October 2, 2015

(vs. Bethany Kerr)


Illustration for Dante’s Purgatorio 24 by Gustave Doré (1832-1883) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

(10-7-13)This friendly and constructive exchange took place on my Facebook page, under a post from 24 September 2013. Bethany is an evangelical Protestant with Calvinist inclinations. Her words will be in blue.

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Original post:


EZEKIEL 4:4-8 (RSV) “Then lie upon your left side, and I will lay the punishment of the house of Israel upon you; for the number of the days that you lie upon it, you shall bear their punishment. [5] For I assign to you a number of days, three hundred and ninety days, equal to the number of the years of their punishment; so long shall you bear the punishment of the house of Israel. [6] And when you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the punishment of the house of Judah; forty days I assign you, a day for each year. [7] And you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem, with your arm bared; and you shall prophesy against the city. [8] And, behold, I will put cords upon you, so that you cannot turn from one side to the other, till you have completed the days of your siege.”

But Ezekiel was bearing an earthly punishment for the living… He did nothing to remove punishment for the dead.

Also, he was a prophet. Prophets had to do many things that would not be instructed to believers today. (Such as, making cakes over dung, keeping silent after a wife dies, or marrying prostitutes and staying with them throughout their prostitution).

From my understanding, prophets commonly did things like this to paint a picture.

In this particular argument I wasn’t claiming that he was doing something for the dead. But that is not at all unbiblical, either. Paul talks about those being baptized for the dead (1 Cor 15:29), and makes a direct reference to 2 Maccabees 12:44 (KJV): “For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead.” I believe he was referring to penance for the dead, per the plausible interpretation of St. Francis de Sales.

The Apostle Paul also prayed for the dead (Onesiphorus).

I agree that prophets do weird things; no argument there. My favorite is Isaiah going around naked. One of my female friends wisecracked about, “why couldn’t God pick a younger guy to do that?” :-)

But again, my target in this post was those who think such a thing is unbiblical, period: that it is impermissible and not something God would want done: even if only by a prophet, who is often commanded to do odd stuff. God can’t command anything that is intrinsically wrong.

LOL @your Isaiah comment!

I would love to one day discuss these things with you more but would not want to derail your thread. I enjoy reading your posts (even if I do disagree on theology)! And you seem like someone not offended by discussion as many can be, which is nice.

It’s fine, Bethany. This is on-topic. Feel free. Thanks for your very kind words, and you appear to be one who can disagree amiably, too. Good for you! I’m honored that you like reading my posts.

Yes, I definitely enjoy disagreeing amiably. (I’m a lightweight and you’re a heavyweight but that won’t stop me from trying.) LOL

I do wonder why you believe that Onesiphorus is an example of prayers being made for the dead. I don’t see that in scripture. I saw how he made a prayer that he hoped he would find mercy on “that day”…. But I don’t see any reason to believe that Onesiphorus was dead at the time he prayed this. It seems speculative.

I could pray that God would find mercy on someone who wronged a friend of mine (on that day) but my prayer could have no effect once the person was already dead. If they are born again, they are already a recipient of Gods mercy… But if not, there is nothing that can be done after death. They are already recipients of Gods wrath. The time has ended for prayers on their behalf.

But you’re forgetting purgatory. :-)

Well okay, purgatory… Where do you find it in scripture?

I guess I should begin with that my beliefs are very similar to Calvinism, although I do not know enough about it to be absolutely certain.

Here is a paper where I cite many Protestants on the Onesiphorus issue:

“Onesiphorus (2 Tim 1:16-18; 4:19): Explicit New Testament Example of the Apostle Paul Praying for the Dead (Explanations of Protestant Commentaries)”

I find indications of purgatory in lots o’ places. See: “Biblical Evidence for Purgatory: 25 Bible Passages.”

I will read it tonight and get back with you soon. Thanks, Dave.

Cool. My papers will put you to sleep, though!

No they are interesting! I actually read through much of your blog right after you added me as friend a year or so ago.

Isn’t that something? Wow!

I wanted to add that there is actually a Protestant argument for prayers for the dead, that presupposes the non-existence of purgatory (which would be used by, e.g., Lutherans, who do so):

Since God is outside of time, prayers can be “retroactive”; in other words, one could pray for a dead person, and God could apply the prayer to the person outside of time. Thus, you could actually pray for the person’s salvation after he or she died. God would simply apply it on the person’s behalf. We can do that since we don’t know a person’s destiny for sure. Prayer is always good and will have some positive result.

The first thing I noticed in your article regarding purgatory (since this is the heart of the issue) is that you brought up origin and Ambrose, and that they referred to purgatory, using Psalm 66:12 as a proof text.

I do not see Psalm 66:12 in context as speaking of the afterlife at all:

8 Bless our God, O peoples;
let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept our soul among the living
and has not let our feet slip.
10 For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
11 You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
12 you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

It is poetic speak, typical of psalms, but it also is speaking of the conflicts and trials of God’s people, while on earth. God brings us through many trials, through “fire and water”, and yet he has brought us out to a “place of abundance”. I don’t see any reason to assume this text is referring to the afterlife, especially if you go on to read the rest of the chapter. There is no indication there of purgatory, only speculation.

Also, it seems that Catholics distance themselves from many of the things Origen believed, and most places that I have read from Catholic sources say that Origen didn’t really have a good grasp on what purgatory actually / was/ in the first place.

I don’t know what he is quoted as saying that proves this verse to be referring to a place where your sins are removed from you after death, by fire, but I am sure that his beliefs were quite different than the Catholic church’s beliefs of today. Even if he were to have believed it the same way, that would not be proof of the doctrine of purgatory…I mean, Tertullian became a Monatist, but I doubt the Catholic church uses quotes from that era of his life to promote their teachings, since they considered him to be a heretic after that point. I say that to say that just because one of the early church fathers believed it, doesn’t make it true. It must be supported Biblically.

As for Ambrose, Catholics seem to use this statement by him to be proof that he believed in purgatory:

“Give, O Lord, rest to Thy servant Theodosius, that rest Thou hast prepared for Thy saints. . . . I loved him, therefore will I follow him to the land of the living; I will not leave him till by my prayers and lamentations he shall be admitted unto the holy mount of the Lord, to which his deserts call him”

Did you know that this is taken out of its context to give a false impression of what ambrose was saying? Only a bit earlier in his quote, this is what he says:

“The flesh, therefore, returns to earth, the soul hastens to the rest which is above..to which it is said, “Return to thy rest, oh my soul” (Ps. csvi 7) (Sec 31)

Into which rest, Theodosius hastenened to enter, and go into the city of jerusalem, of which it is said; and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it. (Apoc xxi 24)

That is true glory which is there assumed; that is the most blessed kingdom, which is there possessed, whither the apostle hastened, saying; we are confident therefore, and willing rather to be absent from the body ,and present with the Lord. Wherefore we labor that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. (2 cor vs 8,9)

or well pleasing to him, (sec 32)

Freed, therefore, from the doubtful contest, theodosius, of august memory, now enjoys perpetual light, endless tranquility, and according to those things which he hath done in his body, rejoices in the fruits of divine remuneration. “I had to type that out because I could not find a text to copy and paste, and didn’t have much time so please forgive grammatical errors. You can see the rest of the text here: Roman Misquotation: or Certain Passages from the Fathers [Richard T. P. Pope]

I know I’ve only addressed such a small part so far. Got to go to bed though. OK I was wrong. I have to address one more thing before bed. I’ll leave you alone then.

From your article:

Isaiah 6:5-7 And I said: “Woe is me! for I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.”

This passage is a noteworthy example of what happens when men experience God’s presence directly. An immediate recognition of one’s own unholiness occurs, along with the corresponding feeling of inadequacy. Like Isaiah, we must all undergo a self-conscious and voluntary purging upon approaching God more closely than in this present life.”

I would just mention here that Isaiah is not yet dead- and he is in his physical body- which is different from our souls being separated from our body upon death. This cannot be compared accurately to our experience after having died and being separated from this “body of death”. To be absent in the body is to be present with Christ.

I absolutely agree that if we came face to face with God at this moment, we would fall to our knees, absolutely ashamed of our sinfulness and being frightened to our core. But we are not yet separated from our bodies, which have a nature of sin. Our spirit and flesh are in constant war until death causes their separation.

Replying to your last comment first:

Again, I didn’t claim that Isaiah was dead, but it is irrelevant to my point, which was how we react when we meet God: we feel unworthy and want to make ourselves clean. That is the main notion that lies behind purgatory.

