Monthly Archives: February 2015

Muslim Metaphysics (Pt. II in Series)

Since the attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and four commercial jet airplanes on September 11, 2001, and the accompanying loss of thousands of lives in what was the largest attack against the United States of America since Pearl Harbor, we have heard more about Islam in the U.S. (and perhaps in the West in general) than we’ve probably heard on a popular level in our entire 200+ years of existence as a nation. And unfortunately, we hear much conflicting information.

From some quarters we hear “Islam is a religion of peace! It was just a few fanatics who abuse Islam that caused what we saw on Sept. 11!” In fact, we hear, “The very word itself (Islam) means peace!” Of course, this is not actually true. “Islam” means “submission.”

But is this the truth? Is Islam a religion of peace? And, if not, what is Islam a religion of? We are going to be talking about this and much more over my next several blog posts.

As I said in my last blog post, there is much Catholics can agree with when we speak of Muslim theology. CCC 841, quoting the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 16, from Vatican II, declared:

The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.

CCC 841 also references Vatican II’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, 3, that makes the teaching of the Council even clearer:

The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even his inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God.

We need to emphasize here that inasmuch as Islam acknowledges God is one, they are right. God is absolutely one in essence. And as such, Muslims are closer to us as Catholics than, say, Hindus who worship many Gods (at least some Hindus) and Buddhists who do not believe in God at all (at least some Buddhists).

What is the Koran?

I am going to be citing a large number of verses from the Koran. When I do, I will cite them as “Surah” and then a number, and then a verse number. The Koran is divided up into 114 Suras of unequal length. The longer Suras are generally placed first [sura 2 is the longest] in a series of descending length with a few exceptions to this general arrangement.

Many non-Arabic speakers do not realize that the Suras are further subdivided into ayat (verses) that are rhymed metrical sections of prose which can be as short as three verses or as long as 200 or more verses. Each ayah (singular form of “ayat”) has its own meter and rhyme pattern. The original ayat were put together into Suras without regard to chronological relation or thematic development. Scholars both Muslim and non-Muslim have proposed various arrangements which represent the true historical or chronological order down through the centuries without any complete agreement or consensus ever being established or determined.

The “surah” in the Koran is sort of like a chapter in the Bible, although the longer ones are more like books in the Bible.

While, as a rule, I am going to mainly be sticking to the Koran itself as far as my quotations go, I will at times also refer to the “Hadiths,” so we need to understand that the Hadiths represent the official tradition of Islam. They are the traditional “sayings” of Muhammad. You also have the Sunnah, which are the traditional “acts” of Muhammad as well, but I will not refer to them.

Who is God?

I will begin in Sura 112 in the Koran, which answers the question, “Who is God?” According to many Muslim scholars, “This Sura is held to be worth a third of all of the Koran.” It says:

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Say: He is God, The One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, Nor is He begotten; And there is none Like unto Him.

God is absolutely One. He is all majesty and sovereign. In fact, the unforgivable sin in Islam is the “sin of shirk,” or assigning partners to God. The Koran makes very clear:

God forgiveth not [the sin of] joining other gods with Him; but He forgiveth Whom He pleaseth other sins than this: one who joins Other gods with God, Hath strayed far, far away [From the Right]” (4:116).

As we will see in coming posts, this verse is aimed specifically at Christians. According to the Koran, we Christians are guilty of “the sin of shirk” in declaring Jesus to be God! Stay tuned for more on this!

The Key for now is understanding this belief in God’s absolute unity and majesty is central to Islam. In Islam, God is absolute “master” (Rabb, in Arabic), and men are absolute slaves (Abd, in Arabic). God is so absolutely transcendent that he is believed to be “beyond being” and “unknowable.” According to Muhammed Abdul Rauf (Islam Creed and Worship, Washington D.C.: the Islamic Center, 1974, p. 2-3), one of the 13 attributes of God along with “Existence, Eternity, Perpetuity… Self-Sustenance, Unity, Might, Will, Knowledge, Life, Hearing, Sight, and Speech,” is “dissimilarity.”

As Catholics, we also believe in God’s attribute of “dissimilarity.” For example, when God is revealed as “Father,” CCC 239 says, “No one is father as God is father.” Any and all attributes of God are infinitely beyond what we can only know of them by analogy this side of heaven. However, in Islamic thought dissimilarity is taken to another level. God is absolutely dissimilar to us meaning God’s essence is either non-existent, or absolutely unknowable. It cannot even be known by analogy.  

