Archive for the ‘Purgatory’ Category

Jacques Le Goff – Reflecting on "The Birth of Purgatory"

March 27, 2014

In The Medieval Imagination, at p. 86, Jacques Le Goff reflects on his earlier work, The Birth of Purgatory (footnote omitted):

Not long ago I completed several years of work on the birth of Purgatory. From the early days of Christianity Christians have shown by their prayers for the dead that they believed in the possibility of remission of sins after death. But the time, place, and manner of purgation for a long time remained quite vague, despite the suggested solutions to the problem put forward by Clement of Alexandria and Origen in the East, where Purgatory never took hold, and by Augustine and Gregory the Great in the West, where the location of Purgatory was never really defined before the twelfth century, in the final three decades of which the noun purgatorium first emerged. This veritable “birth” of Purgatory can be seen as part of a major shift in attitudes and feelings that took place around the turn of the thirteenth century, resulting in a new geography of the other world and in a new relation between the society of the living and that of the dead.

I offer several comments:

It should be clear that Purgatory was not an Apostolic tradition.  It was something that developed over time, and developed primarily in the West.  There were some early Christians who prayed for the dead, hoping that their sins would be remitted, but keep in mind that some of these were hoping that people would be released from hell.

It is understandable that Christians “believed in the possibility of” or more precisely “hoped for” remission of sins after dead. After all, we ourselves would wish to have such a chance, should we find ourselves in a similar position.  Nevertheless, such a belief or hope should not serve as a basis for our doctrine, however. Instead, we should cling to divine revelation.

Purgatory is like many other doctrinal innovations.  It can be traced back to a number of lesser precursor errors.  Nevertheless, in the final analysis, it plainly is an innovation.  The reason there was no vocabulary word purgatorium before the second half of the 12th century was because there was no concept of such a place that needed that name.  It’s not that the place used to be called something else, it’s that – as Le Goff says, there was “a major shift in attitudes and feelings that took place” and consequently there was born “a new geography of the other world and in a new relation between the society of the living and that of the dead.”

We ought to reject these innovations, because they are not authentic Christianity: authentic Christianity is based on divine revelation.  These doctrines of Purgatory are not apostolic tradition, nor do they become apostolic tradition, simply because some people had hope for posthumous remission of sins before the innovation of these peculiar doctrines.


Cardinal George Pell vs. Richard Dawkins – Some Thoughts

April 11, 2012

Someone directed me to a sort of informal debate between Cardinal Pell and Dawkins, in the form of a moderated Questions and Answers session. Dawkins came across as insecure, accusing the audience of bias (though they routinely cheered for his statements) and repeatedly asking the audience why they are laughing (such as at his comment that the “it depends on how you define ‘nothing.'”

Pell was asked about evolution and his religion. He alleged that those in his communion can believe almost whatever they like about it. He took the position that men are descended from Neanderthals (Dawkins reacted to this much the way a Star Wars geek would react to you talking about Hans Solo instead of Han Solo and Pell blew it off). He said that the first time a soul was “human” was when it had various characteristics of communication and the like. When question about Adam and Eve, he took the position that they were just mythological, like “everyman.” (around 30 minutes) He said he wasn’t sure whether the Old Testament recounts God himself inscribing the ten commandments (33 minutes in).

Dawkins asks where original sin comes from if there is no real Adam and Eve.

When an atheist asks Pell (around 41 minutes in) what will happen to him when he dies, he says

(Cardinal) Well, I know from the Christian point of view, God loves everybody. But every genuine motion towards the truth is a motion towards God. And when an atheist dies, like everybody else, they’ll be judged on the extent to which they have moved towards goodness and truth and beauty. But in the Christian view, God loves everyone except those who turn their back on him through evil acts.
(Moderator): Oh, so athiesm – not an evil act.
(Cardinal): No, not a – well, no I don’t – in most cases its not.

(Moderator): Is it possible for an atheist to go to heaven?
(Cardinal): Well, it’s not my business.
(Moderator): No, but well, you’re the only authority we have here.
(Cardinal): I would say ‘certainly, certainly!’

Dawkins acts shocked that Christians will be bodily resurrected.

Later on the Cardinal asserts that the idea of any child going to hell is grotesque and does not represent the Christian God (48 minutes in)

Around 49 minutes in, the Cardinal shares his views on hell and salvation from it:

(Moderator) Where do you draw the line? Do unbelievers go to hell?
(Cardinal) No, no, no. The only people – Well, (1) I hope nobody’s in hell. We Catholics generally believe that there is a hell. I hope nobody is there. I certainly believe in a place of purification. I think it will be like getting up in the morning and you throw the curtains back and the light is just too much. God’s light would be too much for us. But I believe on behalf of the innocent victims in history, that the scales of justice should work out and if they don’t, life is radically unjust: the law of the jungle prevails.

The Cardinal’s theodicy is, in essence, that freedom is necessary.


Purgatory Debate with Dan Marcum

April 27, 2011

Yesterday, Dan Marcum (Roman Catholic) and I did a short debate on purgatory. An mp3 of the debate is available. There a number of points within this debate that I would like to comment on, but I thought it would be better to go ahead and post the debate now. My main comment on the debate is that the constructive and conclusion speeches were just too short.

Sungenis: Defending Purgatory By Attacking Limited Atonement

July 4, 2010

In my previous post (link to post) I highlighted Sungenis’ admission that Roman Catholicism cannot answer with any certainty even such a basic question about Purgatory as whether it is a place or state. In the same oddly titled article (link to article), Sungenis purports to respond to Dr. White’s criticism of the Roman view of Purgatory with respect to the Atonement.

The bulk of the discussion, however, is simply an attack on Limited Atonement. It includes one of the typical misrepresentations of the Reformed position (the allegation that we or Calvin held that “Christ went to hell for [the elect].” In his Institutes, Calvin explicitly ties the credal expression “descended into hell” to Christ’s suffering on the cross, rejecting the idea that it refers to somewhere he went after his death and even responding to the objection that it would lead to the creed expressing the phrase out of order:

Those who — on the ground that it is absurd to put after his burial what preceded it — say that the order is reversed in this way are making a very trifling and ridiculous objection. f441 The point is that the Creed sets forth what Christ suffered in the sight of men, and then appositely speaks of that invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he underwent in the sight of God in order that we might know not only that Christ’s body was given as the price of our redemption, but that he paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in his soul the terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man.

– John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.10

The Continental Reformed likewise teach:

Question 44. Why is there added, “he descended into hell”?

Answer: That in my greatest temptations, I may be assured, and wholly comfort myself in this, that my Lord Jesus Christ, by his inexpressible anguish, pains, terrors, and hellish agonies, in which he was plunged during all his sufferings, (a) but especially on the cross, has delivered me from the anguish and torments of hell. (b)

(a) Ps.18:5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. Ps.18:6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears. Ps.116:3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Matt.26:38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. Heb.5:7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Isa.53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Matt.27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (b) Isa.53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

– Heidelberg Catechism, Question/Answer 44

While the Scottish Reformed teach:

Question 50: Wherein consisted Christ’s humiliation after his death?

