Vs. J. Oliveira #5: Talking to Dead Saints

Vs. J. Oliveira #5: Talking to Dead Saints October 3, 2023
Brazilian Protestant Juan Roberto de Oliveira is the author of the book, Nenhum Caminho Leva a Roma: O pecurso até o protestantismo [No Road Leads to Rome: The Path to Protestantism]. It has no date or publisher listed. But it was “recently released.” He’s a “law graduate” and is active on Twitter (now “X”) and, especially, Instagram. When I informed Juan of my replies, he quickly wrote on Twitter: “I’ll be rebutting your rebuttals.” I wish him all the best in that endeavor. If anyone discovers that he has ever answered any of my critiques, please let me know.
His words will be in blue. Translations from the Portugese of his book will be made with Google Translate (with an occasional additional modification). I will use RSV for Bible translations.
Just as I finished my tenth installment (10-5-23), Fraternidade Newman Brasil [Newman Brazil Fraternity] published a devastatingly comprehensive (and shocking) expose entitled “Apologética da Desonestidade: Evidências de Plágio e outras Trapaças no Livro do Protestante Juan Roberto Oliveira” [Apologetics of Dishonesty: Evidence of Plagiarism and other Cheating in the Book of Protestant Juan Roberto Oliveira].
In light of this new information, this will be my last critique. It’s a shame, because I was enjoying myself so much, and I felt that I came up with some fresh arguments, but this book deserves no further response. It was already a very weak, poor volume (desperately in need of an editor), even if these factors weren’t in play. What I have written thus far has, in my opinion, value in and of itself, as a ten-part Catholic apologetics “course.” So it wasn’t a waste of time at all. But no more. I’m only interested in responding to serious, adequately researched, honest apologetics.

Trying to communicate with the dead is an abomination to the Lord (Is 8.19; Dt 18.10-12). . . . The text of scripture is clear, God forbids any kind of attempt toinvocation or communication with the dead. (p. 23)

Why, then, did the prophet Samuel communicate with King Saul after he was dead? (1 Sam 28:3-20). If Juan is correct, Samuel ought to have done one of two things: 1) not appeared at all, or if he did appear, 2) refuse to talk to Saul, since in this thinking that would be a sin and forbidden. He did neither. Saul also made a prayer request of Samuel (in effect, invocating him). Samuel didn’t say he couldn’t do that. either. He simply turned down the request, noting that God had already turned against and judged Saul. Therefore, Juan’s claims above are false and unbiblical.

Jesus communicated with two dead people: Moses and Elijah, at His transfiguration (Mt 17:2-3). He couldn’t possibly engage in a forbidden sin.

Jesus talked to the dead daughter of Jairus before He raised her (” ‘Child, arise.’ And her spirit returned . .  .”: Lk 8:54-55).

Peter both prayed for a dead person (Tabitha) and then talked to her when she was dead (“Peter . . . knelt down and prayedthen turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, . . .”: Acts 9:40).

So that’s four explicit biblical and indisputable examples that contradict Juan’s assertions above, that “God forbids any . . . communication with the dead” and that it is an abomination to the Lord”: two involving Jesus, one with Samuel the prophet, and one with Peter the apostle.

The doctrine of the “intercession of dead saints” is so demonic that it is cited nowhere in the more than 1100 chapters of Scripture.What we have is the encouragement of prayer (intercession) from one living person on behalf of another living person. (p. 23)

It’s perfectly biblical. One simply has to be familiar with the Bible. Here is how it is supported by the Bible itself:

1) We ask others to pray for us.

2) Those who die in Christ are still alive and part of the Body of Christ too (Mt 22:32).

3) Saints in heaven are very aware of and intensely interested in earthly events (Heb 12:1).

4) We see them praying for us in the Bible (Rev 5:8, 6:9-10). It’s strongly implied that Moses and Samuel continue to intercede for us long after their deaths (Jer 15:1).

5) The prayer of a righteous man avails much (Jas 5:16).

6) Saints are perfected in holiness and sanctity (2 Cor3:18; Eph 3:19; 4:13); 2 Pet 1:4).

7) Therefore their prayers would have much power (combine #5 and #6).

8) Ergo, we can ask them to intercede to God for us. The omnipotent God — we submit — enables them to be able to hear intercessory requests by making them outside of time and in another dimension in heaven.

The Bible nowhere describes anyone in Heaven praying for whoever is on earth. (p. 24)

Here we go with dumbfounded universal negative statements again . . . In fact the Bible does mention this:

Revelation 6:9-10 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; [10] they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?”

