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Catholic view of Purgatory ... Is it real?

michael_legna's picture

I hope I have been clearer in my reasoning in this post

JStaller said -
The problem seems to be the issue I raised before we began our discussion; going to the Bible having decided on purgatory a priori, and picking and choosing from among the various teachings of Jesus and his disciples those passages which can be seen in a metaphysical light, it is possible to find support for the idea or doctrine of purgatory.

Of course all apologetics seems that way to those who are new to a doctrine and that complaint would be legitimate if we were simply developing purgatory for the first time here and now. But this is a doctrine that existed and was accepted throughout the Church until the reformation.

I do disagree with your claim that you can support any doctrine from scripture if you look back through and pick and choose which verses to apply. While this is true for a simplistic overview it and it is the same argument I would start with in regard to the doctrine of salvation alone. But we have a wonderous gift and resource in the Holy Scriptures because they are inerrant. That means that no two verse can contradict one another and thus no two correct interpretations of any two verse can contradict. We can use this fact to check doctrines to see if they are correct or not as long as we are willing to dig deep enough to find that verse which a doctrine cannot reconcile to itself. Some doctrines contradict well known scriptures, others aren't even self consistent and contradict themselves or even one of the verses they claim support it. But regardless how deep we must dig it is well worth it to test each and every doctrine to find that verse which it does not reconcile with, or come to the conclusion that no such verse exists and thus the doctrine is soundly based on scripture. We need to do this, if not simply for our own growth, but for those who may be watching and learning through our investigation.

JStaller said -
But I have not accepted purgatory a priori, and so--and I seem to be saying this alot--the burden of proof lies on you, not me. It is much easier to attack someone else's position than defend our own.

I think you misunderstand this thread if you assume the burden of proof lies only on me. The title of the thread is:

Catholic View of Purgatory … Is it Real?

Of course the question isn't if the Catholic View really exists (since of course Catholics hold a view of Purgatory) but the question is, is that view which they hold accurate? Catholics claim it is and non-Catholics claim it is not. Therefore the burden of proof lies on both sides. This is made even clearer by the approach you have chosen to take with regard to your rebuttal of it. I refer of course to your offering an alternative interpretation of 1 Cor 3 as a testing of doctrines and by you admission that additional purification does take place. These claims are your burden of proof.

JStaller said -
Nonetheless, I'll try to answer your questions to your satisfaction.

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

JStaller said -
John 13.5-10 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.

John 15.1-5 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Hebrews 12.5-8 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

1 Corinthians 5.12-13 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

1 Corinthians 11.31-32 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

Based on these passages, it is clear that God continues to purify His children after they have become his children, that God continues to labor with Christians to make them better Christians.

I am sorry it is in no way "clear". You must know I have seen these verses before and if it were clear I would have seen it. The fact that you had to point them out to me proves it is not clear, and that is why you need to offer an interpretation to each of these – for those of us who do not see in them what you see in them.

Until you analyze these and offer such interpretations of each scripture individual – not just some overall statement covering their generalgist – please realize that I consider this question unanswered because it really does not tell me anything.

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

JStaller said -
Based on a reading consistent with the above verses, this purification is clearly at least an ongoing process that takes place after an individual becomes a son or daughter of God; nothing in the above verses indicate a specific time or place, and so I have limited my reading because I don't want to add to scripture what is not there.

Ok I can at least accept this conclusion as to the process being on-going (if indeed these are talking about purification – which I am not certain of yet, not seeing your interpretations and not wanting to assume my own in place of yours).

ML said –
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?

JStaller said -
It is my contention that the basis for this idea does not necessarily come FROM 1 Corinthians 3, but is reflected within it; 1 Corinthians 3 is a specific application of the general principle (the general principle being the answer to question #2), the Church Body being the specific group/Son being tried and refined in the fire, revealing the quality of work done by those laborers that have helped construct that building.

So how does the Church Body get purified? Is it a completely different process than the one or ones you think are occurring in the verses above (which you did not interpret) or are they all metaphors and the purification process is completely hidden?

ML said –
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?

JStaller said -
The basis for my position is NOT 1 Corinthians 3. The basis for my position comes from a consistent reading of several verses, particularly those above, none of which indicate that Jesus or his disciples are thinking of a post-death purification, but which do, without exception, have solid, historical, pre-death circumstances which they describe.

So these historical pre-death circumstances are literal and real as a means of purification? (see why an interpretation is so necessary) I then don’t see the connection at all since none of those circumstances occur in 1 Cor 3 nor are they even mirrored in it.

