Today, we will continue with our response to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.
The previous two weeks, we examined the first two passages presented by Armstrong in chapter twelve of his book, in which the Catholic apologist attempts to prove the existence of purgatory and the need to pray for the dead. This week we will examine his final two proof-texts:
#93) 2 Timothy 1:16-18: “16 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiph′orus, 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.” (RSVCE)
Beneath the passage, Armstrong writes,“Catholics believe in prayers for the dead, in order to aid them on their journey through purgatory to heaven. In fact, praying for the dead makes sense only if some sort of purgatory or intermediate state is presupposed, because it would be futile to pray for those in hell (prayer cannot help them; it is too late) and unnecessary to pray for those in heaven (they have everything they need). This verse [sic] offers one probable biblical support for this belief.”
Catholics would like to make the case from this passage that Paul is stating Onesiphorus is dead and that he is praying for him, but such an interpretation is self-serving eisegesis. I specifically addressed Catholicism’s misinterpretation of 2 Timothy 1:16-18 in a post last May, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll direct you to that post here.
#94) Acts 9:36-37, 40-41: “Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas or Gazelle…In those days she fell sick and died…But Peter…knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive.” (RSVCE)
Beneath the passage, Armstrong writes, “I readily grant that the example is unusual, because of the uniqueness of praying to raise someone from the dead (as distinguished from a prayer that aids someone in purgatory), and I agree that the Apostles had extraordinary powers of healing, so that this is not exactly a normative state of affairs…Nevertheless, it seems indisputable that here St. Peter literally prayed for a dead person, as far as that goes – which Protestants say is not permitted by, and supposedly not recorded in, the Bible.” – pp. 174-175.
Armstrong is shamelessly engaging here in some theological slight-of-hand. From the outset, he readily admits that the passage does not support the notion of praying for the dead in purgatory. But he says the passage is valuable because it refutes the alleged Protestant belief that prayers for a dead person are nowhere permitted in the Bible. I’ve read or listened to many Catholic apologists over the years, but the above may be the most blatant example of irresponsible apologetic chicanery I’ve ever seen. Armstrong is presenting a straw man fallacy and claiming victory where there is no victory. Bible Christians are certainly familiar with the above passage in which Peter prays to God on behalf of Tabitha and raises her from the dead. We are also familiar with other passages in the Bible in which the dead are raised. We believe God gave prophets and apostles the ability to raise people from the dead and we fully believe and accept all of those passages, none of which give ANY support to the Catholic doctrine of praying for dead souls in purgatory!!!
After examining the four passages Armstrong presents as proof-texts for purgatory and praying for the dead, we can very safely say that we are not “confounded.” For more information on the Catholic doctrine of purgatory, see the article below:
What does the Bible say about Purgatory?