William M. Hetherington and the "mother of God"

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Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
I was disappointed to read the following comment by William Hetherington just now:

One title very generally given to her [Mary] was, “Mother of God,"—a title which, to every enlightened Protestant, must appear equally impious and absurd.

William M. Hetherington, ‘The Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. Part IV.’, Christian Miscellany, 1, no. 6 (5 February 1842), p. 41.

While I get the impropriety of using "Mother of God" as a liturgical or devotional term, it does nevertheless represent an important Christological truth and should not be surrendered as an accurate statement of systematic theology in opposition to Nestorianism. I recall Hetherington's fellow Disruption Worthy, Dr John "Rabbi" Duncan, warning of the dangers of such ultra-Protestantism to orthodox Christology, which seems like a good reason for retaining the term.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
That's a helpful reminder that even Reformed luminaries are capable of parochial imbalance, allowing the concerns of contemporary polemics to overrule other concerns.
 

ReformedBrit

Puritan Board Freshman
While I get the impropriety of using "Mother of God" as a liturgical or devotional term
Is this an impropriety of violating the conscience of those in public worship, rather than private devotion?

I think there is a great devotional benefit in meditating on the term theotokos as it is a great Christological term.
 

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Sophomore
I agree it is an orthodox term which expresses theological truth. But it does require context. It's not a Biblical term and it has been grossly abused by the Church of Rome. All is to say I can understand why someone, without the historical/theological context, would balk at the term (though in this case the writer, surely, understood that context). It would seem Calvin wasn't a fan of it.

I don't think it would be appropriate to use the term liturgically though. But then I'm not keen on the recitation of creeds in worship generally. Is there a creed which uses it? I thought there was.
 
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Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
There is plenty of support for the propriety of the "Mother of God" as a theological statement in the writings of the Reformed orthodox. While the precise phrase "Mother of God" is not explicitly used in scripture, it is biblical in the sense that it is deduced from Scripture by good and necessary consequence from the hypostatic union and the communication of properties. To those that say it ought to be completely abandoned due to abuse because it is not expressly mentioned in scripture, I ask them why they do not apply the same logic to infant baptism?

While I have more quotes in the pipeline (Francis Turretin and John Owen are particularly good on this question), here are a few to consult in the meantime:

Henry Bullinger on the Theotokos

William Perkins: Mary is the mother of God

Pierre Du Bosc: The Son of God and the Son of Mary
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
To those that say it ought to be completely abandoned due to abuse because it is not expressly mentioned in scripture, I ask them why they do not apply the same logic to infant baptism?
"I believe in... the holy catholic Church..."

There are a number of terms that I don't want to abandon to Rome, these being good examples. I will always take the time to explain context as needed. It's not our practice to relinquish perfectly good and true vocabulary because someone has abused it.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
"I believe in... the holy catholic Church..."

There are a number of terms that I don't want to abandon to Rome, these being good examples. I will always take the time to explain context as needed. It's not our practice to relinquish perfectly good and true vocabulary because someone has abused it.
I actually once came across someone who suggested that we might consider abandoning the term "catholic" as a monument to idolatry because it is not expressly mentioned in the Bible and has been abused by Rome.
 
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ReformedBrit

Puritan Board Freshman
I actually once came across someone who suggested that we might consider abandoning the term "catholic" as a monument to idolatry because it is not expressly mentioned in the Bible and has been abused by Rome.
That is such a bizarre argument. What about terms that the JWs have abused? The Mormons? The Orthodox? etc etc. You'd be left with almost no theological language at all!
 
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