September 30, 2020

I know this doesn’t happen, but….

praymayNo snark intended here Catholic and Orthodox friends. Just a story worth telling.

I know this doesn’t happen….but this time it did.

I’ve been teaching Ethiopian Orthodox students for most of two decades here at our ministry. We have about 20 of them a year and I get all of them who stay through graduation in my Bible survey class.

I’ve met only a handful- far less than ten- who seemed to relate to their faith as anything other than an expression of Ethiopian culture. Ethiopian Orthodoxy is coptic, very ancient, tied in deeply to the stories Ethiopians believe about the beginnings of their nation. They are very loyal to their culture, but I’ve only met a handful that could have a handful about what their faith meant to them.

Until this year. I’ve got a very vocal young lady in my advanced Bible class. She’s kept things interesting.

Ethiopian orthodoxy doesn’t accept the two natures of Christ, and we’re studying the Apostle’s Creed. She’s been all over me about how Jesus is related to God.

Today we were having a discussion on atheism and she let me know quickly that it was very wrong for anyone to have questions about God. “God doesn’t like questions.”

But her favorite subject is Mary. She’s very big on Mary. The other day she brought me a handful of material from the internet on the Ethiopian Orthodox view of Mary. I’ve promised her she’ll get her opportunity to share what she believes.

She regularly- daily- reminds me that Mary was born sinless. I think she’s detected I may be a doubter.

But the first day this came up, we had just finished praying and she interrupted me. She wanted to discuss why we weren’t praying to Mary.

“Why should we pray to Jesus when we can pray to the Mary?”

I answered with my usual profound, “What?”

“Why should we pray to God or Jesus when we can pray to the Mary. The Mary is sinless and she is the mother of Jesus. She can take our prayers to him. It’s better to pray to the Mary.”

Not wanting to get snarky, Catholic friends, but I’ve been told several dozen times that there’s no danger of this ever happening, it’s a Protestant exaggeration, etc. Sounds to me like she’s got it worked out. Why pray to the Father or Jesus when Mary can take the call?

By the way, my explanation that I don’t pray to Mary because there’s no examples in scripture of anyone praying to Mary didn’t seem to make much of an impression. But then today I learned that the Ethiopian canon has 89 books, so I may be missing something.


  1. too much. That’s a story worth telling. I’ve encountered pretty close with an aunt of mine so I can relate. 89 books… does that include the 66 books in the Old and New or is it 89 of its own?

    • It includes the standard OT, NT, Deuterocanonical books.

      Also Jubilees, 1 Enoch, …
      seems to be an official church list.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        At least it doesn’t include Late Great Planet Earth and all 22 volumes of Left Behind

        • you forgot “Spirit Controlled Temperment” and “Your Best Life Now”

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            That’s because I’m a Romish Papist who’s had run-ins with End of the World freakouts but not so much with God Made Me Rich Prosperity-Gospel types.

            I mean, I’ve seen so many fad Christian (TM) books being treated as though they belong to the canon — over and over. One year it’s the 67th+ book of the Bible (with special “Bible Studies” dedicated to it and it alone), the next year it’s forgotten and replaced with a new, later fad.

  2. I’d say this is pretty good evidence that Marian devotion, the Communion of Saints, the Immaculate Conception all predate the Council of Chalcedon of 451.

  3. Wow. I’m rather surprised that this happened. I never knew that the Ethiopian Church were such Marian Enthusiasts; generally the Orthodox Churches don’t get that label.

    I can think of a pretty good response to her statement though.

    “Why should we pray to Jesus when we can pray to the Mary?”

    Can you imagine how a husband/bridegroom would feel if his wife/fiancee never talked to him but instead spoke to him only through his mother? Where’s the intimacy and love in that?

    • If the Orthodox churches aren’t getting the Marian label, it’s because people aren’t paying attention. The EO (and the Coptic Orthodox) lack some of the dogmas about Mary that the RCC has, but the level of devotional attachment to Mary is as great as if not greater than the RCC.

      (I’m an EO sympathizer, so none of this is said maliciously.)

    • I’m RC, and I love that answer! It seems so strange to me that some Christians – or at least those who believe in prayer to saints – would willingly part themselves from prayer to God and Christ in preference for the saints. I believe the saints themselves would think its strange too! But, I understand the desire to pray to the saints AND to Jesus …

      My brother-in-law isn’t much of a believer and doesn’t have much of a spiritual life. He’s in Afghanistan right now, and every once in a while he’ll close his letters with something like, “Put in a good word with the big man for me – you’re on better terms than I am right now.” Of course we pray for him, but we also pray that he’ll pray for himself too!

      I think this is a clue to the inverse question – “Why should we pray to Mary when we can pray to Jesus?”

      The saints are already in a special relationship with the God – they are participating fully in the Trinity. When we pray to them, it is like asking a friend to pray for you; and recognizing they are on “better terms.” Of course they hear us, and of course they pray for us, but they also encourage us in our own prayers to God.

      So yeah – I don’t understand why some people would exclude one or the other.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I have long maintained that when Catholics flake out, it’s usually some form of Mary obsession/Mary channeling, but I didn’t know Ethiopian Copts flaked in the same way.

        And this is the first time I’ve heard the expression “THE Mary”. Is this Ethiopian tradition, Ethiopian language structure, or Ethiopian flake terminology?

      • The saints are already in a special relationship with the God – they are participating fully in the Trinity. When we pray to them, it is like asking a friend to pray for you; and recognizing they are on “better terms.”

        Although God was made flesh, took your sins on himself, and died for you, don’t let that make you think he’s all that inclined to hear your prayers. He’d really rather keep you at an arm’s length. Unlike God, the saints care intimately about you and are much more likely to give ear to your requests. And since God is far more interested in them than in you, he’ll listen to them. It’s really a win-win situation.


      • I do not think the caps are needed however you are wrong.

        There is absolutly a nescessity for Christians to pray for one another.

        • Absolutely we Christians should pray FOR each other, but not TO each other. Praying to the saints is like me thinking that God is more likely to hear your prayer than mine despite the fact we are saved by the same grace and the same sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. I was raised Roman Catholic,left the church and later became a true Christian by recognizing the divinity of Christ, confessing my sins to Him and asking Him to become my Lord. He is first, last and always. No one and no thing come before Him; no saint, no mother, no person. There is only one mediator between God and man: Jesus, His only begotten Son in Whom dwells all the fullness of God. (Letter to the Romans, Gospel of John, Letter to the Collosians)

  4. what if the “cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews doesn’t just refer to the preceding chapter? what if all the saints gone by cheer us on during the journey? who am i to say that one of those saints can’t sway God by mentioning what i need? who am i to say that it isn’t possible?
    now i don’t pray to Mary either, but is it really out of the realm of possibility that she or another saint couldn’t sway God for me?
    i don’t think i can make the jump that Mary was born sinless though, i’ve got nothing to say that is the case. like you though, maybe we’re all missing something in our own canon.

    • i’m not sure the question is “is it really out of the realm of possibility” as much as it is “is it really out of the realm of biblical truth”.

    • My question would be,” Who am I to say what is or isn’t possible?” Shouldn’t we all be more dependant on what Jesus actually taught rather than the various opinions espoused by others? Jesus never taught prayer to saints, angels or his mother. Isaiah says that God would send a branch out of the root of Jesse (descended from David) and that branch would walk among the people,but “they will not know me.” i.e. that branch, Jesus, is God and Israelites would not recognize His Godhood while he walked among them. Jesus taught us to pray to God. Since Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one with God and are God, despite that trintarian nonsense printed eslwhere on this blog, we pray only to Him, GOD, Whether in the form of Creator, Begotten Son also known as The Word or Holy Spirit; we are to pray only to GOD. That cloud of witnesses is just that. They are merely witnesses, observers, not manipulators.

  5. Feel free to edit if I’m knocking someone here.
    It does sound like she saw Mary as one who could “take our prayers to him”. As a non Catholic I’ve tried to appreciate the intercessory role of the saints. That some are more “saintly” and therefore more effective (worthy to be heard?) is bothersome to me.
    I love a great deal of Catholic and Orthodox spirituality throughout the churches history and have learned a lot from Saints Gregory, Antony, Theresa,etc and from writers like de Sales, Fenelon and some modern day writers.
    I stopped into a Catholic church to pray, reflect on the art and cool off ofter a very hot bike ride yesterday and happened onto a rosary service that was to begin in about 30 minutes which was prior to a Mass. I’ve enjoyed the Mass several times before (and appreciate their eucharistic theology more than what often seems a trivialization of the Lord’s supper in some protestant circles)but had never sit through a rosary service. I could not understand how person after person recited 10+ hail Mary’s to one prayer to Jesus and one Lord’s prayer. I appreciated the ritual /response and their sincerity but struggled with this experience.

