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Catholic view of Purgatory ... Is it real?

michael_legna's picture

1 Cor 3 is about individuals as Temple of God

JStaller said –
We've found a common ground, that this particular passage in quesion is about sanctification, or purification. Admittedly, we disagree on WHAT exactly is being purified, but at this point, another avenue of discussion might prove more revealing.

I said what happens in purgatory was closer to the idea of sanctification than salvation, but it is not the same thing as sanctification. Sanctification is one way of being purified, but it is not the only way and is not complete as few if any leave this earth fully and properly repentant of every sin they have committed. We all dies with some works of stubble we have refused to let go of, regardless of whether or not we built our lives on the foundation of Christ.

JStaller said -
Our main point of contention is WHEN that purification takes place--you suggest it is post-death, and I suggest it is pre-death. Again, I'll reiterate it here, because somehow it got lost in the shuffle: because I have provided an explanation that fits the immediate context of Paul's letter, without venturing into other books written to address other concerns,

If you have provided this I have missed it because I still see no statement as to when this purification you claim occurs. I still see no answers to the questions I put forward to you much earlier in the thread. In fact I have not seen a concrete enough statement of where and how you see this purification occur for me to even ask any questions regarding it. Just so you don't have to look them up here are the questions:

1. Where in scripture do you see support for this further purification?

2. In that section (or a related one) where (or when) do you think it says this further purification occurs?

3. If the basis for this idea does not come from 1 Cor 3 how does it relate to that section of scripture if at all, and if not why not?

4. If the basis is from 1 Cor 3 why do you not see it as occuring after our physical death since it refers to "the day" shall declare it? Is not this "day" the day of judgment?

5. If we are saved in 1 Cor 3 it is not because of our works, but because we built upon the foundation of Christ. If we are rewarded it is rewards other than salvation (which occur after death at the judgment). It only seems to follow that if we suffer loss it is loss other than damnation (which again occurs after death at the judgment). Both of these testings of works clearly occur after death.

6. Finally if this further purification does not occur after our physical death then is there no need to further purify those works? If not why not - why are they different from the works that go before them? What decides this arbitrary line of works before and after the further purification?

…until your explanation has answers for these questions I can hardly consider you to "have provided an explanation that fits the immediate context of Paul's letter".

Lastly I have to point out a way in which we differ in our outlook toward scripture. You made the point of your interpreting 1 Cor 3 "without venturing into other books written to address other concerns,". That to me is not a point of pride but a failure. Scripture is ALL interrelated, and to interpret a section of verse in isolation, purposely avoiding what the rest of God's word says on the subject can only lead to error. It may very well be possible that one is not able come to the right interpretation by focusing so narrowly on one section of verse. It certainly is much more difficult and unlikely.

JStaller said –
the burden of proof lies on you; you have to reasonably demonstrate that the purification that Paul is talking about is a post-death purification; you have provided no evidence for this assertion whatsoever.

I have provided evidence it is possible that I was not clear enough in developing it but it is there. I will do a more detailed job of laying out the arguments this time.

JStaller said -
But made the assertion, you have. You wrote:

...those refining fires will occur after our death when we have already had our last chance to repent of them...

...The underlying message is all about spiritual growth and putting those things behind us as part of our sanctification which will be perfect by God's purifying fire to eliminate that which we did not repent of in this life.

We agree up to this point. I can totally concur that "The underlying message is all about spiritual growth and putting those things behind us as part of our sanctification which will be perfect by God's purifying fire...." The point of disagreement comes at "...to eliminate that which we did not repent of in this life."

My objection is this: nothing inside the text itself suggests that this purification takes place after death. Nothing in 2 Cor 12:20-21 suggests that there is a purification that takes place after death. None of the verses you have thus far provided suggest this, and I eagerly await verses that suggest purgatory was somewhere on the metaphysical radar of the Biblical writers.

There are four points within 1 Cor 3 which point to the idea of this purification being after death.

First is the reference to "every man's work shall be made manifest" this is of course a reference to the judgment where the works of men are made manifest and both the great and the small are judged by their works.

