REBUTTAL # 3 - PROOF OF PURGATORY
(once again, the non-Catholic's claim is in red, my response in black)
"Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we
shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" -
1 Corinthians 15:51-52
(Protestant) The doctrine of Purgatory, like many Roman Catholic doctrines, relies upon reading assumptions into scripture and overlookingpassages that contradict the doctrine.
(Catholic) There is not one passage of Scripture that contradicts the doctrine of Purgatory. To contradict this doctrine, we would need to find a passage that says "there is no place of purification or sanctification after this life." That is what is needed, but Scripture nowhere says this.
(Protestant) Catholic apologists speculate that Christians "must" need to go through a purging beforeentering Heaven.
(Catholic) This is true as far as it goes. Catholics believe we all must suffer "temporal punishment" due to what we have done in the body. The analogy Scott Hahn uses is that of someone breaking thier neighbors window. The neighbor might "forgive" them, but you would still need to replace the window (the damage caused by your deed). The question then is "When does this punishment take place?" For some it will be in this life, for those holy few who have been able to detach themselves from all material possesions. But for most, this purification or sanctification, will occur after this life.
We read in Matthew 5:25-26 ff (see also Luke 12:52-59) "Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny." This is an example of ones purification occuring after death. For the judgement comes after death, and it is after this "judgement" that you are handed over "till you have paid the last penny." Since you are going to be released after you've have paid the last penny, then this place of "prison" cannot be hell, and since it is a prison, it cannot be heaven. Therefore, it must be a third place we call Purgatory.
1 Peter speaks of this third realm of existence "in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison" (1 Peter 3:19). You will also note that the Book to the Hebrews mentions those that have gone through this purging "and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect" (emphasis mine).
that you are only "sent" to Purgatory because you, in your
human weakness, have failed to live up to the grace God has bestowed
on you: "Much will be required of the person entrusted with
much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with
more." (Luke 12:48). So God has a certain expectation of
each of us depending on the amount ogiven. When we don't
respond to that grace, it is due to our weakness, not God's.
And thus, we are detained in this "prison" until our hearts
are ready to respond in full and without reservation to the grace God
has bestowed on it.
Supposedly, there's a need to suffer in Purgatory for an unknown
amount of time in order to be fully "purged"
of sins. The scriptures tell us, though, that Jesus has by Himself purged our sins (Hebrews 1:3), and that the suffering of a soul
in Purgatory could not purge a person from sin anyway, because without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins
(Hebrews 9:22). When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, who were struggling with many sins, he told them that, at the rapture,
they would be changed and prepared for Heaven "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Corinthians 15:52). Obviously,
even the Corinthians, who were struggling with sin, were not to expect some unknown amount of time of suffering in Purgatory
before being ready for Heaven. And many other passages of scripture either imply or explicitly state that believers go right to
Heaven upon death or being raptured. There is no Biblical foundation for the doctrine of Purgatory.
(Catholic) As he has done before, the apologist opens with the charge that it is the Catholic who "reads assumptions into Scripture." This is ingenuous, as it immediately puts the reader on alert to distrust the Catholic position. I, myself, will let the truth speak for itself, and let the reader decide for him/her self which apologist is reading assumptions into the text.
Yes, Jesus did purify us of our sins as Hebrews 1:3 states so beautifully, but that doesn't mean that there is no punishment (i.e. restitution) for our sins. We read of this type of punishment (restitution) in 1 Kings 12:14, David's sin (adultery and murder) were forgiven, yet there was a measure of justice to enact. That being his son born of the adulterous union would die. What Protestants fail to take into account is God's justice. They always proclaim his mercy, and God is all-merciful. But God is also just, and He deals with His people justly. One could argue, I suppose, that the justice of God is enacted in our earthly lifetime, not in Purgatory. But what Scriptural passage can they bring forth to validate this claim. God's justice is indeed enacted after death, as the poor souls in hell will testify to.
After all, Scripture claims in many places that we will be judged according to what we do in the body. Note this is judgement after we die. Now, let's take a look at some of these passages.
For he will render to every man according to his works: Romans 2:6 (RSV)
I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; Matt 12:36 (RSV)
Here are two instances that the Bible tells us we are to judged, not only according to what we do, but also what we say. This only makes sense if there was a place were some of the lesser sins can purged away. After all, if it is our "works" or "deeds" that our going to be judged, then we will fall under 1 Cor 3:15 which states that each man will be saved (even if he has done some bad works) after suffering loss! Since there is no pain in heaven, and no one in hell is saved, then we are again talking about a third place, Purgatory.
Note in James 5:20 "Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" James 5:20 (KJV), it talks specifically of covering a multitude of sins. Now if Christ purged away all our sins in the Protestant concept, then this passage is superfluous, it makes no sense. For if Christ did purge us from all our sins, then what sins can possibly be purged away from the man alluded to in this passage? You might say "An unbeliever." Well, seeing that James wrote to "brothers," it is far stretch to say that this he was referring to only unbelievers.
Add to this James 5:15 which reads ""The prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up again; and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven." Here is another example of a man who needed to have his sins forgiven. Our apologists, though, claims that all our sins were already forgiven. If he is right, then why does this man need the elders to come in and pray for him so that his sins can be forgiven? our apologist also claims that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins." Yet here there is no mention of shedding of blood, but only the "prayer of faith" and the annointing with oil. Cathoklic do recognize, of course, that the forgiveness of sins flows from the sacrifice at Cavary, but the Sacraments (like the Annointing of the sick in James 5:15) are instruments used by God to convey this forgiveness.
