CARM and Revelation 12

queen-of-heavenEvery now and then I find amusement perusing anti-Catholic sites run by Evangelicals.  The intense desire to prove Catholicism wrong so often puts their own position in jeopardy.  The website known as Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM) is one such site.

When I saw this article[1] by Matt Slick questioning whether Mary was the woman in Revelation 12, I had to check it out.  And, of course, like any good random blogger, I will now bless the world with my thoughts.

The first and shallowest part of the article:

The first part of Slick’s article is not even about Revelation 12 but rather about trying to shock the reader with how much Catholics honor Mary.  Once this Evangelical “mortal sin” is established, Slick then infers that Catholics only see Mary in Revelation 12 due to their devotion to her.  But this is backwards.  Devotion to Mary developed largely because of Revelation 12, not in spite of it.  John Henry Newman said,

“But if all this be so, if it is really the Blessed Virgin whom Scripture represents as clothed with the sun, crowned with the stars of heaven, and with the moon as her footstool, what height of glory may we not attribute to her? and what are we to say of those who, through ignorance, run counter to the voice of Scripture, to the testimony of the Fathers, to the traditions of East and West, and speak and act contemptuously towards her whom her Lord delighteth to honour?”[2]

Scripture itself describes Mary in the highest of terms.  Should not a true “Bible Christian” do likewise?

Furthermore, Slick’s argument cuts both ways.  Since his theology does not allow for a Queen of Heaven, he cannot allow himself to see Mary in Revelation 12.  Boom.  Down.  Owned.  Touché.

This is a classic case of what C.S. Lewis calls “Bulverism”[3] and should not even be included in legitimate dialog.

The second part of the article:

The second part of Slick’s article then attempts to show a contradiction in Catholic theology.  Since the woman in Revelation 12 has pain in childbirth, and since the curse of sin upon women was pain in childbirth, Slick contends that Revelation 12 cannot be about Mary since Catholics believe Mary was without Original Sin.  According to Slick, since Mary felt pain she must therefore have Original Sin.

The errors here are obvious, right?

First, Slick must first pull in a separate Catholic doctrine (Mary’s sinless-ness) in order to make his case.  But since Slick rejects that doctrine too, what is his reason for completely rejecting the woman as Mary?  Since Slick believes Mary had sin, why not believe the woman in pain of childbirth is Mary?  It still fits his own hermeneutics.  One need not be Catholic to believe the woman in Revelation 12 is Mary and believing so need not automatically assume she is without sin.

Catholics believe Mary was sinless based on other Scripture passages, not Revelation 12.  At best, Slick has found a sticky paradox within Catholic teaching.[4]  But he has not proven the woman is not Mary according to even Protestant standards.

Second, the curse of sin was on men too, right?  Genesis 3:17-19 says men will have pain, sweat, and toil.  Death also came to mankind because of sin (Gen. 2:17, Rom. 5:12).  Now, Jesus was without sin, right?  And yet He still felt pain, sweat, toil, and ultimately died, right?  Does that mean Jesus had sin?  If Mary cannot be sinless and feel pain simultaneously, then neither can Jesus.  According to Slick’s hermeneutics, Mary must have had sin because she felt pain, therefore Jesus must also have had sin because He felt pain.

By desperately trying to prove Catholics wrong Matt Slick puts his own beliefs in jeopardy.  It’s a double-standard.

The non-existent third part of the article:

Finally, despite the title question, Slick does not actually answer the question of whether the woman in Revelation 12 is Mary.  His article is not only a failed attempt to prove Catholic doctrine “unbiblical” but he does not even give his own case of who the woman is.[5]  The closest he gets to “proving” the woman is not Mary is by accepting the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s sinless-ness and attempting to show a contradiction.


It is easy to be skeptical but difficult to form something positive; easy to tear down but difficult to build up.  Any negative explanation must be met with an equally satisfying positive explanation, otherwise it is simple protest-antism.  I’ve found that Evangelicals wade at ease within skepticism but are on slippery ground when attempting to build a case for their own beliefs.  And that is one reason why I eventually left Evangelicalism and accepted the Catholic Church.


