Catholic saints versus Christian saints

Recently there was a lot of publicity about the declaration by Pope Francis that over 800 people were now recognized by the Roman Catholic church as saints. This declaration is yet another example of how far removed the Roman Catholic church is from Biblical Christianity. The Bible makes it clear that all Christians are saints from the day they are redeemed. Almost every reference to saints in the New Testament is to the Christians who are alive at that time. Here are just a few examples:

saints at Jerusalem (Acts 9:13).

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints (Romans 1:7).

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints (1 Corinthians 1:2).

As in all the churches of the saints (1 Corinthians 14:33).

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:1)

As a Christian, I am a saint (holy) because I have the holy righteousness of Jesus Christ. The Roman Catholic church has perverted the idea of saints. In Jude 1:3, the term saints is again used to describe the living Christians:

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).

This verse also points to the falsehood of the Roman Catholic church. Not only have they perverted the meaning of the term saints, but they do not teach that the faith was delivered “once for all.” They have been adding and changing the beliefs for thousands of years by going beyond the Scriptures.

So, I hope you are a saint today, saved by faith alone in the the blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And, if you are a saint, you should be in God’s house worshiping and studying with other saints this weekend.

 

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Catholic saints versus Christian saints

  1. A like this, and I have to agree completely with it.

    However, my reason for posting is that about two weeks ago I commented on a blog here about the gates of Hell, and now I am unable to comment again. Just wondering why.

  2. Hi Shem,

    Comments were set to close on posts after 1 week. I have changed that to 2 months. You should be able to comment on that older post now.

    Regards,

    Dale

  3. We still use the word “saint” in the biblical sense, too. We just mean something different and specific when we speak of the “saints” in heaven. The word, you know, is ἁγιος or ἁγια in Greek; sanctus or sancta in Latin. Literally, the saints — sancti — are the holy ones, the set apart ones. And our departed brothers and sisters in heaven are certainly that.

    The bottom line: Do you believe there are people in heaven? Then you believe in saints — “holy ones” — in the sense we speak of them.

    I can see that this is an ongoing crusade for you. Consider me along for the ride. 🙂

  4. Welcome to the ride Joseph! I appreciate that we can have cordial debate. I may not always have time to engage your comments, but will do the best I can.

    Again, I think you are being disingenuous by highlighting where there may be similarities in our beliefs and completely avoiding the places where there are vast chasms separating us. So, before I will say whether or not I believe in saints in the same sense you speak of them, we have to uncover the actual Roman Catholic definition.

    So, my question for you is how did the Roman Catholic church determine that these 800 people are now saints in heaven?

  5. I’ve been on both sides, recently. I still have one foot in the Protestant world, in my family and friends. So yes, I am trying to build bridges. But as Christians, we do share a common faith, even if we so often talk past each other and refuse to see it.

    How did the Church determine these various people were in heaven? Very carefully? Some, like the early martyrs, there has never really been any doubt: it was understood that those who gave their lives for the faith received a crown in heaven (cf. Revelation 6:9). Gradually, the Church began to recognize “confessors” as doubtlessly having received a reward — people who may not have died for the faith, but nonetheless gave their whole lives to it, lived lives bearing much good fruit. This was usually by wide agreement and with the approval of the local bishop — people like St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Gregory the Great, for example, whose legacy we feel even today. Over the centuries, a formal process developed of canonization, of verifying facts and taking testimony about the person’s life and death and formally declaring that they lived and died the way they were reputed to have. As there got to be more and more of them — as you say, 800, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! — the process became more and more stringent. Today, it requires years of investigation and a series of verified miracles attributed to that person’s intercession. So, we pray to God, asking for these folks’ intercession, and if there’s then a miracle — and it does happen — we feel safe saying the person is in heaven.

    So yes, we are much more careful about making such a statement than most people, who say comforting things like, “Oh, now she’s in a better place,” whether or not there’s any real reason to think that. And by the way, just because somebody isn’t declared a “saint” formally doesn’t mean we think they’re not in heaven. In any cemetery — even Protestant cemeteries! — we know that there are so many loved ones who’ve received their reward.

  6. Can Satan perform miracles? Yes, he can.

    So, how do you know that these supposed miracles were caused by people in heaven? Even if the “miracle” was real, the answer is that you don’t know what caused the miracle.

