Mary and the Saints – for Protestants

“Many Protestants believe that we worship Mary, in particular, and the saints to a lesser extent. I know – that’s what I used to believe, because that’s what everybody said. To the contrary, when we pray to a saint, including Mary, we are asking them to pray for us, usually for specific intentions. Everyone of faith, Protestant or Catholic, asks their friends to pray for them. It is so common and well-accepted no one disputes the propriety of it. Many Protestants only count those on earth among the communion of the faithful and, thus, properly to be asked for prayers. Catholics consider all the faithful, both in this world and in the next, to be among the communion of the faithful. If it is proper and fruitful to ask friends here to pray for you, how much more fruitful to ask those who already behold the Face of God?”

Source: Mary and the Saints – for Protestants

Martin Luther on the Blessed Virgin Mary

Martin Luther

Mary the Mother of God

“She is rightly called not only the mother of the man, but also the Mother of God … It is certain that Mary is the Mother of the real and true God.”  

(Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther’s Works, English translation edited by J. Pelikan [Concordia: St. Louis], volume 24, 107.)

Mary the Perpetual Virgin

“It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a Virgin.”

(Martin Luther, op. cit., Volume 11, 319-320.)

The Immaculate Conception

“But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul, it is piously and suitably believed, was without any sin, so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God to receive the holy soul thus infused. And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin…”

 (Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther’s Works, English translation edited by J. Pelikan [Concordia: St. Louis], Volume 4, 694.)

Honor to Mary

“The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart.” 

(Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther’s Works (Translation by William J. Cole) 10, III, p.313)

“Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honoured? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent’s head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing.”

(Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther’s Works, English translation edited by J. Pelikan [Concordia: St. Louis], Volume 51, 128-129.)

A Look at the 5 “Solae”

Sola Scriptura — (Latin) By Scripture Alone

Sola Fide — (Latin) By Faith Alone

Sola Gratia — (Latin) By Grace Alone

Sola Christus — (Latin) By Christ Alone

Sola Deo Gloria — (Latin) Glory to God Alone

Many Protestants today believe that the Five Solae are a great representation of the principles of the Christian Faith. Unlike the supposed “man-made” traditions of papist Rome, these doctrines are said to truly summarize the teachings of the Gospel. They originate from the time of the Protestant Revolt of the 1500s; the warring battle cries of the so-called “Reformers”.

In reality, these Five Solae lure Christians away from the necessary requirements of salvation. The Solae focus only on the subjects that they represent, putting other important doctrines in the dark.

Sola Scriptura is merely the instrument of the “Reformers” to cry out against Roman Catholic authority. This Sola ignores the importance of Apostolic Tradition, and by denying the authority of Rome, it grants anyone the power of private interpretation of the Bible. Sola Scriptura puts a Christian in a position that ignores Tradition, recognizing only the written Word of God as infallibly binding. This is an amusing slogan, as it ignores passages of Scripture that this Sola supposedly solely relies on.

While Protestants insist that the Bible states that Scripture alone is authoritative, they seemingly ignore Bible passages concerning the importance of Tradition (Acts 2:42, 1 Cor. 11:2, Thes. 2:14, 2 Tim. 1:13-14, 2 Tim. 2:2). If Protestants recognize the importance of Tradition, then that would deem Sola Scriptura unworkable.

If Christians are to rely solely on Scripture alone as their teacher, then how can they possibly pick and choose what passages are relevant to them? For anyone unaware of it, this action is called “cherry-picking”.

Through the use of Sola Scriptura, Protestants eliminate the need for an authority figure to interpret the Bible — anyone can do this themselves now! With Roman Catholic authority gone, any Christian is free to believe whatever he or she thinks that the Bible teaches, with no one to correct their error!

Again, Protestants have adopted a way of thinking that is contrary to their own doctrine. Christians who believe Sola Scriptura ignore biblical texts that deal with private interpretation (2 Peter 3:16), the need for an authoritative teacher (Acts 8:28-31), and the authority given by God to the Apostles (Matthew 18:17-18), which they past down to their successors, the Catholic bishops. They ignore the fact that the Church is the pillar of truth (1 Timothy 3:15), and the authority that it has. For people who rely on Scripture alone, they sure do ignore large portions of it.

