Discussion in 'Faith, Devotion & Formation' started by bwallac2335, Jun 3, 2019.
What is the Anglican teaching on this. It appears confusing from what I have read.
The teaching is contained in Article XXII:
The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.
The practice will vary. Anglo-Catholics are more comfortable with invocation of Saints, particularly the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is especially true of those who have a prior history with the Roman or Eastern Churches. Evangelicals are usually appalled, some to the point of being iconoclasts, which is not what the Article called for.
Could you expound on this more?
Traditionally Anglicans reject praying to saints, but at least since the Oxford Movement, as with much of Anglicanism, it's up to you.
Here are some quotes from High Church Caroline divines on the subject (and they are High-Church and generally admired by the Anglo-Catholics, not Low-Church Evangelicals).
“Your invocation of Saints...is not necessary for two reasons: first, no Saint doth love us so well as Christ; no Saint hath given us such assurance of his love, or done so much for us as Christ; no Saint is so willing or able to help us as Christ; and, secondly, we have no command from God to invocate them; but we have another command, ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble and I will hear thee.’”
The Works of the Most Reverend Father in God, John Bramhall, Volume 1 pp 57-58
"For invocation of saints, though some of the ancient Fathers have some rhetorical flourishes about it, for the stirring up of devotion (as they thought), yet the church then admitted not of the innovation of them, but only of the commemoration of the martyrs, as appears clearly in St. Augustine. And when the church prayed to God for anything, she desired to be heard for the mercies and merits of Christ, not for the merits of any saints whatsoever."
Blessed William Laud, Martyr and Archbishop of Canterbury.
Try to find an Anglican between 1550 and 1850 who encouraged praying to saints, or who did such things in public. I don't know of any.
It is interesting how attitudes towards invocation of the saints have changed in the last century or so. Somewhat after 1850 (around 1900) Bishop Edgar C. S. Gibson in his commentary on the Articles gave his appraisal of the practice. (I find Bishop Gibson credible both because of his scholarship and because he himself was a High Churchman.) If you would like to read it (as well as the very good footnotes), you may do so here. But to condense what Bishop Gibson said about “invocation of the saints” in his text on pages 564-572, here is his conclusion:
“In the absence, therefore, of any distinct revelation, and in the face of so much doubt and uncertainty, it would appear that the Church of England is amply justified (1) in removing from the public services of the Church all traces of such direct invocations, including the “Ave Maria” as well as the “Ora pro nobis”; and (2) in condemning in round terms in the Article before us the current teaching and practice, which can be abundantly shown to be a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the word of God.”
So yes, it is striking to me that current attitudes have changed.
The cult of the saints was massive in medieval England. Images of the saints filled churches. Small country churches could typically have around 10 images whilst larger churches could have at least three times as many. All of these images would've had lights burning before them and some were housed in their own chapels with altars. The walls of the church and panels of the Rood screen would also have colourful paintings of the saints. Parishes formed guilds to pay for lights to be burned before the saint's image and for Masses to be said at their altar. People left bequests for the same.
There were festa ferianda, days solemnly dedicated to the saints on which all but the most essential agricultural work was forbidden. On these days (at least 50 per year) parishioners were expected to fast on the eve of the feast and to attend Mass, Mattins and Evensong on the day.
Pilgrimage shrines could be good money spinners for their custodians and the system was open to abuse. There were for example 'miraculous' statues that had moving eyes or limbs. Corrupt priests might arrange deceptions such as a blind person gaining his sight on pilgrimage who was never actually blind. (Thomas More writes of such abuses and deceptions.) Saints were seen as having the power to obtain cures from various illnesses. One popular practice as a cure for fits was to take 12 candles and inscribe each with the name of an Apostle. The candles would then be burned at the altar during a Mass of the Holy Ghost and the candle that burned the longest would be the saint to bestow healing provided the individual fasted on bread and water on the eve of the Apostle's feast day. There was also a certain ghoulish fascination with saints that had suffered gruesome martyrdoms.
Many of the Medieval excesses were dealt with by the Council of Trent but the English Reformer's went further, perhaps not surprisingly given the excesses and intense focus on the saints. Most of the Collects in the BCP are Cranmer's translation of the Collects from the Sarum Missal. In the case of the Collects for Saint's Days, Cranmer altered or rewrote them to remove petitions for their intercession. The authorised liturgies of the CofE found in the BCP and Common Prayer do not contain prayers to saints. It was the Ritualists (Anglo-Catholics) in the second half of the 19th century who began reintroducing images into English churches and encouraging prayer and devotion to the saints although not perhaps to Medieval excess. The Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874 attempted to deal with this but failed.
