Uneasy with the Mother of Our Lord

St. Mary (a purposefully papist picture)

For those interested in medieval drama, check out my thoughts on the Chester Cycle.

My mother organises a youth musical and drama group associated with her church.  One year, she decided to try and shake things up a little, to move away from Dennis and Nan Allan and songs by Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W Smith, and to try out something medieval.  So she thought they might enjoy “The Second Shepherds’ Pageant” of Wakefield as found in the Everyman edition Everyman and Medieval Miracle Plays.  At the time, this group included a number of Baptists — a God-fearing people who are also suspicious of all scent of Popery.

As I understand it, they were not chiefly uneasy with the silly plot-line about Mak casting spells on the shepherds and stealing a sheep and then pretending it was his child, but, rather, with the Blessed Virgin.  I am dumbfounded by this fact, for here are the references to the Mother of Our Lord:

“They prophesied by clergy — that in a virgin / should he light and lie, to sloken our sin” (ll. 676-677)

“Hail, maker, as I mean, [born] of a maiden so mild!” (l. 711)

“Farewell, lady, so fair to behold, / with thy child on thy knee.” (ll. 746-747)

The Virgin herself has this one line to the Shepherds:

The Father of heaven, God omnipotent, / That set all on seven, his Son has he sent. / My name could he neven, and light ere he went. / I conceived him full even through might, as he meant; / And now is he born. / He keep you from woe! — / I shall pray him so. / Tell forth as ye go, / And min on this morn.

There is nothing in this play that is not simply what the Bible teaches. Jesus was born of a virgin, the power of God conceived Him in her.  I suppose the Bible says nothing of whether she be fair or no, yet that is but a small matter.

Protestants need to wake up and realise that the unconscious anti-Marian stance is unbiblical and unwarranted.  The Mother of Our Lord belongs in any discussion of the Incarnation, and she ought to have a central role in any retelling — artistic, dramatic, narrative — of the Nativity.  Furthermore, she belongs in a good number of the Gospel stories, from the Wedding at Cana to the Crucifixion, and probably the Empty Tomb as well.  She is a figure in the life of Christ, and one upon whom the favour of the Lord rests.

If we push St. Mary to the fringes of our understanding of the life of God while He was incarnate, then we fail at coming near a complete understanding of that Incarnate Life.  Given that the Incarnation is God’s most powerful revelation of Himself unto us, to fail at understanding Jesus’ life in any way, we are failing to understand God, Who He Is, and What He Does.

Creeds and Evangelicals

By “evangelicals” I mean Baptists and suchlike denominations right now, not evangelicals in the midst of traditions like Anglicanism.  The Anglican evangelical, in contrast to the Baptist evangelical, will cling to the creeds in one hand and the Bible in another as their theological life-rafts in the torrent of bizarre theology our little branch of Christendom is pouring forth (if we had three hands, some would hold aloft the Prayer Book as well).  I grew up in a church that was not only evangelical but charismatic.  We would proclaim the creed every Sunday in the middle of the liturgy, just before a strong, biblical sermon.

In high school, I came to the realisation that my experience of Christianity was not the norm (nor was my experience of Anglicanism).  I had one Baptist friend who was not only unimpressed with the creeds but was even wary of people who pray the Lord’s Prayer.

I don’t know about any movements of people who shun the Lord’s Prayer, but it turns out that this friend was not alone in this low regard for the creeds.  All sorts of “evangelicals” avoid the creeds and anything that sounds like one.  In Cyprus, one of the members of the Greek Evangelical Church was perusing the information booklet about a local English-speaking Protestant church.  It included the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds as part of what the church believed.  She informed the pastor that this was not a good thing, and did he know that the Orthodox believe in the creed more than in the Bible?

Since the creeds are a distillation of biblical teaching, I don’t see that as a reasonable option.

If you find yourself in the position of a creed-wary evangelical, I encourage you to read them (they are in the sidebar on the main page).  Do you disagree with these documents?  Are they so bad?  I also encourage you, dear evangelicals who avoid creeds, to check out what the Internet Monk has to say (his post being the inspiration to write this post).