For Sola Scriptura to be true, the doctrine would have to be found in Scripture itself, or else it would be self contradictory. This supposed “Christian” doctrine is found nowhere in the Bible, rendering it obsolete. In short, Sola Scriptura is a doctrine allowing any Christian to believe whatever he thinks the Bible teaches, and no one else can tell him otherwise.

Sola Fide, Latin for “By Faith Alone”, means that Christians are saved through faith alone by grace alone. No works are required for salvation, just recognize Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, recite the Sinner’s Prayer, asking Christ to save you from your sin, and BAM! You are saved from eternal Hellfire, guaranteed access to Heaven.

Well thank God for such a simple way of salvation! At one moment of our lives we are able to secure our eternal welfare, without even lifting a finger! Where does God reveal this teaching to us in Scripture?

*ANSWER* *DAILY DOUBLE*

NOWHERE!

The only place in the Bible that the phrase “faith alone” appears is James 2:24:

“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

Very interesting that the one Sola that is mentioned in the Bible is mentioned in a negative way. This doctrine of instant salvation (patent pending), is nowhere taught in the Bible, explicitly or implicitly.

Scripture constantly speaks of the importance of good works in salvation (Matthew 19:16-23, Matthew 17:21, Matthew 25:31-46), but again, these passages are ignored. Typical.

Salvation is a lifelong experience, not a one time deal. It begins at a certain time in a person’s life, and does not end until death, when that person is allowed into God’s kingdom. It is utterly foolish for a Protestant to believe that they can secure their salvation at one moment in their life, solely through one act of faith, when the Bible teaches that faith can be departed from (1 Timothy 4:1).

If faith can be departed from, then how can a “saved” Christian be sure of his salvation?

What really makes a difference is a Christian’s faith at the time of death, not the state of his faith 30 or 40 years before then. Sola Fide is just a safety net of supposed salvation, offering a Christian a false eternal security. It completely ignores the importance of good works in salvation. Can a Christian have faith without works? Are works not really required for salvation?

“But whilt thou know, O vain man that faith without works is dead?…For even as the body without the spirit is dead; so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20, 26)

If faith is all that is needed for salvation, then why does the Bible place equal importance on good works? If anything other than faith is needed for salvation, then Sola Fide is rendered useless. See how small the margin for error is among the Solae?

Sola Gratia, “By Grace Alone”, means that people are saved by grace alone through the merits of Jesus Christ. Catholics agree that we are saved by grace, a gift from the Lord (Eph. 2:8-10). The point that Protestants err is the method that grace is applied to the Christian, the way that God makes this gift of grace available to men. The Roman Catholic Church has always taught the biblical fact that grace is communicated to a Christian through the sacraments (Baptism: Acts 2:38, Galatians 3:27-29, Titus 3:3-7; Eucharist: John 6:54, Last Rites: James 5:14-16; Confession: 1 John 1:9, John 20:23; Confirmation: Acts 8:16-17; Holy Orders: Acts 6:6, 1 Timothy 4:14; Matrimony: Genesis 2:22-24, Ephesians 5:31-33, Matthew 19:4-6, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, Romans 7:2-3). Protestants believe that God just pours out his grace upon a Christian when he accepts Christ as his personal Lord and Savior, without the use of the sacraments. But the problem is that if grace is lost through sin, how is grace to be regained? Does a Christian just continually accept Jesus as their Savior and in turn is gifted grace? Does a Christian just continually ask God for saving grace, and is continually gifted it? How is a Christian to know that they are in the state of grace with certainty?

 The doctrine of Sola Gratia is just a teaching linked to Sola Fide. Salvation is to received solely through blind faith, with no good works or obedience needed. The problem with the Protestant understanding of salvation is that they do not recognize that grace can be communicated to a person through matter; the sacraments. The statement of Sola Gratia itself is not incorrect, but the principle linked to it is heretical.