It may seem technical, but some of us might speak in favor of saintly advocation rather than invocation.
I am not violently against the practice as I do not find it per se idolatrous but I think it is largely without merit and probably pastorally dangerous. As for us, our articles prohibit it and we clearly can still honor the saints regardless.
I find the anti-saint position a tad confusing. May be it would help a little if we remembered that what we, who do it, do id ask the saints to intercede on our behalf. If we Anglicans accept saints exist then we have to accept a saint is in heaven. If it is wrong to ask a saint to intercede for you why do we have saints' days? If having a statue or image or a saint is idolatrous or asking saints to intercede is wrong why do we have holy days that celebrate them? I can see no more scriptural foundation for celebrating a saint than for asking one to intercede for you.
Medieval piety went well beyond simply asking a saint to intercede. The saints weren't primarily seen as exemplars but as powerful healers in time of bodily need or as spiritual helpers at the time of death when faced with the pains of Purgatory. The saints were seen as dispensers of gifts and miracles.
There were helper saints associated with particular afflictions: Sebastian and Roche for plague; St Barbara and St Katherine for childbirth; St Petronilla for fevers; St Apollonia for toothache etc. A common practice at the time was to take a penny coin, bend it, then place it against the afflicted body part whilst calling on the appropriate saint for healing. The coin would then be promised to the saint's shrine.
The saints, to the medieval mind, as well as being seen as dispensers of gifts and miracles could also be seen as vengeful if crossed. If, for example, the promised coin was not actually donated or a vowed pilgrimage was left unfulfilled, the saint might mete out punishment. (Even death in rare cases!) There was a case of a cleric of Salisbury cathedral who irreverently sat on the tomb of St Osmond and was struck with sudden pains. The pains reportedly persisted until the cleric begged the saint's pardon.
Saints were also associated with specific trades. In my neck of the woods fishing was a common occupation. Fishermen wouldn't go to sea on certain saint's days as it was believed that bad luck would follow if they did.
Even Priests of the time might distance themselves from some of the more superstitious practices associated with the saints. Not surprisingly, it gave the Reformer's much cause for concern.
Whilst I'm saddened to see evidence of iconoclasm in English churches such as defaced stone figures, defaced rood screen paintings or lack of medieval stained glass, I can perhaps understand why it happened.
I may have been visited by a few 'saints' in the past, particularly John Henry Newman, but it's possible it was not him. I can't go into details at the moment, though, as there is still room for skepticism. A lot of people think they see saints and are mistaken or deceived. Even discerning priests and followers of the RC and EO warn their adherents to be wary of potential deception from the enemy. They can seem credible under the circumstances in which they happen and events that follow, but can contain just enough dirt in their 'message' to be proven false. People have claimed false revelations from saints that could indeed have involved supernatural phenomenon, but it wasn't from God. Same with Protestant false prophets we see in evangelical media and elsewhere.
I may have a more credible account of being visited by Rich Mullins. He was a popular CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) artist. The man converted to the RCC before he died. Around the time it happened, I was speaking to a young man who was also a CCM listener, and he told me he knew a friend who saw the late Rich around the same time before learning he had passed away back in 1997.
Theoretically, you can even ask for the intercession of saints who are not yet canonized. It might even be necessary to see if any miracles happen as a result, since these things must occur and be approved by the church of the saint in question (RC and EO mostly) before their canonization is approved.
Thank you for drawing out that distinction.
Whenever I've read Rev. 5:8 or Rev. 8:3, I've understood the referred-to "saints" as the saints on earth, the believers who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb. In your article, I can't tell for sure but I think you're interpreting the word to indicate saints in heaven?
I cannot pinpoint a scripture indicating that those who have gone before us are aware of, let alone paying attention to, anything we on earth say or do. They might be so enraptured by the immediate Presence of our Lord and His majestic, awesome heaven that they remain unaware of mortal events. I'm really not sure. Even if they are aware, and even if they are disposed to advocate for us, I feel no need to seek their advocacy. I don't think it could be as efficacious as asking my wonderful, loving Lord to supply my need.
You already mentioned (and tried to limit the applicability of) 1 Timothy 2:5, but although Christ will indeed mediate for us at the Judgment Seat I feel that your interpretation takes the verse out of context. That context is not Judgment but the believer's prayers!
1Ti 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
1Ti 2:2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
1Ti 2:3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
1Ti 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
1Ti 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
1Ti 2:6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
1Ti 2:7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.
1Ti 2:8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
Based on the context, I believe we are counseled by Paul to pray to the Father with the understanding that Jesus will mediate with the Father for the answer to our prayer. This interpretation is supported by Jesus' words:
Joh 16:23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
Consider how we are counseled by Jesus to pray: "Our Father who art in heaven...." Jesus did not teach His disciples to pray to deceased individuals. Nor did any Apostle in any Epistle tell the believers to pray to dead people.