This is what is called an “imprecatory prayer” (frequent in the Psalms). It’s asking that God judge sinners. So these martyrs now in heaven are making a prayer request regarding those on earth: that the evil people who martyred persons like them would be judged. They are involved in earthly affairs, in other words.

Also, Revelation 5:8 refers to “the twenty-four elders” (considered to be dead human beings by most commentators) holding “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” They have our prayers; they are involved in them. If it were all forbidden and/or impossible (Juan argues for both things), they simply wouldn’t have them. God and no one else would have the prayers. Moreover, Revelation 8:4 says the same about angels, in making reference to “the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.”

Jeremiah 15:1 Then the LORD said to me, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. . . .

God assumes that Moses and Samuel appearing before Him, interceding is a possibility. If it were not, God wouldn’t have stated this in this way. He would say something like, “No one in heaven can stand before me and pray for people on earth.”

Every time the Bible mentions praying or speaking with the dead, is in a context of magic, witchcraft, necromancy and occultism . . . (p. 24; my bolding and italics)

Really? So when Jesus spoke to the dead Moses and Elijah, He was engaging inmagic, witchcraft, necromancy [or] occultism”? When He spoke to Jairus’ daughter, who was dead, He was doing the same? When Peter spoke to the dead girl Tabitha, he was also sinfully involved with “magic, witchcraft, necromancy [or] occultism”? How odd and unbiblical Juan’s beliefs are in this regard. Ask the saints (especially the Blessed Virgin Mary) to intercede for him!

“I will do anything you ask in MY name” (John 14:14). See that Jesus said He would do ANYTHING for us if we would only ask him! See other similar passages: “This is so that the Father may give them whatever they ask in MY name” (John 15:16); “Until now you have asked nothing in my name, ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be full” (John 16:24); “I tell you this is true: if you ask the Father for anything in MY NAME he will give them” (John 16:23). (p. 25)

Yes, of course. That’s exactly what we are doing in asking a saint to intercede for us to Jesus. He’s the one who ultimately grants answers to prayers. The saints are merely His messengers and helpers. It’s because the Bible says that the prayers of righteous people have much more power. Therefore, we go to these holy saints in order to apply James 5:16 to real-life situations.

What scenario exists in which we ask Jesus directly and the prayer fails, but if we ask the saints then it would work? (p. 25)

That’s exactly what James 5 is talking about. If prayers of more righteous people have more power, then it’s clear and follows with inexorable logic that we would have a better chance to get our prayer to God answered if we ask the holiest person we can find to deliver the prayer to Jesus. This is entirely and explicitly biblical. There is no argument against it. Catholics didn’t make the Bible what it is. We follow all of its teachings.

Catholics also like to use Revelation 5:8 to try to prove the intercession of the saints. However, it has nothing to say about any saint interceding. What we see are twenty-four elders. We don’t even know who they are, and they certainly aren’t apostles, for John himself, being apostle, did not recognize any of them. (p. 26)

As I stated above, most commentators think they are dead human beings, and representatives of the Church and/or humanity. Holy Scripture itself — in the same context — calls them “priests”  (Strong’s word #2409: hiereus) in Revelation 5:10. That is always used of human beings in Scripture. We don’t know whether John recognized any of them or not. The text doesn’t specify.

Now, no elder is aware of each specific case in each prayer, they just had them before God. (p. 26)

Why? Why would they have them in the first place, is the question. If they do, it stands to reason that it is just as plausible to speculate that they know the contents of the prayer than it is to think that they don’t. We can only speculate based on what w have in inspired revelation.

We know nothing we know about them. We don’t even know if they are characters from the Old Testament. (p. 26).

We know they are “priests” from Revelation 5:10. That could be in the OT or NT sense.

In Revelation 6.9-11, the martyrs who died in the great tribulation were kept under the altar of God. These martyrs cried out in favor of themselves, asking justice to God against their murderers. Note that the martyrs did not cry out in favor of anyone, but only in favor of themselves. (p. 26)

They prayed for justice as regards themselves, but the prayer was an imprecatory one directed towards evil men on earth who martyred Christians. That is the point. If no one in heaven has anything to do with earth and people on earth, then they couldn’t do that at all. It would be an absurd and biblically self-contradictory passage. God would answer them, saying something like, “what have you to do with people on the earth? Nothing! That’s My business!”

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Summary: Juan Oliveira makes an argument that “any” communication with the dead is an abomination. I produce counter-examples from Jesus, Peter, & the prophet Samuel.

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