    • Hey. Catholic. Hope it helps.

      During the decades (10 hail Mary’s) we’re meditating on one of twenty mysteries of the Rosary. Each rosary has five decades so we’re meditating on five mysteries, depending on the day. The four rosaries are the Sorrowful, the Joyful, the Glorious, and the Luminous mysteries. The five sorrowful mysteries are the agony of Jesus in the garden, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning of thorns, the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion. The five joyful mysteries are the annunciation, the visitation of Elizabeth, the birth of Christ, the presentation of Christ at the temple, and the finding of Jesus at the temple conversing with the Pharisees when he was a child. The glorious mysteries are the resurrection of Christ, his ascension into heaven, the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the assumption of Mary (Catholic), and the coronation of Mary (Catholic). The luminous mysteries are the baptism of Jesus, the wedding at Cana, the proclamation of the kingdom, the transfiguration, and the last supper. Anyway, we think about what these mysteries from the gospel mean while we ask Mary to pray for us. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we concentrate on the words and speak to God.

      As far as intercession goes, we ask those we know are holy to pray for us, because God hears the righteous. There’s plenty of Biblical basis for this in Moses. And as far as there being no “scriptural basis” for us asking Mary for our prayers, Jesus’s first miracle at Cana was dependent on his mother’s approval, and when he gave Mary to John and John to Mary at the cross, we understand this to be paradigmatic of the church as a whole. Not that God is dependent on ANY of his creatures for ANYTHING, but we believe that in his human nature Christ “was obedient to [his parents] in all things.” The human nature of Christ also was redeemed, or else we wouldn’t be redeemed. So I understand if Protestants don’t believe, but don’t make this out to be Catholics making things up as they go along without any basis in scripture (iMonk, I’m mainly looking at you).

      • Just tell him that the Our Father’s get the *BIG* beads.

      • Thank you for clarifying this. I’ve never heard a good explanation of the rosary or “praying to Mary” before.

      • Thank you, Daniel, for the welcome information about what is supposed to be happening during the rosary. I, being Protestant, note that two of the glorious mysteries (the assumption of Mary, the coronation of Mary) are not found anywhere in the Bible. I assume that you, being Catholic, would counter that Tradition and Scripture have equal weight and those beliefs are part of your tradition. The only chapter in Scripture that contains the phrase “the queen of heaven” is Jeremiah 44, and if you read the entire chapter, praying to her is not something I personally would want to take up. In any event, it doesn’t seem to be about Mary but about some Egyptian goddess.

        • Hahaha. Yeah, man, me neither. I read my Bible, I swear!

          Okay, well, scripture and tradition. GOOD POINT, and you’re basically right. But equal weight makes me think of two sides of a pair of scales. More like two sides of the same coin. Explaining it would be like trying to walk through a minefield, so I’ll just say this. They are very closely related. In fact, they have to echo one another. If something existed in tradition that wasn’t at least heavily hinted at in scripture then it would arouse profound suspicion in me. Some things in our understanding of tradition are just digested and logically deduced realities entirely accounted for in scripture, such as our shared belief in the Trinity, which nowhere is explicitly outlined in the Bible.

          Revelation, chapter twelve. That’s where both those mysteries are “in the Bible.” Kind of. In a “Trinity” kind of way. The woman is crowned with twelve stars. The church, of course! But also the mother actual mother of the child? If not you’re saying that it means the church and only the church, and the church birthed Christ, not the other way around. “But Revelation is extremely poetic, and all analogies limp.” But “the word of is sharper than a two-edged sword,” there’s that too. The writer put it that way for some good, Spirit-inspired reason.

          I’m not proselytizing. Lord knows these dogmas are contingent on a whole lot of interpretation, and not immediately clear or convincing. But I would personally doubt my own understanding of things if I got to say TRADITION! to account for something that isn’t even suggested in scripture.

          • The Trinity is explicitly outlined in the Bible as any good Protestant should know. The term Trinity is a theological term used to describe those teachings, but that word is not itself in the scripture. The Old Testament scriptures refer to the coming Messiah and God as being the same person numerous times. Jesus says He and the Father are one. When He stands on the rock of prophecy and says “before Abraham was I AM.” He uses the terms used by Jews for God Himself, which is why they called Him a blasphemor and sought His death. Chapter one of the Gospel of John says ” and the Word was God.” in reference to Jesus and God being one person. The Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit, a manifestation of God Himself. The Triune nature of God is not inferred it is explicit.

      • As I said, I do not see a problem with the intercessory role of the saints and agree there can be some scriptural basis for it, not to mention, a very real way they can continue to be actively involve in the “community of saints” and the ongoing mission of the church.

        I especially appreciate your explanation of what is going on in the Rosary, particularly its emphasis of reflecting on the the various mysteries in the life of Christ

        • The saints of scripture are referred to as witnesses, observers, not manipulators or interactors. There is no scriptural basis for prayer to the saints. That occured after Constantine made Christianity the stae religion of the Roman Empire. Saint worship was a mere substitute for the Caesar worship of pre-Christian Rome. that way Constantine continued to be worshiped as a saint instead of as Caesar God.

      • @Daniel –
        If Jesus “was obedient to his parents in all things” then how do you (as a Roman Catholic) explain his rejection of his mother at Capernaum, when she came to talk with him (along with his “brothers”) and he essentially disowned her? Or his first miracle, when he told her off first (calling her “woman” and letting her know that it wasn’t his job to make wine for everyone) before turning water into wine? Or the time when he was 12, when he stayed behind in Jerusalem, let his parents frantically look for him for 3 days before they found him in the temple, and then pointed out that Joesph wasn’t his real father? I’m curious how that synthesizes.

        • Good questions.

          1) Jesus “rejected” Mary only on the condition of favor for “the one who does the will of the Father.” Or however it goes. All Christians of all stripes agree that Mary was an individual of exemplary virtue and probably Jesus’s most dedicated disciple, debates of immaculate conception and complete sinlessness aside. So did he reject her? A superstitious woman was praising Mary’s breasts for nursing Jesus. Jesus made things more to the point and at the same time told us that his family included the whole human race. (I’d also like to note that there were no Hebrew words for “cousin” and that “brother” was used.)

          2) Well if it wasn’t, why’d he do it? For one thing, his mother asked him. Jesus was God, but he was human too. I’ve got a feeling neither he nor Mary were all that into wine. The wedding of Cana illustrates perfectly authentic Marian devotion. Really, all in the same instant. The instant where Mary tells the waiter, “Do whatever he tells you.” It was Mary’s call: Jesus put his actions into the hands of his mother, as it were. But what was her call? “Do whatever HE tells you.” (I’d also also like to note that while calling a woman “woman” is derogatory and insulting today, it was something of a title of respect back in the day, kind of like ma’am.)

          3) Okay. The second person of the Holy Trinity never had to become incarnated in the flesh for the sake of our salvation. ONCE HE DID, however, he could not have sinned. Maybe it sounds a bit blasphemous for me to tell Jesus what he could have and couldn’t have done, but it’s a simple logical fact. Jesus never sinned. You kind of sort of suggest that Jesus went around willy-nilly disrespecting his parents because he was entitled to because he was God. He did not, and I’m sure it had more to do with one of his Father’s ten commandments than it does any debt to his mother or his foster father. That aside, I’ll give you my ideas on why it was so important for Jesus to freak these people out. It has nothing to do with the discussion at hand, but I think it’s interesting. Now, nobody knows, in a manner of speaking, the interplay of Jesus’s two natures. How was his perception perfect in so far as he was God and how was it imperfect in so far as he had adopted our painfully limited nature? I believe that it was absolutely necessary for Jesus’s intellectual development to get a lesson on the subtleties of the Law. He was a small-town boy and this was before the internet. Those three days were his only shot at a real education, and “he grew in wisdom and grace.” But that’s just my speculation.

