Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A Biblical And Historical Examination Of Purgatory

  • Discussion:
         -This article serves as a rebuttal to a Roman Catholic publication defending Purgatory, and provides some historical background information as to how the doctrine came to be in its present form. The first three quotations found in this article are from the author being critiqued.

        "The first mention of Purgatory in the Bible is in 2 Maccabees 12:46: “Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from sin.”

        First of all, this passage does not actually say anything about the Roman Catholic dogma of Purgatory. It is simply the recording of a historical event, and is more so about the hope of the resurrection of the dead. We never even see sacrifices for or the offering of prayers on behalf of the dead being prescribed by the Book of the Law. The idea of Purgatory has to be read into this apocryphal text. 

        "In Matthew 5:26 and Luke 12:59 Christ is condemning sin and speaks of liberation only after expiation."

        The context of both passages warns against pride and hypocrisy. The context plainly shows that eternal condemnation is in view here. Jesus Christ was addressing the religious leaders of His day. If Matthew 5:26 and Luke 12:59 refer to Purgatory, then we must ask who the judge is? Who is the officer? And what is the prison that Jesus speaks of?

        "Revelation 21:27: “…but nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who does abominable things or tells lies.” The place that is to be entered (the place to which this passage refers) is heaven (read the text around it for context)."

       This verse says nothing about final purification after death. This verse says nothing about us making amends for our own sin. It is clearly speaking of the unsaved people (those names not written in the Lamb's Book of Life).

       “...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)

        Some Eastern Orthodox sources, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate, consider Purgatory to be among:

        "inter-correlated theories, unwitnessed in the Bible or in the Ancient Church” that are not acceptable within Orthodox doctrine, and hold to a “condition of waiting” as a more apt description of the period after death for those not borne directly to heaven. This waiting condition does not imply purification, which they see as being linked to the idea “there is no hope of repentance or betterment after death.” Prayers for the dead, then, are simply to comfort those in the waiting place."

        The Roman bishop Gregory the Great is believed to have played a key role in the acceptance and development of Purgatory during the Medieval period:

        "Much, however, in Gregory fouls the sweetness of his instruction and his orthodoxy. As indicated, his allegory at time passes the bounds of outrageousness. Medieval interpretation suffered; formalization of his method closed Scripture to the laity. His credulous acceptance of stories of miracles performed by relics of the saints, sometimes of comical proportions and sometimes like the horror gimmicks of a slasher movie, helped create the massive burden of the medieval penitential system. Add to this his acceptance of the intercession of departed saints, his belief in the efficacy of masses for the dead, his anecdotal exposition of a state of purgatory, and his belief in the merits of pious works and a concoction alien to the biblical Gospel emerges. If for centuries Augustine of Hippo was read through the eyes of Gregory, it is no wonder that rediscoveries of the evangelical Augustine created such consternation in the sixteenth century." 

        The idea of indulgences stems forth from the dogma of Purgatory. Abuses within the Roman Catholic Church during the sixteenth century led up to the Protestant Reformation. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

        "While reasserting the place of indulgences in the salvific process, the Council of Trent condemned “all base gain for securing indulgences” in 1563, and Pope Pius V abolished the sale of indulgences in 1567. The system and its underlying theology otherwise remained intact. Exactly 400 years later, in 1967, Pope Paul VI modified it by shifting the stress away from the satisfaction of punishment to the inducement of good works, greatly reducing the number of plenary indulgences and eliminating the numerical system associated for so long with partial indulgences."

        The entire notion of doing good works in order to merit the grace of God runs contrary to Scripture. The sophisticated sacramental system of salvation that the Roman Catholic Church imposes on its followers is a perversion of the simple gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. His shed blood is a foundational theme of the New Testament (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:18-21; 6:20; Colossians 1:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19). With that being said, justification is a free gift of God (Romans 3:21-26; Ephesians 2:8-9). His grace is unmerited and not something that we deserve. Jesus Christ is our propitiation. We have peace with God by faith, not works (Romans 5:1-10).

        The idea that we can make amends for our own sin or for the sins of other people in the sight of God undermines the sufficiency of Christ's atonement sacrifice. To suggest that we must pay the penalty for 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.

        Annually, thousands of Roman Catholics give money for Masses to be said for their deceased loved ones. Thus, we see how Purgatory in a sense makes God a respecter of persons (which contradicts what the Bible says regarding the character of God). Wealthier individuals can have more prayers and Masses said and so faster enter into heaven than those who are poorer. It wrongfully portrays God as judging on the basis of external factors rather than the heart. There is a purification process for believers on earth, which is through the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:12-14).

        How long does a person have to wait in Purgatory? How many prayers and Masses need to be said in order to get somebody out of Purgatory? The doctrine is a travesty of the gospel. Purgatory is contrary to everything that the Bible says about salvation and forgiveness. The tradition is based on creative speculation on what happens to believers during the intermediate state.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that excellent analysis. I hope my anonymous Papist reads it.