But what about the famous 99 names of God found all over the Koran, especially in Sura 5, and in Islamic tradition? Pope St. John Paul II refers to them in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope (pg. 92). Do they not tell us something of God’s essence?

Actually, the answer is no.

God’s essence is beyond us. The names are based on what God does, not on who he is. We cannot know who he is. The Koran reveals pure will. And even the Will of God revealed in the Koran tells us nothing of God’s Will as it is in itself, because even God’s will, per se, is inscrutable!

This is a crucial point: You cannot know God in Islam. In Christianity, this is the very reason why we were created! As St. Augustine said it, “Thou hast made us for thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”

And remember this: When I say, “We cannot know God, I mean never. Not even if we make it to Muslim paradise. We will never know God or His Will except by what he has commanded us in the Koran. But again, this tells us nothing of his nature as it is in itself.

This lack of understanding of God leads to all kinds of theological and moral problems. For example, In Surah 3 we read, “If you love God, follow me, and God will love you and forgive your sins.” Sounds good, right? However, in the same breath the Koran then says, “God does not love the unbelievers” (Sura 3:32).  We, as Catholics, know God cannot do anything but love because “God is Love” (I John 4:8), but in Islam, we cannot know the essence of God! He is purely the Master (Rabb) and we are slaves (abd) and we obey his commands because he says so. It is no contradiction for Muslims to say God loves some and hates some. Neither are rooted in God’s nature (if he has one at all). They are absolutely arbitrary.

Moreover, because God is “beyond being” and has no essence then he can command anything and we must obey it. This false notion of God leads to a lack of understanding of metaphysics and to a kind of nominalism. There are no essences in Islam. God has no essence, nor does man. Actions have no essence either. So if God says to kill a village of men and sell their women and children into slavery, you do it! If “God” told a Christian to do that, the Christian would say, “Get thee behind me Satan!” because a Christian would know that is not God!

Ramifications and Contradictions

The ramifications of this kind of metaphysics are staggering. Man has no essence; hence there could be no “original sin,” or an understanding of “fallen man,” and that man has a “fallen nature,” because there is no “nature” to fall. There is no understanding of “grace,” or “sanctifying grace,” that we Catholics often take for granted. In Islam, everyone is judged purely by what he or she does. As Catholics, of course, we believe we are judged in accord with our works as well, but there is no sanctifying grace or state of grace in Islam. Muslims teach our works will be “weighed on a scale” and if our good deeds outweigh the evil, we will be admitted to “paradise.”

As Catholics, we hear of the suicide bombers on 9/11 frequenting strip clubs, and being with prostitutes, while claiming to be devout Muslims, and say, “How can this be?” But in Islam, the scale would be tipped by their “heroic” act of killing thousands of “infidels,” so why not?

Moreover, because actions have no essences, adultery is not wrong because it is contrary to the essence of conjugal love. It is wrong because Allah says so in the Koran.

Think about it: So if the Koran says we should beat our wives (it does, we will quote it in a future post) marry four wives and have as many slave girls as we can provide for (it does), then that makes it okay!

So God is absolute majesty, absolutely dissimilar and unknowable. He is Master (Rabb) and we are slave (Abd). This leads to a belief in the absolute predestination of all things (especially among the Sunni who represent 85% of Muslims). God is so absolutely almighty that free-will is unthinkable. Nothing happens that is not willed by Allah. Allah wills both good and evil directly!

Norman Geisler points out on page 29 of his book, “Answering Islam,” quoting a text from the “Hadiths,” or, “sayings” of Muhammad:

While we were sitting in company with the Apostle of Allah upon whom be Allah’s blessing and peace-and a group of his companions, Abu Bakr and Umar entered through one of the gates of the mosque. With them was quite a large body of people disputing with loud voices, the one contradicting the other, till they came to the Apostle of Allah… Said he… “What is it you are disputing about that causes you to raise your voices so and make such a clamor?” “It is about the decree,” they answered. “Abu Bakr asserts that Allah decrees good but does not decree evil, but Umar says that He decrees both alike.” Muhammed replied. “The decree necessarily determines all that is good and all that is sweet and all that is bitter, and that is my decision between you.” Then he slapped Abu Bakr on the shoulder, and said: “O Abu Bakr, if Allah Most High had not willed that there be disobedience, He would not have created the Devil.” Abu Bakr replied: “I seek pardon from Allah. I slipped and stumbled, O Apostle of Allah, but never again will I fall into error about this matter.”

