Protestantism's Missing Saints

April 28, 2014 | 17 comments

As the Church rejoices at the canonization of Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II, we're pleased to offer this sample from Devin Rose's best-selling book, The Protestant's Dilemma.

If Protestantism is true,

Most of Christianity’s saints believed in a corrupted gospel.

When I was a Protestant, I once referred to the saints as members of “the Catholic Hall of Fame.” But in reading about their lives, I also wanted them on my team. They were heroic in their witnessing to the Faith, even to the point of torture and grisly execution. They clearly loved Jesus and were given grace to be courageous and eloquent, following the example of St. Stephen[i] and many other faithful men and women from the Apostolic Age. Yet, to my dismay, when I delved into the writings of these great Christians, I found them to have unabashedly Romish tendencies, leading me to conclude that they cannot be looked up to as true saints, no matter how holy they may have appeared.

 A Saintly Paradox

When I first started reading the lives of the saints, I felt cheated: “Why haven’t I been told about all these amazingly faithful people?” Their books didn’t show up anywhere in the Christian bookstores I went to, nor very often in the secular bookstores. I had read most of the Left Behind series but nothing by Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Athanasius, or Francis de Sales. Something was wrong with that.

If I were drafting baseball players as a Protestant Christian, I would want St. Augustine on my team for his great love of Scripture, the honesty of his Confessions, his Protestant-friendly ideas on justification and predestination, and his philosophical wisdom. He was a monumental influence on Western Christianity and in particular on the theology of John Calvin and Martin Luther. By all accounts, he’s batting cleanup for me.

But then St. Augustine has to go and say things like this:

The succession of priests keeps me [in the Church], beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should.[ii]

If he had stopped there, all might have been well. We can all go astray on one or two doctrines. But St. Augustine also erred on the canon of Scripture, wrongly including the seven Catholic deuterocanonical books as inspired; he erred on baptismal regeneration, purgatory, and on his acceptance of the Church’s Tradition as an authority alongside the Bible. The coup de grace was the unavoidable fact that he was a bishop of the Church in the fourth and fifth centuries, with all the trappings that go along with that: the Mass, hearing confessions, baptizing babies, ordaining priests, and so on.

I knew Augustine could not be on my team. Neither could St. Athanasius, St. Cyprian, St. Thomas Aquinas, or St. Francis. They all believed in papist rubbish—in the awful corruptions and accretions that the Catholic Church had added over the centuries, which a true saint would have been able to see through.

I also knew that the Catholic usage of the word “saint” differs from what is found in the Bible. In Scripture, saints are not those Christians who have died and gone to Christ but the members of the Church still living their earthly lives. So as a Protestant, I felt good about calling myself and my Christian friends “saints,” and I may have even mentally canonized my faithful grandmother, but I was loath to apply that title in a way that the Bible did not explicitly set a precedent for.

Because Catholicism is true, 

Catholic saints had heroic faith in Jesus Christ and lived that faith in spirit and in truth.

Those whom the Church calls saints were men and women who loved God and who accepted his love in a way that penetrated every part of them. As a questioning Protestant, I longed to love God as they did. They were the very best that Christians could be, the fulfillment of Christ’s commands to love God and one another with all our hearts. They were merciful, courageous, brilliant, humble, holy. And they were as Catholic as the pope! They believed in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, the power of confession and the other sacraments, and the authority of the Church.

As a Protestant, I failed to realize that Catholic saints were impressive not in spite of their belief in a false religion but because they believed in a true one. In fact, if we let Catholicism be true, the behavior and lives of the saints fit perfectly. They received the Holy Spirit and his gifts and power. They bore his fruits. They were strengthened against sin by reception of the Eucharist. They remained in constant friendship with God through the sacrament of Confession. They were given graces to fulfill their vocational calls in marriage, religious life, and the priesthood. They guarded and preached the fullness of Christian truth that God entrusted to the Church. They took that gospel to the ends of the earth, and Christ blessed their efforts by making those seeds take root and grow in the hearts of men from every nation. Often they watered the ground of these evangelized nations with their own blood.