Answer: Christ’s humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day; which has been otherwise expressed in these words, he descended into hell.

– Westminster Larger Catechism, Question/Answer 50

(see also Pastor Danny Hyde’s historical discussion)

Thus, it is misrepresentation of the Reformed position (either in General or as “Calvinistic” in particular) to say that we teach that Jesus “went to hell” for our sins. As to his humanity, he suffered on the cross and he remained under the power of death for three days. That’s our view, not the typical misrepresentation.

After all the criticism of the Reformed view of the atonement is complete, Sungenis remarkably offers only general characterizations of what his own view of the atonement is and no link at all between that view of the atonement and Purgatory:

The Catholic doctrine of the Atonement is the only one that answers ALL of the relevant Scripture passages. I go through them all in my book Not By Bread Alone. God predestinated, but not without man’s free will. God desires all men to be saved even though not all men will be saved. Christ’s atonement was given to the whole world, and from it all men have the potential to be saved. Christ did not go to hell to pay for man’s or the elect’s sins; rather, Christ propitiated the Father and made salvation possible for all men. All of these are taught in Scripture, and we arrive at these truths by combining ALL of what Scripture teaches.

Notice how, even in this brief paragraph, Sungenis again manages to insert his misrepresentation of the Reformed position on the atonement as a contrast to what he calls the “Catholic doctrine of the Atonement.”

While I understand that he is referring to the reader to his book (where one would hope to find a more detailed explanation), it’s worth noting that he simply offers a series of assertions, none of which really address the issues that Dr. White (and other Reformed critics) raise against Purgatory.

Also note the claim: “we arrive at these truths by combining ALL of what Scripture teaches.” This is a comment that is obviously tailored toward a “Protestant” audience. But is it true? Does Sungenis arrive at his view of the atonement by combining all of what Scripture teaches? It seems unlikely that this is really how Sungenis arrives at his view – though it may be how the more “Arminian” listeners in the audience may have arrived at their view of the atonement.

It’s easy to look at the explanation that Sungenis has provided and think that his goal is to trick Arminian hearers into thinking that the Roman Catholic view of the Atonement is essentially the same as their view of the Atonement by emphasizing certain differences between Roman theology and Reformed theology (as lampooned). I hope that’s not his intention, but it is certainly a danger in his approach.

Because he has not actually presented a full and relevant discussion of the Roman Catholic view of Christ’s work and its relation to the forgiveness and remission of the guilt and punishment of sins, Sungenis has not begun to answer the criticisms to which he purports to be responding in the article. In short, the article falls short of a rebuttal. Instead, some stones are thrown at a misrepresentation of the Reformed position.


Sungenis Claims: "the Church did not receive any divine revelation on the nature of Purgatory"

July 3, 2010

In a recent (2009) response to Dr. White, Robert Sungenis made some interesting admissions regarding the absence of knowledge of what Purgatory is in Roman Catholic theology:

Since the Church did not receive any divine revelation on the nature of Purgatory, and since the Church declined to make any official statements on its nature, it is only natural that people of different eras are going to come to different views of what precisely constitutes the Purgatorial experience.

… we have not settled on the nature of Purgatory …

… the nature of Purgatory is an admitted area of unsettled knowledge in the Catholic Church …

After we have already admitted that being in the 15% area of unsettled doctrine
the nature of Purgatory continues to be debated among “modern Roman Catholic advocates,” the truth is, it really doesn’t matter a whole lot. The fact is, Purgatory exists. It can be shown from Scripture, the Patristics, the medievals, and the Magisterium. Whether it is “days” or some other measurement is not really a make-or-break issue.

(Source: Sungenis’ article oddly titled: James White, Alive but Still Struggling)

The underlying problem here, though, is that Sungenis has not fully identified the reason for the lack of common assent regarding the nature of Purgatory. While it is true that God has not revealed the nature of “Purgatory,” the primary reason for the lack of common assent regarding the nature of Purgatory is that (a) Purgatory is a fiction and (b) Purgatory is a relatively new fiction. The medieval era in the West is where we really see the development of a view of Purgatory. There is no mention of any “Purgatory” in the fathers.

As Jacques Le Goff explains, “Until the end of the twelfth century the noun purgatorium did not exist: the Purgatory had not yet been born.” (Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory, p. 3 – see also, Appendix II: “Purgatorium,” the History of a Word)(emphasize is Le Goff’s) There may well have been vague concepts of purgation either upon death or at the day of judgment (or the like) but the idea of a third state or place given the name “Purgatory” was a long time in development from some vague comments about purging by Augustine in the 5th century (I’ll leave the debate over those comments for another post).

But there is an interesting background against which Sungenis is making his claim. Benedict XV praised Dante Alighieri’s work (The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradisio) this way:

It is thus that, according to the Divine Revelation, in this poem shines out the majesty of God One and Three, the Redemption of the human race operated by the Word of God made Man, the supreme loving-kindness and charity of Mary, Virgin and Mother, Queen of Heaven, and lastly the glory on high of Angels, Saints and men; then the terrible contrast to this, the pains of the impious in Hell; then the middle world, so to speak, between Heaven and Hell, Purgatory, the Ladder of souls destined after expiation to supreme beatitude. It is indeed marvellous how he was able to weave into all three poems these three dogmas with truly wrought design.

– Benedict XV, In Praeclara Summorum, Section 4, 30 April 1921

Dante Alighieri lived from about 1265 to 1321. His work on the subject of the afterlife, including Purgatory, is one whose influence in the late medieval period, particularly in Italy, is hard to overstate. He is referred to both as the Supreme Poet of Italy and the Father of the Italian language.

His work makes clear that his view of Purgatory is that it is a place like Heaven or Hell in that it is a place having space and time. It is, for Dante, a Mountain that is to be climbed. We also see a similar view of Purgatory as a definite place in the works of Thomas Aquinas:

Article 2. Whether it is the same place where souls are cleansed, and the damned punished?

Objection 1. It would seem that it is not the same place where souls are cleansed and the damned punished. For the punishment of the damned is eternal, according to Matthew 25:46, “These shall go into everlasting punishment [Vulgate: ‘fire’].” But the fire of Purgatory is temporary, as the Master says (Sent. iv, D, 21). Therefore the former and the latter are not punished together in the same place: and consequently these places must needs be distinct.

Objection 2. The punishment of hell is called by various names, as in Psalm 10:7, “Fire and brimstone, and storms of winds,” etc., whereas the punishment of Purgatory is called by one name only, namely fire. Therefore they are not punished with the same fire and in the same place.

