Saturday, July 06, 2013

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT SAINTHOOD - A FACEBOOK RESPONSE

In a Facebook post about recent news on possible sainthood for Pope John Paul II, one commenter posts:

How does the Roman Catholic understanding of “saints” compare with the biblical teaching? Not very well. In Roman Catholic theology, the saints are in heaven. In the Bible, the saints are on earth. In Roman Catholic teaching, a person does not become a saint unless he/she is “beatified” or “canonized” by the Pope or prominent bishop. In the Bible, everyone who has received Jesus Christ by faith is a saint. In Roman Catholic practice, the saints are revered, prayed to, and in some instances, worshipped. In the Bible, saints are called to revere, worship, and pray to God alone.

+++MY RESPONSE +++

YOU SAY: In Roman Catholic theology, the saints are in heaven. In the Bible, the saints are on earth. 

Actually our church teaches that it's both - the saints are in heaven and on earth. We call this the "communion of saints": "'What is the Church if not the assembly of all the saints?' The communion of saints is the Church."(Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 946)

In the Bible, we find the saints in heaven quite clearly in Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses...” And John, in recording his vision of heaven writes:  “And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.” (KJV)


YOU SAY: In Roman Catholic teaching, a person does not become a saint unless he/she is “beatified” or “canonized” by the Pope or prominent bishop.

First off, for several centuries, only the Pope, not a prominent bishop, has the final say on canonization. Second, canonization does not make a saint, God does. Canonization only bestows an official recognition. There are (we hope) billions of souls who are in the presence of God whose names we do not know. 

YOU SAY: In the Bible, everyone who has received Jesus Christ by faith is a saint. In Roman Catholic practice, the saints are revered, prayed to, and in some instances, worshipped. In the Bible, saints are called to revere, worship, and pray to God alone.

Nowhere in Catholic teaching are the faithful instructed to “worship” any one but God. Saints are revered for their exemplary Christian examples, the same way we would revere living Christian examples. Also, in Catholic teaching “pray to” does not mean to worship, but “to ask”. We ask the saints for their assistance because in John’s vision we see the saints praying for us: “the prayers of the saints”.

Finally, Catholics do not limit their knowledge of faith to what is only in the Bible simply because Jesus didn’t leave us one. As you know, Jesus wrote nothing, nor did he instruct anyone to write anything (other than John in Revelation). If he wanted us to only follow a book he would have left us one.

You may well believe, as we do, that the authors of Scripture were inspired of the Holy Spirit, but that is a “belief”, and nowhere in Scripture do we find what is supposed to be in Scripture. In fact, we might well assume that Jesus did his most serious teaching after the Resurrection when he had his apostles' full attention. Why else would he hang around for an extra 40 days. Yet, the Bible records relatively little of what Jesus said and did during this period. 

A quick example. Most Christians worship on Sunday, yet nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say to worship on Sunday (instead of Saturday). However, we find the Christians gathering “on the first day of the week to break bread” in Acts 20:7. Where did they learn to do this? We can assume that Jesus himself started this on the Sunday’s after the resurrection. While Scripture is silent on this, most Christians accept Sunday worship unquestioningly. 


While Jesus did not leave us a book, he did leave us a Church, and a teaching authority for that Church. We believe that Church was founded on Peter, and that the “seat of Peter” is today occupied by a man who took the name of Francis. You are welcome not to believe that and to reject any of the above. But you are not welcome to your own facts about what our Church teaches. It’s our party, you are welcome to attend. But you don’t have to. 

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