Christians speaking to the dead

trueseek1's picture

Had never thought of it this way, until I found a book on the shelf expounding on one of the well known passages of the Holy Scriptures: The Transfiguration passage. Jesus has a live visit from Moses and Elijah and in the presence of the other fallible men, a couple of apostles, he enters into conversation with these two "dead saints". The author also highlighted another instance when God rose the dead and they went into the cities to show themselves as alive in Christ. I had read these passages many times before, and heard countless evangelical sermons on them, but in all my previous readings of the last couple of hundred years of evangelical commentaries, I had never heard of the reality that these visitations represented. Does anyone know how did the faithful early Church fathers who honored God, in the nonheretical Church, view these passages?

Also, the author differentiated clearly between using a medium to reach the dead as Saul did to talk to Samuel, and both these passages, with the understanding that Christ revealed clearly that it is not sinful to have a conversation with a live saint, but evil if one tries to use mediums as the ungodly do.

Thanks for all insights on these passages.

michael_legna's picture

We need to look at the sum total of scripture

Dan Fugett said -
At the outset allow me to be honest, I agree that asking for someone to pray for us is in no sense interfering with the mediatorship that Christ alone holds with God. Christ alone is mediator between God and man, and Christ alone is the redeemer of our souls. I think, from our prior conversations, that you will accept that Jesus is the Mediator and Redeener provided by God. As has been stated, many of us ask people to pray for us all the time. That is true, but we dont pray to others to pray to God for us.

I want to address you last sentence in the above comments because perhaps we are using the term pray differently – because what I mean by prayer is divided into two forms, prayer of worship and prayer of intercession. When we pray to God to thank Him for His grace and mercy we are praying worshipful prayer, but when myself or another Christian prays to God asking for His favor we are not offering worship but are praying for intercession – we are asking God for something. So when we pray to a Saint (ask that Saint for something) we are praying to the Saint to pray for us, we are not offering worship.

Dan Fugett said -
First, listening to the views expressed, this is actually praying TO people other than God Himself. When we ask a living person to pray for us, we are not praying TO them.

Yes, in a sense we are, and the older use of the term in English makes that perfectly clear, as people often said (and still do occasionally say) “Pray tell us” meaning of course we are asking them to tell us something or other.

Dan Fugett said -
In Matt 18:19, we have biblical support to agree together "on earth". 19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven."

This didn’t leave any room to pray TO someone in Heaven and ask him/her to pray on our behalf.

First this makes no sense to me since I don’t see the connection at all. The verse in question is about deciding matters the Church has authority over. The other (praying for the Saints to pray to God for us) is looking for intercession by God in matters beyond the Church – unless you want to say that Mt 18:19 gives the Church the same authority and power as God.

Second the context of this verse is directed to the Apostles, not the general population of the Church, so the two or three referred to is only in reference to the leadership of the Church and we cannot assume that in any case where two or three Christians are together that they will always come to a correct conclusion. That would result in only chaos.

Dan Fugett said -
In fact, this passage narrows the field of who we agree with: they have to be alive and on earth. I am defining death as spirit/soul separated from body which would qualify as NOT being on earth.

No the verse does not say we have to agree only with those on earth – it tells us how the leadership of the Church is to make decisions binding on the rest of the Church.

Dan Fugett said -
Second, "cloud of witnesses". In Heb 11, which Heb 12:1-2 refers back to, provides no substantiation for praying TO the dead.

Not on its own but it must be addressed (just as it is interpreted) in light of all the other scriptures which support this doctrine. Taken alone we do see that this verse supports the idea that the Church is surrounded by the Saints who have gone on ahead of us. It is from that starting point and others that we go on to build the concepts of the doctrine.

Dan Fugett said -
Heb 11:6 says "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him."

That doesnt leave much room for placing my faith IN someone else to pray on my behalf or trusting their merits to do something for me. How can I pray to St Anyone and not, to some extent, be placing my faith in the efficacy of their prayers and merits they hold beyond the merit of Christ?

How can you ask another Christian on earth to pray for you if you do not place your faith in the efficacy of their prayers? Oh that’s right – because Scripture tells us that their prayers of a righteous man are effectual.

Dan Fugett said -
In fact, the righteous dead have no need of faith.

So there is no faith in Heaven? That is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. But even if you are right, even if they do not have faith then they have something better and that can be accessed even more powerfully than the faith of a Christian here on earth that we ask to pray for us.

Dan Fugett said -
They already KNOW God exists which is why the Bible doesnt focus anywhere on having an active relationship with someone anyone who is dead.

Oh? And what proof do you have that this is the reason WHY the Bible doesn’t focus on having an active relationship with the Saints in heaven? This should be interesting since you have not even proven that this is true of the Bible let alone why.

Dan Fugett said -
The struggle of the righeous dead is over and there is no possibility of help from them.

Just restating your conclusion without support does nothing to further the discussion.

Dan Fugett said -
In whatever sense the righteous dead are "a cloud of witnesses", there is no biblical support I have seen so far that they are participants any longer on this earth at this time.

