Thursday, October 05, 2006

Eight Key Points: Part One (Praying to Saints)

Here is my first in a series of posts in response to the beforementioned Eight Key Points Against Catholicism.
1. I don't believe in praying to saints. There is only one mediator and that is Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy 2:5)
Yet, "are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?" (Heb 1:14). One can pray to the saints, believe in their intercession, and still agree with this verse. The key is in understanding Jesus' mediatorship. What does it really do, and how does this compare to what the saints do?

A mediator is one who speaks or acts on behalf of another, or one who brings estranged parties to agreement. That is essentially what Jesus does. He reconciled man to the Lord "once for all" because we could not, and he continues to mediate by communicating the Lord's graces to man. No Christian (as far as I know) would disagree with this.

Now, if this is indeed how we understand the mediatorship of Jesus, why do Protestants use this verse to refute praying to the saints? The saints do not perform the function of Christ. They do not atone for our sin. They do not stand between me and the Lord anymore than you do when you pray for me.

See the difference? What they do is entirely different than what Jesus does.

When we pray to the saints, we are soliciting their prayers. We hope to capitalize on their wisdom and virtue, which creates perfect prayers to the Lord. "The prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (Jas 5:16, KJV). "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer" (1 Pet 3:12). Even when we say things like "St. Joseph, help me to be a good father" or "St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle" we know that they answer our prayers not by their own power, but either by the power that the Lord gives them (the Lord gave St. Michael power over demons and the devil), or by the Lord himself answering the prayers of the saints. Essentially, the saints are "subordinate mediators" or "intercessors."

For one, intercession is something we are all exhorted to do. In just a couple verses prior to the one you cited, Paul writes to Timothy:
1 Tim 2:1-3 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. 3 This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior
In fact, Paul is in many places urging the churches to take up this intercession (cf. Rom 15:30; 2 Cor 1:11; Eph 6:18-19; Col 4:3; 1 Thes 5:17,25; 2 Thes 3:1; Philemon 1:22; Heb 13:18-19), as are James (cf. Jam 5:14,16) and John (1 Jn 5:16). Paul himself was constantly praying for the churches (cf. 2 Cor 13:7,9; Col 1:3,9; 2 Thes 1:11; 2 Tim 1:3), taking it upon himself to play this intercessory role. John did too (3 Jn 1:2). Yet, we would never accuse Paul of rejecting the one mediatorship of Christ simply because he asked others to pray for him, and we would not accuse him of standing between the churches and God whenever he prayed for others. Similarly then, you should not accuse Catholics of rejecting Jesus' mediatorship when we ask the saints to pray for us, and you should not accuse the saints of standing between us and God when they respond to this request.

Secondly, God wills that we participate in His work in a subordinate, or lesser, or indirect way. Note that when we pray for others, God works with that prayer to bring good to his people:
2 Cor 1:11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us in answer to many prayers.

Phil 1:19 Yes, and I shall rejoice. For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance

Jam 5:15 and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

1 Jn 5:16 If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that.
Phil 1:19 is particulary poignant. Paul knows that through their prayers and the help of the Spirit he will be delivered. The Philippians aren't interfering with the work of Christ! The Philippians and Christ are working together! The saints in heaven work with Christ too, to bring good to all those who ask for their intercession.

Of course, this doesn't mean that Jesus' mediatorship is weak, or that he needs the saints in order to grant us grace. He can certainly do all things on his own. Yet, as the creation of God with a special dignity, he allows us to work with him through his grace to be his instruments, even for the salvation of the world:
Rom 11:13-14 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.

1 Cor 7:16 Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?

1 Cor 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

1 Tim 4:16 Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Jas 5:20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Jude 1:22-23 And convince some, who doubt; 23 save some, by snatching them out of the fire; on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
I hope that helps. Now, on to your next point ...

4 comments:

Laura said...

Really well done. I'm looking forward to the others!

Joseph said...

James 4:3 - Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. It's your choice to pray to saints - but why not pray to the one who gets things done? is it because you realize he's not going to give it to you? or that you're wrong for asking? The saints are interceding for our ignorance. Jesus said to pray "Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven" Is it our "Fathers Will" you're praying for? or is it your own selfish desire - then you might want to hit up the saints.

phatcatholic said...

Joseph,

You assume too much, my friend! Not once did I say that the saints were a replacement for Jesus Christ. Actually, my words were: "They do not stand between me and the Lord anymore than you do when you pray for me."

It is very audacious of you to assume that Catholics pray to the saints as an alternative to Jesus because they know they are praying out of some selfish desire. We long to do his Will, just as you do, and we are not afraid to approach our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For some reason, people assume that if we pray to the saints (aka, request their intercession) then that must mean we don't ever pray to Jesus. I hope you don't ever ask anyone to pray for you, because someone of like mind as yourself might accuse you of the same thing.

I thank you for sharing your opinion with me, but you didn't do much in the way of a scholarly refutation. Engage the actual scripture verses I use and the arguments I make. You will be much more effective when you take that route.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Anonymous said...

Are there any verses in the Bible that says we should pray to ask the saints for help?

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