Friday, March 16, 2007

Praying To The Deceased

In another thread, Orthodox wrote the following in defense of praying to the deceased:

"St. Cyprian of Carthage writing to Pope Cornelius of Rome said that the Saints should keep praying for one another even after some depart to be in the presence of God. And that is all that the Orthodox want to do is ask the Saints to keep praying for us."

Was Cornelius dead when Cyprian wrote to him? No, he wasn't. Asking a living person to pray for you after he dies isn't equivalent to praying to the deceased. See here and here for some discussions of the evidence against praying to the dead.

And is it true that "all that the Orthodox want to do is ask the Saints to keep praying for us"? No, that's not true. Here, below, are some examples of prayers to Mary in Eastern Orthodoxy. Notice that they do much more than asking Mary to pray for them. And even if they did only ask her to pray for them, the practice would still involve praying to the deceased, something the earliest Christians knew nothing about and sometimes condemned.

Here's an example of a prayer to Mary:

Rejoice Mary, Mother of God, Virgin, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls. Meet it is in truth, to glorify thee, O Birth-giver of God, ever blessed, and all undefiled, the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, thou who without stain didst bear God the word, true Birth-giver of God, we magnify thee.

O gracious Mother of the gracious God, O most pure and blessed Mary, the Mother of God, pour the mercy of thy Son and our God upon my impassionate soul, and with thine intercessions set me unto good deeds, that I may pass the rest of my life without blemish and, with thine aid, attain heaven. O Virgin mother of God, the only one who art pure and blessed. O Queen of the Heavenly Host, Defender of our souls: being delivered from evil, as thy servants, O Mother of God, we offer unto thee the hymns of thanks and victory; but as thou hast power invincible, deliver us from all calamity, that we may cry unto thee: Rejoice, O ever-Virgin Bride!

O virgin, spotless, undefiled, unstained, all-chaste and Pure Lady, Bride of God, who by the glorious birth-giving hast united God the Word with Man and linked our fallen nature with Heavenly Things; who art the hope of the hopeless, the helper of the oppressed, the ready protection of those who haste unto thee, and the refuge of Christians; despise me not, who am defiled and sinful, who by my wicked thoughts, words and deeds, have become an unworthy servant, and by my slothfulness have turned into a slave to evil affections. O Mother of the God of Love, have mercy and compassion upon me, a sinner and a prodigal. Accept this prayer which is offered to thee from my impure lips; and putting forward thy maternal influence with thy Son, my Lord and Master, beseech Him to open unto me the lovingkindness of His grace; beseech Him to overlook my countless transgressions, to give me true repentance and to make me to be a zealous doer of His commandments. And thou, being gracious and compassionate and tender-hearted, be thou ever present with me in this life as my defender and helper, so that I may turn aside the assault of my enemies, and guide me into salvation; help my poor soul at the hour of my death, and drive far from it all the dark forms of the evil ones. And in the dreadful Judgement Day, deliver me from everlasting punishment, and present me as an inheritor of the ineffable glory of the son, our God.

O may I obtain this, most-holy Lady and Birth-giver of God, through thine intercessions and mediations, by the grace and exceeding great love of thine Only-Begotten son, my Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, to Whom is due, with the eternal Father and the All-Holy, Good and Life-Giving Spirit, all honor and glory and worship, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

O most glorious Ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ our God, accept our prayers and present them to thy son and our God, that He may, for thy sake, enlighten and save our souls. (source here)



Another example:

Tenderness springs forth from you, O Theotokos, make us worthy of
compassion. Look upon sinful people, reveal your power for ever as we hope in
you and cry aloud: Hail! as did the Archangel Gabriel, Chief Captain of the
Bodiless Powers. Amen. (source here)

13 comments:

  1. The first point to note is that these prayers are not any different in substance to prayers offered to any saint. As the scripture says, among women, Mary is most blessed, but the point is, this is not some kind of thing where Mary is some kind of demi-God above everyone else.

    Secondly, in the orthodox understanding, all the flowery language at the end of the day still amounts to asking Mary to pray for us. Since the quotes are offered without commentary, I have to try and guess what is supposed to be "much more than asking Mary to pray for them".

    Maybe it's because we ask Mary to intercede for us. But interceding is really just another word for prayer. It is asking God to do something.

    Maybe it's because we praise Mary, "ever blessed, and all undefiled, the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim". Yes, the Church does honor saints, both living and dead. And it is biblical to call her most blessed. And yes she is more honored than the Cherubim. Is that controversial?

    Maybe it is because it says we "hope" in her to help us, etc etc. Of course, she "helps" us the same way other saints do, by praying for us. Does not the bible say that the prayer of a righteous man is effective? So we believe Mary, as a righteous saint has very effective intercession, and thus can help us.

    One of the problems here is that Jason is reading these prayers as an outsider, not schooled in how Orthodox understand terminology. Certainly a number of things in Orthodoxy will sound heretical to a protestant, because they interpret it via their understanding of terminology and theology. But to Orthodox Christians, who are very clear about the great divide that separates God, and a mere mortal like Mary, know that she is not God, and are free to elevate her, but not in a different way than we should elevate even living Christians and brothers.

    As to the central question of whether the early Christians knew anything about it, of course the author assumes what he has yet to prove.

    It's worth pointing out that many reformed Christians traditionally accept that the saints intercede for us. In the "Apology of the Augsburg Confession" (ad art. xxi, sects. 3, 4), it is admitted that the angels pray for us, and the saints, too, "for the Church in general"; but this does not imply that they are to be invoked. So it's good to be clear that the main argument is not over saints interceding for us, the debate is only over whether we may seek that intercession. Of course if Jason disagrees with even this, perhaps he needs to hold council with his fellow reformed and sort it out :-) Since this is an internal dispute within protestantism, I won't take the time to submit the scriptural
    support here.

    Of course, logically speaking, if the saints can intercede for us, then they must know what problems we've got down here so that they know what they are interceding about. And if they can see what is going on down here, logically they can hear our requests for prayer too.

    Then the final objection put forward is that prayer is necessarily an act of worship reserved only for God. But this doesn't work either:

    Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will!" (Ps. 103:20-21)

    So all we are left with is the weakest argument possible which is an argument from silence. But then, isn't the protestant credo that anything not condemned is permissible?

    And given that sola scriptura protestants have pretty much admitted that the saints can intercede for us, and are aware of what's going on, how can we AVOID praying to them? If we have a thought about a problem, they know about it and can intercede. Why then act stupid and pretend it isn't happening?

    ReplyDelete
  2. --But to Orthodox Christians, who are very clear about the great divide that separates God, and a mere mortal like Mary

    >>One could truly wish that you would act like you really believed that.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Orthodox said:

    "Maybe it's because we praise Mary, 'ever blessed, and all undefiled, the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim'....Of course, she 'helps' us the same way other saints do, by praying for us....One of the problems here is that Jason is reading these prayers as an outsider, not schooled in how Orthodox understand terminology."

    If you're "praising Mary" when you pray to her, then you aren't just asking her to pray for you. You were wrong to claim that asking the deceased to pray for you is all that you do. And as I said above, even if that was all you did, you would still be praying to the deceased.

    Since the term "help" isn't inherently limited to prayer, you're going to have to demonstrate that the prayer I quoted is only requesting that Mary pray when it asks for her "help". Telling us that you're Eastern Orthodox, and that I'm not, isn't enough. An anonymous Eastern Orthodox layman can't settle the issue of what "help" means in an Eastern Orthodox prayer by just making an assertion. Where's your documentation that "help" is meant to refer only to prayer?

    The first prayer I quoted goes on to ask Mary to "be thou ever present with me in this life as my defender and helper". If "helper" is referring only to prayer, then what is "defender" referring to? Are you going to claim that Eastern Orthodox supposedly know that this language only means that Mary prays for us? So, when she's asked to be our helper and defender, it means that she's to pray for us and that she's to pray for us? Those are just two separate words being used to refer to praying? And how, again, do you supposedly know this? Where's your documentation?

