Monday, April 25, 2011

Ayn Rand: Just another Anti-Christ

It appears that Atlas Shrugged: Part 1, released on April 15, 2011, is quickly losing the Darwinian struggle to survive at the box office. Rather ironic, considering that its literary namesake is the preferred scripture of a small-but-irritating group of “philosophers” who believe that the world would be a wonderful place, if only the richest among us were allowed to do what they do best—make money hand over fist through purely utilitarian relationships—without being constantly kept under the thumb of “looters” and “mystics”. One would have thought that with all the books Rand has sold,  all of the people she’s influenced and with all the money that the better sort of person—the devotee of Ayn Rand—tends to make, someone connected with the film might have been able to come up with a budget larger than $20 million! Where is John Galt when you need him?

Rand’s best-selling book and her philosophical system may or may not be fairly represented in the film; this writer has absolutely no desire to see it. But because there is some risk that this film will introduce a tiny portion of another generation of mostly well intentioned young people to Rand’s not-so-original philosophical system, Objectivism, it is worth taking a few moments to criticize it. This writer is well-aware, having been in many conversations with Randians, that any criticism of her philosophy and any attempt to quickly summarize what is, in fact, a  very simple set of ideas, invariably extracts cries of “abuse”, “misrepresentation” and “simpleton” from among the their ranks. Nevertheless, as surely there is nothing new under the sun, there is not much to Rand’s particular heresy.

Like most appealing heresies, Rand’s philosophy identifies a number of real problems in human society—thus the appeal—but prescribes bad solutions to them. Rand described her own worldview thus:
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”

Perhaps it’s best to start with what is good in Objectivism. Objectivism defends a robust conception of man’s knowledge, including the general reliability of the senses and of inductive and especially deductive reasoning, as against the anti-realism of both Kantians and Relativists. Indeed, Rand recognized Aristotle and Aquinas as her (only) philosophical predecessors and saw herself as defending an essentially commonsensical and realistic concept of existence. There is a real world. Mindful people, through hard rational and bodily work can come to know it and can reshape it in a positive fashion. These two human capacities, to know intellectually and to do deliberatively, are what differentiate man from the beasts and it is from these that his great dignity arrives. Therefore man has a right, nay a duty, to pursue happiness, the fulfillment of his own human nature, as his highest good. Moral virtue is therefore the pursuit of one’s rationally grounded self-interest.

Up to this point, Rand’s philosophy, except for a few points, will seem uncontroversial and obvious to most people who are (mercifully) not intellectuals, as it would have to most western intellectuals before the modern anti-realist period.  Both Aristotle and Aquinas saw the good as that which perfects a being’s nature, and both stressed man’s uniqueness as a “rational animal”, a physical and intellectual creature who, unlike the highest baboon, could extract universals from particulars and who could therefore achieve wisdom. Since man can reason in this way, he can apply this reason to the world in order to achieve consistent results—he can do science—unlike the cleverest baboon, which can only “learn” by tinkering, but cannot understand why a successful solution to a problem is a successful solution to a problem. Whereas all human beings, unless somehow disabled, have this capacity, not all choose to consistently use it.

However, here an important difference emerges between Aristotle and Ayn. For Aristotle, proper apprehension of the real is man’s highest act. For Rand, man’s highest act is doing. For Rand man is indeed a knower, but only in order that he can be a doer. For her, productive activity—great art, science or especially business—is man’s highest achievement.  For Aristotle as for Aquinas, the purpose of life is to discover and put oneself in conformity with, the real and the Absolute, which in Aquinas’ case is the Triune God. For Rand, the purpose of life is to put external reality in conformity with one’s own design. Needless to say she rejects both the Prime Mover of Aristotle and the Trinity of Aquinas and substitutes in their place the individual ego. In case you missed that, this means that Ayn Rand quite literally worshipped herself and the pursuit of her own will and ego, thus “the virtue of selfishness”.

Now the stark shock of this matter-of-fact narcissism, this scholastic idolatry, has an extreme attraction to many people, especially the young. After all, aren’t we bombarded all day with intellectuals, TV personalities and politicians who pretend to care about others? Don’t we all suspect, deep down, that many a celebrity, politician and clergyman, loudly moralizing and feeling our pain, is at heart nothing more than a narcissist who wants to be well-thought of—and wants our money? Moreover, can’t we all think of plenty of examples—particularly in politics—of alleged charity and altruism that at the bottom is nothing more than self-serving propaganda? Out of the fray of fakery, Rand stands boldly as the defender of the individual and his interest. She will not pretend that she is willing to sacrifice herself for someone else’s best interest, nor will she bow to the snake-oil salesmen of the world who protest that she is morally obligated to do so.

