Anti-Marian Protestants often rely on several biblical fallacies to minimize the significance of Mary and slander Catholics as well as others who are devoted to her. Identifying these fallacies and calling them out for what they really are is an essential part of defending the faith.
Here are six common fallacies you’ll often encounter when discussing devotion to Mary:
1. “The Bible doesn’t say much about Mary, so she must not be that important.”
The absurdity of this claim can be readily exposed by looking at examples of other things that aren’t that are vital but don’t take up a lot of space in Scripture. Consider the doctrine of the Trinity. This is a core article of faith. But the three persons of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit—are only listed in sequence in a manner that indicates their equality only a handful of time. (Check out this list here, for example.)
Likewise, a foundational tenet of our faith is that God is our creator. But there are only three creation accounts in the Old Testament. (In addition to the familiar one in Genesis 1, there is also God’s own account in Job 39 and David’s in Psalm 104.)
2. “We can only do something if the Bible explicitly says we can.”
“Because the Bible doesn’t specifically commend us to venerate and pray to Mary, then we can’t,” so the argument goes. If that’s true, Christians are in big trouble.
Where does the Bible say we can pray to Jesus? Seriously. Go look for it. Jesus Himself never actually says that He should be prayed to. But it’s strongly insinuated that He wants us to. For example, in John 5:23, Jesus says that the Father wants all men to honor Son just as the Father is honored. That’s pretty close to saying we should pray to Him, but still it’s not explicit.
Of course, there are other verses where it’s pretty clear that St. Paul is invoking Jesus’ name. He may not come out and explicitly command us to pray directly to Jesus, but He doesn’t need to—it’s obvious from the example he sets. (See this breakdown of verses here.). St. Stephen also is another model of prayer for us. (See my previous article on his prayer here.)
3. “Mary is never venerated in the Bible.”
This is false, according to scripture. In Luke 1, her cousin Elizabeth greets her using language that echoes Old Testament accounts of how David venerated the ark of the covenant. In particular, Elizabeth’s loud greeting, her surprise at Mary’s arrival, and the joyful leap of John the Baptist echo the Old Testament language, upon a close examination of the texts. (See my previous article on this here.)
Much of Catholic devotion to Mary is also inspired by the image of Mary in Revelation 12, which, incidentally immediately follows after the appearance of the ark of the covenant in Revelation 11. (Don’t forget that the chapters and verses were added after the original texts were written, so the ark was not meant to be separate from Mary’s appearance.) Just as St. Paul’s prays to Jesus serve as an example to us, so also the above instances of veneration are set forth for our imitation.
4. “Praying to Mary gets in the way of Jesus.”
Philosophically speaking, this statement is deeply problematic. But it’s also unbiblical. It’s just not how Jesus operates. If Jesus wants us to encounter Him in isolation then why did He appoint twelve apostles? Why did He preordain John the Baptist to be His forerunner?
5. “We never see Mary interceding for us.”
Perhaps someone might grant the above points, but then they would come back and say, ‘What’s the point of praying to and venerating Mary? We don’t ever see her interceding on our behalf in the gospels.” Again, that’s false.
At the wedding at Cana in John 2, Mary intercedes on behalf of the guests, pressing Jesus about their need for wine. Of course, it was about more than wine. First, this was Jesus’ first miracle in John. Second, it launched His ministry in John. And, third, it was of enormous symbolic importance, given the connections between Cana and the heavenly wedding feast, the Eucharist, and Jesus’ Passion. (The latter is clear from his response that His ‘hour’ had not yet come, which is a term for His Passion in John.) Mary plays an intercessory role in at least two other places. The first is when she literally brings Jesus to Elizabeth. The second is at the crucifixion, when, according to Simeon’s prophecy, she shared in Jesus’ suffering. I would say that’s a pretty significant participation in His ministry.
6. “Jesus distanced Himself from Mary.”
Some anti-Marians suggest that Jesus diminished Mary’s importance. A common go-to passage is Matthew 12:46-50, where Jesus asks who His mother and brothers are and answers His own question, saying it’s whoever does the will of His Father, pointing to His disciples. The anti-Marian interpretation holds that He is effectively denying any spiritual importance to Mary. But this is a deeply problematic conclusion. It’s leap that assumes that Mary is not one who does the will of the Father. From the account of the Annunciation, we know that’s not true. A similar argument is made about the version of this account that appears in Luke 11:27-28, where someone cries out that blessed is the womb that bore Jesus. He responds and says that rather blessed are those who follow the word of God. Again, the criticism assumes that Mary does not follow God’s word, which is absurd. Moreover, we know from Luke 1 that she is ‘blessed among women.’ Scripture cannot contradict itself so fidelity to Scripture’s integrity compels one to accept the Catholic interpretation of this text.
The upshot of all of this is that opposition to Mary is unbiblical. Many of those who criticize devotion to her as a product of Catholic culture are themselves guilty of applying a cultural lens to distort the true message of the Bible. In defending the truth of Scripture, we are not only defending Mary but we are also defending Christ. Refuting claims against any son’s mother honors the son as well. Moreover, in defending the truth of Scripture we are also showing special reverence for Christ, who is Himself the Truth.