Can someone please help me explain the Communion
of Saints to a Protestant?
I'm having a hard
time on my own and thought maybe you could help
please help me explain the Communion of Saints to
a Protestant? }
Hi, Rachel —
Below is a letter that I sent a while back.
Explaining the Communion
of Saints to a Fundamentalist.
It includes most of the texts we've discussed
but it's in a systematic presentation which addresses the typical objections
that Protestants raise.
I hope you find it useful; perhaps your parents might consider reading
God bless you,
In the Love and service of Jesus Christ,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Let me start of by saying that I appreciate your zeal
for Christ and His Truth. Although you disagree with my conclusions, I
would hope that you would appreciate similar zeal in me which lead me to
study and seek the answers which "Protestantism" (for lack of
a better word) was not answering.
I realize that the Catholic Church makes claims for Herself,
that you reject. That is your right to do so. Perhaps, as we continue this
dialogue, we can address those claims as well.
I would like to address one particular issue that was
brought up in our chat this evening.
That being your claim that Catholics consult the dead.
It is clear to me that you do not understand what we believe.
Further, It is not my goal to persuade you to believe as we do. Rather
I would like to clear up, what it the Church teaches about the Communion
of Saints and where it derives Her teaching from Scripture. At that point,
you are still free to disagree but it is not fair to accuse us of something
we don't believe.
11 . . . or conjure
spells, or mediums, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.
This is a Biblical prohibition on divination and magic.
I have promised to give you biblical support for what
we believe about the Communion of Saints and I will, but first I want to
defend the Church from your accusation that She teaches these practices.
The following is the official Church dogma on Divination and Magic. It
is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. As you can read, it in no
2115 God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.
2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to unveil the future. (cf. Deuteronomy 18:10; Jeremiah 29:8) Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.
2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.
Having allowed the Church to speak for itself on the subject
of divination and magic, I will now present to you what I found in the
Scripture with regards to the Communion of Saints:
The fact that there is only one Mediator does not
prevent others to pray for one another. Rather, the fact that Jesus is
the One Mediator allows all those in Christ to pray and intercede.
There is no prayer that can be heard outside of the fact that Christ is
Interestingly enough, the times that He is mentioned as
one Mediator, there is an exhortation for all to pray, or a link, to the
unity of the Body. I will address this other verse a bit later.
The fact is that, if one is in Christ, when
one is present in the body, one is still in Christ when one
is no longer physically living. One does not cease to be a member of the
mystical body of Christ when he or she is in Heaven.
thing I was taught in Bible School is that when you see Therefore, you
need to see what it's therefore . This cloud of witnesses is a reference
to the dead Old Testament Saints. Now if you go on to verses
22 through 24a, you get an even more vivid understanding of the mystical
unity that exist between Heaven and Earth.
"But you have come to Mount Zion and the city of
the living God. The heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of
angels, to the general assembly and the Church of the firstborn who are
registered in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, To Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, . . ."
First off, again we see a reference to Jesus, the Mediator
of the New Covenant, but this reference is not in a vacuum, His Mediation
is linked by covenant to the rest of His Body. That is why all who are in Christ, share in His Priesthood. He is the High Priest, we are priest
by virtue of our being in Him.
We see here mentioned "the Spirits of Just men made
perfect". This can only mean those saints who are separated from their earthly
Remember the context of Hebrews. The writer is writing
to Jewish believers that were wavering. They were going to abandon the New
Covenant for the Old Covenant. The writer, throughout the epistle, constantly
compares the two. In this section, he is comparing the inaccessibility
of Heaven in the Old Covenant as opposed to the New Covenant but
you have come to Mount Zion and the city of the Living God. (Hebrews 12:22) Then he goes on to describe who you will find there.
The Apostle Paul
wrote that we approach boldly the throne room of grace. (Hebrews 4:16)
If we approach
the throne room of grace (mystically speaking), we are in His presence.
They are also in His presence.
If we are both in His presence, we are mystically
in each others presence.
Luke 23:45 says that when Jesus was on the Cross just
as He was giving up His Spirit and the temple veil was torn in two. Compare
this with the vision Ezekiel had of the Heavenly temple where there was
no veil separating the Holy of Holys.
Consider that on the mount of transfiguration, the Apostles
were allowed to see through the veil and see Moses and Elijah speaking
We, as Catholics, believe that one of the results of the
Atoning Death of Christ is that He has restored Full Communion between
Heaven and Earth.
"Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living
creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the lamb, each
had a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of
There is agreement by most theologians that the twenty
four elders represent the Old and New Testament Church in Heaven. This
all takes place while the Earth is beginning the Tribulation.
We see the
Church in Heaven upholding the prayers of the saints on Earth before the
We see that, not only can they see us, but they are united with
us in prayer.
One last point. One of the Gospels records that the Pharisees
scorned Jesus when He said that Abraham saw Jesus' day and rejoiced. They
paraphrased) you are not yet fifty and you claim to have seen Abraham who
has been dead for hundred of years. He responded
that God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: The God of the
Living, not the Dead. (Matthew 22:32, Luke 20:37-38)
The saints who have gone before us are not dead; they
are alive in Christ. We do not conjure the dead; we ask for their prayers,
much as we have agreed to pray for one another here on Earth.
There is a lot more I could say on this subject and perhaps
we will have the opportunity to exchange further notes on this particular topic.
At least, in this case, I believe I've provided sufficient Scripture
to support our belief. You don't have to agree with our interpretation,
but at least recognize that we are not practicing divination.
This falls into the category of secondary issues. Christians
often disagree among each other on these things.
Many genuine believers don't think that Tongues are for
today, others believe they are: both presenting Scriptural support
for their respective position.
One funny thing I find over and over, when non-Catholic Christians don't understand a Catholic interpretation
or disagree with a Catholic interpretation, they quickly misrepresent what
the Church dogmatically teaches and they call it something that it is not.
The fact is that Bible Christians, Protestants, or what ever term
you choose, have their own traditions.
Any time you establish
an interpretation of the Bible where there is not a unanimous agreement on,
each group, or individual establishes their own tradition. Every
time you interpret Scripture on the basis of your own experience, you establish
a tradition and the one tradition I've found amongst non-Catholic
Christians is that Catholics are wrong!!
I sincerely hope to continue this
dialogue in the Spirit of Christian Brotherhood. I hope that you will search
the Scriptures as I have. I did not become a Catholic based on history,
but based on what I began to see in the Scriptures. If you don't find the
same things as we continue to talk, I hope that you extend me the same
license, you extend yourself and other non-Catholics, — the right to interpret
Scripture. After all, the battle cry of Martin Luther and the Reformation
was Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). That means that every man
for Himself can interpret the Bible by the Holy Spirit.
If, as a Bible
Christian, you hold this to be true, then you must extend this to Catholics
as well, or else you are upholding your tradition over another man's.
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