A clarification is in order here as we try to explain Purgatory. Rev 21:27 states "But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life." It is with this passage that the Catholic sees many of those dying are not wholly "clean." But carry with them baggage from this earthly existence. whether it be an inordinate attachment to pride, or sex, or sports, or whatever. These things get in the way of ones relationship with the Almighty (that is why I called them "inordinate"). After death, at the judgement, we are judged on these things. God sees not so much sins, as He sees one is not quite ready to enter the heavenly banquet due to the fact that one hasn't fully detached oneself from earthly goods. That is where Purgatory comes in.
After all. our Master Himself said "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man" Matt 15:19-20 (RSV). Notice that this is un uncleaness of heart, which is inside of man. We again refer to the Revelation passage above, that says nothing defiled can enter heaven. If that is true, and it must be since it is God's Word, then any one who does those things (evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander) are unclean (this list probably convicts all of us in one area or another)! NOTHING DEFILED CAN ENTER HEAVEN according to Revelation 21:27, thus there must be a place to cleanse us of this 'uncleanliness' prior to our entering the banquet feast. That "place" is described in the 1 Cor 3:15 passage alluded to earlier.
My pastor used a good analogy, that of Purgatory being akin to a charm school. You cannot enter the greatest "party" of all until your "attitude" is adjusted properly. So God sends you to this "charm school" until you have learned the true attitude of love of God above all else. Many of us, when we die, will not have fully grown into the appropriate love of God we will need to enter the great feast, thus will be detained momentarily in God's "charm school" until all our self-love and inordinate affections to things not of God have been removed from our hearts.
Now, back to my opponents remarks. He says "and that the suffering of a soul in Purgatory could not purge a person from sin anyway, because without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins." I'm not sure where he came up with this argument. Does he believe Catholics think that in Purgatory it is the merit of the one suffering that purifies him? The Catholic Church teaches that there is no merit in Purgatory, and that the cleansing done there is by the grace of Christ through the blood of Christ. So this is a straw man set up to be blown down. Maybe he believes the blood of Jesus cannot extend beyond the grave?
then says "When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, who were
struggling with many sins, he told them that, at the rapture,
they would be changed and prepared for Heaven "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." Again, a straw man. The Catholic Church teaches that at the end of the world (the rapture is another story altogether) Purgatory will cease to exist, and only heaven and hell will remain. So in the context of what our apologist calls the rapture, yes, souls will go straight to heaven. But even here we see a type of Purgatory. The passage says clearly "we will be changed." Something happens to us prior to entering heaven. We need to be changed. Paul says in another place "When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, 1 Cor 15:54 (RSV). So we don't really go "straight" to heaven, we all need to undergo some sort of metamorphosis. That is Purgatory.
The Roman Catholic Church has profited tremendously from this
doctrine over the last several centuries, though. Around the time of
the Reformation, Johann Tetzel sold indulgences for the Roman
Catholic Church with the pitch "As soon as the coin in the
coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs." Even today, the
Roman Catholic Church brings in a lot of revenue from mass cards that
people purchase, with the promise that having masses said will get a
deceased loved one out of Purgatory sooner. Catholic apologists often
suggest that churches use the money for mass cards for some good
cause, such as a charity. They can't prove that all Catholic churches
do that, though, and even if all of them did, the money is still
acquired on spurious
grounds. We wouldn't overlook telemarketing scandals if the money acquired thereby was given to a charity. Money should notbe acquired on false pretenses, and promising people that having a mass said will get somebody out of Purgatory sooner is a
(Catholic) Here are a bunch of 'old' charges brought against the Church to try to disprove the truth of Purgatory. Every honest historian will tell you that what Johann Tetzel did was an abuse of his position. How can any one try to disprove the truth of ones position by using an "abuser" as an example. Analogously, we could say marriage is bad because there is much wife and child abuse in our society. You and I both know that that is a ridiculous conclusion. Simply stated, it is poor apologetics to use this line of reasoning.
Our apologist states "Even today, the Roman Catholic Church brings in a lot of revenue from mass cards that people purchase, with the promise that having masses said will get a deceased loved one out of Purgatory sooner." The "revenue" gained from "mass cards" is paltry indeed. Just recently the suggested donation for a Mass intention climbed to $10. Wow, the Church is rolling in the dough now, huh? My parish holds 5 Sunday Masses, and 11 weekday Masses. Doing the calculation, you get 16 Masses at $10 each = $160.00 per week. It seems that that would barely, if at all, pay the electric bill. I know also that the Church does not demand the $10. And I also know that the weekly collections far exceed this paltry sum recieved from mass intentions.
Then, this misnomer "They can't prove that all Catholic churches do that, though, and even if all of them did, the money is still acquired on spurious grounds." You can't prove that they all don't do that, let alone that the Church is getting rich on the Mass cards. The "spurious grounds" comment is bogus as we are proving that Purgatory is not a "spurious" doctrine. It is indeed a truth revealed by God for all men to believe. Since it is not a "spurious" doctrine, then the money asked is not on "spurious" grounds.
In addition to the false promises behind mass cards, despair and
guilt are created among the relatives and friends of the deceased
loved one. Should a widow "selfishly" spend money to
support herself, or should she spend the money to get her
deceased husband out of Purgatory sooner?
