My Conversion Story

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Why do Catholics call Mary, the Mother of God instead of the Mother of Jesus?

Why do Catholics call Mary the Mother of God? She is the mother of Jesus. Doesn't the title "Mother of God" put her above God? Why did it take until about the year 300 A.D. for the Church to begin using this name for her?

The title "Mother of God" is the term that the Church now uses. Originally they used the Greek term Θεοτόκος (Theotokos), or "God-bearer"--essentially the same thing. Many Eastern Catholics and virtually all Orthodox still use this term for her, and it is not all improper for any Chirstian to call her by this Greek title.

But why do we use this title when it does not appear in Scripture at all? The reason is for the same reason that many Catholic dogmas were finalized at later dates. They often reflect a belief that has been held for a very long time, even from the beginning, and has only been codified because of later controversy. It is very similar to the way that many Christians will use a Biblical principle to shed light on, and even base their behavior on an interpretaion of Scripture that does not necessarily speak on the subject exactly.

Examples might include:
  1. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that abortion is wrong. But it does say that murder is wrong. So if a baby is human from the moment of conception, then abortion is wrong.
  2. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that drinking alcohol is always wrong. It often warns of the overuse of alcohol. It often will show examples of what can happen when you abuse alcohol. Yet many Christians, especially since the Temperance movement in America in the late 1880s, say that every single instance of humans drinking alcohol is always evil. Even to the point of saying that Jesus did not turn water into wine, but that he turned it into grape juice, and used grape juice, not wine at the Last Supper.
  3. Nowhere in the Bible does it mention illicit drug use at all. Yet we often will use the same principles governing alcohol use and abuse as a basis on our opinions on drug use.
The title of Mother of God developed in much the same way. The New Testament warns of the beginning of the Gnosticism movement. The Gnostics were people who called themselved Christians (some may have been) who believed that the Scripture was so deep that it took special insight to be able to interpret its true meaning.

One NT example is "First Timothy 6:20 includes a warning from Paul to Timothy -- an early church leader and lieutenant of Paul's -- to avoid senseless chatter and the "opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge ("gnosis" in the original Greek)." Many scholars believe this was a refutation of Gnostics, who were among the first sects considered heretical. Irenaeus, an influential second-century Christian bishop from Gaul, relied heavily on 1 Timothy 6:20 in his 'Refutation of Gnosticism.'"

One of these early Gnostic teachings was that Jesus was not divine, but fully human, and only human. Another was that he was fully God and only appeared to be human. To answer these heresies the Council of Nicea developed the doctrine of the homosious, that Jesus, fully human had two natures--fully human and fully God. The two natures are perfectly united and one.

This is the reason that we use this title for her. As Mother, she provided the human DNA (at least half of the chromosomes--only God knows how he supplies the other half that would normally come from the father). So he is 100% Man. As God himself provided everything else that was necessary, Jesus is 100% God.

Every time we say "Mother of God" We are affirming our Catholic faith teaching, and that of almost all Christians, that Jesus is fully God and fully Man at the same time. In this sense, "Mother of God" does not speak of God's origin. Mary did not create God in her womb. God begat the Son, as stated in John 3:16.

But Mary is not only the Mother of Jesus, and the Mother of God, she is the Mother of the entire Church. See Galatians 4:4-7 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE):

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
 Born of a woman—not of a man—in fulfillment of Gen 3:15: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.
 Those that were under the law” This is a specific reference to Judaism, but because Natural Law applies to all people and peoples, it applies to all. This is not to denigrate people, or to erroneously call them “totally depraved” but that they are loved and God desires to save them through Christ.

6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
 If Jesus is the Son of God, and we have becomes sons of God, then he is our brother, and Mary is also our Mother, the Mother of the Church, exactly as presented in Rev. 12:17 “Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.”

7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
Reiterating that we are children of God, as is Jesus, so Mary is our Mother

Another passage which proves this is Rev. 12:17 "Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus."