Roman Catholicism's Mary and Mormonism's Heavenly Mother...

On the web site of the Mormon magazine, Meridian, we find this pic accompanying an article titled, "Debunking Myths About Heavenly Mother." Mormons and Roman Catholics both evidence the timeless propensity of all idolaters to make God less scary by tying Him to a woman. It's Mary the Mediatrix for Roman Catholics and the Heavenly Mother for Mormons. And doesn't that picture say it all? What glorious art for those whose hope for the world to come, their "celestial homecoming," is this:

“…when you stand in front of your heavenly parents in those royal courts on high and you look into Her eyes and behold Her countenance, every question you ever had about the role of women in the kingdom will evaporate into the rich celestial air, because at that moment you will see standing directly in front of you, your divine nature and destiny.” - 2010 devotional address at BYU of Provo Elder Glenn L. Pace of the Seventy

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

Comments

My wife notes that the picture doesn't look like eternal morning sickness at all.  Is this "Lying for the Lord" on their part?

(sorry, couldn't resist)

Dear Tim,

"Evangelical Christians wanting self-esteem therapy should not read this book [Godly Seed: AMERICAN EVANGELICALS CONFRONT BIRTH CONTROL, 1873-1973]. This provocative volume, by one of the world's foremost family issues scholars [Dr. Allan Carlson], suggests that perhaps American Evangelicalism unwittingly traded the Blessed Virgin Mary for Margaret Sanger."
-Russell D. Moore, Dean, School of Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To the extent that Christians ignore their de facto female "all generations will call me blessed" leader, this vacuum will be filled with a female who perverts the world with her evil.

Love,

Allan

In case anyone might be confused, the Mormons are not talking about the Blessed Virgin Mary when they speak of their "Heavenly Mother".

The LDS article you cite has this to say:

Heavenly Mother possesses all the attributes of Godhood. She and Heavenly Father reared and taught us in the pre-earth life. She helped create this earth and formulate the Plan of Salvation.

I hope it goes without saying that this is very much not in any way close to Catholic doctrine.

In Christ,

John

Not so fast, John. I'm pretty sure most of the Roman Catholics I interact with would disagree with you. This page about the 5 glorious mysteries would be right up their alley. It says in part:

  • Only in heaven will we see how central is the role of Mary in the divine plan of redemption.
  • The angels and saints longed for the coming of her whose heel crushes the head of the serpent.
  • Mary pleads our cause as a most powerful Queen and a most merciful and loving Mother.

Or from catholic.org:

And the angels also joined in the praises by saying, "Blessed are You, oh God of host, for You have thought it worthy to exalt and crown the lowly creature Mary as Queen of the universe." My Son took me by the hand and led me to the throne prepared for me. "Sit here, My Mother," He said, "This throne is yours. I have prepared it for you. It is here that you will rule with Me for all eternity: it is here that you will intercede for the world and I will hear whatever you say for I love you and I wish to honor you." I said, "Oh my Son, it is good for me to be here but I also pray that soon Your apostles, Your disciples, and all Your people will be here with us to praise You, to love You for all eternity." "Yes My Mother," He said to me, "I will give to you whatever your heart desires and from now on all men that acknowledge Me as their King must also acknowledge you as their Queen and Mother."

Joseph,

I would hard pressed to believe that any but the most poorly instructed Catholic layman would mistake the Mormon belief about "Heavenly Mother" with Catholic teaching on the role of Mary.

Looking again at the above quote from the linked LDS article, it contains three assertions, none of which can be mistaken for Catholic teaching:

  • Heavenly Mother possesses all the attributes of Godhood. 

Mary is a created creature as we all are. She is not a member of the Trinity. As with all the saints in heaven, any glory and honor she has is a gift of God's grace.

  • She and Heavenly Father reared and taught us in the pre-earth life. 

Well ... I'm not sure what to say about this other than it is so peculiarly Mormon as to be impossible to mistake for anything else.

  • She helped create this earth and formulate the Plan of Salvation.

Again, Mary is a created creature as we all are. She did not exist when the earth was created. She did not exist when God picked Abraham or when He spoke to Moses in desert.

Now for the three items you quote from the rosary center:

  • Only in heaven will we see how central is the role of Mary in the divine plan of redemption.

We all have a role in the divine plan of redemption. Some sow, others reap. Yet others have the sad role to play as an example of what to avoid in this life. We see this all as through a glass darkly.

Occasionally, we may get a somewhat clearer view. For example, someone may say that hearing a particular pertinent sermon was the point  at which his life turned.

We certainly know that the Apostle Paul played a huge role in God's plan. He brought the Gospel to unknown thousands during his lifetime, and to uncountable millions since. How huge is his role in the divine plan is beyond our comprehension in this life. We will know that only in heaven.

Likewise with Mary. Her role is impossible to fully comprehend. The basics should be obvious to all though. Salvation came to the world through Christ. And Christ came into the world through Mary: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)

  • The angels and saints longed for the coming of her whose heel crushes the head of the serpent.

This is an obvious reference to Genesis 3:15 (cf. Rev. 12).

  • Mary pleads our cause as a most powerful Queen and a most merciful and loving Mother.

This, if you think about it for a moment, should be the least controversial of the three.

I think we can agree that Mary is in heaven. (Where else would she be?)

It shouldn't be too hard to agree that she is concerned with what transpires here on earth. (Would she be sipping Pina Coladas by the celestial pool, blissfully uninterested in the fate of those poor saps who hadn't made it that far yet?)

Surely, as Christians, we can agree that when one is concerned about someone the proper thing to do is to pray for them. A person who prays for us, "pleads our cause".

I'm sure we also both regard Christ as King. Simple logic then renders Mary (His mother) as Queen.

In Christ,

John

God's Word: "handmaid" (bondslave, slave)

Roman Catholicism: "Queen"

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. --1 Timothy 1:15-16, NASB

So, what's the trustworthy saying we should all accept? That "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom Paul is foremost"?

No.

That "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost."

This is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance by every believer, including Mary.

Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

Look at the Roman Catholic teaching on Mary's (and the saints') meritorious works of righteousness that are in the church's "treasury of merit" and see how far from God the RCC teaching is. That in Mary as the worst of sinners Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life? It would seem like you were blaspheming God to say so.

From the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church:

1477 "This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission the Father entrusted to them. In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body."

Dear John,

I am out of town, and so if you respond to my post, I may not be able to respond to you for a day or two.

I am afraid your argument about Mary as Queen being a matter of simple predicate logic based on her familial relationships is just simply fallacious by way of equivocation. In fact, the concept of "Queen Mother" is not something based on kinship to the King and Prince, but is a term which connotes a certain cultural standing and a sociological status which I would challenge you to demonstrate in any meaningful sense in the Bible, and which goes beyond the kind of surface treatment you are giving it. Mary is no more a Queen by alone virtue of her bearing the Savior, than would Joseph be a Duke by being Jesus' earthly father. Where does the Bible refer to Mary as Queen Mother, or where is the kind of treatment of Mary as royalty of any grade ever see demonstration either explicitly or by inference?

I think it is important that we Protestants express to you that we are not down on Mary. She was a wonderful, special Christian woman, an example for men and women in the Lord today. Now, the characterization of her specialness is what we disagree on. However, this sort of faulty logic which you have displayed, where the fact that Mary bore the God-man somehow demonstrates a basis for the RCC Mariology, is the sort of theological and speculative excess that we Protestants feel compelled to gainsay. We are not angry with Mary, we are just concerned that Jesus, the only mediator between God and Man (I Tim. 2:4-6), be kept in his appropriate, unique position in our theology and church life.

And the truth is, John, that if you do not need Mary for your salvation, then according to the Bible, you do not need her at all. We have an ever living, omnipotent, omniscient High Priest and King who lives in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Mary fades from view after Christ's ascension. Jesus takes center stage. Mary is not even mentioned beyond the closing of the gospels and the opening of Acts. No Queen Mother does that.

  • The angels and saints longed for the coming of her whose heel crushes the head of the serpent.

This is an obvious reference to Genesis 3:15 (cf. Rev. 12).

John, Genesis 3:15 is an obvious reference to the seed of the woman, not the woman.

Also, the point of Tim's post is not that Mary=Mormon Mother. His point is clearly stated in this sentence:

Mormons and Roman Catholics both evidence the timeless propensity of all idolaters to make God less scary by tying Him to a woman.

Daniel,

The key phrase in that excerpt from the Catechism is "by grace".

This is explained further in another section of the Catechism:

1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:

"Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself." (2 Cor 5:17-18.)

2001 The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, "since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it" (St. Augustine, De gratia et libero arbitrio):

"Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without him we can do nothing." (St. Augustine, De natura et gratia)

This applies to all who are saved - including Mary:

490 To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role." The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace". In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.

In Christ,

John

Yes, if we just put "by grace" in front of everything, everything is justified.

By grace I was born sinless and without the taint of original sin. By grace I've never sinned. By grace I'm able to give my good works to you to help you get one step up the ladder to Heaven that you're climbing. I'm willing to do this (by grace) if you'd like. Just mail me a check for $50.

Don't believe me? Prove my claims wrong using the Bible.

David,

Thanks for your reply. I travel myself and am often too busy to write replies in a timely manner (or at all!), so I fully understand your situation.

It is interesting that you look for "cultural standing and a sociological status" to verify Mary's title. These are the same criteria that caused many people puzzlement with Jesus' claim to be the Messiah. He was born in extremely humble circumstances; he had only twelve full-time followers, none of whom was a man of any repute; he never even attempted to rival Roman military might; his only crown was one of thorns, thrust on his head by mocking soldiers before they executed him like a common criminal.

In fact, Christ's Kingdom does not conform to the standards of this world.

"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 

It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matt. 20:25-28)

It is a very common impression that any focus on Mary must needs detract from focus on Jesus. You could think of this as the zero-sum view. We have only a fixed amount spiritual capital to spend, so it should all be spent on focusing on Christ.

Some men who seek after Christ take this to its logical conclusion. If all we need is Christ, then there is no need for churches, or pastors, or preaching, or rules, or bibles, or statements of faith, or anything else. They're all just distractions.

Thankfully, Presbyterians are more level-headed than this.  They recognize that while Christ is the one mediator between God and men, God, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, has  appointed preachers and apostles to spread the faith. Their work is not a distraction from Christ. It does, in fact, increase our spiritual capital. We can grow in our faith through churches and pastors and preaching and rules and bibles and statements of faith and through many other means. We are not living in a zero-sum game.

This is also the Catholic view of the role of Mary in the life of the Church. Her role is to lead us to her Son: "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:5)

The Catechism I quoted above sums it up rather pithily:

What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.

So, rather than being a distraction, Marian theology is an enhancement to our focus on Jesus

In Christ,

John

Joseph,

You are not mentioned in Scripture by name. This should be sufficient proof to rule out your claims.

In Christ,

John

By that logic, John, you aren't mentioned by name in scripture, and so all of your claims are false also.

You'll have to make a case that shows that my claims *can't* be true because of something else that the Bible *does* say. I know you don't want to though, because as soon as you do, you'll refute what wicked men have claimed about Mary.

Stephen,

This blog has an interesting examination of the relationship of Mary to Genesis 3:15.

I know that Tim was trying to be clear, but the term "Heavenly Mother" could be a bit confusing to those who are not familiar with Mormon theology - at least it was to me until I read the magazine article.

In Christ,

John

Joseph,

I not sure I follow.

You were making (rhetorical) claims about your special place in God's plan of salvation.

I am making no similar claims, rhetorical or otherwise, about myself.

In Christ,

John

Dear John,

Again, I believe you are starting with unBiblical premises regarding Mary and Christ, and then using fallacious reasoning, this time by way of disanalogy.

First, let me clarify something very important. I realize that Roman Catholics will generally not say that they need Mary for salvation. They would also, if pressed, concede that they do not need Mary for their justification or glorification either. Instead, they state an ameliorated view of Mariology, that Mary helps augment in a positive way our relationship with Christ. Yet, the Bible never teaches this as far as I can tell, as the Bible says very little about Mary at all. Further, what the Bible says about Christ, as King, Prophet, High Priest, Intercessor, and Mediator indicates that he is the all-sufficient One who provides for every aspect of our salvation (justification, sanctification and glorification) so that there is nothing left to augment. He is the source of spiritual life in all of its forms, and those saints who have departed this life do not have a role in our salvation (neither justification, sanctification or glorification) since God Himself works this in us according to His good pleasure.

Now the way that God works this in history, and in our daily lives, involves human mediators (mediators with a little "m", in the non-salvific sense), but please note that this does not include dead saints. To place the dead on a par with elders and other brothers in Christ is a howling fallacy.

In the first place, we are forbidden to attempt to make contact with the dead. The Bible does not qualify this by saying "unless they are dead saints that the Catholic church tells you to pray to"

Second, Paul tells us in Philippians that he was hard pressed, because to depart this life would be a blessing to him, but it would do the church no good. If Paul could make intercession for them, or us, or if our prayers to Paul or other saints could living Christians on earth, Paul could not have presented this dichotomy.

Thirdly, this view of Mary is not only bad theology, but I would argue it just does not make good common sense. Unless you believe that Mary has assumed God's attributes, then there is a very pragmatic problem with praying to her or any other saint. It is inconceivable that, at any time during the day, there is less than two people on earth praying to Mary. Mary, as a human, can no more simultaneously hear multiple people praying to her at the same time than I could sprout wings and fly to the moon.

Please also note that although it may not be the intent of the Catholic church, as a historically observable sociological phenomenon, those things placed on par with Christ and His Scripture tend to, over time, replace them and rise above them. Kissing statues of Mary and praying to Mary and other saints, and many of the other acts of adoration that are bestowed upon dead Christians, I am afraid is the example of how hidden the gospel of grace is under these sorts of superstitious practices.

I say this in love.

DS

David,

I hope your journey went well.

You write:

Now the way that God works this in history, and in our daily lives, involves human mediators (mediators with a little "m", in the non-salvific sense) ...

This is exactly the sense in which the Blessed Virgin Mary and saints mediate for us. Their mediation is no different in kind from the mediation that you yourself perform when you pray for your loved ones. Asking for their prayers no more undercuts the all-sufficiency of Christ's Mediation between God and men than asking for your prayers would.

Of course, this leads directly to your next objection that "... this does not include dead saints".

Praying to saints in heaven is not the same as contacting the dead for information. I'm sure someone has prayed along the lines of, "Hey, psssst, St. Cajetan? Could you slip me next week's Powerball numbers? It'd really help me out!" However, no Catholic should except a reply to such a request - or any direct communication back from heaven to any prayer to a saint. A prayer request to those in heaven is really no different than this. It is simply a request for prayers to God.

In Philippians, St. Paul writes:

Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Phil. 1:20-24)

He is not saying here that he would be powerless in heaven - just that he obviously could do things here on earth (e.g., write letters and answer questions) that he could not do once he had passed on.

He ends his letter to the Philippians with a prayer: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit." And he begins it with a prayer: "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now."

When he got to heaven, it would seem only reasonable that he did not, on that account, cease to remember or pray for them.

Now for the third objection, time, remember that the saints in heaven are in eternity with God, for whom "one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day". (2 Peter 3:8)

How exactly eternity works is way beyond our comprehension, but I think it would be safe to say that those in heaven have a lot of time on their hands. What physical limitations remain from their earthly bodies is not giving to us to know. In any event, you certainly would not dispute that it is beyond God's power to grant them the time to hear as many prayers as they would wish to.

I understand that to those outside the Church, Catholic practices can seem near to idolatry. I would suggest that perhaps it is best to ask for clarification before rushing to judgement in these case. Remember that even some practices of Clearnote church appear improper to those who do not understand them.

In Christ,

John

John,

First, the RCC does not believe that Mary is a mediator just like any other Christian. They speak of her as a special mediator, a Co-Mediatrix. The role of mediation they give her borders on the role which the Scriptures ascribe alone to Christ.

No limit is placed on the Scripturally unwarranted roles given to Mary in the RCC. She is the Queen of Heaven, sitting at the right hand of Christ, to share with Him in the absolute power granted to Him. Roman Catholics at various times in history have, and do, seek all the blessing of salvation from her hands, as well as protection from their enemies and deliverance from evils as allegedly provided by her.

Just look at the transformation of the Psalter to a book of both confession and praise for Mary. What in the Bible is said of Christ alone, as the sole, saving Mediator between God and man whom the Father has appointed as the alone Mediator in that sense, is now said of Mary in the RCC. Psalm 1 says that the man who does walk in the counsel of the ungodly is blessed. In the Psalter of the Virgin, is says "Blessed is the man who loveth thy name, O Virgin Mary; thy grace shall comfort his soul. As a tree irrigated by fountains of water, he shall bring forth the richest fruit of righteousness" The second Psalm of the Virgin says "Protect us with thy right hand, O Mother of God". The ninth Psalm of the Virgin says "I will confess thee, O Lady". Ps. 25 says "Preserve me, O Lady, for I have hoped in thee", and Ps. 27 states " I will love thee O Queen of heaven and earth, and will glorify thy name among the Gentiles".

That last psalm is particularly offensive to me. Now John, you look at these Psalms and explain to the Protestants on this blog how it is that Mary is not replacing Jesus as our Savior, Protector, and focus of evangelism and confession. Secondly, Mary, in RC theology, is not just like one of the people alive in your local church to whom you can ask advice of receive prayer or encouragement from. The psalms above are not how I speak of my brothers and sisters in the church. RCC teaches these things about Mary without Biblical warrant, and as I stated before, what you place on par with Scripture tends to eat away at Scripture, and eventually replace the Scriptures. What happened to the true torah teaching because of the Pharisees and their traditions is what happened to the true gospel in the RCC. And it is a violation of the first commandment, because no matter what the scietific, carefully crafted, theoretical limits the RC theology places on how we treat Mary and the saints, they are invoked in such a manner in practice that God's unique position is besmirched.

John, you have side-stepped my argument about Paul in Philippians by setting up a straw man to knock down. Paul says in Philip-pains 1:23,24 that he was hard pressed because to leave this earth would be "much better", but that to stay in his ministerial role with them is more necessary. Paul did not see his ministerial role continuing in heaven once he departed this world and this was much of why he felt hard-pressed in this matter. I did not say that Paul would become powerless, which is a very vague rejoinder. The Bible does not tell us what Paul would be doing, besides worshiping Christ in heaven as depicted in Revelation. It certainly gives us no warrant for praying to Paul.

The idea of praying to saints is not found in the Bible. We are told not to attempt contact with the dead. To pray to dead believers is to engage in superstition. It assumes without a single shred of evidence from God's Word that the dead in Christ are accessible to those still alive, and that they are capable of hearing and answering our prayers. We could not know that the saints have this role and capacity without revelation from God, and yet no such revelation exists.

Whatever is done at Clearnote or any other church should be scrutininzed by Scripture. The RCC has decided on a different standarad. Functionally, they have created a culture of polytheistic idolatory, where people pray to Peter "Holy Peter save me, open to me the gates of heaven; give me repentance and courage..." and thus seek from a creature what can only be given by their Creator.

"All nature stood still in wonder
when you gave flesh
to your own flesh’s Creator."
-Alma Redemptoris Mater

If you elect not to be continually awestruck by Mary ... then another female will surely supplant her:

"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."
-RUSH, "Freewill"

Will it be Mary or Margaret (Sanger)? There are only two paths: the way of life or the way of death. Eve chose death. Mary chose life. You choose.

As for me and my house we choose Jesus and the Theotokos!

Love,

Allan,

It is difficult for me to tell whether you are being serious.

It is interesting that Eve's mistake was rejecting God's authoritative Word to her regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She allowed the serpent to beguile her, and to appeal to her natural reasoning (see how pleasing to the eye this apple looks) and to treat God's revelation as a hypothesis as opposed to her authoritative presupposition from which to reason and act.

Again, we get back to the issue of whether God's Word reveals Mary to be what the RCC teaches. The inscripturated Word of God does not teach this. So the question becomes whether the traditions and pronouncements of the RCC are the Word of God to us. I would defy you, in any philosophically meaningful way, to demonstrate that what the RCC calls the oral tradition of the apostles is so. Otherwise, we should avoid being beguiled like Eve was, and follow the written Word of God handed down to us, which has a textual history, which is objective, and which has been recognized by the church since the beginning.

Our conscience is not bound to follow what the RCC claims to be God's Word, and I thank God for that freedom. Gal. 1:6-9.

Allan is claiming that if we don't worship Mary that we will worship some other woman. The point of the post is that this is the common temptation. But there is another option: Not being an idolator.

John, let me be short and to the point. I'm tempted to believe that you are being disingenuous about your inability to see my point. I made a claim. You say it can't be true because I'm not mentioned in the Bible. Does that mean the Bible is your authority for these sorts of questions?

Ruth is mentioned in the Bible. I now transfer all of my claims onto her. Prove I can't be right. 

-Joseph

David,

First, let me start with the official response to your objection that Marian doctrines detract from Christ's role as sole Mediator between God and men:

970 "Mary's function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on men . . . flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it." "No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source."

As we've agreed, human mediators have a role in God's plan. We are all mediators to some extent - by our words, actions and prayers. Some of us have but a small part to play. Others have a much larger part. The letters that St. Paul wrote almost two thousand years ago are still being read and heard all over the world. To make a conservative estimate, he has been a mediator of God's truth, directly or indirectly, to more than 95% of the Christians who have ever lived. Couls any of us comprehend how much less we would know about Christ had St. Paul not written all that he did?

Imagine for a minute an example of your own mediation, e.g., helping a friend to work through a a physical or spiritual problem. Where did you get the understanding to do that? Well, some it of probably came from sermons you had heard over the years (perhaps from one or more of the Baylys). Where did they get the material for their sermons? Quite a bit of it certainly came from St. Paul's letters. Where did St. Paul get his knowledge from? He learned about Christ almost entirely from the Apostles. What was the source of their knowledge? Christ himself, of course.

So there exists a chain of mediation from you back to Christ himself, with each link being made possible by the link that preceded it.

Now, there is one more link in that chain. Where did Christ himself come from? Well, it pleased God to send Him into the world through Mary. It was her cooperation with God's plan that was the original link that made possible all that followed.

So, in your mediation of God's grace to your friend, there are a whole lot of co-mediators along there with you: your other friends who pray for you, your pastor, his own teachers in the seminary, St. Paul, the twelve Apostles and, yes, the Blessed Virgin Mary! They are all humans and none of the fruit of their cooperation with God's grace detracts from the uniqueness of Christ as Mediator.

The reality is that we all of us honor those men and women who have mediated the faith to us. Presbyterians honor St. Paul, the reformers and great preachers and writers from the past few centuries. The honor they are given naturally bears some relation to the extent of the influence, with St. Paul being honored more than Calvin, and Calvin more than Edwards, and Edwards more than your favorite pastor.

Therefore, it is only logical that Mary - who played a more pivotal role than any other human on that list of co-mediators - should be honored more than any other mortal.

Does this open up possibilities for abuse? Of course. But then so does every other Christian doctrine and practice. The doctrine of predestination, for example, leads to antinomianism. Our hosts here regularly call out fellow Protestants for abusing all manner of Christian doctrines. In all this, the old maxim applies: abusus non tollit usum.

I shall reply further shortly.

In Christ,

John

David,

With respect to what St. Paul's writes in Philippians, we can agree that his death was going to mark an end to his earthly ministry along with his ability to provide council and direction. This was certainly going to be a loss to the church at Philippi. That he could pray for them after his death does not cancel out the practical results of his departure from the scene.

Scripture does, in fact, tell us a few things about heaven. Starting right here in Philippians, Paul tells us that he'd be better off there. Further along, he tells us that our home is in heaven (Phil 3:20). He is continually exhorting Christians to love one another and pray for each other because we are all of one body (e.g., 1 Cor 12:13).

Nowhere is it indicated that we will cease to love and care about and pray for each other when we die. Quite the contrary in fact. In Our Lord's parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man (who is not even in heaven) is concerned that his brothers do not end up sharing his fate (Luke 16:27-28). In Rev. 5:8, the 24 elders "fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints".

The doctrine of the Communion of Saints was important enough to be placed into the Apostle's Creed. The Westminster Larger Catechism, with which I assume you are familiar, has this to say:

Question 86: What is the communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death ?

Answer: The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death, is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory

So, I think we should certainly be in agreement on a few key points:

  1. God hears the prayers of those of us here on earth.
  2. The saints in heaven are with God.
  3. The saints in heaven continue to care for those of us here on earth.

From there, it is a simple step of logic to realize that if God hears our prayers, there is nothing to prevent him from passing them on to the saints who are with him in heaven.

Again, this is not necromancy. No secret information is being requested and no direct communication is expected in return.

In Christ,

John

John,

The Bible does not draw the distinctions that you do with regard to the dead. We are simply forbidden to attempt to communicate or contact the dead. The additionally qualification which you add, regarding secret information, is not found in God's prohibition for RC practices. This is not ethically relevant according to God's Word. Deut. 18:9-14 lists a number of things relating to the occult, including calling upon the dead. I would encourage you to study these different words in Hebrew, because they simply describe what the English does, and they do not lexically indicate or connote the additional qualifications you provide.

John, let's approach this analytically. Show us in the Bible where prayers to the dead are shown in a positive light? Show us in the Bible where the dead in heaven are said to minister to those still alive? That should be sufficient to settle the issue. If the appeal is made to RC teaching apart from Scripture, then we need to back up and ask a more primitive question, which is how it is that you or other Catholics know that the oral tradition of the RCC has apostolic authority.

Lastly, the WCF says nothing of praying to the dead, nor of them ministering directly or indirectly to those living. To assume that because the saints are in heaven with God, and God ministers to His people, that of logical necessity the dead saints minister to the living saints, is completely fallacious. It is on par with arguing that the saints are in heaven, angels are in heaven, and therefore Jesus died to redeem angels just like the saints. And so it is not a simpel step of logic, but fallacious reasoning which is required to bridge what little we are told in Scripture regarding what the saints in heaven are doing right now, to the kind of non-sense (I am sorry but that is what it is) of having the living praying to the dead, instead of the living approaching God boldly, directly, through our Ever Living High Priest who, unlike the dead saints, we are told in Hebrews actually does sit at God's right hand and make intercession for us. What in the world would any of the Father's creations add to the perfect intercession of Jesus among those who are departed from us in body?

Hi John,

You said,

So, I think we should certainly be in agreement on a few key points:

  1. God hears the prayers of those of us here on earth.
  2. The saints in heaven are with God.
  3. The saints in heaven continue to care for those of us here on earth.

From there, it is a simple step of logic to realize that if God hears our prayers, there is nothing to prevent him from passing them on to the saints who are with him in heaven.

Again, this is not necromancy. No secret information is being requested and no direct communication is expected in return.

As an Anglican, I'm so glad you brought this up. It is so similar to what my Rector wrote in our church newsletter last year for All Saints' Day. In addition, he also said that it is OK for us to ask God (in Christ's name) to ask a saint to pray for us for a particular thing that was on our heart. This might be a saint like St. Paul, St. Philip, or St. Andrew (our church's patron saint) or it might by your late mother or late father. This is because we everyone in heaven with Christ is a saint.

If God sees fit to answer a saint's prayer for us, wouldn't the Holy Spirit let us know? Why do we need to communicate with the saint directly?

I also checked our 39 Articles of Religion to see if there is anything that would preclude this, and there doesn't seem to be. Invocation of Saints (praying to saints directly?) is prohibited but not what you and our Rector described.

Sincerely,

Sue

Sue,

Where in the Bible did your Rector come to know this information? To clarify, I am asking an epistemic question here. How did you, or your Rector, discover that this was a Divine teaching, worthy of acceptance?

Those in Christ here on earth, in body, are saints as well (Eph. 1:1); those of us still alive on earth are told to pray for each other. Why no mention, anywhere in the Bible, of departed, disembodied saints praying for us? Or of us asking God to have them pray for us? Wouldn't this be important?

Doesn't it strike you as odd that one of the main emphases of Hebrews 7-10 is that we can boldly, as individuals believers and as a church corporate, go to the Father through Christ the Eternal High Priest, and that He intercedes for us, and yet there is absolutely no mention of dead saints providing intercession? All that God did in the older dispensation, with earthly priests who could not even save themselves, typifying the coming of the One who is Eternal and Who is able to save to the uttermost because He lives forever and prays perfectly, receiving whatever He asks from the Father, so that we can come to the temple in heaven through Him, entering the Holy of Holies there.....and somehow, we are to believe, Sue, that dead saints are needed for intercession. It's like going to a five star steak house, and then somebody saying "Oh yeah, and let's also go grab a Big Mac on the way to Ruth's Chris, that's gonna be the perfect pairing here". And all of this when we cannot communicate with dead saints (and actually, we have a blanket, unqualified statement not to attempt to communicate with the dead, not even with familiar spirits), they cannot communicate with us, we have no relationship with them in any meaningful way (we don't speak with them, see them, hear them, fellowship with them, etc), we are not told they can read our minds, or hear or prayers, and if they could, they could no more hear thousands of people praying to them at once than you or I could.

Arguing that because the Bible explicitly tells living Christians to pray for one another that dead Christians pray for us and that we are to pray to them is all sorts of muddled. Sorry, I know I am hammering this, but it needs hammered.

David,

We've already looked at several pertinent passages. St. Paul writes of our citizenship in heaven (Eph. 2:19, Phil 3:20). We are urged to pray for all men (1 Tm 2:1-3) and told that prayer has great power (James 5:16). In the Book of Revelation, the saints in heaven are aware of events on earth and present the prayers of the saints to Christ (Rev. 5:8). In Hebrews, we are told that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1). Christ tells us that there is rejoicing in heaven over a single sinner who repents (Luke 15:7).

Keeping those passages in mind, perhaps a small thought experiment might help clarify what we are discussing here.

Let's imagine that tomorrow you are called up to heaven and depart this earthly life. Naturally, your wife and family are distraught. In her distress, your wife momentarily forgets proper protocol and prays, "David, if you can hear me, please pray for me, I need ..."

She catches herself and realizes, "Whoops! I'm not allowed to do that! And who am I kidding? Men never listen to their wives anyway. So I'll try something else."

She than boldly goes to the Father through Christ. "Dear Lord, I need ...   ... Oh, and please ask David to pray for me since he can't hear me himself."

Now, what does God do with that request?

  1. Pretend He never heard it? "Well! That was quite an unfortunate breech of etiquette - but I'll forgive her this time."
  2. Decide not to bother you? "Fat chance, deary! He's having too much fun up here to worry about petty requests from down below."
  3. Interdict the information? "You may not send messages to David! Das ist verboten!"
  4. Pass it on? "Of course! I know David will be delighted to pray for your needs. He's been doing so regularly since he arrived."

It seems to me that the last option is by far the most consistent with what we've been told of heaven.

In Christ,

John

Joseph,

Ruth was not the Mother of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Nor was she called "full of grace".

John,

Its important for anyone following this thread to understand that you are engaging in a blatant form of isogesis. The verses that you quoted do not at all touch our subject explicitily, nor is there a good and necessary inference from these verses to RC theology. This is not exegesis, but rather, an example of coming to the text with a preconceived grid, and backfilling RC theology into the verses.

Absolutely none of the verses you listed tell us anything about praying to the dead. Nothing. I Timothy 2:1-3 does not, at all, tell us on earth to pray for the dead. Why would we pray for those already saved? What could they need? The Bible says that those dead who are lost are not saveable (Lk. 16:26). You are not, friend, performing textual exegesis. Where in the context here are the dead in view, and where do we get the concept that we pray to the dead?

The other verses from Hebrews tell us that we have examples of faith to follow. They do not provide any solid further evidence of us communicating across the spiritual divide. God's law forbid this in Deuteronomy, a verse that, unlike the one's you mentioned, categorically condemns the acts that you would encourage us to partake in.

Our citizenship is in heaven because of our standing in Christ, and because He is in heaven. And yet, we are still on earth. We have not realized, fully, our inheritance. We are citizens in heaven now, and yet if citizenship is the basis of to whom we direct our prayers, that would indicate we could pray to each other.