    What about the second prayer I quoted? When it asks Mary to "make us worthy of
    compassion", is that just another way of asking her to pray? Again, where's your documentation? What about when that second prayer goes on to ask Mary to "reveal [her] power"? Do you supposedly know that Mary is only being asked to reveal her power by praying?

    You write:

    "And it is biblical to call her most blessed. And yes she is more honored than the Cherubim. Is that controversial?"

    What do you mean by "most blessed"? The phrase "blessed among women" is also applied to other women in Judges 5:24 and Judith 13:18. It doesn't prove that Mary is the most blessed woman of all time, much less the most blessed human. John Chrysostom, commenting on Matthew 11:11, ranks John the Baptist as second only to Christ (Homilies On Matthew, 37:2-3). Commenting on Matthew 20:23, he sees an opportunity still open for any believer to attain the highest rank in Heaven among humans (Homilies On Matthew, 65:3). Apparently, he had no concept of Mary being assured of always having the highest place. Tertullian interprets Luke 11:28 as a reference to other people being more blessed than Mary, who wasn't yet a faithful follower of Christ (On The Flesh Of Christ, 7). So, yes, if you intend to suggest that Mary is the most blessed or highest ranking human below Christ, that is a controversial claim. Similarly, if by phrases like "all undefiled", "without stain", and "the only one who art pure" you mean (in part) to refer to Mary as sinless in her behavior while she was on earth, then that, too, would be a controversial claim. The popular view among the earliest church fathers was that Mary sinned in her behavior. That's the most natural reading of scripture, it was a popular view among the earliest fathers, and some later fathers held it.

    You write:

    "As to the central question of whether the early Christians knew anything about it, of course the author assumes what he has yet to prove."

    No, my article links to two other articles in which I discuss some of the evidence supporting my claim. There are hundreds of passages on prayer in the Bible and in the earliest church fathers. Scripture addresses thousands of years of human history and a wide variety of circumstances. So do the writings of the early fathers. Men like Origen and Cyprian wrote entire treatises on the subject of prayer. There are hundreds upon hundreds of references to praying to God in scripture and the earliest fathers. Never are we encouraged to pray to the deceased. The concept that these people practiced praying to the deceased, yet prayers to God show up in hundreds of passages while the prayers to the deceased keep going unmentioned, is implausible. We're repeatedly told to not attempt to contact the deceased by any means (Deuteronomy 18:10-12, Isaiah 8:19, 19:3), and multiple ante-Nicene fathers either describe prayer as something directed only to God or state that prayers are not to be offered to the deceased. Origen, for example, one of the fathers who wrote an entire treatise on prayer, is emphatic on the point (Against Celsus, 5:4-5, 5:11, 8:37; On Prayer, 10).

    You cite Psalm 103, but I address such passages in one of the articles I linked to above. Apparently, you didn't read the article. Your citation of that Psalm is doubly irrelevant. To begin with, the passage in question is about angels, not deceased humans. I reject praying to angels, but that's a different subject than praying to the deceased. Praying to angels is less problematic, since it doesn't contradict the commandments against attempting to contact the deceased. And, as I explain in one of the articles I linked to earlier, the Psalms also sometimes speak to inanimate objects, like mountains. It doesn't therefore follow that we should pray to mountains. Speaking to entities you wouldn't normally speak to is a common literary device. To equate it with prayer to that entity is erroneous. You quoted verses 20-21, but you didn't quote the next verse, which tells all of God's "works" to bless Him. Should we conclude that it's acceptable to pray to all of God's works? The Psalm you cited is inconclusive.

    If it was meant to support praying to angels, we'd probably see many prayers to angels in the historical narratives in scripture, in the New Testament epistles, etc. We don't. Similarly, even though the Psalms sometimes direct their comments to the mountains, we don't see people in the historical narratives of 1 Kings or Acts, for example, praying to mountains.

    You write:

    "Of course, logically speaking, if the saints can intercede for us, then they must know what problems we've got down here so that they know what they are interceding about. And if they can see what is going on down here, logically they can hear our requests for prayer too."

    We don't know how the deceased people in Heaven attain their information. If God, angels, or others give them some information, it doesn't therefore follow that prayers directed toward them would be included in that information. We don't know that deceased people have the ability to hear our prayers, much less do we know that it's acceptable to pray to them if they do have such an ability.

    Praying to the deceased didn't become popular until centuries after the time of the apostles. Given the widespread attention prayer and prayer-related circumstances receive in scripture and the earliest church fathers, it would be implausible to suggest that praying to the deceased was practiced, but repeatedly went unmentioned. Not only is it not mentioned, but we even see a variety of Biblical passages suggesting that it shouldn't be done (prohibitions against attempting to contact the deceased), and we see praying to the deceased criticized by multiple early fathers.

    ReplyDelete
  4. --But to Orthodox Christians, who are
    >>very clear about the great divide
    >that separates God, and a mere
    >mortal like Mary
    >
    >>One could truly wish that you would
    >act like you really believed that.

    We don't act how western protestants think we should act if we believe that. This is the great divide caused by taking texts outside of the culture that spawned them. We know what we mean and the fact that you don't understand our lingua franca doesn't change that.

    ReplyDelete
  5. hostus twinkius3/17/2007 12:58 AM

    Yes, *we* know what we mean. So don't try to refute us using language outside of the culture than spawned the meanings *we* know.

    That is brilliant. You just made yourself irrefutable. Why debate any longer? We're *outside* of your club and can't *understand* your lingua franca. All right, if that's the case then stay in your own treehouse and discuss theology with the *insiders*

    Please....

    ReplyDelete
  6. >If you're "praising Mary" when you
    >pray to her, then you aren't just
    >asking her to pray for you. You were
    >wrong to claim that asking the
    >deceased to pray for you is all that
    >you do.

    Yes, well that is just an Eastern style greeting. It would be impolite to just front up with a laundry list.

    >Since the term "help" isn't
    >inherently limited to prayer,
    >you're going to have to
    >demonstrate that the prayer I
    >quoted is only requesting that
    >Mary pray when it asks for her
    >"help".

    What sort of documentation would make you happy? I find it a little odd that no-one seems to want to believe what I tell them Orthodox believe. It's not likely I'm going to go to a protestant and challenge them on what their denomination believes. Anyway...

    "Properly speaking, Orthodox Christians do not "pray to" the Mother of God instead of God; we seek her intercession before her Son, asking her to pray on our behalf; another Orthodox hymn states that "the prayers of a mother availeth much before her Son." http://www.oca.org/QA.asp?ID=6&SID=3

    >The first prayer I quoted goes on
    >to ask Mary to "be thou ever
    >present with me in this life as my
    >defender and helper". If "helper"
    >is referring only to prayer, then
    >what is "defender" referring to?

    Just prayer in two different scenarios. One when we need defence, the other when we need help.

    >And how, again, do you supposedly
    >know this? Where's your
    >documentation?

    It's a shared understanding. It's like me asking you for the verse not to baptise children.

    >What about the second prayer I
    >quoted? When it asks Mary to "make
    >us worthy of
    >compassion", is that just another
    >way of asking her to pray? Again,
    >where's your documentation?

    Any request to a saint to "do X" is understood to mean to intercede through prayer for God to do X. It would get tiring very quickly to spell out the obvious in every sentence of every prayer. How do I know this? Because I'm Orthodox, and you're not.

    >What about when that second prayer
    >goes on to ask Mary to "reveal
    >[her] power"? Do you supposedly
    >know that Mary is only being asked
    >to reveal her power by praying?

    Now you're getting the hang of it.

