An Evening of Emergent Conversation About Mary

John ArmstrongEmergent Church

I have been reading professor Scot McKnight’s excellent blog,, for some time. Scot is a respected professor of New Testament who teaches at North Park University in Chicago. Though Scot and I had previously met, very briefly in a line at the Wheaton Caribou Coffee store, we had never had time to talk until Monday evening. I decided to attend a Chicago-area emergent gathering called Uprooted, www.up/ Both the people I met, and the opportunity to chat with Scot, were well worth my three-plus hours on a rainy, chilly Chicago evening.

Scot spoke and dialogued with the group of twenty-five or so people cordially and humbly. (He is disarmingly hospitable and in no way self-promoting, a trait I quickly spot now in my sixth decade of life!) He talked about his most recent book, The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus (Paraclete, November 2006). Scot seems to have two goals in this engaging and readable book. First, he wants evangelicals to listen to Mary and to honor her without fears and reactions. He believes anti-Catholic reaction has hindered us significantly. (He clearly rejects the major Catholic dogmas of the 19th and 20th centuries regarding Mary but he also shows how Protestants have misunderstood several important aspects of the biblical witness to Mary because of their reactions to Catholics.) His goal is to present to the reader a human, gospels-based account of Mary. In Scot’s telling Mary is courageous and feisty, intelligent and deeply devout.  Second, Scot wants to show Catholics where they have gone too far in their response to Mary. (As a Protestant New Testament scholar Scot wants to understand and listen to tradition, and thus hear the early church’s witness about Mary, but he consistently roots his understanding about Mary in the witness of the Scriptures.)

The heart of Scot’s argument is rooted in the Magnificat, recorded in Luke 1:46-56. He argues that Mary’s faith is a model to us of fiery fidelity and radical obedience. I found his discussion about this aspect of Mary engaging and, quite frankly, exciting. One reason he believes Mary is dangerous to evangelicals is because she is a woman who had such immense influence upon the life of Jesus and the life of the early church. Since many evangelicals are conflicted about the role and authority of women in the church this makes the Mary of the New Testament too edgy for their taste. I think Scot may well be right about this point. I am now motivated to read his book after hearing his presentation and the dialogue Monday evening in Park Ridge. My only problem is that my reading stack is already out the door of my study. I guess I’ll just have to get up before 4 a.m. tomorrow. As the saying goes: “So many books, so little time.”