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Pope Francis, TMZ, and Sainthood

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Yesterday, Pope Francis celebrated a canonization mass for John Paul II and John XXIII. There was and will be a flood of glowing accounts of all three, a celebration of their humanity and accomplishments. But behind it all is the unseemly matter of celebrity sainthood in the church, and the doctrine says that some select few are guaranteed to be in heaven because of their good works, and pass along our prayers to Jesus.

It's important to grasp this: Saints are baptized, not canonized. We are all made holy by faith alone.

Read more from Dr. Brian Lee's article in The Federalist here

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  • But we have our own saints in the Reformed Tradition. No, they don't have to perform miraculous actions, but they spew miraculous words. And sometimes we canonize their words and teachings so as to inhibit people from questioning. And though they are saved by faith like the rest of us, they never lost their seat of authority for ruling over the Church.

    If we were honest, we would admit that the difference between many Roman Catholic Christians from many Christians who follow the Reformed Tradition is that while Catholics have one very powerful Pope, we have many lesser popes. And what both seem to have in common is that both communicate ex cathedra.

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  • Guest - Susan Vader

    Hello Curt,

    Once a celebrity( though I don't think he likes being thought of this way) in the Reformed Church remarked to me about the lementable position of Roman Catholics and Calvary Chapel parishoners who are left devastated when their leaders die. He was meaning that the Pope and Chuch Smith are both thought to be like Moses as leaders and have an accompanying celebrity-hood. I was really confused by that comment. Chuck Smith and the Supreme Pontiff(s) of Rome are equally non-authorities, but a Reformed denomination that only began in 1996(URCNA)and has pastors that come and go(but individually can enjoy as many years as Chuck Smith if they so desire) is a better theological/epistomological situation?

    It is my view that Reformers just aren't seeing that they are trading the pastoral leadership that belongs to the Church Christ founded for that of the 16th century leaders themselves. They have invested their entire lives fighting both Rome and broader evangelicalism because they are committed to the idea that the Reformers got the gospel right. If it is only the Reformed who can espouse what the gospel is, what in the heck happened to the idea that the gates of hell will not prevail against the truth? This would mean that only the Reformers are the locus of orthodoxy; however the Reformed don't claim to be the one true church yet paradoxically critique every other visible community according to it's own biblically derived authority.

    Anyways, if anyone really would like to be correctly informed about what it means to be a saint here are a couple of links. Employing all of "Christendom" we all should broaden one's theological concepts. Have you ever read the encyclicals of Pope Paul II? Why was all of this beauty and wisdom kept from me. I was cheated. Check out the Vatican's website.....unbelievable treasures!


    In hope for unity,


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  • Susan,
    Thank you for the thoughtful response. What I was trying to point to is that what many of the members of both Roman Catholic and Reformed traditions have in common is an addiction to authoritarianism. And so there will be some continuity in terms of how they regard their heroes.

    Though I have an overall agreement with your assessment of the Reformed vs Roman Catholic view of the gospel, I wouldn't put it in all-or-nothing terms that infer we have everything to teach and nothing to learn from our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic church. Plus, if we are to regard the body of Christ as one and, as you stated that we need to broaden our theological concepts, I think that we need more connections with those in the Roman Catholic Church and they will not be served by us having paternalistic attitudes. Just as Keller listed "blended insights" for those branches of the Church that approach cultural engagement differently, so we need to jointly work out blended insights between the Reformed and Roman Catholic traditions.

    BTW, I have read what you suggested but, as an OWS member, I have been paying attention to Pope Francis' comments on economics.

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  • Guest - Paul Swift

    Susan Vader,

    Does "we all should broaden one's theological concepts" mean that you want the anathemas of Tridentine Canons 9, 12, 14, 23, 24, 30 and 33 on Justification publicly and eternally revoked? This is not an attempt to trap you; I really want to know how you are able to reconcile those Canons with both the utterly opposed apostolic testimony recorded in the Scriptures and the fact that a very large part of "Christendom" also views them as being in error.