    >What do you mean by "most
    >blessed"? The phrase "blessed
    >among women" is also applied to
    >other women in Judges 5:24 and
    >Judith 13:18. It doesn't prove
    >that Mary is the most blessed
    >woman of all time,

    Well Jdg 5:24 talks about being blessed amoung the women of the tent, and Judith talks about being blessed amoung women on earth (presumably at that particular time) whereas Luke 1:42 is simply an unqualified blessed among women.

    >John Chrysostom, commenting on
    >Matthew 11:11, ranks John the
    >Baptist as second only to Christ
    >(Homilies On Matthew, 37:2-3).

    Which is is quoting from Mt 11:11, which goes on to say that the least in the kingdom is greater. I hope your exegesis is better than this.

    >Commenting on Matthew 20:23, he
    >sees an opportunity still open for
    >any believer to attain the highest
    >rank in Heaven among humans
    >(Homilies On Matthew, 65:3)

    I can't see any reference to rank in heaven there. Where do you dig this stuff up from? Aren't you getting a tad deperate?

    >Tertullian interprets Luke 11:28
    >as a reference to other people
    >being more blessed than Mary, who
    >wasn't yet a faithful follower of
    >Christ (On The Flesh Of Christ,
    >7).

    Doesn't look like it to me.

    >The popular view among the
    >earliest church fathers was that
    >Mary sinned in her behavior.
    >That's the most natural reading of
    >scripture, it was a popular view
    >among the earliest fathers, and
    >some later fathers held it.

    Give us the quotes and we'll talk about it.

    >Scripture addresses thousands of >years of human history and a wide
    >variety of circumstances.

    The saints weren't in a position to receive prayers until after the resurrection. As is implied by things like Mt 27:52, there was a change that took place at this time.

    >Men like Origen and Cyprian wrote
    >entire treatises on the subject of
    >prayer. There are hundreds upon
    >hundreds of references to praying
    >to God in scripture and the
    >earliest fathers. Never are we
    >encouraged to pray to the
    >deceased.

    It's all a storm in a tea cup about terminology. As the link I gave you above says, properly speaking, we do not pray to saints. But then again, it depends on your definition of prayer, because word meanings change over time. I suggest that the way these early fathers used that particular terminology only referred to prayer to God proper.

    >We're repeatedly told to not
    >attempt to contact the deceased by
    >any means (Deuteronomy 18:10-12,
    >Isaiah 8:19, 19:3)

    These are technical terms referring to practices like carnival soothsayers. Disagree? Prove it.


    >multiple ante-Nicene fathers
    >either describe prayer as
    >something directed only to God or
    >state that prayers are not to be
    >offered to the deceased.

    Show us the quotes then we can discuss them.

    "Origen, for example, one of the fathers who wrote an entire treatise on prayer, is emphatic on the point (Against Celsus, 5:4-5, 5:11, 8:37; On Prayer, 10)."

    In "on Prayer" Origen says that in the fullest sense we only pray to the Father because all prayers end up at the Father. Does that mean Origen warns against praying to the Son? No it doesn't. Then in Against Celsus Origen says that all prayers must go through the Son. I agree, that all prayers end up going through the Son too. That's why I gave you that quote that in the fullest sense we don't pray to the saints. We ask them to pray through the Son for us, and they all go through the Son ultimately.

    >The Psalm you cited is >inconclusive.

    Yes, some verses and arguments are inconclusive. This is why sola scriptura doesn't work.

    >We don't know how the deceased
    >people in Heaven attain their
    >information. If God, angels, or
    >others give them some information,
    >it doesn't therefore follow that
    >prayers directed toward them would
    >be included in that information.

    So you admit they have information, but you arbitrarily want to exclude one category of information.


    >Praying to the deceased didn't
    >become popular until centuries
    >after the time of the apostles.

    Proof? Apparently you expect us to just take your word for all these things.

    >Given the widespread attention
    >prayer and prayer-related
    >circumstances receive in scripture
    >and the earliest church fathers,
    >it would be implausible to suggest
    >that praying to the deceased was
    >practiced, but repeatedly went
    >unmentioned.

    Whose criteria from implausible are we using here? I find it implausible that suddenly, everyone all over the world in every church decided to start this brand new practice, and there wasn't even a ripple of controversy in the historical record. Compare and contrast this very practical question of prayer, to the highly technical and theoretical question of Arianism and the nature of the Son which caused a world wide uproar.

    So it's all back to individualism again, what you think is implausible.

    ReplyDelete
  7. >That is brilliant. You just made
    >yourself irrefutable. Why debate any
    >longer? We're *outside* of your club
    >and can't *understand* your lingua
    >franca.

    Sure you can understand, but it's going to take some work on your part. You're entering another culture, and nobody said it was going to be easy.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Orthodox said:

    "Yes, well that is just an Eastern style greeting."

    Since you didn't mention the "greeting" when you described what Eastern Orthodox prayers contain, then I'll take your response as an admission that you were wrong.

    You write:

    "'Properly speaking, Orthodox Christians do not 'pray to' the Mother of God instead of God; we seek her intercession before her Son, asking her to pray on our behalf; another Orthodox hymn states that 'the prayers of a mother availeth much before her Son.' http://www.oca.org/QA.asp?ID=6&SID=3"

    In the first post of this thread, I gave you a link to an Eastern Orthodox web site that has the title "Prayers to the Mother of God". Now you're quoting another Eastern Orthodox web site that says that Eastern Orthodox "properly speaking" don't pray to Mary. From there, you conclude that the term "help" at another Eastern Orthodox web site must mean "prayer". Why are we supposed to believe that the web site you've mentioned is authoritative in defining terms for Eastern Orthodoxy, and why should we take your quote above as evidence that "help" means "prayer"?

    You write:

    "Just prayer in two different scenarios. One when we need defence, the other when we need help."

    Again, where are you getting those definitions of the terms?

    You write:

    "It's a shared understanding. It's like me asking you for the verse not to baptise children."

    I've given you links to articles containing my historical arguments against infant baptism. I haven't just appealed to some "shared understanding" that I can't document.

    You write:

    "Well Jdg 5:24 talks about being blessed amoung the women of the tent, and Judith talks about being blessed amoung women on earth (presumably at that particular time) whereas Luke 1:42 is simply an unqualified blessed among women."

    Judges 5:24 refers to Jael as "most blessed of women" before going on to repeat the comment in the context of the tent. How do you know that the second part of the verse is meant to deny the wider implications of the first part? You don't. And why do you "presume" a time limit in Judith that you don't presume in Luke? And why are you ignoring what I said about the "women" qualifier? If you're going to assume that the passage in Judith has a time limit, then why not assume that the passage in Luke has a sex limit (women, but not all humans)?

    You write:

    "Which is is quoting from Mt 11:11, which goes on to say that the least in the kingdom is greater. I hope your exegesis is better than this."

    Your problem is with John Chrysostom, not me. I was citing his comments. And I would say that his exegesis is better than yours. Jesus states that John the Baptist is the greatest. The reference to the least in the kingdom being better has to be a reference to somebody in the future, since Jesus just affirmed that John is the greatest. Why would Jesus speak in such a manner if Mary had been and always would be the greatest?

    You write:

    "I can't see any reference to rank in heaven there. Where do you dig this stuff up from? Aren't you getting a tad deperate?"

    Again, I was citing examples of the church fathers' views. If you object to what Chrysostom wrote, then take it up with him.

    As far as "desperation" is concerned, I would say that what's more desperate is your claim that Eastern Orthodox have their own vocabulary in which "help" means "prayer" and other words also mean "prayer", but you can't document it.

    You write:

    "Give us the quotes and we'll talk about it."

    See:

    http://www.triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/09/some-early-sources-on-sinlessness-of.html

    http://www.triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/09/some-later-sources-on-sinlessness-of.html

    You write:

    "The saints weren't in a position to receive prayers until after the resurrection. As is implied by things like Mt 27:52, there was a change that took place at this time."

    How does the fact that "a change" occurred prove that the change involved an ability to receive prayer?

