Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Contacting the Dead and Praying to Saints

In my area, there's a Christian radio station on the AM dial. On this station, on Saturdays, there airs a Christian open talkback show called the Drew Marshall Show. On their website is a link to the forum (the forum is linked to in the post title), on which you can post about issues mentioned on the show, rather than waiting around forever on a busy phoneline. Up until lately, I was a fairly active member of the forum, and pretty much the only Catholic.

Recently, for the Hallowe'en edition of the show, Drew asked the question of whether trying to communicate with the dead was an okay thing to do:

Do you think that we can communicate with the dead?

Sometimes people have dreams of a deceased loved one... dreams that seem so real and bring such comfort. Are these a blessing from God, a trick of Satan, or just our subconscious minds taking us to a familiar place? What about when a medium or channeler tells you things that only the deceased would know? How about praying to Mary?
Now, there is a vast difference between Necromancy (using occult means to conjure the spirits of the dead) and praying to the saints. And, since Drew specifically mentioned those two issues in one breath, I, as the only Catholic around, felt compelled to respond. This is the entire exchange. My words will be in black. Other participants will be in various other colours.

Gregory: Thanks for going there, Drew!

The Bible says that the use of Necromancy--magic, to contact the dead--is sinful. In other words, we should not seek to communicate with the dead, as though to learn insights from them about our lives, etc. However, since you mention Mary in your list of questions, we should address that one, since Catholics, such as myself, do pray to her, and other saints, to request their prayers. And, on top of that, we believe that they have appeared at various times to communicate messages to us from God, just as the angels also have.

Does this contradict the biblical injunction against necromancy, or is it something different?

I would suggest that it is indeed something different, for many divers reasons.

1st, Jesus tells us that those who have died in friendship with God, are not, in fact, dead. Jesus says in Matthew, "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living", when He argued the doctrine of the Resurrection with the Sadducees. While that quotation specifically deals with the Resurrection, and not whether the saints in heaven are alive now, or in a state of "soul-sleep" until the Resurrection, as Seventh Day Adventists and others believe, we have to recognise that a body awaiting a resurrection is still dead. If God is the God of the living, and not the dead, and this is proof of the Resurrection, then it also has to stand as proof of the immortal soul in Heaven. Further to this fact is that Revelation describes the saints and, specifically, the martyrs, as being in heaven, and praying. Since a martyr is, by definition, one who has died for Christ, there can be no mistake that these are the souls of those who have died physically, but are nevertheless still alive in Heaven.

Thus, the Saints are not "dead", but living on in Heaven, awaiting the Resurrection where they will be united with their bodies. But does that mean we can ask them to pray for us? According to Revelation, again, they are already doing just that. So what is to prevent us from actually asking them, specifically? The argument that they are unaware of earthly goings on seems just as implausible, in light of the thrust of Revelation, and the awareness of the Elders and others of the things happening on earth. And, in Heaven, we are closely united to Christ, and thus must care about what He cares about--and since He cares about us, then the Saints up in Heaven must also share that concern and desire for our good.

But is it "biblical" for them to actually bring messages to us? In the account of the Transfiguration, we see that Moses and Elijah appear, talking to Jesus about His impending sacrifice. Samuel, in the OT, is actually permitted to return to speak to Saul, even though in that instance Saul was sinning by using necromancy to find Samuel. Finally, we see that in Revelation, at different times, the Elders (whom most scholars believe to be the Patriarchs of the tribes of Israel, and the Twelve Apostles, thus 24 Elders), speak to St. John, revealing more of the vision with him. As such, we cannot rule out such communication as "unbiblical" since the Bible gives us examples of it.

When we look at the specific cases of apparitions of saints, or of Mary, throughout the history of the Church, we can see the positive results in those that the Church has painstakingly judged to be authentic. Of these I will mention only a couple:

In 1902, Alessandro Serenelli tried to rape a young girl named Maria Goretti. When she tried to fight him off, he stabbed her 14 times. While in prison for his crimes, after about 13 years, Alessandro had a vision of Maria Goretti, and because of this vision, he converted to Christianity, became a Capuchin monk, and worked to help others who had led lives similar to his own.

