Thursday, April 27, 2006

Further Thoughts on the Invocation of the Saints, Tillich, and the Meaning of Symbols


Recently I posted a quote from Paul Tillich that I want now to apply to the thread on the Invocation of the Saints. Earlier in the same article ("The Meaning of Symbols"), Tillich explained that a symbol participates in that to which it points. This is the main characteristic that distinguishes a symbol from a mere sign (The Essential Tillich, p. 42).

The proposal that I set forth for how we might better understand the practice of the Invocation of the Saints is a case in point. In that entry I stated that the Church employs the metaphoric language of direct address/petition to saints as an expression of her belief that our prayers on earth are joined in union with the prayers of the saints in heaven. Hence the Church's language of prayer in this case (I would actually argue in every case) is symbolic in Tillich's sense of opening up a "level of reality which is otherwise closed for us" (p. 42) -- namely, the Communion of the Saints.

Tillich's other observations are equally true when applied to the Invocation of the Saints. For instance, Tillich states that "symbols cannot be produced intentionally ... They grow out of the individual or collective unconscious and cannot function without being accepted by the unconscious dimension of our being" (p. 42). This observation accords very well with the historical development of the cult of the saints in early to late antiquity and its universal acceptance. The origin of the practice cannot be pinpointed to a specific locale or to a particular person or "inventor" as if it were some sort of innovation. Rather it is more accurate to suggest that the practice "emerged" (please excuse a term borrowed from another recent thread) in antiquity in a variety of locales, growing out of the "collective unconscious" of the Church Catholic in its formative period, and never significantly challenged until the 16th century Reformation (and only in the West).

Finally, Tillich's observation that symbols "grow when the situation is ripe for them" and "die when the situation changes" is also consistent with what we see historically. The cult of saints grew out of the period of persecution and came into maturity in the period immediately following this -- during the era known as the "Peace of the Church" ushered in by Constantine. We should never underestimate the psychological momentum of this period, what Peter Brown aptly describes as "the working of an imaginative dialectic which led late-antique men to render their beliefs in the afterlife palpable and directly operative among the living by concentrating these on the privileged figure of a dead saint" (Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints, p. 71).

This observation also accounts for why the practice of the Invocation of the Saints, as well as the cult of the saints as a whole, fell into disuse and ended up "dying" under the changed situation of the Reformation. The churches of the Reformation, with few exceptions, allowed much of the rich symbolism (i.e., metaphor) of antiquity die, as such symbols were no longer associated with the "pure" doctrine of catholic Christianity as much as they were with the abuses of the medieval church. Catholic Christians of today might lament the throwing out of the proverbial baby with the bathwater, but it is quite understandable why the Reformation churches did what they did in their particular contexts.

The strong suspicion of abuse over the practice of invoking saints persists among Protestant Christians to this day. Obviously, much of this is based on misconceptions of what the practice means to the typical Catholic and within Catholic faith and praxis as a whole. But I think the root of the general Protestant disdain for invoking saints goes much deeper than this. Over the years I have convinced many a diehard Protestant that there is nothing inherently idolatrous or particularly heretical in the practice. There have even been those who have been able to accept the practice on an intellectual level while continuing to be reticent and uncomfortable with it in praxis. Why is this? The answer, I believe, is that we are dealing with two different cultures -- Protestant and Catholic -- which find openings into Tillich's "levels of reality which are otherwise closed to us" by employing two different sets of symbols.

On the one hand it is not fair for the Catholic to expect the Protestant to incorporate what amounts to a foreign metaphor into a Protestant set of symbols. On the other hand, it behooves the Catholic of the third millennium to help re-connect the whole of Christendom, Protestantism included, to its roots in Christian antiquity. This begins with understanding and open minds on both sides of the issue.

Until next time.

33 comments:

Mark said...

This impasse between "two different cultures" -Protestantism and Catholicism- and their respective symbols ( i.e their distinctive "openings" into levels of reality otherwise closed to us ) is interesting.

At this point, I'm not certain how the distinction can be pinpointed. But perhaps we could generalize by saying that Catholic culture would understand the concept of being "ecompassed by so great a cloud of witnesses", in a metaphysically real sense, whereas Protestant culture would tend to regard it either as an instance of pure metaphor-like Christ referring to Himself as the "door of the sheep"-or, as a "forensic", but not actual, truth. Much the same might be said with regard to their respective views concerning the Church, the sacraments, theosis, etc.

