created being while Jesus is the eternal deity. And this is what I did in the opening statement.

And I believe I refuted all of those assertions in my reply. I’d be interested — as always in all my debates and dialogues — to see a counter-reply from Steve.

When the Bible talks about all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, as I mentioned in my opening statement, it’s a Greek word “pas,” which means, “everyone,” which would include Mary. There is no exception there.

This is untrue, as I documented from Scripture. Steve needs to check up on the Greek lexicons in this regard.

this argument [is the] logical fallacy referred to as the argument by exception.

The fallacy has to do with general principles or generalizations. An article on this, on the site Lean Logic, states:

The argument that a principle is contradicted (not merely qualified) by exceptions.

The possibility of understanding an issue can be blocked by an instance in which it does not apply. Example: “Too many exams make children depressed and demoralised.” “Not at all—our Prudence loves her exams!”

Catholics need not deny the general principle that pas very often means “absolutely all / all without exception.” This is true. But it can also mean “most, with exceptions.” Most biblical words have multiple meanings, and can also be used figuratively or hyperbolically. That it can indeed literally mean “most” in the Bible has been shown with examples, and by lexical references. An exception is an exception, and that is precisely our argument, that Mary, therefore, could very well be (and we say, is) one such exception. Here are five more examples where “all” clearly doesn’t mean “absolutely all without exception” (lest anyone doubt it):

“all men marveled” (Mk 5:20)

“all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ” (Lk 3:15)

“Woe to you, when all men speak well of you” (Lk 6:26)

“all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35)

“all men praised God for what had happened” (Acts 4:21)

And of course, [Catholics] might say, “Well, what about Jesus?” Well, as I mentioned, the Bible’s explicit [when] it says that Jesus is an exception. It says that, actually, I believe in First Corinthians.

And the angel Gabriel said that Mary was “full of grace” which means (when analyzed from Paul’s usage: argumentation that I provided last time) “without sin.” That’s an explicit passage, too, indicating that she is an exception to the rule.

Elijah and Enoch . . . were assumed bodily into heaven, but they had inherited original sin, just as Mary did. 

Citing them with regard to Mary’s Assumption is a partial analogy. The similarity is bodily going up to heaven in an extraordinary way. It doesn’t follow that everything about them — including having original sin —  is analogous to Mary. Therefore, Mary could have died first, like the Two Witnesses in Revelation (another analogy).

[Trent] had mentioned about, in the book of Jude, about Moses [actually the archangel Michael] and the devil contending for the body, . . . it doesn’t say anything about him being bodily assumed or anything.

Jude 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

Deuteronomy 34:5-6 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD, [6] and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-pe’or; but no man knows the place of his burial to this day.

Expositor’s Greek Testament (on the former passage) notes “Further details in Josephus (Ant. 4:8, 48) [“as he was going to embrace Eleazar and Joshua, and was still discoursing with them, a cloud stood over him on the sudden, and he disappeared in a certain valley”], . . ., Philo i. p. 165, and Clem[ent of] Al[exandria]. (Str. vi. § 132, p. 807) [Book VI, ch. 15] where it is said that Caleb and Joshua witnessed the assumption of Moses to heaven, while his body was buried in the clefts of the mountain.” There was such a tradition mentioned both by historians and by Clement of Alexandria (also, Origen). We know that Moses died on earth, from the Bible, so if he was also assumed, then it is directly analogous to Mary (death followed by an assumption into heaven).

Bengel’s Gnomen states: “It matters not whether the apostle received the knowledge of this contention from revelation only, or from the tradition of the elders: it is sufficient that he writes true things, and even admitted to be true by the brethren.”
I had mentioned about the immaculate conception not being declared ex cathedra because this was before Vatican I in 1870 that declared that when a Pope declared something ex cathedra, then it’s considered infallible. But the immaculate conception was declared 15 years or so before that.
The time is irrelevant; all that matters is whether the declaration contained in essence the authoritative nature that is the same as what Vatican I describes as an infallible utterance (it certainly did). The declaration of papal infallibility in 1870 dealt with the developing authority of the papacy all through history, which was then made a dogma. It doesn’t mean that the power existed only after 1870; only that it was then made a required dogmatic belief.
Trent had mentioned about Mary and her Magnificat saying, “God, my savior,” and she was referring back to Hannah. But again, this is another argument by exception because even if she’s referring back to Hannah, the debate is about how these dogmas, whether or not they’re … how they’re used in scripture. And in the New Testament, the specific Greek word for savior is used about two dozen in times, and every time that it’s used in scripture, in the New Testament, it always refers to God or Jesus being a savior of salvation and saving someone from sins, which is why I brought up Acts chapter five and The Epistle of Titus.
It’s simply not true that every time the word savior is mentioned in the Bible, that it is explicitly spelled out as meaning “saving someone from sins.” But even if it did say that in all instances, we reply that Jesus saved Mary from her sins by preventing them from ever occurring, at her conception. It’s still saving her from her sins. If, for example, someone locked a thoroughly drunk person (an alcoholic) who wanted to drive, in a closet, that would be “saving” him or her from a potential fatal accident.

