Why We Don’t Pray For The Dead

Recently I came across an article written on Anglican Pastor by a fellow Anglican Priest entitled Why We Pray for the Dead.

What surprised me was not only his endorsement of the practice, but the implication behind the title that it is normal Anglican practice to do pray either for the dead or to the dead. Also there is no evidence that it was practiced by the early church, not until the middle of the second century.

Here are 10 reasons why we are not to pray for the dead:

1. There is no Scriptural support for praying to anyone other than God. None.
2.There is no Scripture support when it comes to praying to Christians who have died. None!
3. To pray to dead Christians, (asking them to intercede for us) is to give them attributes that only God has. (If every Christian prayed to dead Saints, then those dead saints must have the ability to hear all the prayers of Christians at once – this is a quality only our Triune God has).
4. Praying to dead Christians may be an ancient practice, but this does not authenticate the practice. An old error whilst old, is still an error.
5. The practice is inconsistent with the Anglican formularies.The practice was bound up with particular medieval Catholic doctrines and practices which the Reformers strongly rejected and Cranmer, having kept such prayers in the 1549 Prayer Book, removed them totally from the 1552 revision.The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is, of course, largely the text of 1552, but in one definite difference is in this prayer. Thus today, unlike in 1552, we pray:

“And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of they heavenly kingdom”.

The phrase ‘that with them’ is seized upon and taken by some to mean that we are praying for both us and the ‘departed’. But this is to distort the plain meaning of the English language and the prayer.
6. Whilst I agree that those who have died in Christ are not in Heaven,(Heaven being the place where soul and body is reunited again) but are in Hades (the place of interval), there is no need to pray for them.Those who are in paradise are walking with the King – enjoying the Lord Jesus, in his paradise with the wonderful joyous indescribable expectation of at a future point in time (when the Lord Jesus returns) of being inside the Father’s house, the place that has been reserved and prepared for them personally by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those who have died outside of Christ will be in the King’s prison segregated and separated from the Lord Jesus Christ and from his people and will suffer remorse and regret of knowing that the life that had on earth is over, and that there is no altering of their choice in life to reject the Lord Jesus Christ, and with that the horrifying, agonisingly indescribable expectation of a future point in time (when the Lord Jesus returns ) of being cast into the Father’s garbage tip, the place that has been reserved and prepared for the Devil and his angels.
Thus praying for those whom have died does nothing to alter their destination. It is fixed at death. This is why Scripture is clear that we are to pray to God for the living.
7. Whilst all Anglicans state their belief in the Communion of Saints, what we are saying is that we believe that the catholic (World-wide, universal) church is made up of a spiritual communion or fellowship of Christians, including those who are alive (sometimes referred to as “the church militant,” cf. 1 Cor. 12:1ff) and those who have died (sometimes referred to as “the church triumphant,” cf. Heb. 12:1).
Those who have died in Christ are now with Christ ,whereas those who are alive in Christ on earth worship Christ by faith. What unites us is that both are in Christ and are part of His Church. This does not give us warrant to pray for them.
8. How can such prayers be faithful to justification by grace through faith in Christ alone and the reality that “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9.27-28)?
9. The practice of praying to the dead and/or for the dead is inconsistent with not only the Scriptures, the BCP but also with the 39 Articles. (see Article XXII)

Article XXII
Of Purgatory
The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and Adoration as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

10. The Homily on Prayer also roundly condemns the practice of prayer for the dead

So in essence, praying to the dead and/or for the dead, may be an ancient practice, but it has no Scriptural support, it is inconsistent with the Scriptures, the theology of the BCP, and the 39 Articles. In fact Scripture, the theology of the BCP and the 39 Articles make it abundantly clear that we are to not pray for the dead.

Evangelising Nominal Anglicans 

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I remember years ago hearing about two twenty something Anglican Christians who as part of their church’s outreach ministry visited homes in their parish in order to invite people to their up and coming Easter Services. On one occasion they encountered an elderly lady and when the pair introduced themselves and told her that they were from the local Anglican Church she responded saying:

“What? What church? Anglican? What sort of church is that? I am not interested in you Fang-dangle Anglicans or whatever you call it. I have my own church”.

When they asked her what church she belonged to, with pride in her voice and quick as a whip she said “I belong to the Church of England”.

Working hard to contain their laughter, the pair informed the lady that Church of England had changed their name to Anglican. “When did they do that?” She piped up? And so they told her, “1981”. Her response was one of shock “Well I don’t remember that! No one told me that”.

This is a funny example of what I believe is an encounter with a nominal Anglican, that is withan individuals who identify as being Anglican but is for various reasons is disconnected from the church be it physically, relationally or doctrinally. Nominal Anglicans may believe in God, or they may not. They may be good living people. They may see the church as belonging to them even though they may rarely if ever attend. They may define being a Christian is being good to one’s neighbour, and say they are Christian, even though they don’t know or read the Scriptures and the Lord Jesus is more like a distant great Uncle than a close intimate friend. They may even attend church regularly but interpret committed Christian discipleship as extreme.