Sola Deo Gloria is a doctrine that sounds like it carries a great message, but it tries to undermine the importance of the saints in salvation history. “Glory to God Alone” emphasizes that everything is to be done for God’s glory and excludes the fact that some figures of mankind (the saints) are to be honored and venerated. It means that Christians should be both inspired and motivated solely by God’s glory, and not the example of the Christians who have lived before us.

Like many other Protestant beliefs, Sola Deo Gloria ignores certain biblical facts. For instance, in John 17:22, Jesus says that He has given His own glory to the Apostles. Is this of no importance? This is not to say that the Apostles and other saints are to be worshipped like God, but the fact remains that glory, or honor belongs to them.

In Acts 28:10, St. Luke records an instance when he and Paul were about to go out on a sailing trip, the Christians “honoured us with many honours”. These Christians honored Luke And Paul for the evangelizing work they had performed in the area, giving honor where honor was due (Romans 13:7). The Christians honored the example of Paul and Luke, seemingly defying Sola Deo Gloria.

Some Protestants may argue that honor is to be rightly given to the saints, and that Catholics view the Protestant position incorrectly. But this simply is not true, as the saints, in many Protestant denominations are neglected and often ignored. Most Protestants say that Catholics take honor and veneration so far as to  “worship” the saints, but this is not true. The Roman Catholic Church has shown honor to God’s saints, by imitating their holy virtues and asking them for their intercession. Catholics do not worship any of the saints as if they are God.

Giving glory to only God in the aspect of worship is certainly correct, but it must not be forgotten that we, as Christians, are to honor the saints due to the glory they share with Christ, as they are unquestionably partakers of Christ’s divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

The final Sola is Solo Christo, “Christ Alone”. This Sola teaches that we are saved solely by Christ’s atonement by death on the cross. Like Sola Gratia, this teaching itself is not opposed to Catholic teaching, but several ideas that branch from it are heretical. It is linked to Sola Fide, teaching that works are not necessary for salvation; only faith in the atoning work of Christ on the cross is sufficient.

John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, says:

“Christ stepped in, took the punishment upon himself and bore the judgment due to sinners. With his own blood he expiated the sins which made them enemies of God and thereby satisfied him…we look to Christ alone for divine favour and fatherly love!”

If Christians are to look to Christ alone for divine favor and fatherly love, then where does this leave the remaining two Persons of the Trinity; the Father and Holy Spirit? Calvin’s statement places emphasis on ignoring the Father and Holy Spirit — in order to further promote Solo Christo.

The problem with Solo Christo is that it wishes to place Christians in a “me and Jesus” scenario, ignoring the importance of the Church, sacraments, etc. It ignores the importance of God the Father, whom we were taught to pray to (Matthew 6:9-13), and also the Holy Spirit, the protector of Truth (John 16:13). While we are saved by the atoning work of Christ, we cannot discount the significance of the Trinity, the Church, or good works.

Solo Christo places emphasis on Christ as the sole Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:15), denying anyone else any part of the role of mediator. If Christ is the only Mediator between God and man, then why do Catholics pray to the saints, asking for their intercession?

Catholic Apologist Patrick Madrid, in his article, “Any Friend of God’s is a Friend of Mine” writes:

“It must be made clear that the Catholic Church in no way teaches that the saints are mediators in the special sense used in 1 Timothy 2:5. Because of the Incarnation, Jesus has a unique role as mediator. Since he is the only one who is God and man, the only contact point between us and the Father, only he is capable of bridging the chasm of sin that separates us from God. No saint can take Christ’s place as mediator. The Catholic Church does not teach that any Christian is a mediator in the sense used in 1Timothy 2:5. It teaches instead that all Christians are intercessors who, because of Christ’s mediatorship, are able to pray for each other.(The official Catholic position on this issue appears in Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (Rockford: TAN, 1978), Session V (“Decree on Original Sin”), 25-28, Session XXV (“Decree on the Invocation of Saints”), 214-217.) If asking Christians in heaven to pray for us conflicts with Christ’s mediatorship, asking Christians on earth to pray for us conflicts for the same reason. If 1 Timothy 2:5 eliminates intercession by the Christians in heaven, it eliminates intercession by Christians on earth. But this would be a serious misreading. Far from excluding Christians from a share in Christ’s mediatorship, Paul is actually emphasizing that we share in it through intercessory prayers. Our intercessions are effectual precisely and only because Christ is the one mediator.”

