Barber on Saints

Michael Barber has just kicked off a series on the Catholic Understanding of Saints in response to some questions asked by Jim West. This should be interesting. The first post doesn’t really tackle the saints issue but rather focuses on the caricature of Catholic theology that says Catholics believe in salvation by works. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, which should be addressing these questions:

  1. What biblical or theological justification is there to pray for the dead?
  2. What biblical or theological justification is there for believing that the dead pray for us?
  3. How is ‘praying to a saint’ different from idolatry?
  4. Isn’t it idolatrous to place your faith in any for salvation other than Christ?
  5. Isn’t the entire notion of the invocation of the saints idolatrous and blasphemous?

If I can  find some time this weekend I’d like to take a crack at answering some or all of these questions from a non-Catholic perspective. We’ll see what happens.


11 thoughts on “Barber on Saints

  1. I think Jim West has the high ground here myself! But then I am mostly Low Church Anglican now. I have tried in the past to argue for the Catholic position of 2 Tim. 1:16-18, but I think to no avail!

  2. Well, this is a subject which is unquestioned in the ancient Church, and for which I have some answers to the above question from an Orthodox perspective:
    1.) “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
    2.) “Love your neighbour as yourself”
    3.) How would asking anyone to pray with you be idolatry?
    4.) Well, yes, it would, if that’s how one thinks of it, which isn’t proper. Does anyone think help from any other Christian is salvation, or is it merely help toward that goal?
    5.) It is not, and anyone who thinks so is anathema, as declared in the Seventh Ecumenical Council. So nyah.

    “Prayer to the Saints” is the belief in asking those whom we know to have already triumphed, those who enjoy the bliss of salvation already and who have access to the Throne of Grace to intercede for us with Christ our God, for the salvation of our souls. And whenever we’re troubled, we who actually believe that they’re alive in an even more vivid sense than we are here and now have no hesitation in asking for their help in our troubles, whatever they may be. Nor do we hesitate to ask one another here and now in this world to pray with us when we’re in the midst of troubles. It comes down to faith in whether God has done as He promised or not. Are the Martyrs and Saints interceding with Him before His throne (as in the Apocalypse) or not? If someone considers that this is merely a literary trope or somesuch: anathema. It’s not worth refuting, as you’ll merely work yourself up over yet another stupid heresy rearing its ugly head yet again. The Adversary is immortal and very patient, after all. And we are, these days, so very undereducated on these matters that it is easy for him to recycle the old heresies, not least of which are the disbelief in his own existence and his real and malicious effect on human lives!

    Am I objective on this? I had a ruptured eardrum last July that was miraculously healed with no lasting side effects within two days through the intercessions of Saint Nektarios of Aegina. Objectively, as something I have experienced (an event which is documented in my medical records by three different doctors), prayer to the Saints works, and that in the most unexpectedly spectacular and joyful and upbuilding way. I, simply, am joyed to say that I will never doubt again. Any other opinion on the matter is unrealistic, in my experience, and likely based in prejudice and modernistic superstition.

  3. Vivator: Thanks, I’ll take a look.

    Fr. Robert: I’d disagree. I think the history of interpretation and practice favors the Catholic view.

    Kevin: Thank you for the answers and testimony. I’m in much the same boat as you. I touched on the subject a couple of years ago and equated asking “dead” saints to pray with them or for them is no different than asking “living saints” to do it. Of course God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22:32) so the distinction really doesn’t even need to be made.

  4. I’m looking forward to this series also. I seriously need to understand the Catholic position on this….

  5. Thanks Nick, funny enough I have the Catechism in front of me but it is quite a huge book. I must get stuck in though and read it, but coincidently was enjoying your new post on this subject ;-)

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