Apologetics

 Confusion of Many Protestants

Too often well-meaning Protestants get confused and accuse of things that are outright nonsense if not lies. It is usually because they never take the time to really understand what the Catholic Church actually teaches and practices.

Below is a good example of a kind and well-meaning Protestant pastor who wrote to me earlier today. He is obviously a good man and thinks he understands but his use of the same-old, same-old, worn out and misrepresentative arguments show that he has not done his homework and is parroting things some other parrot taught him.

Let’s look at what he says. First, his letter was posted in my Combox under a blog post “Do Catholics Worship Mary?” in which I give a long explanation. I think our good pastor failed to read the whole article or he wouldn’t have written what he did.

He starts by saying, “I believe the confusion comes because the Church chose to remain theologically in the Old Testament – using priests – when Jesus has become our High Priest.  I am a pastor, and I pray for my people, but I am NOT their ‘priestly mediator’ – Jesus is!  

Though I could write a book on this topic alone, and it has been done by others, it is sad to see people still have such a basic misunderstanding of the priesthood of Jesus and the priesthood of believers.

My answer can be as simple as this: We are all priests! We are priests but it does not keep us in the Old Testament, nor does it mean we are trying to undermine the priesthood of Jesus.

St. Peter tells us, “1 Peter 2:5, 9  “And like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. … But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” See also Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6.

Not only are we priests, but we also offer sacrifices. My, that sounds awful Old Testament doesn’t it? Yet it is the reality of the New Covenant.

Levites minister with the High Priest

In the Old Testament there was a 1) High Priest (Aaron and his sons), 2) a ministerial priesthood (Levites) and 3) the general priesthood of all the people (Ex 19:6).

The Church is the new Israel. Should we expect it to have a different structure? Of course not. In the Church we still have three levels of priesthood: 1) Jesus is our new High Priest, 2) the ordained priesthood, called by the early Christians “Levites” and 3) the general priesthood of all believers like in the Old Testament. This is exactly what the Catholic Church has and exactly what the Protestant churches have abandoned.

No priest today thinks he has replaced Jesus Christ. They work with him just like the Levites worked with and for Aaron. The Catholic Church is biblical and certainly not stuck in the Old Testament. In fact, we could say the Protestant churches have gone the way of Korah. As we read in Jude 8,

Woe to them! For they walk in the way of Cain, and abandon themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error, and perish in Korah’s rebellion.” Jude 11.

What was Korah’s rebellion? None ordained, non-Levitical priests claimed that they too were holy and could offer the sacrifices relegated to the priesthood. When they protested and said they could do what the priests do the earth opened up and swallowed them. Jude is not writing to Jews but to Christians and warns them not to claim what is not allowed to them. The priesthood is the priesthood.

We are all priestly mediators! Every time we pray for someone we are in the middle between them and God. If this pastor says he is praying for his people then he is putting himself in the middle between them and God and acting as a mediator, an intercessor.

I remember my father saying “We have only one meditator between God and man, and it is the man Christ Jesus!” I responded, “Don’t EVER ask me to pray for you again.” Why? Because it puts me in the middle and makes me a mediator.

Mediator between heaven and earth

Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant which only he could establish, but he then asks us to share in his mediatorship by praying for others and acting on their behalf. And he asks the ordained priests to share in his priesthood, working as the Levites to serve him in the sacramental duties of the Church.

The pastor then writes, “The Bible is clear that we MUST NOT try to communicate with the dead – and Mary and the apostles are dead!  Lev 19:31 “‘Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.  Lev 20:6  “‘I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.

He is assuming here, and quite wrongly, that the Catholic and age-old teaching of the “Communion of the Saints” is equal to occultism. It is certainly not. In one of our oldest creeds, recited by most Protestants too, we hear, “We believe in the Communion of Saints…”

What is this? It is the fact that saints are not dead but alive and with Our Lord in heaven. We are all still one family and in communion with one another. Death does not divide the body of Christ. The body of Christ is one whole including those on earth and those who are with the Lord in heaven.

We ask one another on earth to pray for us (making them mediators) and knowing that the saints are alive in heaven, we also ask them to pray for us.

 Now our pastor friend makes a bold statement, “Mary and the apostles are dead.” Really? Has he read the New Testament lately? He sounds more like a Sadducee than a Christian. The Sadducees denied life after death. They said that the dead were dead.

But Jesus refutes the Sadducees and our Protestant pastor when he said, “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.” Luke 20:37–38

When someone asks, “Where does the Bible say we should pray to dead saints?” The Catholic should answer, “Where does the Bible say saints are dead?”

