Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #37: “The Dead Know Nothing”

Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next chapter, the Catholic apologist continues his section on “The Saints” as he attempts to counter alleged Protestants’ objections that “The Dead Know Nothing.”

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As we’ve seen in the previous two chapters, the Roman Catholic church teaches that its members can and should pray to canonized saints for intercessory help. In this chapter, Broussard contends that “some” Protestants believe “the dead know nothing” based upon Ecclesiastes 9:5,10:

“5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten…10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.”

Broussard offers three arguments to counter alleged Protestants’ objections. This is one of the longest chapters (seven pages) in the book, so I will attempt to summarize the author’s claims as succinctly as possible.

(1) Broussard states that the writer of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon, “is not intending to make an assertion about the nature of the afterlife,” only “that he is trying to make sense of death from an earthly perspective” (p.199).

(2) Broussard hypothesizes that (A) since “souls in heaven possess the beatific vision,” then (B) “we have good reason to think that they would be conscious of our requests made to them” (p.201). For his proof text, Broussard cites 1 John 3:2 (“…we shall be like him…”) to claim that believers in Heaven have divine abilities like God. Referring to Hebrews 7:25, Broussard next hypothesizes that (A) since Christ “always lives to make intercession,” and (B) the believers in Heaven “are going to be perfectly like Christ,” then (C) “it’s at least reasonable to think that the saints would be doing what Christ does-namely, interceding for Christians on earth” (all quotes from p. 201).

(3) Broussard concludes, “There is clear and convincing evidence in both the Old and New Testaments that there is consciousness in the afterlife” and follows with multiple Bible passages for supporting evidence.

While this was one of Broussard’s lengthier chapters, my rebuttal will be short.

Broussard’s argument is somewhat of a straw man fallacy. Evangelical Protestants certainly do not believe that “the dead know nothing.” In Ecclesiastes 9:5,10, Solomon is clearly referencing death solely from a temporal perspective. Scripture is abundantly clear that the redeemed souls are in Heaven worshiping the Lord (see here) while the unredeemed souls are in hell and are conscious of their circumstance (see here). However, nowhere in Scripture is there a reference to a redeemed soul in Heaven being prayed to and acting as an intercessor for believers on Earth as Catholicism teaches. Catholicism’s ungrounded claims for saintly intercession are based strictly upon the type of unwarranted extrapolation Broussard presents in his second argument. As we see by this example, much of Catholic “sacred tradition” is founded and defended using the argument that such-and-such extra-Biblical doctrine is true because it is allegedly “reasonable” and/or “fitting.”

Broussard claims that “some Christians both within and outside mainstream Protestantism” believe “the dead know nothing.” The associated endnote (#140, pp. 285-286) reveals that Broussard is largely referring to Seventh Day Adventists (1.2 million members in North America) who teach the unconscious “soul sleep” of believers until the resurrection and the annihilation of the lost. Broussard doesn’t reference them, but the Jehovah’s Witnesses also teach soul sleep. The Jehovah’s Witnesses definitely do not teach the Christian Gospel. As for Seventh Day Adventism, the debate continues whether there’s enough Gospel truth within the sect’s aberrant teachings for a person to be saved (see here).

Next up: “God Alone Knows Our Hearts”

29 thoughts on “Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #37: “The Dead Know Nothing”

  1. Re: pray to canonized saints

    Does that include Buddha? 😀

    https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/02/22/how-buddha-became-popular-christian-saint

    Two of medieval Europe’s most popular saints, Barlaam and Josaphat, were in fact Christianized versions of the Buddha, whose life story and teachings were adapted to the message of Christ. The transformation of the Buddha into a Christian figure demonstrates how much the two spiritual traditions share—and reveals the special beauty of medieval Christian piety.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy Friday, Papa Tom!!! This entire chapter which does seem really long, is completely UNREASONABLE and he should be disqualified, no longer allowed to speak. This is beyond Scripture twisting! Since he states that OT and NT attest to stream of consciousness, both the OT and NT state that we are to NOT add or take away anything in Scripture. How Broussard views the medium from Endor is wrong! I am a BIG fan of Ecclesiastes and his views on what Solomon is saying is again, taken too far. If Paul says to live is Christ and die is gain, why would the dead in Christ want to be bothered? Again, Samuel did NOT want to be bothered/disturbed! Regardless of what the deceased know or do not know, NOWHERE does it say we are to pray to anyone other than Christ. Sorry, I’m not really responding to your post, this is my reaction in reading this chapter. I hope that is ok?! Are you and Corinne taking a day off from household chores/painting?! How’s the new Fridge?!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Mandy! Thank you and Happy Friday to you!

      Thanks for your good comments! Broussard is largely “tilting at windmills” in this chapter because no Gospel Christian believes in soul sleep. He’s responding to Seventh Day Adventists and there’s only 1.2 million in North America. However, in his second argument, he tries to build his case for saintly intercession, but it’s all groundless extrapolation based upon Catholicism’s “reasonable/fitting” argument that it uses for all of its extra-Biblical “sacred traditions.” I’ve already completed the next two chapters and Broussard employs the “reasonable/fitting” argument in those two chapters as well.
      We’re are off to a bit of a slow start today. Corinne is working on some health-related red tape. I’m going to do a little job search and then work on the last window if it doesn’t rain. We love the fridge, thanks! I wrote a post in the early hours this morning about the whole experience. What are you and Nathan planning for the weekend?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey, Tom! I am glad to hear you like your fridge and I look forward to reading that post! Tomorrow my brother and his family will be at my dad’s and will celebrate my nephew’s 5th birthday! There is WAY too much red tape when it comes to health care. I use to say I gave better care overseas then I did here at home (I am a physical therapist assistant by trade if I never shared that).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks, Mandy! Have a good time at your nephew’s birthday party tomorrow! Yeah, health care has become ridiculous with the red tape. And it’s becoming unaffordable for many the way it’s rigged.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Answering your question: Today had to deal with lots of online stuff, discouraged a bit seeing so many things people say on social media..been ministering via private messages with some people I know from the military in certain occupations today, they are so so tired.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can imagine as a pastor you are ministering to a lot of people who are struggling with all of the circumstances as society goes topsy-turvy. I am praying for you and your ministries, brother.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Strange strawman he commits; certainly as you pointed out most Protestants aren’t SDA. Plus SDA is not biblical. Good post. You’ve done much good work providing rebuttals to all these silliness. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, Broussard’s arguments in this chapter against souls sleep doesn’t apply to Gospel Christians so this was a N/A (not applicable) week, but he did spend some time trying to justify saintly intercession. Thanks for the encouragement, brother! Much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

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