The Saints are not Watching Us

The unbiblical nature of Catholic sainthood has been discussed in a previous post. Popular Catholic apologists, however, are (predictably) trying to support this error with selected Bible verses. One of them wrote:

If it is objected that the dead saints cannot hear us, we reply that God is fully able to give them that power – with plenty of supporting biblical evidence: 1) the “cloud of witnesses” that Hebrews 12:1 describes; 2) in Revelation 6:9-10, prayers are given for us in heaven from “saints”; 3) elsewhere in Revelation an angel possesses “prayers of the saints” and in turn presents them to God … The saints in heaven are clearly aware of earthly happenings. If they have such awareness, it isn’t that much of a leap to deduce that they can hear our requests for prayer, especially since the Bible itself shows that they are indeed praying” (The One Minute Apologist p. 121).

The theological aberration here is glaring. To assert “that God is fully able to give them (dead saints) that power” to answer our prayers presupposes that God has somehow delegated some of His attributes to spirits of the dead. This is theologically objectionable.

For instance, if I’m praying to St. Raphael or St. Joseph to help find me a wife, he would first have to know who I am. We didn’t live in the same century and he obviously can’t understand my language.

There would also be thousands of men from around the world praying to the same saint at the same time for the same request, all in different languages.

Since this “saint” has a specific role in helping single men find a bride, he would need to be able to process all these requests or sort out those praying with a wrong motive. There’s no human, whether living or dead, that can listen to 100 people let alone help them at once. It’s beyond any human ability.

Not to mention that St. Joseph – not God – is the one doing the work (just like when St. Anthony searches out lost items).

For these saints to know about anything we might need or want to ask from God, hearing our thoughts or our words spoken in private, they would have to be gods.

Only God can possess all knowledge of human affairs, problems, thoughts, and words. So, technically, these “saints” would need to be at the least, quasi-omniscient and quasi-omnipotent gods to be able to know, hear and do what have been ascribed to them.

Second, this apologist has thrown in a red herring. The dispute isn’t about what God is able to do or not do.

If He wanted, He could have made saints intercede on our behalf in a Christianized pantheon of gods in heaven. So the real issue is: has God given the saints power to hear prayers? The answer is no.

Prayer is an act of worship, and it’s to be offered to God. Praying to any other being, whether in heaven or on earth, is a violation of the first commandment – acknowledging another God.

It’s the height of disservice to argue that praying to some spirits on the other side for supernatural, individual and personal help is “just asking them to pray for us.”

Before I examine the “proof texts” this apologist presented, I need to bring up a statement he made elsewhere:

Protestants try to explain this away, because they seem to fear the notion that saints in heaven and earth have an organic connection. They want simply to “go straight to God” and bypass all the mediating functions of the saints… The saints are alive and they love us!” (The Catholic Verses pp. 136, 137).

It is actually Roman Catholicism that attempts to explain away what God has made very clear in His Word that there is only “one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ” (1Tim. 2:5). The idea of “mediating functions” of saints is totally unbiblical.

God has “reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ” (2Cor. 5:18) and “through him [Jesus] we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph. 2:18). We don’t gain access to God through a myriad of spirits.

It’s an affront to God to replace the closeness to and relationship we should have with Him with greater closeness to other invisible personages treated as intermediaries.

An analogy commonly given is: God is like an earthly boss and if we need a raise from him we need to go through levels of bosses as intermediates.

This conflicts with the revelation of the Fatherhood of God. Jesus said “the Father Himself loves you” (John 16:27). Christ removed the dividing wall of hostility sin created between God and man. Through His blood, we who were once far from God have been brought close (Eph. 2:13-14).

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba Father’” (Rom. 8:15).

Through Christ, every Believer can have an intimate fellowship with God. This blows the heresy of an “organic connection” between dead “saints” and the living into ashes.

Let’s take a brief look at the proof texts given:

Hebrews 12:1Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and sin which so easily entangles us…”

It’s assumed that the “cloud of witnesses” here refers to saints in heaven observing events on earth. This passage comes after Hebrews 11 where faithful men and women of old were referred to. The term ‘witness’ doesn’t imply one who is observing events, but one who testifies or witnesses by one’s life.