John, where in the Bible do we see any examples of, or statements of, praying to the dead, and how would you square those with a textual exegesis of God's apparent prohibition of communicating with the dead or attempting to contact the dead from Deuteronomy?

Lastly. you again, and again, equivocate between the living and the dead. My wife is alive. If she were to die, it would not change her citizenship or mine, but it would change, for the remainder of our physical separation, our communication and other aspects of our relationship. The Bible commands me to pray for my wife and my children and my neighbor and without ceasing. Where, in context, do we receive warrant to pray for the dead?

Does you priest go a literal graveyard and try to serve communion there because they're citizens just like you and I, but a little less limber? Death is not the end, but it temporarily changes our relationship with departed brothers and sisters.

David,

From the Bible passages you cited, my impression is that these versions imply that Christians who die an earthly death and go to heaven to be with Christ and the saints in heaven (both big "S" and little "s). So they are no longer dead, but have eternal life. So in no way did our Rector encourage us to pray to dead people. 

Secondly, as John has already said, and implied above, we do not pray directly to saints in heaven. We ask God (in Christ's name) to pass on a particular prayer request to a saint. Of course, we should pray directly to God (in Christ's name) on a regular basis for much, much more than prayer requests. We should thank him for who He is, for His love, forgiveness, our thanksgivings, his death and resurrection, and more, as well as prayer requests. We ask our friends, relatives, and our church prayer chain to pray for us and for others we care about. Believing that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who has gone before us (the communion of saints, both here on earth and in heaven), asking God to pass on a prayer request to saint in heaven is no different. Among the scripture references you provided, there just doesn't seem to be anything that prohibits this.

Also, I looked up the Deuteronomy passage you cited earlier in several Bible versions via Biblia.com. Every version seemed to refer to actual communication with the dead, evil spirits, sorcerers, or the like. We make no attempt to communicate with a saint. Nor do we, like John said, expect to receive communication to them.

If I can still find it on our church's website, I'll find the church newsletter where the Rector's article on this subject was included. That should provide information for his scriptural and traditional basis on this subject.

NOTE: In case you didn't know, Anglicans elevate Scripture over tradition and reason (not human reason, but revelation guided by the Holy Spirit). Scripture always trumps tradition and reason, but tradition and reason aren't to be taken lightly.

P.S. I don't feel like you are "hammering" me or the subject. This is a good discussion among Christians who have differing views on this subject.

Dear Sue and John,

I'm a law student at Notre Dame. So, as you might imagine, I get into these debates on a regular basis.

If you go into the Basilica here on campus, you'll see a strange sight: a statue, about 1 1/2 times life-size, of some Saint standing on a pedestal. Right in front of this icon is a kneeling board--just the ones installed in the pews. 

"But don't worry!" you say, "it's doulos, not latria! We would never ever ever ever tell someone to worship a saint. That's so silly!" 

Right.

"But even a child is known by his actions," and there's an application to all those times in the New Testament that men and angels tell others to "get up" off their knees. 

It's--to borrow a euphemism from Justice Scalia--sheer applesauce. 

It's often this with Roman Catholics. When I say "don't you smell that rat?" The inevitable reply is, "What rat? smells fine to me." Sure it does, that's why they burn all that incense. 

One thing I can't help but wonder is *why* Anglicans and Catholics suggest praying to saints?  We've got people on earth praying for us, and we can go directly to the Maker of heaven and earth with our requests--so why go to the saints?  (As a side note, my husband grew up in a church that is now Anglican and I've never heard him, his family, or anyone from his church ever reference praying to saints/asking God to ask them to pray for us in the 10+ years I've known them.)  I'm specifically wondering this in regard to the actual purpose of prayer.

We know that prayer has some mysterious characteristics.  We know that we can't change God's mind.  If we can't change God's mind, then prayer must be more about changing us than changing God.  We're explicitly told to pray for one another.  God hears my prayers and grieves with me when I come to him, time and time again, with requests that He heal the very sick children of a dear friend.  In praying for my friend's children over the past three years that they've been sick, I have learned much about God.  About His faithfulness, His goodness, His mercy, and His justice.

When I pray for other people, it changes me.  Does the prayer itself change the circumstances?  I don't know.  I just know that God has told me to pray for others, so I do it because I want to obey Him.

So if we know that (1) we cannot change God's mind and (2) prayer (primarily??) changes us, I come back to the question of why pray for the saints.  They're in heaven--they are no longer being perfected.  They are no longer being sanctified or changed.  Unless we believe that they can change God's mind, what is the purpose of them praying on our behalf?

Hi Suzanne,

In my Anglican church, the idea that we can ask God to communicate a prayer request to a saint (which could be your late dad or grandmother), is a very secondary issue. Our Rector might include an article about this in our parish's weekly newsletter every couple of years for All Saints' Day and that's it. He just says that's it's acceptable if you feel led to do this. He's never said anything about it in a sermon or elsewhere. We've never done this within a church service when we pray and I doubt we ever will.

Personally, asking God to bring a prayer request to a saint is a very, very minor part of my prayer life, as I think it should be. But I feel no guilt when I do so.

David,

Perhaps we should take the time to look at Deuteronomy more closely. Moses is giving instruction to the Israelites:

“When you come into the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations.

There shall not be found among you any one who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, any one who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer.

For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord; and because of these abominable practices the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. (Deut 18:9-13)

As Sue points out, all the actions proscribed here involve information flowing from the dead to the living. You can see this today with psychics and tarot card readers. They advertise their services by appealing to our desire to know the future: "Who will you marry? Will you get rich? You can find out from us!"

Further evidence that what is being proscribed here is information from the spirit world comes in the next two verses. Moses anticipates the objection that some would raise to this prohibition. "Wait a sec! You mean they get to hear useful info about the future and we don't?"

For these nations, which you are about to dispossess, give heed to soothsayers and to diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you so to do.

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren—him you shall heed (Deut 18:14-15)

His answer is "Yes, it's true. You will not be allowed to hear all that juicy intel - but God will provide His own alternative who will tell you what you need to be told."

Moses then recounts what he was told by God:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. (Deut. 18:18-19)

God is promising His people that He will look after them information-wise. Of course, He is also putting them on notice that - unlike the soothsayers, etc. - God's prophets will not always be telling the people only what they want to hear.

Now, with what we've been discussing the last few days - prayers to Christian Saints - the information is going the other way: from the living to those in heaven. 

Central to any prayer request is information., e.g. "Please pray for my sister/mother/next-door-neighbor because she is sick/in trouble/needing guidance. Here's her situation..."

Think back to the scenario I gave above. You have died and are in heaven. Your wife remains here on earth. If you, in heaven, are going to pray for the family you left behind, what do you need? Information.

