Is it possible to go too far the other way? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Lately, a quote has been going around the internet of John MacArthur saying that God has no blood and then talking about salvation and the blood of God. I have Catholic, Orthodox, and indeed fellow Protestant friends who have been pointing out the error in this. Now if this is a right assessment, the problem with what is being said is more akin to the ancient heresy of Nestorianism.
The tragedy is it could be that Nestorianism rose out of a noble concern, which I think honestly most heresies would in wanting to defend something of God. In this, Nestorius could have heard people calling Mary the mother of God. At this, many of my fellow Protestants do get concerned, and to an extent I can understand it. God doesn’t have a mother after all! It could be, Nestorius was concerned.
Now it could be that there is some misunderstanding on what Nestorius taught, as we all know many times someone’s opponents have misrepresented him, but the idea seems to be to separate Christ into two hypostases with one human and the other divine. No doubt, this would be a serious error and the reason for this is similar to the idea of the blood of God. We may never know fully what Nestorius taught, but we know the idea should not be believed.
Now everyone knows that God doesn’t LITERALLY have blood. This in the sense that God is not eternally a flesh and blood human being made of matter that has blood. In the same way, God does not literally have a mother. God never came into being. What is being said by the phrase “Mother of God” is not that Mary brought God into being, but that Mary is the mother of a human being who is fully man and fully God. God chose to dwell in a sense in the womb of Mary, which is something that all Christians should consider incredible.
When we say the blood of God then, we mean that Jesus, a real human being who is also God in nature, saves us by His blood. This does not mean that the Trinity itself has blood. This would apply to a passage like Act 20:28.
So what can happen in this? I understand that too many of my fellow Protestants can see terms like mother of God and see a whole branch of study on the person of Mary and think “Whoa. That’s taking things too far.” However, if we Protestants are right and the others are in error here, it is just as much error to totally ignore Mary and only bring her out around Christmastime. Mary should be able to be used as a constant role model for Christian women especially.
Suppose we think, rightly or wrongly, that Catholics and Orthodox go too far with honoring the saints by praying to them. It is just as much a mistake to say, “Therefore, we will ignore the saints.” We should study the lives of the great men and women of the early church and seek to emulate that which we hold to be in keeping with the character of Christ.
Suppose we think there is too much put in church tradition when many times we don’t know the source of a tradition. That is understandable. It is a mistake to think that Christians should not study the church fathers at all. We should read them and learn from them. They said many things that were admirable. They said many things we will find questionable, but they were the ones who passed down the faith that we eventually inherited.
I’m part of a Thomas Aquinas study group that meets on Thursday nights on Zoom. I don’t always agree with Aquinas’s interpretation of Scripture, but I think much of his philosophy and theology is accurate. There is a lot that can be learned from him.
This also goes the other way. Catholics and Orthodox have a lot to learn from one another, but also a lot to learn from we who are Protestants. I remember my ex-wife and I when we were going to an Orthodox Church for her met a couple from that church at a restaurant and they offered to join us and one thing the husband said is, “Those Protestants do know their Bibles.” We have engaged in much Bible study and research and it would be a great error for others outside of Protestantism to say, “Forget that. I only study from my own tribe.”
I disagree with many of the things that my Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters say, but they are my brothers and sisters and they do say many things that I agree with. I find Catholic moral philosophy to be highly enlightening. I find the Orthodox to have a great grasp on practical day-to-day living and wisdom. When I am with the Aquinas group, I am one of a few Protestants in there, but I do think that my contributions on biblical studies are appreciated. There are plenty of ways I could disagree with them, but as a believer in mere Christianity, I choose to focus on what I agree on.
It just works better that way.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)