JStaller said -
While I understand why you might be eager to interpret "the day" in 1 Corinthians 3 as the Judgment Day at the end of the world, you run into the trouble of inconsistency--not your own inconsistency, but the Bible's; the Bible talks about more than one "Day of the Lord." In the OT, there are references to multiple Days of the Lord, in which God will do this or that. There is the final "day" that Israel will be resurrected. There is the final day when the world is judged. There is plenty of room to argue about when this day is, if there are multiple days, and if there are recurring days. It is my suggestion that "the day" of 1 Corinthians 3 is a specific time in the future that would be difficult for the Corinthian church, a day of trial and tribulation. Can you show otherwise?

I see your issue with the definition of the multiple interpretations of what the Day of the Lord is and it is a deep and complex topic (which may require an entire side thread – which I think we should avoid for now) but I do think I show otherwise, and will do so in my next post where I will develop a fuller defense of the doctrine of purgatory to show it is not based simply on one or two verses which we seem to have focused on thus far.

ML said –
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.

JStaller said -
Breaking format, because this is not actually a question, but a statement, I can only show you where I feel your statement has missed the mark:

If we are saved in 1 Cor 3 it is not because of our works, but because we built upon the foundation of Christ. Your reading apparently is focused on individual salvation; my reading is focused on the testing and purifying of a group of people. (See 1 John 2.19 for another case-specific example of this type of trying). Further, I see no basis for the claim that Paul is arguing for salvation because of our relationship to Christ, because Paul focuses not on the foundation that remains after the fire, but the pure and worthy materials that survive the fire; it is the good building material that remains after the trial, and not the foundation only. Does 1 Corinthians 3 suggest otherwise?

Of course it is not the foundation only because the foundation is Christ. For salvation to have any meaning at all we must be saved. The "we" in this instance is the refined material which remains on top of the foundation.

But my real point here is that a group or that groups doctrines are not "saved". Salvation is an individual issue. We are saved individually, due to an individual personal relationship with Christ, not because we belong to some group that is itself saved, because groups are not saved.

JStaller said -
Continuing with statement #5: If we are rewarded it is rewards other than salvation (which occur after death at the judgment).

I object at two points. 1) I see no mention of reward at all in this passage, unless it is the reward of survival; the good material like the gold and silver and the precious stones that survive the day of tribulation that remain are thus vindicated that they are the true Body. This reward, if any, is the only type of reward implied in the text.

I think you need to go back and look at the text because rewards are certainly mentioned.

1Co 3:14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a REWARD.

JStaller said –
2) I see nothing yet, at all, in any of the texts that you have cited, that have approached the subject of death at all. You have said again and again that the authors are writing about death and beyond; you have provided no argumentation for this claim, and cited no scripture.

I have and very specifically laid it out for you. I think (looking at the bottom of your response that you simply stopped responding to the entirety of my post before you got to that defense.

I will quote that development again:

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".

But on top of that I will build it even more strongly in my next post which shows this connection among other scriptures which speak of the after life and the judgment of works as if by fire.

ML said - It only seems to follow that if we suffer loss it is loss other than damnation (which again occurs after death at the judgment)

JStaller said -
Actually, I would argue otherwise; since I claim that Paul is talking about pillars/living stones/building materials that don't stand the trial of tribulation, failure to remain within the building, failure to stay in the Body of Christ, is a loss of fellowship.

The point I was arguing was one of timing, and it applies even if we accepted your interpretation. That is because the timing of this loss is the same as that of damnation which occurs after death. The loss we suffer in verse 15 is at the same time as the loss in verse 17. But the loss we suffer in verse 15 is a loss which is less than that of damnation (because the individual is saved as by fire), the loss in verse 17 is a loss at the level of damnation because it is a sin of destroying the Temple of God, for which He destroys us. The only time anyone is condemned is at the judgment therefore the trial by fire occurs at the judgment.

In a simple IF THEN series format we have:

IF we are judged AND
IF that judgment results in two kinds of loss
THEN those two kinds of loss occur at the same event

Next using our conclusion as an accepted IF statement in the next argument
IF two kinds of loss occur at the same event
IF the second type of loss occurs at the judgment seat
THEN the first type of loss occurs at the judgment seat

JStaller said –
As a Catholic, I'm sure you can appreciate why we might equate this with a loss of grace and thus salvation. While once-in-grace brethren, and the rest of the Western world that sees salvation as a private, individual affair might disagree,

But this is not discussing initial or intermediate states of salvation during the process of enduring and we know that because it says He will destroy us.

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.

That final condemnation occurs only at the judgment.

JStaller said –
those Christians that see the salvation of individuals as contingent upon membership in the Body, have no other choice but to see the judgment in this case (the case of falling away from the Body) as a judgment of damnation.

I am sorry but you must be confused about the position of the Catholic Church because it does not teach that salvation is contingent upon membership in the Body (if by the Body you mean a formal membership in the Catholic Church).