God, of course, has that information. He knows what is happening here and what everyone is praying for. The question is: do you, as a saint in heaven, get that information as well?

The options I can think of are:

 1.You don't - because you don't care to pray for your family.
    "I have more important things to do with my time now."

 2.You don't - because you've forgotten all about them.
    "Who?"

 3.You don't - because you're not allowed to pray.
    "Sit over there, David, and stay quiet"

 4. You don't - because that information is kept secret.
    "Can you tell me, Lord, what has become of my family?" 
    "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."

 5. You do get the information - and you use it to pray for your family.

From my point of view, #5 on that list is the only plausible answer. Which one sounds reasonable to you?

In Christ,

John

Michael,

I understand your reaction to what you are seeing. In a sense, Catholics and Reformed Christians live in different countries. I've traveled a bit in my life and in every country I've visited, there are customs and food that are foreign to me. My first, instinctive reaction is "You do that!? You eat that?!"

I've found that the best course is to check that reaction and try to understand why people act the way they do and eat what they eat. I don't always go along (in China, I drew the line at eating chicken feet), but I've always learned from the explanations I've received.

In the current matter, the best explanation may have been given by St. Augustine when he was confronted by the same concerns that you raise about worshiping saints. In his Reply to Faustus the Manichaean (AD 400), he summarizes the charge:

As to our paying honor to the memory of the martyrs, and the accusation of Faustus, that we worship them instead of idols, I should not care to answer such a charge, were it not for the sake of showing how Faustus, in his desire to cast reproach on us, has overstepped the Manichæan inventions, and has fallen heedlessly into a popular notion found in Pagan poetry, although he is so anxious to be distinguished from the Pagans.  For in saying that we have turned the idols into martyrs, he speaks of our worshipping them with similar rites, and appeasing the shades of the departed with wine and food. 

He goes on to explain the true nature and purpose of Catholic practice. Interestingly, he references the same Scriptures that you do.

It is true that Christians pay religious honor to the memory of the martyrs, both to excite us to imitate them and to obtain a share in their merits, and the assistance of their prayers.

But we build altars not to any martyr, but to the God of martyrs, although it is to the memory of the martyrs. No one officiating at the altar in the saints' burying-place ever says, "We bring an offering to you, O Peter! Or O Paul! Or O Cyprian!" The offering is made to God, who gave the crown of martyrdom, while it is in memory of those thus crowned. The emotion is increased by the associations of the place, and love is excited both towards those who are our examples, and towards Him by whose help we may follow such examples. We regard the martyrs with the same affectionate intimacy that we feel towards holy men of God in this life, when we know that their hearts are prepared to endure the same suffering for the truth of the gospel. There is more devotion in our feeling towards the martyrs, because we know that their conflict is over; and we can speak with greater confidence in praise of those already victors in heaven, than of those still combating here.

What is properly divine worship, which the Greeks call latria, and for which there is no word in Latin, both in doctrine and in practice, we give only to God. To this worship belongs the offering of sacrifices; as we see in the word idolatry, which means the giving of this worship to idols. Accordingly we never offer, or require any one to offer, sacrifice to a martyr, or to a holy soul, or to any angel. Any one falling into this error is instructed by doctrine, either in the way of correction or of caution.

For holy beings themselves, whether saints or angels, refuse to accept what they know to be due to God alone. We see this in Paul and Barnabas, when the men of Lycaonia wished to sacrifice to them as gods, on account of the miracles they performed. They rent their clothes, and restrained the people, crying out to them, and persuading them that they were not gods. We see it also in the angels, as we read in the Apocalypse that an angel would not allow himself to be worshipped, and said to his worshipper, "I am your fellow-servant, and of your brethren." (Contra Faustum XX:21)

In Christ,

John

John,

My keyboard does not allow my to type in Hebrew characters, but the words used, for example, in Deuteronomy 18:11 include mediums, spiritists, and those who call upon the dead. I think what goes on here, in an exchange like this, is that the RC in this debate tends to want to let the Protestants involved in the dialogue know that he is not out at the graveyard trying to contact dead Aunt Mary to find out what next week's winning lottery numbers are, or any other nefarious sounding scheme. The problem I see in this kind of defense is that:

1. The distinctions you continue to draw are not found in this passage in Deuteronomy, since the words in Hebrew do not deal with the direction of information flow. The issue God has is not whether the conversation is two-way, or one-way, or any which-way, but rather, what is forbidden is contact with the dead in any way whatsoever. It has nothing to do with secrets that God is withholding from us, but rather, that we would go to any spirit other than Him for our needs and wants, and that is an issue which I think you need to realize. This is why the passage in Deuteronomy goes on to mention "familiar spirits", which draws from the idea of the spirits of dead ones who we ostensibly knew when they were alive. The distinction you draw is that by praying to the dead, you are not asking them to respond (ironically, I expect God to respond, perhaps not verbally, but I do expect an answer), but the text does not draw that distinction. Again, I believe you are trying to look at the spirit of what RC's do, and while I understand that a person's motives for praying to a saint might not be exactly like that of the witch that Saul called upon, nonetheless, their sin is equivalent according to the Word. So abominable is this practice that God categorically, without qualification, forbids it. Apparently, it is pretty reprehensible, and we can see how it works out when introduced into the church's life, as I will touch upon below.

2. The list of questions that you provide as a kind of proof for praying to the saints is just not working. First of all, everything you are talking about is not open to you and I. God's Word, which for the Protestants on this blog is the only rule for faith and practice, and which is the only epistemologically sound way of knowing God's Word today in its inerrant, authoritative, comprehensive sense, since Jesus and the apostles are not with us in bodily form, this written Word does not provide information on what the saints do in heaven in the areas you wish to develop theologically. And this is why you have to appeal to the kinds of earthly life examples you have, because the Bible does not teach this. So what we have is a completely speculative theology, based upon oral traditions in the RCC which I would lovingly challenge you to demonstrate in any meaningful, academic, textual, or philosophically way can be traced to the apostles. Then, we have the fallacy of equivocation, where we are to believe, completely without God's illumination on the matter, that the interactions between two living people are....what? Are they exactly the same? Are the same in some ways and not others? How do we decide when God has not stated anything on this subject? You bring up my wife as an example - well, in heaven, she's not my wife, Jesus said (Matt. 22:30). Here is just an example that ought to warn us to not lower the glory of heaven by assuming that even the most binding human relationship on earth will be of the same constitution in the life after. When God says that no eye has seen or ear heard what God has planned for those who love Him, it means just that. It aint like earth-livin', only a nicer house.