(Catholic) I have yet to talk to someone in either of these states with regard to the statement above. Where did you dig this one up? Another accusation with no proof. I would doubt very much that the $10 Mass offering would pit a widow on the brink of starvation. Yet, did not our Lord himself praise the poor widow in the Gospels for giving all that she had to live on (see Mark 12:42-44)? Two things are of note here: First, Jesus condemns the scribes who "devour widows' houses"-- here he speaks of taking advantage of them, which is an abuse (verse 40). Secondly, He holds up as a model of virtue the *widow* who gives two mites (a small amount, as is $10 by today's standards) out of her want. Clearly, the charity of widows is not repugnant to our Lord.
(Protestant) There is a contradiction within the doctrine of Purgatory, one which defies reason and denies the sufficiency of Christ's finished work. Dave Hunt explains:
blind submission to the Church prevents the Roman Catholic adherent
from seeing that the doctrine of purgatory containsan obvious and
fatal contradiction. On the one hand we are told that the sacrifice
of Christ is not enough to get one to heaven,
but in addition to Christ's sufferings on the cross the forgiven sinner must himself suffer torment to be purged of his sin. On the
other hand, however, and in direct contradiction, it is said that the Mass, which is the representation or perpetual renewal of
Christ's sacrifice, reduces (by some unknown amount) one's suffering. Presumably, if enough Masses were said one would be
purged by the expiation of all sins without any suffering at all. So one doesn't have to suffer, after all, to be purged....So the
doctrine of purgatory contains a fatal contradiction. It declares that one must suffer in order to be purged of one's sins; yet at
the same time it says one need not suffer if certain rules are followed." (A Woman Rides the Beast [Harvest House, 1994])
(Catholic) Ahh, nothing like a quote from a person no one regards as a qualified expert on the Catholic Church to explain the Catholic Church. What a surprise, Hunt's statements include incorrect assumptions and irregularities on its own.
The Church has been stalwart in it's proclamation that it is by Christ, and Christ alone that we are able to gain entrance into the kingdom. So His sacrifice was enough. It is our own unwillingness to cooperate with the work Christ intends for us, that we face the very real threat of punishment for our sins. Yes, God is faithful, but we are not. And God will even give us supernatural strength to accomplish the task, yet, we are not robots. We must on our own, put forth the effort to attain to the status God intends for us (2Pet1:10, 1 Thess 5:8, Heb 10:26). If we don't attain it, it is not God's, but our own insuffiency (Phil 2:12).
(Protestant) "But in addition to Christ's sufferings on the cross the forgiven sinner must himself suffer torment to be purged of his sin."
(Catholic) This is another straw man. The word "must" here is out of place. You need not "suffer torment" to be purged, there are many different ways one can have restitution. Giving alms, doing good deeds in Christ (this is another topic altogether), or true contrition for ones faults are all ways we make restitution for our sins. So what Mr. Hunt has done is taken a half-truth and made it to be an absolute truth, a straw man.
(Protestant) Those rules often involve giving money to the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholicism curses anybody who trusts in Christ, His finished work, and His mercy alone for entrance to Heaven, yet it encourages people to try to get into Heaven through charity work, participating in rituals, purchasing mass cards, etc.
Again, this topic would take a whole book to cover sufficiently,
however, I'll try to summarize here. I would first like to see
the official Church text that teaches Catholics that they are not to
trust in Christ! It is a ridiculous charge by one who knows
little about what the Church really teaches!
It is Christ from beginning to end, yet man has to cooperate with God's grace to truly become holy, and remember, "nothing unclean shall enter it." Besides, did not Jesus Himself encourage people to do charity work to get to heaven (see Matt 5 - 7 among others)?
(Protestant) Trusting in Christ and His sacrifice on the crosssupposedly isn't enough to allow one into Heaven. However, leaving behind money after one's death to have Christ's sacrificeallegedly presented over and over again through the mass supposedly would be enough to allow one into Heaven.
(Catholic) One can see Mr. Hunt's real problem, he has a money paranoia. As I explained before, no one is coerced to pay the $10, it is a simple donation, "For it is written in the law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain." Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of a share in the crop. If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits? 1 Cor 9:10-11 (RSV)
Isn't it amazing that people have no problem paying for things like $50 to see a football game, or $20 to have their hair done, all things good in themselves, but when a spritual reality is brought to light of which a fraction of that is asked (the real price of which is really inestimable), we say the Church is greedy! I know of one person who spent $5,000 on adoption, but balked at the $300 suggested donation to see if her daughter had a real marriage or not! Where are our priorities??!!
And I can't let the above quote pass without defending the Mass. One of the problems in writing rebuttals to these types of articles is that there are so many charges brought up against the Church, that it is really impossible to deal with all of them sufficiently in a sinlge essay. This is known as a "shotgun" approach. Using a single bullet, you can spray hundreds of pellets hitting here and there, hoping that one of them will go undetected. Now, since this issue (the Mass) on it's own will take many pages to explain properly, I will invite interested observers to read one (or both) of the following atricles: The Catholic Mass, or The Scarifice of the Mass.
(Protestant) Christ'ssuffering alone isn't enough to make a person ready for Heaven, but the sufferings of other people can complete what Christ'ssacrifice was insufficient to complete. The doctrine of Purgatory is riddled with contradictions and blasphemy. (Contrary towhat Catholic apologists suggest, Colossians 1:24 does not teach that Christ's sacrifice is insufficient. Paul is not referring toChrist's redemptive suffering. That would contradict what Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles so explicitly state elsewhere[Matthew 20:28, John 19:30, Romans 4:5-8, Hebrews 1:3, 1 Peter 1:18-19, 3:18, Revelation 1:5]. The "suffering" that waslacking in what Christ suffered during His earthly life is the suffering that Christians endure when they do good deeds inobedience to Christ, the persecutions that Christians endure to bring the gospel to other people, etc. In other words, Christalone suffered for our redemption, but He did not endure all of the suffering needed to accomplish everything that the church isto accomplish. In that regard, there is suffering that remains to be endured by individual Christians throughout history.)
