Updated: May 4, 2020
As you may have noticed, many of my posts have to do with commemorations of various saints, with little recipes I make to remind my family of a particular story, trait, or attribute of a particular saint or martyr on their feast day. I have come to love these stories of valor and virtue and I wanted to have an easy way to call them to mind so that my children to have a good example to turn to whenever difficulties in life would arise. So many of the saints found themselves in similar situations and have given us a wonderful example of how to deal with them with grace and dignity! Why not call upon their heavenly assistance? It had gotten so that whenever some challenge would arise, we would immediately know who to call upon in prayer for help and would recommend these assistants to others whenever we saw them in need. So one day, one of my students had this question:
Is praying to the saints in heaven a wholesome practice,
or is it “conjuring up the dead”?
With the Sunday of All Saints upon us, let’s take a moment to consider those soldiers who have fought the good fight and have passed on to their eternal reward.
Wouldn’t it be great to go over the battle plan with someone who has already seen the front, have fought battles of their own and who know what it takes to overcome the enemy?
Wouldn’t it be great to ask their advice and their guidance during the battles ahead?
Don't you think that the “General” would agree?
Why is it that one Church says “yes”; others say no, still others say it’s even sinful to do so?
Who is right?
Here is a re-play of a lesson that I taught my high school ECF class several years ago when the students asked me a similar series of questions.
Romans 12:4-5 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
1 Corinthians 12:11-13 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:26-27 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Romans 14:7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.
In short: Each individual soul that God created, be it in our present time, in the past, or in the future to come, is a “part” of a greater “Whole” which is the body of Christ. We are each individuals, yet we are ONE in Him, sharing joys and sorrows in Him, strengths and weaknesses in Him, and even life and death in Him.
Next, we consider this:
Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Death does not separate us from the love of Christ; we are still part of the Body of Christ even after death!
Just as our body has two parts, (physical body & spiritual soul), so too does the Body of Christ have two parts:
Earthly souls (what we call the living) and heavenly ones (those we call the dead)! There is only ONE body of Christ.
Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—
Now what, or Whom, exactly is this “Body of Christ”, you ask? St. Paul makes it very clear:
Ephesians 1:22-23 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
So now we know that the Church is the Body of Christ, and that those who belong to the church, whether alive or dead are not separated from Christ, but are members of that living Body of Christ, the Church and function through Him still! Why do many say it is not permitted for Christians to speak to the dead?
Deuteronomy 18:10-12 "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. "For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you.
To what does this passage refer? Clearly, we see that those who follow the One True God cannot be caught performing these detestable practices. Why? Because they glorify the enemy! These are his methods, NOT God’s. When a follower of the enemy “calls up the dead” he does so in a séance, to inquire things of the spirit for his own personal gain. He bypasses God in order to call a soul from beyond by himself. There is a great risk here in that no soul from heaven would dare to act without God’s permission and according to His will. After all, we are all one in Him! Which souls are free to respond? Clearly, it is only those who have already renounced His will, the minions of the enemy. Would a follower of God really wish to talk to spirits such as these?
What’s the difference here? It is this: We are ALL members of the Body of Christ, whether our earthly bodies be living or dead. Christ assures us that, if we believe in Him, we live eternally, we shall not die. Those he refers to as “dead” are dead spiritually, like those spirits spoken of in Deuteronomy whom we may not contact. Calling up the dead as referred to in the passage above is NOT the same as praying to the departed members of the Body of Christ. When we Christians petition these souls it is with the permission of God that they are free to respond to us on a spiritual level, one dictated by God, in accordance with His ways. We are not in control, they are not in control, God is in control. After all, if speaking to the dead was sinful, would Christ have done so himself as we see in the following passage?
Matthew 17:1-3 Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.
OK, so Moses and Elijah are clearly dead and Christ Himself speaks to them. But if we are free to pray to them, can they hear us? Do you remember this story?
Luke 16:19-31 "Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. "And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. "Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. "In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. "And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.' "But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 'And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.' "And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house-- for I have five brothers--in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' "But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' "But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!' "But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'"
The rich man in this parable is also dead. Yet he clearly loves those left behind on earth, and wishes to do good for them. He intercedes for them before Abraham! (Don’t forget, he cannot yet intercede before God because the Lord had not yet entered the abode of the dead!) If Christ told the story, it is factual. Souls DO love from the beyond. They DO intercede for those of us left here on earth. They are aware of our lives and events on our earth.
Revelation 6: 9-11 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.
These souls knew what was happening on earth. They cared. They are also members of the One Body of Christ, which is the Church. When they suffer, we all suffer. When they rejoice, we all rejoice. They pray for us. We can speak to them and expect them to intercede before the throne of God, where they are already standing, waiting for us to join them.