In 1539, the Virgin Mary appeared to a native Mexican named Juan Diego, telling him she wanted a church built on the top of a nearby hill. Juan told the bishop, but he didn't believe Juan. So Mary appeared to him again, instructing him to climb the hill, and there he would find roses. Juan did, and in the middle of December he found many roses growing on that barren hilltop. He gathered them up and took them to the bishop, and, when he unfolded his cloak, letting the roses fall out, an image of Mary remained on his cloak. They built the church, and within 10 years nine million natives had converted to Christianity! The cloak, and the image on it, is still able to be seen today at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, and has been repeatedly authenticated by experts as a work they can't explain.

All true apparitions, deemed so by the Church, have had similar results of people turning back to Christ as a result. Can we therefore write them off as imagination, superstition, or worse, something sinister and diabolic? Not lightly. While the Church says we are free to disbelieve the reports, it has judged them worthy of all acceptance, particularly because of the spiritual conversions that resulted.

Thus, between the evidence of Scripture, and the testimony of those who have experienced such happenings, I would say that the Catholic notion of the Communion of the Saints is a vastly different thing than Necromancy.

God bless.

Mosquito: There is a similar thread here

I am stealing the comments of "archer1" he has a very good but long reply.

His comments are at the end.

What Does the Bible Say About Talking to the Dead?

Is there such as thing as a sixth sense? Is it possible to communicate with the spirit world? Popular television shows like Ghost Whisperer, Medium and John Edward Cross Country all seem to suggest that talking to the dead and communicating with spirits is quite possible. But what does the Bible say about talking to the dead?

What Does the Old Testament Say?

The Old Testament warns against consulting with mediums and psychics in several instances. These practices are considered detestable to the Lord.

Leviticus 19:31
'Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.' (NIV)Leviticus 20:27
"Men and women among you who act as mediums or psychics must be put to death by stoning.
They are guilty of a capital offense." (NLT)

Deuteronomy 18:10-13
Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God. (NLT)

1 Chronicles 10:13-14
Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse. (NIV)

2 Chronicles 33:6
He [King Manasseh] sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger. (NIV)

What Does the New Testament Say?
The New Testament reveals that the Holy Spirit will be our teacher and guide.

John 14:26
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (NIV)

John 15:26
[Jesus speaking] When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. (NIV)

John 16:13
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (NIV)

Spiritual Guidance Comes from God Alone
The Bible teaches that spiritual guidance should be sought in God alone through Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit. He has provided everything we need for this life in his Word.

Isaiah 8:19
When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? (NIV)

Hebrews 4:14
That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him. (NLT)

1 Timothy 2:5
For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people.
He is the man Christ Jesus. (NLT)

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do. (NLT)

2 Peter 1:3
As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness! (NLT)

Deceiving Spirits, Demonic Forces, Angels of Light, Counterfeits for the Truth
Are psychic experiences of talking with the dead real?
Yes, I believe they can be very real experiences, but not of truly talking with dead people. The Bible considers these experiences to be associated with deceiving spirits, demonic forces, angels of light or counterfeits for the true Spirit of God.

1 Timothy 4:1
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. (NIV)

1 Corinthians 10:20-21
No, not at all. What I am saying is that these sacrifices are offered to demons, not to God. And I don't want any of you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of demons, too. You cannot eat at the Lord's Table and at the table of demons, too. (NLT)

2 Corinthians 11:14-15
But I am not surprised! Even Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder his servants can also do it by pretending to be godly ministers. In the end they will get every bit of punishment their wicked deeds deserve. (NLT)

2 Thessalonians 2:9-10
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. (NIV)


Playing with the spirit world is dangerous stuff. Unfortunately there are many evangelicals today who entertaining the teachings of new agers, eastern mystics, and so many others without even realizing this. Satan is having a hay day with so many Chrisitians today because they have given up on sound doctrinal instruction. The bible says "my people perish for lack of knowledge" Today truth is based on subjective feelings and emotions when truth should be seen as objective and absolute! I would encourage you to reject anyone who brings teachings about talking with the dead. It's pure heretical nonsense! Have nothing to do with it.

God bless you.

LV: I'm going to agree pretty much with Gregory when it comes to the saints or any believer for that matter. People who have gone to be with the Lord are not dead, but alive. I think we can talk to them. I've also known people who have received dreams/visions from dead loved ones that were unsought.
I also agree with Gregory regarding necromancy. We aren't to seek communication from the dead by magic or with purposes of obtaining power or revelation regarding our lives.