If you are saved you belong as a matter of fact to the body, but being a member of the body is a result not a cause of salvation.

ML said -
And finally: Both of these testings of works clearly occur after death. Really,

JStaller said -
I object to your use of the word "clearly" here. You have provided no argumentation and no scriptural citation for the claim that we are anywhere on the "after death" map at all. You haven't even bothered to TRY and show how the judgment occurs after death. But this is probably good, because there are more examples of judgments that occur before death in the Bible than of judgments after death.

I did provide both argument and scriptural citations and have re-quoted them above and now I have added a simple argument in IF THEN format so I hope to not hear this complaint again.

ML said –
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?

JStaller said -
"Is there no need to further purify those works?" Which works? The works of being a good person, of trying to do the right thing, of visiting the widow and orphan? "Works" as good deeds? Those works? No. I think that the most solid case can be made from your own general soteriology, which is (loosely articulated) that membership/fellowship in the Body of Christ, the Church, imparts to the individual body-parts the grace that was granted to Jesus in the resurrection.

I think you too loosely articulate my soteriology as that is not my position or the position of the RCC. Mere membership does not do anything for you. Obeying the Gospel, participating in the sacraments, etc, all bring you graces, but not mere membership. These works of loving obedience and the grace that comes with them serve to strength us and our faith and enliven it and perfect it. But those are all works that I ask about in this question 6. Those and of course their counterparts where we fail to do this works of loving obedience. So I ask once again and hopefully more clearly –

6a. If this further purification does not occur after our physical death then is there no need to further purify those works of loving obedience or their counterparts?

6b. 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?

Thank you for answering my questions and taking on the burden of proof since you have introduced an alternative interpretation to consider as an attempted rebuttal. But I do think you have a bit more work to do before they are truly answered.

JStaller said -
The purification principle that crops up often in the New Testament is that principle which I have already described, that: God purifies His children.

I ask you to go back and interpret those verse you reference so I can see just what it is you think is going on there which is distinct and separate from sanctification and how it could be expanded to include the events of 1 Cor 3 while encompassing the issues of suffering loss, being saved, and occurring at the same time as the decision and action of condemnation which is linked in the section of verse to that very same judgment.

JStaller said -
Because the Church stands in the shoes of the Son ("Ye are the Body of Christ"), this purification principle can be applied both at the corporate and individual level; at the individual level, purification simply makes us better sons and daughters. At the corporate level, this purification principle sorts out the tares and the wheat, the sheep and the goats. This principle can also be applied at the doctrinal level, but because I have my own prior assumptions, based on my own a priori decisions, I do not feel compelled to continue my own defense of this particular point, because before you can get there you have to see the the overall point; you have to grasp the foundation before exploring the belfry.

I agree that there is a personal process of purification – which tends to or away from salvation. I also admit there is a corporate process of purification as one tries to keep the heretics out of the Church etc. – however that process is guaranteed since the Church will prevail even against the gates of hell. The extension of this to doctrine is natural and of issue considering the schism of history, which have fooled some such that they cannot identify the Church which retained the authority to bind and loose on earth as in heaven such that its doctrines cannot become impure.

But I don't see any connection between them and purification because of the protections in place and even if I did I do not see them matching the primary issues I listed above – that of salvation, timing, and loss.

JStaller said -
One last thing: It appears as though you are consistently citing the doctrine of purgatory as evidence for the doctrine of purgatory; the close of your last post is a prime example of this pattern:

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

ML answered --------
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).

Where do you see a circular reference here? I assume that is what you are accusing me of. I am using logical arguments to show the need for a post life purification. The argument is quite simple. I will form it in and IF THEN statement to be clear there is no internal reference:

IF we must be purified to enter heaven AND
IF we do not fully repent of all our sins before we die
THEN we must be purified in some way after death

There are of course details regarding who this applies to (only those who built upon the foundation of Christ) and what happens when the back works are burnt away (we suffer loss) and what happens to us for the good works which survive (we are rewarded), but these details do not affect the central IF THEN argument.

JStaller said -
We might make some progress if you would show me the scriptures upon which you build the case for purgatory, instead of the final conclusion which you have arrived at.

Thank you I will – but it is quite lengthy so don't blame me as you asked for it. 

JStaller said -
I realize that there are a handful of other issues that you raise, but I think that in responding to the questions above I have more or less answered your questions and concerns. Naturally, I expect you will find more than enough to say about what I have already written.

Yes, I do wish you had gone further though and responded to my entire list of arguments it would have kept you from claiming as you do above that I had provided no argumentation for and had cited no scripture, to support that the authors are writing about death and beyond.