    You write:

    "As the link I gave you above says, properly speaking, we do not pray to saints. But then again, it depends on your definition of prayer, because word meanings change over time."

    The issue isn't just terminology. If the apostle Paul prayed to a deceased person in the book of Acts, for example, then you would be able to cite that action to support your position regardless of the terminology used. So, regardless of terminology, where do we see the early sources praying to the deceased?

    You write:

    "I suggest that the way these early fathers used that particular terminology only referred to prayer to God proper."

    Why should we be concerned with what you "suggest" when you offer no evidence to support the suggestion? And if the fathers weren't addressing the invocation of the deceased when they used terms like "prayer", then what terms did they use to advocate praying to the deceased?

    You write:

    "These are technical terms referring to practices like carnival soothsayers. Disagree? Prove it."

    You just claimed a "technical" definition and offered no evidence for it. You then go on to ask for proof of the contrary. Why don't you offer proof for your own assertion? Why should a phrase like "consult the dead" or "spirits of the dead" be limited to "practices like carnival soothsayers"?

    You write:

    "In 'on Prayer' Origen says that in the fullest sense we only pray to the Father because all prayers end up at the Father. Does that mean Origen warns against praying to the Son? No it doesn't. Then in Against Celsus Origen says that all prayers must go through the Son. I agree, that all prayers end up going through the Son too. That's why I gave you that quote that in the fullest sense we don't pray to the saints. We ask them to pray through the Son for us, and they all go through the Son ultimately."

    You aren't addressing any of the passages I cited from Origen. His inconsistency on whether prayer should be directed to the Father only or to the Son as well doesn't change the fact that he consistently excluded deceased humans. If you want us to believe that Origen thought that people should "ask [deceased humans] to pray through the Son for us", then document it. If Origen believed that we should make requests to the deceased (what I've been calling "prayer"), then why would he say that we shouldn't pray to created beings? Are we supposed to believe that Origen had some distinction in mind between "praying" and what you do as an Eastern Orthodox? If so, then where did he express that distinction? If you can't document it, then why are we supposed to assume it? You tell us that your prayers to the deceased (as they're commonly called) are "ultimately" directed to God. Yet, they have to be directed to the deceased human first, before going to God, or else they would be nothing more than prayers to God. When you make a request that a deceased person go to God for you, then you're supplicating, invoking, praying to, etc. that deceased person. The fact that the deceased person would then supplicate, invoke, pray to, etc. God doesn't change the fact that the first step was involved as well. If Origen believed in taking that first step, then why would he say that we shouldn't supplicate, invoke, pray to, etc. created beings?

    You write:

    "Yes, some verses and arguments are inconclusive. This is why sola scriptura doesn't work."

    You cited Psalm 103. I'm not the one who brought it up. After your use of it was shown to be erroneous, you responded with the comment above. If you couldn't defend your use of the passage, then why did you bring it up?

    You write:

    "So you admit they have information, but you arbitrarily want to exclude one category of information."

    I'm not "arbitrarily excluding" anything. If you want us to believe that the deceased have the ability to receive our prayers directed to them, then you need to prove that concept. It's not my responsibility to prove that they don't have such an ability. If we don't know whether they have it, then such ignorance leads to the conclusion that we shouldn't pray to the deceased, not that we should pray to them. You keep making assertions that you can't defend.

    You write:

    "Proof? Apparently you expect us to just take your word for all these things."

    No, I've repeatedly given you links to articles in which I cite evidence, or I provide evidence within my current posts. I've offered far more support for my arguments than you've offered for yours.

    ReplyDelete
  9. >Since you didn't mention the
    >"greeting" when you described what
    >Eastern Orthodox prayers contain,
    >then I'll take your response as an
    >admission that you were wrong.

    I would not get hung up about it if I asked you what you talked about in a telephone conversation and you omitted to tell me you said "hello". Sounds like you are in full on pedantic mode.

    >In the first post of this thread,
    >I gave you a link to an Eastern
    >Orthodox web site that has the
    >title "Prayers to the Mother of
    >God". Now you're quoting another
    >Eastern Orthodox web site that
    >says that Eastern Orthodox
    >"properly speaking" don't pray to
    >Mary. From there, you conclude
    >that the term "help" at another
    >Eastern Orthodox web site must
    >mean "prayer". Why are we supposed
    >to believe that the web site
    >you've mentioned is authoritative
    >in defining terms for Eastern
    >Orthodoxy, and why should we take
    >your quote above as evidence that
    >"help" means "prayer"?

    You're getting all hung up about terminology now and you don't even want to be helped through it.

    It's kind of like if I went into an independent baptist church that eschews any creeds and confessions, hearing the mention of the "trinity" in the prayers, and then bugging and pestering the members to "prove" that their definition of the trinity is the official baptist version. It's pure sillyness.

    >>"It's a shared understanding.
    >>It's like me asking you for the
    >>verse not to baptise children."
    >
    >I've given you links to articles
    >containing my historical arguments
    >against infant baptism. I haven't
    >just appealed to some "shared
    >understanding" that I can't
    >document.

    But you're not challenging me to prove a doctrine is true at this point, you are challenging me to prove what my church believes about its own writings. This is like me challenging you to prove that your understanding of the baptist confession of faith is the official one.

    >What do you think it might mean?
    >Do you think maybe Orthodox
    >believe that Mary sends down Santa
    >and little elves to help us? I
    >don't know where you're going with
    >this. If you don't believe me how
    >Orthodox understand it, all I can
    >say is prove otherwise.
    >Judges 5:24 refers to Jael as >"most blessed of women" before
    >going on to repeat the comment in
    >the context of the tent. How do
    >you know that the second part of
    >the verse is meant to deny the
    >wider implications of the first
    >part? You don't. And why do you
    >"presume" a time limit in Judith
    >that you don't presume in Luke?
    >And why are you ignoring what I
    >said about the "women" qualifier?
    >If you're going to assume that the
    >passage in Judith has a time
    >limit, then why not assume that
    >the passage in Luke has a sex
    >limit (women, but not all humans)?

    Is there some point to this discussion? Would you feel some great moral victory if you proved that Mary was only the 3rd most blessed creature instead of the 1st?

    >The reference to the least in the
    >kingdom being better has to be a
    >reference to somebody in the
    >future, since Jesus just affirmed
    >that John is the greatest. Why
    >would Jesus speak in such a manner
    >if Mary had been and always would
    >be the greatest?

    Because in the original language, it is in the masculine, and so is more appropriately rendered "among those born of women there has arisen no man greater than John the Baptist."

    >Again, I was citing examples of
    >the church fathers' views. If you
    >object to what Chrysostom wrote,
    >then take it up with him.

    The trouble is, none of these quotes say what you want them to say.

    >As far as "desperation" is
    >concerned, I would say that what's
    >more desperate is your claim that
    >Eastern Orthodox have their own
    >vocabulary in which "help" means
    >"prayer" and other words also mean
    >"prayer", but you can't document
    >it.

    It's quite common when protestants are new to Orthodoxy, that the priest will sit down and explain to them, that when the priest prays such and such a thing, it is shorthand for, and it understood as..." etc. Is that documented somewhere? Probably, but I don't know where off hand. If I did produce some document for you, you'd probably challenge it anyway as to whether it was authoritative.

    Again, you're approaching this with your own presuppositions about what ought to be documented, and how. If you don't believe me, go ask an orthodox priest. But please, don't be so immature as to lecture us telling us what we believe unless you can back it up.

    >"Give us the quotes and we'll talk
    >about it."
    >
    >See: ....

    If we just take the identified ECFs here, and not the commentaries, there's nothing here about Mary sinning. One quote about Mary not being perfectly righteous (orthodox would say she was born with the propensity to sin of Adam, thus she did lack something to be perfectly righteous.) a quote about Jesus being the only "Man" who was sinless. Then a bunch of quotes about various things that occured in Jesus' life where you are apparently ASSUMING that must mean she is thought to have sinned.