This passage is simply saying that the faithful people were witnesses to God’s faithfulness by their own lives, and since we have their testimony, we are to run the race with patience and joy. There is no justification to make this teach that saints in heaven are watching and hearing us.

In fairness though, some Pentecostal preachers also misuse this text to teach that “all the other believers who have ever died are watching us from the grandstands in Heaven as we run our spiritual race.”

No one who takes Heb. 12:1 in its context, without reading into it a preconceived idea of the dead observing the earth will arrive at such a conclusion. You can’t juxtapose the words “witnesses” with “spectators”. Marcus Dods has this to say:

“Martu,rwn [meaning] ‘witnesses,’ persons who by their actions have testified to the worth of faith. The cloud of witnesses are those named and suggested in chap. xi; persons whose lives witnessed to the work and triumph of faith, and whose faith was witnessed to by Scripture, cf. xi. 2, 4, 5… It is impossible to take ma,rturej as equivalent to qeatai [spectator]. If the idea of ‘spectator’ is present at all, which is doubtful, it is only introduced by the words tre,cwmen … The idea is not that they are running in presence of spectators and must therefore run well; but that their people’s history being filled with examples of much-enduring but triumphant faith, they also must approve their lineage by showing a like persistence of faith” (The Expositor’s Greek New Testament (IV: 365).

Revelation 6:9-10. When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?

From this passage, did you come across anything like “prayers [that] are given for us in heaven from saints” like Rome’s defenders want us to believe?

Here we see martyrs asking for God’s vengeance and judgement on the wicked for murdering them. In response they were given a white robe and told to wait a little longer for the rest of the tribulation saints that will be martyred (v. 11).

Where is the evidence that they have knowledge of what is happening here on earth? What they know is that God is just and will punish sin, which we too also know here on earth, since God’s Word says it (Gen. 18:22, Ps. 9:8).

The fact that they were informed that more martyrs will join them shows us that they didn’t have this information naturally. They would have known this if they were observing events on earth.

This verse doesn’t picture anything even remotely like the saints in heaven praying for us and our problems much less hearing us or helping us to find a wife, husband or a missing pair of shoes.

Another proof text used is: “The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand” (Rev. 8:4)

Biblically, everyone who is saved is a saint. The Greek word for saint is hagion and it means holy ones. There are holy ones both in heaven and on earth, so it’s Catholic anachronism to assume that “prayers of the saints” refers only to holy ones in heaven.

It was actually an angel that was presenting the prayers of God’s people before Him. Nothing here supports praying to saints, or that saints in heaven have knowledge of earthly events much less answer our requests.

These modern Catholic apologists are digging a pit for themselves whether they realize it or not. On the one hand, they attack private interpretation of the Bible, telling us only Rome can interpret the Bible for us. And on the other, they trot out verses (which by the way, are out of their contexts) from their own private interpretation; verses which their church have never infallibly interpreted.

So when a Catholic trots out these “proof texts,” a good question to ask is: Has your church “infallibly” defined these Bible verses for you? Finally, he wrote:

Asking a saint in heaven to pray for us no more interferes with the unique mediation of Christ than does asking a person on earth to pray for us. We always pray in Christ, through his power, and to him, whether it is directly to him, or by means of another person or angel, in heaven or on earth (The Catholic Verses, p.143).

Asking a friend to pray for you is not and will never be relevant to Jesus’ role as a sole mediator. Jesus’ role as mediator is essential and necessarily different because He has a ground to stand on as mediator that no one – including Mary – can ever possess.

Interestingly, Santerios and Voodoo adherents also pray to the same “saints” as Catholics and we all know they are not connecting to the God of the Bible through them. If you are accessing the same “friends on the other side” as pagans and occultists, what does that say about your belief system?

