If my grandmother were still alive she would be remembering today The Feast of the Assumption of Mary. In short, August 15th is a feast day on the Roman Catholic calendar whereby Catholics remember that Mary “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” Enter Scot McKnight, author of The Real Mary, who writes in a post today:
“I think we’ve got to get back to the Bible to see what it says. Themes about Mary are found not only in the Bible; the early churches struggled with how to understand Mary. Was she sinless? the immaculate conception? and what about her death?”
I happen to agree with what McKnight says here, at least so far. We do need to get back to the Bible in how we understand Mary and yes the early churches struggled with lots of things including how they viewed Mary. However I think McKnight leaves this exhortation open-ended at the end of his article with a logic that seems to be missing on a few cylinders. He concludes by stating:
“The question we need to ask about Mary is this: Was she also taken into the presence of God miraculously? As Protestants we go to the Bible first, but we find nothing like this in the Bible. Does that mean it didn’t happen to Mary? None of us believes that everything was recorded in the Bible, so we are left to examine the evidence and make up our own minds.”
In short, a necessary implication of what he states here is that we as Protestants go to the Bible first but if we or any other ecclesiastical institution are unsettled with what we find there then we are free to construct a case (“evidence”?) and “make up our own minds.” If this is acceptable biblical scholarship in the case of Mary would McKnight do this as well with Mary’s Son? In other words, it is true the Bible does not tell us every detail of Mary’s life nor of Jesus for that matter (John 21:25). However we are not free to add details that the Spirit of God did not inscripturate and even more so we are not to take such details, whatever they may be, and raise them to the level of binding and infallible dogma (which is what happened with The Assumption of Mary on November 1, 1950 in the Munificentissimus Deus).
We are bound to God’s Word in life and practice. When we study the text and stand before the people of God we are to preach what it says without the embellishment of historical constructs that would seek to add more than what is there. I am not arguing that history is unimportant or that historical developments are unnecessary. However, the doctrines that we do preach should rest upon the authority of Scripture for it is this that makes us uniquely “Protestant” especially on days like today. It is possible that McKnight did not intend to go this far but in his attempt at rapprochement he has conceded the Roman Catholic argument for the nature of authority.