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. Following are a few excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

        "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. The context is about the hope of the resurrection of the dead. 

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

         People who die with their hearts consumed by hatred and anger will be sentenced by God to suffer in hell forever. The unrepentant and unbelieving will pay eternally for their deeds. There is no way that anyone can be liberated from sin in the afterlife. There is a purification process for believers on earth, which is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:12-14). 

        "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 speaking of unsaved people; those names not written in the Lamb's Book of Life (Revelation 21:8).

         “...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."

        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."

        The idea that we can make amends for our own sin and for the sins of other people in the sight of God undermines the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice. 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 paid in full. It is another way of saying that His work is not good enough for us. The notion of Purgatory is contrary to everything that the Bible says about salvation and forgiveness.

1 comment:

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