Thursday, June 03, 2010

Desperate To Justify Prayers To The Dead

The practice of praying to the dead was brought up in a thread at Beggars All, and I linked to a post I wrote on the subject. Lvka responded:

Matthew 27:47 and Mark 15:35.


Some bystanders were attempting to explain what Jesus said, and they were mistaken. How does it follow that scripture is supporting prayer to the dead by recording what some mistaken bystanders said? Scripture also records accusations that Jesus was a sinner and was empowered by Satan.

The Bible covers thousands of years of history and a wide variety of contexts within that history. There are hundreds of passages on prayer. What should we think when people who believe in praying to the dead resort to passages like Matthew 27:47 to try to justify the practice?

And notice that Lvka doesn't even attempt to address the Biblical and patristic evidence I cited in my article. I mentioned sources like Origen and Cyprian, and others could be cited (Irenaeus, Lactantius, etc.).

139 comments:

  1. Catholics do not pray "to" the dead; they ask the saints to pray for them to God.

    The saints are in Heaven in the presence of God. They are not "dead". They are more alive than we are here on earth. It is their physical bodies that have been buried, while their souls are in the presence of God. "For He is God of the living, not of the dead. You are seriously mistaken!" Matt. 12:26-27

    Is it sinful to ask your brother to pray for you? Of course not; Christians do it all the time.

    So why is it wrong to ask a saint in heaven to pray for you, particularly when that saint is closer to God than your brother here on earth?

    What Scripture forbids is necromancy. It does NOT forbid asking a saint in Heaven to pray on your behalf. Those are apples and oranges--two entirely different things.

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  2. The Memorare:

    "Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary that never was it known that anyone who fled to Your protection, implored Your help, or sought Your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, we fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, our Mother. To You we come; before You we stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not our petitions, but in Your mercy, hear and answer us. Amen."

    Hmm, where in this prayer does one ask Mary to pray for them? I don't see that anywhere. Instead I see the petitioner asking that Mary HEAR and ANSWER us.

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  3. Here's one to St. Joseph:

    "O glorious St. Joseph, you were chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus, the most pure spouse of Mary ever Virgin, and the head of the holy family. You have been chosen by Christ's Vicar as the heavenly patron and protector of the Church founded by Christ. Therefore it is with great confidence that I implore your powerful assistance for the whole Church on earth. Protect in a special manner, with true fatherly love, the Pope and all bishops and priests in communion with the See of Peter. Be the protector of all who labor for souls amid the trials and tribulations of this life, and grant that all peoples of the world may follow Christ and the Church He founded.

    Dear St. Joseph, accept the offering of myself which I now make to you. I dedicate myself to your service, that you may ever be my father, my protector, and my guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me great purity of heart and a fervent love for the spiritual life. May all my actions, after your example, be directed to the greater glory of God, in union with the divine Heart of Jesus, the immaculate heart of Mary, and your own paternal heart.

    Finally, pray for me that I may share in the peace and joy of your holy death."

    Looks like a whole lot of praying TO St.Joseph. Only at the very end does the petitioner actually ask the saint to pray FOR him.

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  4. Grifman,
    Regardless of what it "looks" like, what the petitioner is doing in those prayers is asking that Mary or Joseph obtain these graces from *God* on their behalf. No saint in Heaven has powers inherent in himself; for "[e]very good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." James 1:17. Neither Mary nor Joseph have any inherent power to grant anything; they can only petition God on our behalf to answer our prayers--and the Memorare, which ends with "hear and answer us" is a plea that Mary hear our prayers, intercede to God on our behalf, and obtain graces for us through her intercession.

    The Hail Mary is the most famous Marian prayer of all time, and it's clear what it asks:

    "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus.
    Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

    The same applies to the prayer to St. Joseph; it implores his assistance, and asks that he "obtain for me great purity of heart," etc.

    It is no different from asking a fellow brother or sister on earth to help you. If you happen to be friends, say, with a director of the CIA, and you are being targeted by the mob, you would call upon your friend's political clout and expertise to protect you (all the while acknowledging that your friend would not have any of the power he had on earth if it had not first been granted him by God). It is *no different* with the saints in Heaven.

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  5. Christine,

    I don't know whether you read the article I linked above or any of the others referred to within it. I've addressed objections like the ones you're raising many times.

    At one point, you deny that people are praying to the dead. In your second post, however, you refer to "a plea that Mary hear our prayers". When you direct a prayer to Mary, and you want her to hear that prayer, how is such a practice significantly distinguishable from praying to Mary?

    Here are some references to praying to Mary from the Catholic hierarchy itself:

    "With a still more ardent zeal for piety, religion and love, let them continue to venerate, invoke and pray to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, conceived without original sin. Let them fly with utter confidence to this most sweet Mother of mercy and grace in all dangers, difficulties, needs, doubts and fears. Under her guidance, under her patronage, under her kindness and protection, nothing is to be feared; nothing is hopeless. Because, while bearing toward us a truly motherly affection and having in her care the work of our salvation, she is solicitous about the whole human race." (Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus)

    "Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men." (Catechism Of The Catholic Church, 2679)

    Thus, the first sentence in your first post here, in which you deny that the deceased are recipients of prayer, is wrong.

    I don't deny that deceased believers are spiritually alive in Heaven. They're also physically dead (John 11:14, 1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16). When scripture forbids attempting to contact the deceased, it's addressing the physically deceased. Otherwise, Moses would have been sinning by speaking with the spiritually dead Pharaoh, Paul would have been sinning by preaching the gospel to spiritually dead sinners, etc. How would people have known that relatives or others they were attempting to contact were spiritually dead? And where's the evidence that they were only attempting to contact the spiritually dead or were attempting to contact spiritually alive individuals as well, but were only condemned for the former practice and not the latter?

    (continued below)

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  6. (continued from above)

    The Biblical passages about attempting to contact the dead are too broad to be limited to "necromancy" as you seem to be defining that term. Passages like Isaiah 8:19 and 19:3 don't just condemn particular forms of attempting to contact the dead, but rather condemn the broad principle of consulting the deceased. You'll have to explain why we should think that prayers to the dead would be excluded from the condemnation.

    You wrote:

    "It is no different from asking a fellow brother or sister on earth to help you."

    Do you go into your room and speak to Christians living in other nations (without a telephone or other such device), audibly or within your heart, and expect those Christians to hear you? No, you don't. Just as a Christian in England wouldn't expect a Christian in Russia to hear his thoughts, you have no good reason to expect a deceased person to hear your prayers. The possibility that God would convey such information to a deceased person, regularly or in exceptional cases, isn't equivalent to a probability. You can't merely appeal to something that could happen. You would need to demonstrate a probability. As Tertullian noted:

    "Well, but 'with God nothing is impossible.' True enough; who can be ignorant of it? Who also can be unaware that 'the things which are impossible with men are possible with God?'...But if we choose to apply this principle so extravagantly and harshly in our capricious imaginations, we may then make out God to have done anything we please, on the ground that it was not impossible for Him to do it. We must not, however, because He is able to do all things suppose that He has actually done what He has not done. But we must inquire whether He has really done it. God could, if He had liked, have furnished man with wings to fly with, just as He gave wings to kites. We must not, however, run to the conclusion that He did this because He was able to do it." (Against Praxeas, 10)

    And I note, again, that if prayer to the dead had been practiced in Biblical times as it's practiced in Catholicism and Orthodoxy today, we wouldn't expect people to have to resort to the sort of argumentation we've gotten from Lvka and Christine in order to make the case. If Catholicism or Orthodoxy were the one true church, handing down an apostolic tradition of praying to the dead throughout church history, we wouldn't expect the sort of opposition to the practice that we see among the earliest patristic Christians.

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  7. SCRIPTURE
    Isaiah 8:19 is clearly forbidding necromancy (which is the ken of mediums & spiritists):

    "When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?"

    Same goes for Isaiah 19:3: "The Egyptians will lose heart, and I will bring their plans to nothing; they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead, the mediums and the spiritists."

    The Egyptians were known for necromancy and conducting séances in order to inquire about the state of the deceased or to ask for predictions about the future. These practices are abominable to the Lord.

    That is utterly different from asking a saint in heaven to help you. Whether it is worded as going "to" Mary or asking her to pray "for" you, they are one and the same thing: Catholics recognize that Mary has no power inherent in herself to grant prayers, but that any prayers granted through her intercession are ultimately wrought through the grace of God. Period. When one thanks Mary for "granting" a grace, it is implicit that one is thanking her for praying for us, and for obtaining this grace from God. This is so regardless of the language used (semantics, really).

    To give an example: If I say, "St. Joseph, please help me to find employment," have I prayed TO him, or have I asked him to pray on my behalf? Technically, I suppose I've done both--but what of it? The underlying action is the same: I'm ultimately asking St. Joseph to intercede for me to God to obtain a job. And there is nothing sinful or wrong with that at all--no more than asking your friend on earth to go to God and pray God would grant you a job.

    COMMUNICATION
    As to your objection about the means of communication--no, of course one doesn't go into a room and "pray" in one's heart to a living relative across the world. That's not the mode of communication in this earthly life. We have to pick up a phone or send an e-mail or use some other suitable means of communication to make our request. But once one has crossed over death, the means of communication are no longer confined to those here on earth. This is why, for instance, Christ could appear and disappear after his death and resurrection, and seemingly walk through walls. The physical rules of this life do not apply to those in the afterlife--so when we direct our interior thoughts to a particular saint, that saint can hear us.

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  8. PATRISTICS
    There has been an unbroken tradition of support for the idea of the intercession of the saints from the days of the early church fathers up to the present (except for the break during the Reformation, although even Luther believed in the intercession of the saints: “Although angels in heaven pray for us (as Christ himself also does), and although saints on earth, and perhaps also in heaven…” (Smalcald Articles, Part II, Article II, Book of Concord 297,):

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

    Cyril of Jerusalem: "Then [during the Eucharistic prayer] we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition..." (Catechetical Lectures 23:9 [A.D. 350]).

    Gregory of Nazianzus: "Yes, I am well assured that [my father's] intercession is of more avail now than was his instruction in former days, since he is closer to God, now that he has shaken off his bodily fetters, and freed his mind from the clay that obscured it, and holds conversation naked with the nakedness of the prime and purest mind." (Orations 18:4 [A.D. 374]).

    John Chrysostom: "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]).

    Augustine: "A Christian people celebrate together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers." (Against Faustus the Manichean [A.D. 400])

    I understand all the objections to prayers to the dead, as I was once a Calvinist myself--but Catholics do not practice necromancy, neither do they support it. What they support is the intercession of the saints, and the idea that our communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ does not abruptly stop once they have passed over, but continues, and that we continue to receive their love and help while they stand in the presence of God.

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  9. Christine wrote:

    "The Egyptians were known for necromancy and conducting séances in order to inquire about the state of the deceased or to ask for predictions about the future. These practices are abominable to the Lord."

    You aren't interacting with what I said. Explain how phrases like "consult the dead on behalf of the living" and "consult...the spirits of the dead", to use the translations you posted, aren't applicable to praying to the dead. By your reasoning, Isaiah 8:19 would mean something like "Why consult the dead on behalf of the living, unless you do it through prayer?" Isaiah doesn't include any such qualifier. The fact that mediums and spiritists are mentioned doesn't prove that the principles Isaiah lays out can only apply to attempts to contact the dead in those particular ways. (For example, Deuteronomy 18:11 mentions mediums and spiritists, then mentions the broad category of "calling up the dead". Mediums and spiritists are examples within a larger category.) Similarly, the fact that some means of murder, such as the use of a gun, didn't exist in Biblical times doesn't lead us to the conclusion that murder by means of a gun is exempted from Biblical passages that condemn murder.

    You write:

    "Whether it is worded as going 'to' Mary or asking her to pray 'for' you, they are one and the same thing: Catholics recognize that Mary has no power inherent in herself to grant prayers, but that any prayers granted through her intercession are ultimately wrought through the grace of God."

    That's not the subject I was addressing. I was addressing whether people pray to Mary. You denied that she's prayed to, and you were wrong.

    You write:

    "To give an example: If I say, 'St. Joseph, please help me to find employment,' have I prayed TO him, or have I asked him to pray on my behalf? Technically, I suppose I've done both--but what of it?"

    Earlier, you denied that the dead are prayed to. That's "what of it".

    You write:

    "But once one has crossed over death, the means of communication are no longer confined to those here on earth. This is why, for instance, Christ could appear and disappear after his death and resurrection, and seemingly walk through walls. The physical rules of this life do not apply to those in the afterlife--so when we direct our interior thoughts to a particular saint, that saint can hear us."

    As I said earlier, you have to demonstrate that the receiving of prayers by the deceased is both probable and acceptable. You've done neither. Rather, all you've done is tell us that changes occur in the afterlife and cite Jesus' resurrection appearances as examples. But being deceased isn't equivalent to being resurrected. And we aren't told which of Jesus' activities after His resurrection represent what's normative and which don't. And none of the resurrection passages you've cited involve receiving prayers. And Jesus is God and man, not merely man, so He's not entirely analogous to somebody like Joseph, Jude, or Mary.

    (continued below)

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  10. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "even Luther believed in the intercession of the saints: 'Although angels in heaven pray for us (as Christ himself also does), and although saints on earth, and perhaps also in heaven…' (Smalcald Articles, Part II, Article II, Book of Concord 297,)"

    You're changing the subject. Angels aren't deceased humans. And whether the deceased pray for us is a different issue than whether we can pray to them. And "perhaps" isn't the same as a probability. And Luther is too late in church history to have the evidential significance of the sources I was discussing.

    You write:

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

    Again, you're not addressing the issue of prayers to the dead. See my post here regarding Origen's view of prayer. He contradicted your position.

    You go on to cite sources from the fourth and fifth centuries, which I wasn't addressing. You haven't cited any support for the practice from the Old Testament era, you've cited nothing from the apostolic era, and your citation of Origen was irrelevant. I don't deny that praying to the dead was popular in the post-Nicene era. That's why I referred to "the earliest patristic Christians" above and have mentioned similar qualifiers in past discussions of the subject.

    Have you read much from the fathers yourself? I noticed that the quotes you've used are the same as the ones found in a Catholic Answers tract here, aside from some minor differences, like punctuation.

    You write:

    "I understand all the objections to prayers to the dead, as I was once a Calvinist myself"

    Then why do you keep making mistakes, even mistakes as basic as bringing up whether the dead pray for us in a discussion about prayer to the dead? Why did you claim that people aren't praying to the dead? Why did you bring up the irrelevant fact that people in Heaven are spiritually alive, as if opponents of prayer to the dead haven't already taken that fact into account? Why are you ignoring the large majority of what I've argued, such as the absence of prayer to the dead in so many relevant Biblical and patristic contexts and early patristic contradictions of the practice? Why are you going to a source like a Catholic Answers tract for your patristic citations? It doesn't seem that you knew much about the subject going into this discussion.

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  11. Jason,
    Evasion and obfuscation. You haven't substantively responded to anything I've written. Instead, you're more interested in semantics. We're talking about the basic concept of the intercession of the saints, which is what this attack on praying "to" the dead is about. When Catholics pray "to" a saint in heaven, they are asking for that saint's help--through his intercession.

    I've repeated myself three times now on this point, you refuse to acknowledge it and would prefer to quibble over semantics, so I consider this case closed.

    As to your question:
    "Have you read much from the fathers yourself?

    I specialized in patristics at Oxford University and have a master's degree in historical theology, so yes, I'd say I've read much from the fathers. As to the quotations, it'd be better to provide a substantive response to them rather than making a side issue about which website they're from or whether or not the person's well-read in the fathers, don't you think?

    As to these so-called "mistakes" I keep making, I'd like to know exactly what they are? I haven't ignored anything you've written, but have addressed each one specifically and in detail. You refuse to accept the evidence. And what is it about Origen in particular that makes him so specially an authority, and not the Nicene or post-Nicene fathers? Why the selective quoting, only when it suits your interests? Is Augustine now no longer an authority (regardless of the fact that he's credited with helping to formulate some of the core doctrines of the Christian faith)?

    Your interpretation of the scriptural passages on necromancy are dubious. Scripture must be interpreted consistent with the context--and in the context cited, it is clearly referring to consulting mediums and spiritists, which is something Catholics agree is wrong. That is *entirely* different from the intercession of the saints.

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  12. CHRISTINE SAID:

    "Is it sinful to ask your brother to pray for you? Of course not; Christians do it all the time. So why is it wrong to ask a saint in heaven to pray for you, particularly when that saint is closer to God than your brother here on earth?"

    This is deceptive, and you know it. For one thing, the intercession of the saints isn't just a case of praying to the dead. Rather, a presupposition of such prayer is the *merit* of the saints.

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  13. Actually, no, Steve, it's not deceptive at all. I meant precisely what I said. Asking the saints to pray for you is no different from going to your friend here on earth to pray for you. Location may be different, but the concept is the same.

    You have a habit of being quick to accuse. Are you quick to apologize when you're shown to be wrong?

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  14. Christine said...

    "This is why, for instance, Christ could appear and disappear after his death and resurrection, and seemingly walk through walls."

    Uh, Jesus was capable of doing all those things (and more) even before his death and Resurrection. He had miraculous powers. Indeed, divine powers.

    "The physical rules of this life do not apply to those in the afterlife--so when we direct our interior thoughts to a particular saint, that saint can hear us."

    So why didn't King Saul just direct his interior thoughts to Samuel in heaven? Why did he retain the services of a medium to make contact?

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  15. Christine said...

    "Actually, no, Steve, it's not deceptive at all. I meant precisely what I said. Asking the saints to pray for you is no different from going to your friend here on earth to pray for you. Location may be different, but the concept is the same."

    I pointed out a crucial conceptual difference (the alleged "merit" of the saints) which you blow right past.

    "You have a habit of being quick to accuse. Are you quick to apologize when you're shown to be wrong?"

    You made a deceptive claim. Now you're repeated the same offense.

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  16. "[Christine] Your interpretation of the scriptural passages on necromancy are dubious."

    So why don't you point Jason to where the Magisterium has infallibly interpreted these passages? After all, you can't expect Jason to accept your *private* interpretation of Scripture.

    "Scripture must be interpreted consistent with the context."

    So I guess we can dispense with the Magisterium. Just interpret Scripture in context.

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  17. Christine wrote:

    "As to these so-called 'mistakes' I keep making, I'd like to know exactly what they are?"

    Then read the last paragraph in my last post, in which I gave some examples. And read the other examples I discussed earlier.

    You write:

    "I haven't ignored anything you've written, but have addressed each one specifically and in detail."

    Where have you addressed my point about the absence of prayers to the dead in contexts in which we'd expect it to be mentioned? Where did you interact with my citations of Celsus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen, and other patristic sources? Where did you interact with my discussion of the specific wording of Deuteronomy 18, Isaiah 8, and Isaiah 19? You've been ignoring a lot.

    You write:

    "And what is it about Origen in particular that makes him so specially an authority, and not the Nicene or post-Nicene fathers?"

    You yourself have cited Origen. My citation of him, unlike yours, is relevant to the issue under dispute.

    Christianity involves a historical revelation. Catholics and Evangelicals agree that special, public revelation ceased with the death of the apostles. Thus, there's a historical advantage to chronological proximity to the apostolic era. Origen lived earlier than the Nicene and post-Nicene fathers. And he was interacting with a second-century non-Christian source, Celsus, when he made many of his comments on prayer. Thus, his comments not only reflect his view of the subject, but also reflect what he and Celsus thought Christians in general believed. For some other examples of why Origen is significant, see here.

    (continued below)

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  18. (continued from above)

    Furthermore, given the claims Catholics and Orthodox make about church history, you shouldn't just be able to cite people agreeing with your position among the Nicene fathers and later. Rather, you should be able to cite an unbroken succession of belief in praying to the dead. You yourself wrote, earlier in this thread:

    "There has been an unbroken tradition of support for the idea of the intercession of the saints from the days of the early church fathers up to the present (except for the break during the Reformation"

    When are you going to produce evidence from the Bible and the earliest generations of the patristic era?

    And I haven't just cited Origen in these recent threads. I've also been discussing Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Lactantius, etc.

    You write:

    "Scripture must be interpreted consistent with the context--and in the context cited, it is clearly referring to consulting mediums and spiritists, which is something Catholics agree is wrong."

    You're ignoring the specific wording I cited from Deuteronomy and Isaiah, wording that's inconsistent with your position.

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  19. Steve,
    Since all you seem to deal in is unsubstantiated accusation, I'm moving on. Cheers.

    Jason,
    It's convenient to ignore Augustine and some of the other patristic fathers who very obviously support the notion of intercession of the saints. That's selective quotation, it's what Luther and Calvin specialized in, and it's what you're doing here.

    In response to your post, Origen was absolutely correct to discourage “invoking” the angels, because invoking in this context means to summon. No one should summon a spirit being to manifest itself. That, however, is far different from calling upon the angels to aid you in time of need!
    Anyway, Origen makes it very clear that he supports the idea of intercession of the saints:
    “Also it may well be that the assemblies of believers also are attended by angelic powers, by the powers of our Lord and Savior himself, and indeed by the spirits of saints, including those already fallen asleep…” On Prayer, AD 233
    In any case, if you'd like citations from fathers around Origen's time:

    (cont'd)

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  20. Clement of Alexandria: "Though he pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him [in prayer]" Miscellanies, 7:12. AD 208

    Cyprian of Carthage: "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. AD 253.

