Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Not the Usual Approach to Mary

One of my coworkers today remarked on the impossibility of critiquing an individual, isolated point of Catholic doctrine. You simply can't start addressing one point without getting pulled into a conversation with the whole structure. This is true for just about any doctrine, but a lot of Protestants discover this fact of interdenominational dialogue when they take issue with Catholic teaching and practice about Mary.

For this reason, I don't want to approach the topic of Mary in the typical, Catholics-over-there-Us-over-here sort of way. Another reason to avoid this approach is the fact that Catholics don't have a monopoly on Mary. U.S. Protestants perceive Mary as "Catholic," but she has significant roles to play in the Eastern Orthodox churches, and even several protestant groups (such as Lutherans and Anglicans).

As a U.S. Protestant (albeit with some Catholic upbringing), my encounter with the Mary of these other traditions challenges me to broaden my religious thoughts and practices (simply because other traditions say and do more about Mary than my own). My task is to evaluate whether and in what ways it is right for me to broaden them.

Two principles will hopefully guide my process of evaluating. One is the principle to rely first and finally on what the Bible has to say on the topic. However, since all traditions generally point to the Bible to support their beliefs and practices regarding Mary, it is helpful to add a second principle: My interpretation of the Bible should be guided by how it is interpreted among the earliest and broadest commentators (what might be called the Vincentian Canon).

Ok, them's the ground rules. Let's see if I can follow them.


Pirate Jimmy said...

Does personal revelation guide your process of evaluation as well? I feel a lot of people underestimate or overlook the idea of searching inwards.

Chaka said...

I'll have to think more about that question, but my first impression is that I don't anticipate finding anything out about Mary within myself. I mean, I can and should reflect on my own experiences where they are relevant to the question, but I don't see where they would be relevant.

I also don't anticipate that God will personally reveal to me some new, hitherto undisclosed insight about Mary, although I do pray and expect that he will guide me as I study and reflect.