To say that you believe Jesus as a unique mediator, that you always pray through him but then say in the same breath that you need other “mediating functions” of spirits of the dead and angels is serpentine forked tongue rhetoric. The Biblical prohibition of contacting those who have passed from this world is unmistakably clear.

Have you observed that all these Catholic arguments are not compelling to any serious Bible student? They are not meant to be. They are just meant to have enough appeal to keep an average Catholic who wants to believe the lies of Rome in a state of faith.

The Origin of Saint Worship

Knowing the origin of Catholic saint worship explains why the practice lacks any Biblical support and why those truly saved must renounce it.

In an attempt to hoodwink Catholics from seeing how abominable this practice is, the Council of Trent says:

“And though the church has been accustomed to celebrate at times certain masses in honor and memory of the saint, she does not teach that sacrifice is offered to them but to God alone who crowned them; whence the priest … implores their favor that they may vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven whose memory we celebrate on earth” (Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, 146).

If the saints are being sought for protection and blessings then what is being accorded to them is worship. Besides why seek out the spirits of the dead for what God can give?

Catholics object to the term “saint worship,” they argue that what they offer to God is latria (worship) in Greek and what they offer to saints is dulia (veneration). These are the same word games cults like to play – redefining words to hide a heresy.

Even if you address someone as “your worship” you can’t really be said to worship that person as a deity, but when you pray to him, build him a shrine, light him a candle or kiss his bones to receive a supernatural assistance or favour, then you are worshipping him.

In Scripture, the gestures – bowing, kneeling and honour – directed to God in worship are also displayed by Catholics towards their “saints”:

But the LORD … is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices” (2Kings 17:36)

But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple” (Psalm 5:7)

Come let us bow in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker” (Psalm 95:6)

…These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Mark 7:6-7)

Note that the words “worship” and “honour” were used interchangeably, and in the Old Testament, there were altars and a temple built to the Lord just like Catholics build altars and shrines for their saints. Pagan religions express the same devotion to their many deities.

Ancient Babylon for example, worshipped up to 5,000 deities. Like Catholicism, they also believed their gods were once living heroes on earth but were now on a higher plane. They believed “every month and every day of the month was under the protection of a particular deity” (The Historians’ History of the World 1:518).

From the Bible, we can see that Syrian pagans also believed in different deities limited to certain geographical locations. When they lost a war against Israel, they said “their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they” (1Kings 20:23).

Eastern religions generally had their worship of various deities, as the goddess of sailors, the god of war, gods of fertility, gods of special neighbourhood or occupation. The same for ancient Rome:

“There were gods who presided over every moment of a man’s life, gods of house and garden, of food and drink, of health and sickness” (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Simon and Schuster, 1950, III:61).

They had various “patron gods” for every aspect of life just like Catholics have their “saints” today.

Ceres was the goddess of corn, wheat and vegetation. Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, music and crafts. Venus was the goddess of sexual love and birth. Vesta was the goddess of bakers and sacred fires. Ops was the goddess of wealth. Castor and Pollux were regarded as the protectors of Rome and of travellers at sea. Janus was the god of doors and gates and so on.

Since this concept was in existence before Christianity and was known outside the church, its presence in Catholicism today points to its assimilation at some point.

This pagan influx majorly started from the 4th century. The pagans that flocked into the churchea ostensibly wanted to continue their devotions to their pantheon of gods, so step by step, it was revived in the church, this time under a new toga – as “saints.”

Here’s a break down:

1. Saints for different occupations

Just like the pagan Romans had different deities for different profession with different days of devotion, Catholicism too developed different “saints” for different aspects of life with different “feast days.”

St. Thomas (Dec. 21) for architects.
St. Matthew (Sept. 21) for bankers.
St. Luke (Oct. 18) for doctors.
St. John Bosco (Jan. 31) for editors.
St. Andrew (Nov. 30) for fishermen.
St. Francis of Assisi (Oct. 4) for merchants.
St. Anne (July 26) for housekeepers.
St. Thomas Aquinas (Mar. 7) for students.

Whatever may be your occupation, mama Rome has a ‘saint’ for you.

