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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing apoligetic work,
This review is from: Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Paperback)As a Catholic convert from Evangelicalism, I really was intrigued by this debate from two very talented laymen. Both views were vigourously defended, and the respect both sides had for one another made the book work. I felt Mr. Gustafson did a great job of bringing up all the tough questions Evangelicals rightly ask concerning Marian devotion, and Mr. Longenknecker did what I thought was the single best job of not only defending, but helping to teach the logic and rationale behind the dogmas and practice of Catholicism regarding Mary. A highly readable book. Mr. Longanecker scored a home run with his metahpor of a future Christian sect misreading Evangelical devotion to the scriptures.. a perfect analogy. Mr Gustafson rightly cornered the Catholic writer on much of the excessive devotional writings, especially the popes on the Mediatrix issue.
Overall, the single best book Ive read on the subject...and how refreshing both men still considers the other a brother in Christ..there is hope.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. Clears all the smoke.,
This review is from: Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Paperback)When one deals with the subject of Mary, he is stepping into a sensitive arena especially with all that mutual misunderstandings between Catholics and Protestants for each others points. But before I state my opinion about the subject, allow me once again to state my denominational background so that I won’t be misunderstood or considered blindly biased for my denomination: I was born of an Orthodox father (thus I am officially an Orthodox), raised as a Catholic by my mother and school, and recently I am getting more acquainted with the Evangelical doctrines. So I can describe myself as a NON-denominational believer trying to take the best from each of those three mainline churches; this is where reading and studying comes in.
So back to the subject of Mary, ever since I became a believer and started to read the Bible as well as read about the Evangelical line of thought, I noticed there is something wrong with some of the doctrines my Church (Catholic, and to a lesser degree Orthodox) taught me. The Bible doesn’t mention anything about the Immaculate Conception (Mary being exempt from the stain of original sin), doesn’t mention anything about her rapture, nothing about her being a co-redeemer or mediatrix or advocate, the Bible doesn’t mention anywhere that we should pray to her or venerate her… So naturally, I had a lot of questions and since there is a big dispute about these between the Catholics and Protestants, I needed a book that is the least possibly biased so that I get to know their respective arguments. And here is the real strength of this book!
The title says it all. “Mary: a Catholic-Evangelical debate” is written in a form of a debate between a Catholic (Dwight Logenecker) and an Evangelical (David Gustafson). Each Marian subject has a chapter dedicated to it where the two authors each take turns to present their ideas and arguments. It’s like watching a live debate which was another positive point about the book. The subjects discussed are: the biblical presentation of Mary, the title “Mother of God”, the virgin birth (all in favor here), the perpetual virginity, the title “Spouse of the Holy Spirit”, the Immaculate Conception, the assumption, the veneration, the apparitions, the rosary and the titles “co-redeemer, mediatrix, advocate”.
Another important aspect which makes this book great is the brotherly and respectful spirit of discussion between the two authors. You really see that they aren’t arguing just for the sake of it, or to show who is scoring more points. They are really open to one another and both seem to debate for one reason: unravel THE truth. And so I started to read and reflect on each author’s point of view.
In chapter one, you’ll see how much in common there is between the two. I live in a country where the Evangelicals are almost considered cultic (being a minority), sometimes put on the same level as Jehovah’s Witnesses’, and sometimes even called “Mary haters”! (wow). Such a big misunderstanding (I am trying hard to avoid the offensive word of Ignorance) is very unfortunate. Both affirm how important and how holy Mary is, as the Bible is very clear here: she was the first Christian, the most obedient to God, her pure womb was chosen to bear Jesus while she was still a virgin, she is the no1 Saint of Christianity, a raw model for us all. Protestants strongly affirm this stand but stop here. Catholics take it a few steps further. So using the word “Mary haters” or such is really preposterous and couldn’t be explained except by ignorance and unfounded speculations. On the other hand, calling Catholics “Mary Worshippers” (as some fundamental Protestants do) also misrepresents the Catholic position, and here, ignorance finds its place again.
Regarding the virgin birth of Jesus (Mary conceived Jesus by a miraculous act from the holy spirit, without any sexual relation), it is a dogma upheld by ALL Christians, so no need to discuss it here.
