Zebras at a Waterhole in Okaukejo, Etosha Pan, Namibia . PHOTO : J . Rieck

Monday, September 5, 2016

Who Makes People Into Saints ?

On  this previous Sunday  (4th September 2016)  Pope Francis  declared  Mother  Teresa to be  a saint.  This  is one of the peculiar  Roman Catholic church traditions  which  simply do not  match  the Scriptures.  

As a defender  of  the authority of Scripture  alone (SOLA SCRIPTURA) I would like to help you to think  with me on this matter.  It is no small thing to substitute  the authority of the Bible for man made traditions. Jesus had  His  strongest words  reserved for those who   did this. 

According   to a Catholic website the  definitions  of a saint may embrace the following : [1]
  •         An example of holiness that we can follow with confidence.
  •         The person who kept on trying when everybody else gave up.
  •     'Spiritual force-fields', exerting a powerful attractive influence on followers but also touching the inner lives of others in ways that transform them for the better.
  •       A person who has been formally canonized (officially recognized) by the Catholic Church,    and is therefore considered to be in Heaven.
  •        A saint is always someone through whose life we learn what God is like - and of what we are    called to be. Only God 'makes' saints. The church merely identifies from time to time a few of these for imitation.
  •   Anyone who is in Heaven, whether recognized here on earth, or not (Eastern Orthodox definition)

Although  there is some truth  in  these statements, they do not  nearly match the  definition of the Bible.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE PLAINLY TEACH ?

The word "saint" is derived from a Greek verb  “hagiazo”.  The basic meaning is "to set apart" or to "make holy". The New Testament uses the word ‘ saint’  or ‘saints’  sixty seven  times. In every instance, the reference is to all believers, and not simply to  a special group of believers who serve God better than others. Scripture is clear that all  true  Christians are saints. A true Christian is one  who has  been enabled by God to  embrace Jesus Christ as  their Saviour. This is seen by  the spiritual fruit  which are  borne in such a person's life.  The  Bible says  that  a  true Christian is a saint NOW.  Our understanding of the word 'saint'  must be based on what  the Bible says. 

In  the  Old Testament  the idea of separateness or holiness was inherent in the character  of God. The Old Testament temple , and in particular the  room called  the  “Holy of holies”  was the dwelling place of God on earth, and could only be entered by  set apart (holy) priests.
The people or the worshippers  of the true God  were  likewise recognized as a holy people, who were to be distinguished    from the  other  nations surrounding them.  
This idea of the separateness of God and his people is  continued in the New Testament.  Christians   are  frequently  called saints  in the Bible  e.g.  Acts 9:13; 26:10; Rom 1:7 ; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Php. 1:1; Col 1:4. 

The important  thing  to recognize here is that  saints in the New Testament  are  living beings. Saints, in the New Testament, are never deceased individuals who have been canonized  and given sainthood by the church!  They are living individuals who have dedicated themselves to the worship and service of the one true God as revealed through his Son, Jesus Christ.

And so, the Gospel coalition (Joe Carter)  has  written a helpful article  entitled  “9 Things you should know about Mother Teresa”,   concerning  the so called  canonization of  Mother Teresa  of  Calcutta.   

You can click on this link,   https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/9-things-you-should-know-about-mother-teresa,  but for  your convenience I will  also   paste the article below:

Joe Carter  says:  
"There are two main reasons why I think evangelicals should know something about Mother Teresa: First, she remains a popular historical figure. During her life, she was named 18 times in the yearly Gallup's most admired man and woman poll as one of the 10 women around the world who Americans admired most, finishing first several times in the 1980s and 1990s. Also, in 1999, a poll of Americans ranked her first in Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century. Second, for many people Mother Teresa’s name has become synonymous with Christian charity. For these reasons we should know something about this nun from Calcutta. While we ought to recognize Mother Teresa as a laudable champion against abortion who had a fervent concern for the poor, we should also be aware of her many foibles and failings so that we can correct the perception of her as an uncriticizable Christian leader.”

 9 Things you should know about Mother Teresa

On Sunday ( 04/09/2016)  at a Roman Catholic canonization service in Vatican City, Pope Francis will declare Mother Teresa a saint. Here are nine things you should know about the Nobel-prize winning nun who became renowned for serving the poor and dying:

1. Mother Teresa was born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in 1910 in what is now part of modern Macedonia. At the age of 18 she left home to join the Sisters of Loreto, a group of nuns in Ireland. It was there she took the name Sister Mary Teresa after Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. A year later, in 1929, Mother Teresa moved to India and taught at a Catholic school for girls.

2. In 1946 Mother Teresa received what she would later describe as a “call within a call.” She said Jesus spoke to her and told her to abandon teaching to work in the slums of Calcutta aiding the city's poorest and sickest people. In 1950 she received Vatican approval for Missionaries of Charity, a group of religious sisters who took vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.” By the late 1970s, the Missionaries of the Charity had offshoots in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the United States.