2. Saints for various problems

Like the old pagans gods, saints were also believed to be endowed with powers to solve specific problems: St. Anthony of Padua was for barren women; St. Nicholas for alcoholics; St. Lawrence for the poor; St. Joseph for spinsters seeking husbands; St. Dominic for children; St. Columban for floods; St. Eustachius for family troubles and St. George for fevers etc.

With this list of “friends on the other side” to help people get whatever they want, God was reduced to a mere spectator.

3. Changing of the gods

According to a historian, “Paganism survived … in the form of ancient rites and customs condoned, or accepted and transformed by an often indulgent Church. An intimate and trustful worship of saints replaced the cult of pagan gods” (The Story of Civilization, IV: 75).

Sometimes, as the old pagan gods were being renamed, the names of the old deities were slightly modified, but their rites and external features were left intact.

The goddess Victoria of the Basses-Alpes (France) was renamed as “St.” Victoire.

Cheron became “St.” Ceranos. Artemis became “St.” Artemidos. Demeter, a Greek goddess became “St.” Demetrios – a masculine warrior saint. Mars, the Roman god of war was conveniently renamed as “St.” Martin the warlike saint, and Lares became “St.” Lawrence.

4. Pagan legends became saints’ stories.

The Catholic Encyclopedia admits that saint “legends repeat conceptions found in the pre-Christian religious tales … The legend is not Christian, only Christianized … In many cases, it has obviously the same origin as the myth

Why is this so? It continues, “This transference was promoted by the numerous cases in which Christian saints became the successors of local deities, and Christian worship supplanted local worship” (Vol IX: 130, 131 art. “Legends”)

5. Pagan emblems adopted

Ancient arts show that the pagans represented their deities with a drawing of halo around their heads, the same was adopted for Catholic saints.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia (XII, 963) says:

“The most common attribute, applied to all saints, is the nimbus (cloud), a luminous defined shape surrounding the head of the saint. Its origins are pre-Christian, and example are found in Hellenistic art of pagan inspiration; the halo was used as evidence in mosaics and coins, for demigods and divinities such a Neptune, Jupiter, Bacchus and in particular Apollo (god of the sun).”

The New Encyclopedia Britannica (IV:864) states:

“In Hellenistic and Roman art, the sun-god Helios and Roman emperors often appear with a crown of rays … It was not until the 6th century that the halo became customary for the Virgin Mary and other saints.”

Fredrick Goodman writes that “the circle is the most important unit in magic symbolism and in almost every case where it is used … it is intended to denote spirit or spiritual forces … and it has survived in Christian art forms as the halo – a circle of gold…” (Magic and Symbols, Brian Trodd, 1989, p. 17).

In essence, those who invoke or pray to “saints” whether in Catholicism, Santeria or Voodoo are really communing with demonic entities pretending to be “saints.”

6. Pagan temples became shrines

The Pantheon Temple still remaining in Rome is a good example of this pagan assimilation.

In pagan Rome, that temple was dedicated to “Jove and all the gods” as seen on the inscription over the portico. Pope Boniface IV ‘re-consecrated’ it to “the Virgin Mary and all the saints.” Such restoration of pagan temples was common in other places.

The Celtic goddess Brigit (renamed as “St.” Bridget) had her main pagan temple at Kildare, Ireland, served by vestal virgins who tended the sacred fires. The temple was taken over and made a Catholic convent and nuns continue to tend the sacred fire which they now call “St. Bridget’s fire” (Ethel Urlin, Festivals, Holy Days and Saints’ Days, 1915, p. 26).

“Churches or ruins of churches have been frequently found on the sites where pagan shrines or temples originally stood … It is also to some extent true that sometimes the saint whose aid was to be invoked at the Christian shrine bore some outward analogy to the deity previously hallowed in that place” (Cath. Ency. 2:44)

In other words, paganism died in a way, only to live again within Catholicism.

The very spirits the pagan world bowed to only changed their names, they are still being bowed to today in the same temples for the same ‘favours’. God wants our Catholic and Eastern Orthodox friends to renounce this false worship.