Regarding the title “Mother of God”, Evangelicals accept this term but with caution because they say it could confuse the laymen (for after all, God has no mother in the proper term, Mary is but a creature of God). They prefer the original word used by the early Christians as stated in the council of Ephesus: Theotokos meaning God-Bearer. But here the disagreement is subtle and rely on the proper interpretation of words. I think the evangelical caution is warranted.
On the perpetual virginity, I learned that the Bible isn’t conclusive here. Some Protestants say Mary could and should have had a normal husband-wife relationship with Joseph AFTER(!) the birth of Jesus, because the Bible say “she didn’t knew a man UNTIL the birth of Jesus” (Matt 1:25), that they “lived together”, that the Bible mentions “brothers and sisters” for Jesus (meaning half-). They rightly affirm that the Bible teach that sexual relations between a husband and wife is honorable in the eyes of God, and that Mary and Joseph living their marriage fully does in NO way lessen the holiness of Mary or affect the holiness and divinity of Jesus. But Catholics are also right here that the Bible also doesn’t mention that they did have any such relation, and that the term bro/sis could be explained as cousins in the language of the Jews. And why did Jesus assign Mary to John if she had other children? The debate then naturally centered on whether celibacy is holier than marriage, which is the true origin of this disagreement. But it seems that the majority of the very early church fathers taught the perpetual virginity which seems to be the most widespread in the early church. I am standing with the Catholics on this one.
As for the title of “Spouse of the Holy Spirit”, the Catholics have gone too far, inventing words that could (and surely will) confuse the people. Of course, they do NOT mean that Mary is the literal wife of God, they mean it in a more spiritual term. But David argued right here that such a title is neither found in the Bible, neither doctrinally needed, and is fertile ground for erroneous understanding by the believers.
As for the doctrines of Immaculate Conception and Glorious Assumption (Mary’s body was taken up to heaven), David was a fierce lion here, Dwight almost “sweating” defending those two doctrines. Now both agree (yes even Dwight!) that these ideas are completely absent from the Bible. The Catholic Church introduced them VERY late in her history, relying mostly on some early apocryphal books (like the Protoevangelium of James, which Dwight used extensively to prove his point). But, what’s weird is that, both Catholics and Evangelicals rejected these works as scripture for their many errors and gnostic exaggerations. So I really couldn’t find any logic in Dwight’s approach and found the Catholic doctrine very wanting (even the Orthodox rejected them)
Regarding the apparitions, I think no one had the upper hand here. I agree with the Evangelicals that the Bible clearly warns about following any miraculous signs or messages from heaven, as we do not have a way to really foretell whether they are 1/truly from heaven 2/lies and inventions from people wanting some profit 3/hallucinations or 4/demonic manifestations (the most dangerous). The revelation is complete in the Bible. Also, Evangelicals are VERY jealous people for Jesus, and are at much unease when anything distracts the attention from Jesus even if it was towards any saint. The glory is to God alone. But I am with Dwight here that we shouldn’t go so far as some Protestants as to discard all apparitions and miracles, as some are increasing the devotional lives and indeed POINTING towards Jesus. So my stand is to be very cautious: I don’t disregard all the apparitions, but I also don’t follow them as I believe I have nothing new to learn; everything I need is in the Bible.
Finally, regarding the veneration and prayer to Mary and considering her as mediatrix and advocate, I think Dwight failed to present a convincing scriptural proof for these practices and relied heavily on tradition of the church (3rd century AD and up) On the contrary, I learned how much the scriptures insist that prayer and supplication be directed to God, and God alone. Who understands us better? Loves us better? Know our hearts and minds? Even very respected Catholic cardinals like Newman are very “afraid” that the Co-redeemer doctrine (not yet dogma) be upheld by the Catholic church as doctrine. Scripturally speaking, David sounded the most correct here: Glory to God alone, the work of redemption is God’s work alone.
So as you might have noticed, the REAL question of disagreement between Evangelicals and Catholics emerge strongly here: The scripture (bible which tells us the true apostolic tradition) alone is our source of doctrine and practice?-Evangelicals- Or Scripture AND Church tradition?-Catholics-
After reading such a book I honestly felt that regarding the subject of Mary, the Evangelicals are the truest to the scriptures and that Catholics although having a much richer church tradition, stand on shakier ground from that aspect.But I also think that the Evangelicals also neglect Mary quite a bit and should teach and talk about her life more; she really was the holiest of Christians.