In brief, the Catholic "collective unconcious" seems to be more robustly mystical than its Protestant counterpart. ( note: I realize that I am painting with a broad brush here )

It just occured to me that the fiction of Charles Williams-like All Hallow's Eve, for instance- where the "exchanges" between heaven and earth are open and constantly traversed, might be a good modern expression of the Catholic "collective unconscious".

Question:

To what degree can we attribute the forensic and non-mystical emphasis in much of Protestantism to philosophical nominalism?

-Mark

Steve Blakemore said...

As a non-Catholic Christian of Methodist persuasion, I find the Evangelical Protestant dismissal of the "invocation of saints" understandable and troublesome.

It is understandable in that many RC Christians seem (in a kind of folk-religion way) to mistake what they are doing as prayers of petition to holy persons who can then do something for them. If I understand the right application of the practice, however, such invocation is not petitionary so much as it is inclusional of the saints in the Church's ongoing journey of faith toward holiness. And it incorporates some sense of their ongoing consciousness before God into the needs of the Church militant. We can ask that they be allowed to pray for us as we might as another living Christian.

The Evangelical Protestant dismissal of the practice, on the other hand, is troublesome to me in that it seems to be based in a kind of soteriology or metaphysics that views the dead as having come to some sort of end. Perhaps they are seen as too happy in heaven to bother with God's kingdom that is not yet come to earth. Or perhaps they are conceived of as no longer fully conscious. I have no particular insight into the state of the departed, except that they are with the Lord. But, it seems to me that the intuition that emerged in the Church historically that they are still part of God's saving presence and work was a good one.

Jeff said...

Nice thoughts here Dan. Are reading a lot of Tillich presently?

lexorandi2 said...

Yes, Jeff, I'm reading *The Essential Tillich* right now as part of my devotions. It's a brief anthology of his writings, and thus a fairly good snap-shot of his thought overall. Between Barth and Tillich there is enough intellectual fodder to keep a third millennium Catholic going for at least a century.

lexorandi2 said...

Great comments from both Mark and Steve.

To Mark: Truth be told, I'm just a hack when it comes to the study of philosophy. However, I do think your question must be answered in the affirmative. Protestantism did spring from nominalist soil. However, the nominalist shift from realism occured in the Middle Ages.

To Steve: Again, I appreciate your remarks. I hope you continue to contribute your insights on this blog. BTW - I was raised Methodist and there is still a strong Methodist stream running through my piety and approach to theology.

Take care,
Dan

Mark said...

Well, Dan, if you are a "hack" when it comes to philosophy, then I am a complete non-entity ( which means that my grasp of philosophy is just slightly worse than my theological acumen ). But of late, my reading has taken in modern theologians who also happen to be first rate philosophers ( e.g. Robert Bentley Hart, John Milbank and, especially, the late Eric Mascall ).

In this group we have two Anglicans and one EO. Reading them can be pretty tough-particularly when they start to brandish the abstract, technical verbiage of philosophy. Nevertheless, it has been relatively easy to detect a consensus among them-namely, that whatever shortcomings we may wish to lay at the door of the 16th-century Reformation have an earlier genesis in the decadence of late medieval scholasticism, especially the nominalism of Ockham. ( Milbank would actually go as far back as Scotus ).

Again, I'm too ignorant to assess the veracity of this claim. But its ramifications are intriguing. Here are a few examples from Mascall:

"For Luther, the sacramental species are the signs that here is the place where Christ has covenanted to make his universal presence apprehensible by his faithful disciples; what he cannot hold, as a good nominalist, is that there is any real relation in the ontological order between the sign and what it signifies. But then, neither could anyone else for several centuries; as I have argued in another place, this was the tragedy of the post-Reformation eucharistic theology."


"What, in fact, ( writes Bouyer ) , is the essential characteristic of Ockham's thought, and of nominalism in general, but a radical empiricism, reducing all being to what is percieved, which empties out, with the idea of substance, all possibility of real relations between beings, as well as the stable subsistence of any of them, and ends by denying to the real any intelligibility, concieving God himself only as a Protean figure, impossible to apprehend?"