In Scripture, passages from Revelation and Hebrews suggest close kinship between the saints (Christians) on earth and those in heaven offering up their prayers to God.[iii] In its doctrine of the communion of saints,[iv] the Catholic Church underscores the connection that all Christians share in being joined as one body in Christ—whether here on earth or in heaven. So the term “saint” applies validly to all Christians, whether alive or dead, who live in God’s love and friendship.

The Protestant’s Dilemma

If Protestantism is true, then all of the saints from the fourth century to the sixteenth believed in an adulterated gospel taught by a heretical Church. Though they may have loved God, they did so while promulgating erroneous—perhaps even evil—teachings on important matters of faith. So, although some of their piety and actions are to be commended, they cannot be looked to as Christian models to be admired and imitated. If they had only followed the Bible, they could have corrected the errors of the Church, as the later Reformers did. But sadly, for over a thousand years we have a vacuum of true Christian witness, with all the most devout and brilliant men and women hopelessly tangled up with a false gospel.




[i] Acts 7

[ii] Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus, 4

[iii] Rev. 5:8, Heb. 12:1

[iv] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2683


Devin Rose grew up a militant atheist. As a college student he was radically converted to Christ and began practicing Evangelical Christianity. A few years later, long prayer and study led him to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. Today he is a professional software developer, amateur lay...

The Protestant's Dilemma
What if Protestantism were true? What if the Reformers really were heroes, the Bible the sole rule of faith, and Christ’s Church just an invisible collection of loosely united believers? As an Evangelical, Devin Rose used to believe all of it. Then one day the nagging questions began. He noticed things about Protestant belief and practice that didn’t add up. He began following the logic of Protestant claims to places he never expected it to go—leading to conclusions no Christians would ever admit to holding. In The Protestant’s Dilemma, Rose examines over thirty of those conclusions, showing with solid evidence, compelling reason, and gentle humor how the major tenets of Protestantism—if honestly pursued to their furthest extent— wind up in dead ends of absurdity.

Comments by Catholic.com Members

#1  Nicolas Dubonnet - North Bay, Ontario

Wonderful article! Also loved your book and I hope to give a copy to my mother. Pray she is open and for the Holy Spirit to give her abundant graces!

April 28, 2014 at 11:47 am PST
#2  Clinton Ufford - Sweet Home, Oregon

I just listened to you conversation w/ Marcus Grodi on Journey Home - awesome. It should be aired nationally.

April 28, 2014 at 11:54 am PST
#3  Julie Clement - Bunkie, Louisiana

I have enjoyed your articles very much; please keep them coming. I especially like the unique way in which you have written the book. I plan to buy the Kindle edition for my summer reading.

April 28, 2014 at 4:27 pm PST
#4  Julie Clement - Bunkie, Louisiana

I have enjoyed your articles very much; please keep them coming. I especially like the unique way in which you have written the book. I plan to buy the Kindle edition for my summer reading.

April 28, 2014 at 4:27 pm PST
#5  Julie Clement - Bunkie, Louisiana

I have enjoyed your articles very much; please keep them coming. I especially like the unique way in which you have written the book. I plan to buy the Kindle edition for my summer reading.

April 28, 2014 at 4:27 pm PST
#6  Liviu Constantin - Calgary, Alberta

Protestantism is a carbon copy of the beast.
It has cleansed only a tiny part of the teachings of RCC. The main errors: trinity, immortality of soul and hell remain. All those are man made teachings and bear man's number: 6
God is still described as a monster, there is no hope for the outsiders only for those belonging to that particular group.
Apostle Paul was speaking about three things of capital importance: Faith, Hope and Love (1Cor 13:13)
When I was a mainstream I understood faith: believing something you can't see. Not blindly, not mechanical but a sound faith based on fulfillment of the promised prophecies.
I understood Love: Love everyone, even your enemies. Tough, hard, but not impossible.
But what I could not grasp was Hope. What hope is there when the Lord comes, takes the saved ones with Him and sets fire to the rest? My Hindu friends, my Sikh neighbors, my Muslim teacher and of course all those Christians which were not part of my particular faith.