3. Mother Teresa and her religious order gained international attention in 1967 when the famed journalist Malcolm Muggeridge interviewed her for a BBC TV program. Because of the popularity of the interview, Muggeridge travelled to Calcutta a year later to make a documentary, Something Beautiful for God, about Theresa's “House of the Dying” (Muggeridge would also write a book by the same name in 1971).

4. During her life Mother Teresa received more 120 prestigious awards and honors. In 1971, Paul VI conferred the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize on Mother Teresa, and in 1979 she won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee writes in their motivation: “In making the award the Norwegian Nobel Committee has expressed its recognition of Mother Teresa's work in bringing help to suffering humanity. This year the world has turned its attention to the plight of children and refugees, and these are precisely the categories for whom Mother Teresa has for many years worked so selflessly.” She also received the highest U.S. civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1985.

5. During her 1979 Nobel Prize Lecture, Mother Teresa called abortion the “greatest destroyer of peace”:
We are talking of peace. These are things that break peace, but I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing - direct murder by the mother herself. And we read in the Scripture, for God says very clearly: Even if a mother could forget her child - I will not forget you - I have carved you in the palm of my hand. We are carved in the palm of His hand, so close to Him that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God. And that is what strikes me most, the beginning of that sentence, that even if a mother could forget something impossible - but even if she could forget - I will not forget you. And today the greatest means - the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion. And we who are standing here - our parents wanted us. We would not be here if our parents would do that to us. Our children, we want them, we love them, but what of the millions. Many people are very, very concerned with the children in India, with the children in Africa where quite a number die, maybe of malnutrition, of hunger and so on, but millions are dying deliberately by the will of the mother. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today. Because if a mother can kill her own child - what is left for me to kill you and you kill me - there is nothing between.

6.  Mother Teresa was frequently denounced by secularists because of her opposition to contraception and abortion. But she was also widely criticized for her allowing her charity to provide inadequate care for the poor and for potential mismanagement of charitable funds. Although she leveraged her fame to raise tens of millions of dollars for her charity, the orphanages and care centers run by her religious order were often substandard. After visiting Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying in 1994, Robin Fox wrote about the experience in the British medical journal, The Lancet. Fox reported that doctors only occasionally visited the patients (the care was mostly provided by untrained volunteers) and that pain relief provided for the dying was inadequate, leading them to suffer unnecessarily. In 2008, another observer reported, “I was shocked to see the negligence. Needles were washed in cold water and reused and expired medicines were given to the inmates. There were people who had chance to live if given proper care.”

7. Mother Teresa has also been criticized by Christians for downplaying evangelism and espousing universalist views of salvation. For example in her book, Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations and Prayers, she says:
Our purpose is to take God and His love to the poorest of the poor, irrespective of their ethnic origin or the faith they profess. Our discernment of aid is not the belief but the necessity. We never try to convert those whom we receive to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men — simply better — we will be satisfied. It matters to the individual what church he belongs to. If that individual thinks and believes that this is the only way to God for her or him, this is the way God comes into their life — his life. If he does not know any other way and if he has no doubt so that he does not need to search then this is his way to salvation.
When a Catholic priest asked if she attempted to convert people, she reportedly answered, “Yes, I convert. I convert you to be a better Hindu, or a better Muslim, or a better Protestant, or a better Catholic, or a better Parsee, or a better Sikh, or a better Buddhist. And after you have found God, it is for you to do what God wants you to do.’ ”

8. After her death, Mother Teresa’s letters revealed that she spent almost 50 years in a crisis of faith, sometimes doubting the existence of God and frequently feeling his absence in her life. The absence began to be felt around 1948, soon after she began serving the poor in Calcutta, and would last until her death in 1997. As David Van Biema wrote in Time magazine:
In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness” and “torture” she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. “The smile,” she writes, is “a mask” or “a cloak that covers everything.” Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. “I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God–tender, personal love,” she remarks to an adviser. “If you were [there], you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.'”

9. For Mother Teresa to be recognized as a saint within the Catholic Church, she had to undergo the lengthy process of beatification and canonization. The process usually cannot be started until 5 years after the person has died, but Mother Teresa received a waiver from Pope John Paul II. Before beatification (which recognizes the person’s ability to intercede to God on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name) a person must have a verified miracle attributed to them after their death. After beatification the Church looks for a second miracle before proceeding to canonization. If one is found and they meet the other criteria, the pope can conduct a special mass at which the person is recognized a saint. The first miracle attributed to Mother Teresa involved the healing of an Indian woman, Monica Besra, whose abdominal tumor was so severe that her doctors abandoned hope of saving her. After a Miraculous Medal that had been touched to the body of Mother Teresa was placed on Besra’s stomach, the tumor reportedly disappeared. The second miracle involved a Brazilian man who reportedly was healed of a bacterial infection in the brain after he and his family prayed to Mother Teresa for her help.

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