[quote=JaneFrances]Michael, I think you have made the point very well!
Similarities and cooincidental likenesses do not make for “proof” of the Christian adoption of pagan belief systems. Just as you said, God may very well have prepared his people in the New Israel for his plan of salvation by giving them familiar types and themes both in Old Covenant history and theology as well as in pagan history and theology. This is NOT to say that Christianity is the fulfillment of paganism as it is the fulfillment of Judaism. It is just to recognize the all-powerful hand of God in preparing ALL his people (Jew and Gentile) for his eternal plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, born of a woman, born under the Law. Obviously, the Law prepared the Jews for Jesus and his mission in so many ways. Is it not possible that perhaps God also used the historical pagan images of woman and mother to prepare the Gentiles for how the Savior was to be be born of a woman?
Knowing that one day he would call all into his fold, is it not conceivable that he began to prepare the way for the Lord in anyway he saw fit?
And just because there are conceptual images of motherhood in pagan mythology and pagan historical accounts, that should not make us doubt the role of Mary in salvation history. We would never discount that Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man, is the one and true savior just because we find NUMEROUS accounts of a man-god in pagan traditions. We certainly wouldn’t claim Jesus is’t the the Christ simply because we find great similarities between our Lord and many ancient pagan historical figures.
This same tact of disproving Christianity on the whole is widely used today in secular history and literature. Some who would recognize the incredible pervading themes of sacrifice, uncommon leadership, servant kingship, resurrection (compared to reincarnation, for instance), life eternal, etc. would try to discredit Christianity by pointing out that so many of our foundational Christian themes and traditions are themes derived from ancient Eastern and pagan mythology.
We would certainly not accept this as a viable case. . .why would we question Mary simply on the basis of similarity and likeness, when we would not demand the same of our whole Christian belief system?
The way most of us non-Catholic Christians view such links is not from a coincidental perspective, but from an instigational perspective. In other words, it seems apparent from the New Testament writings and the earliest church writings that Mary’s role was viewed one way (very limited, in fact, she’s mentioned very little in any writings) and then suddenly, her role begins to take on a new shape very different from the apostolic teachings and very similar to the pagan religions that Christianity was beginning to replace. And this occurs at the same time that Christianity becomes the accepted religion of the Roman Empire and suddenly the pagans are pressured into joining the Church, so they do, but without letting go of their original pagan beliefs, they simply transform them into Catholic equivalents. This is not a new phenomena. It’s prevalent today, just examine South American Catholicism or Haitian Catholics. They are an obvious mix of their pagan religions their culture is based on and Catholicism. So what we think occurred in 300 AD is not so far a stretch since we can see the very same thing happening today.
It seems rather logical to us that the source of these Marian ideas came from the culture rather than from God so it’s really viewed as a pollution of the faith with pagan ideals. And as with most things, once a lie is repeated often enough, people begin to believe it. Over the centuries, Catholic theologians have accepted the early Marian dogmas and built new theories onto that pagan foundation further polluting the faith. The more they build onto that foundation, the further from the Gospel they travel, so whereas at first, the theological contraditions appeared subtle and easily accepted, such as “God bearer”, now here we are centuries later, and suddenly the push is to make her Co-Redeemer and Mediatrix. To you, these seem like small steps to make because you’ve accepted so many of the foundational stepping stones, that the subtle difference that pronouncing such titles on her seems insignificant. Yet those of us who refused to get on this wall in the first place are viewing it as such a departure from the deposit of the faith that the Apostles left behind, that we’re startled you’re even considering it - it makes it difficult to view such beliefs as orthodox Christianity, when it’s so obviously heresy.
Again, at least that’s the way we view it. I’m not trying to get into a debate on the subject. It’s been debated for centuries and no one ever convinces the other of their error.