The Virgin Mary
by Dr. Labib Mikhail with Translation and Contributions by Dr. Nasser S. Farag
Nordskog Publishing, Inc., 2011. 160 pages.
Review by Neil Cullan McKinlay
Dr. Labib Mikhail leads us safely through the musty catacombs of human tradition. With lamp in hand he illuminates Mary. His The Virgin Mary In the Light of The Word of God is a guided tour with a running Bible commentary that exposes many fallacies about Mary. As Dr. Labib Mikhail says, “Let the Virgin Mary be in her rightly honoured place, where the Bible has put her…” (p. 122).
Now living in
America the author is originally from where, while growing up, he attended what he refers to as a “traditional” church in which devotion to and adoration of the Virgin Mary was practised. Dr. Labib (as he is affectionately known) accepted unquestionably the aberration of Mariolatry. Egypt
However, in the providence of God when the author was sixteen he met a Christian man by the name of Salib Farag. Salib helped Dr. Labib begin his journey to a full understanding of Jesus Christ as the only Saviour and Mediator. Dr. Labib says, “This book is an outgrowth of my determined effort to know what the Scriptures reveal about Jesus and His blessed mother, the Virgin Mary.” (p. vii).
Dr. Nasser S. Farag, (Salib Farag’s son and Dr. Labib’s “adopted spiritual son in the Lord”), asked Dr. Labib if he could translate The Virgin Mary In the Light of The Word of God, (which was originally in Arabic), into Spanish and now into English.
Dr. Nasser S. Farag has included his own, as he says, “additions and adaptations that address the situation of pertinent Catholic beliefs about the blessed Virgin as I experienced them in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa south of the
Sahara.” Dr. Farag’s “additions and adaptations” are so well integrated that they complement Dr. Labib’s commentary with the result that this body of work is as a seamless garment.
Premise & Content
The title: The Virgin Mary In the Light of The Word of God is a terse summary of the book’s contents, which consists of a Dedication; a Word of Tribute; a Foreword; an Introduction; Twelve chapters followed by a Conclusion. At the back of the book there is a useful and informative Lexicon of Leading Ideas compiled by Ronald W. Kirk; a Bibliography; a beautiful poem called “Mary, Did You Know?”; a word about the author and also about Dr. Nasser S. Farag (the translator and contributor to the Spanish and English editions). The book is completed by a Word from the publisher, Gerald Christian Nordskog.
The Virgin Mary In the Light of The Word of God is well written in a fast flowing but easy-to-read English. Abstract and abstruse theological terminology has been avoided, yet deep Biblical concepts are handled with clarity and anticipatory thought. Most questions that may arise in the reader’s mind at the outset of perusal are subsequently dealt with.
One can clearly hear the swishing of the sword of the Spirit as Dr. Labib, (emulating his Master undergoing His temptation by the devil in the wilderness), deftly answers the false teachings about Mary with surgical precision. He handles the Word of God as a workman unashamed. Dr. Labib seeks not to kill, but rather desires to remove the cancer of false teaching. If toxic doctrine anywhere poisons the Christian system it can only be flushed out by large doses of the truth. If Dr. Labib wounds the reader he is quick to pour in the healing balm of the Gospel! The book is far more about building up than tearing down.
As to the book’s premise, Dr. Labib says, “[M]y reason for writing this book is to give the reader who is searching for the truth the clear picture that the Holy Scriptures give about the Virgin Mary.” (p. 2). Thus the content of the book is Dr. Labib’s refutation from Scripture of all the extra-Biblical and demonstrably false teaching about Mary the mother of Jesus. Notice toward whom Dr. Labib is aiming his well-directed shafts of Biblical light, i.e., “the reader who is searching for the truth”. Thus Dr. Labib’s intended audience is identified.
Dr. Labib goes on to say, “An old saying goes, ‘Try to convince a man against his will and he will stick to his position without retreat.’ This applies to the natural man, but the true Christian who has received God’s salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit accepts whatever God’s Word says and refuses any traditions of men that contradict it.’” (p. 33). Here one is reminded of the Bereans (as alluded to in Dr. Labib’s Introduction to the book) who “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” Acts 17:11.
“The Tradition of Men”
In many ways Dr. Labib’s book is a countering of the “the tradition of men” that one finds in “traditional churches”. Though many traditions in churches are built with the bricks and mortar of good intention, their lack of solid foundation easily leads to collapse and injury. In Dr. Labib’s own words, “While some unbiblical teachings may have originated from good motives, over time they become strongholds that bind the minds of their followers with dark chains preventing the eyes from seeing the true light.” (p. 55).
Dr. Labib wants to stop the blight from growing on truth before it causes a great famine, “The teachings glorifying the Virgin Mary that entered the traditional churches spread throughout the world, causing many Christians to deviate from the Biblical truth. This has caused serious consequences both inside and outside the church.” (p. 54).