One can see the problems that come from this Islamic view of God, Man, and the relationship (or lack thereof) between God and man.

1. God predestines all things, wills both good and evil! As Sura 37:94 says, “He [Allah] created you as well as what you do.” In Islam, there was no creation of man in perfection. God created him inclined to evil and willed him to sin!

If this is true then we should really add to the names of God, “The Evil One!” Think about it. If what we know about God and what we name him comes from what he does and not from his essence, then, if he does evil…

2.  We cannot know God or the Will of God as it is. His will revealed in the Koran is arbitrary. This can lead to accepting the word of Satan as the word of God. “God” could tell Muhammad to do anything and he would do it, including killing, taking slaves and slave concubines, etc. More about that to come, folks! But more importantly, this belief that God is unknowable thwarts the very reason for our existence!

3. There are no “essences.” Therefore, there is no “nature” to man. There is no original justice, original sin, or “fall.” This leads to God being the creator of Satan as evil. As an aside here, Satan was not an angel to most Muslims. He was a “Jinn.” “Jinn” are rational beings in between angels and men (this is where the mythical “Jeannie in a bottle” comes from. The plural of “Jinn” is “Jinni.” “I Dream of Jeannie” owes its existence as a TV show to Islam!) Sura 72:11 says jinn have free-will; hence, they can do good or evil, while angels cannot. They are good and can only do good.

Sura 18:50 says Satan is a Jinn. Incidently, it is interesting to note a glaring contradiction in Sura 38:71-77 which speaks of the first sin of Satan. He sinned because he would not bow before Adam! Yet, in Islam, you bow before no one but Allah! In essence, Satan was condemned by God for trying to be a good Muslim and refusing to bow before a man! This apparent contradiction is explained by Muslim scholars in different ways. Some say Satan was living in a different dispensation so it was okay back then to bow to potentates. Some say when bowing to men, Satan would have actually been bowing to Allah in a final sense.

But there is another inherent contradiction here. Adam was created to sin, and, in fact, almighty God caused him to sin. This belief is, again, rooted in Islam’s notion of God’s omnipotence, but yet, they will say that Jinn do have free will. What happened to God’s omnipotence in that case? Also, if God creates men imperfectly and even causes them to sin, this becomes a very distorted notion of God metaphysically. In all of their emphasis on the majesty of God, they end with a God who is imperfect. An infinitely perfect God cannot create moral defect in any sense. As Catholics, we believe God created men and angels with their own proper perfections, which includes the perfection of free will. In other words, free will is entirely good and is a perfection. The abuse of that freedom belongs entirely to the creature. Muslim scholars say creation of anything means necessarily that they are imperfect. Because if they were perfect, they would be God! But this is incorrect. Created beings are not infinite, but they do possess their own proper perfections. God can’t do that? Certainly he can! God creates angels with perfect natures that only do good, according to the Koran, but this does not mean they are on a par with God!

At any rate, with this as a basic underpinning of Islamic metaphysics, we can understand many of the contradictions and much of the confusion that comes from the world of Islam. It is a metaphysically empty religion that cannot save, and, in fact, does not believe we need to be saved. More about that in coming posts!

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Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

CCC 841, quoting the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 16, from Vatican II, declared:

The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.

Some will say this declaration does not indicate Muslims believe in the same God we do because it only says “Muslims… profess to hold the faith of Abraham,” not that they actually do. So what gives?

The Council fathers were certainly careful to say Muslims “profess…” but not that they “profess” to believe in one God. It says they “profess to hold the faith of Abraham.” “The faith of Abraham” involves more than simply acknowledging that God is one. CCC 59-64 teaches that “the faith of Abraham” includes:

“The people descended from Abraham” who “would be the trustee of the promise made to the patriarchs, the chosen people, called to prepare for that day when God would gather all his children into the unity of the Church” (CCC 60).

The Catechism goes on to point out that the people who possess the true “faith of Abraham” include:

… “the patriarchs, prophets, and certain other Old Testament figures” who “have been and always will be honored as saints in all the Church’s liturgical traditions” (CCC 61).

