Argument for Veneration of Saints & Angels from Prohibition of Blasphemy

Argument for Veneration of Saints & Angels from Prohibition of Blasphemy August 8, 2015
Vision of Cornelius the Centurion (1664) by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout  (1621-1674) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

The Bible looks negatively on what it describes as “blasphemy” — not just against God, but against holy persons or those set apart for His purposes (Moses: Acts 6:11; St. Paul: Acts 13:45; 18:6; saints in heaven: Rev 13:6; Christians in general: 1 Pet 4:4), and against angels (2 Pet 2:10; Jude 8; Rev 13:6). The same words for blasphemy are used for men, angels, and God.

This is because these men and angels serve as His messengers (2 Cor 8:23), direct representatives (Matt 10:40; Lk 10:16; Jn 13:20), ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20; Eph 6:20; Phlm 1:9), or witnesses (Jn 15:27; 19:35; 21:24; Acts 1:8; 2:32; 3:15; 10:39-41; 23:11; 1 Pet 5:1; Rev 1:2; 6:9). Indeed, Christians are even described as “fellow workers” with Him (1 Cor 3:9; 2 Cor 6:1; Phil 2:12-13). The Church is equated with Jesus Himself (both being persecuted in the same actions: Acts 26:11, 14-15), and there is also an identification of the Church “Body of Christ” with Christ Himself (1 Cor 12:27; Eph 1:22-23; 5:30; Col 1:24).

The aspect of divinization, or theosis, is a biblical motif of very close identification and union with God:

Acts 17:28 (RSV) for ‘In him we live and move and have our being‘: . . .

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Ephesians 3:19 . . . to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.

Ephesians 4:13 . . . mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, [4] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.

In other words, the key is affinity with, or closeness; proximity to God. Just as God can be blasphemed, in a lesser but still very real sense, so can His ambassadors and witnesses. There is the primary Being: God, and the secondary ones: His vessels. They reflect and represent God; therefore, as such, people can scorn and reject and blaspheme them just as they do God.

It seems to straightforwardly follow, then, by analogy, that if a rejection or blasphemy of God can be expressed via an essentially lesser but connected rejection or blasphemy of His ambassadors (the lesser vessel being in close affinity with the greater source), by the same token and principle and logic, conversely, the worship of God can be expressed via an essentially lesser but connected  veneration of His ambassadors.

In this manner, the wider application of blasphemy in Scripture to creatures suggests by symmetrical analogy, a wider application of honoring: expressed in veneration of creatures, which is distinct (but not altogether disconnected) from the adoration that God alone is entitled to, as Creator. The creatures reflect the Creator like the painting reflects the painter, or moonlight, the sunlight that is the source of it.

Moreover, we see that the Bible refers blasphemy of men almost solely to the most eminent of God’s followers (Paul, Moses, and perfected saints in heaven): and angels even higher in the scale of things. Thus, by analogy, the relatively greater veneration would be towards those who had attained a higher holiness and sanctity; hence in the Bible we see a differential “system” of blasphemy / veneration not unlike how the Catholic Church ranks lesser and greater saints, with the greater receiving more veneration.

Lastly, the biblical data about blasphemy of immaterial holy things (the gospel, Christian doctrine, the law, the Temple) leads to the opposite analogy of reverence of those same holy things and places (“The Holy Bible”: as even Protestants call it; the Holy Land, icons, Church sanctuaries, statues representing saints, etc.). The essential and fundamental, presuppositional  principles of all these things are clearly laid down in the Bible, if not explicitly in every jot and tittle.


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