Speaking of contradictions, Mr. Hunt declares Christ's suffering was
sufficient (and it was in the Catholic sense) yet he interprets
Col 1:24 to mean that "He did not endure all of the
suffering needed to accomplish everything that the church isto
accomplish." Do you see the "song and dance"
here? He criticizes the Catholic Church for saying that we all
must suffer, yet he says the same thing, only in different words.
Thank you Mr. Hunt for validating the Catholic position!
The following from Dave Currie's Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic, referring to Col. 1:24. "An Evangelical is hard pressed to find any meaning to the words 'what is still lacking... in Christ's afflictions" without emptying the verse of all meaning. Taken seriously, this verse destroys Evangelical soteriology. Evangelicals state without reservation that nothing
we do can further our salvation (or anyone else's). Faith alone justifies, not works or suffering. Yet this verse contradicts that view of salvation" (page 127). In other words, one of the basic principles of Evanglical soteriology NULLIFIES THE WORD OF GOD.
(Protestant) The Roman Catholic Church is sometimes disturbingly explicit in what it teaches about doctrines such as Purgatory and indulgences. The Second Vatican Council stated:
treasury [of indulgences] includes as well the prayers and good works
of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly
immense, unfathomable and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all
the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and
carried out the mission the Father entrusted to them. In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time
cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body." ("Sacred Liturgy", "Apostolic Constitution on the
Revision of Indulgences", no. 5)
in the face of such explicit statements, many Catholic apologists
still argue that their church does not teach salvation
through works. It does, though, obviously. By using Biblical terms such as "grace", while applying unbiblical definitions to those
Biblical terms, the Catholic apologist can mislead people into thinking that the Catholic Church actually doesn't teach a gospel
of works. Statements such as the one above from the Second Vatican Council can be multiplied, though, and demonstrate
beyond a reasonable doubt that the Roman Catholic Church is under the curse of Galatians 1:8-9.
(Catholic) Again the trickery of the Protestant apologist, they take one statement out of context and use it as an absolute truth. Is it not possible, my apologist friend, that the phrase "in this way they attained thier own salvation" has been misappropriated by you? Again, there are various Scripture texts that speak the same way. Let's take a look at a few:
Let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:20 (RSV) I know, we've used this before, but it is so "Catholic" I couldn't refuse. James says the believer who brings back a sinner WILL SAVE HIS SOUL FROM DEATH! Isn't that almost the same as saying ""in this way they attained their own salvation?"
Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife? 1 Cor 7:16 (RSV) Now using the Protestant approach here, one could argue that Paul is teaching that Christ's sacrifice isn't sufficient because the spouse is the one in this situation who does the saving. Of course that is ridiculous, but can you see how one can take a passage and make it say something it never intended? That is precisely what our Protestant friend is doing here, ignoring the mountains of Church teaching that repeatedly declares Christ to be our Savior; that it is Christ alone we depend on; that if it weren't for Christ we'd be dead in our sins; and saying this one passage, and others that are worded similarly, prove that we teach a works based salvation.
love the last sentence: " Statements such as the one above from
the Second Vatican Council can be multiplied, though, and
demonstratebeyond a reasonable doubt that the Roman Catholic Church
is under the curse of Galatians 1:8-9." What is Gal 1:8-9
"But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to
you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be
accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any
one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received,
let him be accursed." Isn't it strange how the Church was
"Catholic" for 1500 years until Martin Luther. The
Reformers come preaching a new Gospel, yet it is the Catholic Church
that is accused of the different gospel. Am I missing something
here? Read the Church Fathers for yourself. You will see
a hierarchy, belief in the Real Presence, teaching on Baptismal
Regeneration, the Mass as a sacrifice, prayers for the dead, Mary as
the New Eve (i.e. mother of all the faithful), the authority of the
Church, and on and on. As one great convert to the Catholic
Church said :To be deep in history, is to cease to be Protestant"
(John Cardinal Newman). So, who has the "different
(Protestant) Doctrines such as Purgatory and indulgences have been revenue generators for the Catholic Church, and it is not willing to give them up. Even if the modern Catholic clergy isn't as greedy as its predecessors, it still must maintain these doctrines in order to uphold an image of infallibility.
(Catholic) Again the "money" thing again.St. Paul said "In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel" 1 Cor 9:14 (RSV).
(Protestant) The truth is, though, that the Roman Catholic Church has proven its fallibility many times, evenon matters of doctrine and scripture interpretation.
(Catholic) Fallibilty on Scripture interpretation? According to whose interpretation? Because the Church interpreted it different from you, are you saying, then, that yours is the infallible interpretation? If yours isn't infallible, then how do you know the Church's is?