Protestants and Catholics agree that we have to be actually sinless to enter into heaven. We just think it’ll be more of a process to get clean: not an instant “zap”! So we agree on the essentials (gotta be clean and sin-free) and disagree on secondary elements (how long it will take and how painful).

Psalm 66:12 doesn’t necessarily have to be about the afterlife itself. It illustrates the principle of purging and cleansing that many biblical passages illustrate. We know that that process is a “biblical” one that God does all the time. So it stands to reason that He will after we die and enter literally into God’s presence in heaven. Even a guy like C. S. Lewis agrees with that. He believed in purgatory.

I am sure that his beliefs were quite different than the Catholic church’s beliefs of today. 

I am, too, since all doctrines develop (including trinitarianism and Christology, very much so in the early centuries). But the essence remains the same.

Even if he were to have believed it the same way, that would not be proof of the doctrine of purgatory

That’s correct. The value of the fathers is if most of them believed one thing: then we conclude that the belief is apostolic in origin.

…I mean, Tertullian became a Monatist, but I doubt the Catholic church uses quotes from that era of his life to promote their teachings, since they considered him to be a heretic after that point. 

Yep; it’s worthless to cite his Montanist writings.

I say that to say that just because one of the early church fathers believed it, doesn’t make it true. It must be supported Biblically.

We agree. This is why I cited 25 passages in my book. I merely noted that various fathers agreed with the interpretation. That’s important because how the fathers interpreted gives us a big indication of the teachings of the early Church and what the Bible teaches. It is interpreted authoritatively by the Church and eminent men in the Church: the fathers.

Re: St. Ambrose and purgatory: I couldn’t find an entire text of the funeral sermon in question, and I don’t trust anti-Catholic polemical works from 1840 to give me an accurate or anywhere near objective analysis of it. But I can cite the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church: a non-Catholic work, in its article on purgatory (pp. 1144-1145):

A more developed doctrine is taught by St. Ambrose, who asserts that the souls of the departed await the end of time in different habitations, their fate varying acc. to their works, though some are already with Christ.

This is exactly what we would expect to see from Ambrose, in his time period.
See primary evidence from St. Ambrose and analysis from the dissertation, Prayer for the Dead from Ambrose to Gregory the Great (by Laszlo Illes Kaulics): pp. 10-18.

I have three pages of citations in my book, The Quotable Augustine, on purgatory (from City of God and the Enchiridion) and four pages documenting his views on alms, Masses, offerings, and prayer for the dead.

I’ll read the link you provided and get back with you! Wish I had more time… With six kids, it’s harder and harder to sit and write like i would like sometimes!

Six kids! God bless you. The most important job in the world . . .

From the link you provided, it appears that Ambrose was not very consistent in his views on the afterlife.
From the article:

When speaking about the eschatology of Ambrose one should note that he does not have a fully developed and consistent theory of salvation and damnation mechanisms in the next world, whether saints go to heaven immediately or stay in some place of repose.

But this isn’t surprising, as there are many church fathers, many of which disagreed with each other on a multitude of theological teachings….so I think the only way to know for sure is to see whether something is explicitly taught in the Bible – not to find where a church father here or there agreed or disagreed.

I don’t see purgatory in the scripture. I have seen many verses that are supposed to refer to purgatory, but the reasoning for assigning them to that idea is speculative at best.

I grew up in a religion that taught a future rapture in our time, and being left behind or caught up, then going through a great tribulation period for seven years….this doctrine was “proven” using select few verses from the Bible to support this theology…and hey, you could definitely believe that it was true if you only saw those verses and read them in the way they are presented by the left behind movement. But a closer look at the context reveals that those verses are not supporting that theology at all. In fact, I was told Jesus was going to come and rapture people on Sept 13, 1996, based on several passages, calculations, and some pretty faulty interpretation of scripture. Obviously, he didn’t come on that date, and their reasoning was flawed. Their proof texts didn’t prove what they assumed it did.

I think it’s sort of similar, the way purgatory is taught and then read into the scriptures. You can find scripture that sounds like it supports it, but in my opinion, its just read into it and doesn’t go along with the majority of the scripture which teaches that being absent from the body is being present with Christ. We are not attached to our sinful nature anymore after we die. That’s in our flesh. And I cannot depend on myself for salvation…if I did, I would without a doubt be completely doomed. I have already broken Gods law. If you break one commandment, you are guilty of all.

Jesus atoned for all of my sin when he died and paid my debt on the cross. There is no sin that his blood was not worthy to atone for. Purgatory makes it appear that Christ could not complete the job by his death on the cross..that something more than his blood is necessary for salvation.

Jesus said that “it is finished” when he died on the cross. He paid the price. If we could suffer and thereby earn salvation for ourselves or anyone else, would we not then have a right to boast? The Bible says the reason that salvation is by grace through faith and not of works is “lest any man should boast”. 

The verse you cited does not speak of Christ’s atonement. I other words, it does not say ‘filling up what is lacking in Christ’s atonement”. It is speaking of the suffering that all Christians must bear in order to be image bearers of Christ…to bring glory to God. If the world hated him, it will also hate us…and if any man will live godly in Christ Jesus, they will suffer. But not as an atoning work.

There was still suffering for Christs name that was not accomplished yet…suffering that was appointed to Paul, and to other believers. Therefore, it was yet “lacking”.

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But this isn’t surprising, as there are many church fathers, many of which disagreed with each other on a multitude of theological teachings….

That’s true, but they also had remarkable accord on doctrines that are distinctively Catholic, and agreement against most if not all doctrines that are distinctively Protestant.

so I think the only way to know for sure is to see whether something is explicitly taught in the Bible – not to find where a church father here or there agreed or disagreed.

Well, it’s both. Catholics believe that true doctrine will be verified by the convergence of biblical teaching, tradition (Church fathers), and the sanction of the authoritative teaching Church. Purgatory developed a bit slowly at first, but then it was accepted for many hundreds of years before being arbitrarily thrown out by Protestants.

I don’t see purgatory in the scripture. I have seen many verses that are supposed to refer to purgatory, but the reasoning for assigning them to that idea is speculative at best.

That’s how you would see it, with Protestant lenses on; whereas we see it all over Scripture in various ways. I don’t see sola Scriptura in Scripture, and you see that everywhere. True or false premises determine a lot of outcomes of what we believe.

It’s not proven in an “explicit, ironclad / no one could possibly doubt it” manner, but then it’s not required to be, since sola Scriptura is a false doctrine, and is not taught in the Bible (I’ve written two books just about that, and can send you e-books of both for free if you like). The irony is that Protestants apply sola Scriptura to all other doctrinal questions, when it itself is not a biblical teaching, and much in the Bible contradicts it.

I was a committed evangelical Protestant for 13 years, and an apologist in those days, too. I’m quite familiar with the teachings and outlooks: used to hold many of ’em myself. I didn’t get into date-setting, but I used to believe in Rapture eschatology, from reading Hal Lindsey, until I later read some Reformed stuff and stopped believing in the Rapture.

I think it’s sort of similar, the way purgatory is taught and then read into the scriptures. You can find scripture that sounds like it supports it, but in my opinion, its just read into it

Again, we are not presupposing the necessity for explicit proof for everything as you are, so you don’t “see” it because the proofs aren’t of that nature, for the most part. But there is plenty, including prayer for the dead, baptism for the dead (Paul flat-out mentions that, and you have to interpret it somehow), and third states after death (Luke 16 alone proves that).

and doesn’t go along with the majority of the scripture which teaches that being absent from the body is being present with Christ.

Here you are assuming that being in purgatory is being separate from Christ. It is closer to Him than we are on earth. Everyone in purgatory is already saved, or they wouldn’t be there.

We are not attached to our sinful nature anymore after we die. That’s in our flesh. 

Eventually that will be the case, after God mercifully purges us of all our attachment to sin. It’s not just flesh, though. The devil and his demons were spiritual creatures, and they rebelled against God. Unless you mean it only in the non-material sense . . .

And I cannot depend on myself for salvation…if I did, I would without a doubt be completely doomed. I have already broken Gods law. If you break one commandment, you are guilty of all.

Neither do we. Catholics don’t believe in works salvation (heresy of Pelagianism). Trent makes that crystal clear. We believe in salvation by grace alone, but we don’t separate works from faith. as Protestants do by making sanctification separate from justification and salvation. All good works that we do are caused by God’s grace.

Jesus atoned for all of my sin when he died and paid my debt on the cross. There is no sin that his blood was not worthy to atone for.

Yes, of course. We don’t disagree on that.

Purgatory makes it appear that Christ could not complete the job by his death on the cross..that something more than his blood is necessary for salvation.