Objection 3. Further, Hugh of St. Victor says (De Sacram. ii, 16): “It is probable that they are punished in the very places where they sinned.” And Gregory relates (Dial. iv, 40) that Germanus, Bishop of Capua, found Paschasius being cleansed in the baths. Therefore they are not cleansed in the same place as hell, but in this world.

On the contrary, Gregory says [The quotation is from St. Augustine (De Civ. Dei i, 8)]: “Even as in the same fire gold glistens and straw smokes, so in the same fire the sinner burns and the elect is cleansed.” Therefore the fire of Purgatory is the same as the fire of hell: and hence they are in the same place.

Further, the holy fathers; before the coming of Christ, were in a more worthy place than that wherein souls are now cleansed after death, since there was no pain of sense there. Yet that place was joined to hell, or the same as hell: otherwise Christ when descending into Limbo would not be said to have descended into hell. Therefore Purgatory is either close to, or the same place as, hell.

I answer that, Nothing is clearly stated in Scripture about the situation of Purgatory, nor is it possible to offer convincing arguments on this question. It is probable, however, and more in keeping with the statements of holy men and the revelations made to many, that there is a twofold place of Purgatory. One, according to the common law; and thus the place of Purgatory is situated below and in proximity to hell, so that it is the same fire which torments the damned in hell and cleanses the just in Purgatory; although the damned being lower in merit, are to be consigned to a lower place. Another place of Purgatory is according to dispensation: and thus sometimes, as we read, some are punished in various places, either that the living may learn, or that the dead may be succored, seeing that their punishment being made known to the living may be mitigated through the prayers of the Church.

Some say, however, that according to the common law the place of Purgatory is where man sins. This does not seem probable, since a man may be punished at the same time for sins committed in various places. And others say that according to the common law they are punished above us, because they are between us and God, as regards their state. But this is of no account, for they are not punished for being above us, but for that which is lowest in them, namely sin.

Reply to Objection 1. The fire of Purgatory is eternal in its substance, but temporary in its cleansing effect.

Reply to Objection 2. The punishment of hell is for the purpose of affliction, wherefore it is called by the names of things that are wont to afflict us here. But the chief purpose of the punishment of Purgatory is to cleanse us from the remains of sin; and consequently the pain of fire only is ascribed to Purgatory, because fire cleanses and consumes.

Reply to Objection 3. This argument considers the point of special dispensation and not that of the common law.

– Thomas Aquinas (as completed by Reginald of Piperno), Summa Theologica, Supplement to the Third Part, Appendix 2, Article 2 (Although Reginald is given credit for adding this material to the Summa Theologica, the material is essentially taken word for word from Thomas Aquinas’ Commentary on [Peter Lombard’s] Sentences, Book IV, Distinction 21, Article 1, with some omissions of the materials found there, but no obvious insertions that affect the meaning)

Notice that in this discussion, Thomas Aquinas (lived about 1225 – 1274) suggests that Purgatory occupies two places: one place is in or below Hell – the other is at various specific times in other places for particular purposes.

Notice as well that Thomas Aquinas concedes that Scripture does not tell us about the “situation” (that is, the place where it is sited – it’s location) of Purgatory. Thus, he’s not willing to be dogmatic about it. However, Thomas Aquinas does believe that there were “revelations made to many” about Purgatory.

The bottom line is that, as Le Goff said, the Purgatory is something born in the 12th century. It is something that took shape as a definite place in the writings of folks like Dante and Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. Yet it is something that one today hears promoted as simply a state, not a place, from sources like EWTN (example) based on comments such as the following from John Paul II:

Purification must be complete, and indeed this is precisely what is meant by the Church’s teaching on purgatory. The term does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence.

– John Paul II, General Audience, 4 August 1999, Section 5

So, while we certainly agree with Mr. Sungenis that Rome has not received divine revelation about the nature of Purgatory, we would simply take that a step further and note that the current teachings one gets from Rome (whether from the pope or anyone else) lack the authority of divine revelation generally. Scripture does not speak of a Purgatory, and there is no good reason for accepting the changing traditions of Rome on this subject. Waving ones hands and saying that the things that are not known are not important doesn’t really address the issue behind the fact that Roman Catholics cannot even tell us with certainty whether Thomas Aquinas or John Paul II is right, when it comes to Purgatory.


N.B. As an aside, Mr. Sungenis makes reference to the idea that there is a “15% area of unsettled doctrine” in his religion. He made this number up out of thin air. He has no way of knowing how much additional doctrine his church will define this century or the next, and consequently he has no way of knowing whether the real number is 15% or 0.000001%. All he can really say is that his church makes more dogmatic statements than most other churches do.

Two Eastern Fathers Whose Views Conflict with Purgatory

July 2, 2010

Here are some quotations from some of the “Eastern Fathers,” namely Basil of Caesarea (A.D. 329-379) and John Chrysostom (A.D. 349-407).

In this first quotation, notice what Chrysostom is saying about where sin can be remedied, in terms of this life or the next:

So there is no righteous person who does not have sin, and there is no sinner who does not have goodness. But since there is a recompense for each, see what happens. The sinner receives as his due the fair recompense for his good deeds, if he has even a small evil deed; and the righteous person receives his due the fair judgment for his sin, if he has done even a small evil deed. So what happens, and what does God do? He has set a boundary for the sin between the present life and the age to come. If a person is righteous, but has performed some mean action, and is ill in this life and is handed over to punishment, do not be disturbed, but consider with yourself, and say that this righteous man has done some small evil deed at some time, and is receiving his due here, in order that he may not be punished hereafter. So if someone is righteous and suffers some misfortune, he receives his due here for this purpose, in order that he may put away his sin here and depart clean to the other world. If someone is a sinner, laden with wickedness, ill with innumerable incurable evils, rapacious, avaricious, he enjoys prosperity here for this purpose, in order that he may not seek a reward hereafter.


