So, what Lactantius is speaking of here is the deifying of dead men and praying to these dead men as gods.
Notice the qualifiers he adds, as if prayer to the dead is acceptable as long as it doesn't include those qualifiers. Lactantius doesn't say that, and his context doesn't suggest it.
Apparently, Scott didn't read my previous discussion of Lactantius with Christine, which led up to the post to which Scott has responded. I'll repeat an analogy involving abortion that I cited in that discussion.
Professing Christians didn’t normally have abortions in antiquity, so the earliest Christian condemnations of abortion are primarily given in the context of criticizing non-Christians. And other activities that Christians didn’t normally participate in would be mentioned along with abortion. It doesn’t follow that abortion is wrong only if done by non-Christians or only if accompanied by those other activities. Similarly, when Lactantius condemns prayer to the dead, without telling us that it's wrong only with the qualifiers Scott has mentioned above, we don't conclude that he meant to condemn it only when those qualifications are in place.
Scott goes on:
So, yet again - the context is objecting to praying to other gods and that the images of these "dead men" are being so worshiped. This has nothing to do with the practice of asking the Saints to pray with and for us.
He's repeating more arguments I addressed in my earlier exchanges with Christine. See here and here. As I explained in those threads, Catholic prayers to the dead involve more than "asking the Saints to pray with and for us". And even if they only involved what Scott describes, they would still be prayers to the dead.
Well, yes - they refer to physical death - but of men whom those pagan poets believed to be gods! Again, Mr. Engwer has missed the point here and has based his argument on a false premise which then leads him to conclusions which are just as false....
Well again, referencing Book 2, Chapter 18 is regarding the worship of false gods and false religions, namely paganism.
Scott repeatedly makes such points in his article, as if I was unaware of these things. But I quoted some of Lactantius' references to gods and paganism in the post Scott is responding to, and I addressed the objections he's raising in my earlier exchanges with Christine.
If Lactantius meant to condemn prayer to false gods or some other such category, then why would he refer to prayer to the dead? Why didn't he refer, instead, to prayer to false gods or some other such category in particular? His focus is on the dead. As I documented, Lactantius argues for the dead status of these men by pointing to their tombs and other evidence leading to the conclusion that they're dead men. Scott's assumption that Lactantius meant to condemn only a narrower category, as if praying to other dead men outside that category would be acceptable, is a less natural way of reading the text. He's assuming that "dead men" only means something like "dead men who are false gods", which adds a qualification that Lactantius doesn't state or imply.
It would be like adding a qualification to early Christian condemnations of abortion or homosexual activity, as if they were only condemning such practices if done by non-Christians or done in the same context in which non-Christians were practicing those things. If an early Christian condemns homosexual acts without qualification, but the individuals he's condemning were non-Christians who did those things in the context of a pagan religious ceremony, we don't assume that only homosexual acts done in that context are being condemned. See, for example, section 9 of the Apology of Aristides, which contains an early Christian condemnation of homosexuality and other sins in the context of criticizing paganism.
And again, the section refers to dead men being worshiped as gods/deity so what Mr. Engwer is doing, continually throughout this treatise is ignoring the context which denies his conclusions.
Actually, Lactantius condemns some of the activities in question even if they're singled out. Below is the entire sentence from Divine Institutes 2:18, referring to prayer to the dead. Notice the term "either" and the repeated use of "or":
"But if it appears that these religious rites are vain in so many ways as I have shown, it is manifest that those who either make prayers to the dead, or venerate the earth, or make over their souls to unclean spirits, do not act as becomes men, and that they will suffer punishment for their impiety and guilt, who, rebelling against God, the Father of the human race, have undertaken inexpiable rites, and violated every sacred law."
We can't assume that everything these pagans did must be present in order for anything they did to be wrong. Apparently, Lactantius thought that something like "making prayers to the dead" is wrong if done by itself, without the other practices accompanying it. And he doesn't add qualifiers like "if the dead men are false gods". What Scott is doing is assuming qualifications that will reconcile Lactantius with Roman Catholic tradition. That's a possible interpretation of Lactantius. But it isn't the most likely one.
Here Mr. Engwer gets SO CLOSE to pointing to the truth when he points out the "except the single deity..." condition for adoration and worship, but fails to make the connection that what Lactantius is objecting to is not the praying with the Communion of Saints to join us in our petitions but rather he objects to deifying dead people and worshiping them as gods. Neither Catholics nor Orthodox worship saints as gods.
Now Scott is adding another qualifier. He's assuming that Lactantius means "prayer that is worship". Supposedly, what Lactantius meant was "worshipful prayer to dead men" or "non-worshipful prayer to dead men who are false gods" or some other such qualified condemnation that would be consistent with Roman Catholicism. Why are we supposed to read such qualifiers into the text?
Since Scott ignored some portions of my Lactantius post and seems to be unaware of my previous exchanges with Christine, I'll repeat some points I made earlier. For documentation, see here and here. The evidence suggests that prayer to the dead is absent and condemned in the Bible and among the earliest post-apostolic Christians. Consider how often prayer to the dead is evidenced in Catholicism and Orthodoxy today. It's present in their church services, in their books, in their conversations, and in many other contexts. Its absence in scripture and early post-apostolic church history offers a stark contrast. Lactantius came out of that context. We don't begin with the default assumption that he believed in praying to the dead. And Scott hasn't produced any evidence that Lactantius believed in the practice. Thus, when Lactantius condemns prayer to the dead without the qualifiers that Scott wants to add to that condemnation, the most natural conclusion to reach is that he was condemning prayer to the dead in general, not just if the dead are false gods or with some other such qualification attached.