“How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” An Examination of Martin Luther’s Views on the Virgin Mary

Ambrose Research Conference presentation

A person who finds themselves in a contemporary mainline or evangelical Protestant church will be hard-pressed to hear much about the Virgin Mary other than, as her title implies, she was a virgin, and that she was the mother of Jesus Christ. Both things are true and important in and of themselves for Christian doctrine and theology, but they are also very cursory statements in nature and do not really address the vital and dominant role Mary has played in Christian history and spirituality, even among the Reformers. As one scholar expounds on the importance of Mary in piety and culture in Christianity: ‘“the Virgin had acted as the greatest force the Western world ever felt, and had drawn man’s activities to herself more strongly than any other power, natural or supernatural, had ever done.”’1 Given her traditional stature in the Church, Mary is just too important of a character to ignore or relegate to the realm of unimportance. As Luther wittingly points out, partially reflecting contemporary Protestant thought, “I am to accept the child and his birth and forget the mother, as far as this is possible, although her part cannot be forgotten, for where there is a birth there must also be a mother.”

9 pages