Monday, November 12, 2007

Doctrine of Purgatory

In the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, there remains a temporal punishment for sin for those who have died in God’s grace. Jesus’ work on the cross somehow paid for the “guilt” of the believer’s sins (keeping them out of hell) but did not pay the full penalty of sin – some satisfaction remains.

“Purgatory (Lat., "purgare", to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.”

“…The whole penitential system of the Church testifies that the voluntary assumption of penitential works has always been part of true repentance and the Council of Trent (Sess. XIV, can. xi) reminds the faithful that God does not always remit the whole punishment due to sin together with the guilt. God requires satisfaction, and will punish sin, and this doctrine involves as its necessary consequence a belief that the sinner failing to do penance in this life may be punished in another world, and so not be cast off eternally from God."
-Catholic Encyclopedia

At least some Catholic theologians admit that this doctrine has little basis in Scripture:

“There is not much in Scripture on Purgatory except that in Second Maccabees 12:45, Judas sends a collection to the Temple for those fallen in battle, found with amulets on, "that they might be freed from this sin." Luther saw so clearly that this referred to Purgatory--which he rejected--that he rejected this book too, declaring it not part of Scripture. Some have tried to see an implication of Purgatory in Matthew 12:32. There Jesus speaks of the sin against the Holy Spirit that will be forgiven "neither in this world nor in the next." But the expression quoted is known in Rabbinic literature, where it means merely "never." Still less could we deduce purgatory from First Corinthians 3:11-15. Paul means if the work of some Christian worker has been of such low quality that it burns down, he himself will be saved "as through fire." But the fire seems to mean the apocalyptic fire of the last day, not a fire of purgatory.

But our belief in Purgatory rests on the tradition and definitions of the Church, at the Councils of Lyons II, Florence, and Trent.”
-The Basic Catholic Catechism

What Christ could not do alone, the Church faithful can. Through prayers and indulgences, the faithful on earth can relieve some of the punishment for those in Purgatory.

“Hence, since our prayers and our sacrifices can help those who are still waiting in purgatory, the saints have not hesitated to warn us that we have a real duty toward those who are still in purgatorial expiation.” Catholic Encyclopedia

”In the communion of saints, "a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things." In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.” CCC 475

“An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity. Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted” CCC 478-479

11 comments:

Rhology said...

Jamieson, Fausset, Brown on Col 1:24, so as to forestall the inevitable:


fill up that which is behind--literally, "the deficiencies"--all that are lacking of the afflictions of Christ (compare Note, afflictions" (Isaiah 63:9). "The Church is His body in which He is, dwells, lives, and therefore also suffers" [VITRINGA]. Christ was destined to endure certain afflictions in this figurative body, as well as in His literal; these were "that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ," which Paul "filled up." His own meritorious sufferings in expiation for sin were once for all completely filled up on the Cross. But His Church (His second Self) has her whole measure of afflictions fixed. The more Paul, a member, endured, the less remain for the rest of the Church to endure; the communion of saints thus giving them an interest in his sufferings. It is in reference to the Church's afflictions, which are "Christ's afflictions, that Paul here saith, "I fill up the deficiencies," or "what remain behind of the afflictions of Christ." She is afflicted to promote her growth in holiness, and her completeness in Christ. Not one suffering is lost (Psalms 56:8). All her members have thus a mutual interest in one another's sufferings (1 Corinthians 12:26). But Rome's inference hence, is utterly false that the Church has a stock treasury of the merits and satisfactions of Christ and His apostles, out of which she may dispense indulgences; the context has no reference to sufferings in expiation of sin and productive of merit. Believers should regard their sufferings less in relation to themselves as individuals, and more as parts of a grand whole, carrying out God's perfect plan.

Matthew Henry, on Col 1:24 -

And fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh. Not that the afflictions of Paul, or any other, were expiations for sin, as the sufferings of Christ were. There was nothing wanting in them, nothing which needed to be filled up. They were perfectly sufficient to answer the intention of them, the satisfaction of God’s justice, in order to the salvation of his people. But the sufferings of Paul and other good ministers made them conformable to Christ; and they followed him in his suffering state: so they are said to fill up what was behind of the sufferings of Christ, as the wax fills up the vacuities of the seal, when it receives the impression of it. Or it may be meant not of Christ’s sufferings, but of his suffering for Christ. He filled that which was behind. He had a certain rate and measure of suffering for Christ assigned him; and, as his sufferings were agreeable to that appointment, so he was still filling up more and more what was behind, or remained of them to his share.

To our RC friends, if you mention Col 1:24, please do so as a response to the points mentioned in these 2 commentaries. Thanks!

Peace,
Rhology

Timothy Athanasius said...

My understanding of Catholic soteriology is that Christ takes care of Hell, but we take care of Purgatory.

Anonymous said...

I was going to comment, but what's the point? The broken record is the one you want. "Sola fide" is not the gospel. You are wrong. Luther was wrong. Calvin was wro ---skip--- uther was wrong. Calvin was wro ---skip--- uther was wrong. Calvin was wro ---skip--- uther was wron...

Timothy Athanasius said...

"'Sola fide' is not the gospel."

Obviously there is a positive statement behind this of what in fact the Gospel is. As Dr. White has pointed out in his recent blog entry, in Rome's understanding there are many things that are constituitive of the Gospel, e.g., meriting by grace, receiving that grace through the Mediatrix of All Graces (arguably the "chief grace" from the Mediatrix is the scapular which she promised would prevent one from going to Hell if it is being worn at the time of death), making it to Purgatory because of the ineffectiveness of that grace, hoping that a family member or relative (perhaps even a stranger who's seeking to merit, in a state of grace, salvation for himself)will merit an Indulgence for you to lessen your purgation, etc., etc., etc.