If we want to see Mary alive in heaven all we have to do is read Revelation 12:1.

In the Old Testament the Israelites were chastised for following spiritist and mediums and abandoning God. Saul certainly did this when he refused to wait for God and decided to go to a witch instead of God. We Catholics also condemn occultism and divination. The pastor should know this. It is clearly stated in our Catechism,

CCC 2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

CCC 2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others—even if this were for the sake of restoring their health—are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity.

We do not consider asking the saints who are alive in heaven to pray for us a violation of Old Testament or New Testament law. The confusion lies with the pastor who accuses Catholics without knowing of what he speaks.

One needs only look at the Transfiguration to understand a bit more about the spiritual world and its interconnection to believers on earth. Jesus is talking to whom on the mountain? A dead guy? Moses had died and been buried over a thousand years earlier yet he is very much alive and talking to Jesus.

And notice, Moses is aware of what is going on on the earth because he came to talk to Jesus about what is soon to take place in Jerusalem (Lk 9:31). They were discussing the real world. They were dead, but not dead. They were very much alive. They did not appear as spirits or ghosts. Luke specifically said “the two men.”

There was more that the pastor wrote but only to repeat what we’ve already responded to. I suggest he study the Catholic teaching and the teaching of the very first Christians and come back to the fullness of the Faith. And if he wants to quote the Bible he ought to study his Bible a little more carefully too.

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Is it possible for a sinful, fallible man to give an infallible interpretation of Scripture or an infallible definition of doctrine? If he is fallible and sinful, doesn’t that preclude his ability to be infallible when it comes to things of God?

No. In fact while many Protestants would say the Pope cannot be infallible in faith and morals because he is a sinner himself, they at the same time must agree that he can do something much more difficult.

What is more difficult: to pick up 10 pounds or to pick up 100 pounds? What is more difficult: to write the very words of God — infallible and inspired text — or to simply give them an infallible interpretation?

Peter and Paul were both fallible, weak and sinful men. There should be no argument here. Yet both did the harder of the two. Both wrote the very words of God inspired and authoritative. Their human weakness did not keep them from being used by God to write inspired Scripture.

We have at least 12 of Paul’s infallible, innerant, inspired writings and two from the pen of Peter. Peter lumps Paul’s writings in with “the other Scriptures,” attesting to their quality as “scripture.”

So Peter and Paul wrote infallible writings by the assistance of God, why would it be impossible for them to do the lesser — to provide an infallible interpretation of the writings, by the assistance of the same God.

Peter’s words were considered infallible even in Acts 15 when James quotes Peter along with the Old Testament Scriptures as his two authorities in making a dogmatic interpretation binding upon the Gentiles. The letter written in Acts 15 is actually called “dogma,” (Greek word used in Acts 16:4).

Peter and the apostled infallibly defined “dogma” in AD 49 at the First Council of the Church held in Jerusalem — long before we had a New Testament.

So, Peter and the apostles CAN give infallible interpretation. This was demonstrated in Acts 15 and in all of Scripture (written by men) and has continued to be demonstrated through the history of the Church with the Popes and the bishops and the councils of the Church.

Remember, Peter demonstrated his fallibility and weakness when he attempted to walk on water and sank. But remember this, Jesus is the one that makes Peter infallible. Jesus reached down and held Peter by the hand and with Jesus’ assistance, Peter did walk on water — all the way back to the boat. It was Jesus who gave Peter the ability to walk on water. It is Jesus who gives the Church, through her pastors and the Pope, the charism of infallibly to lead and teach the Church  — within the guidelines of infallibility (CCC 890-892).

The argument from the greater to the lesser certainly works here. Peter wrote divinely inspired Scripture — which is the harder task, and under the protection of the Holy Spirit he can also provide an infallible interpretation — which is the lesser task.

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Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead? Yes!

by Steve Ray on June 18, 2018

I posted an article I wrote about St. Paul praying for the dead HERE. But I thought you would appreciate Dave Armstrong’s recent article about the same passage with confirmation and a new set of eyes on the text and the reasons for many Protestants to reject the claim…

St. Paul Prayed for Onesiphorus, Who Was Dead

7_sept_onesiphorus_apostle“May the Lord grant Onesiphorus to find mercy from the Lord on that Day.” 2 Timothy 1:16-18 (RSV): “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, [17] but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me – [18] may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day – and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.” (cf. 4:19)

Catholics pray for the souls in purgatory, in order to aid them in their journey through purgatory to heaven. In praying for the dead, it’s very reasonable to contend that an intermediate state is presupposed, because it would be futile to pray for those in hell (prayer can no longer help them) and unnecessary to pray for those in heaven (they have everything they need). This verse offers biblical support for this belief.

