Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Letham on the Intercession of Saints

I’ve now finished reading Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy: A Reformed Perspective. Although the book is a reformed perspective, as the subtitle indicates, Robert Letham it is actually very sympathetic with the Eastern church. The means that the few criticisms he does make are ones that grab the attention of the reader. However, these criticisms are not over areas one would normally expect from a reformed writer. For example, he is comparatively mild in his criticism of invoking the saints, saying that this is “an area ripe for misunderstanding on the part of the Reformed. The point is that all Christians make intercessions to the saints. It is characteristic of believers to ask others to pray to God on their behalf, to put in a word for them to Jesus Christ….This question surrounds the propriety of asking dead saints to make intercession for us to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit…. Prayers to the departed saints are wrong, not because there is anything intrinsically evil in asking saints to intercede for us but because there is no contact between us and dead saints and so they can neither hear our requests nor respond to them….while the practice is in error – and it does have serious repercussions – it is not heresy, since it does not overthrow any cardinal doctrine of the faith. In other words, if it were true and legitimate, it would not falsify the Christian faith. However, it diverts attention from Jesus Christ, who is the unshakeable source of assurance of salvation, and so can have a detrimental effect. This is evidence in the widespread popular belief that some of the saints – Mary and the martyrs – have not merely an intercessory but also a mediatorial role.”
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