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The Incarnation and Intercession of Saints

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Here is a response my friend Daniel Palomino gave to someone’s question on how the saints in heaven can hear us.

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“For saints in Heaven to even hear thousands of prayers going on at the same moment in time would require omniscience. I think the verse in Revelations contradicts that, because the saints in Heaven ask God “how long” will it be before they are avenged for being martyred. Think about it. Can those in heaven hear the prayers uttered without speech? Can they read minds? It is only God who knows all things, and only God can grant anyone to hear or know what the prayers are of those who pray in silence. Let’s not give the saints superhuman powers similar to omniscience. ”

First, they don’t have to be able to read minds per se, they just need to be able to receive information (which one would think the Holy Spirit is more than able to provide for those Christians, as they pray for those who are on earth).

Second omniscience would be equal to having access (immediate or distance) to all knowledge. Logically, person X in heaven would not need to be omniscience to hear multiple prayers; they would just need greater amount of comprehending capability and access to certain knowledge. One could easily have finite knowledge and access to to finite number of individuals (asking for their prayers), without entailing omniscience. An analogy: One could have a Saint demonstrate power to do a miracle (derived from God of course). One thinks of Elijah opening the Jordan River (and Elisha asking for his position 2 fold). Your statement is that for Elijah to do a miracle, he would have to be omnipotent (unlimited power). Upon reflection, one can dismiss such, since one does not need an infinite amount of power to open a river (and heck, even in the realm of cultural mediums like comics or video games, individuals do acts beyond the normal does not entail they are omnipotent or omniscience). A crude analogy, but Professor X from X-men being able to read a number of minds, does not entail omniscience.

As for Revelations contradicting it, given I think it is demonstrable that an individual need not be omniscience to hear a multiplicity of prayers, it is rather straightforward how they would lack the knowledge of when the Son will return (hence “how long” before their martyrdom is avenged). For the EO [Eastern Orthodox] at least, the Saints sharing in the properties (since properties =/= attributes) of God is not an issue, given we see “Union in Christ” through the prism of the communication (or dieification) of human nature through the Incarnation. Given we do not hold to the Reformed gloss of divine simplicity, union with the energia of God (which is not the same as the essence of the divine nature) enables one’s nature to be diefied without collapsing humanity into the divine essence (ala monophytisim). As for “superhuman powers”, James, are you a materialist? Do you not believe the Christian, in heaven, is in some sense glorified, as the Son of Man was, the first fruit of a new creation? (1 Corinthians 15:20-27)?

After Christ’s Resurrection & Ascension, does he retain the same level of ignorance in his human mind. And when he is in heaven, is he knowledgeable about the affairs of earth in his human mind, not only in factual data, but comprehension as well? And I argue, yes, given the thrust of Hebrews 4-7, he is the perfect High Priest, not only due to his divine authority (as the Logos), but his perfecting of his humanity. How can Christ intercede for us completely as a human mediator, if he was still ignorant qua his human mind of everything happening on earth let alone unable to comprehend it?

If therefore, Christ’s glorified humanity entails a human mind that has the capacity to hear and comprehend all the prayers of humanity, what does that entail then for the Saints who are in heaven currently? Outside some strong Origenist, pretty much everyone affirms the Saints are (1) not sinning in heaven (2) constantly praying for the Church at large. The issue tends to be on (2), which is whether the Saints, though praying for the creation, are knowledgeable about individual requests to them. Per a glorified humanity due to Christ’s work in the Incarnation, the Saints can not only be aware of us but also comprehend it.

The usual defense against Intercession of the Saints, is even after one says one is asking them to pray for you, they (most Protestants) will simply say it is in vain, because the Saint (1) can’t hear us due to lacking a material body (2) even if they could, how could they grasp all the request. This addresses, I think, that concern by linking it to the consubstantiality of Christ to the Saints in his glorified humanity. Ergo to argue the Saints ignorance is either to claim Christ is ignorant qua humanity or the Saints are not consusbtantial with Christ.

And I think this works well, even if one denies a communication of properties per se, and go an Owenian route that all of Christ’s divine power in his humanity came by the Holy Spirit. I think that is wrong, but assuming it is true, one can ask the same question and hold that Christ’s human mind is enlightened by the Spirit to grasp and comprehend human prayers to him. And if the Saints have the same Spirit and donum as Christ, and both humanities are the same in a glorified state, what prevents them from hearing and comprehending our prayers.

-Daniel Palomino

Further Reading: 

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One comment on “The Incarnation and Intercession of Saints

  1. Pingback: God’s Presence in Matter II: Great Cloud of Witnesses | Irish With A Tan

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This entry was posted on September 26, 2015 by in Incarnation, Saints, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , .
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