    Methodius: "Therefore, we pray [ask] you, the most excellent among women [Mary], who glories in the confidence of your maternal honors, that you would unceasingly keep us in remembrance." Oration on Simeon and Anna 14, AD 305.

    Cyril of Jerusalem: "Then [during the Eucharistic prayer] we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition... " Catechetical Lectures 23:9. AD 350.
    As to your quotes from Tertullian, Lactantius, etc. explaining prayer to God, it should be noted that prayer directly to God does not necessarily exclude the intercession of the saints. That would be akin to saying you shouldn’t ask your brother to pray for you, because you should go directly to God. That would be nonsense, and Scripture clearly supports the practice of praying for each other to God. You are doing no different when you go to a saint in heaven and request his prayers.
    I don’t see why this is so hard to understand.
    The concept of the intercession of the saints falls under the wider notion of the communion of saints. This means that the Body of Christ is not abruptly split between those living on earth and those who are now in heaven, but rather that there remains a fellowship of faith and love among all of us.

    It's agreed that necromancy is abhorrent to the Lord; it's what Saul took part in when consulting a medium to raise Samuel from the dead. But nowhere does Scripture condemn the intercession of the saints, and the burden is on you to show where the Bible explicitly forbids this. So far, you have only cited passages that condemn necromancy.

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  21. CHRISTINE SAID:

    "Steve, Since all you seem to deal in is unsubstantiated accusation, I'm moving on. Cheers."

    Your allegation that all I deal in is unsubstantiated accusation is, itself, an unsubstantiated allegation. Thanks for shooting yourself in the foot.

    "The concept of the intercession of the saints falls under the wider notion of the communion of saints. This means that the Body of Christ is not abruptly split between those living on earth and those who are now in heaven, but rather that there remains a fellowship of faith and love among all of us."

    So death is not a real barrier. We should be able to have two-way conversations with the saints in glory. When was the last time Aquinas spoke with you?

    "But nowhere does Scripture condemn the intercession of the saints, and the burden is on you to show where the Bible explicitly forbids this."

    Nowhere does Scripture condemn the intercession of Satan, and the burden is on you to show where the Bible explicitly forbids this.

    Nowhere does Scripture condemn the intercession of aliens from outer space, and the burden is on you to show where the Bible explicitly forbids this.

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  22. Christine wrote:

    "It's convenient to ignore Augustine and some of the other patristic fathers who very obviously support the notion of intercession of the saints. That's selective quotation, it's what Luther and Calvin specialized in, and it's what you're doing here."

    When scholars who are discussing Jesus' resurrection assign more evidential weight to Paul and Clement of Rome than they do to Augustine and John Chrysostom, do you accuse them of "ignoring Augustine and some of the other patristic fathers"? I've explained why the earlier fathers have more significance. You aren't interacting with what I said. Try convincing a historian that John of Damascus is just as good a witness as Paul to the historical Jesus.

    You write:

    "In response to your post, Origen was absolutely correct to discourage 'invoking' the angels, because invoking in this context means to summon."

    You aren't even identifying a passage in Origen, nor are you arguing for your conclusion. You're just making an assertion. And I cited a variety of terms Origen uses, not just "invoke".

    You write:

    "'Also it may well be that the assemblies of believers also are attended by angelic powers, by the powers of our Lord and Savior himself, and indeed by the spirits of saints, including those already fallen asleep…' On Prayer, AD 233"

    You keep misrepresenting the issue under dispute. Here's what I said in my post on Origen that I linked earlier:

    "[Origen believed that] Angels and other created beings are aware of our prayers to God and our moral character, for example, and they pray with us, but we shouldn't 'propitiate' or 'invoke' them (8:64)."

    You keep quoting passages in which Origen refers to something other than praying to the deceased. Saying "it may well be" that the deceased attend Christian gatherings isn't equivalent to saying that we should pray to the deceased. And I've cited multiple passages in which he specifically says that we're to pray only to God. For you to keep ignoring those passages, while citing other ones that are addressing other issues, is at least careless, if not dishonest.

    And why didn't you cite the passage within Origen's treatise that you were quoting? Have you read the treatise yourself?

    (continued below)

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  23. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "Clement of Alexandria: 'Though he pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him [in prayer]' Miscellanies, 7:12. AD 208"

    It doesn't reflect well on your understanding of the issue when you keep confusing categories. Again, whether angels or the deceased are aware of prayers isn't the same issue as whether we can pray to them. Evangelicals don't deny that angels are involved in human affairs and would thereby often be witnesses to prayer. It doesn't follow that Evangelicals believe in prayer to angels. And, as I've documented, somebody like Origen can refer to the presence (or possible presence) of angels or deceased humans while saying, at the same time, that we're to pray only to God. You can't equate the presence of angels or deceased humans or their knowledge of prayers with their being the object of prayers.

    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:

    "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)

    (continued below)

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  24. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "Cyprian of Carthage: '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. AD 253."

    Another irrelevant quote. Praying for isn't the same as praying to.

    Cyprian wrote a treatise On The Lord's Prayer, which addresses prayer in general, even though it focuses on that one prayer in the gospels. Cyprian tells us that we pray to "nothing but the Lord", to "God alone":

    "Moreover, when we stand praying, beloved brethren, we ought to be watchful and earnest with our whole heart, intent on our prayers. Let all carnal and worldly thoughts pass away, nor let the soul at that time think on anything but the object only of its prayer. For this reason also the priest, by way of preface before his prayer, prepares the minds of the brethren by saying, 'Lift up your hearts,' that so upon the people's response, 'We lift them up unto the Lord,' he may be reminded that he himself ought to think of nothing but the Lord. Let the breast be closed against the adversary, and be open to God alone" (31)

    Throughout the treatise, Cyprian instructs the reader how to pray to God, and he repeatedly says that he's addressing all of our prayers in this treatise, yet he says nothing of praying to Mary, praying to Joseph, praying to Jude, or praying to anybody else other than God. Rather, he describes prayer as an act of worship and reverence to God, something addressed to God alone.

    (continued below)

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  25. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "Methodius: 'Therefore, we pray [ask] you, the most excellent among women [Mary], who glories in the confidence of your maternal honors, that you would unceasingly keep us in remembrance.' Oration on Simeon and Anna 14, AD 305."

    The work you're citing is most likely spurious. Methodius didn't write it. See here.

    You write:

    "As to your quotes from Tertullian, Lactantius, etc. explaining prayer to God, it should be noted that prayer directly to God does not necessarily exclude the intercession of the saints."

    Tertullian wrote an entire treatise on prayer, and he said nothing of praying to the dead. He explains that prayer is a sacrifice to God, which would exclude praying to anybody else:

    "We are the true adorers and the true priests, who, praying in spirit, sacrifice, in spirit, prayer,-a victim proper and acceptable to God, which assuredly He has required, which He has looked forward to for Himself! This victim, devoted from the whole heart, fed on faith, tended by truth, entire in innocence, pure in chastity, garlanded with love, we ought to escort with the pomp of good works, amid psalms and hymns, unto God's altar, to obtain for us all things from God." (On Prayer, 28)

    Lactantius condemns those who "make prayers to the dead" (The Divine Institutes, 2:18).

    Other examples could be cited. Justin Martyr mentions the evoking of departed spirits among other pagan practices Christians reject (First Apology, 18). Athenagoras suggests that prayers shouldn't be addressed to created beings (A Plea For The Christians, 15, 20). Hippolytus comments, "And in them [the Psalms] we have 'prayer,' viz., supplication offered to God for anything requisite" (On The Psalms, 1:8). I've already discussed, here and elsewhere, other relevant passages in Tatian, Celsus, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Cyprian.

    There are many hundreds of passages on prayer in the Bible and in the ante-Nicene fathers, including multiple treatises written on the subject. There are many contexts in which prayer to the dead could have been mentioned. You haven't given a single example of it in scripture or the earliest patristic Christians. Instead, we find the practice condemned and prayer described as something offered to God alone.

    Look at how often prayer to the dead is evidenced in Catholicism and Orthodoxy. It's present in their church services, in their books, in their conversations, and in many other contexts. Its absence in scripture and early post-apostolic church history offers a stark contrast.

    You write:

    "But nowhere does Scripture condemn the intercession of the saints, and the burden is on you to show where the Bible explicitly forbids this."

    Something doesn't have to be condemned explicitly in order to be condemned. And we don't begin with an assumption that we can pray to the deceased. You've asserted that the practice is acceptable, but you have yet to demonstrate it.

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  26. > "happen to be friends, say, with a director of the CIA, and you are being targeted by the mob, you would call upon your friend's political clout and expertise to protect you"

    And this, incidentally, is why dozens of theologically neutral scholars (many of whom have no dog in the Catholic vs Protestant debate), keep on confirming that corruption is much worse in countries that missed out on the Reformation (Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Mexico) than in those countries that, as Voltaire said, had the great misfortune to no longer be subjects of the Pope, and which have much higher standards of integrity in public life.

    There are very few, almost no, historically Catholic-majority countries where some money under the table to the police chief won't make your troubles with the law disappear. Coincidentally, these also tend to be the countries where each town has a huge parade every year for "their" local patron saint, whose request-answering powers are much greater than the next town's guy.

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  27. Jason: First of all, I have no desire to sink to the level of name calling in this discussion. If you want to start calling me dishonest with zero evidence, then intelligent conversation ceases and it's just ad hominem attack. Drop the unjust accusations or this conversation ends.

    Assuming your claim that the earlier the patristic text the better (although, frankly, it’s a faulty assumption), your continued emphasis on Origen falls short. First, I read your entire entry on Origen, and all you cited was his prohibition on “invoking” the angels. As already explained, invoking means summoning a spirit to manifest itself. That is a far cry from requesting the saints to pray for you. You can search high and low in all of Origen’s works and you will NEVER find a passage condemning the idea of the intercession of the saints. As already noted, he said in his work ON PRAYER:

    “But these pray along with those who genuinely pray—not only the high priest but also the angels who “rejoice in heaven over one repenting sinner more than over ninety-nine righteous that need not repentance,” and also the souls of the saints already at rest. Two instances make this plain.”

    Origen then proceeds to list two scriptural examples to support his claim that when we pray, the saints in heaven accompany us in prayer. Read the entire context for yourself; Origen could not be more plain:

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/origen/prayer.vii.html


    Your example of Justin Martyr falls for the same reason: he condemns invoking (summoning) the spirits of the departed, as he should—that is necromancy. Nowhere does he condemn the intercession of the saints.

    (cont'd)

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  28. If you find Methodius dubious, fine—let’s scrap him. What of Clement of Alexandria’s clear support of the intercession of the saints? ( "Though he pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him [in prayer]" Miscellanies, 7:12. AD 208). He came before Origen (and was in fact Origen’s mentor). Your response basically acknowledges the possibility of the intercession of the saints—that the saints in heaven are aware of our prayers and they pray alongside, with, and for us. That is no more and no less than what I’ve been saying all along!
    I quoted Cyprian of Carthage, who wrote: “Let us on both sides [of death] always pray for one another.” Letters 56[60]:5. AD 253.

    You responded with: “Another irrelevant quote. Praying for isn't the same as praying to.”

    You cannot be serious with this rebuttal! I will assume then that you accept the possibility that saints in heaven can pray for us on earth, as that is precisely what Cyprian was addressing, and is the point of this ENTIRE discussion: the intercession of the saints. For you to quibble over wording (to or for) is semantic obfuscation: the point is that the saints hear our prayers, and pray with us and for us. You seem to concede this point.

    The passages you cite concerning praying only to the Lord are not helpful, because Catholics acknowledge that all of us, whether here on earth or saints in heaven, ultimately pray to the Lord. That is ultimately where all our prayers are directed—indeed, that is what intercession of the saints means!

    I challenge you to find a single text in the entire patristic corpus explicitly condemning the notion of intercession of the saints. You will not find one.

    And the burden is indeed on *you* to refute this practice, as history is replete with examples of the early Christian cult of saints that developed around the martyrs, including St. Stephen, Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, Perpetua and Felicity, Domnina, Januarius, the Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia, Cyprian, Philomena, Cecelia, Gervasius, Sylvan, etc. Regardless if you think it's all pious myth, history documents that early Christians genuinely believed miracles were wrought through these saints’ intercession after death, and that this was a regular practice and belief among the early church and beyond.

    I think I've pretty much proved my point, and by now, I'm just repeating myself. You can continue to selectively quote from the Fathers, question my credentials (although I have a graduate degree in historical theology with an emphasis on patristics from Oxford University, as I've mentioned), and call me dishonest and other nonsense. I find all this very juvenile and tiresome, so I'm rather tempted to move on.

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  29. Christine,

    I don't understand why you don't get it. Even if the saints or those in heaven are praying for us, that doesn't mean we should be praying to them. The latter is not logically required by the former nor proved by it. You can provide all the citations you want saying those in heaven pray for us but that is not proof that we should pray to them!

    Let me say it again as clearly as it can be said. Prayer by saints does not equal prayer to saints.

    So even if a church father speaks of those in heaven praying FOR us, that is not support for the idea that we should be praying TO them. All of the citations before 300AD you cite speak of those in heaven praying FOR us - I don't see one that says we should pray TO them.

    Jason has made this point again and again quite clearly and I don't understand why you don't get it.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Christine wrote:

    ”First of all, I have no desire to sink to the level of name calling in this discussion. If you want to start calling me dishonest with zero evidence, then intelligent conversation ceases and it's just ad hominem attack. Drop the unjust accusations or this conversation ends.”

    I said that you were “at least careless, if not dishonest”, and I explained why. Instead of accurately representing what I said, and instead of interacting with the reasoning I provided for what I said, you misrepresent my comment and ignore the reasoning I gave you. And you accuse me of “name calling”. The phrase “careless, if not dishonest” isn’t a name. If you’re going to claim that accusing another person of doing something wrong is name-calling, then your criticism of me above is name-calling.

    You write:

    ”Assuming your claim that the earlier the patristic text the better (although, frankly, it’s a faulty assumption)”

    No, it’s a valid assumption that historians employ regularly. It’s not the only historical criterion, but it is a valid one among others. You’ve given us no reason to believe otherwise. Explain how it’s not advantageous to be chronologically closer to an event. I can explain how it is advantageous if that’s needed, but is it actually necessary? Do you really want to dispute the point?

    (continued below)

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  31. (continued from above)

    You write:

    ”First, I read your entire entry on Origen, and all you cited was his prohibition on ‘invoking’ the angels.”

    I wouldn’t keep accusing you of being at least careless, if not dishonest, if you didn’t keep making claims like the one above. The Origen post in question is here. And I wrote there, among other things:

    “In his treatise Against Celsus, Origen uses a wide variety of terms, not just terms like ‘pray’ and ‘prayer’, when addressing such issues. He comments that angels are involved in bringing our prayers to God and bringing God's blessings to us (Against Celsus, 5:4), but goes on to say that we shouldn't ‘invoke’ angels (5:5). He says that it's sufficient to imitate the angels' devotion to God without invoking them (5:5). Angels and other created beings are aware of our prayers to God and our moral character, for example, and they pray with us, but we shouldn't ‘propitiate’ or ‘invoke’ them (8:64). He repeatedly refers to the fact that only God sees our thoughts (7:51; On Prayer, 10), commenting that Christians for that reason pray only to God (4:26).”

    Not only did I cite phrases other than “invoke”, but I also cited some passages without quoting the terminology involved. It would be false and absurd to claim that every one of the passages in question only uses the term “invoke” in their relevant sections. And when Origen says that Christians pray only to God, he’s not just addressing whether Christians pray to angels. Deceased humans would be within the larger category that’s excluded. Did you even read these passages before responding to what I said about them?

    You write:

    ”As already explained, invoking means summoning a spirit to manifest itself.”

    That’s an assertion, not an argument. If Origen thought Celsus was only referring to such a notion of invoking, then why does he respond to Celsus by discussing prayer?

    I doubt that you know much about what we’re discussing. You’re largely making things up as you go along, which is why you resorted to posting material from a Catholic Answers tract earlier.

    (continued below)

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  32. (continued from above)


    You write:

    ”Origen then proceeds to list two scriptural examples to support his claim that when we pray, the saints in heaven accompany us in prayer. Read the entire context for yourself; Origen could not be more plain”

    I read the entire treatise years before this discussion began. I know what Origen wrote. And I know that your latest citation of him, like your earlier ones, is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Again, praying with isn’t praying to. Not only is that a reasonable distinction to make, but it’s also a distinction Origen himself makes, as I’ve documented. Evangelicals agree that angels hear prayers, that they’re involved in answers to prayers, that deceased humans in Heaven intercede with God regarding events on earth, as in Revelation 6, etc. None of those things are equivalent to praying to the dead. The fact that you keep changing the subject, even after having been corrected many times, reflects poorly on your position.

    You write:

    ”Your response basically acknowledges the possibility of the intercession of the saints—that the saints in heaven are aware of our prayers and they pray alongside, with, and for us. That is no more and no less than what I’ve been saying all along!”

    If I pray for justice on earth, and saints in Heaven pray for the same, as in Revelation 6, then deceased saints can be said to be praying with us in that sense. But praying with isn’t praying to. Praying to the dead involves some dubious assumptions and is unbiblical, anti-Biblical, and different from and contrary to the position of the earliest patristic Christians on the subject.

    (continued below)

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  33. (continued from above)


    Furthermore, although praying with the deceased can involve their knowledge of one or more of our prayers, it need not. The saints in Revelation 6 could pray for justice on earth without knowing of any specific prayer on earth from any specific individual on the same subject. You can’t assume, without further evidence, that any reference to praying with the deceased involves their knowledge of specific prayers from specific people. Your appeal to Clement of Alexandria, for example, needs to be expanded in order to include an argument that Clement has your particular type of praying with in mind. And even if you would produce such an argument that’s successful, there would still be a difference between praying with and praying to.

    When I pray for abortion to be stopped, I’m praying with many other Christians. It doesn’t follow that I’m praying to them, much less that they all know about my prayers in particular.

    You write:

    ”For you to quibble over wording (to or for) is semantic obfuscation”

    Then why did you begin your involvement in this thread by making such a semantic distinction? Go back and reread your first post here.

    The reason I’m concerned about wording is because words have meaning. Just as we distinguish between praying with other Christians on earth and praying to them, we ought to make the same distinction with regard to believers in Heaven. Are you going to abandon the distinction when addressing believers on earth?

    (continued below)

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  34. (continued from above)


    You write:

    ”I challenge you to find a single text in the entire patristic corpus explicitly condemning the notion of intercession of the saints. You will not find one.”

    You say that after redefining terms in such a way that praying with is equivalent to praying to. Origen can say that we should pray only to God and not to created beings, and you’ll claim that he wasn’t contradicting prayer to the dead. Lactantius can condemn “prayers to the dead”, and you claim that he isn’t condemning the Roman Catholic practice of praying to the dead. Etc. When terms and concepts are redefined as absurdly as you’ve redefined them, there’s little significance in your saying that no patristic passage can be shown to contradict your position.

    You write:

    “You can continue to selectively quote from the Fathers, question my credentials (although I have a graduate degree in historical theology with an emphasis on patristics from Oxford University, as I've mentioned), and call me dishonest and other nonsense.”

    Yes, an Oxford graduate who gets so much of her material from a Catholic Answers tract, repeatedly confuses categories even after being corrected, repeatedly makes claims that are easily shown to be false, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Jason: I'm sorry, good sir, but the only one mixing up categories is you. You claim: "Lactantius can condemn “prayers to the dead”, and you claim that he isn’t condemning the Roman Catholic practice of praying to the dead."

    Equivocation. First of all, Catholics do not "pray to the dead," we pray to living saints in Heaven. If you can at least acknowledge that very simple and obvious fact, we might get somewhere.

    Secondly, you should not quote Lactantius out of context. The entire sentence reads,

    "But if it appears that these religious rites are vain in so many ways as I have shown, it is manifest that those who either make prayers to the dead,[5] or venerate the earth, or make over[6] their souls to unclean spirits, do not act as becomes men, and that they will suffer punishment for their impiety and guilt, who, rebelling against God, the Father of the human race, have undertaken inexpiable rites, and violated every sacred law."

    The "prayers to the dead" Lactantius refers to are these, where he writes earlier:

    "In the first place, because those images which are worshipped are representations of men who are dead; and that is a wrong and inconsistent thing, that the image of a man should be worshipped by the image of God, for that which worships is lower and weaker than that which is worshipped: then that it is an inexpiable crime to desert the living in order that you may serve memorials of the dead..."

    The whole chapter is devoted to the worship of demons and other pagan practices condemned by the church. If you quote it out of context, you can twist it for your own agenda, but clearly reading it in light of the entire chapter, Lactantius is referring to worshipping images of dead men and celebrating rituals in their honor. NOWHERE does he refer to the intercession of the saints in heaven!

    PLEASE stop quoting out of context, or else I'm going to have to start calling you dishonest, and I'd really prefer not to...

    I suggest you read J.N.D. Kelly's authoritative work EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES, wherein he attests to the historical practice of early Christians venerating the martyrs' relics and praying to the saints for their intercession.

    Please also read Peter Brown’s THE CULT OF THE SAINTS. Brown is not a Catholic, yet he also documents the archaeological and historical evidence showing the early church's devotion to the martyrs and saints.

    ReplyDelete
  36. It would be helpful if you tidied up your responses by posting one or two succinct comments, rather than responding off the cuff in 5 or 6 rambling remarks. Thanks.

