Lazarus & the Rich Man: Jesus Taught False Theology?

Lazarus & the Rich Man: Jesus Taught False Theology? May 14, 2024

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I’ve addressed the topic of Luke 16 and this story many times (see the links at the end, below), but here goes another one. Abe Mundt, who, according to his Facebook page, studied Bible and theology at WalkRight Baptist Bible Institute from 2011 to 2013, interacted with some comments I made on my Facebook page, and a spontaneous debate commenced. His words will be in blue.

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Scripture teaches (from Jesus Himself) that the rich man petitioned Abraham in prayer three times (Lk 16:24, 27-28, 30). Abraham nowhere rebukes him or tells him to pray only to God. Jesus is telling the story, in inspired Scripture, therefore it must be true theology. Thus, if Jesus taught that men can pray to Abraham, there is nothing stopping them from praying (i.e., petitioning or asking to intercede) to Mary the Mother of God the Son. If one creature and holy person can be prayed to, so can another, by the same token. Have at it!
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What we see from that, is that the rich man was already physically dead and burning in hell. And he is talking to Abraham who is also physically dead and across the chasm in Abraham’s bosom. One thing we do notice, is that nothing he requests of Abraham is answered. He asks for water and he’s rejected and he also asks for an angel to be sent to his family to warn them of hell, and Abraham says no. So praying to Abraham was not a positive response, in the same way that Saul talking to the deceased Samuel was not cast in a positive light. In fact, Samuel very much indicated his displeasure at being disturbed from his eternal sleep. And even those Saul attempted to get advice from him, Samuel basically told him what sauce should have already interpreted from God’s silence, that God’s favor was no longer upon him.
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And the problem, is that Catholics insist they do not pray to Mary or the saints, yet their verbiage to the non-Catholic looks exactly like the same verbiage you use when praying to God. And they say they don’t practice necromancy, but Mary is physically dead, with her body somewhere in the ground, and her spirit at the throne worshiping god. So even though Mary is spiritually alive, she is physically dead and therefore you are contacting the physically dead. And there really is no difference between asking Mary to pray for you, and praying to her to ask her for help or for her to pray to God to help you.
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1. This is not hell; it’s Hades, which word is actually in the text in Greek and English (in RSV and several others). Hades is not hell.
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2. Whether they are dead or alive is irrelevant, since the issue is the Protestant claim that no one can ever pray to anyone but God (here it is  petitioning a dead saint in prayer).
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3. Abraham’s answer to the petitions is “no”: just as God sometimes says no, too. This doesn’t prove that the petition shouldn’t have happened at all. If that were the case, either Jesus (telling the story) or Abraham would have indicated that the prayer was improper. But neither did. Therefore, this is true theology and practice. Jesus couldn’t and wouldn’t lie about theology, whether this was a parable or not. It’s exactly the same in Saul’s encounter with Samuel. The prophet didn’t tell him he could never ask him anything. Rather, he said, “Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy?” (1 Sam 28:16). Likewise, Abraham reasoned with the rich man that his petitions were a futile endeavor, not that he shouldn’t have made them at all.
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4. When Catholic “pray” to Mary or other saints they are usually asking them to intercede. When we say “praying to saints” it includes the notion of asking for their intercession.
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5. “And they say they don’t practice necromancy, but Mary is physically dead, with her body somewhere in the ground.” So were Abraham and Samuel, so why does the Bible (including Jesus Himself) present petitions to them as perfectly permissible? This is what Protestants rarely ever grapple with.
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6. The Bible teaches that the prayers of the righteous are more powerful (James 5:16 and many other passages). We think the saints in heaven are exceptionally able to make prayer requests because of their perfected sanctity. Necromancy is not the same thing as this. It is exercising occultic or demonic forces in order to gain something. Jesus said the saints in heaven are more alive than we are.
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7. Any time that Mary helps us with a prayer request, it’s because of her asking God; not granting the request only by herself. She intercedes, just as the Bible states that even the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.
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1. OK.
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2. He petitioned Abraham and his petition was rejected.
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3. Is this an account of what actually happened? Or is this an illustration to teach a point?
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I contend that it’s not a parable because it has proper names. So it really happened. But even if it didn’t, the practice isn’t presented as wrong or forbidden. Jesus can’t teach an error.
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That’s assuming it’s true and therefore Jesus couldn’t have taught against it. Lazarus is named. But not the rich man.

I assume that 1) Jesus is God (and omniscient), and 2) the NT is inspired and free from error. If it’s a true story, it’s presented as perfectly permissible practice. If it’s a parable, Jesus can’t include an uncorrected serious error as part of it, lest He lead people astray. The argument doesn’t rest on it being a parable or not, but on Jesus, Who has all knowledge. You’re being unbiblical.