(Protestant) Not only is the doctrine of Purgatory not supported by scripture, but the earliest church fathers also have no such concept. Clement, the earliest of the church fathers, writes about Peter, Paul, and some deceased Corinthian presbyters being in Heaven:
through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous
labours and when he had at length suffered
martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him....Thus was he [Paul] removed from the world, and went into the holy
place, having proved himself a striking example of patience....Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course
before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure from this world; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of
the place now appointed them." (First Clement, 5, 44)
Polycarp, a personal disciple of the apostle John, wrote:
exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of
righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as ye have seen
set before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves,
and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. This do in the assurance that all these have not run in vain, but in faith and
righteousness, and that they are now in their due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they suffered. For they
loved not this present world, but Him who died for us, and for our sakes was raised again by God from the dead." (The Epistle
of Polycarp to the Philippians, 9)
Polycarp died as a martyr, an account of his martyrdom was written
and circulated among the churches afterward, part
of which reads:
having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus
acquired the crown of immortality, he now, with the
apostles and all the righteous in heaven, rejoicingly glorifies God" (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 19)
apologists may attempt to avoid the implications of these statements
by suggesting that these people were viewed as
going right to Heaven only because they died as martyrs. However, the concept that martyrs would not have to go to Purgatoryis a later concept, one which we cannot read back into the writings of this time.
(Catholic) Henry Chadwick (not a Catholic author) in his The Early Church notes (on page 30) that the early Christians had a "conviction that martyrdom granted immediate admission to paradise and conferred a victor's crown." this is around the mid-second century. A note here that if "martrydom granted immediate admission to paradise," then it must have been understood by all that not everyone who goes to paradise does not go "straight" to paradise, yes?
From the early writings we see this in practice:
citizen of a prominent city, I erected this while I lived, that I
might have a resting place for my body. Abercius is my name, a
disciple of the chaste shepherd who feeds his sheep on the mountains
and in the fields, who has great eyes surveying
everywhere, who taught me the faithful writings of life. Standing by, I, Abercius, ordered this to be inscribed; truly I was in my
seventy-second year. May everyone who is in accord with this and who understands it pray for Abercius" (Epitaph of
Abercius [A.D. 190]).
very night, this was shown to me in a vision: I saw Dinocrates going
out from a gloomy place, where also there were
several others, and he was parched and very thirsty, with a filthy countenance and pallid color, and the wound on his face which
he had when he died. This Dinocrates had been my brother after the flesh, seven years of age, who died miserably with disease
. . . For him I had made my prayer, and between him and me there was a large interval, so that neither of us could approach to
the other. . . . and [I] knew that my brother was in suffering. But I trusted that my prayer would bring help to his suffering; and I
prayed for him every day until we passed over into the prison of the camp, for we were to fight in the camp-show. Then . . . I
made my prayer for my brother day and night, groaning and weeping that he might be granted to me. Then, on the day on
which we remained in fetters, this was shown to me. I saw that that place which I had formerly observed to be in gloom was
now bright; and Dinocrates, with a clean body well clad, was finding refreshment. . . . [And] he went away from the water to
play joyously, after the manner of children, and I awoke. Then I understood that he was translated from the place of
punishment" (The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity 2:3-4 [A.D. 202]).
"[T]hat allegory of the Lord [Matt. 5:25-26] . . . is extremely clear and simple in its meaning . . . [beware lest as] a transgressor of your agreement, before God the Judge . . . and lest this Judge deliver you over to the angel who is to execute the sentence, and he commit you to the prison of hell, out of which there will be no dismissal until the smallest even of your delinquencies be paid off in the period before the resurrection. What can be a more fitting sense than this? What a truer interpretation?" (The Soul 35 [A.D. 210]).
(Protestant) And not all of the people mentioned in thestatements above died as martyrs anyway. The earliest post-apostolic Christians, like the apostolic Christians, did not believe ina Purgatory.
(Catholic) It matters not that the person in question was a martyr or not, you again have taken a simple truth and have made it into an absolute! For instance, I could tell by mom I just came home from the football game. This would be a true statement. Would you assume then, that there was no way possible I stopped anywhere on my home? What I didn't tell her was that I stopped to eat on the way home. Both statements are true, but to make either one an absolute would be fallacious. Similarly, when a close friend dies, we know the final resting place is in the arms of our Blessed Lord, and our words will bear that out. Just but because we didn't explicitly state "oh so and so will go to Purgatory first" doesn't mean we don't believe it. That is exactly how YOU interpret the Fathers. Any statement that might contradict what you believe to be the Catholic position, you take as an absolute, while those explicitly explaining Catholic teaching are discarded as trash.
Our apologist also claims "The earliest post-apostolic Christians, like the apostolic Christians, did not believe ina Purgatory." "In short, if we understand that prison of which the Gospel speaks to be Hades, and if we interpret the last farthing (Matt 5:25) to be the light offense which is to be expiated there before the resurrection, no one will doubt that the soul undergoes some punishments in Hades, without prejudice to the fullness of the resurrection, after which recompense will be made through the flesh also." Who wrote this? and when? 5th or 6th century, maybe? No, this was penned by Tertullian in 204 AD (The Flesh of Christ)!
Epitaph of Abercius also wrote an ode to Purgatory, this in 180-200AD where he asks those who read his poem, to pray for him when he is dead. (See Faith of the Early Fathers, Jurgens, p 77-78)
(Protestant) What follows is a response I wrote to a person who asked me to read an article defending Purgatory on the World Wide Web.
are a lot of problems with the WWW article you've referred me to. The
author admits that Purgatory is not
taught explicitly anywhere in scripture, and he's right about that.
we're going to be responsible, we have to distinguish between
assumptions and actual evidence. For example,
when the author of the article claims that Jesus had to be outside of Heaven rather than with the thief in Heaven
after the crucifixion [Luke 23:39-43], he's making assumptions. Jesus described only two areas in the afterlife in
Luke 16, with "Abraham's bosom" possibly being the place He told the thief on the cross about. There are
differing interpretations of 1 Peter 3 [1 Peter 3:19-20], which is probably one of the most controversial passages
in the New Testament. The interpretation that I find most compelling, and most compatible with the rest of the
scriptures, is that Jesus told the people in Abraham's bosom [and/or Hades] about what He had achieved for
them at Calvary. There's nothing in the passage that even comes close to supporting Purgatory. You have to read
assumptions into the text in order to see Purgatory there.