All in all, a tremendous work, excellent for reflection and for clearing up the confusions. Both Catholics and Evangelicals have a lot to learn from each other. I just hope that the spirit of honesty and Christian love and respect found in this book be reflected among us all. Highly recommended reading!
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Avoiding the "Straw Man",
This review is from: Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Paperback)Few topics can get the tempers flaring between Catholics and Protestants than devotion to Mary. While Catholics (as well as the Orthodox and some Anglicans) see it as a natural outgrowth and reflection of the Incarnation, there is a general feeling within much of Protestantism to look upon Marian devotion as bordering on idolatry. Attempts to mediate the differences usually take one of two paths: either the real differences between Christians are minimized in a banal soup of least common denominator theology or else it dissolves into angry polemical exchanges shedding far more heat than light.
The debate presented in Mary between Dwight Longenecker and David Gustafson is a wonderful exception to this unfortunate pattern. Both participants graduated from Bob Jones University (a known bastion of anti-Catholic polemic) before moving from the Protestant fundamentalism promoted there to a more historically rooted Christianity in Anglicanism (with Longenecker favoring the more Catholic and Gustafson the more Evangelical wings of the Anglican tradition). Longenecker has since moved on to Rome and with it an acceptance of beliefs peculiar to it - many dealing with Mary. These and other Marian beliefs and practices are the center of the debate and the result is an almost unparalleled attempt to discuss the truth in love on both sides. It is indeed rare to have a book endorsed by both Richard Neuhaus and J. I. Packer (both of whom write forwards) as well as by both Michael Horton and Peter Kreeft (both of whom write cover blurbs), and the backing by such noted theologians on both sides is testimony to the book's clear exposition of the issues.
It is a joy to see both men desiring to fully comprehend the other's position and addressing their objections accordingly. There are neither "straw men" raised here nor is there an avoidance of the central issues. Both participants are intelligent, knowledgeable, and fair. In fact, it is safe to say the best each side has to offer is presented in a clear and concise manner and left for the reader to prayerfully consider. At times each of the two debaters are put on the defensive - Gustafson is at a loss to explain how the early Church fathers (including such important figures as Sts. Athanasius and Augustine) could possible make such an obvious and crucial "error" as Marian devotion while Longenecker all but apologizes for papal (although not yet binding doctrine) pronouncements bestowing upon Mary the titles co-Redemptix, Mediatrix, and Advocate. The exchanges are stimulating and those with opinions formed from ecclesial bias will find themselves challenged time and again. In the end, the book may not change opinions, but Christians on each side should fully appreciate the opposing view.
There are many books and tapes available contrasting Protestant and Roman positions on Mary but few with the clarity and honesty put forth in Mary. Longenecker and Gustavson are to be commended for producing this important and rewarding book. For those trying to grasp the conflicting claims on this topic, Mary is essential reading.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mary- A conversation (debate) between friends,
This review is from: Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Paperback)Wow, a book solely about Mary the mother of Jesus of Nazareth from both a Protestant and Roman Catholic point of view. The authors, Dwight and Dave, show forth their love for Christ's church and each other in this book. Reading this book is like listening in to a conversation between two good freinds who disagree on a matter that is dear to them. There is love and respect, but also great intellectual honesty and probing. Before I read this book I did not realize that the position of Mary in Roman Catholic teaching was so developed, and in fact is still developing. From a Protestant standpoint I did not realize that such greats as Luther were quite Catholic in their beliefs. Dave Gustafason does an outstanding job on presenting Evangelical thoughts on Mary, but at the same time being very understanding and open to his friend Dwights Catholic position. Both authors did a lot of homework from early church history to present and document this well without saturating you with footnotes. I know of no other book like this on Mary the mother of Jesus and her position in the Catholic and Protestant churches. I recommend it for all who seek more truth about Mary and her relationship to the church.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A straight forward and level headed conversation,
This review is from: Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Paperback)This really is a level headed and straight forward book on Mary. The book is subtitled as a "debate" but it truly is a conversation, as the previous reviewer noted, although the writers tackle the issues without kid gloves. A great feature of the book is that the authors treat each suject in a sequential order and each chapter flows easily into the next. Perhaps the best feature about the book is that each side offers serious and knowledgeable arguments without jumping into un-informed caricatures or smear tactics. If your a Roman Catholic or a Protestant and want to learn what the "other side" believes this is the book for you.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceeded Expectations,
This review is from: Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Paperback)Events such as the recent Lutheran - Catholic declaration on justification are testaments to the growing ecumenicalism within the Christianity community. Despite progress in this area differences remain on several issues, such as the relationship between scripture, tradition and church. While not a core theological issue, arguably, the single largest stumbling block between rank and file believers is the role of the Virgin Mary; Catholics feeling that Protestant undervalue her role and Protestants contending that much Marian dogma is unfounded.