Paragraphs 63-64 in the Catechism continue:

Israel is the priestly people of God, “called by the name of the Lord,” and “the first to hear the word of God,” the people of “elder brethren” in the faith of Abraham. (64) Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all… a salvation which will include all the nations. Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord… as Sarah, Rebecca, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith, and Esther… The purest figure among them is Mary.

Muslims could hardly be included in this number.

However, it is a distortion to claim from this that Muslims do not truly believe in the one true God because it was clearly after having said Muslims “profess to hold the faith of Abraham,” that the Council fathers then declared: “… together with us they adore the one, merciful God…”

These are two distinct declarations:

1. [Muslims] profess to hold the faith of Abraham.

2. Together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.

CCC 841 also references Vatican II’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, 3, that makes the teaching of the Council perhaps even clearer:

The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even his inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God.

Once again, we see first the declaration that Muslims “adore the one God…” made without qualification. Then, the fathers say “Islam link[s] itself” to Abraham. This is not saying there is a link; rather, it is saying Muslims make that link. Once again, we have two clearly distinct declarations.

Is the Muslim God Our God?

There are many things taught in Islam that are so radically opposed to what we believe as Catholic Christians, that some will say, “Well, perhaps they believe in one God, but the ‘one God’ they believe in is not the same God we believe in because, for example, the Koran teaches:

1.Women are inferior to men (Sura 4:34)

2.Men can, and even should, ‘beat’ their wives in some circumstances (Sura 4:34).

3.Belief in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is false (Sura 4:157-159).

4.Belief in the divinity of Christ is blasphemy (Sura 5:72).

5.Belief in Jesus Christ as ‘the Son of God’ is grave error (Sura 19:35; 10:68).

6.Muslims are commanded to ‘fight against’ Christians and all who disagree with them. Sura 9:29 says:

Fight those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, nor follow the Religion of Truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgement of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.

7.God wills moral as well as physical evil. In fact, Sura 37:94 says, ‘He [Allah] created you as well as what you do,’ whether good or evil.

8.‘God does not love the unbelievers’ (Sura 3:32).

And this is just to name a few areas of major disagreement. We could write volumes on the problems with Muslim doctrine.”

Many claim there is a point where errors regarding what “the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth” teaches become so far removed from the truth that it becomes necessary to say that God being spoken of is no longer “God” at all. My take is that as long as a person understands the basic metaphysical truth that God is “the one, merciful God,” then errors concerning what God has said, or what he has revealed about his inner life are simply errors about those things, not about God as the one, true God.

Some will argue that if someone presents, for example, their “God” as teaching the rape of small children to be okay, then that God is not God at all. And that, I would argue, is true. It could be argued that that “God” would suffer from a moral defect, and therefore, could not be God.

But even if it is possible for a person (or a faith, like Islam) to claim belief in the one true God, but so distort what God teaches that he (or it) ceases to truly believe in the “one true God” in reality, then, according to the Church, Islam has not reached that point in its errors.

Thus, we Catholics have to be careful to distinguish between the fact that Muslims believe in the one true God “living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,” and the fact that they get it wrong—profoundly wrong—when it comes to both who God has revealed himself to be in the New Testament, and what he has taught his people.

We pull no punches as Catholics when it comes to pointing out the errors of Islam. But we also need to begin by getting it right concerning the things about which we agree.

Ask a Saint – He Knows

Pope St. John Paul II strikes the balance beautifully, concisely, and without compromise between acknowledging what Muslims get right, and challenging some of where they go wrong, in his excellent book, Crossing the Threshhold of Hope. After pointing out that the Church has a “high regard for Muslims who worship one God, living and subsistent, merciful and omnipotent, the Creator of heaven and earth,” he then observes after reflecting on Islam and the Koran:

Whoever knows the Old and New Testaments, and then reads the Koran, clearly sees the process by which it completely reduces Divine Revelation. It is impossible not to note the movement away from what God said about Himself, first in the Old Testament through the Prophets, and then finally in the New Testament through His Son. In Islam all the richness of God’s self-revelation, which constitutes the heritage of the Old and New Testaments, has definitely been set aside. Some of the most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Koran, but He is ultimately a God outside of the World, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us. Islam is not a religion of redemption. There is no room for the Cross and the Resurrection (p. 92).