"How then, is somebody whose mentality has been cast in the mold of nominalism to concieve the activity of justifying grace?...the tragedy of the late medieval theology was that, with its nominalist bias, it was impotent to deal with a situation in which men were trying to please God by doing good works without any interior supernatural transformation of their beings; for interior supernatural transformation is nonsense on the nominalist view. The tragedy of Lutheranism was that, being equally nominalistic, all that it could offer as an alternative was a pure imputation to sinful man of the merits of Christ."

-Mark

Rev. John Campbell said...

If we cannot point to an inventor within the Church when it comes to prayers to the dead, maybe that's a red flag. We can tell e.g. when and how the Creed was "invented" and developed, which outstrips prayers to the dead in importance. If there is no immediate referent for prayers to the dead within the Church, perhaps a better understanding of its origin than reliance upon Tillich's Freudian understranding of the human mind, and notions of collective unconscience, is that it is an accretion from without.

Just a thought.

David+ said...

I don't think enough could be said for the impact of Nominalism on the Protestant mind. Essentially, Nominalism is the denial of "substance" philosophically speaking. Of course this has had its effect on sacramental theology but, unbeknowst to many, the issue has imported into theological epistemology and method as well. I think for the worst.

Mark said...

Fr. David,

My ignorance of even the most elementary philosophical principles makes it difficult to respond intelligently to your post. Awhile back, our former assistant priest, a young man of enormous learning and deep piety, explained to me the stark differences between realism and nominalism ( this, I should add, took place during a group discussion of Divine command theory ). Most of what we discussed, I confess, was hopelessly beyond me. But I do recall feeling shocked at the arbitrariness of the nominalist system ( particularly Ockham's statement that it would have made no difference if a donkey had been nailed to the cross instead of Christ ).

I do find it interesting that inspite of their nominalism the magisterial Reformers retained a participationist understanding of soteriology alomg with a robust-if not precisely catholic-sacramentology. Cranmer, who, I believe, is best described as a receptionist, even spoke of a diffusion of Christ and the Holy Ghost within the sacramental species.

As for "a supernatural interior transformation", younger divines, like Hooker, affirmed the forensic and juridical apsects of justification by faith and baptism, while speaking of a genuine impartation or infusion of faith, hope and charity into the souls of the baptised. But, then, I haven't a clue as to what his philosophical presuppositions were.

-Mark

lexorandi2 said...

So when was the apostles' creed written, John?

lexorandi2 said...

BTW - symbols that can be pinpointed to time, place, circumstance, or an "inventor" are the exception not the rule. Who can say when the first icon was painted? Or who invented signing oneself with the cross? Who came up with the title "Theotokos"? How about vestments? Who designed the first mitre for a bishop? Or the first surplice for the quire? Did this last inventor foresee the ire it would raise amongst Puritans or that low-church Anglicans would get such mileage out of that popish rag?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Dan

John Campbell said...

Some of the Creed's articles appear in Ignatius' epistles. The "Descent" clause was made dogma and added in the 8th century, the last article to be added.

Would you assert that the same Creed sprung up independently hither and yon? Isn't it more likely that one person put its main articles together initially? There were several local versions that had articles others didn't contain, but essentially it is the work of one mind up until "I believe in the Holy Ghost."

What surplices and Theotokos have to do with anything I don't know.

Rev. John Campbell said...

Have you checked your email lately?

anOther Jeff said...

Rev. John Campbell,

When you said:

"Some of the Creed's articles appear in Ignatius' epistles. The "Descent" clause was made dogma and added in the 8th century, the last article to be added.

Would you assert that the same Creed sprung up independently hither and yon? Isn't it more likely that one person put its main articles together initially? There were several local versions that had articles others didn't contain, but essentially it is the work of one mind up until "I believe in the Holy Ghost."
"

What are you getting at? This doesn't make sense to me - I think the point is that the statements contained in the Apostle's Creed can be found mixed in throughout various early Christian writings. The doctrines were believed long before they were codified, and indeed, the Apostle's Creed as a whole never received specific conciliar confirmation (that I am aware of).