A complete exposition and refutation of Objectivism would be tedious and overlong, but in order to do justice to the Randians, I will briefly summarize its main ingredients:

Metaphysics: Materialism. Objectivists, like all consistent atheists, deny the existence of anything that is not material. They affirm the real existence of an objective, independently existing reality.

Epistemology: Realistic. Objectivists believe that our senses truly put us into contact with reality and that reason, used properly, cannot fail to yield truth. As Ayn Rand said: “Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.

Ethics: Rational self-interest. Every man is an end in himself. The pursuit of one’s own self-interest and happiness is the highest moral purpose of a person’s life. No one has a moral duty to sacrifice himself for another or have another sacrificed for him.

Politics: Capitalism under a rationally limited state. Objectivists are not anarchists but believe there is a proper role for the state, which makes social life possible by providing for property rights, common defense and law. The actual work of social life should take place in the context of laissez-faire capitalism. The state needs to be strong enough to perform its only legitimate functions, but limited to these alone so that markets, which are run by numerous individuals, can thrive.

Students of philosophy will immediately notice a conflict between Rand’s materialist ontology and her realistic epistemology. It is not a coincidence that virtually all defenders of realism—Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas and Adler, to name a few—have been theists of one kind or another. It is quite difficult to defend any kind of robust conception of human knowledge or reason if all that exists are corpuscles of matter in various associations.  It is even difficult to prove that anything causes anything else on this view, as Hume famously showed, although he himself embraced materialism. The big names in atheist philosophy, Hume, Camus, Sartre, Nietzsche, Quine and others, have tended toward various nominalist, nihilist or reductionist epistemologies, even while some of them (irrationally) defended scientific and philosophical knowledge anyway.  But this objection will seem very abstract to many readers; not so with the next.

It is flatly impossible to separate moral duties to oneself from moral duties toward others. Even granting, for the sake of argument, that the highest moral duty one has is toward oneself, this still implies a moral duty toward others. How? Well suppose I have a duty to fulfill my rational self-interest and you have a duty to fulfill yours. Suppose I decide that my rational self-interest is best fulfilled by taking your property. Now a truly consistent Randian will have to either permit himself to be robbed (thus violating his own self-interest), which he cannot do under Randianism, or he has to object on the grounds that in addition to the moral duty I have toward myself, I also have a moral duty toward him. In other words, the only way that our duties toward our own well being can be practically fulfilled is if we all have duties toward each other as well. Now this is fatal to the whole Randian program, because if I have moral duties toward you and myself, there are at least some circumstances in which I, according to justice, owe you something, just for being you. That’s altruism and according to Rand, its verboten.

Now the only way that Randians and their Libertarian cousins can avoid this consequence is to claim that because a person has duties toward himself, he also has, as a logical corollary, rights. He has a right to his person, property, labor, etc. No while I do not dispute that he has such rights, there is nothing in this that rules out coercion, unless I also have a duty not to coerce against you. But there are two problems with this. The first is that this still admits altruistic duties toward your person; at the very least I have to place your rights above my desires for my own fulfillment at your expense. The second reason is that negative rights, such as a right not to be coerced, are potentially infinite in number and therefore practically useless in reality. You could never list all of the things that I’m not allowed to do to you. The minute you start to make a short, sensible list of things—the right not to be killed, tortured, robbed or blackmailed, for example—I must immediately ask “Why did you pick those four, and not ‘The right not to have a piano shot from a cannon at me.’?” At this point you will have to come back to some positive conception of rights and duties, which brings us right back to altruism: You and I only have rights and duties if we have an obligation to care for each other, but if we have such an obligation, then altruism is back on the table.

Finally, it should be quite obvious that in all societies,  a substantial number of individuals are in no position to look after their own self interest. Infants, children, many of the elderly and the physically and mentally infirm—the latter whom Rand called “subnormal” and “ungifted”—cannot look after their own rational self interest. They require others to sacrifice their own freedom and apparent self-actualization. Moreover, every human being must exist, at some point in his life, in a state of dependency upon the care of others. Even Ayn Rand was a child at one time.

