In this article, we debunk claims and flagrant errors of Pastor John MacArthur on Catholicism and Mary. To prove our points, we will be quoting official Catholic sources and prove that what MacArthur says is the polar opposite of what Catholics truly believe.
Access to the Father ONLY though Mary
MacArthur claims that Catholics believe that Mary is higher than Jesus, and even higher than God. Nothing could be more preposterous and ridiculous than a statement like this. Based on this misconception, he “accused’ Catholicism to be more like Judaism. First, we would like to thank Mr. MacArthur for this conclusion and reaffirm that YES, Catholicism, somewhat resembles Judaism because Catholicism came out of Judaism. The New Testament, i.e. biblical Christianity came out of Judaism. The apostles, Mary and Jesus were all Jewish. So of course, there are going to be some similarities. In fact, if there are no similarities, even remotely, between a certain Christian denomination and Judaism, then the denomination is not part of the Christian Church. The transition between biblical Christianity and Judaism was not completely a cut off in every single way but a true fulfillment of the Old.
Going back to Mary, John MacArthur claims that Catholics, just like Jews, do not have access to the Father and they believe that the only access they have is through Mary. This is an careless and erroneous statement. Catholics very much have access to the Father and can go to God on their own anytime through Jesus Christ, not Mary. Let us look at some official teachings of the Catholic church to understand the truth about what Catholics believe:
- Catechism of the Catholic church, Paragraph 51: “It pleased God in his goodness and wisdom to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father through Christ. The word made flesh in the Holy Spirit and thus become sharers in his divine nature. Based on this official reference, it does not sound like Catholics need to have access to God only through Mary.”
- From a Vatican document, Holy Spirit in the life of the church and the world: “Having accomplished the work of the father, which he had entrusted to the son on earth (John 17:4), on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was sent to sanctify the church forever, so that believers might have access to the Father through Christ in one spirit. Again, we have access to the father because of what Christ did for us on the cross. He opened the way and reconciled us back to God.”
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 2780 and 2781 explains that we can invoke the Father, meaning we can pray directly to him, because he has revealed himself to us by his son man, and because of his spirit, which he made known to us. It goes on to say that there is a personal relationship of the Son and the Father and this is something that we can share in. When we pray to the father, we come into communion with him and the life of the Trinity. So not only can we have access to the father through Jesus Christ and what he did for us in the cross, but we can approach the father directly on our own and pray to him and have a very personal and close relationship with him.
From these, we can draw the conclusion that the Mr. MacArthur is spreading serious errors about the Catholic Church. However, it gets worse.
MacArthur references a Catholic systematic theology book from Ludwig Ott. He offers the following quote:
“Mary’s intercessory collaboration extends to all graces, so that no grace accrues to mankind without the intercession of Mary. The redemptive grace of Christ is conferred on no one without the actual intercessory cooperation of Mary.”
To reiterate, he says Mary has to get everything for you, and you get nothing from God, without her. You cannot approach God without her. MacAurthur badly misquoted this book and took it out of context. The study is so irresponsible that ignores the first part of the first sentence and leaves out the middle of the paragraph which literally contradicts what he says. We will analyze the parts he left out to understand the meaning of the quote in its true and intended context:
- Before the paragraph even starts, Ott talks about the one mediatorship of Christ. He writes that the God-man Jesus Christ is the natural and as such the sole mediator between God and man. All other forms of mediation are subordinated to the one mediation of Christ. How could then MacArthur put Mary as the sole mediator even more than Christ? The truth is that even if we pray for one another, or ask the intercession of Mary and the Saints, all mediations are subordinated to Christ. In fact we all go to Jesus and only He Father on our behalf. That is what Ludwig Ott teaches. This is an interesting context that proves that Mr. McArthur has not done his homework and just cherry picks certain things he feels will prove his point. But, its dishonest.
- When the paragraph starts, the text says that according to the view of the older and many modern theologians… This is a very important part left out in MacArthur speech because it shows that the quote he extracted was a theological view and not a dogma.
- Right after the quote, the text says: the implications are not then that we are obliged to beg for all graces through Mary, nor that Mary’s intercession is intrinsically necessary for the application of graces. In other words, we do not need to go to or through Mary as he claims.
As a Catholic, we pray to the Father, to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit. Catholics go to God and have communion with him, and as Ludwig states, we are not obliged to go to Mary while John MacArthur says, Catholics only may go to Mary, which is the only way they are ever going to get anything from the Father.
It is very perplexing to us how someone of his influence can be so uninformed and under-studied. It is really sad. This is a very common habit in MacArthur speeches, and he repetitively misrepresents Catholicism in almost everything he says. Pray for him!