Not at all. Like I said, those in purgatory are saved, and they’re saved because of God’s grace and His work on the cross on our behalf. They are simply being cleansed so that they are fit to enter into God’s presence. No more games about it being merely extrinsic, imputed, forensic justification; after we die it is the real thing: we have to be literally holy and without sin to be fit to enter into God’s awesome presence.

That’s what purgatory does. As I stated before, both sides agree about holiness in heaven. There’s no sin there. How we get to that state from our present one is what is disputed.

Colossians 1:24 [“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” — RSV] is a specific sense of our participating in the death of Christ (which is a frequent biblical theme). The Church teaches that Jesus’ death was super-sufficient and efficient for the salvation of all who are saved. We simply have to accept that work and repent, so that it can be applied in our particular case.

I think what is meant is that Christ intends for us to join in spreading the redemption that He won on the cross (many verses on sharing Christ’s suffering and on helping to distribute His grace and salvation). Therefore, Paul would be saying that He is doing that, and that Jesus can’t do it because He can’t do the part that is what His followers do. It’s not a limitation on God; only saying that we play a role in it, too. “Both/and” and not “either/or.” This is biblical synergy. But the cooperation is not absolute equality: God is the cause of the grace and salvation; we only help distribute and apply it. It’s part of redemptive suffering on behalf of others. The Navarre Bible Commentary expresses this, as well: 

24. Jesus Christ our Lord perfectly accomplished the work the Father gave him to do (cf. Jn 17:4); as he said himself when he was about to die, “It is finished,” it is accomplished (Jn 19:30).

From that point onwards objective redemption is an accomplished fact. All men have been saved by the redemptive death of Christ. However, St. Paul says that he completes in his flesh “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”; what does he mean by this? The most common explanation of this statement is summarized by St. Alphonsus as follows: “Can it be that Christ’s passion alone was insufficient to save us? It left nothing more to be done, it was entirely sufficient to save all men. However, for the merits of the Passion to be applied to us, according to St. Thomas (Summa theologiae, III, q. 49, a. 3), we need to cooperate (subjective redemption) by patiently bearing the trials God sends us, so as to become like our head, Christ” (St. Alphonsus, Thoughts on the Passion, 10).

St. Paul is applying this truth to himself. Jesus Christ worked and strove in all kinds of ways to communicate his message of salvation, and then he accomplished the redemption by dying on the Cross. The Apostle is mindful of the Master’s teaching and so he follows in his footsteps (cf. 1 Pet 2:21), takes up his cross (cf. Mt 10:38) and continues the task of bringing Christ’s teaching to all men.

Faith in the fact that we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ, John Paul II says, gives a person “the certainty that in the spiritual dimension of the work of Redemption he is serving, like Christ, the salvation of his brothers and sisters. Therefore he is carrying out an irreplaceable service. In the Body of Christ, which is ceaselessly born of the Cross of the Redeemer, it is precisely suffering permeated by the spirit of Christ’s sacrifice that is the irreplaceable mediator and author of the good things which are indispensable for the world’s salvation. It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls. Suffering, more than anything else, makes present in the history of humanity the force of the Redemption” (Salvifici doloris, 27). 


I’m a little confused now. I want to be sure I understand your position, Dave. Do you believe that Jesus’ blood is sufficient and completely paid our debt in full, to those who are regenerate?

Yes, this is Catholic teaching. It’s sufficient for the salvation of all men (not just the regenerate: which comes through baptism), but alas, some men reject it and God allows them to do that.

Do you believe that one who is saved is kept secure by Christ, and if they die (while in sin) they have to be refined but are still saved by grace?

Long discussion. The elect are who they are, and God knows that, but we don’t. That’s the problem in these sorts of analyses. The Reformed / evangelical notion of “absolute assurance of grace” is not a biblical position. Even Paul didn’t talk like he was absolutely sure (several passages). Catholics believe we can have a strong “moral assurance” that we are in good graces with God and will most likely be saved in the end, by examining ourselves to see if we are not in a state of serious sin. One can fall away from a state of grace and lose one’s salvation (dozens of Bible passages).

We believe that almost all those who are saved still have a “stain of sin” on their soul and will have to undergo purification in purgatory in order to be fit to enter into God’s presence in the sinless environment of heaven.

Do you believe that there is anything we must do to keep our salvation?

We have to persevere in faith, do good works (that are the evidence of a genuine faith that isn’t merely the bare assent of faith alone) and be free of mortal sin, that places that salvation in grave danger. That’s why we have confession: to give believers a chance to “clean themselves up” and do better in the future, by being open to the leading of God’s grace and His Word.

I think the purification does (or can, if we allow it) begin in this life. It’s all of a piece. It’s simply completed after death.

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January 18, 2013

 . . . Re: The Quotable Newman and The Catholic Verses

Cover (551x827)

 (January 2013)


I was interviewed for about 45 minutes on 1-17-13. We talked about two of my books, published by Sophia Institute Press: The Quotable Newman (Oct. 2012) and The Catholic Verses (2004). Past guest authors on this show include: David B. Currie, Amy Welborn, Marcus Grodi, Dr. Diane Moczar, Teresa Tomeo, Dr. Paul Thigpen, Kevin Lowry, Rod Bennett, Brandon Vogt, Bruce Sullivan, and many others.


You can hear the interview in an audio podcast file on the show’s website (Radio Maria).

Here is the specific link for the audio file:

* * * [ Audio Link ] * * *

Ken had sent me interview questions beforehand, allowing me to prepare extensive notes. As it turned out, the interview covered only about 60-70% of the material I had prepared (replies regarding The Catholic Verses, particularly, were greatly curtailed, due to time pressure). Thus, my notes have some usefulness on their own. We also talked about a few matters that were not included at all in the prior questions received.
The interview questions will be in blue.

* * * * *

Could you give the “five minute version” of your conversion?

I was very happy as an evangelical Protestant. I underwent a conversion to Christ in 1977 after being very nominal in my Methodist faith as a child and young teenager. I was an apologist on college campuses in the late 80s and had done a lot of street evangelism also. In the late 80s I became involved in Operation Rescue, where we would block the doors of abortion clinics in order to save the lives of babies about to be killed.

In that movement I met many committed, serious Catholics (I never really had, before), and I was most curious about the Catholic prohibition of contraception. I didn’t get that. I wasn’t anti-Catholic, but I thought evangelicalism was sort of the cream of the crop of Christianity, and Catholicism had some things wrong.

In early 1990 I began ecumenical discussions in my home and invited two Catholics I had met. I also met Fr. John Hardon (a major Catholic author and catechist, and saintly man — canonization), and attended his informal catechetical meetings at the University of Detroit. After lengthy discussions, I became convinced on the contraception issue (after learning that the Anglicans were the first Christians to change the prohibition, in 1930). I thought Catholicism had the best moral theology of any Christian group.

But my big objection was infallibility, so I fought about that tooth and nail (citing liberal dissidents like Hans Küng and Joseph Döllinger). My friend suggested Cardinal Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine and that pulverized all my objections. I also studied the Protestant Revolt (or what’s called the “Reformation”) from a Catholic perspective, for the first time. So it was moral theology and history of doctrine that were the main causes. By October 1990 and many discussions and books read, I was convinced that Catholicism was the fullness of the Christian faith: the Church. [see conversion story from Surprised by Truth and a lengthier, more technical published version, emphasizing development]

Your bio says that you are a full time Catholic apologist.  I know the first time I heard the term apologist, I thought “What is he apologizing for?”  What is an apologist? 

“Apologist” means “defender” — so a Catholic apologist defends the Catholic faith by reason, and from the Bible (my specialty). The original meaning of the word “apologist” comes from Plato’s Apology (apologia in Greek), which was an account of the ancient philosopher Socrates defending himself against trumped-up charges, at his own trial. The same word is also in the Bible; e.g., 1 Peter 3:15, “stand ready to make a defense . . . ” So that was the original, classical meaning. Then in modern usage it became synonymous with saying we are sorry; but it still implies some sort of explanation or defense.

Your most recent book, The Quotable Newman, is of course, about the writing of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman. Can you give the listeners a sketch of his life?

Newman lived from 1801-1890. He first became famous as an Anglican preacher and writer in the 1830s at Oxford, and was and is considered one of the greatest preachers in English and one of the very greatest writers. Parochial and Plain Sermons collects in eight volumes, his preaching from this time. I include a lot of that material in my book; it’s very good. He was also interested in reforming Anglicanism, and reviving more traditional “Catholic” aspects. His group of reformers was called the Oxford Movement or Tractarianism, after a series of pamphlets called Tracts for the Times. Yet he was still basically anti-Catholic.

