by Dwight Longenecker and David Gustafson
Brazos Press, 2003, 240 pages
In this book a Roman Catholic priest and an “Evangelical” Episcopalian debate the role of Mary. The discussion begins with the presupposition that Catholics are Christian. But let’s take a step back. Before we begin arguing secondary doctrinal issues like the role of Mary let’s talk about the primary doctrinal issue that still separates Roman Catholics and steadfast Evangelicals; justification. Both groups believe Jesus Christ died for our sins and calls us to redemption but Evangelicals and Catholics differ on how one appropriates the salvation offered by Christ. The Catholic church argues that salvation comes by God’s grace through its seven clergy-administerd sacraments. A Catholic must then “cooperate” with grace and merit their salvation by their obedience to the Ten Commandments and church law and by good works. Evangelicals believe salvation comes only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This is actually an unbridgeable chasm (works vs. grace) although some Evangelical compromisers like Chuck Colson, J.I. Packer, Roman Geisler, Bill Bright, James Dobson, Mark Noll, Billy Graham, and Rick Warren have done their best to blur the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and accept works-righteousness Catholics as “brothers in Christ.”
All that being said Episcopalian David Gustafson does a decent job of arguing the Evangelical position regarding Mary although he curiously never brings up the pagan roots of Mariolatry. See “The Virgin: Mary’s Cult and the Re-emergence of the Goddess” by Geoffrey Ashe for an eye-opening examination of Mariolatry’s pagan underpinnings. Gustafson frequently refers to scripture to defend the Evangelical view but he strangely avoids one of the strongest scriptural arguments against Romanism’s claim for Mary’s perpetual virginity, messianic Psalm 69:8: “I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother’s children.”
Priest Longenecker sells the Catholic position with gusto. As usual it’s all about, “We don’t worship Mary, we VENERATE her. And you should venerate her too because all that veneration actually leads to Jesus.” Despite the doublespeak sophistry Catholics absolutely DO worship Mary and they DO accord to her the offices that belong UNIQUELY to Christ as Co-Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix.
But let’s forget about the Marian debate. In the bigger picture this book is part of an ecumenical effort by Catholics and some Evangelicals that’s already seen quite a bit of success. How many books have been published by “Christian” publishers in the last ten years that are uncompromisingly critical of Rome as compared to thirty or forty years ago? The answer to that question should be obvious. The Catholic church will never abandon its gospel of sacramental grace and works righteousness. It’s Evangelicals who must accommodate, cooperate, and compromise and many have eagerly queued up at the Vatican’s altar. It’s unfortunate that Episcopalian ecumenist, Gustafson, was chosen to speak for the Evangelical side in this debate.