Gregory: Someone...agrees...with me? Wow! Good to know you, LV

Berean Curmudgeon: The following pages will teach you how to talk to the dead and read people's minds.
Become a psychic, though you'll probably get much more by getting 'seed money'.
For further studies, the topic is often called either "Mentalism" (amongst 'Illusionists' = preferred title for what used to be called 'Magicians', they generally no longer pretend that it's magic), 'Psychic Reading' (when being passed off as real, both with and without sincerity like the Witch of Endor), and 'Cold Reading' (amongst 'Sales, Rhetoric & Persuasion' practitioners):

Dorene Meyer: I'd have to agree with Mosquito here (and "Archer1"). The Bible is pretty clear about who we are to pray to, get our counsel from, etc. It's also pretty clear who we are not supposed to pray to, get our counsel from, etc.

LV: I'd like to add a clarification regarding "praying to saints". This was passed along to me by a friend who is an Orthodox Christian. I would think Catholics view it the same, so correct me if Catholics are different, Gregory.
We are always asking our friends to pray for us, and rightly so. Orthodox believers don't pray to saints like one would pray to God--that would be completely unnecessary and wrong, but it's asking for prayers, just like you'd ask your friend to pray for you. Since the saints aren't dead, and not only are they not dead, but they have been freed completely from the power of sin, the prayers of the saints are viewed as highly effective.
I don't think this in anyway contradicts the above listed verses dealing with divination and praying to the dead. I most certainly agree with those verses as well.

Berean Curmudgeon:
LV wrote:
I'd like to add a clarification regarding "praying to's asking for prayers, just like you'd ask your friend to pray for you.
That’s also one of the explanations that I was given by a Roman Catholic friend who took me through seemingly endless apologetics materials on many doctrinal differences. The bottom line difference was that my religion came from the Bible, and his differences of opinion came from the Papacy.

There is not a single teaching or positive example in the Bible of giving prayer requests or even talking to anybody outside the Trinity who is not physically alive – just the opposite.

Leviticus (20:6,27 - ESV) warns: “If a person turns to mediums and wizards, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people…A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.”

The only example of one of God’s people who tried was Saul who “died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance” (1 Chr.10:13), even guidance from the great judge and prophet, Samuel!

Why, in Christ’s name, would anybody who believes that the Bible is the word of God suggest talking to any persons outside the Trinity who are not physically alive, even just for prayer requests, (does anybody want to risk their soul that the definition of “medium” and “wizard” is limited to asking for counsel?) when 1) there’s not a single command or positive example in Scripture to do so, 2) the death penalty was required for people caught trying to communicate with the physically dead, and 3) the one example of any of his people trying to do so, led God to explicitly say that this death penalty crime was one of the reasons why Saul ended up committing suicide in battle. Then “the Philistines…cut off his head and stripped off his armor and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. They put his armor in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan” (1 Sa.31:9-10).

Why would professing Bible believers count on there being an exemption for either prayer requests or talking to a particular class of physically dead people, (canonized, denominational ‘Saints’,) when there was none, even for Samuel, who was unique in being recognized by “all Israel (as being) established as a prophet of the Lord”, as well as “judge over Israel all the days of his life.” (1 Sa. 3:20,7:15)

Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” (John 16:23) Why would anybody risk calling upon a ‘co-mediatrix’ or another mediator? “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Isn’t a biblical, prayerful dependence upon the Holy Spirit’s power while asking the Heavenly Father in Jesus’ name enough?

Another question to consider for a survey:
Is trying to speak to physically dead people worth risking the death penalty of God's judgment?

LV: I know for sure that the Orthodox do not believe in saints as co-mediators with Christ. Christ is the only mediator. Rather the saints act as intercessors, again, just like your next-door-neighbor might.
Yes, the Bible doesn't have any examples of this practice, but neither is the practice openly condemned. There are a lot of practices to which the Bible doesn't speak. I, for one, am willing to give grace to those who practice such things. Over and over again, the Bible refers to God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And Jesus states that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. The more I personally understand about eternal life and eternal life as something we possess already, this ancient practice makes more sense to me.
In my own faith tradition, Presbyterian, when we celebrate the Lord's supper, we emphasize that this supper unifies us with all believers in all places and throughout all time. Those who have gone before us are as much a part of that Supper in that moment as the person sitting next to me. It's part of the Communion of the Communion. Communion not only with God, but with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
So I'm just not convinced based on what the Bible doesn't say, that the practice of asking departed believers to pray for you is wrong.