He loved history and wrote about it; particularly about the Arian heresy of he 4th century. The Arians were like present-day Jehovah’s Witnesses: they thought Jesus was created, and deny that He is God. Eventually he began to see that in the early Church Rome had always stood firm, and that the analogy to Anglicans was semi-Arianism: sort of in the middle between orthodoxy and heresy. Some historical questions of this sort eventually caused him to start questioning whether Anglicanism was the Church. Around 1843 he began studying the issue of development of doctrine: how doctrines are better understood and explained in more detail as time goes on. That was the issue that caused him to argue himself into Catholicism, and he was received in 1845, to the great shock of the whole nation.

What part did Blessed Newman play in your own conversion experience?

As I mentioned, it was his Essay on Development that explained to me how the Catholic Church could be infallible when it taught binding doctrine. Because I loved history, as Newman did, when I read that, it explained in a brilliant way how one could go from the simplicity of the early Church to the complexity of Catholic doctrine as it is today. The doctrines developed. That was the key to my conversion, because it explained the history of doctrine in a way that was perfectly plausible, and also demonstrated the infallibility of the Church throughout history. This book, then, is sort of my way of repaying the huge debt I owe to Cardinal Newman for my own conversion.

Why does Blessed John Cardinal Newman continue to be significant to Catholics as well as Christians from other faith traditions?

He’s very important in many ways. His early sermons and writings as an Anglican are excellent, and continue to be admired by Anglicans. His conversion is said to be one of the more notable ones since St. Augustine. In the 1860s he was falsely accused of misrepresenting his story and playing fast and loose with the truth, and decided to write an explanation of his life and conversion, called the Apologia pro vita Sua. He won over the English public as a result and was very highly respected thereafter.

Just how extensive are the writings of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman?

He wrote about 50 books on many different topics. There is also a multi-volume collection now of his correspondence. I have a couple complete shelves (about ten feet in length) of his own works in my library.

Did you read everything?

I have a technique that I call “heavily skimming”: sort of a cross between speed-reading and skimming a book. I went through virtually all of his books about theology and several volumes of correspondence (that I could obtain); also some biographical works. The number of sources I list in my book adds up to 51 books altogether. I think it was the most enjoyable reading I’ve ever done in my life. Pure joy!

Tell us about how the book is organized?

It has 123 topics, with the focus overwhelmingly on theology. They’re arranged alphabetically, then within each section, the citations are arranged chronologically, so the reader can see how his thought developed through the years. This is especially important in the section on his conversion, which runs 34 pages in the book. I think this may be one of the most unique or useful parts of the book: to follow that whole train of thought: how he changed his mind. It’s actually more so, what is called a “Reader” — because Newman writes in very long sentences. So the excerpts are generally longer, as compared to my collection of Chesterton quotes, where each was one sentence long.

In your book, some of the sections are just a few sentences, and on other topics you have extensive quotes. Tell us about some of the areas of theology he is most famous for addressing?

In addition to his historical works and Essay on Development, he wrote about education (The Idea of a University) and is very influential there; also a very sophisticated and thought-provoking treatment of philosophy of religion (a book called Essay on the Grammar of Assent). He wrote importantly about the religious conscience, and was a great advocate of more lay participation: anticipating Vatican II by over a hundred years. He’s a fabulous thinker, who would stimulate anyone who read his works.

The book has 12 pages on Anglicanism, 12 on apologetics, 20 pages of quotes on development of doctrine, nine on theological liberalism, 34 on various aspects of Mariology, 18 on papal infallibility, nine on the Bible. Those are some of the more extensive topics.

If I could read just one quote (from the Essay on Development):

. . . whatever history teaches, whatever it omits, whatever it exaggerates or extenuates, whatever it says and unsays, at least the Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth, it is this.  . . . To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.

The last clause is probably the single most famous quotation, that is often seen online. And that literally happened in my life. I read his book, and it was over. I felt that if I were true to Church history, I had to become a Catholic.

* * * * *

The Catholic Verses – 95 Bible Passages that Confound Protestants

You had a little fun with the subtitle.  Why 95 Bible passages?

That goes back to the 95 Theses of Luther, that he tacked up on the door of the Church, to begin the so-called “Reformation.” So that was my way — in my usual provocative manner — of sort of being “in your face” to my Protestant friends: “here’s 95 Bible passages!” I actually discussed the subtitle with my editor; originally it had “ignore” in it, I think, but I argued that that was too strong, and we used “confound” — which is more accurate, I think. Titles are very important.

You cover 16 common topics that tend to separate Catholics from other Christian traditions.  For example, chapter one is on the nature of “the Church”  and you start with the verse 1 Timothy 3:15, that describes the Church as “the pillar and bulwark of the truth”. How do Catholics look at this verse compared to Protestants?

The way I contended in the book, and how Catholics generally would look at it, is as a proof of infallibility or the strong authority of the Church. I wrote a lengthy paper about this, separately from the book. If we analyze it logically, if the Church is the very “pillar” or support of truth, then obviously, this is profound authority. Most Protestants don’t view it that way. But there it is: right in the Bible. I note that John Calvin uses the verse to run down the Catholic Church, since he thought it contained so much error, and then argued for an invisible church as an alternative. But that doesn’t fly. It’s eisegesis: reading things into the Bible, rather than exegesis: reading things out of the Bible. Paul is talking about an institutional, historical Church that one can point to and identify.

There are two major pillars of Protestant theology – sola scriptura and sola fide.  Tell the listeners about what these terms mean?

These are Latin terms, of course. Sola Scriptura (meaning, “Bible alone” or “Bible only”) is the belief that the Bible is the only infallible authority in Christianity. It doesn’t mean “only authority, period.” We must get our definitions accurate when critiquing Protestantism. It denies the infallibility of Church and tradition. But of course, the Bible has to be interpreted: that’s the catch. I’ve written two books just on this topic. My book, 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura was published by Catholic Answers last May.

Sola fide means, literally, “faith alone”: the Protestant belief that works are technically separate from salvation or justification, and placed in a separate category of sanctification. We’re saved by grace through faith alone, in their view. In practice, “faith alone” is usually used by Protestants in the sense of “saved by grace alone” (or, sola gratia). We entirely agree with them on that, but many Protestants don’t realize this and accuse us of believing in salvation by works, or what is called the heresy of Pelagianism, that St. Augustine fought so vigorously.

What are some of verses that a Catholic would point to, to make the case that sola scriptura isn’t valid or biblical?

One of my favorites, that I also have in the first chapter, is Acts 15, about the Jerusalem Council. The Council made a decree about how Christians should interpret aspects of the Mosaic law, declaring, “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us” (Acts 15:28). This is precisely how Catholics view ecumenical councils: led by the Holy Spirit. In Acts 16:4, we learn that Paul went around declaring the decision, “for observance”.

In chapter three, I mention the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27-31), who said, “how can I [understand the Scripture] unless someone guides me?” Also, there is Nehemiah 8:8: “they read from the book . . . and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” I cite Paul’s casual assumption that tradition is binding on Christians: he says: “maintain the traditions” (1 Cor 11:2), “hold to the traditions” (2 Thess 2:15), to keep away from those who differ from the tradition that he gave to them (2 Thess 3:6).

What about sola fide?

An obvious one, that I presented was James 2:24: “a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” That pretty much sums it up! He’s not proclaiming salvation by works, which is clear in context, but he’s denying faith alone: separating the works entirely from it. I mention the rich young rule (Luke 18), where the man asked Jesus how he could be saved. Jesus mentioned many of the Ten Commandments and he said that he observed those. Then he told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. Not a word about “believe in Me by faith alone!”

There is Philippians 2:12-13: “work out your own salvation; for God is at work in you . . .” Paul makes it a joint effort. God always has to give the necessary grace, but we work with Him; so it says in 1 Corinthians 3:9: “we are God’s fellow workers” and in 2 Corinthians 6:1: “working together with him”. Paul puts it together in 1 Corinthians 15:10: “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me.” Catholics, following Paul, refuse to separate the works that flow from grace and faith. They are part of the process of salvation; but always caused by grace.

I also write in Chapter Six about how virtually all passages about the last judgment discuss works and not faith at all. I have found 50 of these actually (bit not all those are in the book). This is very striking, and not what one would expect to find, by Protestant assumptions.

What would a Protestant say about the part “good works” play in our salvation?  What would a Catholic say?

Protestants teach that good works are necessary in the Christian life, as the manifestation of an authentic, genuine faith, but they separate them from salvation altogether, putting grace and faith under the category of justification and works under the category of sanctification: technically separated from justification and salvation. Catholics say that faith and works are two sides of the same coin, as James makes very clear, and also Paul, in many passages, such as the examples I just gave. We don’t separate justification and sanctification like Protestants do.  