(Catholic) Aah, let's see, the apologist states that "There's nothing in the passage that even comes close to supporting Purgatory" in reference to 1 Peter 3:19. Yet, that passage clearly speaks of the "spirits in prison." I would say that comes close (even if it doesn't support it in your mind, it does come close), wouldn't you?
He also says that "Jesus described only two areas in the afterlife inLuke 16," and that is true. But does that mean that those two are the ONLY two? What about the place where, after judgement, the jailer throws you into prison (Matt 5:25; Luke 13:52-59)? Again, you've taken one statement of truth, and have made it an absolute, regardless of anything else. I could argue that the rich man in the parable WAS in Purgatory. Why? Because he was expressing charity; he called Abraham "father Abraham," and was concerned for the salvation of his brothers. That certainly doesn't sound like a reprobate in hell, does it?
The author of the article makes the tremendously inaccurate claim
that "A study of the history of doctrines shows
that Christians in the first centuries were up in arms (sometimes quite literally) if anyone suggested the least change
in beliefs." Any open minded study of the early church actually reveals a different situation. For example, it's
demonstrable that the New Testament and some of the earliest post-apostolic writings (First Clement, for
example) describe only two church offices (bishop/elder/presbyter and deacon), while church fathers from the
second century onward advocated three or more church offices, including having one bishop preside over each
(Catholic) Here is where you really get off the beaten path. As I explained to you previously, a bishop is a priest, but that doesn't mean he can't have more authority than a priest, does it? I could point to the umpire at a baseball game and say "there is an umpire." That would be correct, but that umpire also happens to be the crew chief, thus has more authority. In fact, here is a quote from Ignatius (107 AD) who knew the Apostle John personally " Do ye, beloved, be careful to be subject to the bishop, and the presbyters and the deacons" (letter to the Ephesians).
I would also argue that in the early Church, you may have only one presbyter per area. But as the Church grew, it became necessary to ordain others to this ministry, at which point you might have three presbyters in a particular region. it was at this point that the church recognized the need for a bishop, and overseer of a whole diocese. One who would report directly to one of those in line with the Apostles. Doesn't this make sense?
Look at it another way (this might be off-track a bit, but I think worth it). Let us suppose that our apologist freind opened up a business. Things were going well. Since I know his name is Jason, he calls this business 'Jason's Home Improvement Center." Jason is the owner, but he is also the manager of the establishment. Business is so good, he decides to open three more retail outlets.
Point #1 He employs three more managers at these outlets. Now we have four managers (same title), but all four know who the real boss is. It doesn't even need to be addressed in correspondence within the company, everybody knows! But you can bet your bottom dollar that if one of the managers wanted to make an change in the status quo, he would direct his correspondence to all the managers, but specifically to the one in charge, that is Jason. That is what happened in the early Church. We see letters written back and forth between the churches addressing various issues, but whenever something important came up, they made sure Rome got a letter.
Point #2 You can bet (again your bottom dollar, since you didn't lose it on that last bet) that when these managers were hired, Jason made sure they knew there was a hierarchy involved. He, Jason, was on the top of this hierarchy, then the respective managers, then the store personnel. When there was only one store, there was only a two-tiered hierarchy, but when that company branched out, it quickly became three-tiered.
Very simply stated, three roles of ministry in the Church.
point to clarify is that in this day and age, it is common for
theologians to discuss and disagree on certain issues, like the early
fathers did. Some of these deal with matters of faith and
morals. But when the Church finally declares something as true,
like the Canon of Scripture, the Trinity, Transubstantiation, the
Assumption, and so on, then, and only then, are these
discussions to cease. Obviously in the early Church, most of
these teachings were not formally defined, so there was some latitude
given in certain interpretations, especially between the Eastern and
(section deleted as it was not proper to this discussion, and is dealt with in another rebuttal)
I could go on, but the point is that there was not the sort of
unanimity and immunity to error in the early church that
Catholic apologists (and the writer of the article you referred me
to) suggest. Paul implies that there would be
wolves who would enter the flock just after his departure (Acts 20:28-35), not hundreds of years later. By the
time that John wrote Revelation, most of the seven churches he was writing to had departed from what the
apostles had taught them to some extent. This is why Paul and Peter told people to remember their (the apostles')
own words rather than relying on somebody else to tell them what the apostles "really meant" (Acts 20:28-35, 2
Peter 1:13-15). How do we do that today? How do we remember what the apostles themselves taught? We do it
by reading the New Testament, the only apostolic material we have.
(Catholic) How do you know you have "apostolic material"? Paul taught for three years in Ephesus, do you have every thing he said in three years explaining the mystery of God written down somewhere? If you do, I'd like to see it!
Your only recourse proving that you do have Apostolic material is to the Church Fathers who tells us it is Apostolic, and simply stated, the Bible Alone theory comes to a crashing defeat here as the source for our knowledge of where these books came from originated outside of the parameters of the "Sola Scriptura" contingent. (alas, that is another issue).