What did John write?
1Jn 3:21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.
1Jn 3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
John didn't mention praying to deceased saints. He says we should pray with confidence toward God that we will receive from Him. If I were to pray to a dead saint, asking for his or her advocacy, I would be impliedly expressing doubt and unbelief that God cares enough about my direct prayer to Him, doubt that He loves me enough to meet my need, and belief that I need someone else up there to twist God's arm a little on my behalf. (The same thing applies for advocacy requests to Mary.)
Asking live Christians to join us in prayer is entirely different than seeking advocacy from the dead.
Mat 18:19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
Advocacy prayer of one living person for another person is ministry, a work of service based (1) on the commandment to love thy neighbor and (2) in imitation of and obedience to Christ. This role of the believer is not applicable to the saints in heaven because their work is done! They have run their race and have crossed the finish line. They are not expected by God, nor should they be asked by us, to labor further.
Finally, one last point is that praying to the dead for any reason raises an appearance of impropriety based on Deut. 18:10-13. Those who communicated with the dead in the O.T. were committing an abomination, although I'm sure many of them thought they were doing a good deed for themselves or others when they did so.
I think the accusations of necromancy are a tad overwrought. I think the issue is that Scripture is silent on the subject, ergo we ought not to engage in practices that pastorally become dangerous.
All I said about Deut. 18 was, talking to the dead raises an appearance of impropriety. When we recall that consulting the dead was part of the reason why Saul died when he did, it raises the question: what does God think about it? But yes, Joe, I saved my weakest argument for last.
Well, if we consider such a thing as 'righteous anger', then it's possible for someone in heaven to experience those kinds of passions without them necessarily 'suffering', so to speak, as they are done out of love for others. All of their holiness emanates from God, and God himself is actively involved both in heaven and on earth, and has righteous anger, righteous jealousy for the salvation of others, and other things.
I just read an article about asking the saints in Heaven to pray for us here on Earth. Two Scipture verses caught my attention:
And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
And Revelation 8:3-4:
And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.
The author goes on to say that for "those in heaven there is no need for prayers, so the prayers of the saints are for those on earth. If saints are praying for us, why not implore them with something specific? That is how we on earth ask each other. If the Body of Christ is not separated, then it would be wrong to say we can’t ask members of the Body of Christ in heaven to pray for us, because that would be a denial of the unity of Christ."
Thoughts? It is evident that God has given the saints in Heaven the power to hear our prayers so that they can pray for us before the throne.
Here is the issue in a nutshell: how is the word "saints" to be understood? The RCC interprets the word to indicate canonized persons in heaven. But the Bible says:
Psa_16:3 But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.
Psa_37:28 For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.
Psa_79:2 The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.
Psa_85:8 I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.
Act_9:13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:
Act_9:32 And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.
Act_9:41 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.
Rom_1:7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rom_12:13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
Rom_15:25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.
Heb_13:24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.
The saints are identified as those who live on "the earth," "in Jerusalem," "in Rome," "at Lydda," and so on. I could have quoted many more verses. Therefore, the "prayers of the saints" in Revelation are the prayers of people like you and me! Christians who are alive on this earth, people whom the Lord will not forsake and whose prayers ascend to heaven like incense.
If the RCC "rightly divided the Word of truth" they would not cause so much confusion.
Who is offering prayers before the throne? "The twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." I think it is fair to assess that there are saints both on earth and in heaven. My understanding is that the "angels and elders" are offering the prayers of the saints before the throne. I view this scripture as angels and elders in heaven taking my prayers and offering them to God.
That's right, our prayers and the prayers of the other saints on earth (hagios in Greek, those who have been made morally blameless by the grace of God) are seen as bowls of incense. This reminds me, incidentally, of 2 Cor. 2:15 which says we are "the aroma of Christ" to God. Are the prayers of those in heaven also in the bowl? I don't know that we can be sure, but those in heaven don't need to 'pray' per se since they can speak directly with the Lord, face to face.
As for our prayers while here on earth, we best pray to God. With Jesus is our intercessor, I have no need for an intermediary. Even if saints in heaven are paying any attention to what is happening on earth, no prayer could be more efficacious than that which we address in faith to the One who walked this earth, experienced temptation, had compassion on our infirmities, and gave His mortal life for our redemption. Jesus doesn't need His arm twisted to advocate on our behalf to the Father.
I see a big difference between presenting a 'bowlful' of prayers as a pleasing aroma to God, and interceding for those who issued the prayers. I don't think the latter occurs.
Could you expound on this a bit more?