What are some of the other verses that “confound Protestants”?

My favorite is 2 Timothy 1:16-18, where Paul prays for a dead man, Onesiphorus. He says, “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus . . . may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day . . .”

It’s fascinating to see what Protestants do with that, because they are taught that prayer for the dead is impermissible, and makes no sense. I note how some Protestants accept it, citing C. S. Lewis. Lutherans pray for the dead. But for Calvinists and other Protestants, it’s a big no-no.

So I show what some famous historic Protestant commentators do with this. They had to either deny that Onesipherous was dead, or that Paul was praying. If they denied that he was dead, then they admitted that Paul prayed. If they thought he was dead, then they would play games with Paul’s prayer, saying it was a “wish” or a “pious wish.” This is what is called eisegesis, or reading into Scripture.

Another great favorite of mine is 1 Corinthians 15:29, that refers to “being baptized on behalf of the dead.” I call it “the most ‘un-Protestant’ verse in the Bible.” Protestant commentators literally have no clue what to do with this, and it’s fairly mysterious for Catholics, too. I offer an interpretation that St. Francis de Sales gave, where he argued that “baptism” here was used metaphorically, in the sense of affliction and penance on behalf of others (“baptism of fire,” etc.). He thinks the passage is referring to praying and fasting and doing penance for the dead, since there seems to be a close connection of this passage to 2 Maccabees 12:44: “it is superfluous and vain to pray for the dead if the dead rise not again.”

Very “Catholic” stuff!

Tell us a little about a couple of your other books that our listeners could find useful for helping them in their faith.

A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (my first book, written in 1996) is probably my most well-known. It is the most “catechetical” of my books, but it’s still apologetics. The One-Minute Apologist is sort of a shorter, capsulized version of the same thing: biblical support for Catholic doctrines. Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths simply collects Scripture passages on many distinctive aspects of the Catholic faith. It’s sort of a Catholic version of Nave’s Topical Bible: a reference source I have used for years. I have 35 books in all, on all the major aspects of Catholic theology and apologetics. If you go to my blog, on the very top of the sidebar is an icon link to my main books page, that has all my books and direct links to various ways to buy them: Amazon Kindle, pdf, ePub, Nook Book, iTunes, and paperback.

What are you working on now?

I’m doing two more quotations books: The Quotable Summa Theologica and The Quotable Aquinas. I’m enjoying it very much! This is sort of a second specialty of mine now: quotations books. I’ve also done collections of John Wesley, Chesterton, the Church fathers, St. Augustine, and great historic apologists. These are easy because it’s mostly cut-and-paste rather than typing.

Your website is massive; what can listeners find on your site?  

It has over 50 separate web pages, and nearly 2,500 posts. I deal with all the major areas of Catholic theology, have pages about C. S. Lewis, Chesterton, Newman, ethical and life issues, conversion, romantic and imaginative theology, anti-Catholicism; Calvinism and Lutheranism, Luther and Calvin, philosophy, science, apologetic techniques and methods, atheism; you name it! I’ve been working continuously on these writings since I started a website in February 1997 and have been a full-time apologist and author for over 11 years now, so I need to sell books to make a living!

I also have Facebook and Twitter pages.

* * * * *
February 11, 2012

Cover (509x768)

 [completed and published at Lulu on 11 February 2012: 152 pages]


[cover design by Dave and Judy Armstrong; photograph by Alenka Rebernik; used with permission]


— to purchase go to the bottom of the page —



[linked excerpts are not absolutely identical with the final product]

Dedication (p. 3)

Introduction (p. 5)

The Communion of Saints and Invocation and Intercession of the Saints

1. Reply to Objections to the Catholic Conception of the Communion of Saints (p.11)

2. Samuel the Prophet Appearing to Saul as an Argument for the Communion of Saints (p.19)

3. Biblical Data Regarding Communication from God and Ghosts in Dreams (p. 25)

4. Invocation of the Saints: Essentially Different from Magic and Necromancy (p. 37) [read portion] [read complete translation in Spanish]

5. Biblical Indications of Invocation of Angels for Intercessory Purposes (p. 47)

Veneration of Saints and Angels

6. Biblical Evidence for the Veneration of Saints and Imitation of Holy Persons as Models (p. 57)

7. Explicit Biblical Evidence for the Veneration of Angels and Men as Direct Representatives of God (p. 63)

8. Analogical Biblical Argument for Veneration of Saints and Angels from the Disapproval of Blasphemy of the Same (p. 69) [read online]

Images, Alleged Idolatry, “Controversial” Devotional Practices, and Relics

9. Exposition on the Veneration of Images, Iconoclasm, and Idolatry (p. 75)

10. Biblical Evidence for Praying to and Worshiping God While Bowing or Kneeling Before a Statue of a Creature Made by Human Hands (p. 83)

11. Biblical Examples of Worship of God via an Image (Pillar of Cloud, Burning Bush) (p. 89)

12. The Bronze Serpent as an Illustration of the Proper and Improper (Idolatrous) Use of Images (p. 91)

13. The Biblical Rationale for Crucifixes (p. 95)

14. Biblical Reflections on the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart Devotions (p. 101)

15. Biblical Evidence for Relics (p. 107)

Purgatory and Prayer for the Dead

16. A Fictional Dialogue on Purgatory (p. 113)

17. Biblical Indications of Purgatory in Matthew 5, Romans 8, and 1 Corinthians 3 (p. 117) [read portion]

18. Onesiphorus: the Dead Man that St. Paul Prayed for (p. 127)

19. 1 Corinthians 15:29 and “Baptism for the Dead”: What Does it Mean? (p. 131)

Penance and Mortification

20. A Biblical Defense of Penance as Analogous to Prayer and Grace (p.135)

21. Biblical Support for Physical, Penitential Mortification (p. 141)



This volume consists entirely of papers, essays, and dialogues originally posted on my website and blog (both named Biblical Evidence for Catholicism): written between 1995 and 2011. These have been edited, revised, and combined in various ways, in order to clarify the thoughts, eliminate any repetition, and maximize the impact of the arguments.

Most of the queries that I originally responded to came from our Protestant brethren in Christ. These occurrences afforded me the opportunity to defend and clarify what Catholics believe with regard to the communion of saints, why we do, and to demonstrate that Catholic beliefs are in harmony with both Holy Scripture and the beliefs of the early Church.

I have written extensively on the biblical basis of the Catholic understanding of the communion of saints, purgatory, and penance in my books published by Sophia Institute Press: A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (pp. 101-165), The Catholic Verses (pp. 127-179), The One-Minute Apologist (various chapters), and Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths (pp. 239-252; 353-379).

This work might, therefore, be considered a supplemental or complementary treatment of various specifics of the overall topic, though many aspects previously dealt with in my other books will be presently touched upon, and this book has enough “new” subject matter to stand on its own right, apart from the others. The relationship of the Bible and Catholic doctrine is the greatest single emphasis of my own apologetic endeavors.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that my own ruminations along these lines may be of some benefit to others, and both edifying and educational.

Purchase Options
[PAPERBACK: List: $19.95] [KINDLE: 2.99] [NOOK: 2.99] [APPLE BOOKS: 2.99] [KOBO: 2.99] [LOGOS BIBLE SOFTWARE / FAITHLIFE: ONE OF NINE BOOKS] [ePub, PDF, or MOBI 3.99: purchase via email / PayPal: apologistdave@gmail.com]

Last updated on 25 September 2020.


