Saturday, 6 December 2014

A Reply to James White on Rick Warren (Part II)

This is the second part of my response to Protestant apologist, James White's video in which he accuses Pastor Rick Warren of compromising the gospel with his comments on the Catholic Church. Pastor White's video can be found here and part one of my response can be found here.

On the subject of Mary and the Saints, Pastor White is of the view that, whatever we officially may say, Roman Catholicism implies the worship of Mary. At about the 9:45, he rhetorically asks Pastor Warren if he is aware: "..[T]hat Calvin specifically dealt with the fraudulent, ridiculous kind of differentiation between lateria and dulia, within Roman Catholcism."

I don't know whether Pastor Warren has read Calvin on the subject, but I have. In Bk. I Chap. XII, section II of The Institutes of the Christian religion, he writes:

"The distinction of what is called dulia and latria was invented for the very purpose of permitting divine honours to be paid to angels and dead men with apparent impunity. For it is plain that the worship which Papists pay to saints differs in no respect from the worship of God: for this worship is paid without distinction; only when they are pressed they have recourse to the evasion, that what belongs to God is kept unimpaired, because they leave him latria."

First, for the benefit of those unfamiliar, Catholics use the term "latria" for that worship due to God alone, we use the term "dulia" to refer to the honour given to the angels and "hyper-dulia" for that unique honour given to Mary because of her unique position as the mother of God incarnate.

So, according to Calvin, this is a distinction without any real difference. But the difference is massive. Let's examine the most famous of Marian prayers, the "Hail Mary".

The prayer says "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death, amen."

Perhaps the first key phrase is "full of grace". The point of this phrase is the Our Lady is the greatest recipient of God's grace. This alone ought to demonstrate the real difference between latria and hyperdulia; God is worshipped as the source of grace and salvation, Mary is honoured as the greatest recipient of that grace.

A second point should be noted in the way that the prayer repeatedly stresses Mary's relationship with God and Jesus. We honour her because "the Lord is with [here]" and because she is "mother of God".
That is the second great difference, God is worshipped for who He is, Mary is honoured because of her relationship to Him.

Finally, the prayer ends with the request that Mary "pray for us sinners". In other words, when we pray to God we petition Him, knowing that He has the power to directly grant what we ask of Him, our prayers, to Mary are radically different, addressing her as a fellow creature and asking her to pray for us.

There you have it, in that short prayer, three fundamental differences between the honour Catholics give to God and that we give to Mary: He is honoured for who He is, she is honoured for her relationship to Him, He is honoured as the source of all Grace, she is honoured for being the foremost recipient of his grace, He is petitioned because he can grant prayers, she is petitioned because, as a fellow creature, she can pray for us.

To these three, let me add a fourth distinction, Catholics believe that the mass is the highest form of prayer and we offer the mass to the Holy Trinity alone. Calvin may claim that the distinction between latria and hyperdulia is a distinction without a difference. In fact, the difference is as radical as that between creature and creator.


  1. Would this distinction matter to a devout Jewess? Or would a devout Jewess be horrified?
    Because ultimately the question is: are you embarrassing and humiliating Our Lord's earthly mother?

  2. Yes, I'm quite certain the distinction would matter to her. After all, honouring the great heroes of Israel would hardly have been a foreign concept to her.