This fact is also pointed out by another Protestant church historian, J.N.D. Kelly in his Early Christian Doctrines "There is no reason to infer, however, that the primitive Church regarded the apostolic testimony as confined to written documents emanating from, or attributed to, the apostles. Logically, as it must have done chronilogically, the testimony stood prior to the documents, and it would be more correct to say that the latter were valued precisely because they were held to enshrine the former. Admittedly, there is no evidence for beliefs and practices current in the period which were not vouched for in the books later known as the New Testament. But there is equally nothing to suggest, and generaly probabilty makes it unlikely, that Christian teachers had these books specifically in mind on the majority of occasions when they referred to apostolic material. It is much more plausible that they were thinking of the common body of facts and doctrines, definite enough in outline though with varying emphasis, which found expression in the church's day-to-day preaching, liturgical action and catachetical instruction, just as much as in its formal documents" (Page 33-34)
(Protestant) The writer of the article you referred me to mentions 2 Maccabees, the Divine inspiration of which I reject, just as the early church did.
(Catholic) The early Church did not reject these books, that was the responsibilty of the Reformers (sic). Maybe you think the Reformers were the early Church? As Henry Chadwick proclaims on page 11-12 ". . .The Septuagint became the authorized version of the early Gentile churches. . ." the Septuagint contained 2 Maccabees and the other Deuterocanonicals that the Protestant Reformers rejected because the message of those books differed from what the Reformers wanted to believe.
Even if we accept 2 Maccabees as inspired, though, it does not
support Purgatory. The dead
people who are prayed for died as idolaters, as the text itself tells us. That's a "mortal" sin according to
Catholicism, meaning that the dead people couldn't have been in any Purgatory. Nowhere in the Old Testament
do we see the Mosaic law calling for the actions of Judas Maccabaeus toward the idolaters who were slain
because of their idolatry.
(Catholic) There is nothing in the text to suggest it was idolatry. Only when one reads his preconcieved notions can you possibly come up with that type of interpretation. Having amulets (sort of like a rabbits foot) is not idolatry, it is a lucky charm. Certainly not conducive to ones spiritual life, but certainly not a mortal sin, either. It is also interesting to note that the Jewish tradition has what is known as a"mourners kaddish" which is prayer for the faithful departed. Funny how Jesus condemned many 'human' traditions of the Jews, but not this one.
Once again, we see a tendency among Catholic apologists to just take
any text that can in any way be portrayed
as support for a Catholic doctrine, and read massive assumptions into it. That the people in 2 Maccabees who are
prayed for died in mortal sin, and that Judas' actions find no precedent in the Mosaic law, are just overlooked.
The Catholic apologist uses whatever scrap he can find to support a doctrine that is otherwise unsupportable.
(Catholic) You are the one that assumes it is a mortal sin, not us. Another preconcieved notion to dispell what the Bible really teaches.
The writer of the Purgatory article suggests that opponents of
Purgatory place the doctrine's origin at Augustine's
time or later. While opponents of Purgatory may place the doctrine's most extensive development at that time, I
don't know of anybody who denies that it was in an earlier stage of development before then. But to find
Purgatory in prayers for the dead and in fraudulent documents like the Acts of Paul is ridiculous. Again, as we
often do with Catholic apologetics, we run into the problem of relying on spurious sources and reading
assumptions into what the early church wrote.
passing, I note that The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas is a third
century document, not a second century
document. [The person who wrote the article defending Purgatory referred to The Passion of Perpetua and
Felicitas as a second century document.] It seems to have had a lot of influence on Augustine in his development
of a Purgatory doctrine. It obviously post-dates the apostles by a long period of time, though, and it's obviously
not authoritative. So why do you look to a third century document for support of a doctrine that is not in the
(Catholic) Why did this lost soul come to you, 1950 years removed from the fact, for answers to his questions? Where is your pedigree? Who sent you to teach (see Romans 10:15, 1 Cor 4:17; 2 Cor 12:17-18; Gal 4:4 et al)? Who layed hands on you to give you their authority (Acts 6:6, 8:17, 13:3; 2 Tim 1:6 et al)? I'm sure you are considered by many, including this author, to be "spurious source." Why should we believe you?
As far as prayers for the dead are concerned, I'll quote what William
Webster writes on the subject in The
Church of Rome at the Bar of History:
at least the first two centuries there was no mention of purgatory in
the Church. In all the writings of the
Apostolic Fathers, Irenaeus and Justin Martyr there is not the slightest allusion to the idea of purgatory. Rome
claims that the early Church nevertheless believed in purgatory because it prayed for the dead. This was becoming
a common practice by the beginning of the third century but it does not, in itself, prove that the early Church
believed in the existence of a purgatory. The written prayers which have survived, and the evidence from the
catacombs and burial inscriptions indicate that the early Church viewed deceased Christians as residing in peace
and happiness and the prayers offered were for them to have a greater experience of these.
Isn't this an interesting interpretation. Early christians
believed they could pray for the dead so that they could experience
greater peace and happiness!!! This sounds like the Catholic
doctrine of Purgatory. Here the author sees clearly that the
early Christians at least believed they could help those beyond the
grave."And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and
after that comes judgment Heb 9:27 (RSV) What this author seems
to be saying is that after we are judged by the Lord, the early
Christians believed that they could effectuate a change in the status
of that judging? So the one to whom the prayers are offered for
can be happier still?
early as Tertullian, in the late second and beginning of the
third century, these prayers often use 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 the fact that the early Church prayed for the dead does not
support the teaching of purgatory for the nature of the prayers themselves indicate the Church did not view the
dead as residing in a place of suffering."
