Friday, February 24, 2017

Examining The Roman Catholic Dogma Of Purgatory

  • Introduction: 
          -The Roman Catholic Church defines purgatory as "purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” and for those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030). It is touted as a necessity, since nothing defiled by sin can enter into the presence of God. It is further maintained that, “this final purification of the entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031). Therefore, it would be incorrect for one to assert that Rome teaches individuals who fail to get cleansed of all sin in this lifetime must expereince a temporary sentence in a lesser degree of hell. Purgatory is said to be a separate state altogether for people who are not under eternal condemnation.
  • Purgatory Contradicts Justification By Faith Apart From The Merit Of Works:
          -Abraham was justified by faith in order that boasting be eliminated from the instance of justification before God (Romans 4:2). The one who comes to Him with a contrite spirit is accepted as righteous in His sight, not coming to Him with a list of one's own achievements. Justification is not a matter of God reimbursing us for time spent in service to Him, but given to us independently of our good works (Romans 4:4). This is where the concept of grace comes into play. God bestows a righteous status to us, despite us having done nothing to deserve it (Romans 4:5). This has all been done for us "without works" (Romans 4:6). Thus, faith stands alone as an object of consideration for being declared righteous before God. If, however, the doctrine of purgatory is true, then that would mean our standing before God would depend partially on our works. It would indicate that our goodness at least in some measure affects our entrance into heaven. One must do works of penance in order to be granted an indulgence for oneself or a loved one, which are good works. But Paul's gospel will not allow for any of this. A man must approach God without any sense as to his own merit. His righteousness must be received on the basis of faith, without works of righteousness.
  • Purgatory Denies The Sufficiency Of Christ's Sacrifice:
          -The idea that we are able to atone for any kind of sin undermines the message of the gospel. Christ made a sacrifice to save those who are utterly unable to make amends for sin themselves. We cannot offer any atonement sacrifice for sins by suffering in purgatory or by offering indulgences because that debt has already been fully settled by Christ Himself on the cross. To suggest that we must pay the penalty for any sin even after it has been pardoned by God diminishes the efficacy of His atonement. That is a terribly inadequate and inconsistent view of forgiveness. It would be an insult against God to the highest degree to try to pay for even the smallest part of a debt that He has already been fully paid. It is another way of saying that His work is not good enough for us. If we are forgiven for sin yet there is still some sort of punishment that we must endure in the afterlife, then we are not really forgiven.
  • The Absence Of Purgatory From Eschatological Contexts:
          -The story of the rich man and Lazarus gives us a few details of how things work in the afterlife (Luke 16:19-31). The latter was a beggar left to the mercy of the elements. The former selfishly enjoyed his luxuries while still alive. This order of fortune was reversed after both passed away. This transition seems to have taken place immediately. Lazarus entered into Abraham's bosom, which is a state of bliss and comfort. The rich man entered a state of torment and humiliation. This narrative emphasizes the existence of two fixed destinies. It nowhere mentions a temporary state existing for the purification of souls. The great chasm between Abraham’s side and Hades implies a permanent separation. If purgatory existed, then it would suggest a bridge or connection between these realms. The rich man’s plea for Lazarus to warn his brothers indicates that there is no second chance after death. If purgatory is allowed for the expiation of sins comitted in this life after death, then it would make no sense for him to utter this plea. Further, this passage may contain implications which deny the efficacy of prayers to Mary and the saints. Abraham rejected the rich man's request to send Lazarus to warn his relatives of the upcoming doom that they would face in the absence of repentance from sin. He was told that if the testimony of Moses and the prophets were not sufficient to bring about conversion, no one rising from the dead would work either. This theme is one of the dead not having contact with the living.
          -Another text worth considering is Revelation 20:11-15, which concerns the final resurrection and judgment of the dead. The focus here is on all people without consideration of anything, except their deeds. The righteous are granted entrance into the kingdom of God. The wicked are cast into hell for eternity with Satan and his minions. The deeds of people are said to be documented in various "books." There is no mention of believers coming out of a place from which their souls were being purified. There is no indication of believers being sentenced by God to a temporary period of detention for "venial" sins commited during this life. This can be taken as evidence that the biblical authors were unaware of any such concept as purgatory.
  • Does 2 Maccabees 12:39-46 Offer Biblical Support For Purgatory?:
          -These dead soldiers were struck down by God because of their idolatry (v. 40). According to the Catholic Church, idolatry is a mortal sin (CCC 1857-1858). Mortal sins send a person to hell. Purgatory is for "venial" sins. Thus, we have no evidence for Purgatory in 2 Maccabees. This text is rejected as canonical by both Jews and Protestants. The Roman Catholic New American Bible Revised Edition has this footnote, "The author, however, uses the story to demonstrate belief in the resurrection of the just (7:9, 14, 23, 36), and in the possibility of expiation for the sins of otherwise good people who have died. This belief is similar to, but not quite the same as, the Catholic doctrine of purgatory."
  • Does Matthew 5:25-26 Offer Biblical Support For Purgatory?:
          -The context is about anger and settling disputes in relationships (v. 21-24). No one can deny that this passage is speaking about hell because it is mentioned in context (v. 22). A person in hell would be there "until he had paid the last cent," meaning that his stay there would be eternal, as he could never give a ransom for it.
  • Does Matthew 12:31-32 Offer Biblical Support For Purgatory?:
          -The parallel passage makes the meaning of this one crystal clear (Mark 3:28-29). It simply means that a person who commits the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will never receive forgiveness from God. Catholic Priest William G. Most agrees with this interpretation, "...the expression quoted is known in Rabbinic literature, where it means merely "never."
  • Does 1 Corinthians 3:15 Offer Biblical Support For Purgatory?:
          -This text is not about punishment for sins. It talks about eternal rewards (or lack thereof). In other words, the context is about testing the quality of each believer's work which determines his heavenly rewards (v. 10-14). It is not about believers undergoing punishment after death for venial sins. God will evaluate the quality of each believer's work so as to bestow praise appropriately (1 Corinthians 4:5). The phrase "he shall suffer loss" in verse fifteen refers to the loss of heavenly rewards. Catholic Priest William G. Most comments on this passage, "...the fire seems to mean the apocalyptic fire of the last day, not a fire of purgatory." The Roman Catholic New American Bible Revised Edition has this footnote on the text of 1 Corinthians 3:15, “The text of v. 15 has sometimes been used to support the notion of purgatory, though it does not envisage this.”
  • Does 1 Peter 3:19 Offer Biblical Support For Purgatory?:
          -This text is not referring to human beings suffering in purgatory, but rather concerns Christ descending into Hades for the purpose of proclaiming His victory to the fallen angels. It means that the same Holy Spirit of God who resurrected Jesus Christ from the grave also enabled Him to use Noah as an instrument to preach repentance to other men during his earthly lifespan (during the construction of the ark which took place prior to the Genesis flood). Jesus preached the message of His triumph over sin and death to the fallen angels who have been imprisoned since the time of the flood. 1 Peter 3:19 is referring not to a place for believers who were not fully purified from venial sins in this life, but to a place for nonbelievers. The Roman Catholic New American Bible Revised Edition has this footnote: "3, 19: The spirits in prison: It is not clear just who these spirits are. They may be the spirits of the sinners who died in the flood, or angelic powers, hostile to God, who have been overcome by Christ (ch 22; Gn 6, 4; Enoch 6-36, especially 21, 6; 2 Enoch 7, 1-5)."
  • The Origin Of The Roman Catholic Dogma Of Purgatory:
          -“...The written prayers which have survived, and the evidence from the catacombs and burial inscriptions indicate that the early church believed deceased Christians to be residing in peace and happiness and the nature of the prayers offered for them were that they might have a greater experience of these. As early as Tertullian, in the late second and beginning of the third century, these prayers often used the Latin term refrigerium as a request of God on behalf of departed Christians, a term which means ‘refreshment’ or ‘to refresh’ and came to embody the concept of heavenly happiness. So even though the early Church prayed for the dead, it does not support the concept of a purgatory for the nature of the prayers themselves indicate the Church did not believe the dead to be residing in a place of suffering. The roots on the teaching on purgatory can be traced back to pagan Greek religion and philosophy in such writings as the Roman poet Virgil's Aeneid and especially through the influence of Plato, whose views were introduced into the Church primarily through Origen...He was an influential promoter of purgation through suffering after death.” (William Webster, Roman Catholic Tradition: Claims and Contradictions, p. 63-64)


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Purgatory is necessary for papists, otherwise how would they coerce their people into paying indulgences? I also examined (not quit in your detail) purgatory and indulgences:

Russell said...


Very nice! A good collection of refuted Catholic “Scriptural proofs” for their belief in Purgatory. I like the concept you used in the beginning – “Reimbursement”:

“Justification is not a matter of God reimbursing us for time spent in service to Him”
Well said! Keep up the good work!