But then you have not addressed the points I have made in my other posts so until you do this too is just you restating your position, and does not add to the discussion.

Dan Fugett said -
Third, the precise quote (used in this thread) in Rev 5:8 proves the point. "And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints. "

The prayers of the saints, which in God's time He will answer in the form of great Tribulation on earth, exist as vials full of odors. There is absolutely nothing in this passage that supports the 4 beasts or 24 elders having prayed for the saints.

Whose prayers do you think are in those vials? Do you think they are only the prayers of Saints on earth? Or do they include the prayers of these Saints in heaven both before they left earth and while in heaven as well? The book of Revelation is full of prayers, there is a lot of praying and worship going on in heaven; and I think if you look at the verse in question along with Rev 8:3-4 and their context you will see that these prayers include the prayers of the Saints in heaven.

Dan Fugett said -
Forth, 2 Tim 2:20-21 says 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.

In support of praying to the dead, one argument from this scripture is "These saints in heaven have been made into vessels of gold and silver and now you want God not to use them? It makes no sense to me.".

What part makes no sense to you? Don’t you think that the Saints are in the Master’s house? Have you never heard the concept of us as jars of clay here on earth? Do you not think that God will make use of us in different ways once we are with Him in His house? How do you interpret this verse?

Dan Fugett said -
Great and very logical. I dont know what God is "doing with" the righteous dead because the Bible doesnt tell me. That isnt something God saw fit to tell us.

Not the specifics, but God told us He was using them, and we see examples of it and explanations that there is a relationship with the great cloud of witnesses and that these Saints plead with and pray to God in heaven and that prayer by righteous men is effectual.

Dan Fugett said -
However, it does not follow that He uses the righeous dead to help the living because we dont think their work is done. More important than assumption, what is the scriptural support for interpreting 2 Tim 2:20-21 in support of praying to the dead???

Again you cannot interpret a verse in isolation. This verse supports the idea that the Saints will be used by God, which counters the claim that some make which say the Saints are not able under any circumstances to interact with men or even to make intercession for them.

Dan Fugett said -
Fifth, this argument has been presented in support of praying TO the dead: " ... the saints already in heaven are known to be righteous so their prayers are all that more effectual ...James 5:16b The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much ... Their presence around us is even used by Paul to exhort us to run the race with patience so we too may obtain."

Very logical. A righteous person's prayer do affect much. Do you have one scripture that supports a dead person effectively praying for a living person, or that enjoins us to place faith in a dead person? How about one scripture that supports the need of the dead in Christ to pray at all? Just one. Paul needed some help at times, but where is the scriptural evidence that he prayed to Mary or to St Elijah or to someone other than God alone?

Once you understand and truly accept that scripture cannot be interpreted in isolation you will stop looking for single verses to support doctrines and look for the harmony of all scripture taken together and the benefit will be that your support for such doctrines will be much more strongly based as they cannot come apart by an incorrect interpretation by another of one individual verse.

Dan Fugett said -
Now, we have our own traditions too and realize that is all they are. We like to hold hands or light candles when we pray. We sing about the sacrifice of Christ when we take communion and we feel closer to Him. We believe it lifts our faith. And we realize it is just a tradition, not the Word of God. Without further study, I cant think of anything in the Bible that prohibits praying TO the dead, but I can wholeheartedly say the practice is not illustrated or taught in the Bible.

Can you think of one verse that supports the sacrament of matrimony? Yet I bet you support it as more than a mere tradition. Can you think of one verse which support praying to the Holy Spirit? Yet I bet you accept it as reasonable as praying to God. The truth of the matter is we all rely on the Church the ground and pillar of truth for much of what we accept as reliable. The truth is I don’t know of any mainline denomination which restricts itself only to what is in Scripture.

Dan Fugett said -
Finally, isnt the idea of praying to the dead an extension of trusting the merits of people deemed to have an abundance of merit (I know there is a big name for it and I didnt look it up), to sway God on our behalf? That is, it is placing one's faith in Jesus AND Mary AND Imelda ( I think) AND St X AND St Y AND St Z. Jesus isnt dead -- He is alive and He is God. God is the only one that makes any sense to pray TO.

Isn’t asking another Christian on earth to pray effectually for us, trusting in that persons righteousness? – because that is what Scripture is telling us we do.

Dan Fugett said -
God's children dont need a mediator other than the ONLY mediator between God and man that scripture articulates.

I thought you admitted earlier that this idea of asking the Saints or other Christians has no relationship or contradiction with the mediation Christ does.

For instance I quote you from the very top of this reply post – “At the outset allow me to be honest, I agree that asking for someone to pray for us is in no sense interfering with the mediatorship that Christ alone holds with God. Christ alone is mediator between God and man, and Christ alone is the redeemer of our souls. I think, from our prior conversations, that you will accept that Jesus is the Mediator and Redeener provided by God. As has been stated, many of us ask people to pray for us all the time.”