          4) He pointed out that Joseph wasn’t his real father because Joseph wasn’t his real father.

        • How can you as a Christian believe for one second that Christ would have sinned?

          Becuase if what you say is right and he “rejected” his mother he would of broken the commandment to honor his mother and his father which he does not. Indeed he praises her as he puts in equal footing to those that would listen to his words as his own family.

        • Jesus was obedient to His parents in all things,but one of those parents was GOD. When God’s will superceded that of Mary or His stepfather, Joseph, He chose to obey His Father, GOD.

      • The problem is that no one is holy. Scripture says all men are sinners and fall short of the Glory of God. Even Paul says of himself that all men are sinners and that among them he is chief. This is after many years of sacrifice and suffering for the Gospel. If he of all people didn’t feel it proper that he be prayed to, why should we accept a foolish teaching that arose some 800 years later?

      • The problem is your assumption that anyone is righteous. The scripture says no one is righteous,no one. That is why Christ came in the first place. He alone was righteous and able to take on the sins of others because of His sinlessness. All men are sinners and fall short of the glory of God says Paul in the letter to the Roman Christians. We are saved by Grace, the undeserved gift of a trully righteous GOD. All who are saved by grace stand in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, not their own righteousness. None of us, no matter how devout, is righteous in our own effort or being. I go through Christ because only He is truly sinless and able to stand before GOD. No one else is. Christ’s human nature did not need redeeming. The scripture says he was tempted like all men,but sinned not. If He were a sinner like other men He could not have redeemed even Himself. Because of He was guiltless, His death became the death for many instead of the deserved death of one. If He needed redeeming then the first Eucharist, the last supper for the none RC, couldnot have occurred. Even the RC catechism does not teach that Christ needed redeeming. I know because I taught both the Catechism and Confraternity of Christian Doctrine before leaving the Roman Catholic Church.

      • See my reply to Daniel’s comment on this subject. It applies to what both of you have said.

    • Also Catholic. Couple thoughts.

      Just want to note that the Rosary is not the “summit of the Christian life” in Catholic Tradition – the Eucharist is. I love the Rosary. I’ve gone thru spells of praying rosaries (every day for a while) and they’ve given me a much better appreciation of Mary as the perfect disciple. But we always know she is a disciple – all the grace and faith she enjoys is from God alone. This view is what cleared my last intellectual hurdles with the dogmas and doctrines about Mary in Catholic Tradition.

      That being said, I am also fully behind prayer, honor, and glory to Mary. I consider my grandmother Daphne a Saint-on-Earth, and to think that Mary’s humility and faithfulness surpasses even Daphne’s is personally mind-blowing. I can’t help but be in constant awe of Mary.

      • Yes, there are people who reflect great humility and holiness, but they do so because of their closeness to Christ not because of closeness to some other sinner who made good. In the Gospel Jesus does not ask if people did as well as other people orif they worshiped as many “god” people as possible. He asks if we have done His will. Have we worshiped GOD with our whole heart,mind and soul? Have we loved our neighbors as ourselves? Have we clothed the naked, fed the hungry, visited the imprisoned, cared for the sick, taken care ofthe widows and orphans? No where in scripture are we told to, suggested as an alternative or supported in prayer to anyone but GOD.

    • As a former Catholic, I agree that the traditions of the RC are interesting and the art isawe inspiring. However, it remains true that all of that is man made and not part of the teachings of Jesus the Christ. Just as Jesus was not His actual name and Christ is a Greek title. His name was actually Yeshua and Christ is the Greek for Messiah. Jesus Christ is Greek for Yeshua the Messiah which is how the early Hebrew Christians referred to Him. Even the name Christian is Greek. It is the term the Antiochans used to describe those who called themselves Followers of the Way. That is what the earliest followers of Jesus called themselves. After Constantine made Christianity a state religion in the fourth century all this other stuff got added in as a substitute for the multi god worshiping Roman past. Caesar worship became Saint worship. It took another several hundred years before Mary worship began. Scripture is unfortunately clear: worship of anyone or anything other than GOD is idolatry. Whether you worship saints,mystics, teachings or sex,money and power; it is all idolatry if it takes precedence over or is viewed as equal to worshiping GOD.

  6. An RC friend abruptly ended a discussion on the subject when I asked him if the natives in the Amazonian jungles, evangelized by Catholic missionaries could distinguish and articulate the difference between the “veneration” of Mary or worshipping her.

    • Christiane says

      Perhaps your RC friend wanted to protect Mary from possible contempt.
      I would have done the same.

      • “possible contempt”?

        I find this quote infinitely confusing.

        • Christiane says

          Think about it.

        • I’ve actually seen this. Back at a Bob Jones-style fundamentalist school back in 7th grade, I had an instructor tell us that Mary was not a virgin in a complete knee-jerk reaction to Catholic Marian veneration (I know that’s not completely correct, but it sounds fancy, right?).

          It confused us all, but like in many other subjects at that school, we were taught the Word and its proper pre-determined interpretation (e.g. 1 Cor 6:19 says NO DRINKING!), not the Word and how to interpret it in context. I got re-shocked back into place when I heard someone state the reasonable position: Mary was an excellent follower of Christ…she just wasn’t holy or God.

          Not much context required for the Virgin birth thing, though. It’s kind of there in plain language.

      • You read alot into our conversation and relationship if that is your first thought.

    • Or simply gets annoyed with people that keep asking him that. There is a limit to human patience.

      Of course they could, all they would have to do is go to a Mass. Where the body and blood of Christ not of Mary is given.

    • Of course he did. He can’t tell the difference either. Neither can most priests. I was a Roman Catholic for over twenty years. I taught the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, which is the procedure that must be followed to join the Cathoic Church. Even the documents we used confused veneration and worship. The Bible is clear that no one can intercede for us but Christ. I can pray for you. You can pray for me. Neither of us is supposed to pray to the other. We are to pray to God through Christ by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. That is the only means authorized by Christ or His disciples in the early church. The rest of this stuff was added hundreds of years later. John cared for Mary until her death, but none of his writings “venerate” her. In fact he doesn’t even mention her. He of all people would have recognized the need to “venerate” Mary, but he teaches no such thing.

  7. Scott Miller says

    You sure she isn’t a plant from the watchbloggers who are constantly monitoring you?

    Seriously though, iMonk, you are a missionary there at the school.

    • that’s hysterical Scott, you have to know there is a band of those following him. I do admire him for his ministry to those students myself and I’m glad you said as much, always enjoy hearing about his interactions here and there in the podcast and posts.

  8. Tim Van Haitsma says

    Sorta like why pray to jesus when you could just pray to god?

    • yeah, but the difference is Jesus is God, Mary is not.

      • Just to pick nits, there are very close to zero Biblical examples of praying to Jesus (as opposed to praying in the name of Jesus). My brother and I wracked our brains once and could only come up with one, and I can’t remember what it was, now.

        • true JS Bangs. But Jesus is God nonetheless and so is the Holy Spirit if we beielve in the Trinity. Pray to God the Father, I do (not nearly like I should). But that doesn’t undermine Jesus, he prayed to God the Father as well.

          • Though isn’t the Trinity itself also an extra-Biblical doctrine and belief? In fact, wasn’t the divinity of Jesus first decreed at a council hundreds of years after his death and resurrection?

            I think JS Bangs point is that beliefs can be true even if they weren’t fully understood or articulated in the Scriptures.

        • it seems to me there are constant examples of people asking Jesus for wisdom in circumstances, knowledge about situations, explanations about the kingdom, healing for their bodies, and all sorts of other things. Also, there are constant examples of people just spending time listening to Jesus, eating with Jesus, walking with Jesus. if these things are not prayer, i’m not sure what is.

        • JS, I was just listening to a bit from Wayne Grudem recently about prayers to Jesus. He lists at least 5 explicit prayers to Jesus in the NT:

          Acts 7:59; Acts 1:24; 1 Co 16:22; Rev 22:20; 2 Co 12:8

          Either way, “close to zero” is still not “zero.”

        • Stephen said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” That’s the most obvious one. There is a handful more, I think, but prayers to the Father in the name of the Son are far, far more common.

        • This is awesome and true, and points back to the casual facetiousness of having prior certainty that our prayers are being listened to by whoever we think we’re praying to – a functional difference, indeed, between playing religion (and thinking out its logical expression, theology) and living faith, and one that I think Jesus Himself tried to draw attention to throughout His ministry.

