Are Catholics God-Makers?

In his 1999 book, Evangelical Answers – A Critique of Current Roman Catholic Apologists, Eric Svendsen claims the Catholic Church makes Mary into not just a god, but the God:

Suppose someone in the United States were to pray to Mary at a certain time during the day. Suppose further that, at exactly that same moment, someone in Europe begins also to pray to Mary… suppose at that same moment hundreds of thousands of devoted Catholics all over the world begin praying the rosary… In order for Mary to hear all those prayers at once she would have to be omniscient (“all-knowing”)—an attribute that is the property of God alone.

The simplest Catholic response would be to first reference Rev. 5:8:

And when [Christ, the lamb] had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints…

Catholics simply believe this text of Scripture. These twenty-four elders are human beings in heaven and they are depicted as “each one[having] vials of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (emphasis added). Each one of them was responding to multiple prayers from multiple people. What does that mean? It means these saints in heaven somehow have the power to do what Eric Svendsen claims to be “the property of God alone.” Obviously, it is not. We would do well to recall the words of Sacred Scripture at this juncture: “With God all things are possible” (cf. Luke 1:37). If we have faith, we will have no problem with believing God’s word over our own feeble and fallible intellects.

Moreover, we also see this same ministry being performed by the angels in Revelation 8:3-4:

And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, loud noises, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

Not only are the saints and angels depicted as hearing the prayers of multiple people at the same time, but these prayers are then taken to God and they affect change on the earth as symbolized by the “peals of thunder, loud noises, etc.” I once had a Protestant pastor I was debating say to me when I presented this text to him, “There is no evidence that these saints and angels hear and comprehend those prayers. They just take them to God.” Obviously, the language of “being given incense” representing the prayers of the saints is metaphorical. One cannot “grab a hold of prayers” without knowing what they are any more than one can grab a handful of incense. In order for these pure spirits in heaven to “take prayers” to God, they must be intellectually comprehended and then communicated.

And when you think about it, why wouldn’t they? If Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of God and “he always lives to make intercession for [us]” as Hebrews 7:25 says, would not the angels and saints want to do what Jesus does? I John 3:1-2 says if or when we get to heaven, “We will be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Why would the saints in heaven see Jesus interceding for us on earth and just sit around and watch him without joining in on the prayer? They would want to do what Jesus does and Jesus would want them to do what he does as well. That’s what “following Jesus” is all about!


But we still haven’t answered Svendsen’s main objection. We need to demonstrate the reasonableness of Rev. 5:8. If infinite power is required for the saints and angels in heaven to hear multiple prayers simultaneously, it is true, only God would be up to the task. Even more, God could not communicate this power outside of the godhead because that would be tantamount to creating another infinite God, which is absurd. God alone is the one, true and infinite God by nature and there can be no other (cf. Is. 45:22).

So, would it require infinite power to hear the prayers of, let’s say, one billion people at the same time? The answer is no. One billion is afinite number. So it would not require infinite power. If we take a look at this universe of ours and consider that we are beings on one planet in one solar system amid billions of stars in one galaxy among billions of galaxies, we are a drop in the ocean next to the vastness of space. All the power a saint, like Mary, would need would be enough to hear just these little creatures on this one little blue dot called “earth.” We are not even in the ballpark of “infinite power” here.

I have to give Eric Svendsen credit because in response to my colleague, Patrick Madrid, who made this very same argument that I just made, Eric Svendsen makes a very insightful critique:

But Madrid’s suggestion creates so many consequent theological difficulties that it is difficult to believe he could be satisfied with it. One may as well argue that omniscience is not needed even by God himself since all things that can be known—no matter how many—are nevertheless limited to a finite number.

In spite of Madrid’s assertions to the contrary, one must indeed be omniscient or omnipresent (or both) before he can hear more than one prayer at a time.

When Svendsen says “omniscience is not needed even by God himself,” he betrays a lack of understanding of the Catholic and biblical position on this matter. Apart from a gift of grace, it would beimpossible for created, human nature to be able to hear the prayers of millions at once and to be able to respond to them all. In fact, I argue it would be beyond unaided angelic power as well. God alone can do these things by nature and absolutely.

St. Thomas Aquinas answers this question succinctly when he says the ability to perform actions that transcend nature comes from a “created light of glory received into [the] created intellect.” It would require infinite power to “create the light” or the grace given to empower men and angels to act beyond their given natures. Only God can do that. But it does not require infinite power to passively receive that light. As long as what is received is not infinite by nature or does not require infinite power to comprehend or to be able to act upon, it would not be beyond men or angel’s ability to receive. Therefore, we can conclude this “created light” given by God to empower men and angels to be able hear a finite number of prayers and respond to them is reasonable as well as biblical.

By Tim Staples



  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    How interesting that this post comes out right after “Pointless Prayer, or Gracious God,” which was also just posted. In that article free will is destroyed. God apparently predestines us to pray for things in order that we might have them – rather convoluted, if you ask me! I guess this article proposes that God wants us to pray to saints and Mary who have no free will since they are in heaven. The prayer says, ‘thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ That’s God’s will, not ours, not saints, not Mary. It sounds like those who believe, say and do the right things will end up as zombies in heaven with no will of their own. The saints and Mary don’t make any difference anyway, given that God already knows what is going to happen.
    In any event, until someone successfully prays to restore an amputated limb, I’m reluctant to put much probability in the viability of prayer, given that God’s capabilities are clearly limited, and He is unable to assist those people no matter how much they pray.

