Dialogue w Calvinists on Prayer for the Dead & Purgatory

Dialogue w Calvinists on Prayer for the Dead & Purgatory February 14, 2018

Holy Scripture offers massive indication of the existence of purgatory.


This dialogue on my Facebook page was kicked off by this posting:

Anglican Newman on St. Paul’s Prayer for the Dead (Onesiphorus)

[W]hat does St Paul mean when he says of Onesiphorus ’The Lord grant him to find mercy of the Lord in that day?’ [1 Tim 4:19] did his prayer go for nothing? To say that he prayed that Onesiphorus might so conduct himself on earth as to receive mercy at the Judgment seems a refinement; not to say that from the run of the passage O. seems to be dead when St P. wrote. (Letters & Diaries, v. 10; To Anthony John Hanmer, 16 March 1844)

Kevin Jandt’s words will be in blue; Bridget Lorrain’s in green.


Do we have other evidences of praying to the dead in NT? In order to properly interpret Scripture we should not base entire belief systems on one passage of Scripture that is unsupported anywhere else. Do we have examples and do we have commands? “Seems” to be dead is not proper hermeneutics. Just my thoughts Oscar.

Yes. See many articles on my Saints, Purgatory, and Penance web page. Nor should anyone dismiss Onesiphorus so lightly:

Paul Prayed for Dead Onesiphorus (Protestant Commentaries)

St. Paul Prayed for a Dead Man: Onesiphorus

Dave, I will continue to pray for the dead, but I’ll pray for the spiritually dead, not the physically dead. If they are in Christ, they no longer need my prayers. If they are in hell, my prayers can do nothing for them.

We’re not praying for those in hell, but those in purgatory.

Secondly, your demand for explicit NT proof is not itself biblical. I have provided proofs nonetheless, but Protestant thought on this is inconsistent.

There is no proof whatever, e.g., of the canon of the Bible in the Bible itself. Zero, zip, nada. Yet Protestants accept the authority of 27 books of the NT based on Catholic tradition (minus the deuterocanon, which is arbitrarily excluded).

There are no prooftexts whatsoever of sola Scriptura: the idea that only the Bible is the infallible authority (and there are several verses that contradict it). Yet the entire Protestant rule of faith is constructed on this traditional notion that has no scriptural support at all.

Other beliefs are supported by just a few passages, yet firmly accepted (e.g., the virgin birth and original sin).

Dave, Okay, let’s look at the NT verses cited above. [from an old Facebook paper that I didn’t cite above, because the URL will be changing soon]

John 11:41-42 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I think You that You have heard Me, and I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”

Is this support for praying to the dead? It’s quite obvious Jesus was praying to the Father, not to Lazarus, and what was the purpose of the prayer? “THAT THEY MAY BELIEVE” that You sent Me. When we get our theology mixed up, we miss the purpose of God’s work. Your theology is man centered and man focused, which is why the doctrine of Purgatory must be invented. It gives man another chance. 

Acts 9:42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord. 

Again, Peter wasn’t praying for Tabitha to have some special help while in some place, or praying for her blessings, Peter prayed to God so that the Apostles would be confirmed in their authority and so that some would believe. This is eisegesis, and it’s allowing the text to fit our own presuppositions, it’s bending and distorting the purpose of the text. 

1 Kings is the same thing, we see in verse 24 “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”

We are giving the purpose and how to pray in the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ gives us the model prayer. Matthew 6:8-13 and He also gave us many reasons for prayer such as strength in times of weakness (Matthew 26:36-43). Praying for God’s glory in salvation (John 17) and protection from Satan.

I will say that the Bible, as canonized in the 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 books of the New Testament is the only source of authoritative truth. It is the Inerrant, infallible, all sufficient, Breath of God, given to mankind that he might know God and might be saved from the wrath to come. On that point I am not only dogmatic but Bulldogmatic. If you are building theology on anything else, you’ve built it on shifting sand.

If you are interested in actually interacting with my arguments (rather than mutual monologue), please do so; if not, I will delete your further comments. I know what you believe. Most of it I used to believe, myself. I want to know why you do, and why you reject my arguments. If you can’t provide those reasons, then this page is not for you. It’s not a platform for mere preaching.

Onesiphorus was about praying for the dead, not to them. Then later you write: “Dave, I will continue to pray for the dead, but I’ll pray for the spiritually dead, not the physically dead.” My further examples were about praying for the dead: the ones whom Jesus and Peter raised.

Acts 9:40-42 (RSV) But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed [i.e., to raise her]; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. [41] And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive. [42] And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

Here he prayed for a dead person and also addressed one.

As for praying to the dead, there is a clear example in Jesus’ story of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man prayed to Abraham and Abraham turned down his request. There is, however, no hint in the story (from Jesus) that it was improper to make a petition to Abraham. A teaching of Jesus cannot contain theological falsehood. Therefore, we have explicit NT evidence of praying to someone other than God and asking them to fulfill a petitionary request.