    Jason wrote: “Explain how it’s not advantageous to be chronologically closer to an event.”

    Gladly. In some cases, being closer in time can be beneficial (e.g., the ability to recall the details of an accident or the like). In the case of the early church documents, this would not necessarily be the case because of a little detail called “Christian doctrine.” If you’ve studied church history at all, you’d know that in the early church, Christians had not yet formulated a clear understanding of, e.g., the Trinity, Holy Communion, the role of the Holy Spirit, the nature of Christ, etc. It took the passage of time and the combating of various heresies to crystallize early Christians’ understanding of basic Christian doctrine.

    To take an example: The Apostles’ Creed, which came earlier in time than the Nicene Creed, lacked any mention of the divinity of Jesus or of the Holy Spirit. This was problematic, because Arians and others who denied Christ’s divine nature were able to embrace the Apostles’ Creed. In efforts to combat the Arian heresy, the Nicene Council met to settle the Christological issue of the relationship of God the Son to God the Father (settling the Homoousian vs. Homoiousian debate). The Council eventually formulated what we know as the Nicene Creed, which all of orthodox Christianity accepts today. The Nicene Creed clarifies Christ’s divine nature, and provides a fuller picture of the Holy Trinity.

    In this example alone we see that the document that came *later* in time is *more accurate* with regard to Christian doctrine than the one that came earlier. So it is with patristic texts; the early church fathers are still taking tentative steps with regard to understanding and formulating teachings of the Christian faith. The later patristic fathers had the benefit of the earlier texts to clarify and purify Christian doctrine. This is why your continued emphasis on Origen (although you ignore Clement) is ineffectual. (Origen was declared a heretic, by the way, so you probably should not lean so heavily on him; besides, I’ve already shown how nothing Origen says contradicts or condemns the notion of the intercession of the saints.)

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  37. "When I pray for abortion to be stopped, I’m praying with many other Christians. It doesn’t follow that I’m praying to them, much less that they all know about my prayers in particular."

    Perhaps you didn't hear the first time I explained this. I responded to this objection when I discussed the means of communication differing on earth from that in heaven. OF COURSE we don't "pray" to our brothers on earth; they can't "hear" our thoughts, unless we audibly voice them or send a written communication. Physical laws *do* apply here on earth.

    Once a soul has passed over, the means of communications differ, and earthly physical laws no longer apply--so when we "pray" to the saints, what we are doing is communicating our requests to them interiorly, simply because that is the means of communication appropriate to souls in heaven! Simple!

    I'm glad you've read Origen. I, too, have read him, along with many of the ante-Nicene, Nicene, and post-Nicene fathers, as well as modern commentaries on them. I've also written a master's thesis on St. Augustine's epistemology that garnered me a position in the doctoral program at Oxford University, which has one of the best patristics departments in the world.

    Now that we've got that out of the way, how about dealing with the actual text of the patristic quotes, rather than this repeated irrelevant harping on their source or whether or not I'm just "makin' stuff up as I go along", which is merely a tactic to undermine my position via ad hominem argumentation? Substance, Mr. Engwer, substance.

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  38. CHRISTINE SAID:

    "Equivocation. First of all, Catholics do not 'pray to the dead,' we pray to living saints in Heaven. If you can at least acknowledge that very simple and obvious fact, we might get somewhere."

    Of course, in that roundabout sense, necromancers don't traffic with the "dead." Samuel wasn't "dead" in that roundabout sense. So that's just one more parallel between necromancy and the cult of the saints.

    ReplyDelete
  39. "[Christine] Gladly. In some cases, being closer in time can be beneficial (e.g., the ability to recall the details of an accident or the like). In the case of the early church documents, this would not necessarily be the case because of a little detail called 'Christian doctrine.' If you’ve studied church history at all, you’d know that in the early church, Christians had not yet formulated a clear understanding of, e.g., the Trinity, Holy Communion, the role of the Holy Spirit, the nature of Christ, etc. It took the passage of time and the combating of various heresies to crystallize early Christians’ understanding of basic Christian doctrine."

    i) Notice the bait-and-switch. Christine isn't giving examples of testimonial evidence. Rather, her examples concern the development of doctrine.

    ii) She also assumes that such developments are sound. But that begs the question. For instances, Protestants regard many developments in Catholic sacramentology as a grave deviation from the truth.

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  40. "[Christine] Once a soul has passed over, the means of communications differ, and earthly physical laws no longer apply--so when we 'pray' to the saints, what we are doing is communicating our requests to them interiorly, simply because that is the means of communication appropriate to souls in heaven! Simple!"

    Even if discarnate spirits have a different mode of communication when communicating with each other (i.e. fellow discarnate spirits), Christine's logic hardly follows in application to embodied supplicants on earth.

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  41. Christine wrote:

    ”First of all, Catholics do not ‘pray to the dead,’ we pray to living saints in Heaven.”

    I addressed that issue in my first reply to you, and you haven’t interacted with what I said on the subject. If you want us to assume that Lactantius was only referring to the spiritually dead, you’ll have to argue for that conclusion, not just assert it. We don’t begin with a default assumption that any reference to “the dead” only refers to the spiritually dead. As I pointed out earlier, there’s nothing wrong with trying to contact spiritually dead people, like a non-Christian relative or co-worker. The physically dead are in view when the Biblical authors condemn attempts to contact the dead. Lactantius likely was writing under the influence of that Biblical concept. Even if he wasn’t, the most natural meaning of “the dead” is the physically dead. If you want us to go with a less common definition, then argue for it. Don’t act as though it’s a given.

    You write:

    ”The ‘prayers to the dead’ Lactantius refers to are these, where he writes earlier: ’In the first place, because those images which are worshipped are representations of men who are dead; and that is a wrong and inconsistent thing, that the image of a man should be worshipped by the image of God, for that which worships is lower and weaker than that which is worshipped: then that it is an inexpiable crime to desert the living in order that you may serve memorials of the dead...’”

    The passage you’ve quoted isn’t specifically about prayers to the dead. It’s about the veneration of images. And it undermines your position rather than supporting it. The “living” Lactantius contrasts with “the dead” are those who are physically alive. It’s not as though pagans were associating with Christians, and Lactantius was criticizing them for departing from Christians in order to venerate images of non-Christians. Rather, he was criticizing them for departing from physically living individuals in order to pursue their religious practices in honor of the physically dead. The contrast is between the physically living and the physically dead. When he goes on to condemn prayers to the dead, he’s condemning prayers to the physically dead.

    (continued below)

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  42. (continued from above)

    You write:

    ”The whole chapter is devoted to the worship of demons and other pagan practices condemned by the church.”

    You keep referring to your education and experience, but you repeatedly fail to anticipate obvious objections to your position. I’ve heard your argument above from Catholics for years, and I’ve been responding to it for years.

    The fact that pagans are condemned for an activity doesn’t imply that the activity is wrong only if done by pagans. Christians didn’t normally have abortions, so the earliest Christian condemnations of abortion are primarily given in the context of criticizing pagans. And other activities that Christians didn’t normally participate in would be mentioned along with abortion. It doesn’t follow that abortion is wrong only if done by pagans or only if accompanied by those other activities.

    Do Catholics pray to the physically dead? Yes. Does Lactantius suggest any exemption from his condemnation for the Catholic practice of praying to the dead? No.

    (continued below)

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  43. (continued from above)


    You write:

    ”I suggest you read J.N.D. Kelly's authoritative work EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES, wherein he attests to the historical practice of early Christians venerating the martyrs' relics and praying to the saints for their intercession.”

    I own the book. Post the page numbers on which Kelly supposedly contradicts me.

    You write:

    ”Please also read Peter Brown’s THE CULT OF THE SAINTS. Brown is not a Catholic, yet he also documents the archaeological and historical evidence showing the early church's devotion to the martyrs and saints.”

    Again, I own the book. Tell me specifically what you have in mind. Don’t just give us book and author names or vague references to “the early church” and “devotion”. I’ve been discussing a specific practice, prayer to the dead, among specific sources. If you’re going to claim an alleged refutation of my position in a book, then get specific.

    You write:

    ”In this example alone we see that the document that came *later* in time is *more accurate* with regard to Christian doctrine than the one that came earlier.”

    You’re changing the subject. I haven’t denied that later sources can think through an issue more thoroughly than earlier sources. For example, a higher percentage of professing Christians reject prayer to the dead today than rejected it during the Middle Ages. On the other hand, Arian Christology was a step backward rather than a step forward. Though later sources can be less correct, it’s true that they generally have the advantage of benefiting from further reflection on an issue. That tendency would give our generation an advantage over the generation of somebody like Augustine.

    (continued below)

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  44. (continued from above)

    That isn’t the issue I was addressing, though. I was addressing the preservation of apostolic teaching. A later generation may think through the implications of that teaching more thoroughly than a previous generation did, but the earlier generation is more credible in reporting that teaching from which the later understanding developed. As I said earlier, Catholics and Evangelicals agree that special, public revelation ceased with the death of the apostles. Arguing that Augustine understood that revelation better than Origen doesn’t change the fact that Origen (for chronological and other reasons) was in some ways in a better position to judge what revelation had been handed down.

    If you want to argue that Christians didn’t develop an understanding of prayer to the dead until after the sources I’ve been citing, then you should stop claiming that men like Clement of Alexandria and Cyprian advocated prayer to the dead. And you would have to demonstrate that the later sources were correct in their understanding of the issue. So far, you’ve done neither.

    You write:

    ”This is why your continued emphasis on Origen (although you ignore Clement) is ineffectual.”

    You keep making demonstrably false claims. I haven’t “ignored Clement”. I explained why Origen is significant, and you haven’t interacted with that explanation. And I’ve discussed a lot of other sources.

    (continued below)

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  45. (continued from above)

    You write:

    ”Origen was declared a heretic, by the way, so you probably should not lean so heavily on him; besides, I’ve already shown how nothing Origen says contradicts or condemns the notion of the intercession of the saints.”

    See the article I linked above on the significance of Origen. Just as he’s had many critics over the centuries, he’s also had many defenders. And even the critics have been highly influenced by him and often cite him or use his work in some other way. The recent Catechism Of The Catholic Church cites him on some issues. So do many other Roman Catholic sources.

    And it’s misleading for you to say that you’ve “shown how nothing Origen says contradicts or condemns the notion of the intercession of the saints”. The subject I’ve been addressing is prayer to the dead, not “the intercession of the saints” in the broad sense in which you’ve defined it. And you haven’t even attempted a response to most of the points I’ve made about Origen. Again, why do you keep making claims that are so obviously false?

    (continued below)

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  46. (continued from above)

    You write:

    ”OF COURSE we don't ‘pray’ to our brothers on earth; they can't ‘hear’ our thoughts, unless we audibly voice them or send a written communication.”

    If you don’t pray to Christians on earth, despite praying with them, then why are we supposed to believe that patristic references to praying with the dead are references to praying to the dead?

    You write:

    ”Once a soul has passed over, the means of communications differ, and earthly physical laws no longer apply--so when we ‘pray’ to the saints, what we are doing is communicating our requests to them interiorly, simply because that is the means of communication appropriate to souls in heaven! Simple!”

    Yes, it’s simple to assert that. What’s not simple is to demonstrate it. We’re still waiting for you to do that.

    You write:

    ”Substance, Mr. Engwer, substance.”

    The substance of this thread is that you haven’t given a single example of Biblical support for prayers to the dead or early patristic support. You’ve mostly ignored my last response to you concerning the relevant passages in Deuteronomy and Isaiah, you’ve ignored most of the patristic evidence I’ve cited, and you’ve repeatedly tried to change the subject to issues like praying for and with the dead.

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  47. Jason wrote: "[Y]ou haven’t given a single example of Biblical support for prayers to the dead or early patristic support."

    *Sighing wearily*

    Yes, I have, Jason, and you know it--unless you are simply failing to read anything I've written. I've addressed all your discussions several times over regarding Clement, Origen, etc., and have also cited authoritative sources (like Kelly and Brown) on the cult of saints that developed in the early Church around the martyrs. At this point, we're arguing in circles, and you are refusing to acknowledge the evidence.

    Besides, you have pretty much conceded the possibility of the intercession of the saints (which even the Augsburg Confession concedes, as well as your beloved Luther).

    I'm off to do something more productive. Have a nice Sunday.

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  48. ”[Christine] Once a soul has passed over, the means of communications differ, and earthly physical laws no longer apply--so when we ‘pray’ to the saints, what we are doing is communicating our requests to them interiorly, simply because that is the means of communication appropriate to souls in heaven! Simple!”

    Simple?

    You're postulating a type of telepathic communication. What is more, telepathy between incarnate spirits (i.e. earthly Christians) and discarnate spirits (the saints in glory).

    Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that this is both possible and actual.

    i) If it's possible for an incarnate spirit to telepathically communicate with a discarnate spirit, then why isn't it possible for one incarnate spirit to telepathically communicate with another incarnate spirit?

    You can't claim that embodiment is an impediment, for on your model, incarnate spirits are able to telepathically communicate with discarnate spirits. So mere embodiment is no barrier to telepathy.

    In that event, why can't I successfully direct my thoughts to another human earthling?

    ii) Likewise, once you postulate telepathy, then why isn't that a two-way street? If an incarnate spirit can transmit his transmit his thoughts to a discarnate spirit, then why can't he be on the receiving end as well?

    iii) Indeed, why would it even be voluntary? Since, in the nature of the case, telepathy doesn't require a physical medium, why wouldn't the contents of one mind be transparent to another mind?

    iv) Likewise, why would that be limited to earthly Christians and heavenly saints? What about the damned? They, too, are discarnate spirits who, by your logic, are no longer bound by the laws of physics.

    Are demons therefore privy to what the angels are thinking, and vice versa? Are demons therefore privy to what earthly Christians are thinking, and vice versa?

    Wouldn't telepathy render all minds mutually accessible? Group consciousness?

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  49. Christin said:

    "Besides, you have pretty much conceded the possibility of the intercession of the saints (which even the Augsburg Confession concedes, as well as your beloved Luther)."

    Since you ignored me last time, I'll say it again. Prayer BY saints is not the same as prayer TO saints. You keep conflating these two. You continually cites early references about saints praying for us as if that establishes that we should pray to them. They are not same and I really wish you'd begin to understand that.

    Intercession by saints is NOT equal to prayer TO saints. Quite conflating the two.

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  50. I'll admit, I don't get around to saying much these days, but this was too good to pass up:

    and have also cited authoritative sources (like Kelly and Brown) on the cult of saints that developed in the early Church around the martyrs

    For someone who claims to be Oxford educated you seem remarkably ignorant of basic documentation. You didn't "cite" Kelly and Brown, you pointed Jason to them, to which he replied that you need to cite the relevant portions, preferably by chapter and/or pagination.

    Likewise if you wish to cite a Patristic source, you need to demonstrate by way of argument that that source is arguing for the same thing for which you are arguing...namely that prayer TO (not BY or WITH, etc.) the deceased is (a) equatable to prayer by,with,etc. the deceased and that such a practice is endorsed by those sources. Indeed, for someone with the education you claim to have, you seem remarkably reliant on Catholic Answers tracts.

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  51. Gene wrote:

    "For someone who claims to be Oxford educated you seem remarkably ignorant of basic documentation. You didn't "cite" Kelly and Brown, you pointed Jason to them, to which he replied that you need to cite the relevant portions, preferably by chapter and/or pagination."

    My dear Gene, please refer to a dictionary (any one will do), look up the word "cite", and read the definition(s). Then get back to me.

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  52. Jason wrote:

    "The subject I’ve been addressing is prayer to the dead, not “the intercession of the saints” in the broad sense in which you’ve defined it."

    Then we're at cross-purposes, because the subject I've been discussing all along is the intercession of the saints--which includes requesting that the saints pray on our behalf--which requires that we *make* that request--which is just another word for "prayer".

    In your narrow use of "prayer to the dead", you mean worship of idols or summoning dead people or some such nonsense, which is clearly not what Catholics do when they request the saints in heaven to pray for them. Nothing in Scripture or the patristic texts forbids this, you have not demonstrated any prohibition either from Scripture, history, tradition, or the patristic texts, (in fact, the patristic texts favor the notion of intercession of the saints), and the burden remains on you, as archaeological and historical evidence clearly support this practice in the early church and beyond.

    Until you can do this, the conversation is done. I am happy, at least, that you are willing to acknowledge that the saints can and do pray for us in heaven. You are more Catholic than you think!

    Happy Feast of Corpus Christi!

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  53. This is one of the most senseless discussions I've seen in a long time. The title of the post under discussion is about "prayers to the dead" and Jason and I have any number of times said that the discussion is about praying to saints so now after 50+ posts Christine finally understands what is under discussion but apparently decides to drop out. It's been a long time since I've seen such obtuse wrongheadedness.

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  54. Christine wrote:

    "Then we're at cross-purposes, because the subject I've been discussing all along is the intercession of the saints--which includes requesting that the saints pray on our behalf--which requires that we *make* that request--which is just another word for 'prayer'."

    Reread the title of this thread. It's a title I wrote for a thread I initiated. I know what the topic is. And I explained the topic to you many times. The "cross-purposes" arise from your desire to avoid the implications of the subject I was addressing.

    The fact that your Catholic understanding of the intercession of the saints includes prayer to the dead doesn't prove that a Biblical author's concept or that of a church father involved that practice. Your quoting somebody like Clement of Alexandria or Cyprian commenting on a subject like praying with the deceased doesn't prove that he agreed with you about praying to the deceased. You've given us no reason to conclude that any of the Biblical authors or any of the earliest church fathers believed in praying to the dead.

    You write:

    "In your narrow use of 'prayer to the dead', you mean worship of idols or summoning dead people or some such nonsense"

    No, that's not what I mean. I never suggested that "worshipping idols" was the issue, and I explained to you that I wasn't including the "summoning" of people. On the latter issue, I asked you to prove that a phrase like "invoke" involves summoning in the sense in which you defined it, and I cited evidence that Origen wasn't defining the term that way. You ignored what I said on both issues.

    (continued below)

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  55. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "Nothing in Scripture or the patristic texts forbids this, you have not demonstrated any prohibition either from Scripture, history, tradition, or the patristic texts, (in fact, the patristic texts favor the notion of intercession of the saints), and the burden remains on you, as archaeological and historical evidence clearly support this practice in the early church and beyond."

    You spend time criticizing Gene over his use of the term "cite", but you still haven't taken the time to document your claims about J.N.D. Kelly and Peter Brown. Should we believe your assertions about "archaeological and historical evidence" when you offer no relevant evidence and repeatedly refuse to provide documentation when asked to do so?

    As far as scripture is concerned, you decided to leave the discussion about scripture without addressing what I said about the language of the passages in Deuteronomy and Isaiah. You never explained why prayer to the dead is absent in scripture's many hundreds of pages addressing thousands of years of human history in a large number of contexts. Prayer to God is mentioned explicitly and frequently, in many contexts and in many ways. Why would prayer to the dead consistently go unmentioned? We're still waiting for your explanation.

    Regarding the church fathers, the fact remains that you've ignored most of what I've cited. Every ante-Nicene father you've cited is advocating something other than prayer to the dead. That's one of the reasons why you've been wanting to shift our attention to subjects like prayer with and by the dead.

    And do you think the readers won't notice that you keep ignoring relevant points that other posters, especially Steve, have been making against your position? You've been ignoring a lot, and any reader can easily note that fact. Your assertions don't carry much weight when they're so contrary to what's obviously been going on in this discussion.

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  56. Grifman: Nonsense. You haven't been following the discussion if you think I have "suddenly" understood what the conversation is about. Read my very first post on the topic and you'll see it is 100% consistent with everything I've been saying all along. Catholics do not "pray to the dead" if by that you mean what Lactantius meant (one of the sources Jason erroneously cites in his favor): worship of idols or pagan rituals done in honor of dead men or summoning ghosts.

    Jason's interpretation of Origen is flat-out wrong. His discussion of Methodius is based on half-truths. His quotation of Lactantius is taken out of context and utterly mistaken. Every other patristic source he has cited supports the notion of the intercession of the saints, and NOWHERE forbids the practice of requesting the saints' prayers to God.

    I explained many posts ago that Catholics do "pray" to living saints in heaven, if by "prayer" we mean make requests (not worship). Protestants are the ones always conflating the two and trying to equate "praying to the dead" with "worship of saints" or "summoning dead spirits." Catholics do no such thing.

    Protestants seem to have a very difficult time understanding the difference between necromancy and the intercession of the saints: two utterly different things.

    Yes, I'm dropping out--not because I'm retreating (ho,ho, far from it!), but because the conversation has come to a dead end. Jason refuses to acknowledge the evidence, based on early, middle, and late patristic sources, along with historical evidence, of the practice of praying to (requesting the intercession of--same thing) the saints.

    Given the fact that this practice was so widespread in the early church and beyond, it is remarkable that not a single church father condemns it, nor any text in scripture. If it was wrong to make requests of the saints in heaven, then surely among all the hundreds of pages on prayer written by the church fathers, they would condemn the practice! Surely among all the scriptural texts, there would be passages condemning the practice! But not one.

    Until you can produce evidence explicitly condemning the practice of requesting prayers of the saints in heaven, this conversation is done, and the teaching of the intercession of the saints stands (as it has done for 2,000 years, regardless of Luther, Calvin, or Zwingli's destructive rebellions).