Berean Curmudgeon:
LV wrote:
Yes, the Bible doesn't have any examples of this practice, but neither is the practice openly condemned., that the practice of asking departed believers to pray for you is wrong.
Did you even read what you replied to? You may not be convinced, but you ignored the Scriptures, reasons and questions given.

God said that Saul died (at least in part) because he tried to speak with (physically dead) Samuel through a medium. God is very strict about how we are to commune with the supernatural. Speaking directly with dead people - i.e. being a medium - was a civil death penalty crime (though Saul's penalty wasn't executed by civil authorities, but by God Himself through Israel's military enemies). Be careful about counting on the idea that asking dead people to talk to you is a death penalty crime, but asking dead people to talk to somebody else isn’t.

I'm just warning that people who do this are counting on one of two exemptions (from the crime of speaking with physically dead people). Either 1) prayer (without asking counsel like Saul did – including asking dead people to speak to somebody other than oneself) or 2) canonized, denominational 'Saints' (a concept that doesn't exist in Scripture) (even though there wasn't an exemption for communicating with Samuel, an Old Testament 'all star'). If they don't receive one of these two exemptions, (and Scripture doesn’t give them,) they're doing the same thing that Saul did to receive God's judgment of death by suicide followed by physical humiliation of his body. We will each have to stand on our own before God for how we 1) react to God's warnings and 2) encourage others to react to his warnings. And as the 'chief of sinners', I have no doubt that I will have to stand for much more than many people who have spoken with dead people.
LV wrote:
In my own faith tradition, Presbyterian
And please don't link your opinion with Presbyterianism. If you're under the authority of elders who still believe what they're required to claim to believe, then please ask them about the most detailed creedal statement on the first commandment that you're supposed to have claimed to believe: Westminster Larger Catechism Question #105. Biblical proofs are at:
If you aren't under such elders, then please read Johannes G. Vos' "Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary"

Since prayer is worship, it's also worth noting Larger Catechism Q.109 re: the second commandment. The OPC’s (more detailed) proof text listing observes that in Leviticus (10:1-2) “fire came out from before the Lord and consumed” Nadab and Abihu because they did what “he had not commanded them.” Note that they were not killed because the worshipped in a why that God told them not to; but rather, for worshipping God in a way that he had not told them to! (Your elders should be able to explain the ‘Regulative Principle of Worship’.)

LV: The Scriptures you use specifically speak of mediums, psychics, necromancy, divination, and the like. No one is endorsing or excusing these things.
The New Testament Scriptures referring to the completeness of prayer through the power of Christ and the teaching of the Holy Spirit again do not directly speak to the issue. No one is arguing against this nor are they endorsing asking someone other than God for spiritual insight.
Ummm. I'm the pastor. I know what is in the Confessions!
I also never said that I personally engage in the practice, but I'm not going to demonize nor condemn those who do. Neither do I still see Biblical basis for such condemnation. I maintain that requesting prayer is not praying to and therefore does not violate the second commandment.

Gregory: LV, you've stated the Catholic view on it perfectly. Thanks for your charity and respect for Catholicism!

Curmudgeon, you're living up to your namesake. I don't suppose you'd prefer to present your case against Catholicism more formally, perhaps in the Talk Amongst Yourselves section. And perhaps without the ad hominem rhetoric.

God bless!

Gregory wrote:
case against Catholicism
Do you always assume that anyone who disagrees with your point of view must therefore be "against Catholicism," or are you just trying to pick a fight? Surely you could find a better way to express your disagreement with someone than to call them a name and ask them to "step outside."

Kingskid: No. That's my final Answer.
I use to believe at one time you could when I wasnt really a christian I only went to church because I didnt want to go to hell, that's at least what my parents told me. I watched CTS the other day and there was a program about old houses with spirits in it and at the end the host said that in the bible we dont come back after we die. As Christian we believe we go to heaven or hell when we die depending on how we live our life. He even showed quotes from the bible which I wish I remembered and had written down. And he made a good point saying that just as Satan tricked Eve with the forbiden fruit saying she can be just as powerful as God, Satan tricks us every day with werid things playing mind games and making us believe because some of us can actually see his doings. But the host also pointed out that some things are scientific proof that weird things do sometimes happen. Once I became a practising Christian and made sure I was talking and thanking God on a daily basis satan hasn't played as many tricks on me. I know he tries time to time because I can still sense evil around and it's not in a shape of ghosts or aliens. Also if you have an imaginitive mind or mind diseases/problems some people think they can see things. And those are the minds that make up great fictional stories.

