Vs. J. Oliveira #3: Mediating Saints

Vs. J. Oliveira #3: Mediating Saints September 28, 2023
Brazilian Protestant Juan Roberto de Oliveira is the author of the book, Nenhum Caminho Leva a Roma: O pecurso até o protestantismo [No Road Leads to Rome: The Path to Protestantism]. It has no date or publisher listed. But it was “recently released.” He’s a “law graduate” and is active on Twitter (now “X”) and, especially, Instagram. When I informed Juan of my replies, he quickly wrote on Twitter: “I’ll be rebutting your rebuttals.” I wish him all the best in that endeavor. If anyone discovers that he has ever answered any of my critiques, please let me know.
His words will be in blue. Translations from the Portugese of his book will be made with Google Translate (with an occasional additional modification). I will use RSV for Bible translations.
Just as I finished my tenth installment (10-5-23), Fraternidade Newman Brasil [Newman Brazil Fraternity] published a devastatingly comprehensive (and shocking) expose entitled “Apologética da Desonestidade: Evidências de Plágio e outras Trapaças no Livro do Protestante Juan Roberto Oliveira” [Apologetics of Dishonesty: Evidence of Plagiarism and other Cheating in the Book of Protestant Juan Roberto Oliveira].
In light of this new information, this will be my last critique. It’s a shame, because I was enjoying myself so much, and I felt that I came up with some fresh arguments, but this book deserves no further response. It was already a very weak, poor volume (desperately in need of an editor), even if these factors weren’t in play. What I have written thus far has, in my opinion, value in and of itself, as a ten-part Catholic apologetics “course.” So it wasn’t a waste of time at all. But no more. I’m only interested in responding to serious, adequately researched, honest apologetics.

In 1 Timothy 2:5, it states that: “For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.” That alone should be enough to believe that only Jesus can be the mediator between God and men. (p. 14).

. . . which is why the Council of Trent, in its Decree on the Invocation, Veneration, and Relics of the Saints and On Sacred Images (3 December 1563) stated that there is “one Mediator between God and men.” But the Bible, in its typical paradoxical, Hebraic manner, also refers to many “mini-mediators”. St. Paul and others — including, potentially, we ourselves — function as “mini-mediators” of God’s grace and salvation just like Mary does:

  • “Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:16)
  • “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:8-17)
  • “For by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16; cf. Ephesians 3:2 and James 5:20)
  • “Some . . . may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1; cf. 4:10)

The Bible also teaches that we are his “co-workers” and that his works are ours and vice versa:

  • “The Lord worked with them” (Mark 16:20)
  • “We are God’s fellow workers” (1 Corinthians 3:9)
  • “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
  • “Always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
  • “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10)
  • “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you” (Philippians 2:12-13).

The saints are simply helpers or chosen vessels, just as Moses or John the Baptist or Elijah or Paul or Peter or John or anyone else was. In no way does this impinge upon God’s sole prerogatives, because He is simply using one of His creatures for His divine purposes. There is nothing intrinsically impossible, excessive, idolatrous or unbiblical in these beliefs held by Catholics through the centuries and firmly entrenched in sacred tradition. It is not an a priori impossible or implausible belief to hold, from a biblical perspective. It’s completely harmonious with Scripture. Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid wrote, in a wonderfully informative article, of the many ways in which “mini-mediators” function in the Body of Christ:

When he commanded that “supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone . . . for this is good and pleasing to God our Savior” (1 Tm 2:1, 3), Paul was calling all Christians to exercise a “mini-mediatorship” through and in Christ. After all, someone who prays, supplicates, and petitions is a go-between—a mediator who goes to God on behalf of someone else and who asks the Lord to grant blessings, healing, strength, forgiveness, or salvation. Christian mediatorship through intercessory prayer is qualitatively different from the mediatorship of Jesus, and it is only possible because Jesus is the mediator between us and the Father. By his death on the cross we can go boldly into the presence of the Father and pray, intercede, petition, and supplicate on behalf of others (Eph 2:18, 1 Tm 2:1-4, Heb 4:16).

Another reason there’s no conflict between asking fellow Christians for prayers and believing that Jesus is the one mediator between God and man is that Jesus shares his other unique roles in lesser ways with Christians:

  • Jesus is the Creator of all things (Jn 1:1-3, Col 1:16-17, Heb 1:1-2), yet when it comes to creating human life Jesus shares this role with men and women. The human soul is created by God, out of nothing, at the instant the marital union produces a new body. The Lord could have chosen to create human life, body and soul, directly and unilaterally, but he did not, preferring instead to make his role as Creator dependent in a way on human action.
  • Jesus is the shepherd of his flock the Church (Jn 10:16), yet he shares his shepherdhood in a subordinate way with others, beginning with Peter (Jn 21:15-17) and extending it later to others (Eph 4:11). It is true that Jesus says he is the only shepherd (Jn 10:11-16), yet this seemingly exclusive statement does not conflict with him making Peter shepherd over the flock (Jn 21:15-17) or with his calling others to be shepherds as well (Eph 4:11). Peter emphasizes that Jesus shares his role as shepherd with others by calling Jesus the chief shepherd, thus implying lesser shepherds (1 Pt 5:4). Note also that the Greek construction of John 10:16 ([there is] one shepherd, heis poimen) is the same as 1 Timothy 2:5 ([there is] one mediator, heis mesites). The apostles and their successors, the bishops, are truly shepherds also.
  • Jesus is the high priest of the New Covenant, eternally present before the Father, mediating his once-for-all sacrifice for our redemption (Heb 3:1, 4:14-15, 5:5-10, 7:15-26, 8:1, 9:11). But the Bible also says Christians are called to share in Christ’s priesthood (1 Pt 2:5-9; Rv 1:6, 5:10, 20:6).
  • Jesus is the supreme judge (Jn 5:27, 9:39; Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10; 2 Tm 4:1), yet Christians are called to share in Christ’s judgeship. They will be judges in heaven, even judging the angels (Mt 19:28, Lk 22:30, 1 Cor 6:2-3, Rv 20:4).
  • Jesus is the sovereign king of the universe (Mk 15:32; 1 Tm 6:15; Rv 15:3, 17:14, 19:16), but he shares his kingship with all Christians, who in heaven will wear crowns, sit on thrones, and reign as kings alongside Jesus—but always subordinate to him. Our Lord says, “I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne, as I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on his throne” (Rv 3:21). (See also Mt 19:28; Lk 22:30; Rv 1:6, 5:10).
  • Jesus forgives our sins and reconciles us to the Father (2 Cor 5:18-21), but he calls us to share in various ways in his ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation (Mt 9:5-8, 18:18; Jn 20:21-22; Acts 2:38; 2 Cor 5:18-20; Jas 5:14-15).