Again, like many of the other Solae, Solo Christo seeks to place Christian doctrine in the dark, teaching that Christians cannot ask the saints in Heaven for their intercession, when this practice is perfectly acceptable, as explained above.

In closing, the Five Solae are just summarizations of only parts of the Christian Faith, and other Solas are man-made traditions (Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide), that lead Christians away from the full message of God’s Word. The Solae isolate certain teachings of the Faith, like saving grace and Christ’s atonement, in order to keep Christians from recognizing the importance of the Church, sacraments, good works, etc. It creates a “me and Jesus” teaching, ignoring many other aspects of Christianity. Christianity does not rest on “this alone” or “that alone”, but it must be believed in its entirety, not bits and pieces.

God bless,

Patrick Devens

 

The Intercession of the Saints

Asking the saints in Heaven for their intercession is a basic part of Christianity, and is deeply rooted in history. Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Armenian, and several other historic Christian groups have always prayed to the saints — except for Protestants. Within the last few hundred years, this practice has come under fire from many Christians, many of which Protestants. They did away with this practice, despite it being taught by the early Christian Fathers.

St. Clement of Alexandria

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

Origen of Alexandria

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

St. Cyprian of Carthage

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

Anonymous

“Atticus, sleep in peace, secure in your safety, and pray anxiously for our sins.” (funerary inscription near St. Sabina’s in Rome) 300 AD

St. Augustine of Hippo

“A Christian people celebrates 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]).

St. Jerome

“You say in your book that while we live we are able to pray for each other, but afterwards when we have died, the prayer of no person for another can be heard…But if the apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, at a time when they ought still be solicitous about themselves, how much more will they do so after their crowns, victories, and triumphs?” (Against Vigilantius 6 [406 AD])


All historic Christians invoke the saints in Heaven. The relatively new five hundred year old Protestant movement does not. The intercession of the saints in Heaven seems to gradually disappear from Protestant theology shortly after the creation of the early denominations during the Protestant Revolt in the 1500s. Why do Protestants cringe at the thought of saintly intercession? The concept of the saints in Heaven interceding to God for the Christians on earth is completely biblically sound.

First, it should be made clear that prayer is not always worship. One problem for some Protestants is that when they hear the phrase “prayer to the saints” they incorrectly regard it as synonymous to “worshipping the saints”. This is one of the biggest misunderstandings of the subject.

The verb “to pray” means “to ask”. It originally held this meaning in old English, and was used in phrases such as “I pray thee, do tell…”. It is originally just another word phrase for “ask”. The usage began to change meaning during the Protestant Revolt. The head of the Church of England did not warm up to the practice of prayer to the saints, and the term became solely associated with prayer to God. As the English monarchy took over many churches and universities of England, this Protestant word usage became the norm among non-Catholics. Catholics however, did not take to the new meaning, and from then till now “prayer to the saints” has strictly meant asking for saintly intercession.

This explanation shows that not all prayer is worship, as it depends on the manner of such, and the definitional term used.

Secondly, the bible exhorts Christians to constantly pray for one another, and it does not restrict the Christians of Heaven to do so.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the charity of the Holy Ghost, that you help me in your prayers for me to God” (Romans 15:30)

By all prayer and supplication praying at all times in the spirit; and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints: And for me, that speech may be given me, that I may open my mouth with confidence, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” (Ephesians 6:18-19)

You helping withal in prayer for us: that for this gift obtained for us, by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many in our behalf.” (2 Corinthians 1:11)

And perhaps the most explicit passage on intercession for one another:

“I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men: For kings, and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Asking the saints in Heaven to pray and intercede for us to God is the same exact concept as asking other Christians on earth to pray for us.