    >How does the fact that "a change"
    >occurred prove that the change
    >involved an ability to receive
    >prayer?

    I'm explaining to you why it didn't happen in the OT.


    >And if the fathers weren't
    >addressing the invocation of the
    >deceased when they used terms like
    >"prayer", then what terms did they
    >use to advocate praying to the
    >deceased?

    Are there any verses that advocate you entreat the living to pray for you? I can't think of any off hand, so I'm wondering what your scriptural support is for that, unless you condemn that too?

    >You just claimed a "technical"
    >definition and offered no evidence
    >for it. You then go on to ask for
    >proof of the contrary. Why don't
    >you offer proof for your own
    >assertion? Why should a phrase
    >like "consult the dead" or
    >"spirits of the dead" be limited
    >to "practices like carnival
    >soothsayers"?

    That's my understanding of the word, but then again we're peering into an ancient and dead language for which the precise meanings are oft times lost in time. We can call truce and admit neither can prove anything from this verse.

    Why would it be limited to the practices I mention? Well for one, the saints couldn't hear our prayers then, so all they might end up doing is contacting evil spirits and being deceived by them. The practice was redundant for that time.

    >prayer should be directed to the
    >Father only or to the Son as well
    >doesn't change the fact that he
    >consistently excluded deceased
    >humans. I

    He doesn't exclude it, he is just silent on that topic.

    >Are we supposed to believe that
    >Origen had some distinction in
    >mind between "praying" and what
    >you do as an Eastern Orthodox? If
    >so, then where did he express that
    >distinction? If you can't document
    >it, then why are we supposed to
    >assume it?

    I'm not assuming anything about a topic that Origen does not address. I suggest you do likewise.

    >If Origen believed in taking that
    >first step, then why would he say
    >that we shouldn't supplicate,
    >invoke, pray to, etc. created
    >beings?

    He didn't say that, or if he did, I can't see it. You're reading your own assumptions into the text.

    >You cited Psalm 103. I'm not the
    >one who brought it up. After your
    >use of it was shown to be
    >erroneous, you responded with the
    >comment above. If you couldn't
    >defend your use of the passage,
    >then why did you bring it up?

    It's kind of like arguing about whether Jesus meant "this is my body" to be literal or not. You can argue back and forward about it, but at the end of the day, there just isn't an apostlic footnote that says "take this verse literally" or "this verse is figurative". Thus sola scriptura doesn't work. And my talking for half an hour about Psalm 103 won't make it work for you or for me. We'd be just like two protestants duking it out and getting nowhere.


    >I'm not "arbitrarily excluding"
    >anything. If you want us to
    >believe that the deceased have the
    >ability to receive our prayers
    >directed to them, then you need to
    >prove that concept. It's not my
    >responsibility to prove that they
    >don't have such an ability. If we
    >don't know whether they have it,
    >then such ignorance leads to the
    >conclusion that we shouldn't pray
    >to the deceased, not that we
    >should pray to them. You keep
    >making assertions that you can't
    >defend.

    Since you won't assert point blank that they can't hear our prayers, then there can't be anything unscriptural about the possibility they can. At this point it comes down to whether you want to obey Paul's command to pass on the Traditions or not.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Orthodox said:

    "I would not get hung up about it if I asked you what you talked about in a telephone conversation and you omitted to tell me you said 'hello'. Sounds like you are in full on pedantic mode."

    If the subject we're discussing is whether telephone conversations involve only making a request to a person, then the fact that a greeting occurs before the making of that request is relevant. If you want to use a telephone analogy, then use one that's accurate.

    Let's say that I call you on the phone. I spend some time telling you what I appreciate about you. I then ask you to help me with something. Then I ask you to defend me in a difficult situation. Then I ask you to pray to God on my behalf. Then I tell you some other things I appreciate about you. Then I ask you to help me again. Then I tell you some other things I appreciate about you.

    Somebody the next day asks me whether I called you. I tell them that I did, but that when I called you, the call consisted only of my asking you to pray to God on my behalf. The person then reveals to me that he had been nearby when I made the call, and that he overheard it. He tells me about the contents of the call and disputes my claim that I only asked you to pray to God on my behalf. He also tells me that there are restrictions on the use of that phone that forbid me to use it to call people like you. He asks me why I requested your "help" and asked you to "defend" me if I only meant to ask you to pray to God on my behalf. How do I respond?

    If I were to follow your lead, here's what I'd do. I would tell him that although I said that I called you, I wasn't actually calling you, properly speaking. Rather, I was asking you to pray to God for me. I'm German, and he's not, so he doesn't understand my German use of English. When I asked for your "help" and for you to "defend" me, those were references to nothing more than praying to God on my behalf. And all of those expressions of my appreciation for you were just a "greeting". Yes, they came up at multiple points in the call, and I continued on with them beyond what would normally be called a "greeting", but it must be remembered that I'm using German English, not normal English, and it would be "pedantic" to criticize me for not including all of those expressions of appreciation when I said that the call consisted only of asking you to pray to God for me.

    You write:

    "It's kind of like if I went into an independent baptist church that eschews any creeds and confessions, hearing the mention of the 'trinity' in the prayers, and then bugging and pestering the members to 'prove' that their definition of the trinity is the official baptist version. It's pure sillyness."

    Are you saying, then, that I should assume that everything an Eastern Orthodox tells me represents what all Orthodox believe? Should I assume that a liberal Eastern Orthodox politician, for example, is speaking for Eastern Orthodoxy when he defends the pro-choice position?

    You write:

    "But you're not challenging me to prove a doctrine is true at this point, you are challenging me to prove what my church believes about its own writings. This is like me challenging you to prove that your understanding of the baptist confession of faith is the official one."

    If I claimed that Baptist people understand a Baptist confession in a particular way, then I would be responsible for documenting that claim if somebody disbelieved me and asked for documentation. If you're going to make the claim that Eastern Orthodox define terms like "help" and "defend" in the manner you've described, then you ought to offer documentation to that effect. You're telling us that Eastern Orthodox prayers to Mary use English language differently than the language is commonly used. I'm not convinced by the fact that an anonymous Eastern Orthodox layman makes such an assertion in a discussion that wouldn't go his way if we defined English terms as they're commonly defined. You have potential motives for misrepresenting what these prayers to Mary contain, your claims about those prayers are contrary to common use of the English language, and you've repeatedly refused to document your assertions. The claims you're making are highly unusual. You're asking us to accept highly unusual definitions of multiple English terms, and you're doing so in a context in which you provide us with no way of verifying your assertions.

    You write:

    "Is there some point to this discussion? Would you feel some great moral victory if you proved that Mary was only the 3rd most blessed creature instead of the 1st?"

    The Eastern Orthodox prayers I cited make particular claims. You initially attempted to defend those claims. Your attempted defenses failed. You don't see "some point" here? If there was no point, why did you carry on the discussion of those specific issues until now? If you were asserting that Mary is of higher rank than she is, then you were wrong. You were advocating a false view of Mary. You don't see any point in my demonstrating such a thing?

    You write:

    "Because in the original language, it is in the masculine, and so is more appropriately rendered 'among those born of women there has arisen no man greater than John the Baptist.'"

    I don't know Greek. I want documentation from a relevant source if you're going to make such a claim about the language. But if we were to conclude that there's a limitation to males in Matthew 11, there's a limitation to females in Luke 1 as well.

    You write:

    "The trouble is, none of these quotes say what you want them to say."

    That's an assertion, not an argument.

    You write:

    "If you don't believe me, go ask an orthodox priest."

    Are you saying that everything an Eastern Orthodox priest says about the faith must be true? They can't misunderstand something, misrepresent it, etc.? You're telling us that we should define multiple English terms in highly unusual ways, and it's our responsibility to go ask a priest about it? Are you saying that any Eastern Orthodox priest we ask would tell us that asking Mary to defend us involves nothing more than asking her to pray for us? If that's what Eastern Orthodoxy means, and Eastern Orthodox are using the English language to communicate, then why don't they just use a term like "pray for us" rather than something like "defend us"?