Now an Objectivist can avoid this issue by pointing out that there are some who will take care of these people because they happen to find it fulfilling, but exactly what he cannot say is that such people, simply in virtue of being people, merit or are owed such care. Therein lays the secret monstrosity of Rand’s philosophy. It is with this sort of thing in mind that Whitaker Chambers, in his famous review of Atlas Shrugged quipped: “From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: “To a gas chamber — go!” 

Rand, reacting against the aggressive collectivism of our day, which treats every individual person as a mere fungus, a mere node of the Great Organism called Society, preached an individualism that is just as anti-personal. The truth about mere man is that he is not mere man. Man is a political animal, in the truly Aristotelian sense of that term. He is made, by his Creator and by nature, to be a person-in-relation. “It is not good for man to be alone.” He is an individual, yes. Not a member of a hive, or a particle of sentient fungus. Yet his individuality, his personality, his true self-interest, can only be realized in relationship to another. Thus he invariably finds the highest fulfillment of is personhood in love and friendship and in the service to and sacrifice for others. At the end of Atlas Shrugged, John Galt, Rand’s atheist capitalist Jesus Christ, confirms all his disciples in Galt’s Gulch in mutual exploitation by blessing them with the sign of the dollar. This scene confirms for the reader, as if there were any doubt, that Rand’s philosophy, for all its bells and whistles, is nothing more than the radical narcissism of he who said “I will not serve!” And while those who lovingly take up the cross of moral responsibility toward their neighbors will eventually shrug it off, there is no rest for the narcissist who thinks he bears the weight of the world’s success on his own shoulders. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mary and the Incarnation

"The virginity of Mary, her giving birth and also the death of the Lord, were hidden from the prince of this world; three mysteries loudly proclaimed, but wrought in the silence of God" (Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians, 18:2; c. 107-110 AD)

The Catholic view of Mary's person and her role in salvation history is a great stumbling block to Protestants. Starting from the premise that every point of Christian doctrine must be contained explicitly in scripture, Protestants can see no justification for the reverence Catholics show toward Mary, let alone the Church's dogmatic insistence that she was sinless, was assumed bodily into heaven and is the queen of heaven and earth. Mary encapsulates all in Catholicism against which Protestants protest. She strikes them as nothing so much as a medieval invention, a great collection of quasi-pagan barnacles that grew on the ship of Peter and which were shaved off by the Reformation. 

Not that Protestants want to be disrespectful towards Mary. Their reluctance to say anything about the one who said "Behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed" (Luke 1:48) seems to be rooted in a desire to avoid thinking "catholic" thoughts about her or elevating her to a position higher than Christ seems to have done in the Gospels (see Matthew 12:46-50, for example). After all, didn't Jesus rebuke his mother at the Wedding at Cana and isn't she silent and nowhere to be seen for most of the Gospels? Of course, God used Mary as an instrument to accomplish His goal of being incarnated and redeeming the human race, but He might have used anyone to accomplish this and we have, according to Protestants, no good reason for thinking any more highly of Mary than of any other Christian. 

But aside from being false in scriptural terms, as will be presently demonstrated, the Protestant way of looking at Mary is totally unnatural, at least if one takes the Incarnation seriously. The orthodox teaching regarding Christ, as defined at the councils of Niceae and Chalcedon and accepted by all Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and (ostensibly at least) by all Reformation descended Protestants (not including quasi-protestant sects like Mormonism and Jehova's Witnesses) is that Christ is one person with two natures. He is fully divine and fully human. Any attempt to deemphasize either Christ's divinity or His humanity would render our redemption impossible, but if we take His hypostatic union seriously, we cannot regard His Mother as a mere vessel for the God-man, for it was from Mary that Christ took His human nature.

Jesus Christ is a single person, a unity of the Logos of God—the second person of the Trinity—and a human nature, body and soul. He is not only part God, for God is the uncreated and absolutely transcendent One in whom there is no division.  He is not part man, for then His humanity would only be a sort of disguise and there would be no redemption for human sin. He is instead, totally God and totally man. This is not an easy concept; indeed it has been a stumbling block to many these past 2,000 years. 