          For me, this exercise was useful-

          Put down your catechism, full of someone else’s rationales that you’re struggling to interface with, and armed only with your imagination, answer the following with whatever rules come natural to you:

          If we address a prayer for a stupid or evil thing to Mary or Zeus or the Great Pumpkin, who answers it?

          How about if we wish something good but don’t ‘pray’ it – does the God who sees in secret going to care?

  9. Ken Stoll, I will mention in passing that the “66 books” of the Bible can be found nowhere in any canonical list until the 16th century. While there are variations on which version of the septuagint (or latin translation) to use for the OT, nobody in the church used the Masoretic canon until some time into the Reformation. (Cranmer and Luther didn’t carry things quite that far. I honestly don’t recall what Calvin did.) So historically speaking, the canon of the young girl Michael describes has much deeper historical roots than anything in modern Protestantism.

    I wanted specifically to note that being in a tradition that did not accept Chalcedon does not translate into being a monophysite. (I say that because it took me some years of tracing the traditions before I began to understand that distinction.) There are actually two different ways of saying that Christ had one nature. One is the monophysite heresy that basically makes Christ half man and half God. But the other way to express ‘one nature’ in Greek and in the ancient world was miaphysite. In English, it’s still translated one nature. But it actually means one united nature. And it’s a way of saying that Christ was fully human and fully God in a single, undivided, fully united nature. The monophysite heresy which Chalcedon was addressing came on the heels of nestorianism which taught that Jesus was actually two persons, a human Jesus and a divine Christ. And there were a lot of Roman Empire politics thrown in for good measure.

    I’m not a theologian of any sort, but in recent years I do know that theologians from the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches have met a number of times and have in principle agreed every time that the Oriental teaching of a united nature and the Eastern, Chalcedonian teaching of two natures are compatible and driving at the same point, that Jesus was fully human and fully God in a single human person. There remain many issues and a schism of so many centuries is not easily healed, but they are closer now to healing it than at any point in the past.

    Michael, I have some Ethiopian acquaintances and I’m not at all surprised that a faithful girl from that culture would incline first toward asking Mary and trusting that she would then pass the prayer along to her son. I wouldn’t say that I understand the culture, because I know I really don’t. But that doesn’t surprise me. Nor do I see any real harm in it. Mary is his mother, after all. I’m not sure I can think of any reason why she would not reiterate sincere prayers to her son. Of course, he hears them anyway, regardless of where we might think we are directing them.

    Anyway, just a few thoughts that came to my mind. I will note that neither the Eastern nor the Oriental (both external labels to the traditions) would affirm Roman Catholic dogmas like the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. The first makes little sense from an Orthodox perspective. And has theological problems since it ends up eventually in the statement that Jesus did not fully share our nature. The second may be and often is commonly believed. But it is not a dogma.

  10. This is sad, but so true. I have a Catholic friend whom I am fairly certain truly accepts Christ’s role in salvation, meaning that he is the only role in salvation. Yet this friend also believes that Mary is worthy of our praise. It is a struggle for me. I want to include him as a brother because of his stance on Christ, but his views of Mary are just not Biblical.

    I’ll be interested in hearing more about this. I’ll be learning from you on this journey!

    • How come these people never venerate Joseph?

      • Whoops–they do. See below.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Ever heard of “St Joseph’s Hill of Hope”?

        It was a flake cult that originated in my old parish in SoCal. Started (as Bayside and most of them usually do) with some (normally female) “visionary” channeling Mary; ended up with a five-Person Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Mary,and Joseph) and a walled-off cult compound with strict Quiverfull dress codes and Uber-Tridentine Latin where three dioceses (Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Orange) come together.

        Officially, they got shut down around 20 years ago when the Archbishop of LA and Bishops of Orange & San Berdoo kicked them out of the churches they were using and “reassigned” the priests who sympathized to monasteries in the middle of nowhere. They then moved to their cult compound in the hills, which got described by someone who visited as “extremely paranoid” and “reminiscent of Jonestown”.

      • Ah, poor St. Joseph just doesn’t get no love!

        He has one line in the Divine Praises, and his feast day on May 1st, and he is prayed to as patron of a happy death, but in the main he is greatly overshadowed by the other members of the Holy Family.

      • Because he wasn’t a living breathing tabernacle.

    • Dan,

      see some of the other comments flying around about “non Biblical” beliefs.


  11. I respectfully submit that what has long confused me about praying to the saints is the notion that they can hear us. How does a human being after death acquire the kind of god-like ability (omniscience and omnipresence come to mind) to hear a million prayers at once? I can’t get past that.

    • Those who are in Christ shall never die thus…

      • Chad Winters says

        thus what? Thus they take on God’s omniscience and omnipresence? Your conclusion does not follow from your premise.

    • Time does not exist in eternity the way it does here. The very word means “apart from time”. God can permit them to hear whatever He wants them to hear. This does not require either omniscience or omnipresence on the part of the Saints, only of God. And to deny that God can permit this, if He so wills, is to deny His omnipotence.

      Use your imagination.

      • Thanks. Bottom line: I can’t go wrong praying only to God. Why turn to the saints when I can go directly to the One who sanctified them in the first place? Peace.

        • So, in your tradition, do you never ask your pastor to pray for you? Never ask your friends to do so?

        • Because God commanded that we should pray for one another so we do and we asks others to do so for us.

    • Same sentiment as the others. God can do whatever he wants – being God and all. 😉

      Remember that we also believe that human beings already acquire the kind of god-like ability to live after death in the first place. If we believe God can and does share his immortality to us, why couldn’t he also share his omniscience and omnipresence?

    • Revelation depicts that the prayers of the faithful are brought to the throne by the angels, before God and the choirs of angels as well as the Saints who have gone before. Union with God is a very difficult concept to imagine!

  12. I only now read some of the rest of Ken’s comments in this thread. (I had only read the first one before I wrote my comment.)

    The only thing I can really say is that if I had to choose between Ken’s God and the glimpse of the God I saw in the iMonk’s description of his Ethiopian student, I would pick her God every time. Without any hesitation.

    • not sure how our God’s differ Scott, maybe you could shed some light on that? I only know of one God and I know him by grace, so I have no patent on knowing God through Christ our Lord. If you have some corner on the market when it comes to God, please inform. I wasn’t knocking anyone, I was saying the post was one I could relate with and that Jesus is God, if you don’t agree we can do so respectfully I’d hope. I never suggested you, imonk, the student he speaks of, or I–were any better than one another. Are you suggesting something else? I’d say we are all sinners in need of mercy, and Christ help us all.

      • Actually, it was late and I was tired. And when I went back and reread the comments, I realized I had misread what you were saying. My fault. I shouldn’t comment when I’m tired.

    • Scott,

      Do I have to say anything or can we just skip it and get to the part where I say “Please interact with other commenters in a positive way if you want to continue interacting at all.”

  13. Sorry, I’m a little unclear: is the primary issue under discussion the Catholic/Orthodox explanation for how this doctrine could be taken in a direction you were told it does not take, or is the discussion geared more to the question your student asked–why pray to Jesus or the Father when we could pray to Mary?

  14. I should have married her.

  15. Oh it happens. Vatican II tried to define Marian doctrine to reign in some of the fringe groups.

    Anything can be taken to far.

  16. Many people confuse hyperdulia with worship. i have tried for years to see a difference but cannot.
    Many people in my area also pray to, yes to, not through or around SAINTS. They have one for every occasion. I was invited to join the St. Florian Society as he is the saint that watches out for firefighters. So far Jesus has taken good care of me.
    I have been told that the problem is that people are not properly catechized, but the diocese of Scranton sells a kit in the Guild, a store they have, that is guaranteed to assist in selling your house. It consists of a statue of Joseph that is to be anointed with oil and buried in the back yard. i know this to be true, i saw the directions.
    Mary worship is just the tip of the iceberg that is ripping the hull plating of the Catholic church in my area. There are many RC churches for sale as parishes are being united due to lack of funds and attendance. I wonder if there are any Josephs buried in the back yards?
    To hearken back to a recent Imonk post, Mary worship is not Gospel Centered.