    You write:

    "Then a bunch of quotes about various things that occured in Jesus' life where you are apparently ASSUMING that must mean she is thought to have sinned."

    I documented multiple sources saying that Jesus is the only sinless human. Why should we think that the people who wrote such things viewed Mary as sinless? I cited Tertullian referring to Mary as a representation of the unbelieving synagogue. He refers to Mary as "keeping aloof" from Christ and not following Him as she should. Those aren't sins? I quoted John Chrysostom referring to how Mary was guilty of "unbelief" and "superfluous vanity". He accuses Mary and Jesus' brothers together of "self-confidence". Those aren't sins? He refers to how Mary hasn't done "all that is required to be done". That's not sin? He refers to how Mary was "imagining not as yet anything great concerning Him [Jesus]". There's nothing sinful about holding too low a view of Jesus? Chrysostom refers to how "she, because she had borne Him, claimed, according to the custom of other mothers, to direct Him in all things, when she ought to have reverenced and worshiped Him". If she did something she shouldn't have done, instead of reverencing and worshiping Jesus as she should have, isn't that sin? You dismiss some of my citations of other sources because they aren't original documents. But the scholars I cited are discussing what's contained in original documents. You haven't done anything to refute the conclusions I've drawn from those scholars' comments.

    You write:

    "I'm explaining to you why it didn't happen in the OT."

    That's not what I asked you about. I'm aware that you think that it was later on in history that deceased people acquired the ability to receive prayer. I'm asking you how you know that such a change occurred when you think it occurred. You cited Matthew 27, but that passage doesn't lead to your conclusion about prayer.

    You write:

    "Are there any verses that advocate you entreat the living to pray for you?"

    Yes, Paul often asks people to pray for him, for example (2 Corinthians 1:11). Would you cite some examples of Paul and other early sources praying to the deceased?

    You write:

    "He didn't say that, or if he did, I can't see it."

    Here are some examples of what Origen said:

    "For every prayer, and supplication, and intercession, and thanksgiving, is to be sent up to the Supreme God through the High Priest, who is above all the angels, the living Word and God. And to the Word Himself shall we also pray and make intercessions, and offer thanksgivings and supplications to Him, if we have the capacity of distinguishing between the proper use and abuse of prayer. For to invoke angels without having obtained a knowledge of their nature greater than is possessed by men, would be contrary to reason. But, conformably to our hypothesis, let this knowledge of them, which is something wonderful and mysterious, be obtained. Then this knowledge, making known to us their nature, and the offices to which they are severally appointed, will not permit us to pray with confidence to any other than to the Supreme God, who is sufficient for all things, and that through our Saviour the Son of God, who is the Word, and Wisdom, and Truth, and everything else which the writings of God's prophets and the apostles of Jesus entitle Him....And being persuaded that the sun himself, and moon, and stars pray to the Supreme God through His only-begotten Son, we judge it improper to pray to those beings who themselves offer up prayers to God, seeing even they themselves would prefer that we should send up our requests to the God to whom they pray, rather than send them downwards to themselves, or apportion our power of prayer beetween God and them....Celsus forgets that he is addressing Christians, who pray to God alone through Jesus" (Against Celsus, 5:4-5, 5:11, 8:37)

    Again, why would Origen tell us not to pray to, invoke, etc. angels and other created beings if he believed in praying to, invoking, etc. created beings? If you're going to try to avoid the natural implications of Origen's words by applying less natural definitions to them, then where's your justification for those less natural definitions?

    You write:

    "It's kind of like arguing about whether Jesus meant 'this is my body' to be literal or not. You can argue back and forward about it, but at the end of the day, there just isn't an apostlic footnote that says 'take this verse literally' or 'this verse is figurative'. Thus sola scriptura doesn't work."

    Scripture doesn't have to contain such statements in order to have some discernible objective meaning. Similarly, historians reach thousands of conclusions about other historical documents without those documents having the sort of statements you're asking for. The church fathers' writings don't contain such statements about how we should understand them. Nor do ecumenical councils. When you ask your priest a question, you have to interpret his words. How can you claim to know that the interpretation involved in understanding these other things is acceptable, whereas the interpretation involved in understanding scripture isn't acceptable?

    You write:

    "And my talking for half an hour about Psalm 103 won't make it work for you or for me. We'd be just like two protestants duking it out and getting nowhere."

    We've also disagreed about the meaning of what Origen taught, what John Chrysostom taught, what an Eastern Orthodox prayer means, what each other's posts mean, etc. Just as people disagree over the interpretation of scripture, they also disagree over the interpretation of these other things.

    You write:

    "Since you won't assert point blank that they can't hear our prayers, then there can't be anything unscriptural about the possibility they can."

    We don't accept something just because it's possible. It's possible that God wants us to pray to mountains, with the passages in the Psalms about mountains being examples. But if that possibility can't be shown to be a probability, then I can't objectively justify a practice of praying to mountains by citing those Psalms. And if prayer to mountains is absent in hundreds of Biblical passages and patristic passages in which we'd expect to see it sometimes mentioned if it was practiced at the time, and multiple early fathers condemn the practice (if we apply normal definitions to their terminology), then why should we think that it's appropriate for a modern group to pray to mountains?

    You write:

    "At this point it comes down to whether you want to obey Paul's command to pass on the Traditions or not."

    For that passage to be applicable, you'd have to demonstrate that Paul was referring to a Tradition of praying to the deceased. You haven't done so, and you can't do so.

    ReplyDelete
  11. hostus twinkius3/19/2007 12:51 AM

    Jason,

    You could have saved yourself a lot of typing had you asserted that Ortho-redux simply doesn't understand our *culture* and our *words* because he is an *outsider*. Then you could have claimed *victory*. See? Neat, huh?

    --the twinkie

    ReplyDelete
  12. >Are you saying, then, that I should assume that everything an Eastern
    >Orthodox tells me represents what all Orthodox believe? Should I assume
    >that a liberal Eastern Orthodox politician, for example, is speaking for
    >Eastern Orthodoxy when he defends the pro-choice position?


    It's up to you what you believe. Any time you doubt me feel free to ask an Orthodox priest.

    >If I claimed that Baptist people understand a Baptist confession in a
    >particular way, then I would be responsible for documenting that claim if
    >somebody disbelieved me and asked for documentation.

    And how would you do that? Would you expect me to believe a liberal baptist politician's statement on what it means?

    >If you're going to make the claim that Eastern Orthodox define terms like
    >"help" and "defend" in the manner you've described, then you ought to
    >offer documentation to that effect. You're telling us that Eastern
    >Orthodox prayers to Mary use English language differently than the
    >language is commonly used.

    I'm not saying that. All I'm saying is that people completely ignorant of Orthodoxy could potentially misinterpret it. That doesn't mean it isn't ordinary language.

    Firstly, Mary praying for us IS a help and it IS a prayer in our defence. That is the plain meaning of the words.

    Secondly, it is not uncommon at all for people to speak in terms of end-result even though the referent didn't directly achieve that result. For example:

    James 5:20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

    Obviously this doesn't mean a Christian can directly save someone's soul. Someone completely ignorant of Christianity might suppose that from this text, but it wouldn't be so.

    Similarly:

    1Ti 4:16 Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

    Another anecdote: I put your question concerning what these prayers to Mary mean to a Catholic I met on a message board, and I didn't at all prompt him with my answer, but the answer I got was exactly what I told you: Mary pray for us. So apparently with despite 1000 years of formal separation between our churches, we can still come up with the same answer. How much more will an Orthodox in communion give you the same answer.