The fact that the rich man is not named, tells us that it’s most likely a parable and not an actual true story. It’s possible that Jesus used the name Lazarus because it means whom God helps, which fits the narrative that he is trying to teach. And he left the name of the rich man unknown, to allow the Pharisees and anyone else reading it to place themselves into the story as the rich man. But there is no indication from the text that this was an actual occurrence. It was more than likely a story Jesus made up to warn the Pharisees about what was to come after death. When you die, and you end up in hell, you are tormented in the flames, and long for a single drop of water to temporarily cool your tongue. And once you realize you can never get out, you wish you could warn your family and friends of what this place entails, so that they do not end up there as well. So you can’t force me to be unbiblical, just because you interpret the passages being a true story and not simply a parable.

Once again, you completely ignored the fact that Jesus could not and would not give false theology in a parable (if one thinks this is a parable). This is the unanswerable element for the Protestant view. My view doesn’t rest on it being a true story. Don’t be scared to follow truth wherever it leads. Don’t put man-made tradition above inspired Scripture and Jesus’ own teaching.
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What if he’s not giving theology there and is simply communicating facts about what the after life is like? What if he fabricated that illustration with no intention of teaching or commending the rich man’s communication with Abraham? 
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Everything Jesus said had some relevance to teaching us. So you would have us believe that Jesus told a story (or a parable), in which a person committed sacrilege and abomination and engaged in a wicked occultic practice (according to Protestant teaching), yet issued no correction, so that His hearers would know that this was a forbidden practice (nor did Abraham in the story do it). That’s impossible.
When something is wrong, the Bible points it out. So, for example, see:
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Acts 10:25-26 (RSV) When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. [26] But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”
Acts 14:11-15 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycao’nian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” [12] Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, because he was the chief speaker, they called Hermes. [13] And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the people. [14] But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out among the multitude, crying, [15] “Men, why are you doing this? We also are men, of like nature with you, and bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.
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What I’m pointing out, is that perhaps he is simply trying to communicate that when you die and go to hell, you are simply begging for one drop of water to cool your tongue from the tremendous torment, and that you are begging for someone to go warn your relatives, so they don’t also come to this same place. Just because of Jesus says it, doesn’t necessarily mean he was teaching that as a practice. Nor does it have to mean that it must be specifically forbidden in order for it to be false. If this is just a parable, considering the lack of the rich man’s name, then perhaps he is just telling an illustration to make a point, and he’s not intending for us to nitpick the entire story and make doctrines out of everything.

I see. What other examples can you produce from Jesus, where He is not intending to teach and where what you believe to be false doctrine is present (that Jesus — inexplicably — doesn’t correct)? Good luck! Meanwhile, Holy Scripture specifically states that He told parables in order to teach:

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Mark 4:2 And he taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:
Matthew 13:35 This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”
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And we have this:
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2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
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Luke 16, a New Testament Scripture, is, therefore (inexorably) “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction.” “Teaching” doesn’t come about by presenting an error without it being corrected. In fact, Jesus is correcting and reproving Protestant false teaching here and educating Protestants by presenting the petitioning of dead saints in prayer as a perfectly acceptable practice. Knowing all things, Jesus knew that the false doctrine of denial of all invocation of saints would later arise (15 centuries after His ascension). So He gave us this wonderful story as a handy means to refute it.
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Mark 4:34 he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
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So, with Luke 16 according to you, Jesus would be explaining it to them, and then when He got to the three petitions made to Abraham, He would have said, “that’s false doctrine!”? Like that is plausible? If that were the case, then Jesus wouldn’t have cared about all the people who heard the parable (if so) without the interpretation. They were free to believe that it taught what you think is reprehensible theology and spirituality.
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This would be contrary to God’s love. He wouldn’t present a false teaching without correction. Therefore, it’s much more reasonable to believe that it presents true and good spiritual practice. And once again, I note that this isn’t talking about hell. The word “Hades” is in the passage. Hades is not hell. If you doubt me, look it up with Strong’s (many sites available online to determine the Greek).
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This doesn’t even fit to begin with, because this is not detailing a person living on this Earth contacting somebody who is deceased. This is a physically dead rich man speaking to a physically dead Abraham. So your argument doesn’t even hold up, considering this isn’t even a living person on this Earth talking to a physically deceased person.
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I already addressed that. It’s just an attempt to change the subject, in order to avoid giving a cogent reply to my latest objections. It’s remarkable the lengths that you go in order to bolster up false Protestant teachings. You oppose inspired scriptural revelation, sensible exegesis, even Jesus’ own plain words. Anything goes, except for Catholic teaching when you disagree with it, I guess!
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[see a further round of exchanges on the Facebook thread]
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Photo credit: Print illustrating the story of the rich man and Lazarus, from the Gospel of Luke, by Gustave Doré (1832-1883) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

Summary: I reply to a Baptist on the question of whether Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus in Hades (in Luke 16) is proof of asking a dead saint (Abraham) to intercede.

 

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