Clearly, no Christian can usurp Christ’s unique roles as Creator, shepherd, priest, king, judge, and reconciler, but each Christian is called to share in these roles in subordinate ways. The principle of sharing in Christ’s roles extends, in the form of intercessory prayer, to Christ’s mediatorship as well. (“Any Friend of God is a Friend of Mine,” Catholic Answers, 5-1-09)

In order for it to be possible for Mary or other “saints” to hear millions of prayers and intercede for everyone, they would have to be omniscient and omnipresent. But we know that only God/Jesus has this power.Therefore, the intercession of the saints is a heresy and is unbiblical. . . .

Now, people who have already left the earth and are in the spiritual world can never intercede for someone, because they are not omniscient or omnipresent. (pp. 14-15)

I don’t see how this follows at all based on what we know from the biblical revelation. The basic fallacy assumed without argument here is that having great (even extraordinary and/or supernatural) knowledge is the same as having all knowledge. This is simply not true. It is nothing  implausible — biblically speaking — to believe in faith that God chose to involve Mary and other saints in intercession. God can do whatever He wants! He once used a donkey to speak and express His will to Balaam. He appeared in a burning bush and in a cloud. He chose to come to earth as a baby. Why should anything He does or chooses to do surprise us, or make us wonder in befuddlement? The ending of Job makes this clear enough. His thoughts are as far above ours as the stars are above the earth (Isaiah 55:8-9).

God is sovereign over all of His creation. Literally, no one could do anything without His power. God makes it possible for Mary to hear millions of intercessory prayers and then present them to God on our behalf. No problem at all for him! It’s simply a portion of everything that He continually makes possible in every nanosecond. Paul says, “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The Bible says that Jesus is “upholding the universe by his word of power” (Hebrews 1:3) and that “in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). God gave the prophets (and Bible writers like St. John in the book of Revelation) the capability of making predictions that came true or will come true in the future.

But we are to believe that enabling and empowering saints in heaven to hear intercessions and in turn intercede for us to God is too much for God to handle, or beyond His capabilities? That’s very curious. We are “in” the Father and the Son (John 17:21; 1 John 2:24), and “in” Jesus (John 6:56; 14:20; 15:4-7; 16:33; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 4:13; Colossians 2:6-7, 10; 1 John 2:24, 28; 5:20). God is in us (1 John 3:24; 4:13, 15) and we are “in” God (Colossians 3:3; 1 John 2:5, 24; 3:6, 24; 4:13, 15). Jesus is “in” us (John 14:20).

Even beyond all this, the Bible teaches that followers of Christ would be “united with him” (Romans 6:5), “one spirit with him” (1 Corinthians 6:17), “changed into his likeness” (2 Corinthians 3:18), “filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19) and “the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13); indeed, “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

We know that God can hear simultaneous prayers because he is outside of time (a Catholic dogma). C. S. Lewis compared this to God being an author of a book and our being the characters in the book. The author can go away for two years and then come back to his book and its fictional “timeline” as if no time has passed by. That’s how God is with our prayers. He’s not constrained by time because He’s not in it in the first place, as its creator.

The question then becomes: Are we creatures also outside of time (or do we at least transcend earthly time in some fashion?) when we get to heaven and enter eternity? Many philosophers of religion have thought so, on the grounds that heavenly eternity (for creatures) is not endless succession of time, but rather, the cessation of time as we know it from a particular point forward (rather like a ray in geometry).  There are many mysteries about heaven, but who can say what it will be like — including our experience of time or lack thereof? It’s certainly possible that we could be outside of time: not eternally like God, but from the moment we get to heaven.

If human beings can invent computers that are able to produce extraordinary amounts of information and answers and solutions in a split second, is not an omniscient God great enough to enable His creatures to hear prayers in a way that transcends our earthly existence? It seems likely that heaven is a different dimension, or has more dimensions, and time is part of that framework. We know that heaven will be extraordinary and that we will have glorified bodies, and that now we only “see through a glass, darkly” as Paul stated (1 Corinthians 13:12), and that “eye has not seen” (1 Corinthians 2:9) etc. what God has prepared for us. Paul wrote how he was “caught up into Paradise” and “heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (2 Corinthians 12:3-4).

That being the case, saints hearing millions of prayers is no “problem” for God at all. It’s not by their power, but by His omnipotent power.


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Summary: An anti-Catholic throws out the “one mediator” objection and claims it’s impossible for saints to hear “millions of prayers.” I counter with scores of scriptures.

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