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Catholic view of Purgatory ... Is it real?

michael_legna's picture

Catholics are not merely drones who cannot think

JStaller said -
But the scriptures you provided certainly do seem to support further purification after initial purification.

If you admit you see purification after initial purification, then I have a couple of questions for you.

First do you also admit that this purification occurs after our physical death? Or do you need more support for this aspect of it?

Second what type of works do you think need to be burnt away in this purification? Is there some category of works other than sins that need to be burnt off in the purification you admit occurs?

JStaller said -
However, I think that most Protestants would object at the use of most--maybe all--of the scriptures often used to support the concept of purgatory.

I agree, which such discussions are so important, that is if you can get those same Protestants to provide a consistent interpretation of each of the relevent verses.

JStaller said -
As one might say, the concept of purgatory never pops right up. There's no flaming verse that says, "When a Christian dies, if he or she has certain types of sins still hanging over his or her head, he or she will be sent to a place of spiritual purification." There are verses that talk about being purified in fire. There are verses that talk about being saved "as by fire." Scripture speaks of forgiving before it's too late to escape the consequences of unforgiveness. Scripture speaks of only the holy entering into the holy city of God.

If we reject every doctrine that doesn't have one specific verse that all alone proves that doctrine outright we will have to abandon many of the central doctrines of Christianity, like the Trinity. One of the central principles of exegesis is that we allow scripture to interpret scripture, and this would not even be necessary if we could expect a single flaming verse (as you call it) to express all the doctrines of Christianity.

I have been doing apologetics for some time on the Internet now and I have been more and more amazed by how Protestants abandon the approach of interpreting scripture with scripture as soon as someone presents the extensive scriptural support that exists for the Catholic position. Is it because it is too much work or is it because it is too complicated? I don't get it.

JStaller said -
A central issue is the method by which these verses are "screened," the subject to which these verses applied. The Catholic Church applies these verses to purgatory, and as a Catholic believer, you accept that these verses are indeed about purgatory, and were penned to speak on that subject.

This is simply a misrepresentation of a Catholics knowledge and understanding of scripture. Saying my interpretation of scripture is merely me parroting the RCC postion and submitting to their authority is comparable to claiming that if I can still solve the quadratic equation is nothing more than me parroting my high school math teacher and submitting to his authority. It does not take into account the fact that I can grow in my critcial thinking skills such that I am capable on my own of deriving these arguments for myself and have changed the basis of my knowledge from mere acceptance of authority to logical analysis.

That is why I can truthfully claim that my argument here is based strictly on scripture and why I never once had to appeal to the authority of the RCC and why your claim that it is based on that authority is not accurate and does mislead those following this discussion (though I don't think you do it intentionally).

JStaller said -
However, as a Protestant believer, I find myself reconsidering most of the verses cited to support purgatory, because it seems that they were written to primarily discuss other subjects. Naturally, this contradicts what the Catholic Church has stated, and this is why I unfortunately find myself on the Protestant side of the aisle; I've always had a problem with authority :).

If you reconsider these verses does that mean you end up denying the purification your started out this post admitting was real? If you do what do you now understand that purification to be? If not then how do you consistently merge the message of all these verses into one systematic theology?

JStaller said -
So when I brought up the issue of authority--Michael--I was not trying to toss a red herring into the stream of the argument; I was trying to draw attention to the fundamental difference of perspective that would need to be resolved before the discussion could make any kind of real progress.

I don't think it does need to be resolved. if only the Protestant can offer the Catholic enough respect to admit the possibility that he or she is capable of deriving these conclusion on their own. Just because the Catholic Church has a set of doctrines clear laid out in the Official Catechism for all to read does not mean the Catholic stops thinking. And just because there is no such book of doctrines for most Protestant denominations does not mean that the laity in that denomination has developed superior critical thinking or reasoning skills.

I accept the authority of the Professor I studied Nuclear Physics under in college, but I also know how to derive the formula for the force of gravity over distance within a solid sphere based on my own intellect and my own mathematical prowess. Similarly, I do accept the authority of the Catholic Church, but I also know how to develop these arguments and defend them on my own with my own intellect and my own logical prowess.

JStaller said -
It seems to me that Catholics interpret the 'purgatory' verses of the Bible as 'purgatory' because some particular authority, ie the Catholic Church, has declared them to be so, whereas Protestants, accepting some other source of authority, consider those verses to apply to other subjects.

I find this characterization insulting for the following reason. It makes the Protestant apologist out to be a thinking reasoning person while the Catholic is portrayed as an unthinking drone.

No one I know in the scientific disciplines would accuse me of merely appealing to the authority of my former Physics Professor if I solved such a problem, they would realize it would be insulting to me. It is equally insulting to hear the standard refrain from Protestants that Catholic laity are merely unthinking drones who cannot do anything beyond appealing to the authority of the Catholic Church.

I don't think you mean this to be insulting, and I don't think you see me as an unthinking drone, but that is the inevitable conclusion of this position you suggest, though you must not realize it or I trust you would not have said it.

JStaller said -
Because I'm not interested in undermining sincere Catholic faith, I'm reluctant to enter into a picking-apart of any particular example or proof-text; if either Michael or Maria is interested in what a Protestant might say about a particular purgatorial verse, I'd be more than glad to share my own perspective, which I do indeed think is consistent with my overall understanding of the Bible.

I can assure you finding a Protestant who was finally willing to enter into a "picking apart" of the scriptural evidence behind this Catholic doctrine would be refreshing, and would in no way undermine my faith. But you will find the evidence for the Catholic position does not rely on proof texts (which are contrary to the spirit of proper exegesis). Trying to share our perspective on a single particular purgatorial verse without considering the entire unison of the Bible on this issue will be very unfruitful, but we should expect no more since no doctrine can or should be made to stand or fall on one verse in isolation unless we are willing to deny the inerrancy of scripture.