Protestant commentators have been hopelessly confused about the passage and cannot offer a coherent, unified testimony as to its meaning. Consulting their conflicting opinions makes for fascinating reading indeed.

The well-known evangelical Protestant work, The New Bible Commentary (3rd edition, 1970) takes the astounding position that Onesiphorus is probably dead (citing 2 Tim. 4:19), yet holds that Paul was praying for his conduct during life. The prominent  Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary (1864) also holds that Paul was praying, but obviously not for a dead man because, after all, “nowhere has Paul prayers for the dead, which is fatal to the theory, . . . that he was dead.” This is circular reasoning: merely assuming what it claims is proven.

BMJonahSarc1Greek scholar A. T. Robertson (Word Pictures in the New Testament, 1930, Vol. IV, 615) concedes that Onesiphorus was dead, but desperately describes Paul’s prayer for him as a “wish” (a distinction without a difference). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1939) makes the same (what can only be described as) rationalization, using the description, “pious wish” (Vol. IV, 2195). Famous Presbyterian commentators Matthew Henry (1662-1714) and Albert Barnes (1798-1870) casually assume that Onesiphorus was not dead, since Paul prayed for him – again making prior assumptions about what is possible in the first place, which amounts to eisegesis, or reading into Scripture notions that are not there. But John Calvin denied that he was dead.

The “game” and conundrum for all these commentaries is to refuse to accept both things together: a dead man, and someone praying for them. Thus, if they think he was dead, they deny that he was prayed for. And if they acknowledge prayer, they deny that he was dead.

But all is not lost. I have located several Anglican commentaries and a few others (thanks largely to Google Books!), that accept both factors together and state that Paul prayed for a dead man. The Anglican commentaries include Alfred Plummer (1841-1926), in The Expositor’s Bible, James Maurice Wilson (1836-1931), Sydney Charles Gayford (in 1905), John Henry Bernard (1860-1927), Charles John Ellicott (1816-1905), and J. N. D. Kelly (1909-1997), in A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (London: A&C Black, 1963, p. 171). The latter states:

On the assumption, which must be correct, that Onesiphorus was dead when the words were written, we have here an example, unique in the N.T., of Christian prayer for the departed. . . . the commendation of the dead man to the divine mercy. There is nothing surprising in Paul’s use of such a prayer, for intercession for the dead had been sanctioned in Pharisaic circles at any rate since the date of 2 Macc 12:43-45 (middle of first century B.C.?). Inscriptions in the Roman catacombs and elsewhere prove that the practice established itself among Christians from very early times.

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 7.45.45 AMWilliam Barclay (liberal Presbyterian: 1907-1978) concurs in his Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. So does the well-known Reformed Protestant Church historian Philip Schaff (1819-1893) in The International Illustrated Commentary on the New Testament (1889, Vol. IV,  587). Other commentators who agree include W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament (1951) and the renowned Henry Alford, The Greek Testament (1958).

What are we to conclude from all this jumble of various Protestant opinions? I’m always happy to present the information and let readers make up their own minds, but I conclude (for whatever it’s worth) that the passage is pretty straightforward. Therefore, when a commentator decides that Onesiphorus is not dead or that he was and wasn’t prayed for, it’s an example of eisegesis and letting denominational bias interfere with objective Bible commentary.

It’s always ironic to note such an occurrence among Protestants, since our separated brethren are very fond of frequently pointing out that they go by the Bible alone, as their only infallible source of authority and rule of faith. They will habitually claim that they merely let it speak for itself.

Yet when it comes to an issue like this, where the biblical text seems to run contrary to a tenet of Protestant denominational dogma (i.e., that prayer for the dead is impermissible), all of a sudden there is plenty of “explaining away” and denial of what seems to plainly be present in the passage.

Bias should never surprise us. It’s natural to the human mind, and we all (including Catholics) have it. We all bring prior traditions to our Bible commentary, too, no matter how much we may try to deny it. It’s not a matter of “whether,” but which tradition is present.

I maintain that Catholics are as free as anyone else (if not more so) to simply let the Bible speak for itself. If it indeed teaches prayer for the dead in this passage, we accept that, as part of God’s inspired revelation. It corresponds to Catholic doctrinal/dogmatic teaching, tying into purgatory. In my experience of over 26 years of Catholic apologetics, the Bible always does that. This may be little-known and frequently denied by Protestants, but it’s true, and I’ve shown it with many examples in my own work, such as this present one.

