[For Lutherans] Early Church condemning invocation of the Saints?

I know that Lutherans are forbidden to pray to saints because of their official interpretation of the Bible in the Book of Concord; but, were there church fathers at all who condemned this practice and agreed to the interpretation of the Lutherans on the scriptures?

I haven’t found any. And us Lutherans tend to forget that Luther held on to Mariology and sought her intercessions.

Guess it was abandoned down the years because it looked “too Catholic.”



Probably the closest thing would be the iconoclasm heresy of the 8th and 9th centuries.

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It is not forbidden.

The points of the Augsburg and the Apology are these:

  1. that scripture provides no command, promise or example.

Moreover, even supposing that the saints pray for the Church ever so much, [10]](http://bookofconcord.org/defense_20_saints.php#para10) yet it does not follow that they are to be invoked; although our Confession affirms only this, that Scripture does not teach the invocation of the saints, or that we are to ask the saints for aid. But since neither a command, nor a promise, nor an example can be produced from the Scriptures concerning the invocation of saints, it follows that conscience can have nothing concerning this invocation that is certain. And since prayer ought to be made from faith, how do we know that God approves this invocation?

  1. Invocation should not be required.

Again, the adversaries not only require invocation in the worship of the saints, but also apply the merits of the saints to others, and make of the saints not only intercessors, but also propitiators. This is in no way to be endured.

A Lutheran is not prohibited.

A sad commentary, indeed.


No such thing. The text of the martyrdom of Polycarp explicitly states that Christians kept his bones as relics. Now why would they do that? In order to pray! and that is 2nd century AD.

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If this is so, is there a Lutheran confessional body that doesn’t forbid it? Because it seems that all of them interpret this portion of the Augsburg Confession to be forbidding the invocation the saints.

The Lutherans distinguished between invocation of the saints and veneration of the saints.

Here’s the thing: Veneration and invocation of the saints goes all the way back to the earliest days of the Church.

The problem with the Lutherans is that they misunderstand the distinction of veneration and worship. They believe that, by seeking the intercession of the saints and praying to them; that somehow that translates into worship.

Remember: In Shakespearean English, and that’s the English the KJV is translated into; the word “ pray “ means to ask. Say, I’m asking my Mom for a glass of water. Using Shakespearean English, I would say: “ Pray thee, Mother; for a glass of water. “

As for the quotation of the the Lutheran Apology Of Augsburg; it sounds like doublespeak to me. And yes: Luther retained a Marian devotion to Our Lady as the Mother Of God. The problem was; later Protestant theologians cut that out of their theology. I agree with Jon. That’s sad.

Jon, I do remember reading an online translation of the Confessions Of Augsburg, or was it something else; or another contemporary document that emphatically stated that invocation of the saints was anathema. To put it lightly.

If Lutherans allow the invocation of the saints, and I’ve known a pastor ask me if I have difficulty in talking with God directly; I wonder what the reaction would be if my youngest son wore his Divine Mercy medal to my parents ELCA church one Sunday. :smirk:

And it seems that the Smalcald Articles condemn invocation of the saints because it is against Christ’s sole Mediatorship.

Okay. You’re using the word “forbidden”. I have never seen or heard that kind of language in regards to it.
The confessions state significant concerns about it, particularly considering the Catholic practices surrounding it during the Reformation era. One can read it and take note of the concerns about merit and the like.

It is certainly true that invocation is not a part of Lutheran tradition, but I’ve never heard “forbidden “.

I’ve linked documents coming from the Lutheran/Catholic dialogue on the topic, and the LCMS response.


This is a brief summary from a Catholic site.

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No, they don’t. The problem at the time of the Reformation was that the practice was merged with worship. There is a difference between latria, on the one hand, and dulia and hyper-dulia on the other.

I might add that I’m speaking of leadership.

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I have to correct you, Jon. The Church never condoned the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary or any of the other saints. We honor them and we ask for their prayers. We never worship them as if they are God.

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It’s a common misperception and I understand. I was Lutheran myself once.

There were lots of things that happened in Central Europe at that time that the Catholic Church would not condone today.
Whether or not it was condoned, it was happening.


So, I hope I’m understanding you correctly.

Your position is essentially: Regardless of what Catholic doctrine taught, and it’s always been consistent throughout the ages; that it’s the practices that Luther and the rebels were confronting? That the issue wasn’t doctrinal but simply a matter of discipline and practice.

