Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Facebook Apologetics: Veneration vs. Worship, Pt. 1

Next in my "Facebook Apologetics" series is a debate on how the Catholic veneration of the saints is distinct from his worship of the Lord. There are a handful of participants in this one, which made it much longer than my previous Facebook debates. For those who stick it out to the end, I think (or at least hope) you will find many arguments that you can put to good use in defense of the Church.

The debate begins with "Kenneth." Below are his words with my point-by-point rebuttal. His words will be indented.

How is "veneration" different from worship? The thesaurus and dictionary list it as a synonym. Define both terms.

From the Merriam Webster Dictionary
1: to regard with reverential respect or with admiring deference
2: to honor (as an icon or a relic) with a ritual act of devotion
Synonyms: adore, DEIFY, glorify, revere, reverence, WORSHIP

1:chiefly British : a person of importance —used as a title for various officials (as magistrates and some mayors)
2: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence
3: a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual
4: extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem
Synonyms: adulation, deification, hero worship, idolatry, idolization, worshipping

So, you asked me to explain how the two are different. I see that your dictionary provides “worship” as a synonym for “veneration.” I grant that the two words are similar in meaning, but that doesn’t mean there is no distinction to be made. Looking at the other synonyms, surely you grant that “worshipping” is not the same as “hero worship” or “deification.” Each synonym is similar but also different, and it is in the difference that we determine which word to use.

You asked me what Catholics mean by these words and I’m telling you, Catholics don’t use these words in the same way. “Veneration” is the word used to refer to the honor we give to the saints. “Worship” is the word used to refer to the honor we give to the Lord. That’s really all there is to it. The honor we give to the saints is not the same as the honor we give to the Lord.

Venerate is not a biblical term. The way it would most likely be translated into Koine Greek is προσκυνεω, then to English as worship.

The Koine Greek word translated "Worship." It is a verb of movement of limbs or of the body

4352 προσκυνεω proskuneo pros-koo-neh’-o

from 4314 and a probable derivative of 2965 (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand); TDNT-6:758,948; v

AV-worship 60; 60

1) to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence
2) among the Orientals, esp. the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence
3) in the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication
3a) used of homage shown to men and beings of superior rank
3a1) to the Jewish high priests
3a2) to God
3a3) to Christ
3a4) to heavenly beings
3a5) to demons

That honor would be given to the saints or to any human being is itself a very biblical principle. Paul says, “Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due” (Rom 13:7). And again, “I am the more eager to send him [Epaphroditus], therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy; and honor such men” (Phil 2:28-29). Peter is helpful here too: “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet 2:17). There are several examples in the OT as well, but two shall suffice. From Leviticus, “You shall rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD” (19:32). From 2 Chronicles, “And Hezeki'ah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the ascent of the tombs of the sons of David; and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honor at his death. And Manas'seh his son reigned in his stead” (32:33).

You may not find the actual word “veneration” in the bible, but the principle to which the word refers is indeed biblical, and that is the important thing. There are many words that Protestants use that aren’t in the bible (e.g., “Trinity,” “bible,” “incarnation,” etc.). Let’s make sure we do not descend into the quibbling over words that Paul so harshly rebuked (cf. 1 Tim 6:4; 2 Tim 2:14).

Pax Christi,

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