    Dominus vobiscum!

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  57. "And do you think the readers won't notice that you keep ignoring relevant points that other posters, especially Steve, have been making against your position?"

    Actually, I've been ignoring all of Steve's comments ever since he's shown that he specializes in unsubstantiated accusation--which he does. He "fights dirty," and I have no interest in that. (I probably should have ignored his comments from the get-go, considering he labeled the entire Catholic Church "a pedophilic institution.")

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  58. Christine wrote:

    "Catholics do not 'pray to the dead' if by that you mean what Lactantius meant (one of the sources Jason erroneously cites in his favor)...Jason's interpretation of Origen is flat-out wrong. His discussion of Methodius is based on half-truths."

    You left the discussion of all three of those sources without addressing my last response on the subject. You did the same on many other issues.

    You write:

    "Every other patristic source he has cited supports the notion of the intercession of the saints, and NOWHERE forbids the practice of requesting the saints' prayers to God."

    One of the problems with your position is that even if we were to grant your claim that none of the sources contradict your view (even though we shouldn't grant it), you would still face the problem of the absence of evidence for your position. Again, why would prayer to the dead go unmentioned in thousands of pages of Biblical and early patristic literature addressing thousands of years of history, touching on so many contexts?

    Concerning your claim about "every" patristic source I cited, where does Tatian support your concept of the intercession of the saints? Or Athenagoras, for example?

    And if you have to exempt prayers to the dead from your definition of "the intercession of the saints" in order to affirm that every source supports it, then what good is patristic support for a form of intercession that doesn't include prayers to the dead? This thread is about prayers to the dead, so excluding that concept from the category of what you're looking for in the fathers doesn't make sense.

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  59. Christine wrote:

    "Actually, I've been ignoring all of Steve's comments ever since he's shown that he specializes in unsubstantiated accusation--which he does."

    And we all know that you're highly concerned about substantiation.

    Remind me, what were those page numbers in Kelly and Brown that you substantiated when we asked you for documentation?

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  60. My dear Gene, please refer to a dictionary (any one will do), look up the word "cite", and read the definition(s). Then get back to me.

    My dear Christine, I will happily find a dictionary definition for you:

    To quote as an authority or example.

    NOWHERE, Christine did you quote Kelly or Brown. Ergo, like Jason, I await a proper citation of Kelly and Brown.

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  61. Gene,
    You left out the rest of the definitions:

    --to refer to; and

    --to bring forward or call to another's attention especially as an example, proof, or precedent.

    (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

    Now you know another use for the term "cite". Remember it well in future, before you go accusing others of being "remarkably ignorant".

    I won't hold my breath for an apology.

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  62. Notice that:

    - Christine keeps posting here after having suggested that she was finished.

    - She keeps arguing over the meaning of words after having criticized such "semantic" arguments earlier.

    - She keeps making time to post on the meaning of "cite", yet won't make time to provide the documentation she's been asked for concerning J.N.D. Kelly and Peter Brown.

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  63. Indeed, and she has to resort to "the rest of the definitions" when originally she said to read the definition from the dictionary and "any one will do." In short, she resorts to the broadest meanings to hide her errors:

    For example, this thread is about prayers to the deceased. Yet,to defend her views, she first has to redefine "deceased" to mean "saints alive in heaven" (and then postulate telepathy), and,when that didn't work, she had to redefine prayers TO the deceased to include prayers by them and with them...eg. "Intercession of the saints" in the broadest possible terms.

    When it's clear I used the term "cite" to refer to a proper citation of the sources to which she merely pointed Jason, she resorts to "refer to" and other broad meanings...but this is just a means to deflect the plain fact that she either can not or will not give a proper citation of Kelly and Brown by either quoting the relevant portions or giving us a basic footnote so we can read them ourselves. One would think a scholar of her supposed credentials would do so. If she's correct about Kelly and Brown, then why not document her claim?

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  64. Actually, I did--over at "Staying Focused"--but since you haven't seen it, I'll paste it here:

    Jason, Gene, etc.,
    In answer to your request for citations, I've got my copy of Kelly's 1993 edition "Early Christian Doctrines" open before me, and gladly refer you to pp.490ff, where he discusses the "enthusiastic cult of the martyrs for the first three centuries", and cites (take note of the term, Gene) Origen as supporting the practice of requesting the saints' intercession (i.e., praying to the saints). He says much more, so please do acquire a copy and read it for yourself.

    As someone who claims to be so widely read in patristics, Jason, I'm surprised you've never heard of JND Kelly, considered one of the foremost authorities on patristics (and not a Catholic, by the way).

    As to Peter Brown, the whole of the 120-page work is devoted to discussing the rise and development of the cult of saints, and its popularity in the early church. You can order the book and read it for yourself at:

    http://www.amazon.com/Cult-Saints-Function-Christianity-Religions/dp/0226076229

    And Gene--I told you to "read the definition(s)" of the term "cite"--which, as you well know, includes several acceptable meanings. After your accusing me of being "remarkably ignorant" for using one of the perfectly acceptable meanings of the term "cite" (which is there in any dictionary plain as day), you resort to a pathetic ruse to deny any wrongdoing.

    I will say it outright: that's dishonest. As a Christian, you should be ashamed. (Not an ad hominem attack, but the truth.) You are not one to be taken seriously, so I bid you good day.

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  65. Madam,

    Apparently reading comprehension is not your forte. I did not accuse you of ignorance of the term cite. I wrote: For someone who claims to be Oxford educated you seem remarkably ignorant of basic documentation, after which I referred you to Jason's previous remarks. You did not "cite" Kelly, et.al...(eg. quote / document), you merely pointed in their general direction. Don't accuse me of dishonesty, when the meaning of what I wrote was plain and it has now taken several requests by us to get this information from you.

    With respect to the use of a pathetic ruse, Christine, one thinks you should acquaint yourself with the psychological phenomenon known as transference.

    You said here that Jason has never heard of Kelly, yet, he's already told you he owns said work and, if you were familiar with his writing, you would know he has used Kelly as a source many times. That's why he asked for the relevant citation. Now,you've just noted that he should read pages 490ff. Perhaps you can quote some portions for us...after all, you're the Oxford educated scholar, and we are but the poor fishermen...oh, and you will notice that when Kelly "cites" he documents the source, and if you will read carefully, Kelly speaks of Origen referring not to praying to the saints but to the saints in heaven the Church Triumphant assisting in heaven the Church Militant on earth with their prayers (p.490). How does this conflict with what Jason has written?

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  66. Gene has already said much of what needs to be said. I'll add the following.

    Pointing us to an online edition of Peter Brown's book doesn't tell us where, specifically, he allegedly refutes my position. As Gene noted, I told Christine that I own both books, so I don't need to be referred to an online copy. What I need is a specific reference to the portions of Brown's book that supposedly refute my view.

    As Gene said, J.N.D. Kelly doesn't cite any reference to prayer to the dead in Origen. Kelly is discussing a gradual development in early views of the saints. He does comment that "seeking their help and prayers" eventually developed. It wasn't a belief always held by the church. (Does Christine agree with Kelly on that point?) Origen is mentioned (on p. 490), but he's mentioned with regard to "intercessory power", "the communion of saints", and the idea that "the Church in heaven assists the Church on earth with its prayers". In other words, he's mentioned with regard to concepts like prayers with and by the dead, not prayers to the dead. Kelly cites two passages from Origen: On Prayer 31:5 and Homilies On Joshua 16:5.

    Kelly's edition of On Prayer apparently has a different system of numbering than the one I've read, so I don't know what passage he's referring to. But I've read the whole treatise, and it says nothing of prayers to the dead. To the contrary, it contradicts the concept, as the scholars I'll be citing below will note.

    The second work cited by Kelly isn't available online, as far as I've seen, but I do own a copy (and have read it in its entirety). The Homilies On Joshua passage refers to how "they themselves [believers of the Old Testament era] still fight, and they are in the struggle on behalf of those who serve under Jesus....all those fathers who have slept before us fight with us and help us by their prayers." (Barbara Bruce, trans., and Cynthia White, ed., Origen: Homilies On Joshua [Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University Of America Press, 2002], p. 155) Origen is addressing prayers by the dead, not prayers to the dead.

    Origen concludes that sixteenth homily on Joshua by explaining who Christians pray to: "we invoke God our helper in Christ Jesus our Lord" (ibid., p. 156).

    (continued below)

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  67. (continued from above)

    The Eastern Orthodox patristic scholar John McGuckin wrote:

    "Origen is clear in this work [On Prayer] that prayer ought to be addressed to God the Father alone." (The Westminster Handbook To Origen [Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004], p. 38)

    Another scholar who contributed to the same volume, Julia Konstantinovsky, wrote:

    "He is also much concerned with the question, 'To whom should one pray?' In the Peri Euches [On Prayer] Origen states categorically that we 'must never pray to anything generated, not even to Christ' (PEuch 15.1) and that it is a 'sin of ignorance' to pray to Christ (idiotiken hamartian) (PEuch 16.1). In his later works, however, Origen seems to have changed this view and certainly allows prayer to be addressed directly to Christ (CCels 8.26; HomEx 13.3). In fact, he often addresses invocations of his own to the divine Christ." (p. 176)

    She cites Against Celsus as one of her sources. While Origen allows for prayer to Jesus there, he and Celsus agree that the Christian view is that nobody is to be prayed to other than God. Origen's inconsistency on prayer to Jesus can't be cited as support for allowing an exception for prayers to the dead as well. Jesus is God, so including Him makes more sense than including the deceased. And as Konstantinovsky notes, Origen "often" explicitly advocates prayer to Christ. He didn't advocate prayer to the dead. His stated allowance of prayer to Christ can't be used to justify an unstated allowance of prayer to the dead. Even after Origen changed his view of prayer to Christ, he continued to condemn prayer to angels and other created beings.

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  68. Various people in pre-Nicene times might have believed that saints in heaven were interceding for them, but it was not until the 4th century - especially the latter half of it - that the next fatal step was taken, and people began to believe that it was proper to address saints directly for favors.

    (The three Cappadocian fathers - Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory Nazianzen - seem to have played a decisive part in the decisive breakthrough of this pernicious superstition.)

    Saints in heaven MIGHT be praying for us, but that does not yet mean that WE should pray to them. If they are interceding for us (for the sake of argument), what business of ours it is, really?

    Like in our relationship to our guardian angels, we still should not pay our celestial protectors any undue attention but rather concentrate adoring the one true Mediator, Christ.

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  69. In a passage from Paul's Letter to Colossians (chapter 2) that Protestants have widely considered to be a prophecy of coming hagiolatrous apostasy, it is emphasized that angel-worshippers are interfering in things they really don't know anything certain about.

    John Calvin commented on it:

    "Intruding into those things which he hath not seen.

    The verb ἐμβατεύειν, the participle of which Paul here makes use of, has various significations. The rendering which Erasmus, after Jerome, has given to it, "walking proudly", would not suit ill, were there an example of such a signification in any author of sufficient note. For we see every day with how much confidence and pride rash persons pronounce an opinion as to things unknown. Nay, even in the very subject of which Paul treats, there is a remarkable illustration. For when the Sorbonnic divines put forth their trifles respecting the intercession of saints or angels, they declare, as though it were from an oracle, that the dead know and behold our necessities, inasmuch as they see all things in the reflex light of God. And yet, what is less certain? Nay more, what is more obscure and doubtful? But such, truly, is their magisterial freedom, that they fearlessly and daringly assert what is not only not known by them, but cannot be known by men."

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/calvin/cc42/cc42012.htm


    And Littledale adds (p. 21):

    "Even if they did not, the whole practice of the Invocation of Saints is founded on pure guesswork. ... It is at best a mere conjecture that the Saints do know what passes on earth, and can hear and join in the prayers of the faithful. 1 It may be so, but God has not chosen to make it known to us, and it is a very perilous thing to fly in the face of His holy Word on the mere chance that a guess of ours may be correct.

    1. And this is all that Peter Lombard (A.D. 1150) ventures to assert when treating of the doctrine of invocation. He says: "It is not incredible that the souls of the Saints . . . understand what is passing in the outer world." "Sentt." iv. dist. 45. It was thus but a guess to the leading Roman theologian only seven centuries ago."

    http://www.archive.org/details/plainreasonsaga01littgoog

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  70. The saint-worship is anyways intimately connected to RC/EO notions of works-righteousness. Saints are there seen more like superheroes of goodness rather than forgiven imperfect sinners.

    It was very logical that Reformers who believed in salvation by faith would no longer uphold a cult of people who "earned their salvation" with monkish self-made virtues.

    The Protestant approach is deeply egalitarian. All saved saints are on a fundamental level equal, and there does not exist any celestial "spiritual aristocracy" we should bow and scrape to, or whose Pharisaical virtues of celibacy, extreme fasting or Simeon-Stylite style hijinks we should naively admire.

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  71. To reiterate: We all agree that the practice of seeking the intercession of the saints was common and widespread *at least* from the 4th century, and continued to spread in later centuries, being incorporated into the liturgy. As this was the time during which the Ecumenical Councils were convened, clarifying and expounding Trinitarian and Christological doctrine, and during which the patristic texts flourished and abounded--particularly texts on prayer and the role of the saints--why is it that not one condemned the practice of requesting the saints' intercession? If we are willing to accept doctrines formed by Nicene and post-Nicene fathers, why then should we ignore what they have to say about prayer "to" the saints? Is this not selective quotation?

    (The answer is yes and, as I've already said, it's precisely what Luther and Calvin did to justify their wholesale rejection of Christian doctrine.)

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  72. V: You respond to my request to stop citing anti-Catholic sources by citing two more anti-Catholic sources, still just as unreliable as the first.

    If all your information is gleaned from reading anti-Catholic material, no wonder you are not a Catholic!

    How about branching out and reading information from "the other side" to get a more balanced view?

    Again, Catholics do not worship saints.

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  73. CHRISTINE SAID:

    “As this was the time during which the Ecumenical Councils were convened, clarifying and expounding Trinitarian and Christological doctrine, and during which the patristic texts flourished and abounded--particularly texts on prayer and the role of the saints--why is it that not one condemned the practice of requesting the saints' intercession?”

    Once error is sanctified by tradition, opposition to error is profaned as heresy.

    “If we are willing to accept doctrines formed by Nicene and post-Nicene fathers, why then should we ignore what they have to say about prayer ‘to’ the saints?”

    i) If all records of the Nicene/post-Nicene fathers and 4-7C councils disappeared from history, we could reconstruct everything we need to believe about Jesus and the Trinity from Scripture alone.

    ii) The Reformed tradition doesn’t regard Nicene Orthodoxy as the final word. Consider Calvin’s position on autotheistic identity of each Trinitarian person.

    iii) Even Roman Catholic Christology and Triadology aren’t frozen in the patristic era. Scholastic theologians introduced their own refinements, not to mention modern theologians like Rahner.

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  74. Christine wrote:

    "I have explained my position many times, so let me ask you outright: Please define precisely what you mean by 'prayers to the dead.' Do you mean asking the intercession of the saints in heaven?"

    You've been inconsistent. You initially denied that Catholics pray to the deceased, but then acknowledged that they do. You told us at one point that we shouldn't be arguing over words like "to", and you cited sources commenting on issues like prayer with the dead and prayer by the dead even after having the subject of this thread explained to you many times. You acted as if the distinction isn't significant. But whenever you think that arguing over a semantic point will go your way, you'll argue about the meaning of "cite", the wording of J.N.D. Kelly, the wording of Origen, etc. You keep contradicting yourself.

    Yes, I consider "asking the intercession of the saints in heaven" prayer if you're on earth at the time, they're in Heaven at the time, and you think they can receive your request in their present state. If a deceased believer returns to life on earth and manifests himself, like Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration, then I wouldn't consider speaking to him prayer, much as we don't call it prayer when people spoke to Jesus during His earthly ministry. We don't normally say that Caiaphas or Pontius Pilate prayed to Jesus. I've discussed these types of distinctions in past articles about prayer, such as here.

    If what you're getting at is whether I limit prayer to the dead to "asking the intercession of the saints in heaven", no, I don't. See my earlier comments on Deuteronomy 18, Isaiah 8, and Isaiah 19 and my citation of Pope Pius IX. Catholics don't just go to Mary in prayer to "ask intercession". They also thank her, praise her, seek her protection, etc. For example:

    "How grateful and magnificent a spectacle to see in the cities, and towns, and villages, on land and sea—wherever the Catholic faith has penetrated—many hundreds of thousands of pious people uniting their praises and prayers with one voice and heart at every moment of the day, saluting Mary, invoking Mary, hoping everything through Mary." (Pope Leo XIII, Octobri Mense)

    (continued below)

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  75. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "You misrepresent what Kelly says. Here is the context to clear away confusion: 'From this it was a short step, since they [the martyrs] were now with Christ in glory, to seeking their help and prayers, and in the third century evidence for the belief in their intercessory power accumulates. In arguing for it Origen appealed to the communion of saints, advancing the view that the Church in heaven assists the Church on earth with its prayers.' p. 490 What is Origen arguing for if not what Kelly had just stated earlier: 'seeking their help and prayers.'"

    You're going back to the first half of Kelly's first sentence to define the "it" he's referring to in the second sentence. But the "it" more likely refers only to the second half of the first sentence. Not only is the second half closer to the "it", but, as I documented, the passage in Origen that Kelly cites in his second sentence says nothing of prayer to the dead. It's about prayer by the dead. Have you read Origen's Homilies On Joshua or at least the section of it that Kelly cites? I've read all of the homilies, and I quoted some of Origen's comments in the section Kelly cites, and you've ignored what I quoted.

    You write:

    "And please do not object that these are 'later' patristic sources and are thus less reliable. For the reasons I’ve already given (see my post on Apostles’ vs. Nicene Creed), this is a faulty assumption. Your response to my post evades the issue by claiming that Origen was closer to the time and therefore better at documenting the evidence of early church practice. If that’s all Origen were doing, that might be true—but Origen was attempting to formulate Christian doctrine in the same way as later theologians (he was not amassing evidence), and his earlier attempts produced a more crude, less refined understanding (ergo, the heresy) that would be better clarified by later fathers."

    A historical source can be "attempting to formulate Christian doctrine" and be influenced by evidence he has access to. No historian would deny Paul's historical advantage over John of Damascus just because Paul was involved in "attempting to formulate Christian doctrine".

    (continued below)

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  76. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "The big question, really, is why is it in later centuries that, while all the major Christological and Trinitarian doctrines were being hammered out, heresies combated, and ecumenical councils assembled, did not one of them address this supposedly 'heretical' notion of requesting the intercession of the saints, when this was precisely the time such practice was firmly established and widely believed? It is indeed convenient to ignore the later patristic sources on this point....We all agree that the practice of seeking the intercession of the saints was common and widespread *at least* from the 4th century, and continued to spread in later centuries, being incorporated into the liturgy. As this was the time during which the Ecumenical Councils were convened, clarifying and expounding Trinitarian and Christological doctrine, and during which the patristic texts flourished and abounded--particularly texts on prayer and the role of the saints--why is it that not one condemned the practice of requesting the saints' intercession? If we are willing to accept doctrines formed by Nicene and post-Nicene fathers, why then should we ignore what they have to say about prayer 'to' the saints? Is this not selective quotation?"

    There are a lot of issues the ecumenical councils didn't address. Much of what Roman Catholicism teaches today was widely contradicted in early church history. See the examples discussed here. Why didn't the Council of Nicaea condemn the ante-Nicene sources who opposed prayer to the dead? Why didn't First Constantinople condemn the widespread denials of Mary's sinlessness that not only existed prior to that time, but also persisted long after? Etc. The ecumenical councils often acted and taught contrary to Roman Catholic belief. See the examples discussed here, here, and here. Your appeal to ecumenical councils is unreasonably selective.

    If a council was held at a time when prayer to the dead was popular, why would we expect it to condemn prayer to the dead? The fact that a council is correct on a particular issue, such as a Trinitarian doctrine, doesn't prove that the council was meant to address every theological issue of its day or that the people who attended the council were correct on every theological issue.

    And it's not as though ecumenical councils are the only sources capable of addressing an issue or the only sources capable of reflecting widespread belief. It would be absurd to deny that the virgin birth, for example, was a widespread Christian belief in the ante-Nicene era just because no council considered ecumenical today taught it at the time. Similarly, it didn't take an ecumenical council for men like Justin Martyr and Origen to criticize those who denied the virgin birth. Similarly, when prayer to the dead is absent and contradicted for hundreds of years, both in scripture and in the early patristic sources, we don't need an ecumenical council to comment on the subject in order to conclude that the belief was absent and contradicted.

    (continued below)

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  77. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "You argue in your post, 'Origen seems to be addressing relations on earth, if somebody like Paul or Peter 'appears'.' This is belied by the fact that Origen distinguishes between 'saintly men' and 'saints,' the latter which are clearly those in heaven standing in the presence of God. This is the common usage of that term, and should be so understood. If you believe Origen is using it in a way not typical of its common understanding, then you should prove it with more than mere personal opinion. Otherwise, this passage very clearly supports Origen’s notion of seeking the saints’ help in prayer."

    I haven't just given "mere personal opinion" about Origen. I quoted two scholars on the subject last night, and you ignored those quotes.

    And you keep ignoring the passages I and those scholars have cited in which Origen says that we're to pray only to God. Earlier, you cited some irrelevant passages in Origen about issues other than prayer to the dead. Now you're distorting one other passage in an attempt to make it seem that he supported prayer to the dead. But you keep ignoring most of what I and my sources have cited from Origen.