The saints in Heaven are perfectly suited for interceding for us to God, as they are nearer to Him than we are, and have their attention focused on him. Furthermore, the saints in Heaven are free from earthly distractions, and better yet, are completely free from sin and perfectly sanctified, unlike the people of earth. James 5:16 states that the “prayer of a righteous man is powerful”. Think of how the saints of Heaven are truly righteous, and how this makes their prayer more efficacious than that of Christians on earth.

The Bible depicts the people of Heaven being aware of our prayers in Revelation 5:8.

“And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.”

This passage depicts the saints in Heaven offering our prayers to God. They are very much aware of our petitions and present them to God. Some may argue that the prayers in this passage are not explicitly directed solely to the saints, but to God. Even so, this passage strengthens the fact that the saints are aware of our prayers, even if they are not directed to them.

But, it is clear that the saints in Heaven are actively interceding for us, as John, in this passage tells us that the saints offered the vials of odours (incense) that are in fact, the prayers of the saints.

 I was once told by a non-Catholic challenger that God forbids any contact with the dead, and this means that we should not pray to the saints. He cited Deuteronomy 18:10-11 as proof of his allegation.

 “Neither let there be found among you any one that shall expiate his son or daughter, making them to pass through the fire: or that consulteth soothsayers, or observeth dreams and omens, neither let there be any wizard, nor charmer, nor any one that consulteth pythonic spirits, or fortune tellers, or that seeketh the truth from the dead.”

These verses do not condemn contact with the dead, but rather the conjuring of spirits. God is condemning necromancy, not contact with the Heavenly Court. A prime example of what God is condemning is found in 1 Samuel 28:7-25, where King Saul visits the Witch of Endor, imploring her to conjure the spirit of the deceased prophet Samuel.

Praying to the saints, asking them to pray for us to God has nothing to do with necromancy, the conjuring of spirits. Nowhere does God prohibit contact with his “dead” saints. The saints, when one thinks about it, aren’t exactly just “dead”. They are more alive than we are now. They are in the presence of God, a sanctified, glorious soul. Consider:

“And as concerning the dead that they rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spoke to him, saying: I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You therefore do greatly err.” (Mark 12:26-27)

All the people named in this passage were “dead”(Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), and yet God is their God; the God of the LIVING. The dead saints are all alive and well in Heaven. They are only physically dead.

 God explicitley allowed contact with the dead in Scripture. Consider the scene of the Transfiguration, in Matthew 17:1-5:

“And after six days Jesus taketh unto him Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart: And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow. And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him. And Peter answering, said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.”

If God commands us not to have any contact with the dead, then he would not have allowed several of the Apostles to witness apparitions of dead saints.

The saints themselves are all quite alive and well, and aware of the happenings on earth (to the extent that God allows).

“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying: How long, O Lord (holy and true) dost thou not judge and revenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given to every one of them one; and it was said to them, that they should rest for a little time, till their fellow servants, and their brethren, who are to be slain, even as they, should be filled up.” (Revelation 6:9-11)

The saints mentioned in Revelation are fully aware of the happenings on earth, concerning those that have wronged them and the Lord. This passage exhibits the fact that the saints are aware of us on earth, and previous passages (Revelation 5:8) have shown that also offer our prayers to God, and that contact with them is most certainly not prohibited (Matthew 17:1-5).

I’m not entirely certain why asking the saints intercession triggers Protestants the way it does. The saints in Heaven are no less part of the Mystical Body of Christ than Christians like you and me. St. Patrick or St. Peter or St Francis are no less members of the Body of Christ than when they were physically on earth.

As Christians, we are all connected spiritually due to our Christianity; being members of the Body of Christ. Our connection with one another does not end at physical death. Our connection is spiritual, and is therefore not dependent on a physical life or body.

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.”(1 Corinthians 12:12)

“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (Ephesians 4:25)

“I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

All Christians are part of the Body of Christ, and are parts of one another. Christ is the vine, we are the branches connected to Him. Through our connection with Christ, we are connected to one another. This spiritual connection enables us to continually ask our brothers and sisters for their prayers…not even death can separate us from each other.

God bless,

Patrick E. Devens