Judging by the latest census results[1] fifteen percent of the population identify as Anglicans, compared with percentage of Anglicans who are committed to being part of a Anglican faith community on Sundays, which implies that there are a large number of Nominal Anglicans.

But as interesting as it is to ponder the question of how many people there are in our diocese who identity as Anglicans yet never attend church, the more important and if may be so bold to say, urgent question that we do well to ask is this:

 How do we reach them with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ?

While I am absolutely no expert on reaching nominal Anglicans, here are some thoughts to that question:

  1. Keep preaching the whole Counsel of God – If you have a preaching ministry. Preach through the Bible, the OT, the NT, The Gospels, The Epistles. All of it. It will not only serve to ensure that your people don’t become nominal Anglicans, God has given us his promise that his Word will not return empty. If you don’t have a preaching ministry, encourage your minister to do this
  2. Keep preaching the Cross – We preach the Cross because it God’s power to save, we preach the cross because we should not assume that everyone in our parish is saved; we preach the cross because we don’t know whom may come to one of our services on any given Sunday. And we preach the cross because it will give your people confidence to invite their non-church going friends to come to church knowing that if they do come they will hear the life changing message of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus! Again, encourage your preachers do this if you do not have a preaching ministry.
  3. Don’t assume that all non church goers are rabid secularists or athiests – Yes, there are rabid secular athiests out there, but for every rabid secular atheist, you will meet people who identity themselves as Anglicans, (whether it be due to family history, a baptism, a funeral, a good experience with a previous minister or member of the Anglican Church), whom may believe in the God of the Bible and have a high regard for the Lord Jesus. Because of this, you have a point of connection.
  4. Don’t assume that your church does not have nominal Anglicans– while the majority of nominal Anglicans don’t attend church. Your parish will have nominal who dutiful attend, ranging from twice a year Easter and Christmas to monthly, and even weekly. Some may come out of duty, guilt, habit, or some may even come because they simply enjoy church and it is something that do out of habit. This is where morning tea and supper are so helpful (and important). These are wonderful opportunities to talk with nominal Anglicans about the Lord Jesus, about our faith and we are in church so we should not be shy to talk about our love for God, his Son, and/or how and why we were challenged or encouraged by the sermon, or moved by the taking Holy Communion. Nominal Anglicans don’t usually talk about such things, but your conversation with them could be the seed that God uses to germinate a saving faith in their heart.
  5. Connect without Compromise – Build bridges, our parish has a church fete which I believe is a great point of connection in our community. There are many opportunities in which we as God’s people can connect. There is of course the traditional means, Weddings and Funerals, and Baptisms (though this is a tricky one). There are also events such as  having services designed to invite those who identify as Anglicans, Come to Church Sunday Services, or Back to Church Sunday Services or a Welcome Back Sunday service. Perhaps some thinking out of the box is in order. I am working on starting something within our Op Shop called Op Chop where those who are in need can have a hair cut for $5 or $2 or $1. Even nominal Anglicans need a haircut!
  6. Don’t Hide Anglican Quirkiness – This may seem rather contentious, but there is the false theory out there that says we must make our services as appealing, as palatable and as ‘normal’ as possible in order to win the outsider. As if we are saying, “We promise this experience will be exactly what you’re used to.” If you were dating someone and your pitch to them was constantly that you were unfailingly average and totally a good fit for anyone! Your partner would never feel like you were a good fit for them specifically. And our denomination has some delightful quirks that not everyone will enjoy–but a sizable portion of the population will be able to connect with and even like and enjoy. And if we reveal those quirks boldly, well, that’s when people fall in love. Sure, some will walk but some won’t.
  7. Pray – This is the given, the non negotiable, yet so often is the one activity that we forget to do. Pray that God will enable us to build bridges with those who identify themselves as Anglicans, and that in his grace God will open their eyes to the truth that a true Anglican is one who loves and trusts in Jesus, and that they will cross the bridge.

 

[1] http://stat.data.abs.gov.au/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=ABS_CENSUS2011_B14

which says that 3, 679, 907 people identify themselves as Anglicans.

 

From the Archives – New Anglo-Fudge is the Same Old Liberal Brand

 

unknownThe Anglican Church of NZ has been deliberating over the whole same sex marriage issue for the past number of days.

In essence this motion is a fudge because:

 

  1. It is contradictory – It says:

The Church has received and articulated an understanding of intimate human relationships which it expresses through her doctrine of marriage between a man and a woman, and is life-long and monogamous. We uphold this traditional doctrine of marriage

But then says:

We recognise a diversity of voices about what constitutes a right ordered intimate relationship between two persons regardless of gender. At this time it is the will of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui to respond to what the Spirit is saying to the Church. Although we are far from unanimous in seeing the way forward, there is a broad recognition of the dynamic nature of doctrine, and the call of the prophetic word to be attentive to the movement of the Spirit

I fail to see how this motion can uphold the traditional (Biblical) doctrine of marriage and at the same time acknowledge “the dynamic nature of doctrine”.