    • Margaret Catherine says

      Willoh –

      Burying a statue of St. Joseph – upside down! – in the yard in order to sell your house is one of the, um, odder parts of Catholic devotion to the saints. It ranges too close to superstition for my liking, but it is still not worship.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I heard when house prices crashed and the foreclosures started piling up, Catholic stores saw a run on St Joseph statues.

      • Folk religion at its finest 🙂

        The Irish version of this is putting the Child of Prague statue out on the back doorstep when you want fine weather for a big day, usually a wedding.

        A more recent refinement on this is that the statue should have lost its head. Yeah, I dunno how that makes it more efficacious, either.

        But! It works! I can vouch for this, because I mentioned it on a Catholic blog (when we were discussing weird local traditions) and someone tried it for their wedding day and yes! fine weather 😉

        (No, I’m not seriously suggesting you buy a Child of Prague, knock his head off, and use it to foil the weather forecast).

        I do wonder if the “burying St. Joseph” thing came about through a chain of coincidence – you have statues around the house, especially ones that came down through the family, they’re going to get chipped and lose hands/heads (my Catholic confreres can bear me out on this). To dispose of a sacramental (e.g. the blessed palms from Palm Sunday) is either by burning or burying. So I’m wondering if someone buried a broken statue of St. Joseph, then managed to sell (or buy) a house immediately thereafter, and in the finest human tradition of adding 2 + 2 and getting 5, thought “Aha!”?

        • Margaret Catherine says

          Martha, I always figured that the whole ‘let’s go bury St Joseph’ thing *was* Irish. My apologies! 😀

          • Me too actually. I guess that if its Catholic and its wierd but not magical people assume that it must be Irish in nature.

      • Yes, and it’s not an authentic devotion. It’s true and it happens. Only terribly misguided Catholics do that. I think you were probably just being gracious: it’s pretty much flat-out idolatry. There’s plenty of provincialism in our outskirts and plenty of things, sadly, that “never happen,” happen. The Church opposes it, though. Don’t know what’s up with Scranton (though based on the tone and style and suspicious ignorance alongside FACTS and BIG WORDS, I wouldn’t put it past Other Guy to not quite look into the whole truth).

    • Marian *worship* no. That’s the pivotal distinction. Protestants and Catholics have both done disservice to their own faith and the faith of others by ignoring the importance of that distinction.

    • I also have not been able to discern a difference, in any practical way, between latria, dulia, hyper-dulia, veneration and worship.

      I know folks *say* there is a difference between veneration and worship. But none of what I have read has gotten the distinction across to me in any real, practical and meaningful sense.

      But, the same holds true with other theological traditions, Calvinism in particular.

      Supra-, infra- and sub-lapsarianism.
      Fore-ordination of sin, but not the author of sin.
      Single vs. double predestination
      Preterition vs. reprobation
      Ought does not imply can
      Genuine offer of gospel and total inability.
      The two wills of God

      To those insiders with special discernment , I am sure they do not see these things as inherent contradictions.
      But then, in the end, I think all of us live with some level of cognitive dissonance in our faith.

    • They have that kit at my church too.

      I’m as incredulous as you are.

  17. I, as a Catholic, am very frequently troubled by this. You’re right in pointing this out to anyone who claims “this doesn’t happen”.

    Of course it happens. It’s a real problem.

    There is actually an interesting article by Brian Harrison at Catholic Answers called “Our Silent Heresy” in which he gives evidence that some Catholics really do worship Mary. He and I, of course, deny that this is official Catholic teaching, but that’s another issue.

    • That’s okay. Some Protestants worship a being answering to the general description of Satan, but call him “God.”

      • Mal,

        What does that mean? Who is this satan-god?


        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          The Christ in Left Behind: Volumes 1-12, who gets his jollies out of blowing up the world and casting everyone except his utter syncophants (like the Author Self-Inserts) into Hell for all Eternity.

          Check Slacktivist’s Left Behind archives if you have a free day or two. (Any search on the string “slacktivist left behind” should bring it up.) He goes through the books page-by-page, and sparks a LOT of snarky commentary. Though there the comparison is more to Cthulhu than Satan — Cthulhu awakens and returns from R’lyeh to destroy the world and devour everybody except his faithful Cthulhu Cultists.

          • Headless, I thought the only perk in being a Cthulhu cultist was that you would be devoured first *before* the Really, Really Horrible Things happened to the rest of humanity? 🙂

          • HUG,

            Thanks for the clarification. I haven’t read the LB series, and I’ve never been overly interested in doing so.

            Satan might be too far (I don’t know), but at least Mal didn’t attack my people. I thought for sure this was an attack on the mean Calvinists. 🙂


          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I thought the only perk in being a Cthulhu cultist was that you would be devoured first *before* the Really, Really Horrible Things happened to the rest of humanity? — Martha

            That’s just the Cthulhuist version of Pre-Trib Rapture.

            — Campus Crusade for Cthulhu (“IT FOUND ME!”)

            (Check out the “Calls for Cthulhu” videos on YouTube or at the Calls for Cthulhu website. Great Cthulhu hosts a phone-in talk show from R’lyeh, answering phoned-in questions before Swallowing the callers’ Souls!)

          • I’m a former, but not ENTIRELY recovered, Rapturist (committed my life to Christ at age 13 after reading Hal Lindsey) and that’s not totally fair BUT not totally unfair either. The Lamb of the Apocalypse ISN’T exactly a harmless little fuzzball. *G*

            As to Cthulhu, I do have to recommend the Chick parody “Will You Be Eaten First?”- Google away!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy gets it.

      • I’m pretty convinced that the ‘almost-God’ at the head of so much Christian religious life essentially fits the description of Satan.

  18. Doesn’t surprise me one bit. I’ve seen that before in some of the Catholics I know. I never got the chance to correct the young woman who said that.

    In fact, too much emphasis on Mary has bothered me for a long time, in and out of the Catholic Church.

  19. Protestants have equal excesses, including routinely treating human beings as the equals of scriptures or even God.

  20. I’m still technically a Protestant, but I must ask how much of this has to do with the “catholicity” of the RC and EO versus the persistently schismatic tendencies of Protestantism. One born RC or EO is basically still RC or EO unless formally excommunicated, which, I think, requires doing something pretty bad. Protestants can and do, however, often take their toys and leave. Asking the begging question about whether some uneducated third world Roman Catholics worship Mary as a critique of the RC church in general is, IMHO, fairly comparable to finding an Appalachian Pentecostal snake handler and saying, “See, this is what Protestants are like.” Due to the RC and EO ecclesiology, they are stuck claiming the third world Mary worshipper, whether they like it or not. The Protestant, however, can simply use the convenient excuse of “not my denominiation” or “not my church.” The RC and EO, by their very nature, are big tents.

    As for using the third world Mary worshipper for a “slippery slope” argument about where Marian devotion can lead, we must remember that the lack of emphasis on the Incarnation in much of Protestantism (Lutherans and some Anglicans get a pass here) has led to a borderline gnosticism in many Evangelical churches.

    • Dave,

      I really like your description of the differences/similarities in the “problematic people” of both sides of the Tiber. I might use that in the future.

      What lack of emphasis on the Incarnation are you talking about? I hear this from time to time, but I’m not sure what is meant by this.



      • BJ, I don’t really have time to do this justice, and I’m just learning, but I will say that my experience of Evangelicalism have been so Penal Substitution oriented that the fact of the Incarnation is not even really considered, and the Resurrection becomes something of an afterthought. It seems Jesus came to earth just to die to appease an angry God. The incredible, amazing, mind blowing act of the infinite God condescending to unite himself with his creation was not something I had really heard taught until I started reading church history, the Early Church Fathers, and N.T. Wright. When I finally began to contemplate it, I couldn’t believe I had missed it. A focus on the Incarnation emphasizes that God, through uniting himself with his creation, has redeemed his creation (which he called “good”) and begun he gradual process of it’s restoration which will be complete when Christ returns. Irenaeus, who wrote one of Christianity’s first attempts at a systematic theology, put more emphasis on the Incarnation than the Crucifixion. Speaking of such unity, Athanasius said, “God became man so that man might become God.” “Become God” in a Mormon sense? No, but to share in the unity and divine love of the Trinity–to be united in relationship with the God who exists in relationship as his very being. Thus, an Incarnational Christianity emphasizes that God can use redeemed physical things to further his Kingdom.