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Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead? Yes!

June 17, 2018

St. Paul wrote 2 Timothy shortly before his martyrdom. He spent the last days of his life in the Mammertine Prison in Rome, north of the Roman Forum. While in that prison he wrote to Timothy and says a prayer for a man dead man. “It seems apparent that St. Paul DOES pray for the dead. […]

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“Where Does the Bible Say We Should Pray to Dead Saints?” – Resources about Communion of the Saints

June 15, 2018

I compiled a list of Catechism, Scripture and quotes from the early Church Fathers and even archaeology to assist in understanding the Communion of Saints. You can download the source material here. Sample: Who should carry the most weight—Protestant pastors protesting Catholic theology today or pastors from the early Church who have the words of […]

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Greetings Baptists at the Door – A Friend’s Fun Story

June 3, 2018

Hey Steve, it’s Bronson from Ohio. A new Baptist church opened up in my area and this couple came to my door. They said are you interested in coming to our church? No thank you. Then they asked if I went to church. I said I’m Catholic and they fired away I guess you could […]

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Today is St. Justin Martyr’s Feast Day – Free Apostolic Fathers Timeline

May 30, 2018

Feast Day of St. Justin Martyr, June 1 Download a Free copy of the Apostolic Fathers Timeline This amazing Timeline drives home the point of how close these men were to Jesus and the Apostles. It demonstrates how Catholic the first Christians really were!  The Apostolic Fathers faced Emperors, heretics and lions but these heroes of […]

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Sola Scriptura and the Canon of Scripture

May 23, 2018

Sola Scriptura and the Canon When non-Catholics are asked to provide biblical support or their belief that the Bible Alone is the sole rule of faith for the believer, they usually cite 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which states that “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful”. However, they somehow miss the fact that the two verses […]

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History of the Bible Chart

May 21, 2018

For a larger image on PDF which you can see better, click here. Two items I consider errors: 1) The Gospel of John was not considered spurious, and 2) there was no such things a “The Jewish Council of Javneh (or Jamnia)”. This is a fallacy as I wrote about here. Just so you know, […]

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Dear Protestant: Where Did You Get Your Bible?

May 20, 2018

From Little Catholic Bubble website Leila@LittleCatholicBubble Dear Protestant: Where did you get your New Testament? At least a couple of times every week, Protestants use New Testament verses to show me where the Catholic Church is wrong about something. I always make them take the necessary step back by asking the following: “Where did you get your […]

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Quiz: Did Jesus Found a Church on Pentecost and If So, Where Is It?

May 19, 2018

I am sharing this from John Martignoni’s e-mail and website at www.BibleChristianSociety.com. Thanks for your good work John! 1) Did Jesus found a church?  A) Yes; Matt 16:18  2) How many churches did Jesus found?  A) One; the church is the Body of Christ and there is only one body of Christ – Rom 12:5, […]

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Tremendous Commencement Speech by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

May 16, 2018

Don’t know that I’ve ever heard a better speech. This should be heard by every single graduating student this year. If you have young people I would make some popcorn and sit down and watch this together. Yeah, he read the speech and he bumbles it at times – but wow! What a moving, inspiring […]

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Is Peter the Peg of Isaiah 22 that will be Broken Off?

May 14, 2018

A Protestant friend who is currently splashing in the Tiber and scrambling out on the Catholic side wrote and asked about the Peg of Isaiah 22:23?25. Below is his query and my response. He wrote: >>>The only issue which has unsettled me scripturally which I have not been able to find an answer that suits […]

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Questions I Answered on Catholic Answers Live

May 11, 2018

Audio Link I know it shows Tim Staples and Jerry Usher, but the first half of this video is my show Q & A for Non-Catholics. For other listening options, click here. From those who oppose the Catholic Church to those who are thinking about entering, in this show, we take a break from talking […]

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My Updated Article on Infant Baptism

May 2, 2018

Even among Evangelical Protestants there is much debate about Infant Baptism. My old Baptist tradition rejected it as a Catholic tradition of men. Dr. Francis Schaeffer, my favorite Evangelical Presbyterian theologian wrote a booklet entitled Infant Baptism in favor of the practice – my wife Janet was raised Presbyterian and baptized as an infant. It […]

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Is DOGMA an Oppressive Catholic Word?

April 29, 2018

When I was an Evangelical Protestant, I thought DOGMA was a dirty word. It had bad connotations. It represented unbiblical teaching forced down people’s throats by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. They invented new doctrines not found in the Bible and then called them dogmas and told Christians if they didn’t believe them — […]

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