Bayou Calvinist

A Somewhat Eclectic Discussion by a Law Student Concerning All of Today's Major Topics, as well as, a Few Not So Major Topics

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Always, Only in the Worst Light...

Coming from a protestant background I often worry that my judgments on certain Roman Catholic doctrines are a bit too harsh and perhaps unfair. One such doctrine has especially tweeked my interest, as of late. The act of praying to/through the saints. As it is explained to me (please correct me if I err) the basic concept is that just as we living ask others to pray on our behalf, so, the Roman Catholic's (probably also many other denominations as well) ask the saint to pray on their behalf. When it is put that way it is more difficult to find fault with the practice.

A few points, though.

First: Some Catholics have told to me in private conversation something to the effect---"of course God would listen more to a saint than a mere sinner such as myself." When it comes to this aspect, at least, I whole-heartedly disagree. I do not know whether this is a view held by the Roman Church but I hope not. It is common-sensicle, at least to me that all saints are merely human and as such are just as sinful in their nature as any others. To suppose that somehow God would distinguish between two faithful sinners and prefer one to another seems suggest he has any greater love for the one than the other also is hard for me to believe. For if certain humans are believed to be less sinful, more loved, or somehow closer to God, does that not deminish their need for salvation to the same degree? I can see one finding difference between non-believers and believers, perhaps, but other than that I have a hard time going any further.

Second: I do not recall any example set out in the Bible of praying (or asking to pray) to dead prophets in the Bible. Please if there is such an example let me know. In this request I am in earnest.

Third: Assuming that the second point is true, where does such a practice come from? It is reminiscent of both ancestor worship and polytheism to the outsider looking in. Granted neither of these facts change the validity of the position, but they do set out my concerns in accepting such a practice.

Fourth: Perhaps one could make an argument about praying to Mary or Elisha due to the fact that they bodily arose into heaven. Maybe this connection makes them more like Jesus than everyday humans. Note: as far as Mary I do not at all believe in the assumption, but for sake of making a consistent argument from which a believing Roman Catholic could draw logical argument, I fealt it necessary to propose it.

Lastly: If you are Roman Catholic, know that I believe that our shared beliefs far outweigh those on which we disagree. I am glad to include a few devout (or at least as devout as I in my faith) Roman Catholics amongst my truest friends---I mean come on...I live in Louisiana (south of I-10).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of your attempts at coming to terms with the differences between Roman Catholic doctrine and Protestant doctrine on this issue are contingent upon the assumption that they are not praying "to the saints", but rather "through the saints". This may be too lofty of an assumption. Having grown up Catholic, my understanding of the issue is that they actually are praying to saints. Now, they may say that the saints petition God on their behalf, but the flaws in this are obvious:
First, all Christians are called saints 53 times in the New Testament. It is very clear that there is no heirarchy of righteousness among Christians. Therefore, why pray to dead saints when there are hundreds of live saints all around you, who are involved in your life, and love you. I am not however saying that I believe that it is wrong to pray WITH one of the traditional Catholic saints if that is something that you feel led to do. I am only saying that praying TO saints and ignoring the fact that all Christians are saints is wrong and potoentially harmful to a closer understanding of absolute truth.
Secondly, Jesus himself said multiple times that "There is no need for a mediator.
1 Timothy 2:5 - For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
John 16:26 In that day you will ask in my name; and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father.

If you understand (or at least partially understand) the trinity, you can understand that what Jesus is saying is that, through Me, you have been made righteous, and consequently, can go directly to the father with your prayers.
As for the rest of your blog on this issue, it would take too long for me to respond right now...(Mary ascending whole-bodied into heaven...where did they get this stuff?)

posted by Brady see Bradymerica

11:00 AM  
Blogger BlakeC said...

I don't disagree with you. If the Catholic doctrine is to pray to the saints, themselves, then obviously it is in error. For if that is the case then there is essentially no difference between their practice and polytheism (simply because they have a heirarchy and put God the Father and Jesus above these lesser saints, doesn't mean it's any less polytheistic than were the Roman and Greek gods before them, which had a certain heirarchy as well).

It is my understanding that the Roman Caholic position is that they are asking the saints to pray on their behalf (not necessarily as a mediator just along with their prayers, as well). At least this is what I have been told is the case post-Vatican II (although I'd be surprised if the belief were greatly different prior to Vatican II). My sources on this matter not only include Catholic laymen but also a Professor of Religion at LSU, whose specialty is Roman Catholicism (he's not Catholic himself). I feel it sets a dangerous precedent to not take another at their word, when being informed of what their religion holds concerning its own practices. To do otherwise, would make it nearly impossible to have any meaningful conversation with those of other religions. The two sides in such a conversation would be passing ships in the night, always talking past one another. For instance, several conversations I have had with devout Muslims about Christian belief have been impossible, because my Muslim friends would unfailingly state that Christians were polytheists due to our belief in the Trinity. No matter how I stated my case, they refused to accept my word as a true understanding of Christian doctrine.

Having said all of this, I do not think that asking a Roman Catholic saint to pray for you is necessary. Infact, I think it is slightly dangerous. The idea that one needs a mediator is wrong. And the idea that these saints are at all above any other faithful Christian is just also wrong based on the Bible's teachings. My main concern with Roman Catholic doctrine on this issue is that even if the above are not the official positions of the Roman Catholic Church, the practice of praying to/through the saints certainly confuses the issue and might lead some to truly believe all of the above. In other words I don't feel the practice is worth the risk.

I was simply making the point that on a theoretical plain, asking a dead saint to pray for you is not necessarilly much different from asking a living saint to pray for you.

11:22 AM  

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