Blessed One: Protestant Perspectives on Mary

Edited by Beverly Roberts Gaventa and Cynthia L. Rigby. Foreward by Kathleen Norris.
John Knox Press, 2002.

This book of twelve essays on Mary, written by Protestant scholars (all professors in divinity schools), is ample evidence, as one writer states, that, although Protestants don’t talk much about the Virgin Mary, she is "most present in her absence." The editors believe that recent developments indicate that "the time has arrived for Protestants to join in the blessing of Mary." The developments were spurred by ecumenism, and include questions about theology’s relation to feminism, motherhood, family, culture, suffering, spirituality.

Throughout the essays, the shadow of the Reformation is clearly cast. The creative biblical interpretations presenting Mary as model clash with the Reform tradition that cautions that no creature can be model. A Mexican Baptist struggles with how Protestants could deal with the Guadalupe as cultural phenomenon. A feminist wonders how Protestantism could profit from a "model of maternal presence" (but not one of subservience): "The time could hardly be riper for reconsideration of Mary as mother, both to enrich the Christian tradition and to empower women as mothers." Another wonders how the Reformation tradition could accept the notion of Mary as part of the "artistry" of God.

There are two fine essays on Mary in the Reformed and Lutheran traditions: Daniel L. Migliore’s "Woman of Faith: Toward a Reformed Understanding of Mary," and Lois Malcolm’s "What Mary Has to Say About God’s Bare Goodness." Malcolm’s conclusion, "We have reached the limit of this Reformation reading of Mary," should be coupled with Kathleen Norris’s challenge in the introduction: "Had we a more elastic imagination, we might be less troubled by Mary’s air of serene contradiction. But ours is a skeptical and divisive age – more comfortable with appraisal than with praise, more adept at cogent analysis than meaningful synthesis."

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