    And, what if you are praying to a person who is actually in Hell and God allows Satan to perform the false miracle to harden you in your sin of praying to people rather than God?

    • Can Satan perform miracles? Yes, he can. So, how do you know that these supposed miracles were caused by people in heaven?

      Because we prayed to God? It would seem to be counter to Satan’s purposes to answer prayers for good in the name of God. Jesus reminds us — when it was similarly supposed that he performed miracles by demonic powers — that, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand; and if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:25-26)

      Even if the “miracle” was real, the answer is that you don’t know what caused the miracle.

      Heh. Can I suppose, by your mocking quotes, that you don’t believe in miracles?

      And, what if you are praying to a person who is actually in Hell and God allows Satan to perform the false miracle to harden you in your sin of praying to people rather than God?

      (1) We are not praying “to” someone other than God. We are praying (beseeching, pleading, petitioning) our brothers and sisters in Christ to intercede to God on our behalf. We do that all the time with people on earth, and you don’t suppose we are “praying to a person.” We believe these people are in Christ and with Christ. In actuality, we are paying to God, asking for His help, through the intercession of said intercessor. God is the only One who answers prayer, Who performs miracles — these folks are only our dear ones who join with us — as we are all joined in the Body of Christ — to earnestly plead. Very often — probably more often than not, in fact — such prayers “to” saints are worded, “Lord God, through the intercession of Saint Joseph, please hear our petition.”

      (2) You have not demonstrated that it is a “sin” to seek the intercession of other people. I have given you several passages of Scripture (see the thread on Mary, I think?) indicating, in fact, the opposite, which you have not refuted. I will refresh your memory:
      a. Matthew 22:32: God is the God of the living, not the dead. Do you suppose our blessed brothers and sisters who have died in the friendship of God are “dead”?
      b. Luke 16:19-31: Jesus presents in a parable the rich man “praying” (pleading for help) to Abraham, who is “dead.” What makes you suppose that “praying” to someone “dead” is a “sin”?
      c. 1 Timothy 2:1-7: Paul urges that “intercessions be made for all men” — that is, that we pray for each other, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.
      d. Romans 12:5: Paul reminds us that we are “one body in Christ,” and are “individually members of one another” — a body that works together to build each member up in love, in the unity of faith (Ephesians 4:11-16), that shares in the sufferings of Christ (Colossians 1:24) and of each other (2 Corinthians 1:6-7). So do you suppose our loved ones who are now in glory with Christ are no longer part of that body?
      e. Revelation 5:6-8: The revelation presents the twenty-four elders (representative, perhaps, of the Apostles and Patriarchs) offering up to the throne of God “the prayers of all the saints” (meaning, as you like to remind us, the holy ones living on earth, but also apparently the martyrs who have died for Christ and apostles and prophets (cf. Rev 16:6, 17:6, 18:20 — being drunk on the “blood of saints” implies that the saints have shed their blood).

      In short: We prayed, invoking a particular name, asking that person to intercede for us, and asking God to answer our prayer, with the specific aim of confirming that person’s intercession. So when these miracles rain down, we have more reason to think that person is in heaven than you have to think he is not.

      • Joseph,

        I enjoy our discussions, but it is hard to dialogue with you because every post diverges into a thousand topics. I do not have to “refute” every random claim that you make. I will tackle a few here.

        First, it has already been established by Pope Francis that you pray “to” saints. Even in your carefully worded prayer where you try to skirt around this you still end up praying “to” the saints:

        “Lord God, through the intercession of Saint Joseph, please hear our petition.”

        Who are you asking to hear this prayer? If it is God, then you are asking God to ask Joseph to ask God to hear your petition. Ridiculous. You clearly expect Joseph to hear your prayer and take it to God. So, Roman Catholics do clearly pray to their saints.

        So, I deny your claim that a prayer to a saint (even if it is for intercession) is a prayer to God. Joseph Smith’s said (and perhaps even thought) he prayed to God and witnessed a miracle. Yet we both believe he was deceived (and/or a liar). I have spoken to devote Mormons who believe they are praying directly to God and have witnessed miracles. Their experiences are no more valid than those claimed by Roman Catholics.

        Of course I believe in miracles. Otherwise my concern that the miracles could be by the power of Satan would have no basis. Again, I deny that prayers to saints are prayers to God, so the argument regarding a divided kingdom does not hold.