As for praying to Mary and saints if if comeforts people let them do it. Who am I to say if their beliefs are right or wrong. We'll all know when we die and face God!

LV: Good grief, people. Let's cut out the caustic comments!

Gregory: Gordo, I would never have made any assumption about Curmudgeon, except that he explicitly condemned certain Catholic doctrines. If one personally condemns key doctrines of a faith, then they obviously have issues with it--especially when they do it, in the words of LV, with "caustic comments".

He contrasted his perspective, calling it "biblical", with my perspective, calling it just the opinions of the papacy. I simply wanted a defence of his perspective, that my beliefs are somehow less biblical because the Popes held to them.

So, no, Gordo. I'm not trying to pick a fight. If you didn't want a "Catholic" debate brought into this, maybe you should tell Drew Marshall to think twice before asking a question that specifically refers to a Catholic doctrine!

(All respect to you, Drew. It's a great question, and one that prompts us to really think things through. But hey, you had to see this coming!)

Gordo, my question is, why is it that every time Catholicism is brought up, and I defend it, do you assume that I'm "picking a fight"? I'd love to step back and let any other Catholics defend the faith, but, oh, I haven't seen any! So, seriously, Gordo. Add to the conversation, rather than just taking shots at me.

God bless.

Oh, and Curmudgeon, you may want to reread the references I mentioned above, about the Transfiguration--a clear example of Jesus talking to two "dead" people (well, at least one, since Elijah never really died), and about the martyrs and the angels in heaven who pray for the world and themselves bring our prayers to God (Revelation 5:9; 8:3), before you say that the only time anything like that happened in the Bible was with Saul (who did it through the sinful means of a medium).

Gregory wrote:
LV, you've stated the Catholic view on it perfectly. Thanks for your charity and respect for Catholicism!

Curmudgeon, you're living up to your namesake. I don't suppose you'd prefer to present your case against Catholicism more formally, perhaps in the Talk Amongst Yourselves section. And perhaps without the ad hominem rhetoric.

God bless!
Hey Gregory,
Why is it mostly you that seems to attract the battles on here? WE ALL KNOW YOU'RE CATHOLIC! And we all know that you're sensitive about it. But dude, you need to lighten up. You just basically did the same thing that you accused Curmudgeon of and then asked him to "step outside." You have literally scared off a few people from these forums, having bullied them with your "pro-Catholic epistles" shortly after their first posts. You've been warned privately, so as not to embarrass you and our suggestions you agreed with. Now you're being warned publicly... lighten up or go away, as you already suggested you wanted to anyway.

Thanks mate...

(PS. Just a reminder for everyone... This isn't a snooty writer's conference here. If you want people to actually read your posts and appreciate what you say, keep them concise, use real English, and try real hard to play nice boys and girls. This is supposed to be a safe place for people on various spiritual paths to share their opinion and possibly discover that following Christ is far different than Christianity!)

Gregory: Drew, I respectfully disagree that I did anything more than answer your question, and attempt to defend my answer.

Further to that, all I did was ask Curmudgeon to at least back up his accusations, and even suggested that we could discuss it in a possibly more appropriate venue.

If it makes me sensitive that I try to defend and clarify when someone completely misrepresents what I believe, then fine, I'm sensitive.

And I would probably have left long ago, but your talkback questions are just so dang interesting. And seriously, you had to know I'd jump at the bait you left in your question!

And so the conversation ended...with my being banned from the forum!

Read the debate, and decide for yourselves whether praying to saints is on par with necromancy. Feel free to debate the issue further in the comments section of this blog! Just one thing--keep it charitable. It seems a difficult thing to do (as evidenced by my banning), but I know it can be done.

And, for the record, I have a hard time believing that a person who really follows Christ can discover that doing so is "far different than Christianity". How can one worship the Head apart from the Body?

God bless.

(Category: Catholic Distinctives: The Communion of Saints.)

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