POPE JOHN PAUL II:
Addendum to Part 1: What Is a Saint?
I did not intend to wait so long before returning to my series on sainthood that I began in my first blog post back in the fall, but several things demanded my blog’s attention (such as the Red Sox winning the 2013 World Series and the Killing series of books). However, before I move on to Part 2 to consider what the Roman Catholic Church (hereafter RCC) says about miracles in relation to sainthood, I want to respond to a couple of comments on the first blog.
First, someone named Mary Graham said the following about the first blog:
“Your patent anti-Catholic bigotry is surpassed only by your lack of knowledge of Catholic religious practices. Whether this is sheer ignorance or willful misrepresentation I cannot say. I can say, unequivocally, that this falls precisely into the category of fundamentalism that Professor Crossan warns against. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6f0ZHaoSnf0”
I must point out that it is easy to say that I have a “lack of knowledge of Catholic religious practices,” but it would have been more appropriate and helpful if Mary had given specific examples. Even more to the point, I invite Mary or anyone else to point out what mistakes I made in the blog. I was very careful in documenting what I said, much of it coming from Catholic websites listed at the end of the blog. I can’t help but wonder if Mary really understands her own religion since she is charging me with errors about Catholic teachings that I documented straight from Vatican and other Catholic sources.
Even more disturbing is Mary’s inclusion of a link to a youtube video in which Catholic professor John Dominic Crossan describes (or attempts to describe) fundamentalism.
He does so by simply saying that those who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible where it can logically be understood literally are fundamentalists. Such fundamentalist ideas, Crossan claims, lead to repression of the truth when fundamentalists come to religious and political power and motivate them to eradicate those who don’t agree with them—and he uses Hitler and the Nazis as an example! This shows that Crossan doesn’t understand fundamentalism at all, which is rather ironic since Mary claims I don’t understand Catholicism. Crossan did not address anything I said in my blog in this video. His comments in this video were just a diatribe against those who take the narrative accounts in the Bible, especially the narratives in the Four Gospels, literally. Mary, did you know…that Crossan does NOT believe in the literal virgin birth of Jesus, or that Jesus performed actual miracles as described in the Four Gospels, or that Jesus arose bodily from the dead?? Crossan doesn’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection! Look up any article anywhere written by Crossan or about Crossan on this subject and that’s what you will find. And since you like youtube so much, Mary, I challenge you to listen to this debate between Crossan and evangelical scholar N. T. Wright (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWare82qcow). Wright strongly affirms and defends the bodily resurrection of Jesus, but Crossan denies it. I realize that at almost two hours this audio (not video) is quite lengthy, but it would be well worth your time to listen to what N. T. Wright says about Jesus’ resurrection.
At the beginning of this little video (about 5 minutes) that Mary referred to, Crossan claims that the account of Jesus’ resurrection appearance to the two people on the road to Emmaus teaches us that we should give people food to eat when they are hungry. No it doesn’t. The Bible does tell us that we should be involved in meeting the needs of others, but that is NOT what this passage means. This passage, like all the narratives in the Four Gospels following the accounts of Jesus’ death and burial, provides historical details that validate the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Of course, it’s not surprising that Crossan advocates another interpretation of this passage since he denies the resurrection of Jesus. And he claims those who disagree with him don’t understand the Scriptures, the very charge he makes against fundamentalists!
I wonder how Crossan explains (or explains away, since he surely does) these statements from the apostle Paul on the resurrection:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, the to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me…. Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8,12-14,17,20, ESV).
Mary, you claim that I don’t understand Catholic teaching. I’m confident that I do, but if I am in error about this, I must insist that Crossan doesn’t understand the Bible in general or the gospel itself in particular—which is far worse. Your eternal destiny depends on whether you believe the gospel of Jesus Christ as explained in the Scriptures, not on whether you believe the teachings of some heretical liberal Catholic like Crossan. Pope Francis doesn’t agree with Crossan regarding the virgin birth, miracles, or Jesus’ resurrection, and neither did Pope John Paul II for that matter. So, which of these RCC leaders are you going to believe, Mary? I suggest you believe the Scriptures.
The second comment I would like to address was from a post on someone’s Facebook page. Unfortunately, I don’t know who it was that made this comment, but his argument regarding the RCC practice of praying with the aid of dead saints goes like this: It is appropriate for us to call on these dead saints in prayer because they are in a better position to help us than we would be praying alone. Says who? The Scriptures certainly don’t say that, and the RCC practice of calling on dead saints to aid in prayer came over a thousand years after Christ and the apostles. If this is such an important part of prayer, then why didn’t Jesus and the apostles tell us this and why did it take so long for the leadership of the RCC to figure it out?? The RCC’s claim that prayer with the aid of dead saints enhances the power of prayer is in direct contradiction to what the Bible says about this. First of all, in very strong language, Scripture condemns those who attempt to communicate with the dead, a practice called necromancy. In ancient Israel, those who were guilty of such practices were to be put to death:
“There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a wizard or a necromancer, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 18:11-12a, ESV; see also Exodus 22:18,20; Leviticus 19:31; 20:6,27).
God condemns those who attempt to contact the dead and ranks them alongside those who sacrifice their children to false gods and those involved in the occult. Isaiah rebuked such people in his day as well: “And when they say to you, ‘Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,’ should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19). Isaiah means that we must pray in keeping with what God has revealed about prayer rather than basing our actions on human superstitions. The dead can do us no good. Only the crucified and risen Savior can, and it is through Him and in His name alone that we must pray.
This leads to the second point and gets to the crux of the matter: Do you believe what God has said about prayer or not? Do you believe that no one comes to God except through Jesus, through faith in Him for salvation and in the power of His name in prayer? Or do you, as the RCC and its adherents insist, believe that you must earn your salvation through good works and that you should get dead people to aid you in prayer, even though the Scriptures denounce both of these teachings? The point I made in my original blog about the sainthood of Pope John Paul II was this: Just because the Vatican declares him to be a “saint” doesn’t make it true. And I must make a similar point here: Just because the RCC declares that we can call on dead “saints” to aid us in prayer doesn’t mean it’s true.