So the question remains for both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism:
Where is the Hope? What have you done with it?

April 28, 2014 at 5:34 pm PST
#7  Tony Schuldt - Sioux City, Iowa

Thanks for another great article! The communion of saints has always been an invaluable part of Christ's pilgrim Church on Earth that has helped my family immeasurably.

April 28, 2014 at 10:16 pm PST
#8  Clinton Ufford - Sweet Home, Oregon

Liviu: The beast, as Christianity plausibly understands it, was the Roman Empire. How is Protestantism a "carbon copy of the beast?" And what is meant by "cleansing a tiny part of the RCC?" How is the Trinity an error?

April 29, 2014 at 7:42 am PST
#9  Preston Waltrip - Duncanville, Texas

Liviu: I don't quite understand how you can say Hell is a man-made concept considering how many times Christ himself references it and affirms its existence. Take Matthew 35:31-46, just for example. He lays it all out pretty clearly there that Hell exists. Yet, even in this very passage in which Christ explains the existence of Hell, there is hope to be found. Our hope rests in the Lord and in his mercy and in this passage (as well as others) He shows us that He will be merciful to those who love Him and who love their neighbors as themselves. So, to answer your question, "Where is hope?" there is only one real hope for us when things are truly hopeless and He is God. And what better hope could we possibly ask for?

April 29, 2014 at 8:19 am PST
#10  Liviu Constantin - Calgary, Alberta

I did say how Protestantism is a carbon copy of the beast. All the erroneous teachings were copied: trinity, immortality of souls, hell.
None of these were taught by our Lord of His apostles. What they taught was the call to become members of Christ's body. It is a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1) and is a limited call: Many called yet few chosen (Matt 22:14) Not that many are called to be saved and even fewer chosen, while the rest will be tortured in fire, but that many are called to become members of Christ's body and even fewer will be accepted for such a great honor.
There are 2 calls: One to become a spiritual being in Heaven, the second to inherit the Earth.
Only the first call is in effect now, the body of Christ is not complete. Once is complete, the second call comes in effect: to inherit the Earth (Matt 5:5) provided that people will fully obey God and His laws. They will be made known to all from the least to the highest (Isaiah 11:9, Jer 31:34, etc)). Once God has made known His laws clearly, all people will have to obey by them. All people will be resurrected all the way to Adam and Eve (including aborted children) and will have to obey God to receive the gift that was offered at Golgotha.
The retards will receive a sound mind, the lame will walk and the mute will speak, etc.. (Isaiah 35). Thus, all will understand clearly, there will be no excuse.
Also, Isaiah 35 shows that this highway is not opened yet, only when the devil is bound for 1000 years will be opened, showing a future time.

This is what I had in mind when I asked: where is the Hope?
I just don't see it reflected in RCC or Protestant teachings.

As for hell and immortality of soul, have a look at Heb 2:14 for example
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
So the text says that the devil will be destroyed, and the devil is far superior to a human being. How much more then a human being can be destroyed?
Moreover we are told that God can destroy the soul (Matt. 10:28)
Moreover we are told that soul that sinneth, will die (Ezek 18:20)
Moreover we are told that people are souls as long as they live, because from the loins of Jacob came out souls/people (Genesis 37:34)
Moreover Adan was made a living soul, it doesn't say that he was given an immortal soul.
When the people die, the soul dies and in death there is no remembrance, no work, no thinking, nothing. It's like before being born.
Moreover to Adam it was told that when he will disobey he will die. He wasn't told: Forever you will be tormented with fire. This is a false teaching, and it doesn't represent God. It does however represent another god namely Moloch. YHWH does not even think of such perverted things (Jer 7:31, Jer 19:5)
But hell was mistranslated. Sometimes Sheol was translated grave, sometimes hell. Grave is the original meaning, a state of nonexistence.
If there is hell, then there is no God. If there is a God, there can't be hell. The wages of sin is death, not torment.