Οὐκ ἔστιν οὖν τις δίκαιος, ὃς οὐκ ἔχει ἁμαρτίαν· καὶ οὐκ ἔστι τις ἁμαρτωλὸς ὃς οὐκ ἔχει ἀγαθόν· ἀλλʼ ἐπειδὴ ἑκάστων ἐστὶν ἀντίδοσις, βλέπε τί γίνεται· Ὁ ἁμαρτωλὸς ἀπολαμβάνει τῶν ἀγαθῶν αὐτοῦ ἰσόῤῥοπον τὴν ἀντίδοσιν, ἐάν τι ἔχῃ κἂν μικρὸν ἀγαθόν· καὶ ὁ δίκαιος ἀπολαμβάνει τῆς ἁμαρτίας αὐτοῦ τὴν ἰσόῤῥοπον κρίσιν, κἂν μικρόν τι ποιήσῃ κακόν. Τί οὖν γίνεται, 48.1043 καὶ τί ποιεῖ ὁ Θεός; Ἀφώρισε νόσον τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, τὸν παρόντα βίον καὶ τὸν μέλλοντα αἰῶνα. Ἐὰν οὖν ᾖ τις δίκαιος, καὶ ἐργάσηταί τι φαῦλον, καὶ νοσήσῃ ὧδε, καὶ τιμωρίᾳ παραδοθῇ, μὴ θορυβηθῇς, ἀλλʼ ἐννόησον πρὸς ἑαυτὸν, καὶ εἰπὲ, ὅτι οὗτος ὁ δίκαιος πώποτε μικρόν τι κακὸν ἐποίησε, καὶ ἀπολαμβάνει ὧδε, ἵνα μὴ ἐκεῖ κολασθῇ. Πάλιν, ἐὰν ἴδῃς ἁμαρτωλὸν ἁρπάζοντα, πλεονεκτοῦντα, μυρία ποιοῦντα κακὰ, κἂν εὐθυνῇ, ἐννόησον ὅτι ἐποίησέ ποτε ἀγαθόν τι, καὶ ἀπολαμβάνει ὧδε τὰ ἀγαθὰ, ἵνα μὴ ἐκεῖ ἀπαιτήσῃ τὸν μισθόν.

– John Chrysostom, De Lazaro Concio VΙ, §9, PG 48:1042-1043; Catharine P. Roth, trans., St. John Chrysostom On Wealth and Poverty, 6th Sermon on Lazarus and the Rich Man, §3 (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984), p. 123.

Notice what Chrysostom is saying: there is no punishment for the sin of the righteous in the hereafter. That’s a view that is inconsistent with the Roman Catholic fiction of Purgatory. The reason, of course, for this inconsistency is that Chrysostom did not believe in Purgatory – he had never even heard of it.

On a slightly different note, consider what Basil says in the following quotation:

I find, then, when I take up the divine Scriptures, in the Old and New Testaments, that disobedience towards God is plainly judged to lie not in the multitude of sins nor their magnitude, but in the mere transgression of any one command, and that there is a common judgment of God against all disobedience.


Εὑρίσκω τοίνυν, ἀναλαβὼν τὰς θείας Γραφὰς, ἐν τῇ Παλαιᾷ καὶ Καινῇ Διαθήκῃ, οὔτε ἐν τῷ πλήθει τῶν ἁμαρτανομένων, οὔτε ἐν τῷ μεγέθει τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων, ἐν μόνῃ δὲ τῇ παραβάσει οὑτι νοσοῦν προστάγματος, σαφῶς κρινομένην τὴν πρὸς Θεὸν ἀπείθειαν, καὶ κοινὸν κατὰ πάσης παρακοῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸ κρῖμα·

– Basil of Caesarea, De Judicio Dei, §4, PG 31:653; tr. W. K. L. Clarke, The Ascetic Works of Saint Basil, Translations of Christian Literature Series I, Greek Texts (London: S.P.C.K.,1925), p. 81.

Notice that in this quotation Basil insists that there is a common judgment for sin. Basil does not here distinguish between “mortal” sins and “venial” sins, which receive different punishments. This view is inconsistent with notion that Purgatory is a place or state for the expiation of “venial” sins in the afterlife.

The same unity-of-punishment-for-all-sins theme can be seen from a slightly different angle in the following quotation, noting especially the last sentence:

However, if I would narrate all that I find in the Old and New Testament, time would soon fail me as I expounded it. But when I come to the actual words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel, the utterance of Him Who is about to judge the living and dead, which have more weight with the faithful than all other narratives and arguments, I see in them the great necessity, if I may say so, of obeying God in all things, and again, in the case of each commandment, absolutely no pardon left to those who do not repent of their disobedience, since one can hardly venture a different opinion, or even let it enter the mind, in the face of such open, clear, and unqualified declarations. “For heaven” He says “and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” There is no difference made in this passage, no discrimination, no reservation whatever made. He says not “these words” or “those” but “My words.” For it is written: “The Lord is faithful in all his words”—whether forbidding anything, or commanding, or promising, or threatening, whether He refers to the doing of what is forbidden, or to the leaving undone what is commanded. For that leaving of good works undone is punished equally with perpetrating evil works, is shown and proved sufficiently to any soul not afflicted with complete unbelief by the aforesaid judgment in the case of Peter.


Ἀλλὰ ταῦτα μὲν ἐὰν θέλω καταλέγειν, ὅσα εὑρίσκω ἔκ τε Παλαιᾶς καὶ Καινῆς Διαθήκης, ἐπιλείψει με τάχα διηγούμενον ὁ χρόνος. Ἤδη δὲ καὶ ἐπʼ αὐτὰς ὅταν ἔλθω τὰς τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῷ Εὐαγγελίῳ φωνὰς, αὐτοῦ τοῦ μέλλοντος κρίνειν ζῶντας καὶ νεκροὺς τὰ ῥήματα, ἃ πάσης μὲν ἱστορίας, πάσης δὲ ἄλλης ἀποδείξεως παρὰ τοῖς πιστοῖς ἀξιοπιστότερα, πολλὴν μὲν ἐν αὐτοῖς καταμανθάνω τῆς ἐν πᾶσι πρὸς Θεὸν εὐπειθείας, ἵνα οὕτως εἴπω, ἀνάγκην· οὐδεμίαν δὲ ὅλως, ἐπ’ οὐδενὶ προστάγματι, καταλειπομένην τοῖς μὴ μετανοοῦσι τῆς ἀπειθείας συγγνώμην, εἰ μή τι ἕτερόν ἐστι τολμῆσαι, καὶ μέχρις ἐννοίας λαβεῖν, πρὸς οὕτω γυμνὰς, σαφεῖς τε καὶ ἀπολύτους ἀποφάσεις· Ὁ οὐρανὸς γὰρ, φησὶ, καὶ ἡ γῆ παρελεύσονται, οἱ δὲ λόγοι μου οὐ μὴ παρέλθωσιν. Οὐκ ἔστιν ἐνταῦθα διαφορὰ, οὐκ ἔστι διαίρεσις, οὐδὲν οὐδαμοῦ ὅλως ὑπολέλειπται. Οὐκ εἶπεν· Οὗτοι ἢ ἐκεῖνοι, ἀλλʼ, Οἱ λόγοι μου, πάντες ὁμοῦ δηλονότι, οὐ μὴ παρέλθωσι. Γέγραπται γάρ· Πιστὸς Κύριος ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς λόγοις αὐτοῦ· εἴτε ἀπαγορεύων ὁτιοῦν, εἴτε προστάσσων, εἴτε ἐπαγγελλόμενος, εἴτε ἀπειλῶν, καὶ εἴτε ἐπὶ τῇ πράξει τῶν ἀπηγορευμένων, εἴτε ἐπὶ τῇ ἐλλείψει τῶν ἐπιτεταγμένων. Ὅτι γὰρ ἐπίσης τῇ ἐνεργείᾳ τῶν κακῶν καὶ ἡ τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἔργων ἔλλειψις ἐκδικεῖται, ἤρκει μὲν καὶ πρὸς ἀπόδειξιν καὶ πληροφορίαν τῇ γε μὴ παντελῆ ἀπιστίαν νοσούσῃ ψυχῇ τὸ προειρημένον ἐπὶ τῷ Πέτρῳ κρῖμα·

– Basil of Caesarea, De Judicio Dei, §8, PG 31:672-673; tr. W. K. L. Clarke, The Ascetic Works of Saint Basil, Translations of Christian Literature Series I, Greek Texts (London: S.P.C.K.,1925), pp. 87-88.

