06 June 2010

My Latest Foray into Non-Ecumenism

The spectacularly anti-Catholic Triablogue displays a post titled "Desperate to Justify Prayers to the Dead" by one Jason Engwer, in an attempt to disprove the belief in the intercession of the saints. After first confusing the idea of praying to the dead with necromancy, Mr. Engwer concedes the possibility that the saints in heaven do indeed intercede for us (which he must do, of course, since the early church fathers all support the idea, and the historical evidence proves the practice of praying to the saints was widespread in the early church). After about 50 or so posts going back and forth on this, I've decided the discussion is heading nowhere. (Besides, one can only take so many accusations of dishonesty, ignorance, and "making stuff up" before they start to get tiresome.) One last riposte, though:
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.
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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