April 29, 2014 at 3:04 pm PST
#11  Mary Hawn - Marquette, Michigan

Wow! Liviu. I am amazed. Never in my life have I seen such extravagant cherry picking of scripture. The belief system you describe is so convoluted and ill supported that it doesn't leave any room for 'hope' of any kind.
Others here have responded well to your assertions. Saying anything more would be redundant. 'When the student is ready, the teacher will appear'. I wish you peace and will pray for you.

April 30, 2014 at 7:09 am PST
#12  Harry Ehmann - Bedford, Texas

Sabbatarians are only interested in showing how the New Testament upholds the Old Testament...not the other way around as we believe. Who else rejects Creedal Christianity and the notion of hell? Modern day Sadducees of course.

Great article and my copy of "The Protestant's Dilemma" just arrived.

April 30, 2014 at 8:23 am PST
#13  Tom Runkel - Weirton, West Virginia

Clinton, Preston and Mary
Please don't be pulled in by Liviu. He comes here not for dialog but for desent. Notice his diatribes are not even addressed to the point of the intended blog. He uses every fallacy of debate there is, strawmen, red herrings and never the topic of the blog to which he is supposedly posting. I think you waste your time. But your prayers for Liviu will not be wasted.

From what little I've read of his posts not even sure he is a Christ follower.

April 30, 2014 at 9:02 am PST
#14  Mary Hawn - Marquette, Michigan

Thank you Tom. I concur. There are any number of ways it could have been stated but you were polite.

April 30, 2014 at 9:24 am PST
#15  Jack Gabriel - Jacksonville, Florida

I am just curious about Liviu. You are interrogating Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, but curiously left out the Orthodox Church teaching about Hope. Can you elaborate? The reason I raise this question is to get a global view of the major christian Faiths, not that Liviu has explained lucidly anything about Hope from the Catholic or protestant perspectives. Perhaps he does not know much about it. I know that Jehovah Witnesses do not believe in Hell and they say that after Armageddon peace will be established on Earth. Is Liviu a JW?
Pax Christi

April 30, 2014 at 11:06 am PST
#16  Liviu Constantin - Calgary, Alberta

No, I am not a JW I have explained that in a different blog. I went as far as saying that if I will be forced to choose between RCC and JW I will choose RCC. But yes it looks like JW have a very similar view, albeit with less hope as those living now and not accepting their invitation to enter their Ark will be lost. I disagree.

And the reason for writing was not just to say something, but I like discussing along the Scripture line, I always thought that progress came from presenting different points of view. And another reason was to share the Good News. Evanghelion means Good News right?
Well, I was presenting my point of view of what the Good News is, didn't know it will be such a drag for you.

I was moved by some mothers who, being desperate that her sons and/or daughter has left the church and became either atheists or agnostics or ...and by doing that, they will go to hell. Knowing that the Father in Heaven has no intention to torture anyone, I wanted to share that, but...

Friends, if you think I am trolling, I am leaving. I agree that a person who is not desired looks awkward. My intention was not that but it looks like it happened anyway...

Tom, everyone, please accept my apologies.
God bless

April 30, 2014 at 3:11 pm PST
#17  Usulor Kenneth - Lagos, Lagos

There is no room for canonical standard when everyone starts thinking and interpreting for themselves as Liviu (and Protestantism) says. Everyone's opinion about the Sacred Scriptures becomes dogmatic. O what chaos!
Liviu,
I wonder what brand of Religion, Christianity or sect you belong to. For while sounding like Jehovah Witness and holding its teachings you condemn it, while holding unto "thinking for oneself" you condemn Protestantism that gave birth to it, and while holding unto the Sacred Scriptures you condemn the Catholic Church that produced it. Who then can be the arbiter of the truth? The Bible? Why then the misunderstandings, quarrels and hatred? May God grant you what He granted St. Paul on his way to Damascus. Amen.

May 1, 2014 at 6:05 am PST

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