Book Plunge: The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace The Mother of Jesus

What do I think of Scot McKnight’s book published by Paraclete Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In looking at Orthodoxy and Catholicism, I have thought the attention given to Mary is overdone. I can’t agree with praying to Mary or treating her like she’s the Queen of Heaven or asking her to intercede for us and such. While I freely say I think Catholics and Orthodox make more of Mary than should be done, I think Protestants have seen that error and done the exact opposite.

So we read the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke and see the parts about Mary and kind of rush through those. Mary in essence just becomes an incubator for the Son of God and then we rush her off the scene. After all, we don’t want to be mistaken for Catholics or Orthodox!

This is just as much of an error.

In this book, McKnight seeks to take a look at Mary from a historical perspective starting with just the Bible first. Mary is no simple ordinary peasant girl. She is a girl who accepts one of the most dangerous positions in history and while a peasant, has the temerity to challenge both Herod and Caesar.

From the moment Mary agreed to the request of the angel, she knew her life wouldn’t be the same. What about her future husband? What about her family? What about her reputation? In response to all of this, Mary still sings. She rejoices that she has been given the honor of bearing the Messiah and realizing that her son will be king. Could Mary and Joseph have gone to synagogue services later on in life hearing them pray for the coming of the Messiah and given each other a knowing wink and looked over at Jesus knowing He was the one?

At the same time, Mary still has her own growth to do. Imagine her going to the temple one day for purification and there is Simeon who is waiting for the Lord’s Messiah. He takes Jesus in his arms and prophecies about him. Here Mary is probably anticipating all the glory that will come. Instead, Simeon gives a dark message. Jesus will be responsible for the rise and fall of many. Jesus will Himself be rejected. Not only that, a sword will pierce Mary’s heart as well.

But this is the Messiah….

He’s supposed to be the king….

He’s not supposed to be rejected….

Then Jesus grows up to be a man and what is He doing? Is He out gathering an army to attack Rome? No. He’s preaching and doing miracles. Something isn’t right! Mary and her sons and daughters race down to see Jesus to find out what they can do. Jesus is out of His mind!

Jesus lays out the parameters of the relationship. The Kingdom of God must come first. Mary has accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but will she accept Jesus as her Lord? Will she accept that this is what the Messiah really does? Will she realize the ideas of the Jewish people of what the Messiah does are false?

McKnight spends some time looking at later developments in Mariology. He does think we should accept Theotokos, which I have no problem with. Of course, it must be properly understood which is one reason I would not bring it up in, say, a debate with an atheist. If Son of God is hard to understand, how much more is Mother of God?

He also thinks that we should have at least one day a year in the church calendar to honor Mary? And why not? We celebrate David and Moses and Paul and Peter and so many others. Why not Mary? This is the woman who was entrusted with raising the Son of God on Earth. Shouldn’t we celebrate her?

This book left me with a new appreciation of Mary and thinking as a Protestant I need to do more. It is an error to go extreme in one direction as I have said. It is just as much to go the other way. Let’s not do that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The King Jesus Gospel

Are we doing something wrong in Evangelicalism? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, I finished reading Scot McKnight’s book “The King Jesus Gospel.” (By the way, if anyone wants to know about what I’m reading, just head over to GoodReads and feel free to add me. I regularly update it.) I had heard much good about the book and with N.T. Wright pointing out what a good book it was, I knew I was in for a treat.

The book is telling us that we are doing something wrong in evangelicalism. McKnight starts by sharing how he went door to door with someone from his church shortly after his “conversion” (I say it that way because I hate the term) and they spent an hour with the guy who had visited their church and really wasn’t interested, but eventually he did accept Christ as Lord, though most likely from McKnight’s perspective, it was an outward show. They went back to church and there was much celebration. The man was never seen at the church at all.

McKnight wants us to think about what has happened.

We have got to a point in our society where we have the message of salvation, which is really part of the gospel, and made it the whole gospel. This fits in well with our individualistic culture where the question then becomes “What is God going to do to take care of my problems?”

In this kind of society, people can make decisions quickly, but McKnight wants us to konw that the apostles were not sent out to get people to make decisions, but were sent out to make disciples. If we can get someone to “convert” and then not have anything required of them or any incentive for them, then we’re pretty much getting them to just say “Yes. You’re right.” We are not instilling in them a desire for Christlikeness.

When it becomes about our problems, then McKnight takes the saying from Dallas Willard that the gospel becomes simply “sin-management.” Of course, no one would say we need to downplay the importance of dealing with our sins. We certainly must deal with them. We just must make sure they are not the only aspect of reality that we deal with.

McKnight proposes we do that by broadening our picture. The coming of Jesus is not about getting someone to come and deal with our problems. It’s about God dealing with the problem. Interestingly, I just today started reading “Bart Ehrman’s book ‘God’s Problem.’ ” It is Ehrman’s work on the problem of evil and why he thinks the Bible doesn’t address it.

Ehrman is partially right. Evil is the problem. It is what the cross and the empty tomb are there to deal with, but part of the reason that problem is not taken care of is that we’re so fixated on our problems. Now of course we all have problems to deal with, but even our own problems can be seen in a different light when we place them under the kingship of Christ.

Could it be that when we start dealing with God’s problem, that we’ll find out not only do our problems get taken care of, but so does God’s problem? Could it be that if the church were to start acting the way that Christ had meant for us to act that maybe the problem of evil would not have been as severe? There are aspects we cannot change. There would still be hurricanes and earthquakes and tsunamis, but there would be more Christians to help those in need and more resources to help them.

McKnight wants us to see that the gospel is about the story of Israel reaching a fruition. It is about the Messiah, the rightful king, coming and taking the throne and when He takes the throne, He begins working out the problem to the proper solution. We are so busy looking at ourselves that we are not aware that God is at work in the universe and bringing about His mission.

We send people out to make decisions, but we don’t instruct them in what it means to be a disciple of Christ. It is as if we seek to get someone to an emotional high and then assume that our work is done. You might as well say that when a woman goes through the labor of childbirth and gives birth to a child, that she can then leave and go her own way. Her work is done. That does not work in parenting. It will not work in discipling.

McKnight urges us to return to the Old Testament also and see about the life of Israel. Don’t just look to see how it relates to Israel for the time-being. Look and see about the story itself. What is Israel dealing with? Why is God using these people? What is His overall purpose? Is it just a random thing, or is there some purpose to Israel?

Lately as I go to sleep, I’ve been trying to think through the OT and get the story of Israel in my mind. My mind has to have something to think on serious usually to get any peace and this is a great aid to me. It’s fascinating to see how the story of Israel could play itself out. I’ve been doing this for a few days and I’m not even through Genesis yet!

Upon reading this book, I have realized that this is the kind of book that every pastor needs to read. We are giving our people only part of the story. We are giving them forgiveness, but giving them the impression that God is there to deal with their problems instead of this idea that God wants something from His people. He wants them to be seeking Him continually and acknowledging His Son as the king of their lives.

The only downside I can think of is that with a place like Amazon, I cannot give this book six stars. Five is just not enough.

In Christ,
Nick Peters