If I understand what you are trying to say correctly (and I may not) I would have to argue exactly the opposite - I would say that any time we have an example of a doctrine that was promulgated by one specific individual or sect at one specific point in time, before which it had not been promulgated or even hinted, that that is much more likely to be a sign of heterodoxy and schism, than it is a sign of orthodoxy.

The conciliar function was not to come up with "new" doctrines, but define and confirm what is and was *already* believed "everywhere, always, and by all" (as the Vincentian cannon teaches) and that, I think, is the connection with issues such as mariological titles (Theotokos) and vestments (surplices) - they were both widely used liturgically and/or devotionally before any council spoke concerning them, and no one single individual or sect within the Church "foisted" them upon the rest.

Does this make sense? Have I mis-understood what you intended to communicate?

Pax Christi,
JJH

Rev. John Campbell said...

Jeff,

We might call your view of how the
Creed was initiated, "promiscuous inspiration," so that the Holy Ghost was inspiring people all over the world to pen the same words and phrases in the same order and for the same purpose. Or perhaps, if we don't want to claim inspiration for the Creed, lots of people just had the same great ideas at the same time everywhere. Obviously this oversimplifies your view, but it is your view, it seems to me.

Since the Church was centered in Jerusalem early on there is every probability that the Creed was first in use there while the apostles were still on earth. Did they not use a baptismal formula, or did the Church discard their formula in favor of something like the current Creed?

But this is a red herring brought up by those who have yet to answer my initial post, which I repost here:

If we cannot point to an inventor within the Church when it comes to prayers to the dead, maybe that's a red flag. We can tell e.g. when and how the Creed was "invented" and developed, which outstrips prayers to the dead in importance. If there is no immediate referent for prayers to the dead within the Church, perhaps a better understanding of its origin than reliance upon Tillich's Freudian understranding of the human mind, and notions of collective unconscience, is that it is an accretion from without.

anOther Jeff said...

Rev. John Campbell,

Thanks for the interaction! However, I would have to disagree with your characterization of "Red Herring".

And please allow me to explain why I say this by taking the liberty of restating in parody format your concluding restatement:

"If we CAN point to an INIDIVIDUAL inventor within the Church when it comes to prayers to the dead, maybe that's a red flag. SINCE We CAN'T tell e.g. when and how the Creed was "invented" - THOUGH WE CAN TELL HOW IT WAS CONFIRMED and developed THROUGH THE CONCILIAR ACTION OF THE CHURCH AT NICEA.
AND SINCE there is no immediate SINGLE referent for prayers to the dead within the Church, AND THIS LITURGICAL PRACTICE SEEMS TO HAVE INITIATED, LIKE THE CREED, THROUGHOUT THE CHURCH CATHOLIC WITHOUT COMMENT OR CRITICISM, WHICH IS A FAR better understanding of its origin than reliance upon Tillich's Freudian understanding of the human mind, and notions of collective unconscience, is A CLEAR SIGN that it is NOT an accretion from without. "

You see, I know how this game is played. If someone were to say they'd found evidence that this or that Church Father had been the originator of "prayers to the dead" as you call them (more on that later) and would trot out, say Origen, or maybe Tertullian, or maybe Hypolytus? Then the race would be on to scour the works of these men for supposedly heterodox statements which could be used to villify them, and by extension, the idea of offering such prayers. It is for this reason that, as in the case of the Creed, I'm very HAPPY that there is no SINGLE referent, and I view the widespread adoption of this liturgical practice as a very good sign that it is NOT a heretical or schismatic invention of any single individual or sect, foisted upon an innocent and naive orthodox majority, for the purpose of gradually subverting true worship and infecting the primitive purity of the New Testament Church with the tare of heresy.

Just think the heyday that Anabaptists and others who reject the Creed as an imposition upon the primitive purity of the New Testament Church would have if they could point to a single referent for the origin of the Creed? It would be all over for that individual, and it would be touted as proof that it was not the widespread faith of the Church Catholic, but rather the "agenda" of an individual or sect which corrupted the primitive purity of the New Testament Church.

This kind of reasoning is a non-starter for anyone who holds to the validity and orthodoxy of the Creed, and that is the main reason why I cannot agree with the premise behind your question.