Basil, however, does not limit himself to explaining that there is not a difference between sins of commission and sins of omission. He goes on to explain that there are not “great” and “little” sins with respect to punishment, though there may be with respect to mastery:

How are we to deal with those who avoid greater sins but commit small sins regarding them as venial (μικρὰ, small, little) sins?

First of all we must know that in the New Testament it is impossible to observe this distinction. For one sentence is passed against all sins, that of the Lord Who said: “Every one that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin.” And again: “The word that I spake, the same shall judge him at the last day.” Then there is the sentence of John who cried: “He that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God will abide on him.” Disobedience receives this threat not because it is worse than other sins but because it is refusing to hear. Generally speaking, however, if we are allowed to speak of a little and a great sin, it can be proved unanswerably that for each man that sin is great which has the mastery of him and that is little of which he is the master, just as among athletes he who conquers is the stronger and he who is beaten is the weaker whoever he be. We must then in the case of everyone who sins, whatever his sin be, observe the precept of the Lord Who said: “If thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he hear thee not, take with thee one or two more, that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established. And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the Church. And if he refuse to hear the Church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican.” And in all these matters let the apostle’s saying be kept: “Why did ye not rather mourn, that he that had done this deed might be taken away from among you?” For long-suffering and mercy should be joined with severity.


ΕΡΩΤΗΣΙΣ Σ Γʹ. Πῶς δεῖ προσφέρεσθαι τοῖς τὰ μείζονα τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων παραιτουμένοις, τὰ δὲ μικρὰ ἀδιαφόρῶς ποιοῦσιν;

ΑΠΟΚΡΙΣΙΣ. Πρῶτον μὲν εἰδέναι χρὴ, ὅτι ἐν τῇ Καινῇ Διαθήκῃ ταύτην τὴν διαφορὰν οὐκ ἔστι μαθεῖν. Μία γὰρ ἀπόφασις κατὰ πάντων ἁμαρτημάτων κεῖται, τοῦ Κυρίου εἰπόντος, ὅτι Ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν δοῦλός ἐστι τῆς ἁμαρτίας· καὶ πάλιν, ὅτι Ὁ λόγος ὃν ἐλάλησα, ἐκεῖνος κρινεῖ αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ· καὶ τοῦ Ἰωάννου βοῶντος· Ὁ ἀπειθῶν τῷ Υἱῷ οὐκ ὄψεται τὴν ζωὴν, ἀλλʼ ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ Θεοῦ μενεῖ ἐπ’ αὐτόν· τῆς ἀπειθείας οὐκ ἐν τῇ διαφορᾷ τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων, ἀλλ’ ἐν τῇ παρακοῇ τὴν ἀπειλὴν ἐχούσης. Ὅλως δὲ, εἰ ἐπιτρε πόμεθα λέγειν μικρὸν καὶ μέγα ἁμάρτημα, ἀναντίῤῥητον ἔδει τὴν ἀπόδειξιν ἑκάστῳ μέγα εἶναι τὸ ἑκά στου κρατοῦν, καὶ μικρὸν τοῦτο, οὗ ἕκαστος κρατεῖ· ὥσπερ ἐπὶ τῶν ἀθλητῶν ὁ μὲν νικήσας ἐστὶν ἰσχυρότερος, ὁ δὲ ἡττηθεὶς ἀσθενέστερος τοῦ ἐπι κρατεστέρου, ὅστις ἂν ᾖ. Δεῖ οὖν ἐπὶ παντὸς ἁμαρτάνοντος οἱονδήποτε ἁμάρτημα φυλάσσειν τὸ κρῖμα τοῦ Κυρίου εἰπόντος, ὅτι Ἂν ἁμάρτῃ εἰς σὲ ὁ ἀδελφός σου, ὕπαγε, ἔλεγξον αὐτὸν με ταξὺ σοῦ καὶ αὐτοῦ μόνου. Ἐάν σου ἀκούσῃ, ἐκέρδησας τὸν ἀδελφόν σου· ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀκούσῃ, παράλαβε μετὰ σεαυτοῦ ἔτι ἕνα ἢ δύο, ἵνα ἐπὶ στόματος δύο μαρτύρων ἢ τριῶν σταθῇ πᾶν ῥῆμα. Ἐὰν δὲ παρακούσῃ αὐτῶν, εἰπὲ τῇ Ἐκκλησίᾳ· ἐὰν δὲ καὶ τῆς Ἐκκλησίας παρακούσῃ, ἔστω σοι ὥσπερ ὁ ἐθνικὸς καὶ ὁ τελώνης. Φυλασσέσθω δὲ ἐπὶ πᾶσι τοῖς τοιούτοις τὸ ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἀποστόλου εἰρημένον· Διὰ τί οὐ μᾶλλον ἐπενθή σατε, ἵνα ἐξαρθῇ ἐκ μέσου ὑμῶν ὁ τὸ ἔργον τοῦτο ποιήσας; Χρὴ γὰρ τὴν μακροθυμίαν καὶ τὴν εὐ σπλαγχνίαν ἐπιφέρεσθαι τῇ ἀποτομία.

– Basil of Caesarea, In Regulas Brevius Tractatas, Interrogatio CCXCIII, PG 31:1288-1289; tr. W. K. L. Clarke, The Ascetic Works of Saint Basil, Translations of Christian Literature Series I, Greek Texts (London: S.P.C.K., 1925), The Shorter Rules, Question & Answer #293 (CCXCIII), pp. 342-343.

We may also note that Basil has the same theme of distinguishing between this life and the next as Chrysostom does. For example, in the following quotation we see him drawing the important distinction:

I beseech you, therefore, through the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for our sins, let us apply ourselves to care for our souls. Let us lament the vanity of our past life. Let us strive for such things as will be for the glory of God, and of His Christ, and of the adorable and Holy Spirit. Let us not remain in this slothful ease, always losing through our slothfulness the present opportunity, and putting off to the morrow or distant future the beginning of our works, lest, being found unprovided with good works by Him Who demands our souls, we be cast forth from the joy of the bridechamber, shedding vain and useless tears, and lamenting our ill-spent life, at a time when repentance can no longer avail. “Now is the acceptable time,” says the apostle, “now is the day of salvation.” This is the age of repentance, that of reward: this of labour, that of recompense: this of patience, that of comfort.