Disclaimer – As usual, this blog post is just that: a blog post with the personal thoughts of a random blogger.  What is said here is not official doctrine of the Catholic Church.  I am still learning and am very susceptible to error.  Don’t take anything here as Gospel.  Don’t be stupid.  Do your own research and learn for yourself what the Church teaches.

Catholics: if my understanding of Catholic doctrine needs adjustment, please point out my error.


[2] (emphasis is mine) Is it possible to worship Mary in the way we worship God?  Technically, I suppose it is possible.  But then so does the Catholic Church.  That is why it makes a distinction between latria and dulia.  The first is worship given solely to God as God.  The second is honor and devotion given to others of high esteem, such as Mary and the saints.  To worship anyone else other than God as a god, including Mary, is a mortal sin, according to the Catholic Church, and puts one on the road to hell.  On a side note, I have been strongly researching Catholicism for about 3 years now and have been a confirmed Catholic for 1 year, and I have yet to find anyone who worships Mary as a goddess.

[3] See ‘Bulverism’ in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. Or watch this YouTube video.

[4] Indeed, there has developed a Catholic tradition that Mary experienced no pain during childbirth.  However, so far as I know that is not a dogmatic position; it is a small ‘t’ tradition.  Regardless, it is more difficult to deny that the woman in Revelation 12 is Mary than to believe Mary experienced no pain.  Secondly, in Revelation there are likely multiple applications and time periods within a single image and portions of the image will not apply to all applications.  That is why Catholic tradition identifies the woman with Mary, the Church, and Israel.  The pain section could apply to the Church or Israel.  Or, regarding Mary it may represent the sword that would pierce her soul that Simeon prophesied (Lk. 2:35).

[5] Perhaps Slick did so in another article, but this would be a good place to put a link to said article if it exists.


Is Mary the Queen of Heaven and Mother of Christians?

Revelation 12:1-5; 17

Diego Velázquez - Coronation of the Virgin

From Wikipedia: “Coronation of the Virgin” by Diego Velázquez, 1641-1644

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.

So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Hebrews 1:8-9 quotes Psalms 45 as referring specifically to Christ. A couple verses later is the line “At Your right hand stands the queen in gold.”

So Hebrews says Psalms 45 is referring to Jesus and Psalms 45 says a queen is standing at His right hand. Interesting.

It sure sounds like the Bible considers Mary to be the Queen of Heaven and the Mother of the Church.

What else does Irenaeus say?

Irenaeus of Lyon, from Wikipedia

Irenaeus of Lyon, from Wikipedia

It seems that most Christians who study the early church love Irenaeus. It’s probably because he battled the gnostic heresies so well in his 5-volume work Against Heresies in the 180s A.D. Since there are no more Valentinians or Marcionites (at least not purposefully) we can all look to him as a hero of the faith and cheer at most of what he wrote.

However, within Christian circles the main question is whether Irenaeus was more Catholic or Protestant.  Now it didn’t take me long to sense that he was more Roman Catholic than Protestant. Yet many Protestants claim him too and do their best to show his words to be in line with Reformation doctrines.

Probably the main quote they love is in 3, 1, 1. Irenaeus says,

We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith…. When, however, they [the heretics] are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and assert that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For they allege that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but vivâ voce: wherefore also Paul declared, “But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world.”

Protestants use this passage of Irenaeus to prove that he believed in sola scriptura. I’m not so sure because he still goes on to approve of traditions passed down by the apostles through the bishops.

But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, and which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. (3, 2, 2)

So he still believes in the traditions passed down straight from the apostles and in the next several chapters he shows how the heretics are not part of the apostolic succession and therefore cannot have a “secret” tradition from the apostles. Irenaeus does not condemn traditions of the apostles but rather shows how the heretics can’t have it because they do not have apostolic succession.

However, for the sake of argument, what if Irenaeus did actually believe in sola scriptura the same way Protestants do? If we trust him enough as a source to believe this passage we musn’t stop there, right? We must continue on and find out what else he said and take it seriously.

So what else did Irenaeus say?

What did Irenaeus consider Scripture?

septuagintIrenaeus quoted from the deuterocanonical books in the same way he quotes Scripture.

