Recovering a Protestant Mary
Timothy George is dean of Beeson Divinity School, an interdenominational, evangelical theological school within a Baptist university (Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama), and an executive editor of Christianity Today. He is author of the article "The Blessed Evangelical Mary" in the December 2003 issue of Christianity Today, which is a short version of a chapter from Mary: Mother of God, edited by Carl E. Braaten (Eerdmans, 2004).
In your article, you suggest that Protestant believers have cut themselves off too hastily from Mary, a biblical figure who was at the forefront of the church's imagination from the post-apostolic period through the Reformation and beyond. Could you say a little about this?
I take my bearings from the Reformers. On the one hand, they were very critical of what they considered Marian excesses, and they talked at length about some of the ways in which Mary was given too much veneration, too much almost idolatrous worship, substituting her for Christ himself in some ways at the popular devotional level. On the other hand, they themselves had a very explicit devotion to Mary, especially Luther but also Zwingli and Calvin in their own way. They wanted to give honor to Mary. They wanted to remind the church that she was to be called blessed in every generation. They honored her as the vehicle of God's grace in giving Jesus to the world and an example of justification by faith alone, because she believed so purely in the gospel. I think we need to go back and reclaim something of the Reformers' more positive view of Mary, insofar as it really is biblical. It really is a part of our own Protestant heritage.
How did Martin Luther's regard for Mary manifest itself in particular beliefs or practices?