    >The Eastern Orthodox prayers I cited make particular claims. You initially
    >attempted to defend those claims. Your attempted defenses failed. You
    >don't see "some point" here? If there was no point, why did you carry on
    >the discussion of those specific issues until now? If you were asserting
    >that Mary is of higher rank than she is, then you were wrong. You were
    >advocating a false view of Mary. You don't see any point in my
    >demonstrating such a thing?


    You've proven nothing except that you don't believe some traditions of the Church that lack full proof (but inconsistently accept many others concerning the canon).

    >>"Because in the original language, it is in the masculine, and so is more
    >>appropriately rendered 'among those born of women there has arisen no man >>greater than John the Baptist.'"
    >

    >I don't know Greek. I want documentation from a relevant source if you're
    >going to make such a claim about the language.

    Zzzzz. Go learn Greek and get back to me.

    >But if we were to conclude that there's a limitation to males in Matthew
    >11, there's a limitation to females in Luke 1 as well.


    Which would make it a 50:50 chance on whether Mary or John is the greatest. Were that you accepted the Tradition on this as Mary, like you would accept a 50:50 odds in favor of a book of scripture in favor of the Tradition.

    >>"If you don't believe me, go ask an orthodox priest."
    >
    >Are you saying that everything an Eastern Orthodox priest says about the
    >faith must be true? They can't misunderstand something, misrepresent it,
    >etc.?

    Could an early church Father make a mistake about the apostolicity of a book of scripture? Apparently a couple of early Fathers wins the day for you. So if that is your standard, go ask a couple of contemporary Orthodox Fathers your questions on Orthodoxy.

    >I documented multiple sources saying that Jesus is the only sinless human.
    >Why should we think that the people who wrote such things viewed Mary as
    >sinless?

    Why should we believe that Jesus is the only begotten son of God, when all Christians are born again to be sons of God?

    > I quoted John Chrysostom referring to how Mary was guilty of "unbelief"
    > and "superfluous vanity".

    "Guilty" of unbelief? I recall him saying that she did not understand the greatness of his status. Ignorance is not necessarily a sin.

    > He accuses Mary and Jesus' brothers together of "self-confidence". Those
    > aren't sins?

    Not that I know of.

    > He refers to how Mary hasn't done "all that is required to be done".

    Depends if it was in ignorance or not.

    > You dismiss some of my citations of other sources because they aren't
    >original documents. But the scholars I cited are discussing what's
    >contained in original documents. You haven't done anything to refute the
    >conclusions I've drawn from those scholars' comments.


    I'm not going to engage in a battle of the scholars.


    >That's not what I asked you about. I'm aware that you think that it was
    >later on in history that deceased people acquired the ability to receive
    >prayer.

    You're assuming what you havn't proven that something changed. I cited that if such a visible thing changed it would have caused a major ripple in the historical record of the church. I would also cite that the earliest believers (a) prayed to angels, (b) believed that the dead prayed for us and (c) certainly after around 350AD everyone agreed with prayer to saints without the least ripple or controversy in the historical record. The above factors lead me to believe that you are wrong.

    Shepherd of Hermas
    "[The Shepherd said:] ‘But those who are weak and slothful in prayer, hesitate to ask anything from the Lord; but the Lord is full of compassion, and gives without fail to all who ask him. But you, [Hermas,] having been strengthened by the holy angel [you saw], and having obtained from him such intercession, and not being slothful, why do not you ask of the Lord understanding, and receive it from him?’" (The Shepherd 3:5:4 [A.D. 80]).

    Clement of Alexandria
    "In this way is he [the true Christian] always pure for prayer. He also prays in the society of angels, as being already of angelic rank, and he is never out of their holy keeping; and though he pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him [in prayer]" (Miscellanies 7:12 [A.D. 208]).

    Origen
    "But not the high priest [Christ] alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels . . . as also the souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep" (Prayer 11 [A.D. 233]).

    Cyprian of Carthage
    "Let us remember one another in concord and unanimity. Let us on both sides [of death] always pray for one another. Let us relieve burdens and afflictions by mutual love, that if one of us, by the swiftness of divine condescension, shall go hence first, our love may continue in the presence of the Lord, and our prayers for our brethren and sisters not cease in the presence of the Father’s mercy" (Letters 56[60]:5 [A.D. 253]).

    The Liturgy of St. Basil
    "By the command of your only-begotten Son we communicate with the memory of your saints . . . by whose prayers and supplications have mercy upon us all, and deliver us for the sake of your holy name" (Liturgy of St. Basil [A.D. 373]).

    John Chrysostom
    "He that wears the purple [i.e., a royal man] . . . stands begging of the saints to be his patrons with God, and he that wears a diadem begs the tentmaker [Paul] and the fisherman [Peter] as patrons, even though they be dead" (Homilies on Second Corinthians 26 [A.D. 392]).

    "When you perceive that God is chastening you, fly not to his enemies . . . but to his friends, the martyrs, the saints, and those who were pleasing to him, and who have great power [in God]" (Orations 8:6 [A.D. 396]).

    Gregory of Nyssa
    "[Ephraim], you who are standing at the divine altar [in heaven] . . . bear us all in remembrance, petitioning for us the remission of sins, and the fruition of an everlasting kingdom" (Sermon on Ephraim the Syrian [A.D. 380]).

    "He didn't say that, or if he did, I can't see it."

    >Here are some examples of what Origen said:
    >
    >we judge it improper to pray to those beings who themselves offer up
    >prayers to God,

    Well, given the above references showing ECFs offering prayer to angels, we must assume Origen may not have been in unity with his brothers on this issue.


    >>"It's kind of like arguing about whether Jesus meant 'this is my body' to
    >>be literal or not. You can argue back and forward about it, but at the
    >>end of the day, there just isn't an apostlic footnote that says 'take
    >>this verse literally' or 'this verse is figurative'. Thus sola scriptura
    >>doesn't work."
    >

    >Scripture doesn't have to contain such statements in order to have some
    >discernible objective meaning.

    Apparently it would need to have them, because all those Christians reading for scripture for 1500 years never discerned not to take it literally. Of course your opinion is in direct contradition to the empirical evidence.

    > Similarly, historians reach thousands of conclusions about other
    >historical documents without those documents having the sort of statements
    >you're asking for. The church fathers' writings don't contain such
    >statements about how we should understand them.

    Sure they do, they tell us how to understand the body and blood.

    >Nor do ecumenical councils. When you ask your priest a question, you have
    >to interpret his words. How can you claim to know that the interpretation
    >involved in understanding these other things is acceptable, whereas the
    >interpretation involved in understanding scripture isn't acceptable?


    Reductum ad absurdum. Just because some scriptures are hard to understand which the unstable distort, doesn't mean that every statement is hard to understand, nor does it mean a second source can't clarify another.

    >>"Since you won't assert point blank that they can't hear our prayers,
    >>then there can't be anything unscriptural about the possibility they
    >>can."
    >

    >We don't accept something just because it's possible.

    Yes well what is the standard of proof? What exact percentage probability can you assign to 3 John being written by John? How does that percentage compare to the possibility the apostles taught apostolic succession?

    >For that passage to be applicable, you'd have to demonstrate that Paul was
    >referring to a Tradition of praying to the deceased. You haven't done so,
    >and you can't do so.

    And you must demonstrate that Paul was referring to 3 John, otherwise we need not obey it, right?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Orthodox said:

    "Would you expect me to believe a liberal baptist politician's statement on what it means?"

    I'm not the one who suggested that any person's claims about his denomination should be accepted. You're the one who suggested that we should accept whatever you tell us about Eastern Orthodoxy, such as when you tell us that the word "defend" in an Eastern Orthodox prayer means "pray for me". That's why I asked you whether I should conclude that a liberal Eastern Orthodox politician who is pro-choice should be taken as a representative of what Eastern Orthodoxy believes about abortion. Instead of addressing the example I've cited, you've asked me about a Baptist politician, as if I should be held accountable for an argument you were using. The question about a liberal politician doesn't make sense when applied to me, because I wasn't advocating the position you're advocating.