There are other reasons, however, why I reject the premises behind your question, and chief among them is the use of the phrase "prayers to the dead" in a sense which I believe violates the Biblical witness and the words of our Lord, who said "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living". Those who use the phrase "prayers to the dead" to try to bias the discussion against a settled liturgical practice within the Church Catholic are thereby trivializing the words of our Lord, by making him out as the kind of person who would use a rhetorical device to win an argument when he never really held to the position implied by his argument in the first place.

For the God who said "I AM the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" is also, and no less, the God of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and he is also the God of Blessed Augustine, and of St. Iraneaus, and of Jerome, and of all the Faithful departed, whose souls rest in the hand of God, and who, according to the witness of St. John the Divine, are currently gathered around the Throne in worship, or praying from beneath the altar.

Let me state it simply: If Jesus could make the statement he did, on the basis of the OLD TESTAMENT WITNESS, which, contrary to the witness of St. John in the Apocolypse, did not ever show PEOPLE involved in heavenly worship (cf. Isaiah and Ezekiel), Then HOW MUCH MORE can we, who have access to St. John's Revelatory vision, reject the label "prayers to the DEAD" for what it is: an attempt to bias the discussion by importing an unbiblical description of this Christian Liturgical practice.

Furthermore, I don't believe that this issue is entirely disconected from the Creed which we confess, for, in the Creed we profess "I believe in...the Communion of Saints" and when we see that in the Revelation to St. John, it is crystal clear that that "Communion of Saints" involves a worship service which includes those who have fallen asleep in the Lord, but who are still alive to God, and still active in worship and in offering their prayers to God - or, more properly stated, which includes US in the ongoing worship and prayers of the Church expectant - then it is clear that to denegrate this Christian liturgical practice by terming it "prayers to the dead" is to ignore or turn into a fantasy, this Revelation to St. John, just as it trivializes and undermines the argument of our Lord when he said "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living."

So to summarize, I believe that it is contrary to the Biblical witness, both in St. John's vision, and in the very words of our Lord, to use the phrase "prayers to the DEAD" because the clear witness of Holy Scripture is that they are NOT dead, and furthermore, that they are NOT even unconcious, and furthermore that it is their ongoing worship with which WE join when we say "Lift up your hearts - We lift them up unto the Lord". And it is in the light of this Biblical witness to the current PRESENCE with God, and ACTIVE WORSHIP of God, by the Church expectant, that I close with words which are near and dear to the heart of almost all English-speaking Christians, whether Protestant or Roman, whether low-church or high-church, even though they are offered, as you put it, as "Prayers to the dead":

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Praise him all creatures here below!
(Church militant + Created order)
Praise him above ye heavenly hosts!
(Church expectant + Angelic Choir)
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
AMEN!

Waiting "Expectantly" for your creative comments, constructive criticisms, careful corrections, or castigating condemnations! :D

Pax Christi,
JJH

Rev. John Campbell said...

JJH -

I used the term "prayers to the dead" to see if you would recommend St. Matthew 22 to me, which you did.

So e.g. C.S. Lewis isn’t really dead? If not, why has he stopped writing books? I suggest that for clarity and brevity’s sake we stipulate that when we refer to Christians whose hearts have stopped beating as dead, we do not intend to contradict Jesus in St. Matthew 22. Or, if you prefer, we can use the term “departed saints” if semantics is that important to you.

Speaking of C.S. Lewis, is it ok to pray to him? If not, why not? If so, do you? If you don't, why don't you? Do departed saints pray to us? If not, why do you think that this is such a one-way street?

Is there some organization that decides which dead people we may pray to? Are all of the dead people whom it sanctions as proper objects of prayer former members of that organization? To cut to the chase, are there any non-Roman Catholics who have died since 1517 that we may pray to?

And regarding "the communion of saints," the basis of our communion is the Holy Trinity, the only proper object of worship for the living or the dead/departed. The Church Triumphant and Militant commune in their worship of God, not of one another.

When a psalmist or prayer book canticle exhorts the rocks and trees and souls and spirits to praise God, it is in recognition of the moral imperative for all of the creation to praise its Maker. This is therefore a safe exhortation to make, though I don't think the rocks and trees really hear me.

Nowhere in Scripture however do we read of a living person not named King Saul asking anything of a dead person, unless we count Jesus commanding Lazarus to rise from the dead. Prayer to the dead was ubiquitous in ancient paganism, and I suggest that the spontaneous ubiquitous sources that you are arguing for for such prayers has its origin in that practice, not in the Holy Spirit.