The Nestorian heretics started by rejecting Mary's ancient title of theotokos, God-bearer or Mother of God, and so divided the unity of Christ's being, claiming that Mary was only the mother of the man Christ, not of God Himself. While it is true that God has always existed and Mary has not, there is only one person in Christ, He of two natures, human and divine, and Mary was the His mother. This means nothing less than that Mary bore in her womb the One True God, Who created the universe. She nursed Him. She taught Him to speak. She raised Him. Mary bore God in her womb. Mary changed God's diapers. Mary sang God to sleep. Mary told God stories. Mary gave the Word her flesh, and He dwelt among us. 

If this confounds you, you are in good company. If it scandalizes you, if you are tempted to cry “blasphemy!”, then you need to think more deeply about the "scandal of the Incarnation." But let us return to the issue at hand. Is scripture really silent concerning the Marian doctrines mentioned above? Far from it. 

As Paul teaches in Romans, Christ is the new Adam. On this point Catholics and Protestants agree. We also agree about the general fact of the sin of Adam or Original Sin, although we disagree about the specifics of what that actually entails; a disagreement that I will not go into here. However, Catholics also believe, along with Ireneaus, Justin Martyr and all of the Church Fathers, that Mary is the new Eve. I would like to note in passing that Protestant apologists, when arguing with atheists about the historical reliability and age of the Gospels, will not hesitate to cite Ireneaus and others as reliable early witnesses for the traditional view that the Gospels were written in the first century well within living memory of the events they describe. But if they are reliable witnesses here, then one cannot dismiss the view they held in common regarding Mary's unique role. Witness Ireneaus: 
The Lord, coming into his own creation in visible form, was sustained by his own creation which he himself sustains in being. His obedience on the tree of the cross reversed the disobedience at the tree in Eden; the good news of the truth announced by an angel to Mary, a virgin subject to a husband, undid the evil lie that seduced Eve, a virgin espoused to a husband.
As Eve was seduced by the word of an angel and so fled from God after disobeying his word, Mary in her turn was given the good news by the word of an angel, and bore God in obedience to his word. As Eve was seduced into disobedience to God, so Mary was persuaded into obedience to God; thus the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve. (Against Heresies, A.D. 175-185)

This same view can be found throughout the writings of the Church Fathers. They could not help but see the obvious parallels between the Woman, Eve and the Woman, Mary (Gen 3:15). Indeed, the Apostle John makes this contrast more explicitly in Revelation 12, in which a Woman, who bears the Messiah, is at war with the "huge dragon, the ancient serpent" (Rev 12:9). It is also in John's Gospel that Christ twice refers to his mother as "Woman", a common form of address at that time perhaps, but also an interesting word in conjunction with Genesis and Revelation. In any event, while the Woman of Revelation is Israel or the Church at one level, she must also be Mary, whose offspring the dragon tried to destroy when he was born (Matthew 2:16, Revelation 12:13-14). To a thoughtful first-century Christian, Mary's role as a counter-Eve would have been obvious, and this is why the notion is widespread in the second century.

Now if Mary is the new Eve, this raises an obvious question about whether Mary was sinless, as Eve was before she fell. It also implies that there is some sort of parallel or unity of mission between Christ and Mary. Just such a parallel is alluded to in Luke:
Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined to be the rise and fall of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be contradicted, and a sword will pierce your heart as well, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. (Luke 2:34-35)
We will ignore for a moment the obnoxious fact that many Bibles set off by em dashes the passage "and sword will pierce your heart as well" as if it were a parenthetical statement or an aside, even though the next clause completes it and not the previous clause referring to Jesus. But what do Protestants make of this passage, particularly the words as well or also? To what is the prophetic servant of God, Simeon, referring, if not to the lance that would pierce Christ's heart on the cross (John 19:34)? Mary will suffer interior sorrows, which parallel and are subordinate to Christ's physical and spiritual sorrows on the cross.  Mary's role therefore, was not just to be a birthing vessel for the Messiah as Protestants would have it, but to somehow participate in his sufferings for our redemption. Not enough has been made of this point, or the strange interaction between Jesus and Mary at the Wedding at Cana.

You'll remember Mary noticed the embarrassing party gaffe; the hosts had not purchased enough wine for their guests. It would be interesting at this point to speculate about why this occurred. Were the parents too poor to purchase more wine than they had, or had more guests arrived than had been expected? Anyone who has organized a wedding knows just how much stress is involved and what an enormous embarrassment this would have been to the parents, who would have been friends or relatives of Jesus and Mary. Whatever the causes for the mistake, Mary, paying attention to the little details and knowing that this domestic emergency was well worth a miracle, stated matter-of-factly to Jesus: "Son, they have no wine."