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  • Guest - Susan Vader

    Dear Moderator, so sorry about the length:) Hope you will still allow me through! :)

    Hello Curt,
    Totally agreed with you that each group has its heroes… which isn’t a bad thing. Since I am a person frightened of death and have weak faith, I’ve always been amazed at the heroic virtue of missionaries. When I first heard the story of Jim Elliot’s martyrdom after I became a Christian in 1984( I was 18 then and was baptized in a Southern Baptist church), I was captivated by a love for Christ and His gospel, and the people in Ecuador so great that they would put themselves in certain peril. So Jim Elliot and the four other men of Operation Auca who died by spearing that day are definitely heroes in the faith. Ministers who spend years in school and then hours studying and writing in order to preach sermons Sunday after Sunday , year after year should have high degree of respect from everyone else. Not to mention their pastoral counsel, prayers, encouragement and so forth. Even if some leaders are not as learned as others they are still inspire and encourage people in the faith. Personally I have had more benefit than loss during my stints in Christendom as I’ve trekked from non-churched to Southern Baptist to Vineyard Christian Fellowship to Calvary Chapel to Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim CA, before being received into the Roman Catholic Church through the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter just over a year ago. http://www.usordinariate.org/
    Even though I have been terribly angry about how I was treated and have felt deprived of so much of Christian tradition( prior the Reformation and after) that is rightfully mine, I am more thankful than bitter. There is still time for learning and growing in the faith.
    So every ‘group’ can have some amount of hero aspect and it is rightly placed, but every group can also have celebrities, even if those in the spotlight don’t want it and would say, “Don’t look to me, look to Christ!”. Shoot I was once pretty darned enamored with the WHI panel because I admired their learning and their faithful witness( in as much as I knew them to be faithful….they are radio personalities after all). But I also knew that they themselves wouldn’t want me to be enamored with them as personalities but only insofar as they were faithful to Christ( 1 Cor. 11:1). In other words, I loved( still do) them for the good that they possess.
    The WHI panel are “The” celebrities in the Reformed world (or much of it) though because of their learning, their wit, their charisma, and because they are the vanguard of the Modern Reformation movement and so I don’t think they can ever lose a amount of celebrity status. But make no mistake, their status just like that of Luther and Calvin, is as equal in the eyes of today’s Presbyterian and Reformed as Pope Francis’s is to Catholics….or darned close anyways.
    I disagree that either the Reformed or the RCC have an addiction to authoritarianism though. Most people are enamored with leaders because they are trusting that their leaders have ‘the’ right to lead (this is why it’s so hard to get a cult follower out and away from his faith community’s presuppositional commitments).
    Both Reformers and the RCC believe they have authority from God to decide what constitutes heresy and to pronounce as guilty whomever “formally” holds to any heresy. However, it is only by having the authority of Christ as belonging to His one Church, made wise through the power of the Holy Spirit, that is able to keep a material heretic from becoming one formally. Reformers have many many doctrines correct but they are in error about others, and this is why they cannot be considered even ‘a’ true church. This is oxymoron. Before the Reformation an indefinite article never preceded the word “church”. Only the one, holy, catholic and apostolic has the right to say what is heresy and who is therefore called anathema.
    Speaking of Jim Elliot here is his Catholic brother-in law Thomas Howard from his book, On Being Catholic:
    “If we wish to forego any connection with this lineage( as unbroken Apostolic succession never departing from truth at any time), then we find ourselves obliged either to link ourselves with the Montanists, the Marcionites, or the Nicolaitans or to postulate some fugitive network of assemblies of which there is no record. That is, we must identify either with heresy or with a lacuna in the record.”
    For the scriptures don’t say which visible body is vested with invisible authority. To be sola scripturally consistent we would have to grant that Brian Brodersen has the same ecclesiastical authority as Rod Rosenbladt. Even Calvary Chapel parishioners are Trinitarian, so even they are not truly mere “solo scriptura” Christians as Reformers like to argue, but are also “sola scriptura” Christians like you and I are.
    There is just no way to challenge “Biblical authority” among rivaling communities vying for biblical authority. “Traditionally” speaking though, the Reformers do have more quantitative authority, not because they are the ontological locus of what is orthodoxy and hence have rightful authority, but because they have more correct truths than some others groups. They cannot have authority of a ministerial kind( whatever that means in practice when they excommunicate) because even that has to come from a higher authority, and if that authority does not come from outside( extra) the scriptures, then they are again simply on par with the other solo scriptura communities. Any authority that they have is because all truth that they profess, and hold others to( and they have more truths than the even more diluted “we teach just the bible” communities), in as far as they agree with Rome, are getting it from the fount of Truth. I mean if you follow back enough you find that the Word become flesh precedes the New Testament. This position though puts equal impetus on the Reformed because, to the Catholic, you are not more Catholic than your evangelical brothers.