 

  1. It is relativistic

This General Synod resolves to appoint a working group to bring and recommend to the 62nd General Synod

a. A process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is contrary to scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law, will not be required to perform any liturgy for the blessing of same-gender relationships, will continue to have integrity within the Church, and will remain compliant with the parliamentary legislation within any relevant jurisdiction;

b. A process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is consonant with scripture, doctrine, tikanga and civil law may perform a yet to be developed liturgy for blessing same-gender relationships in a manner which maintains their integrity within the Church, is compliant with the parliamentary legislation within any relevant jurisdiction, and can remain in communion under scripture, doctrine and law

So instead of acknowledging the white elephant in the room, this motion attempts to say that both views,(in spite of the fact that they are mutually incompatible with each, in spite of the fact that they both originate from different Gospels [not different understandings of the Apostolic Gospel]) are correct. This is a classic ploy of revisionists within the Anglican church who often say “All views are legitimate, what matters is that we are united as Anglicans”. Thus the term Anglican is not theologically defined.

 

  1. It’s promoting false unity – The unity promoted is not true unity, it is organisational unity that stresses unity based on the most common denominator, the thing that we can all agree on, which is “We are all Anglicans”. When the Apostle Paul writes to the church at Ephesus he says some very important things pertaining to unity. The Apostle Paul writes:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

We maintain the unity by living lives worthy of the calling that we have received. All who trust in Christ alone are called to live a holy life, called to live a blameless life (Paul says this back in 1:4), we to be humble, gentle, patience with each other, we are to be loving. This should not surprise us, after all, we are all sinful, we are all human, there are times when some will find traits in us hard and even annoying unity but we are commanded to maintain it.

But what stands out to me is that Paul exhorts the Christians at Ephesus to be eager to maintain the unity they already have, not create unity. And the unity that we are to maintain has already been established by God. And the way he established the unity it was by creating a new humanity and the way he created the new humanity was through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus propitiatory death on the cross that creates this new humanity and  it is cannot be maintained by hunting enthusiastically for the lowest common theological denominator amongst all those who profess to be Christians.

For example an ecumenical group can invite everyone of different traditions and say  “what unites us is our shared faith in God”.  It sounds lovely, but this ecumenical unity is not gospel unity. The only the former unity will be maintained is by no-one saying anything about anything because the moment they do, they offend and the unity is destroyed or they fudge it and say that both groups are correct. The Anglican Church of NZ has in essence done the latter and in either case this is not the unity that we are to maintain.

 

  1. It will not achieve what it claims it will achieve

There is an old Irish saying I heard years ago:

“Paper does not refuse ink”

One can write anything but this does always mean it matches the reality of what takes place. This motion claims that it upholds the traditional view of marriage and that the blessings that Bishop are allowed to practice are not marriage. But what will happen in my view is that these so called “blessings” will be treated like marriage.

In every denomination the process on issue of contention that liberals have wanted and been granted has led to coercion. An example of this is the ordination of women to the ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Church of Scotland. It was decided at General Assembly of the Kirk that women could be ordained to the ministry. Then the shift when from woman could be ordained to should be ordained. When the decision came to pass, the official view moved from women should be ordained to women must be ordained. Notice the process:

  1. You could

therefore…

  1. You should

therefore…

  1. You must

therefore…

 

in practice those who in good conscience do not hold to women’s ordination are excluded from discernment. There are many examples of the shift occurring within the Anglican Church. When women’s ordination came about there was the same talk from revisionists saying “oh yes, those disagree are free to disagree etc etc”. The rhetoric is the same within the C of E regarding the current debate over women being ordained to the Episcopate. But with women’s ordination there is no freedom and it is often used by revisionists bishops as a way of preventing Reformed Evangelical clergy coming into their diocese. What is the best way for a revisionist bishop to prevent a Reformed Anglican candidate being ordained/ordained clergy entering into their diocese? Ask them what they think of Women’s ordination. If they don’t agree, tell them

“Sorry I think it is God’s will that you don’t come in as it would not be a good fit for you”.

 

Fast forward four or five years. Reformed Evangelical cleric/candidate wants to enter the diocese, the revisionist Bishop asks him/her “What is your view of the practice of same sex blessings?” If the cleric candidate says they don’t agree, they are told the same thing,

“Sorry I think it is God’s will that you don’t come in as it would not be a good fit for you”.

 

All in all it is a very very sad day for the Anglican Church across the ditch as the new development is really the same old liberal Anglo-Fudge on offer, the only difference is that it comes from one of the most beautiful countries in the world.