Why ‘Saints ’ matter 13

Abstract

The essay examines arguments for and against identifying specific individuals as exemplars of holiness. These include familiar considerations such as (against) the danger of usurping the divine prerogative as well as several others that may be less well-known such as (in favour) their possible evidential role in confirming the existence of God and the enhancement they might provide to the social side of Christian teaching. While past abuses are conceded, the intention is to legitimate such interest in a way that transcends denominational differences. Initially, some readers may find it odd that a consideration of the importance of saints is offered as tribute to Vincent Brümmer on his eightieth birthday. After all, the specific term as such scarcely finds a mention in Vincent’s own writings, and that would of course be true in general of the Reformed tradition to which he has remained so faithful throughout his life. Nonetheless, three factors pull in the opposite direction. First, although the term except in its standard abbreviation is largely absent, much of his work has in fact been concerned with analysing the religious experience of those close to God whom others might well label as saints.1 Secondly

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