    You write:

    "Firstly, Mary praying for us IS a help and it IS a prayer in our defence. That is the plain meaning of the words."

    You're misrepresenting the issue. The prayer doesn't identify Mary's praying for people as the manner in which she defends people. Nobody has denied that prayer could be referred to as a defense. The question is whether you can assume that prayer is involved, and that it's the only thing involved, when a word like "defend" is used without specifying prayer. Your assumption that prayer is all that's involved is far from the most natural reading of the passage, and nothing in the English word "defend" logically leads to the conclusion that only prayer would be involved.

    You write:

    "Secondly, it is not uncommon at all for people to speak in terms of end-result even though the referent didn't directly achieve that result."

    Then document your assertion that this Eastern Orthodox prayer is meant to refer to some result attained only through Mary's prayers. You've given us no such documentation. Instead, you've made a lot of assertions.

    Here's part of what the Eastern Orthodox prayer in question says (http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/prayers/panagia.html):

    "O Queen of the Heavenly Host, Defender of our souls: being delivered from evil, as thy servants, O Mother of God, we offer unto thee the hymns of thanks and victory; but as thou hast power invincible, deliver us from all calamity, that we may cry unto thee: Rejoice, O ever-Virgin Bride!"

    Why would people be "servants" of Mary and offer her "hymns" if all they're doing is asking her to pray for them?

    The same prayer goes on to say:

    "And thou, being gracious and compassionate and tender-hearted, be thou ever present with me in this life as my defender and helper, so that I may turn aside the assault of my enemies, and guide me into salvation; help my poor soul at the hour of my death, and drive far from it all the dark forms of the evil ones."

    Why would Mary need to be "ever present with me" if all she's being asked to do is pray? I don't deny that asking Mary to pray is part of this prayer to Mary. But if nothing more than asking for prayer was intended, then whoever wrote the prayer is a poor communicator. Normally, when somebody repeatedly praises a person, asks them to be always present, asks for their help, offers hymns to that person, etc., we don't conclude that nothing more than asking for prayer is involved.

    You write:

    "How much more will an Orthodox in communion give you the same answer."

    Now you're adding the qualifier "in communion", which is an admission on your part that your earlier claim was wrong. We can't just ask any Eastern Orthodox to speak for Eastern Orthodoxy. According to you, we can only go to those "in communion". But, again, if even those in communion can err, why should I assume that whatever they tell me is correct?

    You write:

    "Go learn Greek and get back to me."

    No, you made the assertion. Document it.

    You write:

    "Which would make it a 50:50 chance on whether Mary or John is the greatest."

    First of all, you can receive a great blessing without being great yourself. Secondly, the words of Luke 1 were spoken in about 5 B.C. How can you possibly know that Mary "is the greatest" today on the basis of Luke 1? Third, the fact that Mary is blessed among women doesn't address all of mankind. You're making a series of unproven assumptions.

    You write:

    "Could an early church Father make a mistake about the apostolicity of a book of scripture?"

    Yes.

    You write:

    "Why should we believe that Jesus is the only begotten son of God, when all Christians are born again to be sons of God?"

    If you want us to believe that the church fathers I cited believed that Mary was sinless also, but in some other sense, then you need to document that claim. We know that scripture uses "son of God" in multiple senses. Where's your documentation that something comparable occurred with the church fathers I cited on the issue of the sinlessness of Mary? You aren't giving us any evidence to support what you're suggesting.

    You write:

    "I cited that if such a visible thing changed it would have caused a major ripple in the historical record of the church. I would also cite that the earliest believers (a) prayed to angels, (b) believed that the dead prayed for us and (c) certainly after around 350AD everyone agreed with prayer to saints without the least ripple or controversy in the historical record. The above factors lead me to believe that you are wrong."

    First of all, I addressed your claims about "350AD" in another thread, and you ignored what I wrote. Secondly, you've ignored much of the evidence against early prayers to the dead, which I cited earlier. Third, you've given us no reason to think that the earliest Christians "prayed to angels".

    Your citation of Hermas refers to an angel as having strengthened Hermas. That isn't equivalent to prayer. Have you ever read The Shepherd Of Hermas? I have. Angels visit Hermas. He isn't praying to them.

    You cited Clement of Alexandria referring to how Christians pray in the company of angels, which, again, is about the involvement of angels in the Christian's life, not praying to angels. The same Clement of Alexandria defines prayer as communication with God. He refers to Christians "passing over the whole world" in order to commune with God alone in prayer. He describes it as a form of worship to God. Apparently, he had no concept of praying to the dead:

    "But if, by nature needing nothing, He delights to be honoured, it is not without reason that we honour God in prayer; and thus the best and holiest sacrifice with righteousness we bring, presenting it as an offering to the most righteous Word, by whom we receive knowledge, giving glory by Him for what we have learned....For the sacrifice of the Church is the word breathing as incense from holy souls, the sacrifice and the whole mind being at the same time unveiled to God. Now the very ancient altar in Delos they celebrated as holy; which alone, being undefiled by slaughter and death, they say Pythagoras approached. And will they not believe us when we say that the righteous soul is the truly sacred altar, and that incense arising from it is holy prayer?...Prayer is, then, to speak more boldly, converse with God. Though whispering, consequently, and not opening the lips, we speak in silence, yet we cry inwardly. For God hears continually all the inward converse. So also we raise the head and lift the hands to heaven, and set the feet in motion at the closing utterance of the prayer, following the eagerness of the spirit directed towards the intellectual essence; and endeavouring to abstract the body from the earth, along with the discourse, raising the soul aloft, winged with longing for better things, we compel it to advance to the region of holiness, magnanimously despising the chain of the flesh. For we know right well, that the Gnostic [believer] willingly passes over the whole world, as the Jews certainly did over Egypt, showing clearly, above all, that he will be as near as possible to God." (The Stromata, 7:6-7)

    You cite Origen referring to how angels and deceased believers pray for Christians. Again, that's not the issue. The fact that you're changing the subject is a reflection of the fact that you've lost the dispute on the original topic.

    You then quote Cyprian, the same passage I addressed earlier. As I told you then, requesting that a living person pray for you isn't equivalent to praying to the deceased.

    The remainder of the sources you cite are from that timeframe of the middle of the fourth century onward, which I addressed in another thread. You've done nothing to overturn by arguments from scripture, from the earliest church fathers, or concerning the later fathers. Instead, you've ignored much of what I've documented, have changed the subject, and have given us a lot of irrelevant citations.

    You write:

    "Sure they do, they tell us how to understand the body and blood."

    The church fathers held a wide variety of beliefs about the eucharist. See Philip Schaff's comments in section 69 at:

    http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/history/2_ch05.htm

    And section 95 at:

    http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/history/3_ch07.htm

    I also recommend consulting Schaff's footnotes, since the notes cite additional passages from the fathers and cite other scholars confirming Schaff's conclusions.

    You write:

    "What exact percentage probability can you assign to 3 John being written by John? How does that percentage compare to the possibility the apostles taught apostolic succession?"

    We make probability judgments every day of our lives. We make judgments about the likelihood that we'll be able to cross the street before an oncoming car arrives, the likelihood that the food we bought will be safe to eat, etc. Do we have to assign an "exact percentage" to such things in order to consider them probable? No, we don't. Can you give an "exact percentage" for your historical assessments concerning Eastern Orthodoxy?

    As far as apostolic succession is concerned, it depends on which definition you have in view. I see no reason to think that the apostles held the sort of view you've advocated.

    You write:

    "And you must demonstrate that Paul was referring to 3 John, otherwise we need not obey it, right?"

    I'm not the one who cited 2 Thessalonians. My acceptance of 3 John depends on its apostolic status, regardless of whether Paul had that document specifically in mind in 2 Thessalonians 2:15. In all likelihood, 3 John wasn't written until decades after Paul's death.

    ReplyDelete