        Many forms of Protestantism can be extremely logocentric– acting as if God can and does act only through the spoken and written word. This tends to create a dichotomy of “spiritual good/ material bad.” Thus, we end up with Reformers smashing out stain glassed windows and white washing church murals, and, in a more contemporary sense, Evangelical Christians saying “Who cares what we do to the environment? Jesus is coming back to destroy this world anyway!” and “low church” Christians denying that anything other than symbolism can possibly be going on in the Lord’s Supper.

        The earliest Christian controversies were not over justification, which has been the hot topic for the last several hundred years, but rather Christology. The doctrine that Christ was fully human and fully God had to be protected against a number of heresies because of it’s almost endless theological implications. The doctrine that the infinite God would unite himself with lowly man was offensive to many, even then.

        It’s impossible not to overgeneralize in such a short space and maybe even burn a few straw men, but I hope this makes some sense.

        • Dave,

          Thanks! There is a ton of stuff here that is beautifully and suscinctly put. I was actually just talking about the Trinitarian heresies last night with my family and how Evangelicals today just assume these things without giving them much thought. I have a hard time picturing a Billy Graham or Mark Driscol having a debate about how many wills Jesus had 🙂

          I agree about the logo-centrism, but I think I might question whether or not that leads to a gnostic type of mentality. I haven’t run across the extremes you mention in my circles.

          I almost think that faith-centrism might be a bigger issue, but I don’t know for sure. What I mean is that so long as “I believe in Jesus” nothing else matters. Discussing issues of the Sacraments is unimportant. Rightly defining doctrine becomes hairsplitting and pointless. Etc. This seems to overlap with a lot of the problems you address. I wonder if it does go back to the Incarnation issues or not. I’ll certainly have to think on it.



    • Well said Dave! I live a dual-tradition life as I still attend both an Emerging church with my wife, and my Catholic parish every weekend. I’ve seen dogmatic or doctrinal excesses in both.

  21. I see alot of myself in that young woman. I was raised in a Christian Church (Stone-Campbell tradition) and when I came out of High School I knew that we were right! Other Protestants might manage to squeak by and make it into heaven, but there certainly wouldn’t be many Catholics or Charismatics there. I broadened my perspective significantly through college, even though I went to one affiliated with the same movement. By the time I graduated college there was a general consensus that I was probably one quarter Catholic due to my appreciation of liturgy and monasticism.

    At this point I think the main reason I would give for not praying to Mary or any other Saint would be similar to what Joseph said above. God is both our father and our bridegroom (and I’ve got no problem with those who claim God as mother either), he loves us far more than his earthly mother does. God (all 3 of him) loves us immeasurably more than any human is even capable of.

    I also agree with those who question whether the saints could even hear prayers. I agree that God could give them that ability, but see no reason to think he would do so. I reserve omniscience and omnipresence for God alone. I don’t even see a reason to assume that Satan can hear our thoughts, which many people seem to do.

  22. This incident is not a big surprise to me. I have family members who pray to saints, Mary being the big one, who do not think they are worthy of praying directly to Father, Son or Holy Spirit. They see this behavior as humility. They interpret my behavior of praying directly to the Father in Jesus’ name as prideful. The Scripture’s examples of prayer do not hold any weight with them.

  23. I don’t see a slippery slope. I simply see a misappropriation of the tradition of Marian devotion to go exactly the opposite of what it claims to do: increase love for Jesus by way of devotion to Mary.

    Every form of devotion has its backside. Bible memorizers can become obsessive. Bible readers can worship the book. Sermon devotees can idolize men. Evangelical prayer warriors can dive into spiritual excesses of various kinds. Marian devotion can turn into what I’ve recorded here. It doesn’t render all forms of Marian devotion illegitimate per se, but I am posting this because I’m a bit weary of hearing that this doesn’t happen. It clearly does happen, and its an area where reform should happen.

    I’m delighted hear that Catholic Answers has addressed this issue.

    • It does happen. It’s a feature, I think, of old traditional religion, especially with the emphasis on God as the Judge of Doomsday and Christ as Pantocrator.

      Mary is seen as more ‘approachable’ precisely because she is human (and so understands human concerns). She is seen as the merciful mother who intercedes with her Son on behalf of those too ashamed or too afraid to approach the justly-offended majesty and justice of God.

      In a way, the mediaeval devotion to the Man of Sorrows was started to counteract this notion of the Wrathful Judge who would judge justly but strictly. There was a deliberate emphasis on the sufferings of Christ in His Passion on our behalf – that this was done through love of us and through His desire to save us (and less in the penal substitutionary atonement idea of Christ assuaging the wrath of the Father through His sacrificial death).

      Yes, Mariolatry is a problem, and I’ve seen devotion to Our Lady that went too far in attributing all graces and powers to her. But the pendulum swinging to the opposite extreme of treating her as no more than a “human incubator” is not much better.

      Ask your student to say a prayer for me, and I’ll pray today’s decade of the Rosary for her! 😉

  24. I’m sometimes not sure if we’re dealing with a reasonable and productive religious exercise that goes a bit sideways and needs reforming in some way, or a local practice that owes more to folk religion. If the latter, there’s a lot of it, in N. America included.

    Some folks might find Tim Perry’s book, “Mary for Evangelicals” (IVP, 2006) helpful for its sober and sympathetic evaluations.


  25. At the wedding feast at Cana we have a direction from Mary…
    John 2:5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
    It seemed to help when talking to the folks at home in Ireland. It at least stopped the conversation sufficiently to focus on Jesus.

    I think there is also a deeper issue of whether people want a good theology /religious debate or desire a knowledge of God that surpasses personal prejudices or preferences. Its a matter of desperation.

    We can spend alot of time with people who create distractions that keep them circling around the Kingdom of God rather than enjoying it.

  26. I find this very interesting. I assume she is a member of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Church (in distinction from the wider Coptic Church and the reformed Ethiopian Tehadeso Church).

    It’s important to note that the Coptic branch of the Orthodox Church emphasizes the divinity of Christ more than the wider church, not less. You wrote above that this young woman “doesn’t accept the two natures of Christ,” and while technically true, this is not because her church diminishes the divinity but rather just the opposite. Their rejection of Chalcedon is not a rejection of the divine nature but of the distinction between the two natures after the incarnation. The Ethiopian Coptic Church takes Cyril of Alexandria’s formula of “one incarnate nature of God the Word” very seriously. After the incarnation, the divinity and the humanity are joined to form one composite nature (as opposed to the classical Chalcedonian view that there are two natures in one person).

    It’s also important to note that while the Coptic Church is pejoratively viewed as “monophysite” in their christology, they themselves have publicly opposed the theology of Eutyches and prefer the term “miaphysite” (for a composite unity), or the more neutral term, “non-Chalcedonian.” “Tewahedo” means “made one,” which encapsulates their christology: Christ is “made one” nature from the divine and the human, and thus accomplishes everything in divine-human unity. For the Ethiopians, this is the only way to combat the heresy of Nestorian. Once you allow two natures, you almost inevitably end up with two persons, which divides the unity of Christ and undermines the ground of our redemption. (And while I consider myself Chalcedonian – though more in the vein of Maximus the Confessor – on this point, I am deeply sympathetic to the Ethiopians. It seems to me that this is a serious problem for Catholics and many Protestants.)

    Now what makes this story interesting is that while the Tewahedo Church has a miaphysite christology, they also have an extensive hierarchy of angels and saints to whom they pray (called “Kidusan”). These heavenly agents carry out the will of God and intercede on behalf of the people on earth. This only goes to show that no matter what your dogma may be, people are going to fashion their beliefs based on what the church practices. In this case, the worship of the church seems directly primarily to the Kidusan. Thus, despite a uniquely divine Christ, their liturgy points elsewhere.

    Now, I say these things not only to warn us all about how we practice our faith, but also to critique the title of this post. It’s not convincing, on any level, to lump the Ethiopian Church in with the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. They have fundamentally different christologies and only the Ethiopians have the robust network of Kidusan agents. Focusing on Mary oversimplifies matters greatly. That’s not to say there aren’t serious issues with Mariology in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. I’m certainly sympathetic with that critique. But I don’t think it’s helpful to overlook these important historical and theological differences and imply that Mariology is the same within an Ethiopian context as within a Russian Orthodox context, for example.

  27. Show her the Gospel passages wherein Jesus specifically tells His disciples to pray to the Father, not to Mary. When she protests, ask her, “So Jesus told His disciples to pray incorrectly?”

