One of my readers wrote to me today and asked if I would briefly explain how to respond to a protestant who says that since Christ is the one mediator between God and man, going to the saints for intercession is inappropriate.
Since I’m sitting on a plane, flying home to Georgia, with little to do (except drink really bad coffee—It’s like they brewed it through a smelly sock), I thought I’d write a Socratic dialogue on the issue. Hope it helps.
Read my other socratic dialogues here.
Sam: Got a question for you, Justin. How many mediators are there between God and man?
Justin: You’re referring to 1 Timothy 2:5 where it says there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. Yes?
Sam: So your answer is one?
Justin: Well, yes. Jesus Christ is the unique mediator between God and man. Mediator with a capital “M,” you might say.
Sam: Okay. Then why do you put countless mediators between God and man? I’m talking about Mary and the saints. Are you saying those are mediators with a small “m”?
Justin: What do you think a mediator is?
Sam: A go-between. But we need no other go-between. Christ Jesus paid the debt for our sins. We have access to the Father through him!
Justin: Hmm. I would have described a mediator as one who “brings estranged parties to an amicable agreement.” That’s how The Catholic Encyclopedia puts it. And yes, Jesus Christ is the one and absolutely unique mediator who alone can reconcile us to the Father.
Sam: Okay, but what about Christ as the one mediator or God’s grace? In Hebrews chapter seven the authors speaks of Jesus acting as our one mediator at the right hand side of the Father. It says, “He always lives to make intercession for them.” Would you agree that intercessor is a synonym of mediator?
Justin: I can see how those words are used interchangeably, yes.
Sam: And yet you call upon the intercession of Mary?
Justin: I do.
Sam: And in doing so, you are rejecting Christ’s singular role as mediator. This, Justin, is blasphemy!
Justin: You are incorrect, Sam.
Sam: Oh, well, fair enough then. I’m convinced.
Justin: No, look. If you are going to accuse me of something as serious as blasphemy you better know what you’re talking about, and, quite frankly, I don’t think you do. Are you open-minded, Sam? Are you open to seeing why you’re wrong?
Sam: That felt slightly condescending, but yes.
Justin: Turn to 1 Timothy with me. You’re referencing verse five of chapter two as an argument for why Christ being our unique mediator means that only he can intercede for us to God.
Sam: Yes, and that we shouldn’t go through others like Mary and the saints to get to him.
Justin: Right, but read for me the preceding four verses that lead to that verse—verse five.
Sam: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Justin: So, according to St. Paul it is good and acceptable in the sight of God our savior that we offer intercessions for all men. Do you disagree with St. Paul? Has he got it wrong? Are these words—from verse one to four—contradicting what he’s saying in verse five?
Sam: Of course not, don’t be silly.
Justin: If I asked you to pray for me—and I already know the answer to this, but humor me—, would you?
Justin: You’d offer intercession for me?
Sam: Yes, yes, I see your point but if you thought you could only come to Christ through me, that would be horribly wrong, and yet many Catholics act as if they can only approach Christ through their rosary beads or prayers to statues.
Justin: Well, look, I’m less interested in defending how certain Catholics may misunderstand what their Church teaches than I am in defending what the Church does teach. The fact is, when we offer intercession for each other we are participating— in a lesser, subordinated way—in Christ’s unique mediator-ship. In Romans 12:4-6, it says:
“For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.”
Does Christ need to use us to mediate his grace? Absolutely not. Has he chosen to? Absolutely. Through his body, the Church.
Sam: I guess we’ll have to disagree. I see no evidence in Scripture that supports the Catholic claim that we can ask Mary of the Saints to intercede for us.
Justin: Well, perhaps we can discuss that at a later date. In the meantime, why don’t we intercede for each other that the Lord would give us his grace as we strive to seek and submit to the truth.