Παρα καλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς διὰ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρ τιῶν ἡμῶν, ἁψώμεθά ποτε τῆς φροντίδος τῶν ψυχῶν ἡμῶν· λυπηθῶμεν ἐπὶ τῇ ματαιώσει τοῦ προλαβόντος βίου· ἀγωνισώμεθα ὑπὲρ τῶν μελλόν των εἰς δόξαν τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ τοῦ Χριστοῦ αὐτοῦ, καὶ τοῦ προσκυνητοῦ καὶ ἁγίου Πνεύματος. Μὴ τῇ ῥᾳθυμίᾳ καὶ τῇ ἐκλύσει ταύτῃ ἐναπομείνωμεν, καὶ τὸ μὲν παρὸν ἀεὶ διὰ ῥᾳθυμίας προϊέμενοι, πρὸς δὲ τὸ αὔριον καὶ τὸ ἐφεξῆς τὴν ἀρχὴν τῶν ἔρ γων ὑπερτιθέμενοι, εἶτα καταληφθέντες ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀπαιτοῦντος τὰς ψυχὰς ἡμῶν, ἀπαρασκεύαστοι τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἔργων, τῆς μὲν χαρᾶς τοῦ νυμφῶνος ἀποβληθῶμεν, ἀργὰ δὲ καὶ ἀνόνητα μετακλαίω μεν, τὸν κακῶς παρεθέντα τοῦ βίου χρόνον ὀδυρό μενοι τότε, ὅτε πλέον οὐδὲν ἐξέσται τοῖς μεταμελο μένοις. Νῦν καιρὸς εὐπρόσδεκτος, φησὶν ὁ Ἀπό στολος, νῦν ἡμέρα σωτηρίας. Οὗτος ὁ αἰὼν τῆς μετανοίας, ἐκεῖνος τῆς ἀνταποδόσεως· οὗτος τῆς ὑπομονῆς, ἐκεῖνος τῆς παρακλήσεως.

First Alternate Translation of the last line:

This present life is a state of penitence, the next of retribution; here we must labor, there we receive our wages; this is a life of patience, that of consolation.

Second Alternate Translation of the last line:

This present world is the time of repentance, the other of retribution; this of working, that of rewarding; this of patient suffering, that of receiving comfort.

– Basil of Caesarea, Regulæ Fusius Tractatæ, Proœmium, PG 31:889, 892; main tr. W. K. L. Clarke, The Ascetic Works of Saint Basil, Translations of Christian Literature Series I, Greek Texts (London: S.P.C.K., 1925), Preface to the Longer Rules, p. 145; first alternate tr. William John Hall, The Doctrine of Purgatory and the Practice of Praying for the Dead (London: Henry Wix, 1843), preface to the Longer Rules, p. 125; second alternate tr. James Ussher, An Answer to a Challenge Made by a Jesuit (Cambridge: J. & J. J. Deighton, 1835), preface to the Longer Rules, p. 32.

Finally, we see the same distinction between the now and hereafter made in yet another place in Basil’s works:

Everlasting rest is apportioned to those who strive lawfully in this life; not given in payment as for a debt of works, but awarded by the grace of a bountiful God to them that trust in Him.


Πρόκειται γὰρ ἀνάπαυσις αἰωνία τοῖς νομίμως τὸν ἐνταῦθα διαθλήσασι βίον οὐ κατὰ ὀφείλημα τῶν ἔργων ἀποδεδομένη, ἀλλὰ κατὰ χάριν τοῦ μεγαλοδώρου Θεοῦ τοῖς εἰς αὐτὸν ἠλπικόσι παρεχομένη.

Alternative Translation:

For, eternal rest lies before those who have struggled through the present life observant of the laws, a rest not given in payment for a debt owed for their works, but provided as a grace of the munificent God for those who have hoped in Him.

– Basil of Caesarea, Homilia In Psalmum CXIV, §5, PG 29:492; main tr. Charles Hastings Collette, Dr. Wiseman’s Popish Literary Blunders Exposed (London: Paternoster-Row, 1860), p. 234; alternative tr. FC, Vol. 46, Exegetic Homilies, Homily 22 on Psalm 114, §5 (Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1963) p. 357.

This is a follow-on to my previous post regarding Chrysostom alone (link to post). Like the previous post, this one was made with the assistance of Pastor David King.


Chrysostom – Passages Inconsistent with an Idea of Purgatory

June 27, 2010

Chrysostom, in the following passages, provides evidence suggesting that he knows nothing of any kind of post-mortem experience as purgatory…

Chrysostom (349-407) commenting on Matthew 6:12:

Let us know these and let us remember that terrible day and that fire. Let us put in our mind the terrible punishments and return once for all from our deluded road. For the time will come when the theater of this world will be dissolved, and then no one will be able to contend anymore. No one can do anything after the passing of this life. No one can be crowned after the dissolution of the theater. This time is for repentance, that one for judgment. This time is for the contests, that one for the crowns. This one for toil, that one for relaxation. This one for fatigue, that one for recompense.

FC, Vol. 96, St. John Chrysostom on Repentance and Almsgiving, Homily 9.5 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1998), p. 129.

Chrysostom (349-407):

Anticipate the exodus of the soul with repentance and correction, because when death comes suddenly, at absolutely no time will the therapy of repentance be fruitful. Repentance is powerful upon the earth; only in Hades is it powerless. Let us seek the Lord now while we have time. Let us do what is good so that we will be delivered from the future endless punishment of Gehenna, and will be made worthy of the Kingdom of the Heavens.

FC, Vol. 96, St. John Chrysostom on Repentance and Almsgiving, Homily 9.7 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1998), p. 130.

Chrysostom (349-407):

I testify and affirm, that if any of us who have offended shall forsake his former sins, and promise to God with sincerity that he will turn to them no more, God will require no further satisfaction from him.

For translation, see William John Hall, The Doctrine of Purgatory and the Practice of Praying for the Dead (London: Henry Wix, 1843), p. 203.
Greek text:

Ἐγὼ διαμαρτύρομαι καὶ ἐγγυῶμαι, ὅτι τῶν ἁμαρτανόντων ἡμῶν ἕκαστος, ἂν ἀποστὰς τῶν προτέρων κακῶν ὑπόσχηται τῷ Θεῷ μετὰ ἀληθείας μηκέτι αὐτῶν ἅψασθαι, οὐδὲν ἕτερον ὁ Θεὸς ζητήσει πρὸς ἀπολογίαν μείζονα.

De Beato Philogonio (On the Blessed Philogonius), Homilia VI, §4, PG 48:754.