The next follows right on its heels where it says "for the day shall declare it" again this DAY must be the day of judgment when all is revealed even the hidden thoughts of men.

The third is that we will receive reward for the works which survive, and of course we know our rewards or crowns are awarded to us based on our works after our death and after the judgment.

The last is a logical argument related to the nature of purification. It simply makes no sense to purify something for the last time if that which is purified can become dirty again. Yes we wash the sow, but we know it can return to its wallowing and so after it is dead and can no longer wallow we will wash it again before it is fit for use. Therefore we give sanctification and repentance its run at purifying us the best we can, then after there is no chance for any further sanctification

I have presented all this ideas (at least indirectly) in previous posts so it is not true that I "have provided no evidence for this assertion whatsoever".

JStaller said -
I would like to raise a related objection, however, regarding your dissatisfaction towards my explanation of 1 Corinthians 3.10-15. I'll quote you:

It is inadequate because it fails to consider the rest of scripture which makes it clear we are not talking about doctrines here. Verses like this: Mat 7:24-27

Wait. I was talking about Paul and 1 Corinthians 3. Why are you citing Jesus in Matthew 7? Didn't you say, "we are not talking about doctrines here"? If you want to show what Paul is talking about "here" in 1 Corinthians, you can't appeal to Jesus over in Matthew. You can't be consistent and still insist that Jesus' use of a construction metaphor supports your interpretation of Paul's construction metaphor.

Sure you can. We are restricting our discussion to one doctrine – we are NOT restricting the discussion to one presentation of that doctrine. I said to start this discussion out that it would be refreshing for a Protestant to be willing to pick apart the verses supporting purgatory. At no time did I say those verses were limited to 1 Cor 3. Where did you get this idea of limited review? If the doctrine of purgatory only existed in one section of scripture as you want to restrict it to, I would have to deny it. Doctrines should never be based on one section of scripture in isolation.

JStaller said -
I realize the metaphors are utilizing a similar device, the analogy of building a building, but similarity of device does not support similarity of intention--nothing, not even the coincidental similarity of the metaphor, suggests that Jesus is talking about post-death purification. And in answer to your question, "Do you contend that Jesus is talking about men developing doctrines here, too, and waiting for time to test them?" I answer, "No, I don't contend that at all."

I was not using the metaphor of Mt 7 to support a post death purification, The doctrine of purgatory has many aspects or basis points. One of which is the idea that we build on the foundation of Christ through our works. You attacked that point by saying this building was not our works but others developing doctrines, which were to be tested by the passage of time. I defended the idea that these precious stones and sometime stubble were works by referencing Mt 7. This I claim does support that idea as a basic starting point for the development of the doctrine of purgatory. You have to build something to have it burnt away or survive the fire. I did not use it to support the idea of a after life trial by fire.

JStaller said -
There is a significant difference between the two passages that you have overlooked. Jesus is talking about choosing the right foundation. Paul, however, is talking about what to build atop the right foundation; in Paul's analogy, the foundation is not in question. Paul's listeners have already accepted Jesus as that particular cornerstone, while Jesus' listeners are still "up in the air" about what foundation to build on at all. Paul doesn't need to pursuade his audience that Jesus IS the cornerstone; they've already accepted that. Clearly, then, in these respective passages, Paul and Jesus, while talking on related subjects, are not trying to make similar, or even identical points. You are bending to the breaking point Jesus' statement in Matthew 7.24-27--intended to pursuade listeners that his way is the best way to rebuild the House of Israel, the only way to build a lasting House

Yes the two discussion are not identical (they cover different nuances) but that is only to be expected as two verses that taught the exact same thing and only the exact same thing would be redundant. Doctrine is a complex enough issue that Holy Scripture fills an entire library of books from two testaments, but it is all related or else it would inevitably be in contradiction in some way – which we both know it is not.