Keeping alcohol away from the same person is “saving” them from their besetting sin: drunkenness, much more so than black coffee and a cold shower getting them sober after the fact. Sessions at Alcoholics Anonymous can “save” an alcoholic from his or her “sins.” So can disallowing them to have alcohol in the first place. Both involve “saving them.”

The phrase, “save his people from their sins” occurs, apparently, only once in the Bible: in Matthew 1:21 (in RSV). Steve mentioned Acts 5. 5:31 states: “God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” There is a very real sense in which that can apply to Mary, too. She was subject to inheriting original sin, as a member of the human race, that had been fallen since Adam. God simply took away at her conception what would have been inevitable, had He not done it. In that sense, then, in effect, He “forgave her of original sin.” Had original sin not been inevitable in her case, He wouldn’t have had to do that to preserve her from it.

But in so doing he saved her from the sin and is thus properly called by Mary, her “savior.” In fact, I contend that Mary was saved more completely or thoroughly than any human being has ever been saved. She, above all, can and did call God her “savior” since she received more grace for salvation and a life without actual sin, than anyone else ever has. It was 100% grace and 100% monergistic, since Mary couldn’t even accept it in faith (it being the moment of her conception).

Interestingly, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, under “Saviour,” never mentions the word “sin.” Now, I’m not denying that there is any connection (don’t get me wrong!), but it’s fascinating that when a work of this sort defines the word “Savior,” “sin” doesn’t appear (nor does “forgive[ness]”). Here is the entire definition:

1: παρεκτός 

(Strong’s #3924 — Adverb — soter — par-ek-tos’ )

“a savior, deliverer, preserver,” is used (a) of God, Luke 1:471 Timothy 1:12:34:10 (in the sense of “preserver,” since He gives “to all life and breath and all things”); Titus 1:32:103:4Jude 1:25; (b) of Christ, Luke 2:11John 4:42Acts 5:3113:23 (of Israel); Ephesians 5:23 (the sustainer and preserver of the church, His “body”); Philippians 3:20 (at His return to receive the Church to Himself); 2 Timothy 1:10 (with reference to His incarnation, “the days of His flesh”); Titus 1:4 (a title shared, in the context, with God the Father); 2:13, RV, “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” the pronoun “our,” at the beginning of the whole clause, includes all the titles; Titus 3:6, 2 Peter 1:1 , “our God and Savior Jesus Christ; RV, where the pronoun “our,” coming immediately in connection with “God,” involves the inclusion of both titles as referring to Christ, just as in the parallel in 2 Peter 1:11 , “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (AV and RV); these passages are therefore a testimony to His deity; 2 Peter 2:203:2,181 John 4:14.

Nor does the word “sin” appear in the entry for “Saviour” in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ed. James Orr, 1939). Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Abridged ed., p. 1135) notes the varying conceptions that “savior” or “being saved” can have:
Mk. 8:35 and parallels refer to the saving and losing of life with an eschatological reference. In Mk. 10:26 being saved is equivalent to entering the kingdom or entering or inheriting life. . . . Lk. 13:23 equates salvation with entering the kingdom.
Here are those passages:
Mark 8:35 For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
Mark 10:24-27 . . . But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! [25] It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” [26] And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” [27] Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
Luke 13:23-24 And some one said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, [24] “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
It’s a subtle point to grasp, but a very real (and explicit) one. “Savior” in Scripture doesn’t always (technically) mean “saved the people from their [existing] sins.” Kittel was noting that it can simply mean entering the kingdom. If that’s true, then this would be consistent with the state of affairs in Mary’s case. God saved her by allowing her to enter the kingdom, by virtue of removing inevitable original sin from her, resulting in her not actually sinning as well. That is saving her, and to a greater degree than for any of us. Therefore, so she can call Him her “savior” (and it’s why she did so in fact). In other words, salvation is not restricted to removal of existing sins. Case closed!
Is there any example in the New Testament where Jesus is referred to as a preemptive savior, as opposed to as a redemptive and redeeming savior? And he’s not.
I would say that there are such examples, at least in a sense. Notice that Steve smuggles in a false dichotomy in how he expresses things. Being “preemptive” is not intrinsically opposed to redemption and salvation. The time when something happens is not of its essence. It’s a secondary, accidental quality. So, for example, when Jesus talks to the rich young ruler, he tells him that he can enter the kingdom by giving away all his possessions. Therefore, it is that act (had he done it) that would have saved him.
Jesus “preemptively” told him what he had to do to be saved, and that this act would indeed save him. Mark 8:35 above is a general application of the same idea (“if you do x, you will save yourself”). As noted last time (but repetition is a great teacher), God preemptively saved the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, and the Apostle Paul:

Isaiah 49:1 . . . The LORD called me from the womb, . . .