    The passage you're quoting now is found in chapter 10 of the online edition of On Prayer here. Nowhere in the passage does Origen define his terms as you're defining them. You claim that "saints" are "those in heaven standing in the presence of God" and that "This is the common usage of that term". Actually, the Bible repeatedly refers to believers on earth as "saints". Why would Origen qualify his comment by saying "should some Paul or Peter appear" if they don't have to appear? If the people in question are in Heaven, and we can pray to them without their appearance on earth, then why would Origen add that qualifier? Your assumption that Origen's saints are dead humans being prayed to in Heaven is irrational and contradicts what Origen writes elsewhere in the same chapter of the same work and in other places.

    Shortly after what you've quoted, Origen writes:

    "It remains, accordingly, to pray to God alone, the Father of All, not however apart from the High Priest who has been appointed by the Father with swearing of an oath, according to the words He hath sworn and shall not repent, 'You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.' In thanksgiving to God, therefore, during their prayers, saints acknowledge His favors through Christ Jesus. Just as the man who is scrupulous about prayer ought not to pray to one who himself prays but to the Father upon whom our Lord Jesus has taught us to call in our prayers, so we are not to offer any prayer to the Father apart from Him." (10)

    He mentions how "saints" pray in the midst of addressing his readers and how they should pray. His readers can be saints without being in Heaven. And he tells his readers to pray to God alone and not to any being who himself is somebody who prays. He's explicitly contradicting your view.

    (continued below)

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  78. (continued from above)

    Earlier in the treatise, Origen refers to saints praying on earth:

    "And besides, the prophet David speaks of much else that the saint possesses in prayer. We may, not irreverently, cite these passages as showing that, even if this alone be considered, the attitude and preparation for prayer of one who has offered himself to God is of the highest benefit. He says: 'Unto you have I lifted mine eyes, who dwellest in heaven and unto you have I lifted my soul, O God.' For when the eyes of thought are lifted up from dwelling on earthly things and being filled with the imagination of material objects, and are elevated to such a height as to look beyond begotten things and to be engaged solely in contemplation of God and in solemn converse with Him becoming to the Hearer." (5)

    A little later, he again refers to those praying on earth as "saints":

    "'I am Raphael, one of the Seven angels who present the prayers of saints and enter in before the glory of the Holy One.' Thus, according to Raphael’s account at least, prayer with fasting and almsgiving and righteousness is a good thing." (6)

    Saints in Heaven probably aren't in view when saints are referred to as fasting and giving alms and having their prayers presented to God by an angel.

    Later in the same chapter:

    "Especially when Christ avows that according as such one of the saints may be weak, He is weak in like manner, and in prison and naked and a stranger and hungry and athirst. For who that reads the gospel is ignorant that Christ, in taking on himself whatever befalls believers, counts their sufferings His own?"

    In a passage you yourself cited earlier, Origen distinguishes between saints who are living on earth and those who have died:

    "Also it may well be that the assemblies of believers also are attended by angelic powers, by the powers of our Lord and Savior himself, and indeed by the spirits of saints, including those already fallen asleep, certainly of those still in life, though just how is not easy to say....when saints assemble together there is a twofold church, the one of men the other of angels." (20)

    Your claim that Origen is supporting prayer to the dead in chapter 10 when he refers to saints is speculation that can't be demonstrated and contradicts what Origen says elsewhere.

    You still haven't produced any Biblical support of prayer to the dead or any early patristic support. You've ignored most of the Biblical and patristic evidence I've cited. As I said before, the evidence for prayer to the dead in Catholicism and Orthodoxy is explicit and widespread. Even if we granted your unreasonable interpretation of chapter 10 in Origen's On Prayer, that passage would be only a small fraction of the large amount of evidence we would expect prayer to the dead to produce, if it was viewed among those ancient sources similar to how it's viewed today in Catholicism and Orthodoxy. The fact that you have to lean so heavily toward post-Nicene sources, and have to misrepresent Origen so egregiously in an attempt to get one ante-Nicene source, is revealing.

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  79. Catholics pray to their dead relatives and friends? No. Prayer to the saints is rather limited to canonical lists and such. One wonders exactly which saints Origen had in mind.

    Additionally, this practice is predicated on the treasury of merit. Where can we find that concept in Scripture and in the Patristic sources to whom Christine refers?

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  80. If what you're getting at is whether I limit prayer to the dead to "asking the intercession of the saints in heaven", no, I don't… Catholics don't just go to Mary in prayer to "ask intercession". They also thank her, praise her, seek her protection, etc. For example:

    The only person who has been inconsistent here is you; first you equate “prayers to the dead” with necromancy by referring to scriptural references forbidding summoning of ghosts. When you’re shown that that interpretation is erroneous, you then deny that “prayers to the dead” means “worship of saints.” But here, you claim precisely that—that “prayers to the dead” in your opinion includes more than intercession, but thanksgiving, praise, etc., which I assume you believe should be reserved for God alone.

    You're going back to the first half of Kelly's first sentence to define the "it" he's referring to in the second sentence. But the "it" more likely refers only to the second half of the first sentence.

    Says who? You? Why should I go on your personal opinion, particularly when I’ve already shown that Origen does indeed support the idea of requesting the saints’ intercession in the passage regarding making supplication “only to the saints”?

    In defense of Origen’s significance, you claim, “A historical source can be "attempting to formulate Christian doctrine" and be influenced by evidence he has access to.” True—but this argument works against you. If you claim that the early Church did NOT pray to saints, then there would be no reason for Origen to condemn the practice, since—according to you—no one was doing it at the time! If that was the evidence he had to go on, then that would explain why he never mentions it in any of writings!

    On the other hand, if that is the evidence the later patristic sources had all around them— and the evidence shows it is—then why isn’t there a single condemnation of the practice in the ecumenical councils or any of the patristic texts? You find, rather, the opposite: support for this practice.

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  81. Why didn't the Council of Nicaea condemn the ante-Nicene sources who opposed prayer to the dead?

    This is again where you equivocate and conflate “prayers to the dead” with necromancy. Of COURSE the Church condemns necromancy, as it is clearly forbidden in Scripture. Requesting the saints’ intercession, on the other hand, is NOT.

    And it's not as though ecumenical councils are the only sources capable of addressing an issue or the only sources capable of reflecting widespread belief.

    Exactly—which is why there are patristic sources that I referred to, all of which you conveniently ignored. In any case, the councils were convened specifically to combat heresy. If the practice of prayer to saints was established and widely held, then why wouldn’t the church address this so-called heresy? I’ll answer the question for you: because requesting the aid of the saints is *not* heresy.
    Similarly, when prayer to the dead is absent and contradicted for hundreds of years, both in scripture and in the early patristic sources…

    You have not shown any patristic sources—early, middle or late—that explicitly contradict the practice of requesting the saints’ intercession. If you know one, quote it specifically (and in context, please; we don’t need another Lactantius fiasco). Don’t refer me vaguely to some comment you made 50 posts ago.

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  82. As to Origen’s use of the term “saints” to mean earthly men:
    (1) You do not explain why Origen differentiates between “saintly men” and “saints” in the passage in question. The fact that he differentiates between the two shows he is speaking about two different things: naturally, men on earth, and saints in heaven.
    (2) Your quotation: “'I am Raphael, one of the Seven angels who present the prayers of saints and enter in before the glory of the Holy One” does not at all make clear that the angel Raphael is offering the prayers of men on earth. Rather, Rev 8:4 contradicts this interpretation: “The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand.” This passage is referring to the saints in heaven.
    Your accusations, aside from being untrue, are getting tiresome. Lay them aside and stick to the substance of the conversation, as I’ve asked several times already—unless you want this to devolve into a mudslinging contest (in which case, you are definitely winning).

    The fact that you conveniently choose to ignore all the Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers, refusing to address them at all, is revealing, and shows just how weak is your case. You cannot explain why none of the patristic sources condemned the practice of requesting the saints’ intercession if it was indeed so widespread by then. You cannot offer a single ante-Nicene source to explicitly condemn or prohibit requesting the saints’ intercession, neither can you provide a single Scripture verse prohibiting the practice.

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  83. You are also inaccurate when you say I’ve ignored your scriptural references. But to lay to rest this tiresome accusation:
    Deut 18:11: “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.”(NIV)
    This passage is clearly referring to necromancy, as the context shows, grouping consultation of the dead with use of mediums and spiritists. Consulting the dead out of curiosity is clearly forbidden. Your extrapolation that “consulting the dead” is a broader category within which mediums and spiritists fall is a totally unnatural and unjustified reading of this verse.
    Isaiah 8: “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (NIV)
    Again, consulting the dead is clearly in reference to consulting mediums and spiritists. Isaiah is clearly referring his readers to the forbidden pagan practice of necromancy that it would be anomalous for him to include any qualifier such as “unless you do it through prayer.” Besides, he never would have included such a qualifier, because it would be equal to his telling his readers that they could consult ghosts out of curiosity or in order to receive forbidden knowledge, as long as they did so via prayer. That is not true, as such practice is forbidden.

    Isaiah 19
    Isaiah 19: 3: “The Egyptians will lose heart, and I will bring their plans to nothing; they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead, the mediums and the spiritists.”

    Again, the prophet is clearly referring to consulting spirits of the dead in relation to mediums and spiritists. This is plain as day, and your attempt to twist the interpretation to include requesting intercession of the saints is flat out wrong—particularly when patristic sources support the notion of the intercession of the saints, as well as seeking the aid of the saints.

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  84. "neither can you provide a single Scripture verse prohibiting the practice."

    Here is Paul's condemnation of angel-worship - the cult of saints was so unknown in the 1st century
    that it not even deserve the attention of canonical writers:

    "Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God."

    (Colossians 2:18-19)

    People who resort to lower intercessors are no longer "holding the Head"; they do not have a proper relationship with the one true Mediator between men and God.

    It is noteworthy that Paul links angel-idolatry to asceticism, and many Protestant scholars have indeed noted that monkery and hagiolatry arose simultaneously, supporting each other. (Monks are often called as "terrestrial angels.")

    And indeed, saint-worship is no more an apostolic Christian practice than monasticism is. Both of them arose rapidly during the 4th century, but not earlier.

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  85. And here is an example on how the cult of lower intercessors diminishes the glory of Christ:

    http://www.archive.org/details/plainreasonsaga01littgoog

    p. 22

    "It may, perhaps, be argued that expressions of devotion, even if somewhat unguarded, are not to be rigidly weighed and judged. Some extracts from a formal theological work, Liguori's "Glories of Mary," are therefore added here: —

    "Queen, Mother, and Spouse of the King, to her belongs dominion and power over all creatures."

    "She is Queen of Mercy, as Jesus is King of Justice."

    "In the Franciscan chronicles it is narrated that Brother Leo once saw a red ladder, on the top of which was Jesus Christ; and a white one, on the top of which was His most holy Mother, and he saw some who tried to ascend the red ladder, and they mounted a few steps and fell; they tried again, and again fell They were then advised to go and try the white ladder, and by that one they easily ascended, for our Blessed Lady stretched out her hands and helped them, and so they got safely to heaven."

    If this be not blasphemy against the Lord Jesus Christ, and a formal denial of His power to save and His being the way to heaven, there are no such sins possible.

    Yet, even before Pius IX. made Liguori a "Doctor of the Church," the Congregation of Rites decreed in 1803 that, "in all the writings of Alphonso de' Liguori there is not one word that can be justly found fault with."

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  86. This is plain as day,

    1. Steve has already dealt with this objection elsewhere.

    2. This is rich coming from a Roman Catholic epologist. On the one hand, it's standard practice to deny the perspicuity of Scripture, but then we're told "it's plain as day."Feel free to quote where the church of Rome has infallibly interpreted these passages, Christine.

    3. It's also standard practice to extrapolate from the practices of today to the practices of the past in order for Catholics to postulate continuity with the past. In this case, your statements mean you reject the only known method of communication with the dead in Scripture. As Steve noted: Of course, a Catholic or Orthodox apologist can reject this framework, but in so doing, he has to reject the only Biblical precedent we have for contacting the dead. And Catholic and Orthodox apologists are thereby rejecting the cultural understanding how the dead could be made aware of the living. In that case they can’t appeal to tradition. For tradition assumes continuity with the past. That you can extrapolate from the practice of Christians in the early church to Christians in the NT church or pious Jews in OT times.

    Good job!e

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  87. Christine's empty denial nonwithstanding, Protestants can easily find clear Biblical support for their opposition to the cult of saints.

    (Btw, cult/cultus word itself is yet another derivative from colere/colimus term.)


    In the famous case of an angel refusing John's worship in Revelation, it is not misguided "latria" that the angel denounces but PROSKYNESIS. That was the term that idolatrous 2nd Nicene council would declare as harmless, commanding people to "proskuneo" images under the pain of anathema.

    Revelation 19:10:

    http://www.greeknewtestament.com/B66C019.htm#V10

    kai epesa emprosqen twn podwn autou proskunhsai autw kai legei moi ora mh sundouloV sou eimi kai twn adelfwn sou twn econtwn thn marturian ihsou tw qew proskunhson h gar marturia tou ihsou esti to pneuma thV profhteiaV

    "And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See [thou do it] not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."


    And again, Revelation 22:8-9:

    http://www.greeknewtestament.com/B66C022.htm#V8

    kagw iwannhV o akouwn kai blepwn tauta kai ote hkousa kai ebleya epeson proskunhsai emprosqen twn podwn tou aggelou tou deiknuontoV moi tauta

    kai legei moi ora mh sundouloV sou eimi kai twn adelfwn sou twn profhtwn kai twn thrountwn touV logouV tou bibliou toutou tw qew proskunhson

    "And I John saw these things, and heard [them]. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.

    Then saith he unto me, See [thou do it] not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God."

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  88. Christine wrote:

    "The only person who has been inconsistent here is you; first you equate 'prayers to the dead' with necromancy by referring to scriptural references forbidding summoning of ghosts. When you’re shown that that interpretation is erroneous, you then deny that 'prayers to the dead' means 'worship of saints.' But here, you claim precisely that—that 'prayers to the dead' in your opinion includes more than intercession, but thanksgiving, praise, etc., which I assume you believe should be reserved for God alone. "

    Instead of citing what I said, you're putting words in my mouth, including things I told you I don't believe. I explained why I cited the passages in Deuteronomy and Isaiah, and you're ignoring what I said.

    Your claim that something like thanksgiving or praise "should be reserved for God" under my view doesn't make sense. Is it your position that Evangelicals don't believe in thanking other people, for example? As I explained earlier, seeking to contact the dead is problematic in itself. If the attempt at contact involves assigning the deceased person something that belongs to God alone, then that action would be a second sin. Everything you say in a prayer to a deceased individual can be acceptable if said to a relative who hasn't died, one sitting next to you at dinner, for example, yet that prayer would be sinful. I've implied or explained that fact many times, yet you keep misrepresenting it.

    You wrote:

    "Says who? You? Why should I go on your personal opinion"

    I explained why my interpretation of J.N.D. Kelly makes more sense. You aren't interacting with that explanation. Just as I'm giving you my interpretation of Kelly, you've been giving us yours. Who else's interpretation are we supposed to go by?

    And you keep ignoring what I asked before about other comments Kelly makes. Do you agree with him that prayer to the dead was a gradual development rather than something always practiced?

    (continued below)

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  89. (continued from above)

    You wrote:

    "If you claim that the early Church did NOT pray to saints, then there would be no reason for Origen to condemn the practice, since—according to you—no one was doing it at the time! If that was the evidence he had to go on, then that would explain why he never mentions it in any of writings!"

    Prayer to the dead was a common practice in other religions, as my recent discussion of Lactantius illustrates. And people sometimes address a subject even if it's something only applicable to a small minority of the group they're associated with, only associated with other groups, or only a theoretical possibility. Prayer to the dead wouldn't have to be widely practiced by Christians in order for a Christian to write against the concept.

    You wrote:

    "Exactly—which is why there are patristic sources that I referred to, all of which you conveniently ignored."

    I didn't ignore the later patristic sources you cited. Rather, I explained why they're irrelevant to my argument. If I argue that prayer to the dead was a later development, then citing sources from that later era isn't a refutation of my position. If you claimed that a belief didn't arise until the Reformation era, it wouldn't make sense for me to keep citing sources from the Reformation era and later while accusing you of "conveniently ignoring" them.

    You wrote:

    "In any case, the councils were convened specifically to combat heresy."

    The councils were meant to oppose what was considered heretical on particular issues, not every issue. I've already given you examples of how your reasoning could be used against your own beliefs. You're ignoring those examples. Why didn't councils like Nicaea and First Constantinople condemn the widespread contradictions of Roman Catholic theology on issues like the ones I cited? For example, see my articles on the sinlessness of Mary here. Why didn't Nicaea or First Constantinople condemn those anti-Roman-Catholic beliefs that were being advocated by bishops and other church leaders in their day?

    You wrote:

    "You do not explain why Origen differentiates between 'saintly men' and 'saints' in the passage in question."

    You're assuming a distinction. You haven't demonstrated it. And two groups can be distinguished without one group being dead. The fact that two groups of people are distinguished from each other doesn't tell us whether one of them consists of deceased believers who are in Heaven.

    (continued below)

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  90. (continued from above)

    You wrote:

    "Your quotation: ''I am Raphael, one of the Seven angels who present the prayers of saints and enter in before the glory of the Holy One' does not at all make clear that the angel Raphael is offering the prayers of men on earth. Rather, Rev 8:4 contradicts this interpretation: 'The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand.' This passage is referring to the saints in heaven."

    You're ignoring what I cited just after Origen's Raphael comment. He referred to how those saints were involved in fasting and the giving of alms. As I explained earlier, it's unlikely that dead believers in Heaven are in mind when people are described as fasting and giving alms.

    Origen is referring to Tobit 12. That passage refers to how Raphael brings a prayer before God from somebody on earth (Tobit 12:12).

    Furthermore, your interpretation of Revelation 8 is gratuitous. You don't cite any evidence to support it.

    The book of Revelation draws heavily from the Old Testament, and the concepts in passages like Revelation 8:4 often are repetitions of Old Testament themes regarding the worship of God. Psalm 141:2, for example, refers to prayer to God from somebody on earth as incense. Revelation 13:7 and 13:10 refer to the beast's war with the saints and his overcoming them, which surely aren't references to a victory in Heaven. The saints in question are on earth. You can't assume that people are in Heaven just because they're referred to as saints. Since we're discussing Origen, I'll note that he applies Revelation 5:8, another passage about the prayers of the saints, to prayers said by Christians on earth (Against Celsus, 8:17).

    (continued below)

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  91. (continued from above)

    You wrote:

    "This passage is clearly referring to necromancy, as the context shows, grouping consultation of the dead with use of mediums and spiritists. Consulting the dead out of curiosity is clearly forbidden. Your extrapolation that 'consulting the dead' is a broader category within which mediums and spiritists fall is a totally unnatural and unjustified reading of this verse."

    All you're giving us is a string of assertions, without any accompanying argumentation. Where does Deuteronomy 18 refer to "curiosity"? If my interpretation is "totally unnatural", then why do Deuteronomy and Isaiah use the broad language I cited rather than merely mentioning mediums and spiritists? You still aren't addressing what I said about these passages.

    You wrote:

    "Again, consulting the dead is clearly in reference to consulting mediums and spiritists."

    The phrase itself doesn't carry with it the limitations you're assigning it. Again, all you're doing is asserting that Isaiah only meant to condemn the practices you disagree with. You're assuming a narrower meaning of a broad phrase. You make that assumption because a broad meaning would be inconsistent with your later Roman Catholic tradition. If Isaiah condemns attempts to contact the dead, it doesn't make sense to assume that only the particular forms of attempting to contact the dead that you disagree with are in view. You're assuming limitations that are neither stated nor implied by Isaiah.

    Isaiah 19:3 condemns those who "will resort to idols and ghosts of the dead and to mediums and spiritists". Your assumption that consulting the spirits of the dead is limited to doing so by means of mediums and spiritists needs to be demonstrated, not just asserted. If Moses and Isaiah only meant to condemn attempts to contact the dead that involve mediums and spiritists, instead of condemning the larger category without such a qualification, then why don't they only mention mediums and spiritists? Why do they also mention the broader category I've been citing? Why should we believe that "ghosts of the dead and mediums and spiritists" means "mediums and spiritists"? Does the term "idols" also mean "mediums and spiritists"? Isaiah is condemning a series of practices broader than merely consulting mediums and spiritists.

    And I remind you, again, that you still aren't explaining why prayer to the dead isn't evidenced in scripture and the early patristic sources in the manner in which it's evidenced in later patristic sources or modern Catholicism or Orthodoxy. One of your own sources, J.N.D. Kelly, refers to prayer to the dead as a later development. If you disagree with him, then it's not enough for you to merely claim that the Bible and the earlier patristic Christians don't contradict prayer to the dead. You also need to explain why the practice would go unmentioned for so long, among so many sources, in so many relevant contexts.

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  92. "Do you agree with him that prayer to the dead was a gradual development rather than something always practiced?"

    One thing that proves that the invocation of saints was a gradual, bit-by-bit development is that during the first period of flourishing invocation of saints(around 400 AD), Virgin Mary was not yet the very popular object of veneration like she would later be, towering over all other intercessors.