Jesus' reply is well known and I will not haggle, since I do not read Greek, over whether the first part of his response ought to be translated "Woman, how does this concern of yours effect me?" or instead "Woman, what is this to you and to me?" For obvious reasons, Protestant Bibles prefer the first translation and Catholic Bibles the second. What is more interesting is the second sentence: "My hour has not yet come." Now due to curt shock of the first sentence, no one ever pays attention to the second sentence, for what is Christ referring to when he speaks of his "hour", but the hour of his crucifixion. In every other instance in scripture in which Christ refers to his hour, He is referring to His cross (Matthew 26:55, Luke 22:13-15, John 12:23, 13:1, 17:1). And indeed, after pushing Christ out of the nest here and making herself the advocate of his first public miracle, the transformation of water into wine, Mary disappears from John's Gospel, only to reappear later at the foot of His cross. And in John's Gospel, Christ uses precisely the same phraseology—“the hour has come.."—to refer to period leading directly up to and including his crucifixion.

It is there, as He is about to die, that Christ commends His mother to the care of John, his closest friend among the apostles, saying: "Woman, behold your son," and to John "Behold your mother." This passage demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that the "brothers and sisters of Jesus", including James, the brother of Jesus, mentioned elsewhere in the Gospels were not the children of Mary. If they had been, Mary would have gone to live with them. It only makes sense for Christ to give Mary into John's care if Joseph had already died at this point and Jesus was all she had left. But Catholics see a greater implication in this. Mary, the mother of Christ, who bore Him, raised Him, invited Him to perform His first miracle and who notices the little details like a Mother, has now been given as Mother to the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ.

A final point about Mary's importance in Holy Scripture is the comparison that is made between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant. Luke reports the words of the angel Gabriel that "the power of the most high will overshadow [Mary]." The phrasing here is used in only one other place in Greek Bible with which Luke would have been familiar: the Book of Exodus. In Exodus, the power of God overshadows the Ark of the Covenant in the tent (Exodus 40). The Ark itself contained God's Word (the commandments), the rod of Aaron (the high priest) and manna, the bread from heaven. The parallels to Mary on this point are clear: Mary contained the Living Word of God, the Bread of Life, the High Priest. John draws this comparison out in the mystical language of Revelation, in which, upon looking up and seeing the Ark of the Covenant (Rev 11:19), John suddenly sees the vision of the Woman at war with the Dragon.

In summary, Mary is the New Eve whose fiat undid Eve's non servium. We are explicitly told that she underwent suffering that was in some way linked to that of her Son. She is the living vessel, the New Ark, in which the Priest, Prophet and King was incarnated and it is from her flesh that He took His truly human nature. Are we to believe that this holy vessel was any less perfect than Eve before the fall?

