Now, Religion in the News—a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from the Times online, February 6, 2003, with the headline: “Calls to Canonize Rasputin Threatens Russian Church Split—A campaign to canonize the mystic priest Grigori Rasputin and a murderous czar, Ivan the Terrible, is threatening a schism in the Russian Orthodox Church. The campaign is being taken so seriously by the Orthodox Church that last week a group of about 100 theologians met in Moscow to discuss ways of coordinating opposition. Sir J. Chapman, one of the chief organizers of the conference and editor of the Church newspaper, Tserkovnaya Vestnik, said ‘These people are trying to rewrite Russian history to mythologize the figures of Ivan the terrible and Rasputin. It works against the unity of the church. This is the path to a schism.’
“At first sight, neither Ivan the Terrible, crowned as the first Russian Czar in 1547, nor Rasputin, appears to be an obvious candidate for sainthood. Ivan murdered thousands including many priests. Rasputin’s drunkenness and sexual debauchery helped to discredit the autocracy at a decisive moment in history. In the last days of the Romanov Dynasty, there were concerted efforts to dislodge him from his position as confidante to the royal family. He was said to have been particularly fond of threesomes involving himself and a mother and daughter. He was murdered in 1916 and dumped in the Neva River in Saint Petersburg.
“One of the leading figures in the movement to have Rasputin and Ivan the terrible pronounced saints said that they had been much misunderstood. Konstantin Dushenov, editor of the Saint Peter’s Rus Pravoslavnaya, said, ‘It is a myth that Ivan the terrible was a cruel and terrible ruler. It is a lie. He only killed about 3,000 people, and most of them were criminals.’”
Tom: Dave, I found this piece interesting. Number 1: being a former Roman Catholic and Thomas Aloysius McMahon—there’s a few saints right there—so sainthood and all of that is something I find interesting, but more than that, when I was in college I did a paper on Rasputin, and this guy was as depraved as anybody you could find, let alone how bad Ivan the terrible was. Why would you call him Ivan the terrible except he’s terrible?
Dave: Yeah, but he did give some remarkable advice to the Romanov family. Sometimes he seemed to have some insights. But anyway, Tom…
Tom: Sainthood—what about it?
Dave: Right! The Catholic Church does the same. Now isn’t it odd—the epistles are written to the saints, to the saints at Corinth, to the saints at Ephesus, to the saints at Collosi, and the Bible tells us that every Christian is a saint. That simply means sanctified, set apart to God, and we should live holy lives. But that’s not Catholicism! The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church—maybe you’ve been dead, well, how long has Rasputin been dead? Quite a few centuries! Then you get voted in. Congress of Cardinals takes a vote, then somehow you get…
Tom: Well, you have to be beautified, go through a process—the prayers have to be answered. So here we have another problem: prayers to the dead. Especially a dead Ivan the Terrible and Rasputin.
Dave: And eventually they decide to make you a saint.
Tom: How do you know these are in heaven, by the way? How do you know any of the saints that have been canonized or beatified, how do you know they are in heaven?
Dave: Good question. Some of them should still be in purgatory, according to the Catholic Church. But Tom, it just isn’t biblical! It’s a tragedy, and they are elevating human beings to some status because sainthood for the Catholics or the Orthodox Church is some special status that does not exist in the Bible. I defy anyone to find it in the Bible! It doesn’t exist.
But we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Every Christian is sanctified, set apart—we have been sanctified by the blood of Christ, and the scripture even says—Hebrews, chapter 10—that’s a good verse for the Calvinist—that a person counts the blood of Christ by which he was sanctified an unholy thing and tramples upon it, and so forth. Hebrews 10 also begins, talking about the sacrifice of Christ once for all, and you get down to verse 10: (I could quote it but when I start…instead of quoting it, I start to look it up. Then I have problems.) Verse 10: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” You look up the word “sanctified,” and you find that every Christian, everyone who has put their faith in Christ is a saint. They have been sanctified, set apart by God to His service. There is no special category of people who are named “saints,” who are elevated to this so-called position or office or whatever it is—sainthood after their death or even before their death—that this happens by the church. And Tom, it’s just another example of the way that the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church both refuse to go by the Word of God. They have traditions that they have set up and they put tradition on the same level as the Bible. The problem is, the tradition contradicts the Bible, then they go by tradition.
Tom: Dave, my experience as a Roman Catholic, praying to saints, being involved with saints, continually displaced Jesus. Your focus, your attention, things you would ask for, going through the saints, put Jesus way on the back burner.
Dave: It’s not biblical and, search the Scriptures daily. Look, we’re not trying to badmouth Catholics; we’re not trying to upset the Orthodox. All we are saying is, what is our authority? Go by God’s Word, not by what some man has said, no matter how elevated he has become in the church hierarchy.