[Editor’s note: This is a somewhat odd question for a Christian evidence website, but I thought this might be helpful to someone else out there, so am posting it anyway]


What is the Christian perspective on use of holy oil/water?  I am newly married and following some disagreements at home my father in law started applying holy oil on doors in secrecy and it makes me deeply uncomfortable and vulnerable. The church that I grew up in has taught me that I don’t need an armor other than faith that is rooted in the word. He may be applying the oil to only have good things come in but I believe that it leaves the doorway open for evil to come in. The discomfort I feel is that same fear that made me stay away from indulging in a playful session of oija when I was a child.  The use of holy oil is new to me and the unknown scares me. Please advice.


I am not sure there is one absolute definite “Christian perspective” on the use of holy water or oil.  It is apparent that you are talking about a situation involving a parent who is Catholic.  Let me take you father’s position just briefly as a “devil’s advocate.”  You can perhaps defend the idea of use of oil using James 5, where elders are advised to use oil in the healing of a person who is ill, with an illness which may even be sin-related.

OK, having done that, I will have to say that I am strongly leaning toward agreeing with what is apparently your perspective, which is that holy oil and holy water are merely Catholic teachings, with no basis in the Bible. They are essentially a superstition, and evidence of trusting in mankind’s tradition rather than the Word of God.  If we study Church History we will find that use of supposed “holy water” is an innovation which came several centuries after the apostles.  It is part of the false Catholic teaching about sacraments.  In my opinion, this is not simply a matter of opinion.  This superstition is actually damaging to Christian faith.

If I am right, then your father in law is probably sincere and trying to help, but he is definitely wrong in his doctrine.  We must worship in spirit and in truth.  His spirit is good but his truth is problematic!  Here is what I say about that.  Let us concede that this holy oil is not doing anything to help you household.  However, if it is merely superstition, then the application of meaningless oil is neither doing good nor harm.  If there is any harm, it is in your mind, but not in the use of the oil.  Paul addressed a similar issue in 1 Corinthians 10.  The issue here is meat sacrificed to idols.  Paul agrees that idols are nothing.  Therefore, technically, having sacrificed meat to something that does not even exist does absolutely nothing to the meat.  Such meat is not somehow made evil or harmful by the bogus ceremony of “sacrificing” it to a false idol.  Paul tells the Christians to go ahead and eat such meat, as long as it is not a stumbling block to a weak Christian.  Idols are nothing, so meat sacrificed to idols is just plain ordinary meat.  Why not eat it?  He is arguing against legalistically worrying about the non-issue of the fact that a non-believer did some meaningless ceremony.  The fact that the pagans were superstitious can be simply ignored.

I would apply this to your father-in-law.  Is it really doing any harm for him to put this meaningless oil somewhere?  Can you realize that, despite his doctrinal error, he is simply trying to help and to show love in his rather superstitious manner?  Do you really need to make an issue out of this?  The only real “problem” I see in this is that he is sneaking around without your permission doing this.  I would be slightly offended by the secret nature of what he is doing–but only slightly offended, to tell you the least.

So, here is some advice.  You should lovingly confront your father-in-law, letting him know you know what he is doing.  You should tell him that it is your belief that such oil is powerless.  However, at the same time, you could express your appreciation that in his own way he is trying to help and love you.  You could tell him that next time he wants to help he should let you know out of respect.  If he wants to keep doing this, if he thinks it will help, I suggest you let him keep doing it, as it is a way of him showing love.  My guess is that he will stop once he understands your position, but I simply do not see how it is a big deal to you one way or another, religiously, if he he does it.  You would be showing Christian love and lack of judgmentalism if you tolerated his odd behavior.  That is my advice.

John Oakes

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