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.
This week we will examine chapter eleven of Armstrong’s book in which the Catholic apologist presents four passages as proof-texts for the Catholic belief in the miraculous power of relics and sacramentals.
#87) 2 Kings 13:20-21: “20 So Eli′sha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Eli′sha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Eli′sha, he revived, and stood on his feet.
#88) 2 Kings 2:11-14: “11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Eli′jah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 And Eli′sha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and rent them in two pieces. 13 And he took up the mantle of Eli′jah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the mantle of Eli′jah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Eli′jah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other; and Eli′sha went over.”
#89) Acts 5:15-16: “15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.”
#90) Acts 19: 11-12: “11 And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.”
Following these passages, Armstrong writes, “Catholics believe that physical matter can be a conveyor of spiritual grace. This is the foundation for the use of relics (objects associated with saints) and sacramentals (sacred or devotional objects)…The Catholic Church does not teach that there is any magical virtue or any curative efficacy in the relic itself. The Church merely says, following the Scriptures, that they are often the occasions of God’s miracles.” – p. 147.
The Roman Catholic church has accumulated a vast collection of purported relics over the centuries, although, as we’ve discussed in previous posts, the authenticity of many of those relics is less than questionable. The RCC accords amazing powers to its relics including the power to heal physical illnesses and reduce the time a soul must spend in purgatory. Over the centuries, Catholic pilgrims have traveled far distances to churches and shrines to receive the alleged benefits of relics. I recently posted on one such relic, the alleged seamless tunic of Jesus in Trier, Germany (see here)
Armstrong cites the four passages listed above as proof texts for Catholicism’s use of relics, as if the passages teach relics are normative for the present age. God certainly enabled the Prophets and the Apostles of old to use physical objects in miraculous ways as signs of their God-ordained authority. But we now have the New Testament as God’s solely authorized Gospel message to mankind. There is no need for miracle-performing prophets like those in the Old Testament. The Apostles were comprised of men who personally witnessed the earthly ministry of Jesus. People who claim to be apostles today do so deceitfully. It’s quite revealing that people today will claim some of the gifts of the apostolic age, but not others, like raising people from the dead (Acts 9:40-41), and drinking deadly poison and being bitten by venomous snakes without harm (Mark 16:18). Hmm, how do they explain that?
By crediting miraculous powers to relics and other physical objects such as sacramentals blessed by priests, Catholicism has encouraged rampant superstition and idolatry among its members. In addition to pilgrimages to displays of relics mentioned above, Catholics often utilize blessed statues, medals, rosaries, palm fronds, crucifixes, holy water, candles, etc. in their homes in hopes of warding off misfortune.
If Elijah, Elisha, Peter, and Paul were to enter Catholic churches and homes today, they would be appalled by the rank superstition and idolatry found within.
For more information on relics, prayer cloths, and such like see the informative articles below:
How should a Christian view relics? – Got Questions
What is a prayer cloth? – Got Questions