        You like to play rather fast and loose with your definitions and force me to prove a negative. For example, you stated

        “You have not demonstrated that it is a “sin” to seek the intercession of other people.”

        Yet, here you want the term people to mean both people with flesh and bones and people in heaven (but not non-believers, probably not people in purgatory, …). I would challenge you to demonstrate from Scripture that we are directed to pray to dead people. Prove your affirmative as is required in a debate.

        Still, I will address the Scripture you included:

        a) Matthew 22:32: God is the God of the living, not the dead.

        First, this verse is not about prayer in any way. You are using this as a proof text to confirm your belief. No one reading Matthew 22 would ever get from it, “Oh, I am supposed to pray to people in heaven.”

        b) Luke 16:19-31: Jesus presents in a parable the rich man “praying” (pleading for help) to Abraham, who is “dead.” What makes you suppose that “praying” to someone “dead” is a “sin”?

        You have one dead person calling out to another dead person to another dead person that he can see. Again, this passage is not about prayer or even about people living on earth talking with people who are dead. You cannot just read your chosen categories of people into this passage.

        c) 1 Timothy 2:1-7: Paul urges that “intercessions be made for all men”.

        Look at the context and even expand it verse 8. This passage does address prayer and it never once suggests praying to or through dead saints. The passage says we should prayer and make intercession “FOR” all men, specifically:

        “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

        d) d. Romans 12:5: Paul reminds us that we are “one body in Christ”.

        Context, context, context! Paul makes it clear who he is addressing in this letter to “all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Romans 1:7). This is a hand-written letter to people that are alive. Romans 12:5 is not about prayer and is most certainly not related to praying to or through dead people. Again, you are reading your beliefs into this passage.

        e) Revelation 5:6-8.

        This is actually the best verse you have presented. The others are absolutely worthless in building a Biblical case for prayer to the saints. You have to start with your beliefs and use those other verses as out-of-context proof texts.

        At least in this one we have some interaction between those in heaven and “prayers of the saints”. But, it too cannot be used to build a case from the Bible for this heretical Roman Catholic teaching:

        1) It is highly symbolic in nature and therefore difficult to derive a prescriptive practice from. For example, do you believe that if you pray to a saint that they magically turn your words into incense?

        2) It only describes the 24 elders as having access to these prayers. Even if you wanted to use this to build your case, you would have to limit it to the key 24 of which (as you note) it is not clear who these are. For example, was the apostle John seeing himself if it is the 12 apostles?

        You then come to a false conclusion based upon pragmatism:

        “In short: We prayed, invoking a particular name, asking that person to intercede for us, and asking God to answer our prayer, with the specific aim of confirming that person’s intercession. So when these miracles rain down, we have more reason to think that person is in heaven than you have to think he is not.”

        On what basis do you argue with the Mormon who claims he prayed to his god and received a miracle and a blessing? Or the pagan who receives power or witnesses miracles praying to her idols? Your prayers to/through the saints and the associated miracles are just as suspect, and I would argue, just as evil.

      • One thing: I am not denying that we “pray to the saints” — but you are making that out to be a type of worship or something, which it is not. That is the distinction I’m trying to make. It is an entreaty for intercession. What do you think it means to “pray”? You speak as if “prayer” is something reserved only for God, but in the sense I am using it, it is a petition or entreaty from anybody. And yes, we expect the saints to hear that. I don’t know why you suppose there’s something wrong with that.

        Joseph Smith’s said (and perhaps even thought) he prayed to God and witnessed a miracle. Yet we both believe he was deceived (and/or a liar). I have spoken to devote Mormons who believe they are praying directly to God and have witnessed miracles. Their experiences are no more valid than those claimed by Roman Catholics.

        The miracles I am speaking of are all carefully documented, not merely anybody “thinking” or “claiming” they’ve witnessed a miracle. Generally these are medical miracles, and in such cases it is a simple matter to document an unexplained recovery from a disease or illness or disability.

        I would challenge you to demonstrate from Scripture that we are directed to pray to dead people. Prove your affirmative as is required in a debate.

        Formal prayers to the saints can be documented as early as the third century; and belief in the communion of saints — that we are all connected, both the living and the dead in Christ — can be documented to the early second. So this is an historic Christian practice, held true by the earliest Christians, and by that very fact, it doesn’t have to be “proven.” You are the one arguing against an established practice; the burden is on you.

        You are using this as a proof text to confirm your belief.

