One of the more fascinating developments in the wide world of commercial preachers is the rise of an older and more mellow Jimmy Swaggart. The Sun Network is on Uverse and the Swaggarts seem to be producing several hours of original daily “live” programming. When Fr. Mitch is done on EWTN (solid but not nearly as entertaining), the resourceful viewer can scoot across the channels to Frances and Friends, hosted by Mrs. Jimmy Swaggart.
On Wednesday morning, Frances, son Donnie, and a number of associated biblical scholars were reading emails from viewers, Take it from this little Anglican boy in Arkansas, nothing on earth sells like Catholic baiting. The question arose as to why Roman Catholics refer to the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Mother of God.”
Frances takes the lead against the nefarious papists exclaiming that she just can not figure out what is so complicated about this thing. Mary, according to Swaggart’s comprehension of doctrine, was only the mother of Jesus the man. That is completely different from Jesus, second person of the Trinity and eternal God. Somehow the discussion moved around the Eastern Church practice of calling the BVM “theotokos.”
Memo to Frances: Not wishing to be critical, but when one enters a public discussion of such an important topic as the nature of Christ, it is really a good idea to learn how to correctly pronounce all the important words. That’s “God bearer,” not “God barrier.” While you, Mrs. Swaggart, may not have any problems understanding the Trinity and Christological doctrines, the undivided church could not get everything nailed down until 451 AD.
Although the informed viewer always hates to appear cranky, if one remembers the Tome of Leo and the Definition of Chalcedon, Jesus is very, eternal God and entirely co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This detail is important because, first, Jesus must be fully human so that he can experience real temptation, suffering and death. Because he is the perfect man, he is the perfect atoning sacrifice for sins. Because Jesus is divine, he may enter the holiest place and present his sacrifice to the Father. It might be good to footnote here that such terms as “Father” and “Son” are analogies in human words and represents the God-head in ways mere humans can never fully understand. That’s why I am not mad at you, Frances. Honest.
The most interesting part of the televised conversation, however, came when Donne realized that, while enjoying a good old fashioned anti-Catholic spasm, they had all slipped into Arianism. For just a moment, Frances and Friends was preaching the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fairness to everybody, Donnie came to his senses and quickly rendered the correct “orthodox” understanding of Christ’s dual nature. The exchange was amusing because of the gymnastics used to avoid becoming accidental Roman Catholics.
It is my personal opinion that calling Mary “Mother of God” is a bad practice and leads to confusion, even though it is capable of a correct theological understanding. Even more so is the Eastern Church expression for the God Bearer. Since Jesus is fully human and fully divine, Mary most certainly is the bearer of one who shared human and divine natures at the same time.
I hope that helped.