    • I think the terminology is a little confused here. When we say “pray to” the saints and/or Mary, it’s not worshiping or attributing God’s power to them. It’s the old English meaning of “pray” as in “ask.” (“I pray thee, good sir, wouldst thou be so kind as to fetch me an ale?”)

      We simply ask Mary and the saints to pray for us – to add their prayers to ours to God. It’s the same way I ask Christian friends on earth to pray for me, the way we are encouraged to do in the Scriptures. In this world or the next, we are the Body of Christ and pray for each other to edify the Body. As for those saints in heaven being able to know of our prayers, we refer to Revelation 5:8 –

      “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”

    • So, Mr. Poet, we shouldn’t pray to Jesus but only to the Father, since when He was asked to teach the disciples to pray, He taught them the Pater Noster?

      Praying to Mary as goddess – wrong. Asking Mary for prayer – better. Praying with Mary – best.

  28. If St.Peter gets, say, 10,000 prayers addressed to him each day, how does he have time to answer them? Does he even have the desire to answer them? The only way this would be possible is if he had God-like powers. From what I’ve learnt about heaven, we become perfected to God’s image, but I never understood this to mean that we get super powers.

    Secondly, when we die, we sleep, right? We all get resurected at the Last Day. So that would mean that the Saints are all currently asleep too, thus it isn’t possible for them to hear any prayers. Or do some people get to go directly to heaven while everyone else has to sleep?

    • Isn’t the doctrine of “soul sleep” one of those debatable ones which no-one has agreed on?

      We can swap verses about “falling asleep in the Lord” but that is something to be proven, not something agreed upon. If I had to answer your question “Secondly, when we die, we sleep, right?”, I’d say “Wrong.”

      • I’m not married to the belief in soul sleep, but to seems to make sense since all the dead are supposed to be resurected at the last day. if i were to die, and go to heaven, it would be weird for me then to have to leave heaven and get in a tomb to be reunited with my physical remains and then be resurected.

        I think that Vision is probably just poetic anyway and not literal.

    • Tim,

      If death is just sleep until the final resurrection, then how come Jesus said to the repentant thief, “This day, you shall be with me in Paradise”?

      I am unfamilar with the idea of soul sleep until the Last Day. Can you tell me where you got that from.

      I was always taught that our souls will be with Christ and God in heaven, and then later, we would be getting new, perfected bodies.

      • Probably because when the thief eventually wakes up in heaven on the last day, he will have perceived the passage of time as no more than a day even if it is actually thousands of years, so Jesus probably was being hyperbolic

        • Maybe Jesus was being magnanimous, and that ONE guy got to Heaven that day and the rest of Judaism and Christianity and everybody else has to wait?

          He’s God – He doesn’t make rules, He just does what He wills.

  29. The Bible I read says let US come boldly.
    I may be all f** up in my daily life, but I ain’t lettin’ ANYONE else say what I have to say to Abba. My confessions are whispered in His ear alone, and HE promised to hear me.

    I ain’t takin’ the chance if ol Ms Mary happens to be busy listening to someone else.

    • I wonder if Our Lady ever spoke Swedish?

    • MMM, the Bible you read is evidently missing a few pages.

      “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:16”

  30. I grew up in a church that beleives the pope is the antichrist, and no “Papist” practices were allowed. as a kid, I would always scoff at Catholic things and think that catholics were fooish. But since then, I have encountered many weirdnesses in Protestantism such as tv evangelists and word-of-faith, and I am embarrassed by my previous attitudes,

  31. I see this less as an Orthodox or Catholic issue and more as a universal one. Basically what is happening here is that culture and tradition are supplanting the fundamentals of what Scripture says. Nothing new about that in any branch of Christianity. And of course the job of any teacher is to gently correct the error, with an unwavering focus on Jesus. And yes, I do know that this is much easier said than done. May God grant you abundant wisdom and grace, Michael.

    • John, how do you view the teachings of the Early Church Fathers regarding Mary? From the time of the earliest followers of Jesus there was a common accepted devotion to Mary. In fact, this devotion existed before much of Scripture was even written.

      The faithful continually honored Mary and asked for her intercession for more than 1600-1700 years or so after the time of Jesus (and of course continues today among vast numbers of Christians). Even many Reformers believed in her sinlessness and exalted position among God’s creatures. How is it that we decide this doctrine is now error?

      You make it sound like Marian doctrine is simply an outgrowth of cultural norms or practices, but it was present since the beginning of the church.

  32. First let me say specifically that I do not have nearly the knowledge, training, or expertise that several commentators possess in this post. I do feel the need to add my own thoughts and experiences on this topic.

    I was raised in an United Methodist church and taught Sunday school and worked with youth, I did the same in a Nazarene church, and then in a Southern Baptist Church, I have also been a counselor in a Billy Graham crusade (yes, I’m one of those wanderers you sometimes write about). My wife was raised Missionary Baptist, and fled them before we married some 20 years ago, but nearly all of her large family remains in that tradition.

    Each group I’ve mentioned has contained some individuals who seemed to me to not have a really good handle on what they believe, or at least I was not really clear if they counted entirely on Jesus for their salvation and justification. Many (sometimes including myself) seemed to be pretty judgmental to others and particularly outspoken about why their group was correct (most correct).

    The time covered by my involvement with these different traditions is 30-plus years, I am now in my forties. I have not had the same maturity level, or understanding of many theological issues through those years. I often followed along with what the tradition I was worshiping in most emphasized, even if those topics were not very harmonious from one tradition to the next.

    Just last week I had a friend I’ve known for many years witness to me about Calvinism and how he and his brother were not actually saved while growing up in the Church of Christ as he had always assumed they were. In the Billy Graham crusade I counseled eight people, all of whom wanted assurance of their salvation after having strayed from their faith, or having undergone some very stressful situation. All eight of these were Protestant, but from seven different traditions or denominations.

    As possibly some perspective on why a young African woman might find Mary more approachable with her cares than our male attributed Godhead, I remember my wife’s fleeing from her tradition. She felt she was never valued as human being in the way her male counterparts were, and that she was very much a second-class citizen. She finds anything in Christianity that does not emphasize male qualities as appealing and “safer”. I think she might feel more comfortable talking with Mary. Now that’s just a guess on my part as she is pretty shut down to “old white guys in Charge” as she puts it to me about her experiences with Church.

    All of these theologies can be pretty complicated and confusing to folks out here who are just trying to find a way to believe and be loved ans assured. I certainly know that I a am mere fallible being, there is very little I can comprehend about a perfect transcendent being. I can’t really imagine how things function outside of time, for example. Over the years both of my parents have died, and I miss them tremendously, and theology that emphasizes their presence before the Lord in spirit until their physical bodies are resurrected is appealing to me in a way that had no meaning to me 20 years ago, just as another example of my “changeableness”.

    Michael, that’s why your “Jesus-shaped theology” strikes me as important, I think the only inkling I get of God and grace and love is through Him. Thanks for your ministry to these young people as well as us folks on the internet.

    • “In the Billy Graham crusade I counseled eight people, all of whom wanted assurance of their salvation after having strayed from their faith, or having undergone some very stressful situation. All eight of these were Protestant, but from seven different traditions or denominations.”

      I grew up believing that most Protestants were true Christians while most Catholics were merely nominal or cultural Christians — and needed to be converted to Protestantism. Since then I’ve come to see that I was mistaken.

  33. I want to shift gears just a little, but I believe it still speaks to the point.

    Do Protestants ask others to pray for them?


    Why are not my prayers sufficient for my needs before God?

    Why cannot I simply intercede for myself?

    Why do I need others to intercede for me at all?

    If you want a direct line between you and God, certainly. Then why involve other human beings in it at all?

    • well there is a big difference between asking a live person to intercede for you and asking a dead person to intercede for you

      • Oh there is not. Only atheists believe that death kills people.

        • The idea that the dead are looking out for me smacks too much of ancestor worship for my liking.

          • Christiane says

            . . . the Communion of Saints . . .
            ‘ancestor worship’ ?

            I haven’t heard that before.

          • Have to disagree there. Hebrews 12 is a cheering crowd. No command to pray to them, but c’mon. I talk to the departed all the time. So do a lot of people.