St. John Paul first acknowledges the truth that Muslims get it right when they profess faith in one God. Then, and only then, does he point out they have it as wrong as wrong can be when it comes to what God has revealed to us in Scripture about who he is, and, I would add, what he asks of his people by way of his commandments.

My thanks to Mr. Craig Curtis for helping me with much of the research for this post and the ones that will follow in this series.

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Why Mary Matters

In my new book, Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines, I spend most of its pages in classic apologetic defense of Mary as Mother of God, defending her immaculate conception, perpetual virginity, assumption into heaven, her Queenship, and her role in God’s plan of salvation as Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix. But perhaps my  most important contributions in the book may well be how I demonstrate each of these doctrines to be crucial for our spiritual lives and even our salvation.

And I should note that this applies to all of the Marian doctrines. Not only Protestants, but many Catholics will be surprised to see how the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, for example, is crucial for all Christians to understand lest they misapprehend the truth concerning the sacred, marriage, sacraments, the consecrated life, and more.

I won’t attempt to re-produce the entire book in this post, but I will choose one example among examples I use to demonstrate why Mary as Mother of God not only matters, but how denying this dogma of the Faith can end in the loss of understanding of “the one true God and Jesus Christ whom [God] has sent” (John 17:3). It doesn’t get any more serious than that!

In my book, I use the teaching of the late, well-known, and beloved Protestant Apologist, Dr. Walter Martin, as one of my examples (among others). In his classic apologetics work, Kingdom of the Cults, Dr. Martin, gives us keen insight into why the dogma of the Theotokos (“God-bearer,” a synonym with “Mother of God”) is such a “big deal.” But first some background information.

Truth and Consequences

It is very easy to state what it is that you don’t believe. That has been the history of Protestantism. Protestantism itself began as a… you guessed it… “protest.” “We are against this, this, this, and this.” It was a “protest” against Catholicism. However, the movement could not continue to exist as a protest against something. It had to stand for something. And that is when the trouble began. When groups of non-infallible men attempted to agree, the result ended up being the thousands of Protestant sects we see today.

Dr. Walter Martin was a good Protestant. He certainly and boldly proclaimed, “I do not believe Mary is the Mother of God.” That’s fine and good. The hard part came when he had to build a theology congruent with his denial. With Dr. Martin, it is difficult to know for sure whether his bad Christology came before or after his bad Mariology—I argue it was probably bad Christology that came first—but let’s just say for now that in the process of theologizing about both Jesus and Mary, he ended up claiming Mary was “the mother of Jesus’ body,” and not the Mother of God. He claimed Mary “gave Jesus his human nature alone,” so that we cannot say she is the Mother of God; she is the mother of the man, Jesus Christ.

This radical division of humanity and divinity manifests itself in various ways in Dr. Martin’s theology. He claimed, for example, that “sonship” in Christ has nothing at all to do with God in his eternal relations within the Blessed Trinity. In Martin’s Christology, divinity and humanity are so sharply divided that he concluded “eternal sonship” to be an unbiblical Catholic invention. On page 103 of his 1977 edition of The Kingdom of the Cults, he wrote:

[T]here cannot be any such thing as eternal Sonship, for there is a logical contradiction of terminology due to the fact that the word “Son” predicates time and the involvement of creativity. Christ, the Scripture tells us, as the Logos, is timeless, “…the Word was in the beginning” not the Son!

From Martin’s perspective then, Mary as “Mother of God” is a non-starter. If “Son of God” refers to Christ as the Eternal Son, then there would be no denying that Mary is the mother of the Son of God, who is God; hence, Mother of God would be an inescapable conclusion. But if sonship only applies to “time and creativity,” then references to Mary’s “son” would not refer to divinity at all.

But there is just a little problem here. Beyond the fact that you don’t even need the term “Son” at all to determine Mary is the Mother God because John 1:14 tells us “the Word was made flesh,” and John 1:1 tells us “the Word was God;” thus, Mary is the mother of the Word and so she is the Mother of God anyway, the sad fact is that in the process of Martin’s theologizing he ended up losing the real Jesus. Notice, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity is no longer the Eternal Son! And it gets worse from here, if that is possible! Martin would go on:

The term “Son” itself is a functional term, as is the term “Father” and has no meaning apart from time. The term “Father” incidentally never carries the descriptive adjective “eternal” in Scripture; as a matter of fact, only the Spirit is called eternal (“the eternal Spirit”—Hebrews 9:14), emphasizing the fact that the words Father and Son are purely functional as previously stated.