    To Paul:

    Bryan Cross has recently been addressing your question exactly. This is how I reconcile the Sixth Session of Trent.
    Here you go:

    Anyways, I appreciate being able to voice my thoughts here on this site. As iron sharpens iron…

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  • Guest - Susan Vader

    Corrections. The parenthesis within the quote by Howard is mine. Also the last line should not say,
    "This position though puts equal impetus on the Reformed because, to the Catholic, you are not more Catholic than your evangelical brothers"

    but rather

    "This position though puts equal impetus on the Reformed because, to the Roman Catholic, you are only more Catholic than your evangelical brothers."

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  • Susan,
    I am not against heroes or authority figures as much as I am against the authoritarianism that sometimes follows. With authoritarianism, truth is determined by credentials rather than fact and logic. And with authoritarianism, we are reluctant to consider what those from outside our circle of heroes are saying and that is either because they lack the credentials or we are afraid of giving them credentials by agreeing.

    Note that rejecting authoritarianism is not the same as rejecting the authority of a person who as expertise or power. To use a secular example, I remember Noam Chomsky responding to a student who call him his hero. Chomsky replied by saying that we don't need heroes, we need ideas. We should partially incorporate this idea when we accept the authority of expertise or power of our theological favorites.

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  • Guest - Susan

    Oops, my comment was nixed! Perhaps it was accidental( there's often some glitch), but I wrote it on a word doc. so I can repost. Sorry about the legth, but I feel it is all important:) After this I won't be posting anymore. I think I've overstayed my welcome. Praying for the safety of all those in harms way of those fires in San Diego County. God keep you safe.

    The point I was trying to make is for Protestant’s, of any tradition, to say that Rome’s canonization of saints is celebrity worship is a red herring. Historically the church of the Hebrews remembered their saints…Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and in the early Christian Church the martyred saints were remembered and their remains put under altars(Rev. 6:9). During Mass we invocate the saints(Orate pro nobis) and the litany follows where Mary, Angels, Patriarchs, Prophets, Disciples, and saints are named. https://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/Litanies/saints.htm This is sacred tradition and not something spiritually neutral.
    There shouldn’t be any criticism from the Reformed about how the Roman Catholic Church operates because the Roman Catholic Church never claimed to be subordinate to scripture. This doesn’t mean that scripture isn’t held as sacred being inspired by God; the Catholic Church of course believes this too( reading it, preaching from it and copying it since the beginning), but it is only part of the deposit of faith( albeit HUGE part). To show you what I mean, consider the rubric of the Mass and the Divine Office. These are two things that the Catholic Church that has that has come from the ancient church but were not drawn explicitly from scripture. They might have been (and probably were) formulated from scripture though. In fact, Protestantism has changed or dropped many things that belong properly to true Christianity, coming from scripture. For instance, if you were to ask a Catholic to show you the sacrifice of the Mass from scripture he would point out that Melchizedek ‘s “proferre”-ing of the real food of bread and wine in Genesis 14:18 is a prototype of Jesus’ offering of Himself at the Last Supper when He instituted the New Covenant. I never understood what was happening when Abram met Melchizedek until I became Catholic . If perpetual sacrifices of the New Covenant have to be made, it now makes sense why priests and altars are still needed. Jesus is a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek( Psalms 109:4; Heb. 5:5, 7:1) by his Divine calling and is still in heaven making intercession for us. Our celebration of the perpetual sacrifice of the mass that happens every single day, here in time and space, goes hand –in-hand with His perpetual intercession, and so is not just a memorial, as you already know. But it is so sublime and so holy that it is fitting that those men who perform it have to be priests by the Sacrament of Holy Orders(ordo sacerdotalis) because that is the only way to obtain spiritual power to perform the ecclesiastical service of this mystery.

    The Reformed claim that they have biblical authority to judge what I have tried to explain above( even calling it idolatrous); but since biblical authority cannot be substantiated when there are so many other groups that claim the authority from the very same source and since this is the way church operated prior the Reformation, it appears that Protestantism has not been vested with authority.

    Authority itself isn’t a problem for any Christian because God gave authority to His Church. Who else are we to submit to because they watch out for our souls….thieves, robbers, and hirelings? It’s just a matter of finding out which visible community is vested with that authority. And until Jesus stands upon this earth again Himself, authority is only given to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic body of Christ, that is both a divine and human reality.
    Now authority and authoritarianism are completely different things. I had an authoritarian earthly father, however his paternal authority over me was still something that existed. It was his distorted representation of fatherhood that caused problems, and so much hurt. The true body of Christ is a Divine organism and has wheat and tares , but that doesn’t change the fact that church is still our mother, outside of which there is no salvation.

    For more reading: https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/euchc4.htm


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