        Did you not even read my commentary? No, these verses do not “confirm my belief” and were not intended to. But they establish principles which support the practice. God is the God of the living, not the dead. Do you really suppose that our departed Christian brothers and sisters are “dead people”?

        You cannot just read your chosen categories of people into this passage.

        Again, I indicated that this proves nothing, other than the fact that Jesus presented a (fictional) example of someone having an ability to communicate with a “dead person” — and He did not condemn the idea.

        This passage does address prayer and it never once suggests praying to or through dead saints. The passage says we should prayer and make intercession “FOR” all men, specifically…

        Do you think we no longer have an obligation to intercede for each other when we cross over to the next life? And again, who’s “dead”?

        Romans 12:5 is not about prayer and is most certainly not related to praying to or through dead people. Again, you are reading your beliefs into this passage.

        I didn’t say it was about prayer. I said it was about all believers having communion with one another in the Body of Christ.

        The others are absolutely worthless in building a Biblical case for prayer to the saints. You have to start with your beliefs and use those other verses as out-of-context proof texts.

        They proved the points the presented them to prove, just not the ones you tried to take them to prove. If we are joined to one another in the Body of Christ, why would you think that any part of that Body is cut off?

        On what basis do you argue with the Mormon who claims he prayed to his god and received a miracle and a blessing? Or the pagan who receives power or witnesses miracles praying to her idols? Your prayers to/through the saints and the associated miracles are just as suspect, and I would argue, just as evil.

        On the fact that these “claims” of miracles are well and carefully documented. Again, it is you challenging this practice as something “evil.” You have yet to indicate why you think it is “evil.”

  7. A brief and worthwhile article (and not written from a Catholic bias) on the formal process of identifying and documenting these miracles:

    The Science of Miracles: How the Vatican Decides

  8. The way I see it: Does Scripture prohibit it? No. Does it involve giving glory to anybody but God? No, God is glorified even more greatly for the good work He did in His saints and the work He continues to do through them. Is it harmful to my faith or anyone else? No, it makes me even more certain, more faithful and more trusting in God’s power and mercy. It seems to me to be a positive good.

    So you suggest these miracles might be the work of Satan. What good would it do Satan to give people even more faith in God? I suppose you will argue that it is an act of deception, to “mislead” believers — but what good would it do to mislead them into having even more faith? If it is a deception into “false doctrine,” it seems an awful lot of work to go to, with a very dubious gain, for a belief that is at best marginal to the question of salvation.

    Suppose, on the other hand, that it’s all made up, just a bunch of bunk; the saints in heaven can’t hear us at all. What have we lost? We’ve praised God for a lot of miracles that for some reason He saw fit to bless us with anyway, regardless of whatever we were wrong about. God is merciful and loving to His children even if they are silly. I am pretty sure various Protestant groups have their own doctrines that are incorrect and silly, but for some reason God keeps blessing them, too.

  9. Joseph,

    I continue to appreciate the time you take to respond and am sorry when I do not get back to every comment you post.

    Again you are falling back on the same pragmatic argument that is made by the wicked prosperity gospel preachers: “I prayed to God and he multiplied my fortune and gave me great health. Praise God!” Tens of thousands of people crowd into their churches on a Sunday morning to hear these prosperity gospel heretics “praise God.” Millions watch them on TV and buy their books. By your logic, this must also be from God because they are praising God and holding up their Bibles for all to see. And God just keeps blessing them and their “incorrect and silly” doctrines with bigger houses, fancier cars, and faster Lear jets. Is that evidence of God blessing them, their ministry and their message? Or, rather is it God allowing them to receive what they desire above him and harden them in that sin.

    Now, perhaps, just perhaps, you are able to pray to a saint and still give 100% of the glory to God. But, I think the evidence is pretty clear that the average Roman Catholic who bows before a statue of Mary, prays to Mary, buries a statue of Saint Joseph in the yard to sell their house, or prays to Saint Anthony to help them find their lost wallet is not loving God with all their heart, mind and soul. They are worshiping idols.

    I certainly do not want to risk offending my jealous God by praying to others because of some non-Biblical tradition. Rather I will follow the teachings and example of Jesus. He was a perfect man with a perfect relationship with the Father and did not deem it necessary or beneficial to pray to the saints.

    Regards,

    Dale

    • Thanks. I think this particular argument may be driven into the ground. I was curious about what you thought of my summary of what I think are our differing understandings of “works’ salvation” in one of the other posts.

