Tag Archives: saints

The Saints of old and persecuted Christians today

By Patricia Paddey

The first time I told another Evangelical I was taking a course called “The Lives of the Saints: Then and Now,” the response to my enthusiasm for my subject was less than enthusiastic. An arched eyebrow. A slight tilt of the head. A look of mild distaste. And then, a one-word reply that communicated restrained surprise. “Really?”

1868223HighResI felt properly put in my place. Evangelicals don’t, after all, venerate Saints. We don’t invoke them, or ask them to intercede for us. I know that. But does that mean we have to ignore their role in Christian history? In our history? Particularly the shared part of Christian history –when all genuine believers were truly part of “one holy, catholic and apostolic church” (to put it in the words of The Apostles’ Creed) because there was only one church.

Long before East and West went their separate ways, long before the Reformation, long, long before there were Pentecostals, Baptists, Methodists and Mennonites – there were just Christians. And Christians respected  saints.

It began with the Bible. While both Testaments refer to saints, context indicates different understandings of the term in the Old and in the New.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew words used to denote a saint imply a person who is pious, holy or godly. If Jesus ever spoke of saints, the gospels do not mention the fact. Other New Testament writers, however, refer to saints frequently, and while the Greek word they use also denotes a person who is morally blameless, consecrated or holy, context suggests that the word is used to designate believers or Christians in general. The fact that all believers were called saints during the New Testament period says more about their standing as redeemed souls (due to the saving work of Jesus Christ) than it implies about any inherent goodness on their part.
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An Evangelical Explores the Idea of Saints … and Discovers a Great One

by Patricia Paddey

“What has been will be again,
 what has been done will be done again;
 there is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9

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Joan of Arc is a saint everyone knows about. Patricia Paddey learned to appreciate her even more.

The person who penned these thoughtful words—said to have originated with “the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem”— certainly didn’t have the study of Church history in mind. But if everything old is indeed new again, then this verse hints at the truth that there are benefits to be had from digging into the past to study the lives of saints who have gone before us; lessons to be learned, examples to be followed, pitfalls to be avoided.

Evangelicals tend to be comfortable looking to the lives of biblical figures, reformation heroes and Protestant missionaries. But what about the lives of those saints who came after the Bible, but who predated the Reformation, those who might be venerated as Saints—with a capital “S”—in some quarters? It’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking that they don’t belong to us, and that their stories therefore have little to offer.

But I was reminded recently of just how powerful such stories can be when I studied the life of Joan of Arc, a fifteenth century peasant girl, who at the age of only about 17 would set out on what she believed was a mission from God to command an army, liberate her country from English occupiers and change the course of her nation’s history. At 19, she was unjustly condemned in an ecclesiastical trial and executed for heresy. Twenty-five years later the results of that trial were annulled, and a few hundred years after that, in 1920, she was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.
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