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.”
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”