As for analogies using the Creed as an example (which I dispute) of spontaneous ubiquitous sources, no one would or could suggest that the Creed was a pagan accretion.

lexorandi2 said...

The idea of saints interceding for the people of God is hardly foreign to the biblical milieu. I'm surprised that a good Anglican like you is so unfamiliar with the book of 2nd Maccabbees.

Jason Loh said...

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Praise him all creatures here below!
(Church militant + Created order)
Praise him above ye heavenly hosts!
(Church expectant + Angelic Choir)
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
AMEN!

Jeff Holston, thanks for pointing that out!

Steve Blakemore said...

Et al,

I don't have a particular "dog in this fight" (as a non-Anglican/Episcopal). HOwever, it seems to me that the idea of addressing those who have departed this life and are "with the Lord" (to draw upon St. Paul) is not necessarily a pagan accretion into Christian practice. It is a plausible reading of St. Paul's correspondence to the Corinthian church (I Corinthians 15:29)that they believed that there was some sort of interaction. "Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?"

I know that biblical scholarship argues about the import of Paul's statement in this passage. But it is instructive -- in part -- that he does not offer any corrective of the practice, but utilizes it as a support of his insistence that the "dead shall be raised."

So, this could be seen as a biblical hint of the possibility of some degree of commerce between those whose lives are hidden in Christ pre-mortem and post-mortem. This issues, however, is being "in Christ." He is the one in whom the "interaction" might take place. Hence, invoking the prayers of the saints who have died in the Lord is to invoke those who await the fullness of redemption, along with us, but who enjoy a degree of beatific vision that we are not afforded. In Christ they might "see" what Christ "sees" and love what Christ loves. So, the could be conceived of as co-laborers with Him (by their prayers to Him -- the only Savior) in the salvation of His Church.

This, at least, is an attempt by a Methodist to articulate a theological rationale for the practice that takes the Bible as a starting point.

Rev. John Campbell said...

"I'm surprised that a good Anglican like you is so unfamiliar with the book of 2nd Maccabbees."

A good Anglican would not use the Apocrypha to establish doctrine.

Rev. John Campbell said...

"It is a plausible reading of St. Paul's correspondence to the Corinthian church (I Corinthians 15:29)that they believed that there was some sort of interaction. 'Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?'"

If you are not an Anglican what are you, a Mormon?

I', shocked, SHOCKED, that none of my questions were addressed, so I will ask one more before dedclaring victory: is it ok to pray to C.S. Lewis?

Steve Blakemore said...

Rev. Campbell,

Given your misreading of my statements about I Corinthians, you ought not complain about your questions not being addressed. And given my alien status to Anglican Christianity, it is odd that I find myself responding to you, someone I do not even know.

First, you seem to think that I was commending the practice mentioned in I Corinthians. But I did not. Hence, you misread my intent. I merely stated that it seemed that at least that in Corinth part of the early church assumed some kind of interaction. I offered that passage ONLY as a POSSIBLE example from the scriptures of a practice that was not EXPLICITLY condemned (at least St. Paul does not condemn it). But as I implied above, I am not supporting the practice of being baptized for the dead.

About my religious affiliation: You might be more concerned to learn that I am a lowly Methodist who neither prays to the dead (as you put) it nor invokes their prayers for me. HOwever, it seems entirely plausible to claim that in Christ the departed could be intercessors. Unless you think that living Christians can pray but departed ones cannot. Your anthropology, at that point (if that is what you hold), ought to be defended by you rather than merely asserted.

Finally, if one allows you your premise -- that the prayers that invoke the intercession of the departed saints is actual prayer to them -- then the answer to your question about "praying" to C.S. Lewis is a resounding NO! But, if one thinks in terms of hoping for the departed to intercede for them, then maybe someone who has been especially blessed by the ministry of C.S. Lewis's writings might hope that such a great soul might indeed intercede before the "throne of God and of the Lamb."

About being prayed to in reverse: Why would one enjoying the beatific vision feel compelled to pray to someone whose union with the Lord was less fully realized?

