What do you really think of Mary? Most Protestants know far too little about Mary, and often don’t even know that the Immaculate Conception (Mary’s) is not the same as the virginal conception (Jesus’). I expect to be posting occasionally about Mary in the next six months or so, and I thought today I’d post a brief on the dialogue between evangelical-to-Roman Catholic convert Dwight Longenecker (from England) and his fellow Bob Jones graduate, Washington DC lawyer, David Gustafson. The book is called Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate, and it is a good book.
What is your view of Mary or your experience with Mary, Marian devotion, or whatever?
I’m working on a project about Mary, but the one thing I want to avoid is the polemical debate between Catholics and Protestants over Mary. Longenecker and Gustafson (L&G) do this so well it need not be done again. I want to write a piece that appropriates Mary (for Protestants) in a positive manner.
But, there are some very important issues to discuss for any kind of meaningful dialogue, and L&G have them all: what the Bible says, Mary as Mother “of God,” the virginal conception, the perpetual virginity of Mary, the “spouse of the Holy Spirit,” the immaculate conception, the glorious assumption, apparitions of Mary in history, the veneration of Mary, the holy rosary, Mary as co-redeemer and mediatrix and advocate.
Each of these topics is discussed in a back-and-forth discussion and debate. Gustafson is a conservative evangelical who has done lots of homework, and Longenecker is an enthusiastic participant in Marian devotion. It makes for a very good read. I commend them for it.
What first-time thinkers about Mary often learn is how early Marian theology developed. That second century document, Protevangelium James, sets the agenda for the entire development of Marian devotion.
If you are looking for a book that sorts through these issues in a dialogical and respectful way, rather than either a polemical defense of one side only, this is the book.