Re: ASA Statement of faith

From: George Murphy (
Date: Sat Jun 21 2003 - 08:17:46 EDT

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    Peter Ruest wrote:
    > George Murphy wrote:
    > > Peter Ruest wrote:
    > > > a) How does "one _and only_ Mediator" go beyond what I Tim.2:5 says?
    > > > b) How does it go beyond biblical teaching in general?
    > >
    > > If the passage in the old Statement of Faith is understood as a reference to I
    > > Tim.2:5, the addition of "and only" is interpretive. While this verse clearly speaks of
    > > a unique mediatorial role for Christ, it cannot be understood to mean that there can be
    > > no other mediator in any sense - specifically, in the sense of one human being praying
    > > to God on behalf of others...
    > The "and only" clearly is an addition to the Greek text. But I consider
    > it a quite legitimate interpretation, faithfully reflecting Paul's (and
    > God's) intention. I never understood it to exclude humans praying (to
    > God!) on behalf of others (an interpretation that looks odd to me), but
    > to exclude any creature from being elevated to a mediatorial position
    > like Christ's (such as "Maria mediatrix"...).

            Certainly the idea of Mary as co-mediatrix is wrong even if carefully
    formulated, even more so in much popular piety. (I recently heard a prominent lay Roman
    Catholic in my area give a rationale for praying to the Blessed Virgin as, "If you get
    in trouble with Dad, the best thing to do is go talk to Mom.") But simply the idea of
    asking a departed saint to intercede with God for one, as I might ask you to pray for
    me, doesn't _in itself_ introduce the problem of idolatry. One difficulty with the
    practice is that it assumes that those who have died are able to hear such prayer. We
    simply don't know that & there are serious reasons to doubt it, & "whatever is not of
    faith is sin."
    > > ... My point here was not to argue for the invocation of departed saints, but to
    > > note that the previous statement had language which seemed to exclude - unfortunately in
    > > my view - some Christians. & if one's intention is in fact to make a distinctively
    > > protestant statement, some more fundamental issue ought to be the focus.
    > > This & related issues were discussed extensively in the 8th round of US
    > > Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue. Papers can be found in H. George Anderson et al.
    > > (eds.), _The One Mediator, the Saints, and Mary_ (Augsburg, 1992).
    > Would you care to give me some thoughts of your own re. my second
    > question? I don't care about "distinctively protestant", but about
    > "biblical".

            Prayer is - or should be - an expression of trust that the one to whom prayers
    are directed wants us to pray and wants to help those who pray. There are explicit
    invitations & commands in scripture to pray to God & none to pray for departed saints.
    & petitionary prayer to departed saints, and even living people who are thought to be
    especially holy," almost inevitably takes on a quality different from that of asking a
    friend to pray for oneself because in the former case the person to whom the petition is
    addressed is thought to be closer (& maybe more accessible) to God.
            So I believe that the Reformers were right in rejecting the invocation of the
    (departed) saints. Any positive features that this may have - e.g., supposedly
    encouraging awareness of the unity of believers on earth & in heaven - is far outweighed
    by the fact that it encourages people to put their trust in the wrong place.
            But I would return to my original point: I don't think it's wise to exclude
    Roman Catholics from ASA membership because of this issue, even though I believe
    they're wrong. There are theological differences among "protestants" that are more
    serious than that (e.g., concerning the sacraments) & there are no attempts to makes
    distinctions on these grounds. Again, ASA is not a church.


    George L. Murphy

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