    Epiphanius even famously denounced the Collyridian cult that worshipped Mary, telling them again and again, "let no one proskuneo Mary".

    Let us hear J.H. Newman's testimony on this subject:

    http://www.sounddoctrine.net/Classic_Sermons/George%20Salmon/infallibility_church.htm

    "Dr. Newman himself, disclaiming the doctrine that the Invocation of the Virgin is necessary to salvation, says (Letter to Pusey, p. III): 'If it were so, there would be grave reasons for doubting of the salvation of St. Chrysostom or St. Athanasius, or of the primitive martyrs. Nay, I should like to know whether St. Augustine, in all his voluminous writings, invokes her once.' But he holds (p. 63) that, though 'we have no proof that Athanasius himself had any special devotion to the Blessed Virgin,' yet, by teaching the doctrine of our Lord's Incarnation, 'he laid the foundations on which that devotion was to rest.'"

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  93. I’ve been called away by personal and professional obligations, thus the delay in response.

    V: The Pauline passage you quoted refers to worshipping angels. That is not the same as requesting the saints’ intercession. And the passage you cite from Newman is irrelevant, because it involves his objection to the idea that invoking Mary is *necessary* to salvation. It is not, and so I agree with Cardinal Newman.

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  94. Jason wrote:
    Why didn't councils like Nicaea and First Constantinople condemn the widespread contradictions of Roman Catholic theology on issues like the ones I cited?

    If you want to discuss the sinlessness of Mary, we can do that in another thread, because that’s another topic entirely—but it’s erroneous to raise that as a “heresy” that the Councils ignored, since only Protestants define it as a heresy, not Catholics or Orthodox. (Besides, Mary’s sinlessness is grounded in the redeeming work of Christ; it is not inherent in herself, which indeed would be a heresy.)

    Regardless of times when Origen may use the term “saint” to refer to earthly men (and I do not deny that he does at times), he is clearly NOT using it in this sense in the passage in question. I’ll say it again: "You do not explain why Origen differentiates between 'saintly men' and 'saints' in this passage."

    In fact, your interpretation makes a hash of the plain meaning of the text. Origen clearly states that you can offer “thanksgiving and intercession” to saintly men, but “supplication” is reserved to saints alone. In light of the clear contrast Origen is making here between saintly men and saints in heaven, your interpretation is not feasible.

    On Isaiah & Deuteronomy:
    All you're giving us is a string of assertions, without any accompanying argumentation
    I can say the same of you. There is no evidence that “consulting the dead” is meant to be used in a broader context apart from use of mediums and spiritists, as you assert without any evidence.
    When a word is grouped together with other words, they are obviously meant to be interpreted together. The other words provide the context in which the phrase in question is to be understood. If I were to say, “Drinking and driving is bad,” the obvious meaning is that getting drunk coupled with driving is a dangerous thing to do. Your approach would imply that merely driving, wholly apart from drinking, is bad—and that makes no sense at all. It is more natural to group “mediums and spiritists and consulting the dead” together to mean that consulting the dead through the use of mediums and spiritists is forbidden. You, on the other hand, would rather remove “consulting the dead” entirely from its context, and include all sorts of things that Isaiah never meant nor explicitly referred to—like requesting the intercession of the saints.

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  95. If I argue that prayer to the dead was a later development, then citing sources from that later era isn't a refutation of my position.

    It is indeed a refutation if you accept later development of doctrine on the Trinity, the nature of Christ, the nature of the Holy Spirit, etc. by the very same church fathers who also support requesting the saints’ intercession. You have not yet justified why you can accept their teachings on the Trinity or Christology or salvation, while rejecting their teachings on seeking the saints’ intercession—particularly when the practice was by that time so well-established. If it was so clearly a heresy, then at least ONE of the fathers should have said something against it—but instead, you find widespread support.

    The fact is, you cannot offer a reasoned justification; you can only selectively quote and ignore what you wish from their writings. That is precisely what Luther and Calvin did, and it’s a practice that has continued on since the time of the Reformation.

    Your argument basically goes like this: Scripture says nothing about requesting the saints’ intercession, therefore, it didn’t happen then/it is forbidden. The ante-Nicene fathers say nothing about requesting the saints’ intercession (although, as noted above, I do believe Origen does), therefore, it didn’t happen then/it is forbidden.

    One can see why this is wrong: it’s an argumentum ex silentio, and is classified among the logical fallacies. In fact, the argument from silence is precisely what credobaptists use to argue against infant baptism, as the New Testament does not anywhere explicitly make the case for infant baptism. According to your approach, infant baptism therefore never occurred and is forbidden. This, of course, contradicts the Reformed position in favor of paedobaptism.

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  96. Christine wrote:

    "If you want to discuss the sinlessness of Mary, we can do that in another thread, because that’s another topic entirely—but it’s erroneous to raise that as a 'heresy' that the Councils ignored, since only Protestants define it as a heresy, not Catholics or Orthodox."

    I was referring to denials of the sinlessness of Mary, not affirmations of it. Her sinlessness was widely denied prior to the earliest ecumenical councils, yet those councils didn't condemn those denials. I also cited other examples of early opposition to Roman Catholic doctrine, opposition that wasn't addressed by the early ecumenical councils.

    You still haven't justified your claim that the ecumenical councils should be expected to have condemned prayer to the dead under my view of church history. You've ignored most of what I've said on the subject. Again, why should we expect councils held at a time when prayer to the dead was popular to condemn prayer to the dead?

    You write:

    "I’ll say it again: 'You do not explain why Origen differentiates between 'saintly men' and 'saints' in this passage.'"

    You're not interacting with what I said on that subject in my last response. Reread the closing sentences in the second post in my last series of responses to you.

    (continued below)

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  97. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "Origen clearly states that you can offer 'thanksgiving and intercession' to saintly men, but 'supplication' is reserved to saints alone."

    Here's the entirety of the passage as you quoted it:

    “Now, it is not out of place to address supplication, intercession, and thanksgiving to [saintly] men also. The two latter (intercession and thanksgiving) may be addressed not only to saintly men but even to [other men]. But supplication may be addressed only to saints, should another Paul or Peter be found…”On Prayer, 14.6

    The distinction is between saints and "other men", not saints and saintly men. Your attempt to distinguish between saints and saintly men is erroneous. And, as I explained earlier, and you ignored what I said, your conclusion wouldn't follow even if we did make that distinction between saints and saintly men. The fact that two groups of people are distinguished from each other doesn't tell us whether one of them consists of deceased believers who are in Heaven.

    You write:

    "There is no evidence that 'consulting the dead' is meant to be used in a broader context apart from use of mediums and spiritists, as you assert without any evidence."

    You say that after repeatedly ignoring the evidence I've cited. Again, the phrase itself is broad. All three of the phrases I've cited in Deuteronomy and Isaiah are so broad as to not logically be limited to consulting mediums and spiritists. You still haven't explained why we should think that the phrases have such a limit. The fact that mediums and spiritists are mentioned doesn't prove that the other phrase mentioned is limited to mediums and spiritists. As I pointed out to you earlier, Deuteronomy 18:11 says "or one who calls up the dead" after mentioning mediums and spiritists. Why should we think that only mediums and spiritists are in view? Isaiah 19:3 lists the sources the Egyptians will consult, ending with "and to mediums and spiritists". If the "ghosts of the dead" just mentioned are the same as mediums and spiritsts, why would Isaiah say "and", followed by "mediums and spiritists"? Repetition would be possible, but it's not the most likely explanation. We don't begin with a default assumption that three different phrases, particularly one that seems to have a much broader category in mind (if we interpret it in its most natural sense), are meant to convey an identical meaning three times in a row.

    (continued below)

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  98. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "When a word is grouped together with other words, they are obviously meant to be interpreted together. The other words provide the context in which the phrase in question is to be understood. If I were to say, 'Drinking and driving is bad,' the obvious meaning is that getting drunk coupled with driving is a dangerous thing to do. Your approach would imply that merely driving, wholly apart from drinking, is bad—and that makes no sense at all."

    Only two of the three passages in question use the phrase I've cited in the context of a list. Isaiah 8:19 refers to "consulting the dead" in the next sentence, as an explanation of the principle involved in the previous sentence. Your argument above would only explain two of the three passages at most.

    But it doesn't even explain those two. Items can be "interpreted together" without being the same thing. Is drinking the same thing as driving? No, it isn't. And even when two things are interpreted together, the manner in which they're related differs from case to case. When Deuteronomy 18:10-11 mentions "anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire", do we assume that the phrase means the same thing as "one who calls up the dead"? No, we don't. Two items can be related to some extent without being identical. Do we assume that every item listed must be done in order for sin to have occurred? Must a person who consults a medium also have "made his son or his daughter pass through the fire" in order to have sinned? No. The fact that "consult the dead" is mentioned in the same passage as "consult the mediums and the spiritists" (Isaiah 8:19) doesn't prove that the latter items exhaust the category of consulting the dead.

    You're not arguing for the most likely meaning of these texts. Rather, you're trying to reconcile scripture with Roman Catholicism.

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  99. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "It is indeed a refutation if you accept later development of doctrine on the Trinity, the nature of Christ, the nature of the Holy Spirit, etc. by the very same church fathers who also support requesting the saints’ intercession."

    I've documented examples of your disagreements with the theology of those later fathers. Again, see here. You need to ask yourself whether your objection to my position is consistent with your own position. If you're not consistent with your own reasoning, why do you expect anybody else to be?

    I don't get Trinitarianism from the later church fathers. I get it from scripture. The fact that the later fathers were correct on such issues doesn't prove that I should agree with them about everything else. You don't agree with them about everything else.

    You write:

    "If it was so clearly a heresy, then at least ONE of the fathers should have said something against it—but instead, you find widespread support."

    You haven't given us any example of an early father who "said something against" the early opposition to prayer to the dead. Or the early opposition to the sinlessness of Mary. Or the early opposition to some other Roman Catholic doctrines. If the earlier fathers disagree with you, but the later fathers agree with you, it doesn't make sense for you to reject the view of the earlier fathers (or irrationally deny that they disagreed with you) while asking me why I disagree with the later fathers. If I think the earlier fathers contradict the later fathers, then I have to choose between them. Why would it be unreasonable to side with the earlier fathers?

    And I don't make the same claims about early church history that Catholics have made. I believe that widespread error can occur, much as we see in Biblical times (2 Kings 22:8-13, Nehemiah 8:13-17). And I don't just look to the men commonly classified as church fathers today in order to judge what beliefs were held historically. Vigilantius opposed prayer to the dead in the post-Nicene era, and he was himself a presbyter. As Jerome acknowledged (Against Vigilantius, 2-3), Vigilantius had the support of bishops and other church leaders and laymen. And others opposed prayer to the dead after Vigilantius' time and prior to the Reformation. Prayer to the dead was popular, but it wasn't universally accepted. The unpopularity of my view in later patristic centuries isn't as bad as the absence and contradiction of your view in scripture and in the earlier patristic centuries.

    (continued below)

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  100. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "The fact is, you cannot offer a reasoned justification; you can only selectively quote and ignore what you wish from their writings. That is precisely what Luther and Calvin did, and it’s a practice that has continued on since the time of the Reformation."

    Is that why your own denomination's scholars keep giving up ground in their historical disputes with Protestants? Why do you think appeals to doctrinal development have become so popular among Catholics in recent times? I've already linked you to posts in which I document Catholic scholars' acknowledgment of the early absence and widespread contradiction of Catholic doctrine (Klaus Schatz on the papacy, Ludwig Ott on the veneration of images, etc.).

    You write:

    "Your argument basically goes like this: Scripture says nothing about requesting the saints’ intercession, therefore, it didn’t happen then/it is forbidden. The ante-Nicene fathers say nothing about requesting the saints’ intercession (although, as noted above, I do believe Origen does), therefore, it didn’t happen then/it is forbidden. One can see why this is wrong: it’s an argumentum ex silentio, and is classified among the logical fallacies. In fact, the argument from silence is precisely what credobaptists use to argue against infant baptism, as the New Testament does not anywhere explicitly make the case for infant baptism."

    Since I've repeatedly argued that scripture condemns attempts to contact the dead, citing passages in Deuteronomy and Isaiah, why would you claim that I just appeal to silence? Likewise, when I cite passages from the ante-Nicene fathers that seem to oppose prayer to the dead in some manner, why would you claim that my approach is to appeal to silence?

    But even if I did only appeal to silence, whether such an appeal is fallacious depends on the context. If there's silence in a context in which we would expect something to be mentioned under the conditions in question, then there's nothing fallacious about appealing to silence. I've explained why prayer to the dead should have been mentioned where it wasn't. You need to address what I said instead of continuing to ignore it.

    And if you think that credobaptists just appeal to silence, then credobaptism is another position you're criticizing without knowing much about it. I'm a credobaptist, I've argued for the position on this blog, and I didn't just appeal to silence. See my two articles on the subject on the page I linked you to earlier, here, and you can find a lot of other material I've written on the subject in the archives. You could also read some credobaptist scholars, like the ones who contributed to Thomas Schreiner and Shawn Wright, edd., Believer's Baptism (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2006). They don't just appeal to silence. Neither do the paedobaptist scholars I've cited in my articles elsewhere on this blog, who acknowledge some of the early evidence for credobaptism.

    You keep telling us about your Oxford education. So, why do you keep arguing at a Catholic Answers level?

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  101. Again, why should we expect councils held at a time when prayer to the dead was popular to condemn prayer to the dead?

    Are you seriously saying that popularity determines orthodoxy? I certainly hope not, because that would be denying the work of the Holy Spirit in leading the Councils to truth. Arianism was widespread, even infiltrating the highest ranks of clergy, but it was recognized as a heresy and rightly condemned by the Nicene Council. If requesting the intercession of the saints was such a heresy, why didn’t the early (or later) councils recognize that, or at least make mention of it?

    You answer that the Councils can’t be expected to deal with every single issue. Fine—but why then didn’t any of the Fathers, early or late, condemn the practice? You cannot answer that, regardless of your obfuscations.

    We don't begin with a default assumption that three different phrases, particularly one that seems to have a much broader category in mind (if we interpret it in its most natural sense), are meant to convey an identical meaning three times in a row.

    I disagree that this “broader” meaning is the most natural sense in which to interpret this passage. You are wanting to divorce “consulting the dead” entirely from its context to include other things that Isaiah *never* explicitly mentions. It is obvious that Isaiah means “consulting the dead” in context with use of mediums and spiritists. If I say, “I am going to go to the kitchen and mix up some batter and bake some cookies,” the phrase is obviously and clearly meant to be taken together: it means that in my own kitchen, I will be baking cookies made from the batter I just mixed. According to your interpretation, you would divorce “bake some cookies” from its context, so that it could mean baking cookies at someone else’s house, or at school, or at the airport, for all we know. Yours is a totally unnatural reading, I have offered evidence why, and you can only counterclaim with mere assertions. At this point, it’s just he said, she said, so further debate seems useless.

    Rather, you're trying to reconcile scripture with Roman Catholicism.

    And I say that you’re twisting Scripture to mean something in accord with the Reformed agenda.

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  102. I've documented examples of your disagreements with the theology of those later fathers. Again, see here. You need to ask yourself whether your objection to my position is consistent with your own position.

    Sorry, but your link refers me to a post with dozens of links to dozens of articles. That’s not helpful, as I haven either the time nor inclination to read through every single one of them. You’ll have to give me more specific objections or references, and I’ll be happy to deal with them.

    If the earlier fathers disagree with you, but the later fathers agree with you, it doesn't make sense for you to reject the view of the earlier fathers (or irrationally deny that they disagreed with you) while asking me why I disagree with the later fathers.

    Are you deliberately misrepresenting what I say? I have never said nor thought that the earlier fathers disagree with me. You have not been able to present any passage explicitly condemning the practice of requesting the saints’ intercession from the entire patristic corpus. The passage from Origen in fact supports my position, in spite of your interpretational acrobatics. You cannot explain why Origen uses one word to denote “saintly men,” and another word to denote “saints,” if he meant exactly the same thing. Your interpretation is a forced reading meant to conform to the Protestant agenda.

    Vigilantius opposed prayer to the dead in the post-Nicene era.

    Again, define what you mean by “prayers to the dead.” Did Vigilantius mean requesting the intercession of the saints, or did he mean necromancy? Please cite the specific passage to which you refer.

    Why do you think appeals to doctrinal development have become so popular among Catholics in recent times? I've already linked you to posts in which I document Catholic scholars' acknowledgment of the early absence and widespread contradiction of Catholic doctrine (Klaus Schatz on the papacy, Ludwig Ott on the veneration of images, etc.).

    Again, I’d be more than happy to discuss these topics in a separate thread, but they are completely different subjects altogether; I do not remember your linking to any posts on the papacy or veneration of images. If that is something you’d like to discuss, I’d be happy to—but I do not accept your generalizations about this so-called rise of the notion of doctrinal development (which is an ancient concept, not a new one), nor this so-called “widespread contradiction of Catholic doctrine” in the early church.

    You keep telling us about your Oxford education.

    Actually, I never would have mentioned my credentials had you not repeatedly and arrogantly questioned whether I had ever read any of the fathers—as if you are the sole authority here.

    So, why do you keep arguing at a Catholic Answers level?

    Once again, you demonstrate your fine ability to insult—the ken of the defensive and insecure. You’ve already shown us how your interpretation of Lactantius and Origen are completely off, how your interpretations of Scripture are unnatural and misleading, and you continue to obfuscate the meaning of “prayers to the dead” to include “worship of saints,” which I have explicitly rejected. It’s very easy to find passages where the fathers condemn “prayers to the dead” if it means summoning ghosts or worship of saints—not so easy to find passages condemning requesting the intercession of the saints. This is why you would prefer to use the misleading phrase “prayers to the dead”, because it obfuscates the position of the Catholic Church, and misleads your readers into thinking you have support when you do not.

    Your position on credobaptism only highlights the unfortunate consequence of the Reformation: subjective, individual interpretation of Scripture, the inevitable fruit of rejecting the Magisterium. We all know the doctrinal differences among Protestant denominations, each one appealing to Scripture as its highest authority, yet differing on so fundamental a belief as baptism, among other sacraments.

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  103. If there's silence in a context in which we would expect something to be mentioned under the conditions in question, then there's nothing fallacious about appealing to silence.

    It is indeed fallacious if from silence you extrapolate prohibition. This is a faulty way to approach Scripture, and can lead to disastrous results. For instance, the argument from silence is used by anti-instrumentalists to dogmatically claim that, because the New Testament does not mention musical instruments for worship, therefore the use of instruments is forbidden during worship.

    I've explained why prayer to the dead should have been mentioned where it wasn't. You need to address what I said instead of continuing to ignore it.

    Again, the tiresome and false claim that I “ignore” what you write. All I can say in response is, “Projection.” You have decidedly not explained why prayer to the dead should have been mentioned where it wasn’t.

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  104. CHRISTINE SAID:

    "Are you seriously saying that popularity determines orthodoxy? I certainly hope not, because that would be denying the work of the Holy Spirit in leading the Councils to truth."

    Of course, Christine doesn't hesitate to deny the work of the Holy Spirit in leading the Protestant Reformers to truth.

    "Arianism was widespread, even infiltrating the highest ranks of clergy, but it was recognized as a heresy and rightly condemned by the Nicene Council."

    So Mother Church wasn't protecting the sheep prior to the Nicene council. To the contrary, Mother Church was leading the sheep astray prior to the Nicene council.

    If the Arian heresy infiltrated the highest ranks of the clergy, and if the laity are obligated to take their cue from the hierarchy, then the laity are duty-bound to submit to heretical teachers in the highest ranks of the clergy.

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  105. Christine wrote:

    "Are you seriously saying that popularity determines orthodoxy? I certainly hope not, because that would be denying the work of the Holy Spirit in leading the Councils to truth. Arianism was widespread, even infiltrating the highest ranks of clergy, but it was recognized as a heresy and rightly condemned by the Nicene Council. "

    I don't claim that ecumenical councils are infallible. If you have John 16:13 in mind, you'll need to demonstrate that the passage is referring to ecumenical councils as you define them. And I've already cited some examples of councils you consider ecumenical acting and teaching in a manner contrary to Roman Catholicism.

    You write:

    "You answer that the Councils can’t be expected to deal with every single issue. Fine—but why then didn’t any of the Fathers, early or late, condemn the practice?"

    I've documented condemnations from some of the earlier fathers, and I've explained why the fathers aren't the only relevant sources.

    You write:

    "It is obvious that Isaiah means 'consulting the dead' in context with use of mediums and spiritists. If I say, 'I am going to go to the kitchen and mix up some batter and bake some cookies,' the phrase is obviously and clearly meant to be taken together: it means that in my own kitchen, I will be baking cookies made from the batter I just mixed. According to your interpretation, you would divorce 'bake some cookies' from its context, so that it could mean baking cookies at someone else’s house, or at school, or at the airport, for all we know. "

    You're bringing up a new analogy without interacting with my response to your last analogy (the drinking and driving one). Instead of expecting me to repeat what I said in response to a new analogy, you ought to interact with what I said about your last one.

    (continued below)

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  106. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "At this point, it’s just he said, she said, so further debate seems useless."

    How many times now have you made such comments, only to go on to continue to debate the issues?

    You write:

    "And I say that you’re twisting Scripture to mean something in accord with the Reformed agenda."

    Even though I'm not Reformed?

