Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Purgatory?



In a recent internet dialog with a Roman Catholic, I was asked to give an example of where the Roman Catholic Church's (RCC) tradition was not in keeping with the testimony of scripture. There are numerous examples in RCC doctrine from which to choose, but the first that came to mind was that of purgatory. Given that I was repeatedly pointed to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) as an explanation of what this RC believed, I thought it might be beneficial to provide a critical commentary regarding that teaching.  You will find the CCC's statement on purgatory below, with teth's commentary in blue. I have embedded the footnotes directly below text for easy reference.



BEGIN COMMENTARY--------------------------------------------------------------

III. THE FINAL PURIFICATION, OR PURGATORY

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
That there are those who "die in God's grace..." but who are "still imperfectly purified" is a completely unsubstantiated assertion. The bible's testimony regarding the atonement of Christ is that "by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." (Heb 10:14) Perfection means just that - a perfectly righteous standing before the throne of God based solely on the merits of Christ intercession on behalf of his people.
More subtle in this assertion is the blasphemous notion that the intercessory work of Christ did not get the job done.  Can this work be the same work of which Paul said, "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth." (Rom 8:33)  In response to Paul's rhetorical question, the CCC raises its hand and says, "I lay something to their charge - imperfect purification."  In so doing they accuse both the elect and Christ's intercessory work with imperfection.  That is an error of the greatest magnitude possible.
Consider the following testimony - "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;" (Heb 1:3)  The bible's testimony is clear - the purging of our sins was an act Christ performed "by himself."  The RCC would have us believe that Christ's intercession not only did not accomplish this task, but required effort on our part to complete it. 
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 (606 Cf. Council of Florence (1439):DS 1304; Council of Trent (1563):DS 1820; (1547):1580; see also Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336):DS 1000.)
This statement admits that the very name "Purgatory" is an invention of the church not a teaching of scripture.  All the listed references are to councils and popes, not to the bible.
The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607 (607 Cf. 1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7.)
Here we see an attempt to justify the doctrine of purgatory on the basis of two scriptures. Let's look at the first passage.  
If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (I Cor 3:15)   
For this verse to support the doctrine of purgatory it must be demonstrated that the "work" in view here is something that transpires after death. Further up in the passage we read, "For we are laborers together with God." (v9) The work that Paul has in view is in the present tense, in this life, not after death.  The subsequent "work" referred to in v13-14 is likewise in reference to Christian labors in this lifetime, not after death. Thus I Corinthians 3:15 does not support the CCC doctrine of purgatory.
Turning our attention to the second passage... 
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (I Pet 1:7) 
Again, for this passage to be in reference to purgatory one would have to prove that the "trial of your faith" is some sort of after death event. But the previous verse says, "though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations." (v6) Clearly the trial by fire that Peter has in view is in reference to something that was going on at that very time in their lives, not something after death. And so I Peter 1:7 also does not support the CCC doctrine of purgatory.
As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608 (608 St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4,39:PL 77,396; cf. Mt 12:31.)

"Certain lesser faults?" Are we to believe that the intercession of Christ purged our big sins but was not able to remove our lesser ones? That novel concept is destroyed by the affirmation that Christ "by himself purged our sins" (Heb 1:3) and "perfected" us (Heb 10:14).  

The assertion that "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be pardoned in this age nor in the age to come" in no way substantiates the claim that any sins are pardoned in the world to come.  That is a logical fallacy.  If I said that "I shall not be made 1000 feet tall, neither in this age nor in the age to come" does this somehow prove that some in the age to come will be made 1000 feet tall?  Of course not.  It is nothing more than a literary allusion intended to underscore the point that "this thing ain't happening."

I have to say this, and it may come off as offensive, but it is necessary. This same logical fallacy -  a form of non-sequitur - runs rampant throughout the RC theology. Until one is made to see and recognize these monumental leaps of illogic, they will be perpetually addled by nonsense.  
1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 (609 2 Macc 12:46.)
The problem with this is multi-dimensional: (1) atonement is not prayer.  If one can substitute biblical terms for each other willy-nilly then one just as easily use this text to support communion for the dead. (2) The NT teaches that blood sacrifices do not atone for sins (Heb 9:12).  (3) Maccabees is not part of the canon of scripture - it is never quoted by other scriptures, it is rejected in the Jewish OT canon, it admits its own imperfection (2 Maccabees 15:38,39)
From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 (610 Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274):DS 856.)
To assert that this is so "from the beginning" without a direct quote from scripture to substantiate that claim is ludicrous. Instead this assertion is based on a 13th century RC council. Plainly stated, this is not in the bible.
The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:
Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611 (612 1 Jn 3:14-15.)

The CCC strings together quite a rosary of illogic in this statement - let's take it piece by piece:

First - Job's sons were NOT purified by their father's sacrifice. The OT blood sacrifices did not take away sin (Heb 9:12). Moreover, if an animal sacrifice could atone for sin, then Christ is dead in vain because salvation would be by the law, a notion that is anathema to the bible. (Gal 2:21)

Second - having proven the first premise false, the second one is also false, if its sole support is found in the first premise. Sacrifices do not purify sins because they are deeds of the law, by which there shall no flesh be justified in his sight (Rom 3:20).

Finally, since the previous two points are false, the subsequent admonition to obtain the same result by doing likewise is therefore false.



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