So while these two verses have a different main point they agree on a side point – that we build upon the foundation once it is accepted. That was my reason for referencing Mt 7 as I explained above. You denied this idea in your identification of the building being merely some leaders establishing doctrines which would be tested by time and that idea is not supported by any other verse (even as secondary point) anywhere else in scripture. It appears as a novel invention intended only as a last ditch effort to deny one of the basis points of the doctrine of purgatory.

JStaller said -
I could use some quick clarification about the way you read 1 Corinthians 3.10-15 You say that 1) sin and "works of stubble" are the same thing, and that 2) Paul is referring to the purging of this sinful stubble. Here's what I'm interested to know; in light of the above 2 points, how do you read 1 Corinthians 3.12-13a:

"Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is."

Specifically, I want to know what the works of 'gold, silver, precious stones' are. The analogy suggests that some building materials will last while others won't; if the works of stubble that won't last are sinful works, then what are the precious stones? Are those perhaps righteous works, good works, that don't need to be purged?

Yes, exactly! It is for these works that we are rewarded. This of course links to the idea throughout the Bible where crowns are discussed by specifically in Mt 16:27

Mat 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

JStaller said -
So then, do righteous works become part of our permanent and pure soul? Do we have a purer soul if we have done more righteous works? This is the slippery slope to which interpreting 1 Corinthians 3.10-15 as a discussion of righteous/unrighteous works leads. Do you have a way to resolve this dilemma?

No, the works that survive are used to award crowns or rewards just as it says in the verse. Gold can only be so pure, but we know that there are vessels of different levels of honor in the masters house. So to there will be different levels of honor for those who achieved different levels of sanctification here on earth (so that they had more works survive and suffered less loss). This idea is not unknown to Protestant theology as it is often the excuse used by them when the importance of works is brought up and they have to come up with some reason other than linking it in anyway to salvation. Not to get off on the topic of salvation but simply to clear up any possible misconception that this is in anyway related to salvation I would point out that Catholics accept that works play this role in the attribution of rewards and crowns as well as that of loving obedience in accepting the free gift. Both roles, but both are independent and separate.

JStaller said -
I suggest, however, that this building metaphor is not at all about purgatory, and again contend that in question is the work of particular individuals within the body of Christ, works that will stand the tests and trials of time, "the day," will reveal which individuals have built good houses and which have not.

If you could answer those unanswered questions above we might find out when this day is and once we do then we can ask what happens after that day, when other doctrines come up and need to be tested? If it is not a particular day then what happens to those doctrines which are not fully tested and rebutted at the end of the age? Also is there any other scripture anywhere which develops the idea that what we build on the foundation of Christ is doctrines and not works? Mt 7 certainly seems to indicate it is individual works which are built upon that foundation.

JStaller said -
Admittedly, the metaphor carries overtones of many other construction metaphors painted by both Paul, Jesus, even Peter, and these overtones include the revelation of which particular members of Israel's new House will remain after "the day," because the Body of Christ is a building itself, and its members are the building blocks;

But the metaphor used in 1 Cor 3 is not one of the Church with each of us as building block. No it is using the metaphor of each one of us individually being the temple of the Holy Spirit.

1Co 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
1Co 3:17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

We each are going to have the works we built upon the foundation of Christ tested.

JStaller said -
Paul's admonition to build with good materials is a warning to leaders and followers alike to make sure they are true in intention and deed. This interpretational picture, more than purgatory, is easily supportable by an appeal to a vast array of scriptures on the topic of trials, tribulations, and buildings; if it's consistency of teaching you're looking for, it is clearly available in Matthew 7.24-27, Luke 14.28-30, Ephesians 2.19-22, 1 Peter 2.5-7, and probably more.

It would be useful if you are going to offer verse that you claim support your position that you put out the effort to provide your interpretation of them because I know these verses and they do not support your position as far as I can see.

But I will do the leg work and offer my interpretation of them to show they do not support your position and are certainly not incompatible with mine.

Matthew 7.24-27
Mat 7:24-27 24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

Of course I used this verse to support the idea that we built works (doing His sayings not just hearing them) on the foundation of Christ and have provided a lengthy discussion of that already. You have done nothing to show that this in anyway support the idea of building doctrines on the foundation of Christ. In fact doctrines can in no way be seen as doing His sayings as opposed to hearing them only. That can only be works.