Though the role of the Virgin Mary is an interesting question, prior to coming across this book, I had been unable to find a resource that engaged the issue in what I considered to be a balanced, critical and comprehensive manner; much of the Protestant material in this area being either superficial or overly polemical (e.g. Rhodes, White, McCarthy etc.), whereas Catholic material was either extremely terse (e.g. Catholic Encyclopedia) or devotional.
While this book has too much strength three aspects that I found particularly helpful were its respectful tone, its explanation of Catholic terminology and the discussion of recent Marian dogmas within the Catholic Church. First, with respect to tone, discussion of the Virgin Mary can be a sensitive issue and if one is not careful such discussions can rapidly escalate into shrill emotionally charged exchanges. Hence, I was impressed by the authors' tone. While arguing forcefully and disagreeing in several areas they maintained a civil and respectful dialogue, engaging with each other rather than just talking past each other in an attempt to score debating points.
Second, with respect to terminology, often misunderstanding or assumptions regarding language contribute to disagreement. Such terminological misunderstanding is especially acute in theological discourse, in the present case Catholic terminology surrounding Mary sounds foreign, and excessive, to many modern Protestant readers. While not removing all disagreement in this area Longenecker's explication of terms like mediatrix and co-redeemer are helpful in reducing some extreme interpretations and misunderstandings.
Finally, the dialogue highlighted the connections or potential connections between The Catholic Church's understanding of alleged Marian apparitions and recent Marian dogmas. It had always struck me as odd why now, after all these centuries the Catholic Church decided to formalize the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. After reading this discussion it strikes me that there is significant connection between these dogmas and beliefs concerning Marian apparitions. It is a subject I would be interested in pursuing further.
Overall this is an excellent book that I highly recommend for anyone interested in the subject of the Virgin Mary. I am hopeful that similar books on issues such as papal infallibility are either available or forthcoming..
5.0 out of 5 stars A CATHOLIC CONVERT AND AN EVANGELICAL DISCUSS MARIAN DEVOTIONS AND DOCTRINES,
This review is from: Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Paperback)Dwight Longenecker was brought up as an evangelical (attending Bob Jones University, and later becoming an Anglican priest), but converted to Catholicism; he works as a freelance writer and broadcaster. He also previously participated in Challenging Catholics: A Catholic Evangelical Dialogue. David Gustafson is an assistant chief in the U.S. Department of Justice.
DL says in the Introduction to this 2003 book, "I hope to show in these discussions what a joy it is to include Mary in the whole range of out love for the Lord. I want to show how ancient and universal the Marian devotions and doctrines are..." DG replies, "I resolve to listen. And ... when it's my turn to speak, I hope not to just assert a negative---a minimizing view of Mary---but to hold up a positive idea of undistracted devotion to our Lord." (Pg. 20)
DG points out, "The Gospels do not show Jesus creating for Mary a place of attention for special honor. They do not record him commending Mary to his followers, promoting her intercession, or holding her up as of continued importance to them (or even to him). He seems, in fact, to have done the opposite." (Pg. 24)
DL says, "It is true that Saint Paul says very little about Mary, but then have you considered that he actually says very little about Jesus as well? He writes to the churches but barely mentions the actual events of the Gospels. Instead he assume that his hearers know the basic gospel facts." (Pg. 27)
DG states, "I admit that from the fifth century on, my view is all but unheard of until after the Reformation. Your position would have more persuasive force for me, though, if the Church's dogma stopped where that consensus ended---i.e., at Mary's sinlessness. But the Catholic Church has defined as dogma a refinement of doctrine that some of the Church's own heroes resisted; this aggressiveness shows that this doctrinal development is regulated not by what is ancient and apostolic, but by something else---a Marian fascination that is hard to understand because it is so alien to my own spirituality." (Pg. 110)
DL says, "To simply dismiss the apocryphal writings as fantastic fables and then to dismiss the Christians of the fourth and fifth century for believing them is too simplistic. Remember, this is a time when there was still some uncertainty about the New Testament canon. The apocryphal writings were in circulation with many other Christian writings, and most of them claimed apostolic authorship... This is not to denigrate the books of the New Testament... It is simply to make the point that in the fourth and fifth century it was quite easy to believe that the apocryphal accounts of the Assumption were more solid than we now know them to be." (Pg. 122-123) He also admits, "you should remember that the rosary is not the only prayer Catholics use. It is one part of a vast treasury of prayer and worship. I should also point out that the rosary is not required for Catholics. Many Catholics don't find it a helpful form of prayer at all." (Pg. 177)
This is a very interesting dialogue, that will be of considerable value to anyone studying Catholic/Protestant dialogue.