      Finally:

      But, I think the evidence is pretty clear that the average Roman Catholic who bows before a statue of Mary, prays to Mary, buries a statue of Saint Joseph in the yard to sell their house, or prays to Saint Anthony to help them find their lost wallet is not loving God with all their heart, mind and soul. They are worshiping idols.

      That’s not clear to me at all. First, I’ve never seen anybody “bow” before a statue of Mary. People kneel in Catholic churches because that is a position of prayer. My church only has a few statues of various saints on high shelves around the nave, not anywhere where somebody could even kneel before them, let alone “bow”! We kneel in prayer at our pews.

      I haven’t been Catholic very long, so I don’t know much about those folk practices you refer to — but that’s all they are, is folk practices. There may be pious belief attached to them, but certainly no glory is given to saints that is rightly due to God. And yes, I have prayed to St. Anthony in such troubled times, and it has given me peace of mind. This in particular is a prayer to St. Anthony that I love:

      St. Anthony, when you prayed, your stolen book of prayers was given back to you. Pray now for all of us who have lost things precious and dear. Pray for all who have lost faith, hope or the friendship of God. Pray for us who have lost friends or relatives by death. Pray for all who have lost peace of mind or spirit. Pray that we may be given new hope, new faith, new love. Pray that lost things, needful and helpful to us, may be returned to our keeping. Or, if we must continue in our loss, pray that we may be given Christ’s comfort and peace. Amen.

      Now, what is objectionable about that? In what way does this give glory to anybody but God?

      Now, the Catholic Church teaches pretty strongly against worshipping idols, as all Christians do. So that is a pretty serious and hurtful charge, and every Catholic I know would deny it. Tell me, if a whole bunch of people insist to you that they are not giving glory to anyone but God, certainly not worshipping anybody but God, who are you to judge what is in their hearts?

      You suppose, apparently, that loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength implies that we shouldn’t love anybody else — that God is somehow “jealous” of the love we have for our Christian brothers and sisters. But I rather got the impression that we were supposed to love both God and our neighbor, especially our Christian brother and sister (John 13:34).

      I certainly do not want to risk offending my jealous God by praying to others because of some non-Biblical tradition. Rather I will follow the teachings and example of Jesus. He was a perfect man with a perfect relationship with the Father and did not deem it necessary or beneficial to pray to the saints.

      You know, technically, there weren’t any saints when Jesus walked the earth. But He did much better, even calling down the prophets Moses and Elijah to speak to him face to face!

      • First, I’ve never seen anybody “bow” before a statue of Mary. People kneel in Catholic churches because that is a position of prayer.

        A little Google search can show you plenty of images of Roman Catholics (including popes) kneeling and/or bowing in prayer before statues of Mary and other saints. Now you can call this reverence or devotion, but I call this worship and idolatry. It certainly appears to violate the 2nd commandment:

        You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them (Exodus 20:4-5).

        And yes, I have prayed to St. Anthony in such troubled times, and it has given me peace of mind.

        Why not follow the example of St. Anthony and pray to God? Isn’t that what worked for him? Was the power in HIS prayer or in God? If it is God who should get all the glory, why then go to St. Anthony when you have absolutely no knowledge of whether or not he can even hear your prayers.

        As for your peace of mind. So what? People pray to Hindu gods all the time and get a peace of mind. The question is whether or not we are doing as God commanded.

        You suppose, apparently, that loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength implies that we shouldn’t love anybody else — that God is somehow “jealous” of the love we have for our Christian brothers and sisters. But I rather got the impression that we were supposed to love both God and our neighbor, especially our Christian brother and sister (John 13:34).

        The issue at hand remains whether or not we should pray to the dead saints. Obviously I can love people without praying to them. On the other hand, I know clearly from Scripture that I am to pray to God because of my love for him and in response to his love for me.

        You know, technically, there weren’t any saints when Jesus walked the earth. But He did much better, even calling down the prophets Moses and Elijah to speak to him face to face!

        And how is this relevant to praying to dead saints? He was speaking to them face-to-face. Again, we have no record in Scripture of anyone praying to dead saints and no direction to do so.

        What we really come down to is that you put your trust in the teachings of the Roman Catholic church and (it seems) your feelings, while I put my trust in the teachings of God’s Holy Word, the Bible.