Nathan: Thanks for taking the time to write back to me. Last year I became a Christian and my life’s been totally changed by living for Jesus Christ. It’s been great
BFHU: That is wonderful. Thanks for letting us know.
Nathan: Last week I went to mass with a friend who has had a similar awakening in the past year, only he is Catholic. He feels there is a large void between myself and him, although we are both trying to live for God. I’ve since been reading a lot about Catholicism and while I think it’s stupid for Christians to argue among themselves I think it is healthy for us to talk about these things.
BFHU: Charitable discussion of our beliefs is always very healthy but it requires sensitivity so that we don’t make winning the argument the goal with our friends and family.
Nathan: Scripture doesn’t ever say that all truth comes from the bible, for
example, you couldn’t find out how to change a flat tire anywhere in
it. But Scripture is our highest authority, I think we can both agree on that.
BFHU: Not exactly. There were nearly 400 years between the founding of the Church and the infallible decision regarding which writings were Sacred Scripture and which ones were good but not infallible scripture. During that time Christianity evangelized the world. They did not use the Bible as we know it today but what few writings were in their possession AND the TEACHING OF THE APOSTLES also known as Sacred Tradition. This is NOT to be confused with the “traditions of men” condemned by St. Paul. I recommend reading this post: Sola Scripture. So, the truth for Catholics is:
The highest authority is Sacred Scripture AND Sacred Tradition as interpreted and taught by the Pope and the Bishops of the world.
However, you will be happy to know that NOTHING the Catholic Church believes contradicts anything in Scripture.
The teachings of the Catholic Church only contradict the Protestant interpretation of some of the Scriptures.
Nathan: If lesser authorities don’t match up with Scripture, we know they are false.
BFHU: Define “don’t match up”. And please tell me where this assertion is found in Scripture.
Nathan:The Bible is God’s Word,
BFHU: Yes it is.
Nathan: and Jesus tested and debated theological ideas or questions with scripture, Paul does too.
BFHU: Yes but not exclusively. The apostles also abrogated many Jewish and Scriptural practices. Two very big ones were removing the obligation of circumcision Acts 15:1-12 and keeping Kosher Acts 10:9-27. This was done by the authority invested in Peter, our first Pope, by Jesus Himself. These contradicted the Hebrew Scriptures. And Peter also decided to replace Judas with Matthias with no direct scriptural order by Jesus Acts 1:15-26.
So, in Scripture it is very clear that Pope Peter had authority beyond Sola Scriptura.
Nathan:In this way they show that the Bible is the measuring stick by which we test
all ideas, and if they don’t line up, we shouldn’t apply them to God.
BFHU: How do you know this? Where does it say this in Scripture?
Nathan: Anyways, what I’m really interested in is not church history or who is right or wrong,
BFHU: Oops! I just gave a lot of history…
Nathan: I’m curious to know what there is to gain from a prayer
relationship with Mary.
BFHU: James 5:16 TThe prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” Mary and the Saints are totally righteous and purified in Heaven in the very presence of God. Who better to intercede for us?
Nathan: The difference between her interceding for me
and a friend is that my friend is in front of me, on the phone – I can
physically communicate to them my prayer request. But Mary is in
heaven, hanging out with her Son and God the Father and God the Holy
Spirit – how do you know that she can hear you? That idea is nowhere
to be found in scripture.
BFHU: Yes there is a difference but where is this condemned in scripture and again, Where does Scripture command that all religious truth must be found in scripture alone? Protestants try to call into question Catholic beliefs because the are not explicitly spelled out in Scripture. But Protestants base this authority to question these Catholic beliefs on ….nothing….they have NO Scriptural authority to question our Catholic beliefs in the first place.
Nathan: The danger (to me) is the fine line between “praying to” and “asking to
pray for”. Prayer, by definition, is “communicating with a spirit or deity”.
BFHU: That is not the whole truth about the word pray. The word pray, still retains, the secular idea of “asking, begging” as in Shakespeare.
Pray thee where are you going? In our culture, which is very Protestant, it seems to be something addressed to diety. But that is not the way we in the Catholic Church use it. Because Protestants never ask a departed soul to intercede for them, to pray has come to be used exclusively for communicating with God. But we use it that way and the old fashioned way…meaning to ask. You might want to read some of my posts here–>Prayer to Saints
Nathan: Asking someone to pray for me is fine, because between them and me is a relationship that involves human to human communication, be it by phone, e-mail, in person. But when I communicate with God, that is prayer, because God is spirit, and he, unlike me or my friend, is omniscient and omnipotent. He knows everyone’s thoughts (Psalm 94:11). Throughout the Bible this is the regular mode of communication between
God and man.
BFHU: Mary and the Saints are people too. And they are part of the Body of Christ too. Prayer to the Saints transcends our everyday experiences.
Nathan: Mary is in heaven. To communicate with her would, by definition, be
“prayer”. You have to communicate with her by spirit because
physically, it is impossible for her to hear us (and as far as I know
she doesn’t have a cell phone or something to communicate over long
BFHU: It is only possible with the power of God.
Nathan: My friend who took me to mass talked to me about this, and got
frustrated when I said, “It seems like you prayed to Mary” It’s “asking
her to pray”, he said. But she is not bodily here to hear that request.
BFHU: The method of communicating with a Saint in Heaven seems more like a prayer to God than talking to a person here on Earth. But we know there IS a difference.
Nathan: When Jesus taught us to pray he said to pray to “Our Father”. He is saying
we can pray directly to God.
BFHU: I agree and the Catholic Church prays the Our Father all the time and at every Mass.The Mass is the highest prayer of the Church and we pray it to God the Father. All of it.
Nathan: While it is nice to also pray for each
other, I just wonder why we should spend so much time (a Hail Mary is
said nine times – right? – for every Our Father) talking to Mary when
we can go directly to God.
BFHU: Prayer to Saints works! God does not have a problem with answering our prayerscoming through the intercession of the Saints. It is not forbidden in Scripture. So, why should anyone object to it?
Nathan: The heart of this issue that worries me is the elevation of Mary
to the position that Christ alone holds as mediator between God and man
and savior between man and God.
BFHU: Christ is the ONE Mediator between Man and God. But Mary and the Saints are people and they are ONLY praying fFOR us. Intercessory prayer is a type of mediation but we all do this, both Protestants and Catholics. So why would it only be wrong for the Saints in Heaven to Pray for us?