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book,
This review is from: Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Paperback)This book gives you both sides of the debate on the extent of honor due to Mary in the Christian Church. Longenecker and his debater went to college together but met again years later, after Longenecker had become a Catholic. Discussions progressed and eventually gravitated to this discussion on Mary. Longenecker presents and then defends the actual teaching of the Church on honoring Mary (as opposed to the stereotype other Christians think the Church teaches). The opponent asks the hard questions and conducts a well thought out debate. Whichever side of the debate you are on, this book would be an asset to your library.
5.0 out of 5 stars The model for dialogue,
This review is from: Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Paperback)I went to the authors' alma mater, and like them, took a different path. BJU was anti-Catholic, but these two grads--an Episcopal Federal Judge and Catholic Priest (living near the campus)--are allies, not enemies. The Reformation is long past, and we Protestants have largely discovered that what unites us in Christ is greater than that which divides us (minor doctrines). That being said, there is considerable difference of opinion about Mary, and I confess I've never read a book devoted (pun intended) to her. The title says "debate" but it is more of a cordial dialogue between two good friends. I found myself thinking that, even though I don't agree with the Catholic position for the most part, their claims are not egregious, and in many cases, once clarified, they don't sound as bad as I'd thought. This is a substantive, extremely well written book that will make you think. I found a copy at a seminary library and had to have my own copy. This book needs to stay in print! Anyone interested in studying Catholic/Protestant differences will benefit from this outstanding discussion.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High expectations met,
This review is from: Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Paperback)Based on previous reviews, I had high expectations for this book, and I'm happy to say that all of my expectations were met! This is an excellent book for understanding two different views about Mary.
Both participants in the debate are respectful of each other's conclusions. The discussion never degenerates into mere name-calling. I think that Gustafson, the Protestant, sometimes bends over backwards and is too generous toward the Roman Catholic point of view, but that is much better than allowing the debate to degenerate into mere polemics.
The foundational issue is authority. Once Longenecker accepts the authority of the Roman Catholic Church to decide on all doctrinal issues regardless of Biblical support, he cannot help but express his devotion to Mary. In that sense the discussion over Mary is secondary. The real issue concerns the relationship of the Bible to the church. Is the Bible authoritative? Or can the Roman Catholic Church legitimately add to its teaching?
While reading the presentations of Longenecker, I couldn't help but observe that his commitment to the Roman Catholic Church and Mary pushes him to finding some kind of doctrinal defense no matter how much it strains credibility. His reasoning in defense of Mary's Bodily Assumption fits that description. (But it forced me to ask whether evangelicals ever do the same in some of their apologetic presentations on other issues. It's always easier to spot the speck in someone else's eye than the plank in our own.)
After reading the book, I was more convinced than before that Marian devotion is misguided--to say the least. But Longenecker did make me realize that such devotion began relatively early in the life of the church. Evangelicals need to explain its early origin and its continued existence and development. Why did leading theologians such as Augustine not see how mistaken it was? How could Martin Luther go beyond the New Testament and speak of Mary in such glowing terms?
I do have one minor criticism. The book uses both footnotes and endnotes. I could not figure out why some notes qualify for the bottom of the page but others are relegated to the end of the book.
All in all, this is an excellent book for anyone who is genuinely seeking to understand the issues about Mary that are debated between Protestants and Roman Catholics. It is very informative, and I highly recommend it.
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Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate by Dwight Longenecker (Paperback - August 1, 2003)
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