John, for all you and I know, when we stand in the unmitigated presence of the Almighty, we may very well not remember our families, which from your earthly perspective, I can tell you just cannot comprehend. I don't know one way or the other; you don't know either except on the basis of what some prelate presumed to tell you, who went beyond the Scriptures and attempted to reach into heaven and describe what none of us has any knowledge of. We know that in the New Heavens and New Earth there will be no crying; does that mean we won't remember the people who went to hell? Or, does it mean we'll remember them, but our understanding of God's perfect justice and plan will be so much clearer, that we will not weep for them? I don't know, but I would certainly not become speculative, and bring in my own guess work into the life of the church, and I would not use as my grid a kind of appeal to how we, as mortal sinners, might feel about these things here and now. Clearly, though, we have examples that our future life is going to be radically different than this one, in terms of how we relate to one another, and so these kind of from-the-hip analogies (i.e. think about your wife, in your home, asking you to pray for her, and there you are saying you don't care or remember her or whatever) is just not a theologically sound manner of thinking.

3. Regardless of the clean, sterile, carefully delineated, pinned in version of invocation of the saints from the technical masters of the RCC, the sociological outworking of RC theology has produced all sorts of confusion, from the mass, to Mary appearing in tortillas, to every sort of distraction that takes away from Christ.

We need those things that the Triune God says we need. We need pastors and teachers, for example. It is unBiblical, and spiritually immature, for a believer to say 'I have Christ, so I do not need the church'. Now, where does the Bible say we are to pray to the dead again? If it's there, I want to do it. So far, you are not showing me.

I suppose appealing to the early Fathers would work on another RC, and would make sense for you. However, for us Protestants, sola Scriptura. Show me in the Word where these things are so. And for the record, I should say that the church progresses corporately in her understanding of her Lord (Eph. 4:11-13), so there is nothing which is somehow definitive found in going back to the earliest and youngest days of the church, pretending as if this was the Christian doctrine in its most pure. Read I Cor. 5 and tell me how pure the early church was. What about the heresies and schisms which required hundreds of years and church counsels to contend with? There were good things and bad things in the early church and in their leaders, and we decide that based not on their testimony, but based on God's written testimony. Babies are cute, and babies need time to grow. Few of us would say "I knew the most when I was two years old".

Dear John,

Just like I said, "I don't smell a rat!" is the inevitable reply. I'm convinced the whole catholic apologetic strategy is to keep insisting that no blow has ever been struck till the exhausted pugilist falls down, only to wake up half-way through RCIA.

Okay, so one more punch.

Of course it's right and fitting to honor those who have died in the Lord. But people are always going to be syncretistic, blending in things from their pagan past. Some of it is fine--Christmas trees, for example, don't tempt anyone to idolatry these days (I bet they did back in old Germania though). But often it's a big problem. Ambrose was onto something when he forbade the presentation food and wine at the icons of saints. He saw that rightful veneration could easily swerve into something quite different. 

If you drive into campus, you'll see right at the center, standing on top of our famous Golden Dome, a fifteen foot tall, two-ton statute of Mary, left hand outstretched to hand us God's grace. She gets the prominent spot. Walk around campus, there's more of the same. The rosary prays to Mary over God the Father by a factor of ten. etc. etc.

So what about in all things Christ preeminent? "Ahh, nearly every building has the blessed sacrament in it--my flesh is true food, etc. etc." Right, right, right, right, right, right, never land a blow.

But for those of us jealous for God's glory, who don't take clever sophisms over the plain meaning of God's Word, seeing the saints venerated with the posture and place that belongs only to God rightly stimulates our inner Josiah to start tearing down the high places. 

The most generous construction on the saints stuff is to say that you've in essence made a church principle of eating food sacrificed to idols. By that I mean that Roman Catholicism has elevated to a principle a practice likely to cause people to stumble back into the ways of the old man. Don't believe me, just look at the Roman Church outside of the U.S. 

>>> I suppose appealing to the early Fathers would work on another RC, and would make sense for you.

David, this is an area where we Protestants do err on the side of not honoring our fathers (breaking the 5th Commandment?) We should not, as we commonly come near to doing, reject the early church fathers out of hand. The faithful ones stood in the gap in their day and built bulwarks against error that in some cases stand to this day, like the Nicene Creed and some of the works of the Reformation. But in every case their words must be tested against Scripture -- not against mere men's words as the Roman Catholics do.

Daniel,

Where in my post did I state that we should reject the early church fathers "out of hand"?

David,

I was referring to this part:

I suppose appealing to the early Fathers would work on another RC, and would make sense for you. However, for us Protestants, sola Scriptura. Show me in the Word where these things are so. And for the record, I should say that the church progresses corporately in her understanding of her Lord (Eph. 4:11-13), so there is nothing which is somehow definitive found in going back to the earliest and youngest days of the church, pretending as if this was the Christian doctrine in its most pure. Read I Cor. 5 and tell me how pure the early church was. What about the heresies and schisms which required hundreds of years and church counsels to contend with? There were good things and bad things in the early church and in their leaders, and we decide that based not on their testimony, but based on God's written testimony. Babies are cute, and babies need time to grow. Few of us would say "I knew the most when I was two years old".

But while it's true that there is error in every age, innovations--interpretations that were never seen until our day--are a sign that a doctrine is not true. You wouldn't see Calvin saying, "I suppose appealing to the early Fathers would...make sense for you. However, for us Protestants, sola Scriptura. Show me in the Word where these things are so." Scripture is the bottom line, but still he labored strenuously to show that other church fathers (especially Augustine) preached the same thing, that this was what had been handed down. And I think he was right to make that effort.

In our day, if one were to say, "But Athanasius says..." most Protestants would say in effect, "To hell with Athanasius!" -- refusing on principle to  even evaluate what a father in the faith (at least one before the days of the Reformation) says against Scripture. This is what I'm arguing against. I was afraid you were headed that direction.

Daniel,

I have not read many of the early fathers, but I read alot of Calvin and the Puritans. Now, I learn a lot from them, and I believe that there is something to the idea of confessional Christianity. If I read a verse and come up with an interpretation that no one in 2000 years has seen, then chances are better that my interpretation is incorrect.

My only point is that the only way I can interpret which portions of the writings of previous Christians is Biblically true is to do just that....to see whether what they write is Biblically true. This gets us back to where we started on this thread. What does the Bible say, if anything, about prayers to dead Christians?

David,

I just want to encourage you to continue in this. Do not falter or fail. You are doing well, do not lose heart.

You are an encouragement to me.

Together with you in His service,

Rachel

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