A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mary, the Mother of God... Yeah, It's Important

Scot McKnight has posted on the early theological debate concerning Mary as the God-bearer. It is a post based on Ron Heine's fine book, Classical Christian Doctrine: Introducing the Essentials of the Ancient Faith. Scot writes,
You have, or perhaps "They had," three options: Mary gave birth to the human Jesus (but not to the eternal, divine Logos), or Mary gave birth to the Christ (not to God, but to Christ, who was both human and divine), or Mary gave birth to God (Jesus was divine). The first view is called Anthropotokos, the second Christotokos, and the third (orthodox view) Theotokos. (A long “o” in the -kos ending.)
The debate occurred between Nestorius, up in Antioch, who was a Christotokos and who (allegedly) had a more tangential and non-ontological relation between the divine and human in Christ, and Cyril of Alexandria, who was adamant that Mary gave birth to the Son of God, and that Son was divine and therefore she was the Theotokos. Anything less is less than orthodoxy. Now we must remember that the Incarnation figures prominently in early Christian theology; it is diminished very much in much of modern evangelical thinking (mostly because it does not figure in how theology is done by many). If true God did not become true man, God or man could not have been adequately represented in the work of Christ.

My interest in Scot's post and the point I want to make is that the church's insistence that Mary is the Theotokos, the "God-bearer," plays a very important role in the theology of Incarnation for good reason. I think one of the reasons many Protestants struggle with this claim is because of the later Marian theology that Protestants rightly reject because there is simply no biblical warrant (i.e. Mary's immaculate conception and her perpetual virginity). Protestants have lumped the Theotokos in with these later dogmatic pronouncements to their detriment. It is absolutely critical to note that to refer to Mary as the mother of God is not a statement about Mary as much as it is a claim about Jesus. Scot notes,
Cyril said there was one being, fully God and fully human. The body of the baby Jesus was the Logos. There was a perfect harmony of divine and human without mixture into a third substance. Like Athanasius he thought the Logos shared in the death and suffering, but the Logos did not die. So intimately joined they communicated their essences with one another. The two natures are not mixed and inseparable. One person, one substance, two natures. That’s Chalcedon. That’s orthodoxy.
Indeed, if Jesus is not fully human nor fully divine, he cannot be the Savior; for only God can save and God cannot save that which God has not become.

Mary is the Theotokos... and that's important.


Anonymous said...

What name and title do you prefer to go by for this blog? Mary is the Theotokos because she gave birth to the Logos that dwelled inside the body of the Christ. What are we called when the Logos inside us as the Spirit gives birth to another Christian through evangelism? Thanks. Susan

Nwoha Chidinma M said...

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Allan R. Bevere said...


Thanks for your comments.

The subtitle is "Faith Seeking Understanding." That works for me.

I would not refer to the Logos inside of us as the Spirit. Logos is exclusively used for Jesus and the Spirit is not simply a mode of revelation that Jesus takes on. The Father, Son, and Spirit are one God and yet three distinct personas.

Allan R. Bevere said...


You're welcome.

Anonymous said...

Ok, thank-you. But what is it called when the Spirit in us gives birth to another Christian through evangelism? Is there a name for that? Thanks, Susan

Allan R. Bevere said...


The process itself is evangelism. The new birth is conversion.