Thursday, March 09, 2023

Do Luke 8:55 and Acts 9:40 support praying to the dead?

Let's consider some objections to my post earlier this week about whether Jesus and Peter offered support for praying to the deceased when they spoke to people they raised from the dead in the gospels and Acts. Probably the two best passages that could be cited in support of interpreting this material in a way that supports prayers to the deceased are Luke 8:55 and Acts 9:40. Luke 8 mentions the return of the girl's spirit to her body after mentioning Jesus' comment to her. Acts 9:40 says that Peter turned to the woman's body just before speaking to her, and we don't normally refer to a living person with a phrase like "the body". Rather, it's more common to use that language when referring to a corpse. Shouldn't we conclude, then, that Jesus and Peter were speaking to the dead in these passages, which offers support for praying to the deceased?

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Adding Unjustified Qualifiers To Historical Sources

The Other Paul has posted a good video addressing some bad arguments often used by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and other proponents of the veneration of images. They often use the same kind of argumentation on other issues as well (e.g., praying to saints). They'll claim that a source, such as a church father, who's cited against their position is only criticizing a belief or practice in a narrower context, not in a broader context that's applicable to their position. So, for example, a church father's comments against the veneration of images are only meant to condemn a pagan form of image veneration, not the Catholic form. The Other Paul makes some significant points that should be taken into account whenever any issue like this comes up, not just with the veneration of images.

Miracles That Are Closely Associated, But Come From Different Sources

We often find out that we have physical abilities we previously didn't know we had, like the ability to recover from an illness better than the average person or an ability to lift more weight than we thought we could. And our physical abilities often develop over time, such as the growth of muscles as a result of exercise. Similar things could occur with our souls. We have latent abilities we're unaware of, which are activated under certain circumstances. Or the more a spiritual ability is exercised, the stronger it gets. We often speak of discerning and developing our own or other people's spiritual gifts, for example. Similar concepts are found in paranormal research. People who have near-death experiences often report an increase in paranormal activity in their lives afterward. I've discussed examples of a similar nature that I've come across in my research on the Enfield Poltergeist. See the section on telepathy in the article here, for instance, and the discussion of scientific experiments with Janet Hodgson here.

One of the reasons I'm bringing this subject up is its relevance to how we interpret certain paranormal events. People often treat paranormal events as having come from one source when there's a significant chance that they came from different sources instead. Paranormal activity caused by source A could trigger some paranormal activity by source B, yet people will assume that all of the activity came from A.

Think of a Marian apparition, for example. As I've discussed many times, there are historical problems with the views of Mary that are held by the groups most associated with Marian apparitions. And the apparitions often behave in problematic ways, such as how visually unclear, noncommunicative, and noninteractive the Zeitoun apparition was. Sometimes apparitions, Marian and other types, behave in ways that are reminiscent of stone tape phenomena or seem more like what you'd expect from a projection of the human mind than what you'd expect from a source like Mary or a demon. But what do we make of something like a healing, precognition, or something else that's paranormal that accompanies the apparition?

One of the explanatory options we should consider is that the experience with the apparition activated other paranormal events that didn't come from the same source. An experience with an apparition could trigger an ability somebody has to heal, for example, to heal himself or heal other people.

Whether that's the best explanation in a given case has to be judged by the details involved. My point here is that it's one of the potential explanations we should keep in mind.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Did Jesus offer support for praying to the deceased by speaking to people he raised from the dead?

He did often make comments like "arise" to those he raised from the dead, as I've discussed elsewhere. But as that post argues, it's likely that he was telling the people to move in some way in order to demonstrate that they had been brought back to life (e.g., telling Lazarus to come out, after which Lazarus walked out of his tomb). Since the focus in these passages seems to be on physical demonstrations that a resurrection has occurred, interpreting a phrase like "arise" or "come out" as a command to come back to life is at best a secondary interpretation. Jesus may have been simultaneously telling these people to rise from the dead and to move their bodies in the relevant ways. But a "may" scenario is a reference to a possibility, not a probability. I see no way to demonstrate that it's probable that Jesus was speaking to dead people in these passages.

Another way of evaluating which interpretation is more likely, aside from the factors I've mentioned above and what's discussed in the post I linked, is to look at how often Jesus, Peter (who did the same kind of thing in Acts 9:40-41), and other relevant figures speak to the dead elsewhere. Though scripture gives us many and explicit references to praying to God, there are no examples of praying to the dead. That larger context makes it likely, even highly likely, that these resurrection passages weren't meant to support praying to the dead.

And I want to reiterate a point I've made many times before. What does it suggest about the weakness of the case for praying to the dead when arguments like the one I'm responding to in this post have to be resorted to by advocates of such prayers?