The Reformers withstood this monstrous sacramental institution run by men drunk with the power of their position and headed by a man trapped in the vicious cycle of gluttony and vommiting; he feeds himself on the truths of fabrications that he himself made up, then vomits up the power of the Roman Empire only to feed himself on it again. He's like Gollum, who can never be freed from the power of the ring. Because the Reformers followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit and withstood this evil institution, an institution they withstand even now, they are considered wrong.

- Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is not the Gospel.

- Salvation by merit in grace from the Mediatrix of All Grace is!

Here is an excerpt from a young man who recently left my parish to become a seminarian:

"For those who may not know, this order is very unique [Friars of the Immaculate (www.marymediatrix.com)] in that there is an additional vow of total consecratioto the Mother of God according to the teaching of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

"It is the Will of God, 'You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.' (Matthew 5:48) Might we be so blessed to come by this way of pefection through Mary. To share this devotion is to share in a special way all of the sorrow and glory of Mary."

kmerian said...

Carrie, first, let me give you credit. You are one of the few Protestants who has given a accurate definition of the Catholic belief in Purgatory, that is, until you wrote this:

What Christ could not do alone, the Church faithful can. Through prayers and indulgences, the faithful on earth can relieve some of the punishment for those in Purgatory.


Nothing in the Catholic theology of Purgatory teaches that Christs sacrifice is lacking. Christians still must bear the temporal punishment for their sins. If a Christian robs a bank, does the sacrifice of Christ excuse them from going to jail? No, it does not. Does that mean that Christs sacrifice was insufficient, but that Christians still must face the temporal consequences of their actions.

Anonymous said...

"Of Course I believe in Purgatory. Our souls demand it"

(Another apostate named CS Lewis)

Carrie said...

Nothing in the Catholic theology of Purgatory teaches that Christs sacrifice is lacking. Christians still must bear the temporal punishment for their sins.

If you must still bear the temporal punishment for sin, then Christ's sacrifice was lacking in paying the full price for your sins. Think about it.

And if others can reduce your temporal suffering through their own works, why couldn't Christ?

If a Christian robs a bank, does the sacrifice of Christ excuse them from going to jail?

That is apples and oranges. Earthly justice based on the laws of the land have nothing to do with our salvation status. That example makes no sense.

kmerian said...

My example makes perfect sense. Carrie, actions have consequences. Jesus took the spiritual punishment for our sins. We still must face the temporal consequences for our sins, if we lie, if we cheat, if we steal. There are consequences, not just legal consequences but consequences in our relationships with our fellow man. Jesus states that not only are we to forgive, but we are to seek forgiveness.

His sacrifice on the cross did not negate the temporal punishments for our sins. Those things that you dismiss as merely "legal consequences" are part of Gods plan as well.

kmerian said...

Sorry, I missed part of your comment. The people in purgatory are saved, their "salvation status" is unaffected. But they are still unclean, so they can only enter heaven if purified "as if by fire".

Carrie said...

If a Christian robs a bank, does the sacrifice of Christ excuse them from going to jail? No, it does not. Does that mean that Christs sacrifice was insufficient, but that Christians still must face the temporal consequences of their actions.

kmerian,

Your example still makes no sense. A judge won’t keep me out of a jail because I am a Christian. Jesus’ sacrifice keeps me out of “eternal jail”, I am still liable to the laws of the land.

Using your example, Christ’s sacrifice for us is like this. If I robbed a bank and was sentenced to jail and a fine, Christ goes to jail for me and he pays the fine. I am freed from all punishment I deserve because Christ took it on himself. His sacrifice (bodily and financially) was sufficient to cover my debt.

In your theology, there is a sentence of jail time and a fine. Christ goes to jail in your place, but you must pay the fine. Therefore, Christ has not paid the full debt for you. A debt remains. That means his sacrifice was insufficient to pay your debt.

It really isn’t that difficult of a concept, is it?

Anonymous said...

"In your theology, there is a sentence of jail time and a fine. Christ goes to jail in your place, but you must pay the fine. Therefore, Christ has not paid the full debt for you. A debt remains. That means his sacrifice was insufficient to pay your debt."

Your analogy is wrong.

1) Hell is not jail.

2) Heaven is not "anywhere but jail."

3) Cleansing is not Hell

4) Cleansing is not Heaven either.

5) Cleansing is not a fine.

6) Not all consequences of sin are debt. Some are simply a matter of the result of actions, as breaking a vase still requires putting the replacement where it belongs even if the payment for it is made in full. Jesus pays for the vase in full. He tells us to put it back.

Similarly, willful sinning is a corruptive act for the soul. The soul is not to inherit heaven until utterly clean--for the corrupt shall not inherit the incorruptible. This does not deny the value or fullness of salvation of those whose mortal bodies have died, are saved and yet are being cleansed (or sanctified--just as it does not for those who are now living, are saved and are being cleansed). Their worth, purchased by the blood of Jesus is inestimable.

If you found a one hundred dollar bill you dropped, would you toss it in the fire because it was covered in filth? No, you'd clean it off and make it fit for your wallet. Jesus buys us with a great price, AND he also tells us to repent, and be made perfect. It is not a contradiction and it is NOT self salvation.

Honestly, I'm sick of you telling me I believe otherwise when I know perfectly well what I believe. I tell you that I depend on Jesus alone for my salvation. Who are YOU to tell me otherwise?