Mary in the mystery of salvation
MARY: A CATHOLIC–EVANGELICAL DEBATE
by Dwight Longenecker and David Gustafson,
Gracewing, PB, ISBN: 0852445822, 2003, pp.223.
Available from Freedom Publishing $24.95, reduced to $20.00
Catholics who have discussed religious beliefs with Protestant friends know all too well that some of the main differences relate to beliefs about and devotional practices associated with the Virgin Mary.
Similarly, most converts from Protestantism to Catholicism attest to the fact that some of the biggest difficulties they had to overcome were the Church's teachings about Mary.
Mary: a Catholic – Evangelical Debate is written in the form of a discussion/debate between two leading scholars: the Catholic, Fr Dwight Longenecker, himself a former Anglican priest; the Protestant, David Gustafson, is a lawyer by profession, who is currently a judge of the United States Tax Court.
The two scholars examine beliefs about Mary in a logical order, commencing with the scriptural evidence, before discussing beliefs such as the Virgin Birth, the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, the Immaculate Conception and Assumption, before concluding with discussions about the rosary (in a chapter with the amusing title 'worry beads'), and whether Mary is Co-Redeemer and Mediatrix.
What this volume provides is a model for authentic dialogue. Both Gustafson and Longenecker are respectful of each other, and charitable in their deliberations. They also seek to understand each other's position.
However, at the same time, they acknowledge that there are genuine differences of belief, which neither of them gloss over or trivialise. Instead, both of them have the courage of their convictions to argue their position forthrightly.
Both scholars also acknowledge substantial agreement, particularly in matters of belief such as the Virgin Birth.
Indeed, both stand firm against liberal Christian approaches on core matters of belief that are clearly enunciated in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds.
It is the reviewer's sense that at times Longenecker presents the stronger case, perhaps because his religious journey, first as an Evangelical Christian, then as an Anglican, has given him insights into both Evangelical and Catholic approaches as an 'insider.'
Mary: a Catholic – Evangelical Debate is a welcome addition to books about the Virgin Mary currently available. Whilst both scholars have an in-depth knowledge of theology and scripture, the contents of the book are accessible to the average Christian who has a competent understanding of Christian belief and practice.
It would form the basis of useful study and discussion, and is a good resource for those involved in Catholic education. Each chapter contains a series of well-written study and discussion questions.