– TurretinFan (with the assistance of Pastor David King)

Present with the Lord in Purgatory?

March 2, 2010

Over at Catholic Convert, pilgrimage peddler Steve Ray has a post arguing that a certain frequently cited Scripture does not dictate against Purgatory, that other Scripture does teach Purgatory, and that Purgatory involves being in the presence of the Lord (link to post). In the following analysis, we’ll consider his arguments piece by piece:

I realize now – that as a Protestant — I misquoted the Bible when challenging Catholics about Purgatory. Catholics taught that there was a “transition” between earth and heaven—a place or state of final purification called Purgatory.

“But how can there be a Purgatory?” I asked. “Doesn’t St. Paul teach that ‘to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord’? Since ‘absence from the body’ means that we are immediately in ‘the presence of the Lord,’ there can’t be anything called Purgatory. Catholics deny the clear teaching of the Bible!”

Whoa! Slow down! Is this really what the Bible says?

First off, I don’t necessarily buy that Mr. Ray actually used arguments against Roman Catholicism when he was not yet a part of that communion. I’ve heard him previously say on the Catholic Answers program that he doesn’t remember when he was baptized. So, I have my doubts about whether Mr. Ray means to say that he really made these sorts of arguments when he was a “Protestant” or whether he’s simply talking about a hypothetical “Protestant.” The words themselves that Mr. Ray uses don’t ring true to the “Protestant” ear. We tend to say “Paul” or the “Apostle Paul” not “St. Paul.” But let’s pass over whether Ray has Canerized his biography here without further comment.

Second, Mr. Ray has set up his hypothetical “Protestant” in a weak position. Paul’s exact words are not “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” even if that is a teaching that they imply. Paul’s exact words are:

2 Corinthians 5:1-9

For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

Paul does set up the matter as a dichotomy: present or absent. There is no third option that Paul raises. And Paul makes this dichotomy several times:

1) “if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens

2) “in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven

3) “we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life

4) “whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

5) “willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord

6) “whether present or absent

But the sextuple dichotomy that Paul draws is evidently not clear enough for Mr. Ray. Mr. Ray states:

First, that is a misreading of the Bible—a twisting of Scripture to score a point. The Bible does NOT say “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Rather it says,

“So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:6-8).

This is very different from my old argument. Paul would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord, but certainly doesn’t say it the way I twisted it in my old anti-Catholic days.

If I want to be away from Michigan in the winter I might say “In the winter we would rather be away from Michigan and present in Arizona.” It does NOT say that to be away from Michigan that I am instantly or automatically in Arizona. My in-laws go between Arizona and Michigan twice a year and they stop a lot along the way. It usually takes them 3-4 weeks to get from one to the other as the visit and camp along the way.

We understand that this language leaves room for a transition period—especially in an automobile or plane with a possible motel or visit along the way. Paul’s words also leave room for such a transition; it does not exclude Purgatory.

This argument from Mr. Ray uses an analogy that is not in the text (the analogy of interstate travel) to try to smuggle a possibility into the text. The analogy in the text is either in this tabernacle (tent) or out of it. The outside of a tent is not 1000 miles away from the inside, it’s right there. If this tent dissolves, we’ll be clothed with another one – not with another two (one purgatorial and one heavenly) but with another one, a heavenly.

While the existence of two states may not, in itself, dictate against a third, the apostle’s argument is plainly about a dichotomy, as seen in the six contrasts identified above. There’s no reason in the text to suppose any sort of transitory place or state between the two in the text.

Worse than that, the very point of the text is that believers are, in this life, yearning for the next life, specifically for heaven. If to be absent from the body is to enter a further place or state of yearning and groaning, the apostle’s point is dulled. Surely the apostle is not suggesting that the desire is to be absent from the body so that one can be present in purgatory, but rather in heaven with the Lord.

But let us see how Mr. Ray continues his argument:

Second, Paul teaches that we will pass through fire. Notice what he says in 1 Corinthians 3:15: On “the Day” if “any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15, RSVCE). Sounds like Purgatory to me.

Contrary to Mr. Ray’s assertions, Paul does not say that we will pass through fire. The text says that on “the day” men’s works will have their character revealed.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

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. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

As you can see, it is the man’s work that will be evaluated by fire and placed in the fire, not the man. All sorts of work from “gold” to “stubble” will be tried in the fire, which shows that it cannot refer to Purgatory, since Romanism teaches that those who build the best work on their foundation will skip Purgatory entirely.

The brief reference to “so as by fire” is a simile. “So as by” shows us that it is not through fire, but it is as though fire. In other words, a person may have only the foundation left, and may get through by the skin of their teeth with just the foundation – namely Christ. When we combine the idea of Christ being the foundation and the work we do being anything ranging from “gold” to “stubble,” hopefully it should be plain that the fire is metaphorical. The point is simply that we have done will be evaluated on the last day as to whether we built well or poorly on the foundation. We will be saved regardless of how well we built, since we have the foundation of Christ – although if we do no works beyond mere stubble, it will be a bare escape from hell, like a person who escaped from a house-fire.

One should note that Steve Ray, in his private judgment, thinks that this passage sounds like Purgatory. One may also note, however, that we’ve previously seen that the eminent Roman Catholic scholar Estius (1542-1613) has essentially acknowledged (with some cautious comments) that in this passage “the Apostle, omitting all mention of the purifying of souls which takes place in the mean time, speaks only about the fire of the last judgment” (see full discussion here).

Likewise the Roman Catholic New American Bible states plainly that Purgatory is not taught in this passage (see discussion here) and the Roman Catholic Navarre Bible says that we can’t be sure whether Purgatory is under discussion (more details here).

Even Bellarmine, a doctor of the Roman Catholic Church, is unwilling to say that the entire passage is about Purgatory. He chooses instead to say that much of the passage is about other things, with only the very last reference to fire being a reference to Purgatory (link to more complete discussion).