        • I think the difference would be the community aspect. Physically dead saints do not stop being saints, but they do stop being present in your life. When I ask my sister to pray for me because I am having troubles in my life, she can pray, and she can also step into my

        • I think the difference would be the community aspect. Physically dead saints do not stop being saints, but they do stop being physically present in your life. When I ask my sister to pray for me because I am having troubles in my life, she can pray, and she can also step into my physical life and help. If she prays for me aloud, I may be able to pray through her words even if I am unable to pray for myself.This doesn’t preclude asking a dead saint to help, but it gives a significant advantage to the living. 🙂

          • I like to keep things simple. For me, having faith and beleiving in Jesus is hard enough. Having to beleive in saints and Mary would just add to the load unnecessarily. If other people have enough faith to beleive in those extras, then I think that’s great and I would not begrudge them their belief in any way.

          • Tim W,

            Since I can’t reply to your post talking about having to believe in saints, I’ll do it here.

            From my stand point, it takes no more or less faith to believe in saints than it does in distant family that still knows you and loves you.

          • Hebrews 12:1 –

            “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

            We were all baptized into one body of Christ, and that body does not come apart at one’s physical death on earth.

            I love the fact that there are saints who are my brothers and sisters in the Lord and who want me to succeed in my spiritual race.

  34. After reading all these posts, I think it would be easiest for you, iMonk, if you just threaten to give her an F if she asks you any more questions. 🙂

  35. She’s a young woman in college, not a theologian. Isn’t it possible that she’s just interpreting things incorrectly, as young people are apt to do?

    If you won’t accept the words of explanation from priests, why would you accept the explanation from HER?

    • She is interpreting things incorrectly. I never implied otherwise.

      My students are in high school, btw

      • This blending of Mary and Jesus from people into doctrines makes me think..

        The older I get the more convinced I am (thanks in part to this website) that all religion doesn’t outstand folk ritual, conventional wisdom, filial piety and mere moralism – and except in its utmost verges (justified maybe deep in the monastery or fully immersed in works of love), Catholicism is still the same trap.

        It’s odd the indictment that Jesus’ life and preaching becomes, to the way of thinking that collapses God into duties and categories.

        The only way God could be real and Jesus right is if He really IS beyond, and leading us beyond, all that stuff, but I worry that our lives are already too comfortable, too soporific, too trivial, to believe that Jesus really is a way out. I worry about our faith, and watch age and comfort contort my beliefs into something culturally current and the soul in me drain out of them, and I wonder how Jesus could ever reach the hearts of so many people who claim Him but no longer have the spirit in them to regard Him with their everything. People who can tell others about Him and not ‘know’, not ourselves possess an honest faith, and thereby belie His nature. Woe to people like us, right?

        I get the feeling that the more I come to agree that Jesus was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the less I find that I believe in Him at all. Something’s wrong.

  36. Anna A :
    One’s measure of faith my vary from someone elses

  37. Why would you want the stupendous miracle of the incarnation when you can one off it with either the “Bible” (Protestants) or “Mary” (big O’s) ? 🙂

  38. Hooooly – well, Mary, Mother of God – I just sat here and read pretty much all these comments. And I did so even though I had the great foreknowledge of what would transpire therein. And so it did – not every single one, but a good many of the pet peeves about Catholicism among Protestants was drug up and splashed on the wall. And the Catholics can’t be outdone – a little throwing was going on both ways.

    Can we not just leave it at, “sure it happens, but not always, and there may well be some ‘good’ devotion or whatever you want to call it, to Mary, that might, in some odd way, lead one closer to Jesus – but yes, it happens, lots of things happen and people shouldn’t blind themselves to that. That does no one any good.” ?

    OK, probably not, but one can dream.

  39. I grew up Catholic and wondered myself about the people who emphasized their devotion to Mary. For me, it was all about Jesus though I respected Mary for being Jesus’ mom and all. But then I came to believe that for some people, they needed the “feminine” connection that they found through Mary. Mothers can understand a little bit about the profound experience that Mary must have had in bringing Jesus to birth and raising him. Men (especially maybe many Catholic priests) can have a love for Mary in a way that they perhaps they don’t know how to express to Jesus. But, it is only because they have not fully experienced and embraced the depth of love that comes from the Spirit of God. Once we are all aware of that Spirit, we will know that it it not about male or female, mother or Son, one book of the Bible over another book of the Bible. We will know that we are made in God’s image and are being conformed to God’s Spirit. In the meantime, we struggle with all these things because we cannot, like Job could not, really understand and know God.

    That’s my take on it. (Lots of comments to read after being gone to Canada for four days. Hello, everyone!)

    • Jenny Bluett says

      “But, it is only because they have not fully experienced and embraced the depth of love that comes from the Spirit of God.”

      So sorry, but I find this assertion terribly offensive, lumping thousands of priests throughout the centuries who had a deep devotion to Mary into this trite evaluation. It’s terribly glib. JPII’s motto was “totus tuus”- totally yours in reference to the Blessed Mother? Have you read anything the man wrote of the love of God?

      • Jenny Bluett says

        I am sorry the previous post carries an edge. (sigh…)

        It has been my oft experience througout the years when former Catholics, now practicing Evangelicals, make generalizations regarding aspects of the Catholic faith, it successfullly malforms many an evangelical who are ignorant of the Catholic Church, its teachings and practices. “Oh…” says the Evangelical brother or sister, “Priests love Mary because they really don’t know how to love Jesus”.

        I know that is not a direct quote, but that is what is communicated… truly.

        In a lighter tone, I would encourage you to read John Paul’s encyclicals to discover what a man (with a deep devotion to Mary) a profound understanding of the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to the faithful. This is true not only of this great pope but of many, many saints and doctors of the Church, who btw, love the Blessed Mother a whole, whole lot while obeying the first commandment with abandon vigor.

        • Jenny, I meant no offense. Notice I said “maybe” about many Catholic priests, because I really don’t know. And I am still Catholic, though probably not a “good” Catholic. And yes, I know that folks can love Mary and love God. I love Mary myself, but I don’t pray to her the way I pray to God. But like some have said here….I can ask Mary to pray for me and I can pray with Mary.

          So, please forgive my ignorance which is very great.

  40. I believe the “church victorious” prays for he “church militant”. What separates us is a thin veil; even death does not divide the church.

    Intercession is one thing – whether living or dead saints are performing the intercession. Not praying to the Father in Jesus’ name (as Christ instructed the disciples) because one doesn’t feel worthy or because others can shake down God for what you want better than you can is something else. I would beg that going to Benny Hinn for healing is the same error. But often I find myself asking someone to pray for me, because I just feel spiritually burned out or frustrated with God. I guess that is the most important time to pray.

    Luther was very fond of Mary. Protestants honored Mary long after the reformation. J.S. Bach wrote several cantatas honoring Mary, including his “Magnificat”. there’s a balance here somewhere. I would suggest “The Prymer” by Robert Webber.

  41. >”But then today I learned that the Ethiopian canon has 89 books, so I may be missing something.”

    Kevin Edgecomb of Bombaxo and Biblicalia has a nice chart comparing most of the Christian canons:

    Chart of Old Testament Biblical Canons

    >“Why should we pray to Jesus when we can pray to the Mary?”

    Out of charity, Christians are to correct error. Your student should be referred back to her catechism or bishop for clarification and correction. Its sounds as though a well meaning parent or elder may have mis-instructed her regarding Mary’s role as an Old Testament queen mother. We can argue al day regarding Catholic and Protestant beliefs regarding asking (praying to) Mary for her intercession as Queen Mother.

    > Headless Unicorn Guy says: “And this is the first time I’ve heard the expression “THE Mary”. Is this Ethiopian tradition, Ethiopian language structure, or Ethiopian flake terminology?”

    First, its never a good idea to resort to name calling (e.g, “flake”).

    Second, identifying Mary, the mother of Jesus as “THE Mary” makes very good sense as there are numerous Mary’s in scripture and the term simplifies about whom one is speaking.

    God bless…

  42. textjunkie says

    I am reminded of the old joke re: a Roman Catholic grandmother praying devoutly before a statue of Mary in a local chapel; the heavens open, Jesus from the cross starts to speak to her, and she says to him, “Hush now! Can’t you see I’m talking to your mother?”

    (or something like that 😉

    But I liked the argument that it is Christ and the Church who are bride and groom, and only talking to your mother-in-law is bad for marital bliss. 🙂