Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this installment, the Catholic apologist completes his five-chapter section on “The Saints” as he attempts to counter Protestants’ assertion that “We Are the Saints.”
The Roman Catholic church almost exclusively uses the term, “saint,” in association with those whom it officially canonizes. Canonized saints are recognized as being in Heaven and worthy of “veneration” and qualified to be intercessory mediators.
“Showing devotion and respect to Mary, the Apostles, and the martyrs, who were viewed as faithful witnesses to faith in Jesus Christ. Later, veneration was given to those who led a life of prayer and self-denial in giving witness to Christ, whose virtues were recognized and publicly proclaimed in their canonization as saints.” – from “Veneration” in the glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)
In counterpoint, evangelical Protestants cite such passages as Colossians 1:2 to show that all genuine believers are saints:
“To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”
In this verse, Paul addresses all of the born-again believers in Colossae as saints. Broussard attempts to counter Protestant objections with three arguments:
(1) Broussard begins by informing us that the Greek word used in the Septuagint and the New Testament for “saint,” hagios, means “sanctified,” “set apart,” or “holy.” He presents multiple examples from the Bible to show the word is used to signify believers, angels, and even God. Broussard concludes, “(since) there is no single biblical use of the term hagios, (that) gives Catholics some freedom to decide how they want to use the term” (p.211).
(2) Broussard then states that the Roman church readily concedes that it’s technically appropriate to categorize “all baptized Christians” as saints (CCC 1475, 948), “but it in a narrower and more formal way, the Catholic church also uses the word to refer to those individual Christians who are perfected in the heavenly kingdom” (p. 212).
(3) Broussard concludes by arguing that “it’s reasonable for the Church to use the term saint as a title of honor for those Christians in heaven because of their perfected state” (p. 212).
Let’s now respond to Broussard.
(1) It’s certainly true that the Bible uses hagios to refer to believers, angels, and God. Because of the variance in application, Broussard claims Catholicism has the “freedom” to apply the term as it sees fit. Does that rationalization hold water? Let’s continue.
(2) After having attempted to establish Catholicism’s prerogative to use hagios according to its own whims, while still conceding that the term can theoretically be used to refer to all “baptized saints,” Broussard acknowledges that the Roman church almost exclusively uses the term to refer to those it has canonized.
(3) Broussard concludes, once again, with Catholicism’s “reasonable/fitting” argument, i.e., (A) If a certain extra-Biblical theological hypothesis is reasonable and fitting (according to Catholic arguments), then (B) it is true. Hence, Roman Catholicism’s designation of super-Catholics as “saints” is deemed appropriate because the RCC says it is.
The Roman Catholic church teaches it has the God-given ability to discern if certain individuals are in Heaven and are worthy to be venerated as intercessors by the faithful. It claims to be able to make that determination via its scrupulous canonization process.* It alleges its saints obtained a place in Heaven due to sacramental grace (baptism, eucharist, confession, confirmation, last rites, marriage, ordination) and their abundant meritorious works and piety.
There is a fundamental and irreconcilable difference between the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone and Roman Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. Gospel Christians take the Biblical view, that the saints are all those who have repented of their sin and trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. The RCC’s usage of “saint,” as referring to a “Super Catholic,” aligns with and perpetuates that church’s false notion of works-righteousness salvation.
Postscript: No one is really sure how many individuals have been canonized by the Catholic church. However, the RCC states the first saint to be formally canonized was Ulrich of Augsburg in 993 AD by pope John XV. Why were no saints canonized prior to 993? Like most Catholic “sacred traditions,” this saint business evolved over time. There is no mention of canonization or praying to saints in the New Testament. Popular culture parrots the Catholic notion of “sainthood” and even believers get caught up in this error: “Sally helped me out so much. She is an absolute saint.”
What are Christian saints according to the Bible?
*The canonization process usually takes decades, if not centuries, of dogged persistence on the part of the devotees of a particular candidate. However, the RCC has shamelessly “fast tracked” famous and socially relevant personages (e.g., pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and recently, token African-American Catholics) in order to exploit their popular appeal.
Next up: “Today You Will Be with Me”