    You write:

    "Sorry, but your link refers me to a post with dozens of links to dozens of articles. That’s not helpful, as I haven either the time nor inclination to read through every single one of them. You’ll have to give me more specific objections or references, and I’ll be happy to deal with them."

    Earlier, I singled out my material on the sinlessness of Mary. You didn't interact with it. Now we're supposed to believe that you'd be "happy" to interact with something I would single out? Then interact with my material here on the sinlessness of Mary.

    You write:

    "You have not been able to present any passage explicitly condemning the practice of requesting the saints’ intercession from the entire patristic corpus. The passage from Origen in fact supports my position, in spite of your interpretational acrobatics."

    You've ignored most of the passages I cited. And I've explained that a contradiction of your position doesn't have to be "explicit" in order to be a contradiction.

    (continued below)

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  107. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "Did Vigilantius mean requesting the intercession of the saints, or did he mean necromancy? Please cite the specific passage to which you refer."

    Read the introduction to Jerome's Against Vigilantius found here. Jerome often misrepresented his opponents, and scholars often note that his Against Vigilantius is "full of invective" and not entirely reliable (F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, edd., The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church [New York: Oxford University Press, 1997], p. 1697). What we have to do is piece together information we can attain about Vigilantius from multiple sources. Jerome occasionally quotes Vigilantius, so in some cases we can read his own words.

    Jerome writes:

    "Read the Gospel—'The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob: He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.' If then they are alive, they are not, to use your expression, kept in honourable confinement. For you say that the souls of Apostles and martyrs have their abode either in the bosom of Abraham, or in the place of refreshment, or under the altar of God, and that they cannot leave their own tombs, and be present where they will. They are, it seems, of senatorial rank, and are not subjected to the worst kind of prison and the society of murderers, but are kept apart in liberal and honourable custody in the isles of the blessed and the Elysian fields. Will you lay down the law for God? Will you put the Apostles into chains?" (5-6)

    It seems that Vigilantius held something like the view of the afterlife we see in some earlier fathers, in which deceased believers are in a place of enjoyment that's lesser than the region of Heaven they'll experience after a future judgment. Apparently, Jerome is criticizing Vigilantius for "confining" deceased believers to that region. The significance of confinement becomes obvious as Jerome explains more about Vigilantius' view. He goes on:

    "You say, in your pamphlet, that so long as we are alive we can pray for one another; but once we die, the prayer of no person for another can be heard, and all the more because the martyrs, though they cry for the avenging of their blood, have never been able to obtain their request. If Apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, when they ought still to be anxious for themselves, how much more must they do so when once they have won their crowns, overcome, and triumphed?...you bring before me an apocryphal book which, under the name of Esdras, is read by you and those of your feather, and in this book it is written that after death no one dares pray for others." (6)

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  108. (continued from above)

    Later, he quotes Vigilantius as follows:

    "Is it the case that the souls of the martyrs love their ashes, and hover round them, and are always present, lest haply if any one come to pray and they were absent, they could not hear?” (8)

    He's ridiculing the idea that the dead would be able to hear prayers offered to them. That's the significance of the earlier comments Jerome made about confinement. Apparently, Vigilantius didn't think the dead would hear prayers offered outside of their immediate presence.

    Thus, scholars commonly conclude that one of the things Vigilantius opposed was "prayers offered to the dead" (from the introduction here.) Harry Rosenberg writes that Vigilantius "rejected the value of prayers to martyrs" (in Everett Ferguson, ed., Encyclopedia Of Early Christianity [New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1999], p. 1160). The Catholic Encyclopedia comments, "Vigilantius, the Gascon priest against whom Jerome wrote a treatise, quarrelled with ecclesiastical usages rather than matters of doctrine. What he principally rejected was the monastic life and the veneration of saints and of relics." Philip Schaff wrote, "The Spanish presbyter Vigilantius, in the fifth century, called the worshippers of martyrs and relics, ashes-worshippers and idolaters, and taught that, according to the Scriptures, the living only should pray with and for each other." (History Of The Christian Church, 3:7:84) Earlier, you cited J.N.D. Kelly's comments about Origen's view of prayer. On the next page, in the paragraph that follows the one we were discussing, Kelly refers to Vigilantius as a critic of the devotion to the saints that developed (Early Christian Doctrines [New York: Continuum, 2003], p. 491), the sort of devotion you said you agreed with earlier.

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  109. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "Actually, I never would have mentioned my credentials had you not repeatedly and arrogantly questioned whether I had ever read any of the fathers—as if you are the sole authority here."

    Go to the top of the screen. Hit Ctrl F on your keyboard. Do a search on "Oxford". Look at what you were responding to. I asked whether you had read much from the fathers, not whether you had read anything from them. My question was justified, for reasons I've explained. And you could have answered the question without telling us about your Oxford education. You went on to mention your Oxford education again, including details that didn't have much relevance, later in the thread.

    And I never suggested that I'm "the sole authority here".

    You write:

    "You’ve already shown us how your interpretation of Lactantius and Origen are completely off"

    You say that after having ignored most of what I've cited from Origen and Lactantius.

    You write:

    "Your position on credobaptism only highlights the unfortunate consequence of the Reformation: subjective, individual interpretation of Scripture, the inevitable fruit of rejecting the Magisterium. We all know the doctrinal differences among Protestant denominations, each one appealing to Scripture as its highest authority, yet differing on so fundamental a belief as baptism, among other sacraments."

    You're not interacting with what I said about credobaptism. You're changing the subject to Protestant unity rather than addressing the issues I was discussing.

    As far as unity is concerned, you and your fellow Catholics widely disagree about predestination, soteriology, eschatology, Biblical inerrancy, and many other issues. Look at the disputes between Catholic apologists like Robert Sungenis and Mark Shea, between liberal and conservative Catholic scholars, between liberal and conservative Catholic politicians, etc.

    You write:

    "It is indeed fallacious if from silence you extrapolate prohibition."

    I've been addressing the absence and contradiction of prayers to the dead. I cited silence with regard to absence, not prohibition. You're misrepresenting what I've argued.

    You write:

    "Again, the tiresome and false claim that I 'ignore' what you write."

    I've given specific examples of what you've ignored.

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  110. If the Arian heresy infiltrated the highest ranks of the clergy, and if the laity are obligated to take their cue from the hierarchy, then the laity are duty-bound to submit to heretical teachers in the highest ranks of the clergy.

    Steve, your reasoning here is so inane as to be laughable. It demonstrates the utter ignorance and misrepresentation of anti-Catholics eager to denounce the Church whose positions they do not comprehend. At least make an effort to understand the Catholic Church's position on obedience before throwing out wildly inaccurate claims as this one. As an anti-Catholic Evangelical once myself, I all too well understand that tendency among Protestants.

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  111. Christine keeps contradicting herself. Earlier in this thread, in her 12:45 P.M. post on June 6, she wrote:

    "Actually, I've been ignoring all of Steve's comments ever since he's shown that he specializes in unsubstantiated accusation--which he does. He 'fights dirty,' and I have no interest in that."

    And she used that reasoning as an excuse for ignoring some of Steve's arguments. But now she's responding to Steve again. So, why doesn't she go back and address the arguments Steve posted that she ignored earlier?

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  112. Jason--Oh please. Your response is just silly and you know it. Because I respond to this latest comment by Steve, that somehow obligates me to go back and respond to all of his comments that I've ignored? I have indeed failed to read his previous comments--up until this last particularly egregious remark.

    I've been addressing the absence and contradiction of prayers to the dead. I cited silence with regard to absence, not prohibition.

    This response is not genuine; you extrapolate from silence that requesting saints’ intercession is therefore sinful.

    You've ignored most of the passages I cited. And I've explained that a contradiction of your position doesn't have to be "explicit" in order to be a contradiction.

    I had asked you several posts ago to give me the precise citations from early fathers explicitly condemning the practice of requesting the saints’ intercession. You keep cryptically mentioning that you’ve done so, yet never give me any citations. And no—you have not justified how something can contradict my position without explicitly condemning it. When an early church father claims we pray to God alone, every Catholic will agree with you, because we acknowledge that the saints lay our petitions before God, so that ultimately, we all pray to God alone. No Catholic thinks that the saint has power inherent in himself, apart from God, to answer prayers.

    The drinking and driving analogy was one among hundreds of others that would demonstrate the clear and natural import of Isaiah and Deuteronomy. I offered another analogy to clarify this, and you failed to interact with it.

    On Vigilantius: first of all, he is not an ante-Nicene father. Second, he is considered a heretic—so you might as well quote Donatus or Marcion or Arius for your position. St. Jerome very clearly condemns Vigilantius’s erroneous claims.

    I’m going to go back and deal directly with your response on Lactantius, as I missed it the first time. (No, I did not ignore it, as you love to claim—how about giving the benefit of the doubt, rather than being quick to accuse? Is that not the least that Christian charity demands?)

    You mentioned Lactantius’s condemnation of prayers to the dead in the Divine Institute 2:18; I put the quote in context to show that Lactantius clearly meant necromancy. You respond:

    The fact that pagans are condemned for an activity doesn’t imply that the activity is wrong only if done by pagans.

    Um, where did I ever make this argument? You totally misunderstand me if you think this is the argument I’m making (which I’ve never made). Of course Lactantius is discussing praying to the physically dead. What I deny is that Lactantius condemns requesting the saints’ intercession. If you read the entire context of the passage, he is clearly referring to the practice of necromancy—he is NOT referring to the Christian practice of requesting the saints’ intercession. So your quote of Lactantius is once again totally unhelpful and not to the point.

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  113. As far as unity is concerned, you and your fellow Catholics widely disagree about predestination, soteriology, eschatology, Biblical inerrancy, and many other issues. Look at the disputes between Catholic apologists like Robert Sungenis and Mark Shea, between liberal and conservative Catholic scholars, between liberal and conservative Catholic politicians, etc.

    Ah, but there’s a crucial difference: although individual Catholics may disagree on various points, the Magisterium itself does not offer different views on the sacraments, salvation, Scriptural inerrancy, etc. In some cases, the Church leaves the question open, so disagreement is possible (e.g., eschatology, evolution, etc.). But on the fundamentals, the Magisterium is clear. Not so among the many different Protestant denominations, who cannot even agree on the fundamentals.


    When terms and concepts are redefined as absurdly as you’ve redefined them, there’s little significance in your saying that no patristic passage can be shown to contradict your position.

    On the contrary, you redefine “prayers to the dead” in a deliberately evasive way. Instead of limiting it to the Catholic meaning—requesting the saints’ intercession—you broaden it to include necromancy and worship of saints. I asked you again to define what you mean by “prayers to the dead,” and you refuse to do so.

    Even though I'm not Reformed?

    Evangelical—the same applies.

    Earlier, I singled out my material on the sinlessness of Mary. You didn't interact with it. Now we're supposed to believe that you'd be "happy" to interact with something I would single out? Then interact with my material here on the sinlessness of Mary.

    So now you want to switch topics and discuss the sinlessness of Mary? You are aware that this will give rise to at least 100 more comments in this thread. If it will produce the same evasions as this thread, I’m not sure the discussion will be fruitful. But if you insist on switching topics, you should at least give me time to read your articles and offer a response.

    I've documented condemnations from some of the earlier fathers, and I've explained why the fathers aren't the only relevant sources.

    No, you have not.

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  114. Christine wrote:

    "This response is not genuine; you extrapolate from silence that requesting saints’ intercession is therefore sinful."

    Quote me making that argument.

    You write:

    "I had asked you several posts ago to give me the precise citations from early fathers explicitly condemning the practice of requesting the saints’ intercession. You keep cryptically mentioning that you’ve done so, yet never give me any citations. And no—you have not justified how something can contradict my position without explicitly condemning it."

    The term "explicitly" is a qualifier to "contradict". Even if a contradiction isn't explicit, it's still a contradiction. Removing the "explicitly" qualifier doesn't remove the "contradiction" term that's being qualified. Why does this sort of thing need to be explained to you?

    Go back to my earlier post on Origen, which I linked above. You've ignored most of the passages I cited there. I discuss Origen further in my 2:17 P.M. post from June 13 here. You've ignored my recent posts on Lactantius (here and here). Earlier in this thread, I posted some comments you ignored concerning Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and Cyprian. See my three posts on June 4 at 11:18 and 11:19 P.M.

    When you do respond to a portion of what I cite from a source like Origen or Lactantius, it doesn't follow that you've responded to all of what I've cited. You seem to think that you can ignore most of what I argue concerning such sources, as long as you make some sort of comment about them. But your commenting on a source doesn't prove that you've interacted with all of the evidence I cited relevant to that source. And you haven't even commented on some of the sources I've cited above.

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  115. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "When an early church father claims we pray to God alone, every Catholic will agree with you, because we acknowledge that the saints lay our petitions before God, so that ultimately, we all pray to God alone."

    The fact that a petition is placed before God doesn't prove that only God is prayed to. See my citations of the Catechism Of The Catholic Church and Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII above. As I documented, your own denomination's leadership affirms a Roman Catholic belief in praying to the dead. If you pray to Mary and God, then you aren't praying to God alone. Praying to Mary in order to have her bring your petition to God isn't the most natural way of interpreting a phrase like "pray to God alone".

    But, for the sake of argument, let's temporarily assume that our interpretations of such a phrase are equally reasonable. The fact that we don't find examples of these ante-Nicene sources referring to prayers to the dead in their writings, in contrast to their hundreds of references to prayers to God, favors my interpretation over yours. Why would they so persistently not refer to praying to the dead if they believed in it?

    You write:

    "The drinking and driving analogy was one among hundreds of others that would demonstrate the clear and natural import of Isaiah and Deuteronomy. I offered another analogy to clarify this, and you failed to interact with it."

    In other words, you ignored my response to your first analogy, but now you want me to respond to a second analogy. Why should I do that? So that you can ignore my second response as well? Respond to what I said about your first analogy.

    You write:

    "On Vigilantius: first of all, he is not an ante-Nicene father."

    You keep making mistakes that suggest you don't even understand what we're discussing. I was addressing the post-Nicene era when I cited Vigilantius, not the ante-Nicene era.

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  116. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "Second, he is considered a heretic—so you might as well quote Donatus or Marcion or Arius for your position. St. Jerome very clearly condemns Vigilantius’s erroneous claims."

    Jerome also condemned some of your beliefs and sometimes condemned the bishop of Rome (Letter 127:9-10). You'll have to explain why being condemned by Jerome would prove that a source shouldn't be cited in this context. If being condemned by Jerome is enough of a basis for dismissing a source, then why didn't you dismiss Vigilantius on that basis earlier? And what about the bishops and other Christians who supported Vigilantius? Why does Jerome get to decide who's a heretic? And if the alleged heresy in question is opposition to prayer to the dead, then you're begging the question by assuming that such a position is heresy. Whether it's heresy is one of the issues under dispute in this thread.

    Putting Vigilantius in the same category as Marcion and Arius doesn't make sense. What foundational doctrine of Christianity did Vigilantius deny? Jerome himself acknowledged that Vigilantius was a Christian (Letter 61:3).

    You write:

    "I’m going to go back and deal directly with your response on Lactantius, as I missed it the first time. (No, I did not ignore it, as you love to claim—how about giving the benefit of the doubt, rather than being quick to accuse? Is that not the least that Christian charity demands?)"

    The problem is that you've been "missing" a lot, and you keep making false claims about having responded to everything.

    You write:

    "Um, where did I ever make this argument? You totally misunderstand me if you think this is the argument I’m making (which I’ve never made). Of course Lactantius is discussing praying to the physically dead. What I deny is that Lactantius condemns requesting the saints’ intercession."

    Here's what you wrote in your 3:13 P.M. post on June 5, in response to some of my comments on Lactantius:

    "First of all, Catholics do not 'pray to the dead,' we pray to living saints in Heaven."

    The reason why I addressed what sort of dead people Lactantius was referring to was because you disputed the point.

    If the saints are physically dead, then you need to explain why Lactantius' condemnation of praying to the physically dead doesn't apply to praying to those physically dead saints.

    (continued below)

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  117. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "Ah, but there’s a crucial difference: although individual Catholics may disagree on various points, the Magisterium itself does not offer different views on the sacraments, salvation, Scriptural inerrancy, etc."

    Actually, the Catholic hierarchy has contradicted itself over the years. I've cited examples many times before. See, for instance, the articles I linked earlier about ecumenical councils.

    Even if we were to assume a unity of teaching by the magisterium, or dismiss all of the contradictions as fallible and thus unofficial and irrelevant, you're drawing a false comparison. You're comparing disunity among Protestants to unity within the Catholic rule of faith. But just as you claim that the magisterium is consistent, I would claim that scripture is consistent. If Catholics can disagree with each other, as long as their rule of faith is consistent, then the same standard should be applied to Protestants.

    You write:

    "In some cases, the Church leaves the question open, so disagreement is possible (e.g., eschatology, evolution, etc.). But on the fundamentals, the Magisterium is clear. Not so among the many different Protestant denominations, who cannot even agree on the fundamentals."

    You're begging the question about what is and isn't fundamental. You cited the example of Protestant disagreement over credobaptism. You haven't given us any reason to consider that issue a fundamental one. I consider Presbyterians fellow Christians, even though I disagree with them on infant baptism. Why are we supposed to believe that my disagreement with Presbyterians over infant baptism is more significant than your disagreements with liberal Catholic theologians, Catholics who disagree with you about the salvation of non-Catholics, sedevacantists, etc.?

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  118. CHRISTINE SAID:

    "Steve, your reasoning here is so inane as to be laughable. It demonstrates the utter ignorance and misrepresentation of anti-Catholics eager to denounce the Church whose positions they do not comprehend. At least make an effort to understand the Catholic Church's position on obedience before throwing out wildly inaccurate claims as this one. As an anti-Catholic Evangelical once myself, I all too well understand that tendency among Protestants."

    The church of Rome is a hierarchical institution. And you yourself said that heresy penetrated the highest reaches of the hierarchy.

    Are you now telling us that the laity stands in judgment of the hierarchy? In that event, why bother with the Magisterium at all?

    If your submission to the Magisterium is contingent on your private judgment regarding the orthodoxy or heresy of the Magisterium, then you're a crypto-Protestant.

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  119. STEVE SAID:
    Christine said...

    "At least make an effort to understand the Catholic Church's position on obedience before throwing out wildly inaccurate claims as this one."

    Who appointed you to speak for Catholicism, anyway? Are you La Popessa?

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  120. If your submission to the Magisterium is contingent on your private judgment regarding the orthodoxy or heresy of the Magisterium, then you're a crypto-Protestant.

    *Sigh.* This convoluted argument confirms the reason why I refuse to deal with Steve. Back to ignore.

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  121. If only Steve's posts would measure up to Christine's high standards. Maybe Steve should copy and paste some irrelevant patristic quotes from a Protestant equivalent of Catholic Answers, vaguely point people to books that allegedly support his view without offering any further documentation when asked, repeatedly misrepresent the topic under discussion even after having been corrected repeatedly by multiple people, etc.

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  122. Jason,
    It reflects poorly on you that you would welcome and support spurious arguments like those Steve and Gene have made. If some Catholic ignorant of Protestant theology started spewing nonsense over at my blog, I would gladly correct him. I suppose, though, that any anti-Catholic is a friend of yours.

    As to the rest of your comments, I'll deal with them later when I have free time.

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  123. I've responded in detail to Jason here.

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  124. Christine writes:

    "Based on this, he claims that '[p]raying to the dead…is unbiblical [and] anti-Biblical.' An 'anti-biblical' practice is sinful, is it not? So I repeat,Jason extrapolates from silence that requesting saints’ intercession is therefore sinful."

    You quote some of my comments on silence, then quote one of my comments on the anti-Biblical nature of prayer to the dead, then claim that I "extrapolate from silence that requesting saints’ intercession is therefore sinful". You aren't giving us any reason to agree with your assessment. The fact that I refer to prayer to the dead as anti-Biblical doesn't prove that my conclusion is based on silence. You've combined my comments in two different threads, and you've ignored the evidence I cited to support my conclusions. I distinguished between silence and condemnation, which is why I referred to prayer to the dead as both "unbiblical" and "anti-Biblical", and I cited Biblical and patristic passages that contradict the practice. Your claim that I derived sinfulness from silence is false.

    You write:

    "I responded that one of the definitions of 'to invoke' is 'to call forth or upon (a spirit) by incantation,' i.e., to summon a spirit to manifest itself. No one should 'invoke' the angels, if by that we mean summon them to manifest themselves."

    And I cited Roman Catholic documents that refer to "praying to" and "invoking" the dead. It's not enough for you to cite "one of the definitions". You need to address what definition Celsus and Origen had in mind. You haven't argued for the definition you've proposed.

    Since Origen mentions that we should pray to and invoke God, not angels or deceased humans, it's doubtful that he was referring to invoking in the sense you've suggested. Did Christians use "incantations" to get God to "manifest" Himself? No, they didn't. Your proposed definition is absurd.

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  125. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "It very clearly sets forth a type of prayer that involves worship, asking forgiveness, and contemplation. None of these is relevant to requesting the saints’ intercession, since any Catholic will readily acknowledge that we do not worship, ask forgiveness from, or contemplate the saints. These are reserved for God alone, and Origen rightly notes that."