  2. Joe Fuliga Reply

    I find nothing in Scriptures where the saints urge the living to pray to them. None of the believers in the Old Testament and the Christians in the New Testament ever prayed to the prophets and men of God in the Old Testament who have passed away. I have not read anyone in the Old Testament praying to St. Moses, St. Noah, St. Job or St. Daniel. Not only are the saints not omniscient but they are also not omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time) unlike God who knows all things (all the languages of the world) and is present everywhere at the same time to hear the prayers of the faithful. .

    1. Patrick Gannon Reply

      Excellent point, regarding the idea that the bible does not suggest praying to these saints – or not that I can recall from my reading. In the OT, that would be considered idolatry.


  3. Alberto Castellvi Reply

    Revelation 6:9-10 “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: (10) And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” {cf. Zech 1:12}
    These dead Christian martyrs are uttering what are known as “imprecatory prayers,” pleas for God’s judgment of the wicked and vindication of the righteous (e.g., see Ps 35;69;79;109;139; Jer 11:18 ff.; 15:15 ff.; 18:19 ff.; Jesus in Mt 26:53). Thus, dead saints are praying for Christians on earth, and, by logical extension, can be asked for prayers. They are aware of earthly events (Heb 12:1), and are more alive, unfathomably more righteous (Jas 5:16), and obviously closer to God than we are.
    They need not be omniscient to hear our prayers, but merely out of time. It makes no less sense to ask for their prayers than to request those of any person on earth. In fact, the prayer above was answered by God who hastens the end of the age (8:1-5). Therefore, if the prayers of the Christians in heaven is so important in this instance, one can only imagine their immense weightiness in the overall scheme of things.
    For some non-Catholics, every time the name ‘Mary’ is introduced, there seems to be a ‘stumbling block’, whereas they have no problem with other characters in the Bible. Holy Scripture is filled with intercessory pleas by others. Here are a few examples:
    Gen18:23-33, Abraham pleads with GOD for the lives of the people of Sodom.
    Ex 32:11 and Psa 106:3, Moses pleads with GOD over the golden calf.
    Rom 15:30, St. Paul asks all to pray for him.
    Col 1:9, St. Paul said, ‘we too have been praying for you unceasingly, since the day we heard this, and asking that you may be filled with knowledge of His will, in all spiritual wisdom and understanding’.
    2Thess 1:11, St. Paul iterates ‘we pray always for you’.
    James 5:16, St. James asks, ‘pray for one another’.

    And then of course, Blessed Mary already had interceded with her Son in John 2:3-5, so a precedent for her intercession was already set.

    Heaven is where God dwells, together with His Angels and His Saints….Heaven and all who dwell there are not subject to time and space……it’s eternity, and timeless…..

    1. Patrick Gannon Reply

      You seem to know a lot more about heaven than most of us do. You use terms like “not being subject to time and space.” How do you know this? If these saints are not subject to time and space, how is it that they are able to affect our physical matter reality? How does a prayer to a being outside time and space (how can you even be a being if you are outside time and space – there is no space in which to “be” anything), supposed to work? If these beings can impact our physical matter reality, then they are not outside time and space. You can’t cure a cancer outside time and space. The cancer exists within both. They would have to come within (be subject to) time and space in order to cure a cancer – but note that no matter how hard or to how many saints or gods you pray to, no amputee has ever been healed. The gods all have limits on their powers – or they simply don’t exist, and the cures we attribute to prayers, are merely a statistical coincidence!
      I do like some of your examples. Abe pleaded for the people of Sodom, but his prayers went unanswered didn’t they? Probably not a good example.
      Moses pleads with God over the golden calf, but was instructed to tell the people to draw swords against each other, and so they did, killing each other by the thousands. The best answer to the prayer was that Aaron, who was in charge of the creation of the calf, was “punished” by being made the chief priest. If that’s the kind of answers to prayers we can expect…. hmmm
      The Mary example in John is pretty pathetic – “When the wine was gone, Jesus mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me” (Jesus never treats his mom very well in the gospels) Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” You would call that an intercessory prayer? I hardly see it that way. It’s not a prayer at all, and nobody involved is outside time and space.
      Yeah, Paul asked for prayers, but his prayers were to a celestial Jesus. Paul thought of Jesus as a celestial being who suffered and died for us in the firmament, above the earth, not in person. Paul has no concept of a real, historical Jesus. He knows nothing of Jesus’ family, birth, baptism, parables, sermons or ministry. All he knows is the crucifixion and his information comes from only two sources – his personal revelations and Old Testament scriptures. For the historical Jesus, we have to wait for the author of Mark to develop Jesus’ earthly personage a decade or so after Paul.
      Can you provide a real example of a real dead saint, interceding on someone’s behalf to answer some prayer? No, of course not, because this dead saint is outside time and space. And why do we need intercession in the first place. This generally means we are asking someone to do something to help us out with a greater authority who apparently is too busy to hear us himself, or who is not good, and thus has to be convinced not to do something bad to us by our intercessor. This whole idea of needing intercessory assistance tells me Yahweh is not all-knowing and all-powerful (and is certainly not all-good as his book confirms). Why should we ever need intercessory prayer if Yahweh truly is an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good god? Suggesting that we need this assistance confirms Yahweh’s lack of these characteristics, doesn’t it?
      By the way in case nobody noticed, the Iron Age is over. This is all superstitious nonsense.

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