Saints

This blog has its own canonization policy: every serious Christian, whom I refer to by name in the 3rd person, is a "Saint" (e.g. St. Faraday).  I will try to give them this title on the first mention in any blog post; if I forget (or if I refer to someone without realizing they are a Christian) feel free to tell me!

This policy is inspired by how the word "saints" was used in the early church to refer to ordinary Christians, e.g. St. Paul addresses one of his letters to "the saints in Ephesus", meaning every person in the congregation.  It emphasizes the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells inside every person who gives their life over to Jesus in order to become one of his Fathers's children.

You may ask, who am I to judge whether someone is really a Christian or not?  The answer is that I am nobody, but this blog is a statement of my own personal opinions, so there.  According to St. Paul, we are responsible for judging people who claim to be in the Church, but it is none of our business to judge people outside of it.  If I do not call someone a saint, it might well still be the case that they have a holiness inside them, which I don't perceive.  That is between them and God.

The Hebrew word qadosh means something sacred which is set apart and dedicated to God's service, while the English translation holy is related to `whole' and `wholesome'.  In its most proper sense, holiness is a property of God alone, and expresses that he is Good, not just in some conscientious ethical sense, but in the sense of a numinous, awe-inspiring Otherness which, for those fortunate enough to experience it, overpowers us with its majestic glory and weightiness.   The bodies of the "saints" are living Temples in which the Holy One dwells, and we become holy in a derivative sense, sanctified because of his presence inside of us.

Imagine a pond, which has some sort of flowers growing on its surface (a little like water lilies).  Most of these flowers float aimlessly on the surface, but some of them grow stems downwards into the water.  This makes them rather awkwardly shaped at first, but when the stems reach the ground, they attach to the solid earth underneath.  From then on, the flowers share in the Solidity of the ground beneath.  They no longer drift with the surface currents, and they receive nutrients from below as well as above.  This is only an analogy, but perhaps it gives an idea of the kind of difference that holiness makes to a life.

When I call all Christians saints, this is to bring home the awareness of this astonishing fact.  It is not intended to deny that we all struggle in many ways with sin and bad habits, grieving his Spirit, and that we are therefore in constant need of forgiveness, from God and from one another.

Nor is it intended to deny that some people, because of their fellowship with Jesus, through suffering and joy, become especially holy in a way that serves as a special example of holiness to the rest of us.  I think of St. "Father John", the priest of Holy Trinity Orthodox church of Santa Fe, who cannot be in the same room with anyone without expressing deep love for them.

Nor do I mean to imply that only religious people can be ethical—if by ethics, one means a conscientious effort to be courageous, kind, honest, generous and self-controlled.  However, nonreligious people cannot be, and are not even trying to be, holy in the sense described above—unless indeed they have a relationship with God without knowing it.  (For we must never forget, that even before a person has a relationship with God, God is still having a relationship with them.  Like a host at a party, he provides them with food, drink, and entertainment, and if they happen to be ungrateful or mistreat the other guests, he takes it personally.)  For Christians, ethics comes out of holiness, because of God's love for us; it does not come out of conscientiousness.  That is the most important distinction between religious and nonreligious ethics.

Most of the above is taken from a post written on this blog's first All Saints Day.

6 Responses to Saints

  1. TY says:

    Yes, I agree with the convention of referring to a Christian in the 3rd person as a saint. In a your "Post Comment" I did address you incorrectly in the second person as St Aron. We (Anglicans) follow the same convention and have no issues referring to other Christians in the third person as saints, following the Pauline tradition.

  2. RAY TSCHORN says:

    THANK YOU

  3. Kaveh says:

    Religion has nothing to do with morality. This is a dirty myth that has been fed to many people that the foundation of true morality or ethics is god, absurd in short. In strong contrast of your point of view, I see many religious people as absolutely immoral and badly aggressive (be a Christian, Muslim ...).

    Please show me just and just one example in the whole history of religion (Christianity in your case) that people can agree on one issue, whatever?
    Attributes of allegedly mighty god? Is he in time or outside of it? Even believers can’t find a definitive and convincing answer to any question they debate about it (let alone non-believers).

    Finally a question for you Aron : can you define me in coherent and non-contradictory way the concept of god? Consider that none could do that so far.
    Looking forward to your reply

  4. Aron Wall says:

    Kaveh,
    Actually, I agree with you that many religious people are evil. (In fact, the main Christian story in the Gospels involves an atrocity being done in the name of religion.) But I fail to see why the fact that some people use religion as a cover for wrongdoing should detract from the people who are inspired by religion to do good things.

    Anyway, I will answer your questions if you answer mine:

    1. Can you define your phrase "absolutely immoral" in a way that 100% of all English-speaking adults would agree with your definition?
    2. If you are unable to give such a definition, would it follow that immorality does not exist?

  5. Kaveh says:

    Hi Aron.
    Thanks for your comments. Invoking religion as a foundation for morality as conceived by some people in order to do good things and avoid evil actions is more than welcome, I see no problem if this foundation is religion but history of religion says something completely different. Anyway I strongly believe good people are good regardless that they are religious or not.

    Absolutely in phrase (is utilized for emphasizing a fact) refers to those people whose actions devoid of any moral and ethical criteria and there are plenty of such evil people in the world. I guess every English-speaking people agree on mentioned simple definition!!

  6. Aron Wall says:

    Kaveh,
    In order to answer my question, you need to define the term "immoral" as well as the term "absolutely". Since your proposed definition of immorality itself refers to the word "moral", it is a circular definition that is of no use for deciding whether a given action is evil or not. For this reason I, an adult English speaker, do not agree with your definition and hence it doesn't meet my criterion.

    Please give me a non-circular definition of morality, one that you could use to decide whether any given act is moral or immoral, in a "coherent and non-contradictory" fashion, in such a way that 100% of adult English speakers would agree with your definition.

    Or you could admit that 100% agreement is a silly criterion to use when judging a religious tradition with over 2 billion people in it. There is not even 100% agreement by all humans that the Earth is not flat! So why would you expect people who call themsleves Christians (and anyone can call themselves a Christian if they feel like, regardless of what they believe or don't believe) to have 100% agreement on anything?

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