    When God is the recipient of prayer, then prayer involves saying and doing things appropriate to communication with God. It doesn't therefore follow that terms like "pray" and "invoke" always carry with them attributes reserved to God alone. As I've documented, your own denomination applies such terms to communication with the deceased and angels. And you've cited later patristic sources using such terms in that manner. If the Catechism Of The Catholic Church refers to praying to God for forgiveness, do you therefore assume that all references to prayer in the catechism must be referring to prayer to God? No, that would be an unreasonable assumption. Similarly, the fact hat Origen describes prayer to God as involving attributes that wouldn't be involved in prayer to a lesser being doesn't prove that every reference to prayer in Origen assumes the attributes of prayer to God.

    You refer to "a type of prayer". But the fact that Origen argues for a type or prayer directed to God doesn't prove that he only had that type in mind when he denied that we should pray to other beings. Origen repeatedly made unqualified denials that we should pray to the dead and angels, and you're assuming that he meant to qualify those denials. Supposedly, he only meant to deny that we should give the dead and angels the type of prayer you describe above. That isn't what Origen says, though. You're reading that qualifier into the text. It's unlikely that he or Celsus had such a qualifier in mind, for reasons like the ones I've explained in the thread here. If you want us to believe that unqualified terms like "pray" and "invoke" had the qualified meaning you refer to above, then you bear the burden of proof.

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  126. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "It’s misleading for Jason to quote this in his favor, since these chapters in Book VIII specifically deal with Celsus’ call for Christians to join in sacrificial offerings to demons. Origen clearly defines what is meant by 'demons' here"

    You're ignoring the distinction between Celsus' definition and Origen's, which I pointed out earlier. See Against Celsus 5:5, as well as the other relevant material I've discussed here. Origen addresses the term "demon" in more than one sense, not just the sense you've highlighted, and Celsus had objected to the Christian view of prayer on multiple grounds. He didn't just criticize Christians for neglecting angels within his own (Celsus') belief system. He also criticized Christians for neglecting angels within their own system of belief.

    You write:

    "The fact that Origen would make the disclaimer that the saints and angels in heaven even when not asked pray with us on earth means that other situations exist in which we do ask them to pray with us."

    You're ignoring the context. Origen is responding to Celsus, who argued that angels should be prayed to. Origen had been making the point that we don't need to pray to angels in order for them to be favorable to us. He never approaches this issue as a Roman Catholic would. He never responds to Celsus by arguing that we should pray to angels in some sense that's lesser than our prayers to God. Rather, he denies that we should pray to angels at all.

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  127. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "Jason's quote of Tertullian is irrelevant, as it speaks nothing of prayer."

    I referred you to my 11:19 P.M. post on June 4 in the thread here. My Tertullian quote there is about prayer. Apparently, you went to the wrong post.

    You write:

    "What tosh! As if the truths of the faith must be subject to empirical verification in order to prove their veracity! Try doing that with the doctrine of the Trinity. If that is what Jason is saying, then he's quite muddled with regard to proofs of the natural and the supernatural."

    I didn't mention "empirical verification". I said that we need evidence, which would include the evidence of Divine revelation. I said that you need to produce an argument that our ability to pray to the dead and the acceptability of so praying are probable, not just possible. It's not enough to say that the dead might receive our prayers. Imagining how they might do that doesn't give us reason to think it's probable that they do it.

    You write:

    "The definition of evoke is 'to call up; cause to appear; summon: to evoke a spirit from the dead.' This is not what Catholics do when they request the saints' intercession--we do not summon a spirit to appear--and therefore Justin Martyr's quote here is utterly irrelevant."

    As I've documented, your own denomination uses terms like "invoke" to refer to prayer to the dead, yet you assume a different definition whenever a patristic source uses such a term. A term like "invoke" or "evoke" can involve trying to make an entity appear, but that's not inherent in the term. You keep adding qualifiers to what these patristic sources said, then you dismiss their comments as irrelevant on the basis of those qualifiers. But we don't begin with the assumption that a broad term is being used in a narrower, qualified sense. Ancient pagans did sometimes try to get spirits to appear. But they also tried to communicate with the dead and angels without any appearance involved. If they required an appearance every time they prayed, most of them would have soon noticed that their prayers were failing.

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  128. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "As to Athenagoras, the only mention of prayer in ch. 15 is the prayer of pagans to manmade idols of gold or silver. Again irrelevant. As to ch. 20, after listing a litany of Greek gods--Zeus, Demeter, Persephone, Kronos, Ouranos, Koré, etc.--he asks, How, then, I ask, can we approach them as suppliants, when their origin resembles that of cattle, and they themselves have the form of brutes, and are ugly to behold? Again, anyone can see this has nothing whatsoever to do with requesting the saints’ intercession. The fact that Jason would even compare the saints in heaven with mythical Greek gods boggles the mind."

    Why are you ignoring my explanation of why I cited those passages in Athenagoras? As I explained, I cited the passages because of what Athenagoras says about the nature of the proper recipient of prayer. In both sections I cited, Athenagoras argues against prayer to gods on the basis of the distinction between the Creator and creation. In other words, we shouldn't pray to any creature. We should only pray to the Creator.

    And if you want to argue, again, that Athenagoras was only condemning a particular type of prayer to creatures, but not a lesser type of prayer practiced by Roman Catholics, then you need to justify the reading of such a qualifier into the text. We don't begin with an assumption that such a qualifier is in mind.

    You write:

    "Jason's quote from Hippolytus says absolutely nothing in reference to, much less against, requesting the saints’ intercession. Frankly, I’m not even sure how he thinks this is evidence in his favor."

    Hippolytus defines prayer as "supplication offered to God for anything requisite". He doesn't mention angels or the deceased. You can assume that he also believed in praying to angels and the dead, in order to get them to bring requests to God. But you'd have to justify the reading of such a qualifier into his comment. And, as I documented earlier in our discussion, Catholics don't just pray to the dead and angels in an attempt to get them to bring requests to God. Rather, they also praise the dead, thank them, etc. Hippolytus' definition of prayer doesn't include such concepts.

    (continued below)

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  129. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "The burden is on Jason to show that Lactantius means it in this way (and it’s a burden he will not be able to meet)."

    I've already argued for my view of Lactantius in multiple threads at Triablogue and at Scott Windsor's blog. You're ignoring most of what I said in those discussions.

    You write:

    "It is a historical fact that the majority of the Church came to view Vigilantius as a heretic, and on this basis, he remains. It wasn’t Jerome’s lone opinion. A few renegade bishops may have supported Vigilantius, but that proves nothing--no more than the fact that a few renegade bishops who supported Arius somehow frees Arius from the stigma of heresy."

    That's an argument from analogy minus the argument. Why should we think that Vigilantius was a heretic in any relevant sense? If something like opposition to prayer to the dead is what allegedly makes Vigilantius a heretic, then Protestants would be heretics by such a standard. If Vigilantius was only a heretic in that sense, then why should any Protestant think that we shouldn't cite Vigilantius because of his status as a heretic? If you're going to define opposition to prayer to the dead as heresy, then what's the sense in asking for non-heretical historical sources who opposed prayer to the dead?

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  130. (continued from above)

    You write:

    "First, one can consider someone a fellow Christian while still disagreeing with fundamentals."

    If a belief isn't necessary for being a Christian, then why should we classify it as "fundamental"?

    You write:

    "I assume he acknowledges that all the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers support the practice of requesting the saints’ intercession."

    No, what I acknowledge is that the practice was popular in the post-Nicene era. When beliefs develop over time, they go through transitional phases. Some sources comment on the subject, and some don't. Even if every father had commented on the issue, I don't know what position every father held.

    You write:

    "My answer: There is a big difference--all the fathers were of one voice when it came to requesting the saints’ intercession."

    I reject that claim, for reasons I've explained. You haven't documented any support for prayer to the dead among the earlier fathers. And I've argued for early opposition to the practice. Its popularity in later generations doesn't prove that "all the fathers were of one voice".

    And I've repeatedly cited examples of patristic opposition to Roman Catholic doctrine, including at times when none of the fathers were advocating the Roman Catholic view. I repeatedly asked you to address the example of the sinlessness of Mary, and I linked you to my material on the subject. You've decided to not respond.

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  131. Thanks for the useful comments in this thread, Jason and Steve. I've found a lot of the information you've presented to be quite helpful in exposing Rome and Constantinople's claims about the early church. I had two questions that I'd appreciate your help on.

    First, while it is true that Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox sources do speak of praying to and invoking saints, couldn't someone who is not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox but still believes that it is permissible to send our requests to dead saints (I can imagine some Anglo-Catholics fitting this description) claim that the patristic condemnation of prayer only refers to asking the dead to answer certain requests using their own power rather than "passing them on" to God? I recognize that you both have dealt with this objection, but it seems that your main response is that Catholic and Orthodox documents do not define prayer that way. But, this response would not seem to apply to someone who fits the aforesaid description, so I'm wondering if there is anything more that can be said to show that prayer in the patristic context is to understood broad enough so as to include asking someone to pray for oneself.

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  132. (Continued above)

    Second, regarding Origen's work against Celsus, Origen says in Against Celsus 5:11 the following:

    "But even this rational light itself ought not to be worshipped by him who beholds and understands the true light, by sharing in which these also are enlightened; nor by him who beholds God, the Father of the true light,—of whom it has been said, “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” Those, indeed, who worship sun, moon, and stars because their light is visible and celestial, would not bow down to a spark of fire or a lamp upon earth, because they see the incomparable superiority of those objects which are deemed worthy of homage to the light of sparks and lamps. So those who understand that God is light, and who have apprehended that the Son of God is “the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” and who comprehend also how He says, “I am the light of the world,” would not rationally offer worship to that which is, as it were, a spark in sun, moon, and stars, in comparison with God, who is light of the true light. Nor is it with a view to depreciate these great works of God’s creative power, or to call them, after the fashion of Anaxagoras, “fiery masses,” that we thus speak of sun, and moon, and stars; but because we perceive the inexpressible superiority of the divinity of God, and that of His only-begotten Son, which surpasses all other things. 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 between God and them. And here I may employ this illustration, as bearing upon this point: Our Lord and Saviour, hearing Himself on one occasion addressed as “Good Master,” referring him who used it to His own Father, said, “Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God the Father.” And since it was in accordance with sound reason that this should be said by the Son of His Father’s love, as being the image of the goodness of God, why should not the sun say with greater reason to those that bow down to him, Why do you worship me? “for thou wilt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve;” for it is He whom I and all who are with me serve and worship. And although one may not be so exalted (as the sun), nevertheless let such an one pray to the Word of God (who is able to heal him), and still more to His Father, who also to the righteous of former times “sent His word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”"

    By the looks of it, it seems that Origen is condemning prayer to created beings in the context of worshipping them since Origen's analogy regarding celestial bodies and sparks of a fire/a lamp says that both are worshipped. Yet, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox (as well as those who do not identify with either but still think that we should pray to the dead) will claim that they only offer dulia to the saints (and hyperdulia to Mary) and not latria, which is worship. Do you think that this could be used as an escape route against Origen's testimony here?

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    1. Midas,

      You can find a collection of links to many of our articles on prayer here. Some of the articles are specifically about Origen's view of prayer. And you can find other relevant material in the Triablogue archives with a Google search.

      We've offered a wide variety of arguments against prayer to the dead and angels. Our case doesn't depend on whether worship is involved in the prayer.

      However, since you brought the subject up, notice the distinction between the following claims:

      - We shouldn't pray to the dead in a way that involves worship.

      - We shouldn't pray to the dead, since praying to the dead is a form of worshipping them.

      A Catholic or Orthodox agreement with the first statement doesn't reconcile their position with the second statement. Whether a particular source, such as Origen, meant to make the first claim, the second claim, or something else has to be judged case-by-case. One way of discerning what was meant is to look at how the language is most naturally interpreted. For example, does Origen say that we should avoid praying to an entity under particular circumstances? Or does he say that we should avoid praying to that entity without qualification? If the latter, yet a Catholic or Orthodox suggests that we should read a qualification into the text, then he's proposing a less natural interpretation. Since Origen addresses the subject of prayer so many times, in so many contexts and from so many angles, we're not dependent on something like one or two phrases he used in one or two places. Rather, we have a lot of evidence to draw from. And that evidence points in the direction of his opposition to praying to the dead and angels. You can see the articles I referred to above, as well as earlier posts in this thread, for my arguments to that effect.

      We should take a similar approach on the issue of whether the patristic sources are only condemning "asking the dead to answer certain requests using their own power rather than 'passing them on' to God". Do the sources in question suggest such a qualification? How does the person arguing for that qualification supposedly know that the dead and angels hear our prayers, which they then pass on to God? How would their qualification explain the absence of prayer to the dead and angels in contexts in which we'd expect people to mention the practice if they believed in it? And so on. The qualification being proposed isn't suggested by the sources in question, and it fails to address some of the issues involved.

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  133. Thank you for the thorough reply, Jason. I have a couple further questions on this subject. First, how would you deal with Perry Robinson's collection of ante-Nicene patristic quotations and his analyses of them (http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/prayers-to-saints-in-the-pre-nicene-era/)? He seems to cover some early church fathers which do not appear to be addressed in this or other related threads. Particularly, what would you say about his analysis of Origen, which I quote at length:

    "1.3 Origen of Alexandria:

    Now supplication and plea and thanksgiving may be offered to people without impropriety. Two of them, namely pleading and thanksgiving, might be offered not only to saints but to people alone in general, whereas supplication should be offered to saints alone, should there be found a Paul or a Peter, who may benefit us and make us worthy to attain authority for the forgiveness of sins.

    On Prayer, 14.6 [3]
    Alexandria, Circa AD 253

    In Origen’s discussion of prayer, he distinguishes the kind of prayer that should be offered to God alone, and the kind of prayer that should be offered to humans. Remember that prayer is any kind of “asking”. Among the prayers that can be offered to humans, the kind of prayer that should be offered to only saints (which could mean Christians alive on earth or Christians departed) is supplication, while the kinds of prayer that can be offered to all people (saints or not) are plea and thanksgiving. The context is ambiguous about whether Origen means by saints the living or the departed; he uses “saints” in both senses depending on context. Four factors contribute to the conclusion that he is talking about departed saints. First, he clearly teaches (see the Origen quote included in section 2 below) that departed saints can pray for us (though this point considered all by itself does not support the interpretation that these are departed saints). Second, he speaks as though it is difficult to find saints of the kind he is discussing, implying that it is not merely normal Christians he is talking about. Third, he mentions Peter and Paul as examples of the kind of difficult-to-find saints, and they are indeed deceased and lived a holy life, implying that it is Christians of the deceased and holy variety that are hard to find, but permissible to pray to. Fourth, he speaks of how these saints “may benefit us and make us worthy to attain authority for the forgiveness of sins.” This suggests that the power or authority that they make available is spiritual strength to overcome the power of sin: again, this could not just be a request made to any Christian. Perhaps this power for forgiveness could be a reference to absolution by a priest; but given the mention of Peter and Paul this is not likely."

    Do you think that Perry's arguments regarding Origen and the other ECFs he cites makes it more plausible than not that they held to the veneration of the saints? If not, what could one say in response to his arguments?

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    1. Midas,

      You refer to "the veneration of the saints", but this thread is focused on prayers to the deceased. My response below will be focused on the latter rather than the former, which is a broader issue.

      And you referred to Perry Robinson as the author of the article you cited. I don't know why you're attributing it to him. It's attributed to MG here. And MG seems to refer to himself as the author in the comments section of the thread. See his comments at 10:40 P.M. on 7/29/11.

      MG claims that "There are no examples of orthodox Christians opposed to these practices [including praying to the dead]." A commenter in the thread tells us "one encounters something such as intercessory prayer to the saints and finds no objections to the practice before the 16th century". I've provided arguments to the contrary, in this thread, the other threads I've linked here, and elsewhere. As I've documented, as early as the second century, Celsus implied that Christians in general prayed only to God and were opposed to praying to other beings, such as angels. I've cited multiple fathers, from East and West, opposing prayer to the dead in some manner, including multiple sources from the second century. In comparison to what MG has given us, my ante-Nicene sources are more numerous, more mainstream, and often more contextually relevant (e.g., they make their comments in treatises directly addressing prayer). I've argued that the Biblical evidence, which is even earlier than what MG is discussing, is opposed to praying to the dead and angels as well. I've cited many sources from the second century and earlier, the cumulative weight of which is much more significant than what MG has cited.

      I'm going to be focused here on the most relevant evidence MG cites, the allegedly more explicit references to praying to the dead and angels. I'm focused on the first of his three numbered sections. I'll be addressing that section more than the rest, since the other portions of the article are relatively insignificant for reasons I've addressed in the past (e.g., you can think that deceased humans and angels pray with you, yet not believe in praying to them).

      (continued below)

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    2. (continued from above)

      The only source MG cites prior to the third century is Hermas. I'm excluding his appeal to Irenaeus, since he doesn't demonstrate that Irenaeus said anything supporting MG's position. And I've argued that the evidence we have from Irenaeus goes in the opposite direction.

      The Hermas passage mentions an angel, so it wouldn't be about prayers to the dead. I've argued in the past for the importance of distinguishing between the two (e.g., angels could have powers that deceased humans don't have; angels are portrayed in scripture as frequently traveling to earth and as being more closely involved in earthly affairs than deceased humans are in other ways).

      But does the Hermas passage even support praying to angels? A being appears to Hermas. Who denies that it's permissible to speak to a being who appears to us? There are many Biblical examples of people speaking with angels who come to earth or who appear to humans in visions, for example. That's not equivalent to initiating a discussion with an angel by praying to that angel when you don't know that he's in your presence in any relevant way and you don't know that he'll be aware of your prayer. I've addressed such distinctions in the past, like here. There's nothing in the passage MG has cited that suggests Hermas supported prayer to angels, and praying to angels is different than praying to the dead.

      He quotes a translation using the phrase "I prayed", but the being Hermas is addressing is visible and nearby. Michael Holmes' translation uses the phrase "I urgently asked" rather than "I prayed" (The Apostolic Fathers [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2005], 435). MG doesn't explain to his readers that Hermas is addressing a being with whom he had been having a conversation, a visible being who was nearby. Instead, MG begins his quotation with the words "I prayed" and goes on to refer to how Hermas was "praying" to this being. That's misleading.

      Furthermore, MG doesn't quote what Hermas goes on to say:

      "Sir, since I have you with me, I must of necessity ask you and inquire of you, for you show me everything and speak with me; but if I had seen or heard them without you, I would have asked the Lord, that it might be explained to me." (ibid., 435)

      Hermas is having a discussion with this being because "I have [him] with me". If the being hadn't appeared to Hermas, he'd go to God instead. He doesn't say that he'd pray to an angel or deceased person. Rather, he'd pray to God. Those comments undermine MG's position rather than supporting it.

      (continued below)

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    3. (continued from above)

      The earliest source he cites after Hermas is Hippolytus. I've already refuted his misuse of that source. See here.

      The Origen passage is likewise one I've addressed before. See here. MG's article you've cited apparently uses a different numbering system for Origen's treatise, but it seems to be the same passage I discussed in the thread linked above. If it isn't the same passage, then it's one that doesn't contain any significant conceptual difference that I'm aware of.

      Furthermore, MG's article doesn't interact with the large amount of evidence against prayers to the dead and angels in Origen's writings, which I've discussed in many places. I've already provided some relevant links, and you can search the archives for more material.

      Thus, the only three fathers MG cites from the ante-Nicene era fail to support his position. I've shown that they support my position rather than his.

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    4. (continued from above)

      Regarding his citations of catacomb inscriptions and other such sources, see my earlier comments on that line of evidence. MG admits that there's much we don't know about the sources behind catacomb inscriptions and the like, and he admits that the dating is often disputed.

      He brings up a prayer to Mary that he dates to around 250. But the article he cites, after mentioning the 250 dating, tells us "Some initially placed the papyrus in the fourth or fifth century (the John Rylands Library description below lists it as 3rd - 4th century)". Sarah Jane Boss dates it to "the fourth or fifth century" (Empress And Handmaid [New York, New York: Continuum, 2000], n. 1 on 41). Natalia Smelova dates the manuscript to "fourth-century (?)" (in Leslie Brubaker and Mary Cunningham, edd., The Cult Of The Mother Of God In Byzantium [Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing, 2011], 118). Others date it earlier. I haven't followed the dispute closely. I don't know what the correct dating is. But MG doesn't provide an argument for the 250 dating.

      What about something like a catacomb inscription that addresses a dead person in some way? I've argued that it could be equivalent to a psalmist addressing mountains (Psalm 114:6), Protestant hymns that address angels, Protestant poetry addressing the dead, or addresses to the dead at Protestant gravesites. If Protestants and other people who don't believe in praying to the dead or angels use such rhetorical devices, how does MG distinguish the ancient sources he's citing from the modern ones I just mentioned?

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    5. (continued from above)

      MG makes some claims about prayers to the dead in ancient Judaism. He cites an article that I've already responded to. Go to the thread at Beggar's All that I linked earlier. Use the Ctrl F feature on your keyboard to search for "post-Biblical Judaism". Read my comments that follow. MG cites the article and calls it an "excellent essay" (note 12), despite the problems involved with citing the article in support of his position.

      MG draws some of his material from a Catholic Answers tract that's largely misleading and irrelevant. See my discussion of that tract in response to Christine earlier in this thread. Go to her 10:40 P.M. post on 6/4/10. Read my responses that follow.

      Having said all of that, you might want to go back and reread the third paragraph of my response to you tonight. I think it's an accurate summary of the evidence.

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