But if she was sinless, as Athanasius, Ambrose, Augustine and every other champion of the Incarnation believed, an obvious question arises about the end of her life. If she was free of every stain of sin, she did not have to die. Even if she had died in order to be like her son, her body would not be fated to suffer corruption of the flesh, which in human beings is the penalty for sin. And why were there never any relics of Mary as there were for so many other early Christians, whose remains were carefully preserved by the faithful? In time, these questions began to impose themselves on faithful Catholic Christians, whose interest in and love of Mary only increased as faithful theologians, the Church Fathers, defending the truth of the Incarnation against Nestorian, Arian and Monophysite heretics, unpacked the pregnant meaning of the Incarnation. St. Epiphanius, in 377 A.D., testifies to the fact that this question was being discussed among Christians of this time:
But if some think us mistaken, let them search the Scriptures.  They will not find whether she died or did not die; they will not find whether she was buried or was not buried.  More than that:  John journeyed to Asia, yet nowhere do we read that he took the Holy Virgin with him. Rather, Scripture is absolutely silent, because of the extraordinary nature of the prodigy, in order not to shock the minds of men.  For my part, I do not dare to speak, but I keep my own thoughts and I practice silence.  For it may be that somewhere we have found hints that it is impossible to discover the death of the holy, blessed one.  On the one hand, you see, Simeon says of her, 'And your own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed' (Luke 2:35).  On the other hand, when the Apocalypse of John says, 'And the dragon hastened against the woman who had brought forth the male child, and there were given to her an eagle's wings, and she was carried off into the wilderness, that the dragon might not seize her' (Revelation 12:13-14), it may be that this is fulfilled in her. However, I do not assert this absolutely, and I do not say that she remained immortal;  but neither do I maintain stoutly that she died.  The fact is, scripture had outstripped the human mind and left (this matter) uncertain, for the sake of that valued vessel without compare, to prevent anyone from harboring carnal thoughts in her regard.  Did she die?  We do not know.  At all events, if she was buried, she had had no carnal intercourse.
Here St. Epiphanius testifies to the antiquity of these questions concerning Mary's end. Anyone who wishes to dismiss such questions as coming too late to be apostolic must contend with three facts: 1) That all of the core doctrinal elements, of which Mary's sinlessness and the Assumption are but consequences, are apostolic in origin, as evidenced by their unanimous witness among the Church Fathers, excepting Tertullian who was a Montanist heretic when he denied Mary's perpetual virginity (although he did regard Mary as the new Eve.) 2) Core issues of Christian doctrine such as the canon of scripture, the true nature of the Incarnation and the true nature of the Trinity, were not dogmatically defined until the fourth and fifth centuries. The canon of the New Testament was fixed by the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D., which sent its conclusions to the Pope, who confirmed it on his own Petrine authority. That's twenty years after the above quotation from St. Epiphanius! 3) While the Assumption of Mary was not defined dogmatically until 1950, this belief is universal among all the historic Churches, east and west. How are Protestants to explain the universality of this doctrine and it's ancient pedigree, even among quasi-Catholic and quasi-Orthodox groups that split from Catholicism in the first half of the first millennium A.D. , if it was indeed "invented in the middle ages" when western Europeans were supposedly in cultural darkness and superstition?

So in conclusion, while it is true that Mary's sinlessness, assumption and continuing—but subordinate—role in our salvation were doctrines that had to be unpacked from scripture and tradition over a period of hundreds of years, this is no less true of essential Christological and Trinitarian doctrines, which were being defined in the same period of time that many of these Marian doctrines were almost universally held, a time in which even the possibility of her assumption was being discussed.

Jesus tells us that "the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed", which starts out small, containing all the essentials, but which in the course of time realizes its mature and detailed form. The fully grown mustard plant is not an "un-biblical innovation" upon the apostolic seed, but rather its surprising development. But just as the development of a mustard plant is determined by its formal principle or soul, so the development of the Catholic faith is guided by the Holy Spirit, which Christ promised would guide the apostles into all truth (John 16:13). The material agent governing the mustard seed's development is it's DNA, etc., while the material and spiritual agent governing the development of the Church is the office of apostolic authority, the episcopate, governed in turn by the office of Peter (Matt 16:18, John 21:15-19.) This was the tradition passed down from the apostles to the bishops, whom they made their successors. As Bishop Ignatius of Antioch wrote on his way to be martyred in Rome: 
Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest —Letter to the Magnesians 2, 6:1, c. 107-110 AD
Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid. — Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8, c. 107-110 AD
Ignatius . . . to the church also which holds the presidency, in the location of the country of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and, because you hold the presidency in love, named after Christ and named after the Father.--Letter to the Romans 1:1, c. 107-110 AD
So then, what basis can there be in the final analysis for the Protestant denial of Catholic teaching concerning Mary or anything else which the Church, with Christ's authority, proposes for our belief? Nothing, it seems, but the self-will and personal opinions and interpretations of individual Protestants. We said at the beginning that no Catholic teachings are as great a stumbling block to Protestants as are the Marian doctrines, and here is why: Just as one's response to the person of Christ reveals whether one is a person of truth (John 18:37), a self-professed Christian's response to Mary reveals whether that self-professed Christian really believes in the Incarnation and the Church. It is interesting to note that the first major attack on the Incarnation came at Him via his Mother (Nestorius vs. theotokos), just as the first attack on the infant Christ invariably required Him to escape with His Mother. Indeed, one cannot attack the Mother without attacking the Son, nor can one understand the Son without seeing him in relation to His Father in Heaven and his human Mother. For that reason, the blade of sin that pierced Christ's Sacred Heart on the cross, invariably pierced Mary's immaculate heart, so that the thoughts of many Christian hearts would be laid bare.