November 9, 2006

Cover (509x768)
(February 2012, 152 pages)
Classic Reflections on the Communion of Saints [2-17-91; revised and expanded: 12-14-93]
The Cloud of Witnesses [cartoon tract; art by Dan Grajek, early 90s]
Communion of Saints: Biblical Introduction & Overview [1995; published in The Catholic Answer (Nov / Dec 1998)]
The Communion of Saints: All Who Are In Christ [2-17-91; rev. Dec. 1993 and May 1996]
Treatise on Communion of Saints (Anthony Zarrella) [6-9-16]

Praying to Angels & Angelic Intercession [2015]

Asking Saints to Intercede: Teaching of Jesus [2015]

Why Pray to Saints Rather than God? [9-4-15]

Reply to a Lutheran Pastor on Invocation of Saints [12-1-15]

John Calvin Did Not Pray to Philip Melanchthon [9-19-09; revised with retraction, 5-3-16]

Dialogue on Praying to Abraham (Luke 16) [5-22-16]

Prayer to Saints: “New” [?] Biblical Argument [5-23-16]

Treatise on Communion of Saints (Anthony Zarrella) [6-9-16]

Must Catholics Pray to Saints or be Excommunicated? [12-2-16]

Why Would Anyone Pray to Saints Rather Than to God? [National Catholic Register, 1-8-17]

Invocation & Intercession of Saints & Angels: Bible Proof [10-22-16 and 1-9-17]

“Armstrong vs. Geisler” #5: Prayer to Creatures [2-20-17]

Dialogue: Rich Man’s Prayer to Abraham (Luke 16) and the Invocation of Saints (vs. Lutheran Pastor Ken Howes) [5-3-17]

Dialogue on Samuel Appearing to Saul (Witch of Endor) [5-6-17]

Dialogue on Prayer to the Saints and Hades / Sheol [12-19-17]

Prayers to Saints & for the Dead: Six Biblical Proofs [6-8-18]

4 Biblical Proofs for Prayers to Saints and for the Dead [National Catholic Register, 6-16-18]

Angelic Intercession is Totally Biblical [National Catholic Register, 7-1-18]

Why the Bible Says the Prayers of Holy People Are More Powerful [National Catholic Register, 3-19-19]

C. S. Lewis & the Invocation & Communion of Saints [10-10-19]

Vs. James White #13: Jesus Taught Invocation of Saints (And by James White’s “Reasoning,” Jesus Couldn’t be God and was a Blaspheming False Teacher) [11-16-19]

The Saints in Heaven are Quite Aware of Events on Earth (featuring a defense of patron saints) [National Catholic Register, 3-21-20]

Invocation of Saints and Angels (Luke 16 [Lazarus & the Rich Man & Abraham] is One of the Most Unanswerable Arguments in Catholic Apologetics) (vs. Jason Engwer) [5-26-20]

Invocation of Saints: Jesus Allegedly “Calling on Elijah” (vs. Jason Engwer) [6-8-20]

Prayer to Abraham and Dead People in Scripture [National Catholic Register, 6-20-20]

What Christ’s Words on the Cross Tell Us About Elijah and the Saints [National Catholic Register, 8-2-20]

Can Mary Hear “Simultaneous” Prayers of Millions? (vs. Matt Slick) [9-30-20]

Prayer to Creatures Proven from Holy Scripture (vs. Matt Slick) [10-1-20]

How Can a Saint Hear the Prayers of Millions at Once? [National Catholic Register, 10-7-20]

Jason Engwer, Origen, & Intercession of Saints [10-16-20]

Origen and the Intercession of Saints [National Catholic Register, 11-19-20]

Dialogue: Prayer For & To the Dead (w Dr. Lydia McGrew) [2-17-21]



The Veneration of Angels and Men is Biblical [National Catholic Register, 8-24-17]
Biblical Evidence for Veneration of Saints and Images [National Catholic Register, 10-23-18]
“Graven Images”: Unbiblical Iconoclasm (vs. John Calvin) [Oct. 2012]
Worshiping God Through Images is Entirely Biblical [National Catholic Register, 12-23-16]
The Biblical Understanding of Holy Places and Things [National Catholic Register, 4-11-17]
How Protestant Nativity Scenes Proclaim Catholic Doctrine [12-15-13; expanded for publication at National Catholic Register: 12-17-17]
Dialogue on Worship of God Via Natural Images (vs. Jim Drickamer) [1-16-17]
Biblical Evidence for Veneration of Saints and Images [National Catholic Register, 10-23-18]
Crucifixes: Devotional Aids or Wicked Idols? [National Catholic Register, 1-15-20]
Golden Calf & Cherubim: Biblical Contradiction? (vs. Dr. Steven DiMattei) [11-23-20]



Classic Catholic Reflections on Purgatory [1994]

Fictional Dialogue on Purgatory [1995]

25 Bible Passages on Purgatory [1996]

Purgatory: . . . Saved, But Only As Through Fire [4-21-94; rev. May 1996]

Purgatory: A Short Exposition [5-9-02]

A Biblical Argument for Purgatory (Matthew 5:25-26) [10-13-04]

“Catholicism Refuted” (?): “Father” / Purgatory / Statues / Confession (Pt. III) [12-11-04]

Is Purgatory a “Place” or a “Condition”?: Misconceptions From [Eastern Orthodox] Fr. Ambrose About My Opinion (and the Church’s View) / Also: Development and Alleged Historical Revisionism [7-24-05]

Dialogue with Lutherans on Jesus’ Descent Into “Hell” [2-1-07]

Purgatory: Refutation of James White (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) [3-3-07]

Has Limbo Been Relegated to Limbo? [12-28-07]

Luther Believed in Soul Sleep; Thus He Rejected Purgatory [2-9-08]

Dialogue on Sheol / Hades (Limbo of the Fathers) and Luke 16 (the Rich Man and Lazarus) with a Baptist (vs. “Grubb”) [2-28-08]

Luther: Purgatory “Quite Plain” in 2 Maccabees [3-5-09]

Purgatory is the Waiting Room for Heaven [4-25-09]

Luke 23:43 (Thief on the Cross): “Paradise” = Sheol, Not Heaven, According to Many Reputable Protestant Scholars [5-25-09]

50 Bible Passages on Purgatory & Analogous Processes [2009]

John Wesley’s Belief in an Intermediate State After Death [7-13-09]

Purgatory: My Biblical Defense of its Doctrinal Development [9-20-11]

John Wesley’s View of Purgatory and Analogous Processes [2013]

Dialogue with an Evangelical on Purgatory [10-7-13]

Multiple Meanings of “Paradise” in Scripture [1-2-14]

Purgatory in One Verse (1 Corinthians 3:15) [Facebook, 1-29-14]

Catholic Mystics & Contemplatives on Purgatory [2014]

Martin Luther’s Belief in Purgatory (1517-1522, 1528) [11-17-14]

Dialogue w Calvinists on Prayer for the Dead & Purgatory [3-18-15]

Dialogue: Raising of Tabitha from the Dead & Purgatory [March 2015]

50 Biblical Indications That Purgatory is Real [National Catholic Register, 10-24-16]

“Armstrong vs. Geisler” #1: Purgatory (Mt 12:32) [2-17-17]

“Armstrong vs. Geisler” #2: Purgatory (Lk 23:43) [2-17-17]

Does Matthew 12:32 Suggest or Disprove Purgatory? [National Catholic Register, 2-26-17]

Did Jesus Descend to Hell, Sheol, or Paradise After His Death? [National Catholic Register, 4-17-17]

25 Descriptive and Clear Bible Passages About Purgatory [National Catholic Register, 5-7-17]

Purgatory: Exchange with a Presbyterian (Calvinist) [5-11-17]

Armstrong vs. Collins & Walls #7: Unbiblical / Non-Patristic Purgatory? [10-19-17]

Dialogue on Prayer to the Saints and Hades / Sheol [12-19-17]

Reflections on Interceding for the Lost Souls [National Catholic Register, 6-26-18]

C. S. Lewis Believed in Purgatory & Prayer for the Dead [6-22-10; rev. 10-8-19]

Does Time & Place Apply to Purgatory? (vs. James White) [11-6-19]

Luke 16 Doesn’t Describe Hell or Purgatory, But Hades [1-16-20]

Dialogue: Purgatory & 2 Maccabees 12:39-45 [11-8-20]

Purgatory in the Bible (vs. Calvin #60) [1-15-21]

Jewish 1st Century Belief in Purgatory (Paul Hoffer) [9-20-11]

Raising of Tabitha: Proof of Purgatory (Tony Gerring) [3-20-15]



Baptizing the Dead? (Odd Verse 1 Corinthians 15:29) [6-5-02]

Baptized for the Dead: The “UnProtestant” Verse (1 Cor 15:29) [2004]

New (?) Biblical Argument: Prayers for the Dead [2004]

“Catholicism Refuted” (?): “Father” / Purgatory / Statues / Confession (Pt. III) [12-11-04]

Prayer for the Dead & Retroactive Prayer (Luther & Protestants) [3-22-05]

Does God Forbid All Contact with the Dead? [6-23-07]

John Wesley Believed in Prayer for the Dead [7-13-09]

Prayer for the Dead (vs. Calvin #57) [2012]

Fasting for the Dead in the Old Testament (Not Unlike Praying) [11-4-12]

Dialogue on Prayer for the Dead & the Bible [11-5-12]

Dialogue: Jesus, Peter, Elijah & Elisha Prayed for the Dead (+ a discussion on apologetics methodology and effectiveness) [6-9-13] 

“Pray for the Dead Like Paul Did!” (mock Church billboard) [Facebook, 2-10-14]

