Saintless Christianity

dutchmasterWhat would Christianity mean if there were no saints?

To rephrase the question: What would be the meaning of the Christian gospel if there were no wonderworkers, no people who had been transfigured with the Divine Light, no clairvoyant prophets, no healers, no people who had raised the dead, no ascetics living alone in the deserts for years on end, no beacons of radical, all-forgiving love? 

What would be the meaning of the Christian gospel if there were no wonderworking relics, no true Body and Blood of Christ, no true Baptism in the death and resurrection of Christ? What if there were no weeping icons?

Fr Stephen Freeman has a look. Well written and insightful, as always.


5 thoughts on “Saintless Christianity

  1. I read some of Fr. Stephen Freeman’s blog years back now. A former Anglican himself as I remember? But this piece is surely ad hoc (for this specific purpose…) His supposition is to pronounce his view of Eastern Orthodoxy, and the attack is always toward the Reformation! But
    does John Calvin teach a “Saintless Christianity”? Anyone that has read Calvin’s works, surely knows this is simply not his position! For beginners to Calvin, let me recommend the edited book by Donald McKim: The Cambridge Companion to John Calvin, (352 pages, and in paperback since 2008). See the nice chapter # 8: Calvin on piety, by Joel Beeke. As he quotes the great John T. McNeill, “His (Calvin’s) theology is…”piety described at length.” (Cited in John Hesselink, “The Development and Purpose of Calvin’s Institutes,”)

    Btw, I don’t think we want a war here, i.e. a theological one! But I can try to bring one, if needed? The Reformed relish such, and usually do very well! 😉 But, in the end, it is “Christ Jesus” we should seek to glorify! And that is itself a grand desire! 🙂

    “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” (St. Paul, Phil. 3: 7-9, NIV, 2011)…and of course verses 10 & 11! (Which I won’t quote for brevity).

    1. I should at least quote Paul’s 1 Cor. 1: 2, it is an awful myth to state that the Reformed and Reformational Christians don’t believe in “saints”!

      “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called TO BE his holy people (saints), together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus – their Lord and ours.” (NIV, 2011, emphasis mine)

    2. “…in the end, it is “Christ Jesus” we should seek to glorify!” – as in–“Father Glorify Thy Son so that Thy Son may Glorify Thee”! BUT do WE really Live and Pray that way, down to the very core of our being?! Is that not what Fr. Stephen F. is truly getting at? Is that not what transforms our world and in turn the world around us – the ‘stigmatized Christian’ – the difference between the “saint” and the “sinner”?!

      1. @Margaret: Indeed I won’t labor my answer to this great issue on this blog, since this is a High Church very friendly place. And Fr. Stephen F.’s blog was not fully quoted. But of course his polemic nature of the question of “saints”, in the negative in this blog piece towards the Reformation and the Reformed is quite easily negated if we are going to be biblically lead! Again, the Text quoted in 1 Cor. 1: 2 is quite the hammer blow to any idea of canonical or ordered special “saints”. Again, the Text in Corinthians (1: 2) simply does not allow for such! “To the church (literally assembly), thus “the People…of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling (and place)”… (Hagiazo, or hagioi, the Greek verb) is speaking of every believer ‘In Christ’! Thus sainthood, or sanctification, is not an attainment, but the state into which God, in grace calls all sinful men and women, and which they “begin” their course as Christians, Col. 3: 12 ; Heb. 3: 1. Thank God for His simple biblical & theological clarity!

        *And note here “sanctified” is used here, as in 1 Cor. 6: 11, in full connection with being/were “justified in the name of Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” And as the Greek Aorist here, it is “Having done,” or “Having been.” (Participle Perfect). Thus salvation here is seen as “Having done and doing”, the two signs combined…”sanctified and justified”!

      2. Just a quick PS… The above obviously sustains the Justification and the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness to the elect (chosen) redeemed! (Romans 4) Here too we see the Active and Passive Obedience of Christ. These are of course part of the biblical and theological terminology of the Reformed and Reformational Theology! Let me recommend for the theological students here, Cornelis Venema’s book: The Gospel Of Free Acceptance In Christ, (The Banner Of Truth Trust, 2006). The true Saint is also always a Sinner in this life, but he/she stands ‘In Christ’ even now before the Throne fully forgiven and fully redeemed! (Jude 1:1 ; 24-25)

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