Luke 14.28-30
Luk 14:28-30 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

Once again this in no way supports the idea of building doctrines. Instead it is an exhortation to keep in mind that we will all be called to the judgment at any time and be expected to account for our works both those which were acceptable and those which are either wrong or unfinished or of which we have not finished repenting of.

Ephesians 2.19-22
Eph 2:19-22 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

This metaphor is one of the Church in general as a community, so it is compatible with both your and my positions as I and scripture itself in no way deny the metaphor of the Church as the assembly of all believers when we also discuss the other aspects of our personal relationship with Christ. But there is nothing in this verse I can see which supports your idea that building on the foundation includes the idea of building doctrines.

1 Peter 2.5-7
1 Pe 2:5-7 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,

Once again nothing in this verse which is contrary to my position and nothing that seems to support yours. This verse is about our being part of the Church, living stones as it is said elsewhere, but this does not deny the personal relationship we each have as Temples of God just as 1 Cor 3 refers to us each individually as.

JStaller said -
But it is not necessary to look at the vast array of scriptures which paint the followers of Jesus as the structure built upon the master; in order to understand the message Paul obviously intends to communicate, it is only necessary to look at the language Paul is using.

Paul does not say, "Your individual souls will be tried and refined." He says, "You as a group will be tried and refined." I'm sure someone like you can use the Greek concordance to look up the "you" and realize Paul can only be addressing the group, explicitly "you guys" or "all of you" when he says in 1 Corinthians 3.9 "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." It is THIS point that he is trying to make in vs. 10-15, that the PEOPLE will be refined, the GROUP will be tried; those that bring more people into the group (ie, the leaders like Apollos, but not limited TOO Apollos, hence the use of "every man") had better be sure that those coming into God's Holy Temple (ie, the Body of Christ) are the right kind of stones.

I think you are missing verse 13 and onward…

1Co 3:13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.

This verse is clearly referring to men as individuals. It refers to "Every man's work", not the groups work. It refers to "every man's work of what sort it is" which is a quality which cannot be shared by a common group.

Verses 14 and 15 go on to make it even more evident when it refers to "any man's work" making it clearly singular.

This is not some sort of group punishment being talked about here. God is not some grade school teacher which punishes the whole class for the mistakes of one child. He looks into the soul of each of us and makes a righteous judgment.

JStaller said -
Arguments about the erection of doctrine aside, it's very evident that these verses apply to the leaders of the Body of Christ, and to the Body itself; Paul opens with a discussion of divisions, moves on to himself, Apollos, and Cephas, throws in an object lesson about the sanctity of the Body of Christ and the quality of its materials, and finishes by saying all, in theory, (and including Paul, Apollos, and Cephas,) are united in Christ, and Christ in God.

You are focused to narrowly on the immediate context while I have already shown you in my last post that the broader context of the whole letter is about not valuing the things of men or being too impressed with individuals. The references to Paul and Apollos and Cephas is not with regard to them as individuals but with how those who were following them saw them and were too impressed by them. The emphasis is not on the leadership at all – quite the reverse it is on the individual and them not focusing on the leadership – not glorying in men or the things of the world.

JStaller said -
Where do you see, in all of that, evidence for a post-death purification of sins?

In the works being built on the foundation of Christ, those works being revealed at the day (the day of judgment being when works are revealed), and then those works being judged and tried by fire (which can only happen after death unless we are left open to missing later works) and then both suffering loss and being rewarded (which again occurs at the judgment).

I would be interested in see the specifics of your interpretation. Where does scripture say we build doctrines on the foundation of Christ? What other verse talks about them getting revealed? And when? And what happens after that time? Where is this testing of doctrine referred to as being done by fire and the poor doctrines being burnt away? Where does it say in any other scripture other than 1 Cor 3 (so as to use scripture to interpret scripture) that we receive rewards or crowns for developing good doctrines?