Dialogue w Calvinists on Prayer for the Dead & Purgatory [3-18-15]

“Armstrong vs. Geisler” #4: Prayer for the Dead [2-20-17]

Prayers to Saints & for the Dead: Six Biblical Proofs [6-8-18]

4 Biblical Proofs for Prayers to Saints and for the Dead [National Catholic Register, 6-16-18]

Reflections on Interceding for the Lost Souls [National Catholic Register, 6-26-18]

Dialogue w Lutherans: “Proxy Baptism”? (1 Cor 15:29) [12-28-18]

C. S. Lewis Believed in Purgatory & Prayer for the Dead [6-22-10; rev. 10-8-19]

The Anglican Newman on Prayer for the Dead (1838): It was as well-attested in the early Church as the Canon of Scripture [10-11-19]

Jesus, Peter, Elijah and Elisha All Prayed for the Dead [National Catholic Register, 2-23-20]

Dialogue: Purgatory & 2 Maccabees 12:39-45 (vs. Luke Wayne) [11-8-20]

Dialogue: Acts 9:40 and Prayers for (not to) the Dead (vs. Luke Wayne) [11-11-20]

Dialogue: Prayer For & To the Dead (w Dr. Lydia McGrew) [2-17-21]



Paul Prayed for Dead Onesiphorus (Protestant Commentaries) [7-14-09]

Cardinal Newman on Onesiphorus and Prayer for the Dead [Facebook, 3-18-15]

St. Paul Prayed for a Dead Man: Onesiphorus [8-19-15]

St. Paul Prayed for Onesiphorus, Who Was Dead [National Catholic Register, 3-19-17]

Was Onesiphorus Dead When Paul Prayed for Him?: Data from 16 Protestant Commentaries (1992-2016) [3-20-17]



Confession and Absolution Are Biblical [National Catholic Register, 7-31-17]
John 20:22-23 & Formal Absolution (vs. Steve Hays) [5-12-20]
Suffering With Christ is a Biblical Teaching [National Catholic Register, 3-27-18]
The Bible Says Your Suffering Can Help Save Others [National Catholic Register, 1-31-19]
Bodily Mortification is Quite Scriptural [National Catholic Register, 2-28-19]
More Biblical Support for Bodily Mortification [National Catholic Register, 3-5-19]
Biblical Hope and Encouragement in Your Times of Suffering [National Catholic Register; abridged and edited from 1981 material: 4-22-19]
Why God Loves Monasticism So Much [National Catholic Register, 3-5-20]
Where are Lenten Practices in the Bible? [National Catholic Register, 2-23-19]
John Calvin vs. Lent and the Bible [National Catholic Register, 2-20-21]

[for lengthy philosophical analyses of suffering and the problem of evil, see my Philosophy, Science, and Christianity web page; second section]


Last updated on 25 February 2021.

July 31, 2006

Catholic Verses (550x834)

[235 pages; published by Sophia Institute Press in August 2004]

—– To purchase, go to the bottom of the page —–

[cover design by Theodore Schluenderfritz]

[This title is also published in Portugese (2-8-17). Read more about it, including purchase information]
Brazilian Cover (165 x 249)


Table of Contents

[linked portions available online indicated by color]


1. The Church
    • The Church is the “Pillar of the Truth”
    • The Binding Authority of Councils, Led by the Holy Spirit
    • The Authority of Oral Tradition
    • Sinners in the Church


2. Divisions and Denominationalism
    • Christians Ought to Be One as Jesus and His Father Are One
    • A Multiplicity of Divisions Is a Bad Thing
    • Dissensions and Denominationalism Forbidden by St. Paul


3. Bible and Tradition


4. The Papacy
    • St. Peter as the Rock and Possessor of the Keys of the Kingdom


5. Justification and Salvation
    • Faith and Works: Two Sides of One Coin
    • The Rich Young Ruler’s Question About Salvation
    • God’s Fellow Workers?
    • St. Paul’s Plea: “Work Out Your Salvation”
    • Obedience Necessary for Salvation
    • Disobedience Led to Death, Obedience to Justification
    • St. Paul on Falling Away from the Faith and Salvation
    • Other Biblical Writers on Apostasy


6. Judgment and Good Works
    • The Crucial Role of Works (and Absence of Faith) in Judgment Day Accounts
    • St. Paul: “Doers of the Law” Will Be Justified


7. Baptism


8. The Eucharist
    • The Last Supper: “This Is My Body”
    • “He Who Eats My Flesh and Drinks My Blood Has Eternal Life”
    • “Participation” in the Body and Blood of Christ
    • Profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord


9. Penance
    • Sharing in Christ’s Sufferings
    • Carrying Christ’s Afflictions in Our Bodies


10. The Communion of the Saints
    • The Imitation of Paul and the Veneration of the Saints
    • Saints in Heaven as a “Cloud of Witnesses” Watching Those on Earth
    • The Intercession of the Saints and Their Connection with the Earth


11. Relics and Sacramentals
    • Elisha’s Bones Raise a Man from the Dead
    • More Biblical Relics: Elijah’s Mantle, Peter’s Shadow, and Paul’s Handkerchief


12. Purgatory and Prayers for the Dead
    • A Fairly Explicit Biblical Argument for Purgatory 
    • Baptism for the Dead: the Most “Un-Protestant” Verse in the Bible
    • The Case of Onesiphorus: Did St. Paul Pray for a Dead Man?
    • Prayers for the Dead When the Dead Are Raised


13. The Blessed Virgin Mary


14. Clerical Celibacy
    • Voluntary Eunuchs for the Sake of the Kingdom of Heaven
    • “Each Has His Own Special Gift”; “Undivided Devotion to the Lord”


15. Divorce
    • Our Lord Jesus’ “Strict” Stance on Divorce


16. Contraception
    • The Sin of Onan [online excerpt is from the first draft, and contains some differences]



The total of ninety-five Bible passages presented in this book – as many readers no doubt suspect – subtly makes reference to the famous Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther, tacked on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517, in protest against certain doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church. That act is considered the beginning of what is called the Protestant Reformation.

The Catholic Church is often attacked (to use a prominent, cynical example) with the claim that it has allowed “traditions of men” to obscure the pure word of God found in Holy Scripture and substituted for it a Pharisee-like tradition by which it diabolically holds souls in bondage, woefully ignorant of the Bible and God’s grace and mercy alike.

Be that as it may (of course, Catholics completely disagree with this assessment), when it comes to Scripture, Protestantism is not without its own serious internal inconsistencies, shortcomings, and problems. Since Protestants almost casually assume that the Bible is their book – that they have a virtual monopoly on correct Bible interpretation — and that it always supports their positions and disproves Catholic ones, it is good once in a while to “turn the tables” and closely examine and scrutinize Protestant traditions.

No one comes to the Bible as a completely impartial and objective observer or reader. We all approach it, whether consciously or unconsciously, with some sort of preexisting theology, or at least a disposition toward a certain viewpoint. It is impossible not to do this. It is part of the very nature of the thinking process.

Protestants are no exception. They claim that the Bible is clear (“perspicuous”) for almost anyone to understand in its main outlines (and indeed, Catholics agree that it is in many important respects), yet they have been unable, in nearly five hundred years, to come to agreement in many significant areas of theology, and they remain institutionally divided (something repeatedly condemned in no uncertain terms by the Bible).

I shall contend throughout this book that, far too often, Protestants do not take all of Scripture into account, and that they are guilty of eisegesis (reading into Scripture one’s own presuppositions), at least as often as Catholics are, if not more often. Protestants (especially on a popular level) often emphasize relatively few “proof texts” to the exclusion of a great deal of relevant biblical data.

Moreover, only rarely do they seriously engage the biblical texts utilized by Catholics to support their positions through the centuries. In probably most cases, they are not even aware of any passages that a Catholic might use to prove anything that would be contrary to Protestantism. Habitually, they do not even entertain the possibility. For many Protestants, such a state of affairs is literally impossible. It is not supposed to happen. When Catholics and Protestants grapple over the Bible and its interpretation, Protestants must always win (so they casually assume).

I hasten to add – and emphasize to the greatest degree — that these tendencies of bias and subjectivism and subconscious influence of denominational traditions do not necessarily entail a deliberate attempt to ignore or to twist Scripture. Every serious student of the Bible comes to the biblical text with a theological framework, in order to interpret it and make sense of it in its entirety. This is proper and right, and no one should have any objection to it.

Both Catholics and Protestants engage in systematic theology, a method which involves finding proof texts for a given doctrine. In so doing, men will have honest disagreements, in good faith. We highly respect the devotion to Bible study and to theological reflection exhibited by many of our Protestant brethren – often putting Catholics to shame.