Luke 16:22-31 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried;
[23] and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Laz’arus in his bosom.
[24] And he called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Laz’arus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’
[25] But Abraham said, `Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Laz’arus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.
[26] And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’
[27] And he said, `Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house,
[28] for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’
[29] But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’
[30] And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
[31] He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'”

Why do you believe there are 66 books and not 73? On what basis? The book of Esther never even mentions God. There is not one word in Scripture that tells us these 66 books and no others are Scripture. You have accepted a tradition. Why, then, this tradition, and not a number of others also? Just because lots of Protestants accept the tradition?

Dave, I appreciate your time. I was tagged on the original post by my friend Oscar. It had to do with praying to Onesiphorus as evidence that we should offer prayers to the dead. I reject that premise. You provided your biblical support. I also reject that as evidence and support for Catholic doctrine on this subject and provided by exegesis of the text you provided. I’m not sure that is preaching, but if you believe it is than I’ll exit stage left. 

I’m doubtful I’ll convince you and I’m certain you won’t convince me. I enjoy dialogue with Oscar and I’m attempting to learn more about catholic doctrine to understand, so as not to cast blanket dispersions on Catholicism, but to know what you believe. 

For me there is just too much evidence that contradicts Scripture, even the authority of additional books, canonized after the Reformation.

This is untrue. They were canonized in the 5th century by the Church and already included in the Septuagint before Christ was born.

But again, hey, I’m preaching. So I will once again thank you for your time.

Once again, it had to do with prayer for the dead, not to them. Paul prayed for Onesiphorus. But since you also brought up prayer to the dead, I proved that too, from Luke 16 and Jesus’ own teaching.

You don’t have to merely preach. You can explain why you believe what you believe, and fully interact with my arguments. Your choice. If you simply state what you believe and ignore my arguments (in terms of any interaction with them), that is what I call “preaching” which is one-way, as opposed to dialogue, which is a two-way street. If you are doing that with Oscar, praise God and good for you. I commend you for it.

Dave, you misunderstand the gospel. Here is the quote I’m contradicting. 

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. (CCC 1030)”

Once a sinner comes to repentance and faith in Christ they are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17:19) Verse 19 says this: God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, NOT imputing their trespasses to them… 

If we have been saved we no longer need any further purification, we have Christ’s imputed righteousness. He has declared us as we ought to be. No further action needed. 

What it means to be saved? Those that show a pattern of sinful living are not truly regenerate. They’ve not been saved. They’ve not been born again. 

Paul shows us what we were and then what we’ve become. 

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. BUT you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were JUSTIFIED in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. 

Believers live a new life. Once they’ve passed from physical life to death they face judgment either to eternal life or eternal condemnation. Hebrews 9:27

Hebrews 10:26-31 is a fearful reminder of those that remain in willful sin, they are not just imperfectly purified saints, they are unregenerate sinners and they trample God’s grace with their lives, and they can expect to hear Christ tell them He never knew them. 

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father… verse 23 and I will say to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

1 John 3:4-5 whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins (practices sinning) has neither seen Him nor known Him. 

verse 8 He who sins (again, practices and plans to sin) is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.

verse 10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest. Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.

Ezekiel 36 gives us the purpose in God saving sinful man. It’s for His glory, and He causes it.

We must be without sin to enter into God’s presence (Eph 5:5; Heb 12:14; Rev 21:27; 22:3, 14-15). Therefore, God must purge or wash away our sin to make us fit to be in heaven with Him. Purgatory is indicated most directly in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 (RSV): “. . . the fire will test what sort of work each one has done . . .”

Scripture refers to a purging fire: whatever “shall pass through the fire” will be made “clean” (Num 31:23); “we went through fire” (Ps 66:12); “our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29).

The Bible makes frequent use also of the metaphor of various metals being refined (in a fire): “when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10); “thou, O God, hast tested us; thou hast tried us as silver is tried” (Ps 66:10); “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tries hearts” (Prov 17:3); “I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy” (Is 1:25); “I have refined you, . . . I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” (Is 48:10); “I will refine them and test them” (Jer 9:7); “I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested” (Zech 13:9); “he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them like gold and silver” (Mal 3:2-3); “. . . your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire” (1 Pet 1:6-7).

God cleansing or washing us is another common biblical theme: “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! . . . Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean” (Ps 51:2, 7); “Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts” (Prov 20:30); “the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning” (Is 4:4); “I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me” (Jer 33:8); “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses” (Ezek 36:25); “our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb 10:22); “he was cleansed from his old sins” (2 Pet 1:9); “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Divine “chastisement” is taught clearly in many passages: “as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you” (Dt 8:5); “do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof,” (Prov 3:11); “For thou didst test them as a father does in warning” (Wis 11:10); “God who tests our hearts” (1 Thess 2:4); “For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? . . . he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Heb 12:6-7, 10).