For example, in 4, 26, 3 Irenaeus quotes from Daniel 13 (which is not in Protestant Bibles) and in 5, 35, 1 quotes the entire chapter of Baruch 5.  Both times he did this alongside other Scripture without making any distinction.

Even other Protestants agree that Irenaeus considered the deuterocanonical books as Scripture.

Anglican J.N.D. Kelly said that in the first couple centuries “the deuterocanonical writings ranked as Scripture in the fullest sense” and gives multiple examples including Irenaeus who “refers to Wisdom, the History of Susannah, Bel and the Dragon and Baruch.” (Early Christian Doctrines ch. 3)

Protestant Evangelical F.F. Bruce also said, “Irenaeus is well able to distinguish ‘the writings of truth’ from ‘the multitude of apocryphal and spurious writings.’ The Old Testament writings are indispensable witnesses to the history of salvation; the Septuagint version was divinely inspired, the writings which we call the Apocrypha being evidently invested with the same authority as those translated from the Hebrew Bible.” (The Canon of Scripture ch. 13).

So Irenaeus considered the deuterocanonical books to be Scripture. Therefore, even if he did believe in sola scriptura, his Bible includes books that the Reformers removed. Protestants do not believe these books are inspired but Roman Catholics do.

What did Irenaeus say about the Eucharist?

eucharistAgain, giving directions to His disciples to offer to God the first-fruits of His own, created things — not as if He stood in need of them, but that they might be themselves neither unfruitful nor ungrateful — He took that created thing, bread, and gave thanks, and said, “This is My body.” And the cup likewise, which is part of that creation to which we belong, He confessed to be His blood, and taught the new oblation of the new covenant; which the Church receiving from the apostles, offers to God throughout all the world, to Him who gives us as the means of subsistence the first-fruits of His own gifts in the New Testament, concerning which Malachi, among the twelve prophets, thus spoke beforehand: “I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord Omnipotent, and I will not accept sacrifice at your hands. For from the rising of the sun, unto the going down [of the same], My name is glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure sacrifice; for great is My name among the Gentiles, saith the Lord Omnipotent;” — indicating in the plainest manner, by these words, that the former people [the Jews] shall indeed cease to make offerings to God, but that in every place sacrifice shall be offered to Him, and that a pure one; and His name is glorified among the Gentiles. (4, 17, 5)

So Ireaneus saw the Eucharist as a sacrifice and a fulfilment of Malachi 1:10-11 which prophesied a “pure offering” that would one day be offered by all nations. That’s still Roman Catholic doctrine, not Protestant. (CCC 1330, 1350)

Inasmuch, then, as the Church offers with single-mindedness, her gift is justly reckoned a pure sacrifice with God….And the Church alone offers this pure oblation to the Creator, offering to Him, with giving of thanks, the things taken from His creation. (4, 18, 4)

So the only place we can offer this oblation is in the Church. Not just anyone can offer this sacrifice to God. That’s still Roman Catholic doctrine, not Protestant (CCC 1330, 1350). Protestants just don’t talk like this.

What did Irenaeus say about Mary?

Though he didn’t use the phrase, Irenaeus saw Mary as the New Eve. Just as Jesus is a type of Adam so Mary is a type of Eve. Adam and Eve disobeyed and brought destruction upon mankind but Jesus and Mary obeyed and brought salvation to mankind.

mary-and-jesusIn accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin….so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race…. And thus also it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith. (3, 22, 4)

Protestants just don’t talk like this about anyone and certainly not about Mary. Meanwhile, Roman Catholics still see Mary as the New Eve and a Mediatrix.


Scripture, the Eucharist, and Mary are three very big and contentious issues between Protestants and Catholics and yet it seems Irenaeus is far closer to Roman Catholicism than to Protestantism.

So what do we do?  It seems there are three options.

  1. Accept his quote about the Scripture being the “ground and pillar of our faith” as more truthful than his other doctrines and therefore the others can be safely ignored.
  2. Explain away many of his other doctrines to mean something other than what they actually sound like.
  3. Accept that he was just not a Protestant.