With that disclaimer always in mind, and without at all questioning the sincerity or integrity of Protestants, I shall now proceed to offer a critique of common Protestant attempts to ignore, explain away, rationalize, wish away, overpolemicize, minimize, de-emphasize, evade clear consequences of, or special plead with regard to “the Catholic Verses”: ninety-five biblical passages that provide the foundation for Catholicism’s most distinctive doctrines. This is not a scholarly work, as I am no scholar in the first place, but merely a lay Catholic apologist; but it is not “anti-scholarly,” and I will incorporate scholarship wherever necessary to substantiate the argument.

My emphasis will be on the popular level, but John Calvin and Martin Luther (the primary founders of Protestantism, or, as Protestants and historians refer to them, “Reformers”) will be cited quite frequently, as well as other scholars, especially well-known Protestant commentators such as Matthew Henry, John Wesley, Albert Barnes, and Adam Clarke, when a particular argument concerning the prevalent Protestant viewpoint vis-à-vis a Bible passage needs to be backed up or documented.

I will cite Martin Luther and John Calvin primarily as “prototypes” for later Protestant exegesis and hermeneutics (fancy words for Bible commentary and interpretation). In other words, their commentary will serve as representative of Protestantism, insofar as they hold to historically influential positions that are largely held by subsequent and current-day Protestants. Most Protestants respect these two men, even if they deny (as surprisingly many do) any direct or significant historical and theological connection with them.

Occasionally, however, I will demonstrate how Luther or Calvin, or both, held to views that are rejected by today’s Protestants. In some cases (such as the issue of contraception), it is striking how early Protestant opinion was virtually identical to traditional Catholic beliefs. Those are instances in which (ironically) Protestants today are far less in harmony with their own historical and theological heritage than Catholics are, and where today’s Protestants ignore or re-interpret some Bible passages in ways that would have been utterly rejected by the founders of Protestantism. A few historically significant examples of this sort will be included in this book for educational purposes, in order to illustrate that Protestant theology is a fluid, changeable phenomenon.

I will assert – with all due respect and, I hope, with a minimum of “triumphalism” — the ultimate incoherence, inadequacy, inconsistency, or exegetical and theological implausibility of the Protestant interpretations, and will submit the Catholic views as exegetically and logically superior alternatives.

The ninety-five Catholic Verses here considered are, I submit, so closely related to Catholic “distinctives” that they form an essential body of biblical material, useful and crucial for every Catholic who wishes to better understand and defend the Catholic Faith. Nothing is more effective (or more respected), in discourse with our Protestant brothers and sisters in the Lord than a cogent, persuasive biblical argument.

It should also be noted how the explosion of religious dialogue on the Internet has been a great and exciting opportunity for expanding discussions like these. One might describe theologically oriented Internet discussion boards, lists, and chat rooms as the twenty-first-century equivalent of Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park, a place where Catholics (for example, the well-known lay apologist Frank Sheed and his Catholic Evidence Guild) disputed and dialogued with atheists, Protestants, and other opponents of Catholicism, and where free discussion occurred. I have been very active in online apologetics for nearly eight years and will incorporate in this book my experiences in discussing Scripture with Protestants.

The Second Vatican Council dealt with the use of such means in its Decree on the Means of Social Communication (Inter Mirifica: 4 December 1963), referring to “those means of communication which of their nature can reach and influence . . . the whole of human society. These are the press, the cinema, radio, television, and others of a like nature” (1). The council urged that all Catholics “should make a concerted effort to ensure that the means of communication are put at the service of the multiple forms of the apostolate without delay and as energetically as possible” (13).

As always in my apologetics, I ask readers to have an open mind and to be as objective as possible in their appraisal of competing points of view. I ask (in fact, plead with) non-Catholic readers to allow the Catholic outlook a fair hearing. Perhaps many will be surprised to see that Catholicism can be so strongly supported by the Bible.

It’s one thing to have an honest disagreement with a fellow Christian, without questioning his basic integrity or the worth of his paradigm or theological framework or tradition; it is quite another to reject other Christian theologies and belief-systems as corrupt, “unbiblical” entities that can succeed only by a deliberately dishonest distortion or outright suppression of the biblical text. Too often, the latter approach is wrongly applied to Catholicism by Protestants.

Catholics typically do not respond in kind; we gladly acknowledge Protestants as fellow Christians and brothers and sisters in Christ and rejoice in the many things that we hold in common. One can disagree without belittling the opponents’ belief system or demonizing them as individuals. That is my present goal: I consider this discussion an “in-house” fight, not a battle between darkness and light or good and evil. I write as a fellow brother in Christ with a respectful disagreement.

If this book can convince the reader that Catholicism is at least as “biblically respectable” as any brand of Protestantism, I will have succeeded in my goal. In any event, I trust that all students of the Bible will be interested in comparative exegesis and a side-by-side analysis of competing views. Of course my ultimate aim is persuasion, but increased understanding (even while disagreement remains) is also a worthy accomplishment.

The Bible is our common ground, and I hope we can all engage in mutually respectful discussion of its contents and meaning. I learned to love and study holy Scripture as a Protestant, and for that (among many other blessings) I shall always be thankful.

Finally, I wish to address an anticipated charge that I am merely “proof-texting” or operating in a “Protestant” mode of sola Scriptura, whereby every doctrine must be explicitly proven in Scripture, and in Scripture Alone. Catholics do not believe that. We do believe, however, that all our doctrines are present in Scripture, either explicitly or in kernel form (later to be more fully developed), or as straightforward deductions from biblical material. This is the notion of “material sufficiency” of Scripture.

Nevertheless, not every doctrine has to rest solely on Scripture alone. All doctrines need to be harmonious with, and not contradictory to Scripture (which is a notion distinct from sola Scriptura). Another way to look at this difference is to realize that when a Protestant uses the terms unbiblical or extrabiblical, he usually means “not found in Scripture.” When Catholics, however, use those terms, we mean “not explicitly in Scripture, yet not contrary to it, and fully consistent with it (as all true doctrines must be).”

I recently dealt with this very charge, made by an Orthodox Christian who suggested that I was adopting the Protestant method in my biblical apologetics. I emphasized to him that when Catholics argue from Scripture, we are acting very much like the Church Fathers, who constantly appealed to Scripture against the heretics, but whose final court of appeal was always Tradition and Holy Mother Church, where the proper interpretation of Scripture was verified. Like St. Athanasius in his dealing with the Arian heretics (who denied that Jesus was God), we can (and it is very good to) argue mostly from Scripture, but rest our final appeal on the Church and unbroken apostolic Tradition.

In effect, Catholics are saying, “So you want to argue doctrines based on the standard of Bible Alone? We can match you verse for verse (without adopting your principle of sola Scriptura). We aren’t afraid to subject our views to the most intense biblical scrutiny and exegesis. In fact, we eagerly welcome it.” The fact remains that diverse interpretations arise, and a final authority outside of Scripture is needed to resolve those controversies. This does not imply in the least that Scripture itself (rightly understood) is not sufficient to overcome the errors. It is only formally insufficient by itself (that is, it cannot interpret itself; this is where Church and Tradition come in).

Needless to say (but I want to make it clear!): my arguments are not the be-all and end-all of theological reflection or even of the specific field of apologetics. I offer them as food for thought; as a perspective, I believe, entirely in accord with the dogmatic teachings of the Church. My main purpose is to show that Catholics need not “yield” Scripture to Protestants, as if the Bible were a Protestant book. It is not. It is, if we must speak in this fashion, a Catholic book, produced and preserved by Catholics for nearly 1,500 years before Protestantism even appeared.

The Bible translation used in this book is the Revised Standard Version (RSV; Old Testament: 1952; New Testament: second edition, 1971). I have deliberately refrained from using the Catholic edition of the RSV (RSVCE) to avoid any charges of stacking the deck in favor of the Catholic interpretation. Certain instances where the RSVCE differs will be mentioned in the text.


Materials Related to the Book



Meet the Author, with host Ken Huck, produced by Radio Maria. 45-minute interview about my books, The Quotable Newman, and The Catholic Verses, 17 January 2013: my written interview notes.  


Jonathan Prejean (amazon.com / and on his blog, Crimson Catholic)
Dr. Stan Williams review posted at Catholic Exchange
Review by liberal Reformed Protestant E.T. Ashworth, and My Response
Julie D.: 5-29-05
Michael J. Miller, in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, October 2005
Jay from the Deo Omnis Gloria blog, 1-15-07.
Gazizza.net (Paul Smith Jr.), 8-29-07


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Last revised on 25 September 2020.  


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