We are subject to God’s indignation or wrath, insofar as we sin: “God will bring every deed into judgment” (Ecc 12:14); “I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, . . . He will bring me forth to the light” (Mic 7:9).

Purgatory is “written all over” the passages above.

You are talking about sanctification. Again, you misunderstand scripture. That occurs in this life. Not some in between place.

Yes, it occurs here. That’s the whole point. Because it occurs here, after regeneration and initial justification, it stands to reason that it can and usually does also occur after death, because people are imperfectly prepared for the sinlessness of heaven.

That’s why 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 teaches what it does: “. . . the fire will test what sort of work each one has done . . .”

You claimed, “we no longer need any further purification.” So I showed how Scripture massively disagrees with you.

Dave, justification is by faith alone. That is why I said nothing else required. I fully understand that a believer will do works befitting repentance. James tells us clearly faith without works is dead. 

It does not stand to reason that it occurs after death. Not at all. Once death occurs and judgment a person is either declared righteous and glorified or condemned to hell. That’s it. You are either saved or unsaved. Heaven or hell. 

The whole concept of Purgatory is a rejection of God’s plan. We have this life and this life only to be saved. Once death occurs it’s over, no second chances. But having a second chance sure sells better. This is man-focused, man-centered and is nowhere to be contained in the scriptures. You cited Luke 16 yesterday, isn’t that clear enough?

verse 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

Thanks for the sermon. Do you have any counter-arguments yet? All you’ve done is present a rather standard outline of Reformed soteriology, with which I am very familiar, after 34 years of continuous theological and apologetical studies. You haven’t overthrown the arguments we’ve provided. You merely preach about your views.

wow… really? I’m showing from Scripture purgatory is man made myth. I get that you can’t see it. and I understand that you want to tell me I’m preaching to you. Let’s see your defense? 

Can you tell me the gospel? Can you tell me how I need to be saved?

Glad to oblige (though the topic here is prayer for the dead):


Bible on the Nature of Saving Faith (Including Assent, Trust, Hope, Works, Obedience, and Sanctification)

St. Paul on Grace, Faith, & Works (50 Passages)

Grace, Faith, Works, & Judgment: A Scriptural Exposition

Salvation as a Process

Philippians 2:12 & “Work[ing] Out” One’s Salvation

Bible on Participation in Our Own Salvation (Always Enabled by God’s Grace)

New Testament Epistles on Bringing About Further Sanctification and Even Salvation By Our Own Actions

Final Judgment & Works (Not Faith): 50 Passages

Bible on the Moral Assurance of Salvation (Persevering in Faith, with Hope) 

Bible on Salvation via Baptism & Eucharist 

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Hebrews 1:1-3

So, since Jesus “by Himself purged our sins,” why would such a place like purgatory be necessary, even if it did exist? (Which it doesn’t.)

Obviously, Jesus purging our sins doesn’t mean that we are sin-free in this life. We aren’t. That passage means that He has made salvation possible by His atoning death, by taking our sins upon Himself.

But since we continue in actual sin, it is merciful for God to provide a way to totally purge the sins before death, since all agree that there is no sin in heaven, and one must be clean to enter there. Thus, the debate is about the duration of the cleansing almost all of us necessarily have to undergo at death.

I’ve provided many biblical arguments for purgatory [one / two / three / four / five] / six]

Jesus didn’t make salvation possible, He made it ACTUAL.

Of course; for those who are saved. But some are not, and Jesus doesn’t force them to be saved. They have free will.

But you are missing the point. In context, I was saying that the cross made salvation possible in the first place; in general. Without it, no one could possibly be saved, because we all fell and rebelled in Adam and Eve, in the fall.

You’re still missing the point also that our being saved in the end (whoever is of the elect, as Judgment Day will reveal) doesn’t mean that we are sin-free in this life. And we have to be literally sin-free to enter heaven.

If you know of a sinless, perfect Christian, please direct me to them. I’ve never met one yet.

Titus 2:13-14 tells us: “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”

Jesus gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed, and purified for Himself His own special people.

Yes, of course. You continue to miss my point, tho. Are you completely free of actual sin, even though Jesus died on the cross for you and all sinners? Are you no longer a sinner at all?

Positionally, people who are “Born Again, are now saints, and not sinners anymore. Yes, we still do sin, while here on earth, (1 John 1:8) and we are to confess our sins when we commit them. (1 John 1:9.) But those who have been Born from Above, don’t have their sins counted against them anymore. (Romans 8:1-2)

Biblical theology is complex and interrelated. Anyone serious about theology will have to read and study quite a bit. That’s just how it is. It can’t be reduced to two-sentence summaries.

You seem to believe that there is nothing about purgatory in the Bible; I say there is a ton of indications; which I’ve written about in many papers (linked above).


(originally 3-18-15)

Photo credit: Photograph by RonPorter (7-14-06) [Pixabay / CC0 Creative Commons license]


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