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (KJV: “sanctified thee”)

Galatians 1:15 . . . he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace,

None of the three men could have consented in an act of will before they were born. Therefore, God saved them by giving them these graces that prevented them from falling from salvation or grace.

So again, argument by exception. 
No; argument from Scripture: from scores of passages that Protestants habitually ignore. Steve is the one who is trying to make out that words always mean exactly the same thing in the Bible. They almost never function tat way, and “Savior” is no different.
So if Mary died, which the dogma, the bodily assumption in 1950 strongly implies, this demonstrates Mary inherited original sin from Adam. 
I went through this last time. Jesus died, and He had no sin at all; He couldn’t possibly have had either original or actual sin (impeccability). So if He can die, so can Mary, in imitation of Him.
There’s nothing in scripture that states that Mary was an exception to this.
There’s nothing in Scripture that says that there must be explicit Scripture for every doctrine, or even indirect / deduced Scripture. So where does Steve get this notion from? Well, it’s a Protestant extrabiblical tradition of men. Catholics argue that all Catholic beliefs are and must be in harmony with Scripture; not necessarily always mentioned in it (though usually they are in some fashion).
Having clarified that issue, I contend again that in fact there is Scripture that suggests her immaculate conception: “full of grace” (kecharitomene) in Luke 1:28. Being full of grace could include original sin (I see nothing in the Bible that precludes that possibility), since it is an antithesis of grace, too (having been the ultimate origin of all sin), and Paul teaches that grace wipes out sin, just as water in a glass wipes out the air previously present, and if it is full of water, no air is left at all. So it is with grace and sin, including original sin in Mary’s case.
Trent made the comment about the word “until” that’s used in Second Samuel, but it uses the word [Greek 00:37:31], not [Greek 00:37:31]. Same with Matthew 28. It uses [Greek 00:37:34], not [Greek 00:37:36]. 
I don’t know the Greek words involved, but it doesn’t affect my point. The important thing is the idea in Hebrew culture, of referring to a state of affairs up “until” a point of time, but not necessarily (or not possibly, when death is involved) referring to the time after that particular point. If scriptural analogies illustrate that principle, then it follows that the same dynamic can apply in Matthew 1:25 too.
As far as adelphos, I don’t have a problem with the word adelphos, but my question is, why would you abandon its primary meaning for another meaning when it doesn’t demand it?
We do it when context and cross-referencing require or “demand” it. Because Steve has largely ignored the other relevant data, he sees a “difficulty.” He has to deal with the exegetical argument which virtually proves, at a minimum, that James and Joseph were Jesus’ cousins of some sort. If that is granted, then it proves that adelphos was used for “non-sibling relative”. Cousins were called “brothers”: just as we often use “brother” non-literally in English. In the last few days, I can remember calling fellow Catholics or apologists “brothers.”
[Trent] used a comment about Jesus being the son of Mary. So does that mean that Mary could have had daughters because it says, “the son of Mary”? 
If that were the case, the Bible never says so, so it is an argument from silence, as far as the biblical data is concerned. As I stated in my first reply (and it bears repeating):

Nowhere does the New Testament state that any of Jesus’ “brothers” (adelphoi) are the children of Jesus’ mother Mary, even when they are referenced together (cf. Mark 3:31 ff.; 6:3 ff.; John 2:12; Acts 1:14). So for example, in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55. Jesus is called “the son of Mary” and “the carpenter’s son” and only He is referred to in this way. The others (four “brothers” named in each passage) are not. It happens again in the book of Acts:

Acts 1:14  All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers

See how a distinction is made between Mary as the mother of Jesus and “his brothers,” who are not called Mary’s sons? Nor is she called their mother. These verses do not read in a “siblings” way. In the New Testament, none of these “brothers” are ever called Joseph’s children, anywhere, either.

Likewise, in the case of Jesus’ relatives, called “sisters” (Mt 13:56; Mk 6:3) they are referenced as Jesus’ “sisters” — not as Mary’s daughters. That leaves open the possibility of more distant relatives, based on the terminology of Hebrew culture at that time, whereas, if the Bible had ever called them “the daughters of Mary the mother of Jesus” or some such, we wouldn’t be having this discussion at all. No one (including Catholics) would disagree that Jesus had siblings, were that the case.

Go to Part III


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Photo credit: Istanbul: Chora Church Museum (Kariye Cami). Nartex. A mosaic showing the Virgin Mary beside Jesus. Photograph by Giovanni Dall’Orto, May 29, 2006. Released into public domain by the photographer [Wikimedia Commons]

Summary: Reply to Baptist Steve Christie, covering the Perpetual Virginity, Immaculate Conception (including Mary calling God her “Savior”), and Bodily Assumption of Mary.



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