You are right that the communion of the saints living and dead is in the HOly Trinity, but most crucially (you would certainly agree) in Christ who is the God-man -- then only mediator the only one in whom humanity and God are reconciled. But when you suggest that the dead are "worshipped" by those who invoke their intercession you commit the fallacy of composition. Maybe it devolves to that in practice for some, but the underlying theology might be something different.

So, declare victory, if you must, but yours might be a pyrrhic triumph. You lose any real meaning to the creedal claim of the COMMUNION of the saints.

lexorandi2 said...

John,

I have no problem with the idea of invoking C.S. Lewis in prayer. I guess I'm more Eastern than Western in that respect. As I understand their practice, Eastern Christians only invoke recognized saints in the Church's public prayer, but tolerate the invoking of dead relatives or friends in private.

Dan

Rev. John Campbell said...

"...maybe someone who has been especially blessed by the ministry of C.S. Lewis's writings might hope that such a great soul might indeed intercede before the 'throne of God and of the Lamb.'"

Just how would Clive know that I was especially blessed by his writings? Would Jesus tell him? "Hey Clive, Campbell's praying to you, and since he really liked Chronicles of Narnia, go listen to his prayers, then tell me what he says." I mean, it just defies every sensible thought.

Two people address the dead (I mean the dearly departed) in the Bible (I mean the actual Bible sans deuterocanonical books), a witch and Jesus. Perhaps that is instructive.

As for hesychasts praying to dead uncles, it speaks for itself.

lexorandi2 said...

Either you never read my original entry, or you forgot the gist of what I said somewhere in the middle of these comments. Whether C.S. Lewis or the Blessed Virgin Mary for that matter are cognizant of our petitions is inconsequential to the practice of invoking saints.

Rev. John Campbell said...

I read it, and I have no problem with exhorting rocks and trees and the heavenly host to praise God since the Bible says such things.

Rocks and trees can be made to praise God by being built into churches. I sing "praise Him above ye heavenly host" weekly. No problemo. But asking particular saints for specific favors is a horse of a different color, since the only two people who make specific instructions to the dead in Scripture are a witch and Jesus.

As you know of course, people get canonized and made saints by popes because miracles are supposedly attributed to them, often in response to prayers to them *before they were canonized.* Hence, it is not only EO's who pray to dead uncles without official sanction, but RC's as well.

What this apparently boils down to is that some people want to find a way to pray to the dead while being able to explain to their Protestant friends that they don't expect the dead to hear, it's just a reaffirmation of the communion of saints.

This is sort of a mirror image of Tract 90 apologetics, in that rather than trying to square the Articles with RC doctrine, it is trying to square RC practice and doctrine with Protestant sensibilities. I dubb this Prophylactic Apologetics.

lexorandi2 said...

The practice is not peculiar to Romanism. It is patristic in origin, and universal (read "catholic") until the Reformation. Admittedly, my explanation is more sophisticated than most of what is out there on the popular market, and I am perhaps a bit of an innovator in using the notion of metaphor to explain the invocation of the saints, but the idea that our petitions to saints do not actually have to be heard by them to be effective (by virtue of their general intercessions) is hardly new and certainly NOT a novel idea or an invention of mine. It was admitted by prominent catholic theologians in the 16th century who were seeking raprochement with the Lutherans in this and other areas.

Tract 90? Hardly. Necromancy? Only in your worst character assassinations.

Anyway, thanks for your lively contribution, John. But unless you would like to demonstrate the weakness of my thesis (by actually addressing it rather than shooting at strawmen), I declare this thread closed.

Mark said...

"...the only two people who make specific instructions to the dead in Scripture are a witch and Jesus."

That don't make no difference. After all, "what would Jesus do?"

-Mark

Rev. John Campbell said...

"It was admitted by prominent catholic theologians in the 16th century who were seeking raprochement with the Lutherans in this and other areas."

That's basically what I said: it's a compromise that concedes nothing - for a dubious purpose. And to excuse it on the grounds of WWJD means that we can pratice it to raise from the dead the subjects of our prayers, who are also the object of our prayers?

I'll stick with Art. 22, Newman notwithstanding, and sign off.

lexorandi2 said...

And I'll stick with the Catholic faith and read the Articles accordingly, for certainly the consensus fidelium carries more weight than a 16th century political settlement.

Rev. john Campbell said...
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