God Disregarding Jonah's Free Will vs. Mary's Fiat


I used to hear all the time on “Catholic Answers Live” praise for Mary’s fiat, how important her ‘yes’ was “because God is a gentleman and doesn’t force Himself on anyone.” Today’s first reading (Jonah 1) finally incited me to post asking about it, because it implies the opposite.

Basically, I see two Biblical problems with this interpretation of Mary’s Fiat being “all important” and “praiseworthy”. (Well, three, but let’s focus on two for the sake of clarity in discussion.)
*]Mary was never asked permission. Gabriel says “you will conceive” (Luke 1:31); he does not ask whether she would like to.
*]The point raised by today’s reading: Jonah illustrates someone charged with a task who initially refused. God hounds the person and torments him until he consents (or dies). This is hardly “taking no for an answer.” Moreover, as Jesus suggests in the New Testament, if someone dies in this state of refusal, God doesn’t have mercy on them, but instead casts them out into eternal torment. (Or, at least, the worms that do the tormenting are eternal, though it’s not clear from the text that the suffering person is.) We see this principal generally played out by God’s design of nature, summarized in the maxim “Vice is its own punishment, virtue its own reward.”

Now, I understand that we can simply disregard Sola Scriptura as a shortcut to upholding the Church’s doctrine (whatever it happens to be), but I’m wondering if you can argue from the Bible against either of these points in favor of Catholic Answers’ position that Mary was asked permission, and that a contrary declaration from her would have led to our deprivation of the Incarnation. If you cannot, then where in Sacred Tradition is the position of Catholic Answers vindicated?

My conclusion is that one can argue anything from the Bible, hence the Catholic Church is necessary not only for a unified Christian faith, but also to be able to claim that the Bible reflects God’s Wisdom. (Also, if Catholic Answers is correct in their estimation of Mary’s fiat, I do not think it can be shown from the Bible alone.)


Would the angel have bothered to appear to her and tell her and then wait for her response and then leave?


Try to keep in mind that GOD is GOD. His requests are always commands. That is why we don’t have the 10 requests. However, mankind has consistently and unfailingly, exercised its freewill in ignoring those commands.

The Virgin Mary’s fiat is her acceptance of the Will of God. Obeying God’s commands is always praiseworthy, both in God’s eyes, and in the Church’s.

  1. For there to be a contradiction, you would have to read the story of Jonah as “historical”. Catholics are not required to do so.

  2. Mary’s “fiat” was not a response to a request, but a freely undertaken submission to God’s will.


God does not force us to obey, but we do have to deal with the consequences of our disobedience.

This reminds me of a child-raising thing I heard about: child refuses to pick up toys he tossed all over the room; Mom puts her arms around him him and, holding his hands, manipulates him physically to pick up the toys. That to me is the thing God does *not *do.

Mom putting the toys in a box and keeping them out of reach of the child is more like what God did with Jonah.

As to Mary, she is like the child who resonds happily, Yes Mommy! and starts cleaning up.


There is an important difference between Jonah and Mary. Jonah was already a prophet of God, he had already accepted this vocation. But when God asked him to go to Nineveh he balked. So God caused things to happen to get Jonah to do what he was told.

With Mary, although she had consecrated her life to God, she had intended to remain a virgin. The angel tells her that instead God wants her to bear a child. The angel *did *say “you will” but nothing happened until Mary said yes.


Glad to know I’m on the right track! :wink:


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