Also, the problems were made worse by ill trained clergy and ill catechesis at the parish level. As we can see in the Council of Trent, authentic Church reform resolved those matters admirably.

Now, if his dissension was simply a matter of discipline and practice; he should’ve gone to his bishop to address the issue. If he simply done so; everything would’ve been fine and good.

Here’s the problem: I read Luther’s 95 Theses and his dissension was, from the beginning; doctrinal as he directly challenged Papal authority and the validity of the Sacrament of Confession.

Thus, your assertion that his dissension wasn’t doctrinal and yet it was; is a paradox.

I hope I have clarified things for you and revealed the paradox of your position.

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I appreciate your reply. I hope mine helps to clarify.

I think it was mostly that on this issue, quite frankly.
On the bolded, the term is reformers. I don’t even use the term “Roman Catholic” out of respect.

I can’t argue with the thought that poor catechesis and poorly trained clergy were a big part of the problem.

Papal authority deserved to be challenged. I certainly believe in the Sacrament of Confession/ Holy Absolution. It’s in the Augsburg Confession and the Small Catechism.

Of course, I never made that assertion, but where I agree with him is that the doctrine lacks scriptural support, but I also agree with the agreement I linked to earlier which says:

“17. Saints on earth ask one another to pray to God for each other through Christ. They are nei­ther com­manded nor for­bid­den to ask departed saints to pray for them.

We’re beginning to understand each other. So, you agree that the problems facing the Church in the 16th century were the abuses of discipline and practices; not doctrine. Then, we have much we can agree on. Thanks be to God.

As for your term: Reformers.

I’m afraid I cannot agree with you there, Jon. Luther and his fellow rebels challenged Papal authority, defied the teaching of the Magisterium and then went on to break away and found their own communities separate from the Church. All the while, calling the Holy Father the Antichrist and the Church the Whore of Babylon. Once the Magisterium refused their ideas; they went outside of the system; giving the Pope and the Church the bird and going their own ways. When the Church called the Council of Trent; the rebel leaders were invited and they never showed. If they wanted to reform the Church, why wouldn’t they show up and hash out their case with the Holy Father and bishops?

To use a more modern analogy: To say that the American colonists in 1776 were reformers within the British Empire would be a grave mistake to say the least.

So, to call Luther and the other rebels reformers would be quite far from the truth. If you want to examine genuine reformers who reformed the Church; look no farther than Saint Ignatius de Loyola, Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa de Avila. They stayed within the Church and helped bring about greatly needed changes.

Now that we addressed terminology; we can tackle the Papal authority issue.

Since we’re talking about abuses in practices, why challenge Papal authority?

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Papal authority.

Now, since we agree that the problems facing the Church were in the areas of practices, discipline and their abuses; why challenge Papal authority?

To address Luther’s basic thesis in his 95 Theses; I say this.

The Holy Father, based on my reading of the Upon this Rock Discourse; has authority to give Absolution for sins in Confession. For Our Lord told Saint Peter: “ Whatever sins you forgive are forgiven; whatever sins you retain are retained. “

Now, with this in mind; you can hopefully see that the Holy Father has great authority; given him by Our Lord, to forgive sins. This forms the basis for Papal authority to dispense indulgences; the abuse of which ignited Luther’s rebellion.

As we can see in the rest of the Discourse, Jesus gave great authority to Saint Peter, and his successors in the throne of Saint Peter; over the Church.

Indulgences are a time honored and accepted practice that goes back to the earliest days of the Church. An indulgence is a grace granted to the recipient, from the Deposit of the Faith over which the Holy Father has authority to dispense; for pious acts, devotions, pilgrimages and prayers performed; for the remittance of temporal punishment in purgatory due to sin.

The problem that set off Luther’s revolt was that peddlers were selling indulgences to people; in clear violation of Church doctrine. Goes all the way back to the rebuke of Simon Magus by the Apostles in the Book of Acts. Grace should never be sold for money. It’s always been condemned by the Church.

Now, here’s a problem that perhaps you might not see, Jon. I certainly didn’t back in my Lutheran days.

That problem being: You have to separate the office of Pope from the man holding that office. We in the Church admit that there have been bad Popes. I can think of the Borgia Pope right off the top of my head.

But: You must remember that just because the man himself is bad; that doesn’t render the office he holds as illegitimate. It’d be like like holding the office of U.S. President to be illegitimate just because a bad man got elected to it. I hope you can see my point here.

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