Well, well, well.
First off, some background of the discussion:
The Original Thread about St. Joe
Recent Comments on the Saint Joseph Statue, near the bottom.
Second off, A, thanks for your spirited defense of my monotheism. Ecclesiastes 4:11
Third off, Mr. B., welcome to the Grenz. You are obviously new here. I have to admit - I am so relieved that you are some random person in cyberspace who happened upon my little blog. If you had been another friend that I had offended out of my life, I am not sure I could have borne it. So many people, it seems, get so woomped up about what I do and say. It hurts so badly sometimes to have people jump to conclusions and to judge me without even the common courtesy of a conversation first.
Just a week or so ago, I had a friend ask me about why St. Joe was on my blog. I explained it to her, and she got the joke and ended up laughing along with me. It's amazing how suspending judgment lubricates relationships!
That said, here are some further thoughts.
I have deep and growing appreciation for traditions other than my own and will try to remain very slow in labeling them "idolaters." The fact of the matter is that if you add up Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican Christians, the majority of Christ-followers throughout the history of the Church have had a reverence for the saints that goes beyond anything American evangelicals have.
From my limited (and willing to be taught) understanding of the doctrine of praying to the saints, I find it intriguing but not compelling. My basic understanding is this - No person of the Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican traditions sees the saints as gods. (Set aside the question of Mary for a moment). If they did see, St. Francis or St. Joseph, for instance as gods, that would certainly be idolatry, but they don't, and so it's not.
Rather, they see the saints as having two things: 1) an area of concern, like St. Joseph has for the homeless, and 2) access to God. It seems prudent, then, to ask these saints to give voice before God to their concern.
Logically, how is this any different from any evangelical prayer meeting? I have often been asked to pray for people's needs. Why? Because, as a pastor, people think (misguidedly) that my prayers get through better than other's. If my prayers get through, how much more so would Jesus' own father?
The biblical grounding for such a practice is the language of Hebrews 11-12 and the crowd of witnesses that surrounds us on our journey of faith.
Like I said, I find this intriguing, but not compelling. What I find compelling is that there is not a single incident of imploring the saints in the Bible. And so, I don't pray to saints.
Ultimately, with all historic, orthodox Christians through the ages, I affirm the Apostles' Creed, which includes the phrase, "I believe ... in the communion of saints." (Whatever that means, right?)
All that said, let me conclude with one more comment. I don't know how to handle everyone's expectations for my life, theology, and behavior. I am sorry - more sorry than anyone knows - when I offend someone. But I cannot live with anyone as my God, but the Father who chose me. I can't follow anyone's example, but my Lord's who saved me. And I cannot have anyone's voice in my head, but the Spirit's who seals me. I am so incredibly thankful that he is more forgiving of my missteps and misspoken words than many of his children are.