Thus Dr. Labib has taken to heart Christ’s pointed rebuke of the Scribes and Pharisees for “making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down” Mark 7:13. In his native
Dr. Labib has seen firsthand the long-term consequences of letting tradition spread unchecked. As a Christian believing in the living and true God who is Triune, i.e., the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, it is Dr. Labib’s view that “the tradition of men” regarding Mary has resulted in much confusion about Christianity and the Triune God – especially among Islam. Egypt
We in the West would be wise to give due attention to Dr. Labib’s The Virgin Mary In the Light of The Word of God. For example Dr. Labib says therein, “You can understand the over-reaction from Mohammed and Islam (in the sixth and seventh centuries A.D.) which we read in the Quran, chapter 5:116, that Allah was unhappy that they (Christians) took Isa (Jesus) and his mother as two gods. Therefore, the popularity and spread of Islam had to do, among other things, with a reaction to the church’s unbiblical teaching that put Mary almost on the same level with God. The false teachings glorifying the Virgin Mary have had a long-term effect on 1.5 billion Moslems alive today, as well as those who lived in the past.” (p. 55).
If we remember that this book was originally written in Arabic with Islam firmly to the forefront of Dr. Labib’s mind we will see the relevance for such a book to be translated into English, since Islam has been making so many inroads into Western society today.
Dr. Nasser S. Farag, (i.e., the book’s translator from Arabic into Spanish and English), says in the Foreword, “Moslems generalize that all Christians believed that God had a physical sexual relationship with Mary, who along with their resultant son, made up their three gods. The insinuation was that since they believe that both Mary (whom they call Maryam) and Jesus (whom they call Isa) were 100 percent human, Christians were therefore insulting the One and Only True God by adding them alongside Him. The traditional churches have always asserted that this is a distortion of their teachings. Nevertheless, their doctrine of elevating and praying to the Virgin Mary as the “Mother of God,” and as an interceder and mediator is confusing. It unintentionally feeds into a generalization that Christianity is an apostate religion believing in three gods. In the Quran, the Moslem holy book, we find this verse: ‘And when Allah will say: O Isa son of Maryam! Did you say to men, Take me and my mother for two gods besides Allah, he will say: “Glory be to Thee, it did not befit me that I should say what I had no right to (say).”’” (Surah 5:116, The Quran Translation by M. H. Shakir). (pp. xi-xii)
As he continues in the Foreword Dr. Nasser S. Farag demonstrates the tenor of the book regarding the “traditional churches”. He says, “Instead of labelling these people and churches as pagans and idol worshipers (as many evangelical ministers in Latin America do), we must do what Dr. Labib is doing, which is to teach the Word of God that is the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). We need to reach out in love to our brothers and sisters from the traditional churches.” (p. xv).
Dr. Labib has handled well issues such as the various titles some of the traditional churches have given to Mary, for example, “The Mother of God”; “Queen of Heaven”; “Jacob’s ladder”; “The Bride”; “The Beautiful Dove”; “The Door”; “The Holy of Holies”. He also deals with Jesus’ relationship with Mary”; Jesus’ “true Father”; Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” as well as the supposed appearances and miracles of Mary.
Dr Labib also tackles that view of Mary as “Mediator”, saying, “Some traditional churches believe that Mary can mediate and intercede on our behalf to God.” (p. 43). After listing the qualifications of the Scriptural mediator he then goes on the show from Scripture how Mary cannot be the Mediator and how this title properly applies only to Christ. Indeed!
The Virgin Mary In the Light of The Word of God is a good and interesting read. It is well written, clear and concise. It covers many if not all of the unbiblical teachings regarding Mary, aberrations that have crept into branches of the Christian Church and are now defended by them.
Dr. Labib does not enter into an argument with the reader, rather he simply reasons from Scripture. He gives Mary her due honour without worshipping her. The book concludes with an urge for the reader to repent of false beliefs and believe in the Gospel.
Who needs to read this book? I believe that all who love truth will benefit greatly from reading this book. In the English speaking world Roman Catholics and High Anglicans who emphasise Mary will be rewarded if they simply test Dr. Labib’s teachings against Scripture; indeed, as will all Christians. Those of us who wish to understand and engage Moslems with the truth about Jesus and Mary – the Gospel – will also be blessed greatly, since the book originally was written in Arabic with the followers of Islam the book’s intended audience. And last of all, this book is educational for any who can read English, believer and unbeliever. It was a delight to review this book!
Says Dr. Nasser S. Farag of Dr. Labib, “I am deeply grateful to Dr. Labib Mikhail for allowing me to translate his Arabic book into English and Spanish, and for allowing me to make additions and adaptations that address the situation of pertinent Catholic beliefs about the blessed Virgin as I experienced them in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa south of the Sahara. Thus this message virtually becomes relevant to Christians worldwide, including concerned evangelicals.” (pp. xv-xvi).
Says Dr. Labib of Dr. Nasser S. Farag, “Nasser, who has served as a career missionary for forty years in Africa and Latin America and as a professor of missions in the U.S., contacted me after reading this book in Arabic. He shared that the book’s message was urgently needed in Africa and
Latin America where nominal Christianity is at times only a thin veneer overlying deeply embedded native pagan beliefs and practices. He asked if he might translate it into English and Spanish and adapt it for use where needed throughout the world.” (p. viii). It is my opinion that this book IS needed throughout the world!
We finish this review with a wise final word from Dr. Labib, “The only base and reference by which we draw closer to God is the Holy Bible. The secret behind the decline of true faith that has taken place in the nominal Christian church is a result of neglecting and putting aside the Word of God, and following, instead, the traditions of men.” (p. 101).