(Catholic) Again, make up as many "reasons" as you like, the fact remains; The early Christians prayed for the dearly departed!
The author of the Purgatory article refers to Matthew 12:32, and
reads assumptions into the passage in order to
arrive at a Purgatory. In the parallel passages (Mark 3:29, Luke 12:10), the sin is described as "never" being
forgiven and "not" being forgiven. Obviously, the message is that blaspheming the Holy Spirit is an eternal sin.
(Many people believe, as I do, that this sin must be a rejection of Christ, since that's the only sin that would keep
us from accepting forgiveness for every other sin.) Saying that blaspheming the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven is
a far cry from saying that believers must suffer in a place of purging after death, before entering Heaven. Again,
why is it that Catholic apologists have to rely on reading so many assumptions into a text of scripture in order to
support doctrines such as Purgatory?
(Catholic) Here is Matt 12:32 "And whoever says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." The assumption read into this text is simply that there must be sins that are forgiven in the age to come. Else, why would Jesus have to explicitly state that this sin (against the Holy Spirit) cannot be forgiven there?
The author's treatment of 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 also has some
problems. The text tells us that the works are
burned, not the person. It even tells us that a person can be saved without any good works (all of the works are
burned up, because they're bad), which contradicts Catholic doctrine. To jump to the conclusion of Purgatory,
just because "fire" is mentioned in the context of the afterlife, is irrational. It's the sort of argument that a person
has to rely on when, as he admits, there are no explicit references to any Purgatory in the Bible.
(Catholic) Yes, the persons works are burned up, but what does the text say next? "He will suffer loss." The person suffers loss. This is after death, after the judgement, yet after he suffers loss. The text goes on to say that "he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." This place where he suffers, can it be heaven? No, there is only happiness in heaven. Can it be hell? No, no one in hell is saved. Therefore, it leaves one alternative; Purgatory!
Do believers have to go through a process of "purging"
before entering Heaven? No. Without the shedding of
blood, there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22), making Purgatory incapable of accomplishing what it is
alleged to accomplish. If Christ's blood and His suffering can't get you into Heaven, Purgatory can't either. Christ
purged the believer's sins by Himself (Hebrews 1:3).
(Catholic) We answered this before. It IS Christ's blood accomplishing our final sanctification in Purgatory.
So how are we prepared for Heaven? Read 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. How
long does it take us to be changed at
the rapture? "A moment, the twinkling of an eye". Indeed, all of the rapture passages (John 14:2-3, 1 Corinthians
15, 1 Thessalonians 4) speak of Christians being taken to be in Heaven, not any Purgatory. Does that mean that
everybody who is raptured will have lived a perfect life? Of course not. Remember, it was the "carnal Corinthians"
to whom Paul was writing in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. So if they can be changed and prepared for Heaven in "a
moment, the twinkling of an eye", why can't other Christians?
(Catholic) Again the "rapture" theory. This is the end of the world when, a the Catholic Church teaches, only heaven and hell remain. By the way, how long is "a twinkling of the eye" in eternity?
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus and the apostles repeatedly refer
to the believer's future in Heaven,
mentioning nothing of any Purgatory.In passages like 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 and Philippians 1:21-23, Paul speaks of
being eager to end this life, to be with the Lord. He says nothing of any interval of suffering in Purgatory. To the
contrary, he suggests that, for a Christian, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
thief on the cross was not an exception to the rule. Every believer
is complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10),
even if he isn't fully sanctified yet.
How can you enter heaven if "nothing defiled can enter"
and you are not fully sanctified? We are gettiing in to the
issue of justification here, which, though related, is a huge topic
on its own.
It's Christ's righteousness and His suffering, not the righteousness
of the believer, that merits the believer's entrance to Heaven. Believers are to constantly be watching for Christ's
return (Matthew 24:42),
(Catholic) If it really is Christ's righteousness and suffering, and only Christ's righteousness and suffering, then why do the believers need to do anything?
expecting to be changed "in the twinkling of an eye" (1
Corinthians 15:51-52) and taken
to Heaven (John 14:2-3), not Purgatory. This should be a source of comfort to the believer, knowing that he'll be
taken to be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18). It shouldn't be a source of anxiety and dread, fearing the
suffering of Purgatory.
is a source of comfort for me. For I know even if I don't
complete the Lord's mission for me here, the Lord Himself will make
me complete in Purgatory.
The writer of the WWW article you referred me to has made the mistake
Paul warned against in Colossians 2:8.
He admits that Purgatory is not explicitly taught in scripture, yet he engages in all sorts of assumptions and human
philosophy in order to come to the conclusion that there "must" be a Purgatory. Don't repeat his mistake.
(Catholic) As most scholars will tell you, the Trinity is not explicitly taught in the Scriptures either, yet all Christians believe it. Sola Scriptura is not implicilty nor explicitly taught in the Scriptures, yet our Protestant apologist will have you believe in that man-made philosophy.
Therefore, we are at an impasse. Two God-fearing Bible-loving
apologists going at it, but both disagreeing as to what Scripture
Did God leave us a book to fend for ourselves, or did the Almighty and merciful Father leave us a Church we can go to recieve the truth (Matt 18:18; 1 Tim 3:15)?
What came first, the Bible or the Church?