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of what we are saying here. Jesus revealed to us the essential truth that God exists eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in his inner life. For Martin, God would be father by analogy in relation to the humanity of Christ, but not in the eternal divine relations; hence, he is not the eternal Father. So, not only did Dr. Martin end up losing Jesus,the eternal Son; he lost the Father as well! This compels us to ask the question: Who then is God, the Blessed Trinity, in eternity, according to Dr. Walter Martin and all those who agree with his theology? He is not Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He must be the eternal … Blah… the Word, and the Holy Spirit (Martin did teach Christ to be the Eternal Word, just not the Eternal Son). He would become a father by analogy when he created the universe and again by analogy at the incarnation of the Word and through the adoption of all Christians as “sons of God.” But he would not be the eternal Father. The metaphysical problems begin here and continue to eternity… literally. Let us now summarize Dr. Martin’s teaching and some of the problems it presents:

1. Fatherhood and Sonship would not be intrinsic to God. The Catholic Church understands that an essential aspect of Christ’s mission was to reveal God to us as he is in his inner life as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Jews already understood God to be father by analogy, but they had no knowledge of God as eternal Father in relation to the Eternal Son. In Jesus’ great high priestly prayer in John 17, he declared his Father was Father “before the world was made” and thus, to quote CCC 239, in “an unheard-of sense.” In fact, Christ revealed God’s name as Father. Names in Hebrew culture reveal something about the character of the one named. Thus, he reveals God to be Father, not just that he is like a father. God never becomes Father; he is the eternal Father

2. If Sonship applies only to humanity and time, the “the Son” would also be extrinsic, or outside, if you will, of the Second Divine Person of the Blessed Trinity. Thus, as much as he would have denied it, Dr. Martin effectively creates two persons to represent Christ—one divine and one human. This theology leads to the logical conclusion that the person who died on the cross 2,000 years ago would have been merely a man. If that were so, he would have no power to save us. Scripture reveals Christ as the savior, not merely a delegate of God the savior. He was fully man in order to make fitting atonement for us. He was fully God in order to have the power to save us.

3. This theology completely reduces the revelation of God in the New Covenant that separates Christianity from all religions of the world. Jesus revealed God as he is from all eternity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Dr. Martin reduces this to mere function. Thus, “Father” does not tell us who God is, only what God does. Radical feminists do something similar when they refuse to acknowledge God as “Father.” God becomes reduced to that which he does as “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier” and in the process there is a truly tragic loss of the knowledge of who God is. In the case of Dr. Walter Martin, it was bad theology that led to a similar loss.

4. There is a basic metaphysical principle found, for example, in Malachi 3:6, that comes into play here as well: “For I the Lord do not change.” In defense of Dr. Martin, he did seem to realize that one cannot posit change in the divine persons. As stated above, “fatherhood” and “sonship” would not relate to divinity at all in his way of thinking. Thus, he became a proper Nestorian (though he would never have admitted that) that divides Christ into two persons. And that is bad enough. However, one must be very careful here because when one posits the first person of the Blessed Trinity became the Father, and the second person of the Blessed Trinity became the Son, it becomes very easy to slip into another heresy that would admit change into the divine persons. Later in Behold Your Mother, I employ the case of a modern Protestant apologist who regrettably takes that next step. But you’ll have to get the book to read about that one!

The bottom line here is this: It appears Dr. Walter Martin’s bad Christology led to a bad Mariology. But I argue in Behold Your Mother that if he would have understood Mary as Theotokos (“God-bearer”, or, “Mother of God”), it would have been impossible for him to lose his Christological bearings. The moment the thought of sonship as only applying to humanity in Christ would have arisen, a Catholic Dr. Walter Martin would have known that Mary is Mother of God. He would have lost neither the eternal Son nor the eternal Father because Theotokos would have guarded him from error. The prophetic words of Lumen Gentium 65 immediately come to mind: “Mary… unites in her person and re-echoes the most important doctrines of the faith.” A true Mariology serves as a guarantor against bad Christology.