Re: Saints (Was Re: Why YEC?)

From: george murphy (
Date: Thu Aug 23 2001 - 08:45:01 EDT

  • Next message: Todd S. Greene: "Re: Response to Why YEC posting" wrote:

    > George answered my comments
    > >PS: Although we cannot judge individuals, can we not say that even the most
    > > sincere, well-meaning and in some instances at least even genuine
    > Christians
    > > who pray fervently to the Virgin Mary are involved in a lie and an
    > idolatry?
    > > And would we not suppose that demons enforce that darkness? If so, why
    > > should evangelical deception and idolatry be any different?
    > GM: This is well beyond the science-religion area but needs comment.
    > There
    > is nothing intrinsically false or idolatrous about my asking you to pray for
    > me.
    > Christians of all varieties often do this, requesting prayers for healing &c.
    > Why is it then false or idolatrous to pray, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray
    > for
    > us sinners now and at the hour of our death?" If I Tim.2:5 strikes the
    > second
    > practice, it also strikes the first.
    > The problem there is not lying or idolatry but uncertainty. We have
    > no
    > assurance that departed saints hear our prayers (& I would add, some good
    > reasons
    > to believe that they don't hear anything) & no biblical invitation or
    > command to
    > pray to them.
    > Such prayer is idolatrous if the idea behind it is that God really
    > wants
    > to zap us but that the saints (& especially Mary) love us & will soften God
    > up.
    > But that notion is not essential to the idea of praying to the saints.
    > Praying to saints is not part of my own tradition and I wouldn't feel
    > comfortable doing it (except in a very formal sense, as in the hymn "Ye
    > Watchers
    > and Ye Holy Ones"). But I don't think it's proper to condemn all who do so,
    > especially if we don't know the attitudes and thoughts that accompany such
    > prayer. >>
    > I see that I was not clear. My point involves what I took to be understood by
    > most of our list that in the Roman Catholic Church the Virgin Mary is not
    > just another saint. She has been exalted to the point that functionally she
    > is a veritable addition to the Trinity. It is this veritable god that is
    > being prayed to. Regardless of how unidolatrous the official RC statement of
    > doctrine about Mary may be, functionally she is an idol. People come to her
    > where by all rights they should be going to God. If I am correct, then we
    > have in these sincere prayers to Mary, prayers to an idol. If so, this is
    > idolatry; and in a biblical sense is a practice which is a lie.
    > It is to this over-exaltation of the Virgin Mary that I compare the
    > "conservative" over-exaltation of the Bible. And, I believe there is some
    > functional parallelism as well.

            I think that even the official Roman doctrines concerning Mary are
    problematic and certainly there is a great deal of excessive veneration of Mary,
    sometimes amounting to idolatry, in popular practices in that communion. I
    recently heard a prominent RC layman give exactly the "when Dad's mad at you, you
    go to Mom to soften him up" line.
            But there is an old principle, "abuse does not take away the proper use."
    Just as the bibliolatry of some fundamentalists doesn't require that we stop
    reading the Bible, the excesses of some Marian piety does not mean that Mary
    should be ignored. There is an appropriate kind of honor of the saints and by
    ignoring this many protestants have (among other things) lost 1400 years of their
            In the Magnificat, Mary sings: "Behold, from henceforth all generations
    shall call me blessed."
    A note on this verse in my old DRC Bible says, "These words are a prediction of
    that honour which the church in all ages should pay to the Blessed Virgin. Let
    Protestants examine whether they are in any way concerned in this prophecy." I've
    always thought that a valid point.
            Whether or not prayers to the saints are appropriate can be debated. But
    while I think that there are questionable aspects of this practice and don't feel
    comfortable with it myself, I don't, for the reasons given, think that the issue
    has to be church-dividing.
            I hope that ASA members will remember that the organization is not in any
    official sense "protestant," though the great majority of its members would so
    identify themselves. The ASA statement of faith says nothing that should exclude
    Roman or Orthodox Christians. This doesn't mean that there shouldn't be any
    criticism of beliefs or practices peculiar to those communions, but such criticism
    should be done in an appropriately nuanced way.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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