Augustine himself explains the passage this way:

Now wood, hay, and stubble may, without incongruity, be understood to signify such an attachment to worldly things, however lawful these may be in themselves, that they cannot be lost without grief of mind. And though this grief burns, yet if Christ hold the place of foundation in the heart—that is, if nothing be preferred to Him, and if the man, though burning with grief, is yet more willing to lose the things he loves so much than to lose Christ,— he is saved by fire. If, however, in time of temptation, he prefer to hold by temporal and earthly things rather than by Christ, he has not Christ as his foundation; for he puts earthly things in the first place, and in a building nothing comes before the foundation. Again, the fire of which the apostle speaks in this place must be such a fire as both men are made to pass through, that is, both the man who builds upon the foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, and the man who builds wood, hay, stubble. For he immediately adds: “The fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.” The fire then shall prove, not the work of one of them only, but of both. Now the trial of adversity is a kind of fire which is plainly spoken of in another place: “The furnace proves the potter’s vessels: and the furnace of adversity just men. [Sirach 27:5]” And this fire does in the course of this life act exactly in the way the apostle says. If it come into contact with two believers, one “caring for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord,” [1 Corinthians 7:32] that is, building upon Christ the foundation, gold, silver, precious stones; the other “caring for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife,” [1 Corinthians 7:33] that is, building upon the same foundation wood, hay, stubble—the work of the former is not burned, because he has not given his love to things whose loss can cause him grief; but the work of the latter is burned, because things that are enjoyed with desire cannot be lost without pain. But since, by our supposition, even the latter prefers to lose these things rather than to lose Christ, and since he does not desert Christ out of fear of losing them, though he is grieved when he does lose them, he is saved, but it is so as by fire; because the grief for what he loved and has lost burns him. But it does not subvert nor consume him; for he is protected by his immoveable and incorruptible foundation.

– Augustine, Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love, Chapter 68 (written about A.D. 421-22)

Notice that Augustine explicitly refers this fire to the fire that “in the course of this life” tries men through various temptations. Whether or not we agree with Augustine’s analysis of the text, it is plain that Augustine did not agree with Steve Ray (perhaps because the concept of “Purgatory” lay yet uninvented – perhaps because the text so clearly indicates that the work of every man is tested by this fire – we need not decide that matter here).

And this is not the only time Augustine discusses the matter, for he says again:

We shall then ascertain who it is who can be saved by fire, if we first discover what it is to have Christ for a foundation. And this we may very readily learn from the image itself. In a building the foundation is first. Whoever, then, has Christ in his heart, so that no earthly or temporal things— not even those that are legitimate and allowed— are preferred to Him, has Christ as a foundation. But if these things be preferred, then even though a man seem to have faith in Christ, yet Christ is not the foundation to that man; and much more if he, in contempt of wholesome precepts, seek forbidden gratifications, is he clearly convicted of putting Christ not first but last, since he has despised Him as his ruler, and has preferred to fulfill his own wicked lusts, in contempt of Christ’s commands and allowances. Accordingly, if any Christian man loves a harlot, and, attaching himself to her, becomes one body, he has not now Christ for a foundation. But if any one loves his own wife, and loves her as Christ would have him love her, who can doubt that he has Christ for a foundation? But if he loves her in the world’s fashion, carnally, as the disease of lust prompts him, and as the Gentiles love who know not God, even this the apostle, or rather Christ by the apostle, allows as a venial fault. And therefore even such a man may have Christ for a foundation. For so long as he does not prefer such an affection or pleasure to Christ, Christ is his foundation, though on it he builds wood, hay, stubble; and therefore he shall be saved as by fire. For the fire of affliction shall burn such luxurious pleasures and earthly loves, though they be not damnable, because enjoyed in lawful wedlock. And of this fire the fuel is bereavement, and all those calamities which consume these joys. Consequently the superstructure will be loss to him who has built it, for he shall not retain it, but shall be agonized by the loss of those things in the enjoyment of which he found pleasure. But by this fire he shall be saved through virtue of the foundation, because even if a persecutor demanded whether he would retain Christ or these things, he would prefer Christ. Would you hear, in the apostle’s own words, who he is who builds on the foundation gold, silver, precious stones? “He that is unmarried,” he says, “cares for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord.” [1 Corinthians 7:32] Would you hear who he is that builds wood, hay, stubble? But he that is married cares for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. [1 Corinthians 7:33] “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it,”— the day, no doubt, of tribulation— “because,” says he, “it shall be revealed by fire.” [1 Corinthians 3:13] He calls tribulation fire, just as it is elsewhere said, “The furnace proves the vessels of the potter, and the trial of affliction righteous men.” [Sirach 27:5] And “The fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide”— for a man’s care for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord, abides— “which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward,”— that is, he shall reap the fruit of his care. “But if any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss,”— for what he loved he shall not retain:— “but he himself shall be saved,”— for no tribulation shall have moved him from that stable foundation—”yet so as by fire;” [1 Corinthians 3:14-15] for that which he possessed with the sweetness of love he does not lose without the sharp sting of pain. Here, then, as seems to me, we have a fire which destroys neither, but enriches the one, brings loss to the other, proves both.

– Augustine, City of God, Book 21, Chapter 26 [City of God was written from A.D. 413-427]

You’ll notice that both of these comments from Augustine are from about the same time, toward the end of his life (he died A.D. 430). In both cases, Augustine uses essentially the same argument about this passage. And we can see, from City of God, what the opinion was of those whom Augustine opposed:

There are some, too, who found upon the expression of Scripture, “He that endures to the end shall be saved,” [Matthew 24:13] and who promise salvation only to those who continue in the Catholic Church; and though such persons have lived badly, yet, say they, they shall be saved as by fire through virtue of the foundation of which the apostle says, “For other foundation has no man laid than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus. 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 of the Lord shall declare it, for it shall be revealed by fire; and each man’s work shall be proved of what sort it is. If any man’s work shall endure which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. But if any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire.” [1 Corinthians 3:11-15] They say, accordingly, that the Catholic Christian, no matter what his life be, has Christ as his foundation, while this foundation is not possessed by any heresy which is separated from the unity of His body. And therefore, through virtue of this foundation, even though the Catholic Christian by the inconsistency of his life has been as one building up wood, hay, stubble, upon it, they believe that he shall be saved by fire, in other words, that he shall be delivered after tasting the pain of that fire to which the wicked shall be condemned at the last judgment.

– Augustine, City of God, Book 21, Chapter 21

Notice that this position that Augustine is opposing is the idea of some Christians being saved after tasting the pain of hellfire for a short time. Now, granted that’s not exactly Purgatory, but you’ll notice that Augustine’s response is not to say that the believers face the fire of Purgatory rather than the fire of hell. Instead he refers this passage to the fire of the tribulations of this life. It is true that Augustine leaves open the possibility of a general posthumous fire through which all men pass:

But if it be said that in the interval of time between the death of this body and that last day of judgment and retribution which shall follow the resurrection, the bodies of the dead shall be exposed to a fire of such a nature that it shall not affect those who have not in this life indulged in such pleasures and pursuits as shall be consumed like wood, hay, stubble, but shall affect those others who have carried with them structures of that kind; if it be said that such worldliness, being venial, shall be consumed in the fire of tribulation either here only, or here and hereafter both, or here that it may not be hereafter—this I do not contradict, because possibly it is true.

– Augustine, City of God, Book 21, Chapter 26

Notice the important differences even between this possibility and Purgatory: (1) the bodies (not the souls) of the dead are exposed to this fire and (2) all of the elect are exposed to the fire (not only those who need purgation). Furthermore, while Augustine says that such may “possibly” be true, he certainly does not affirm that it is true, or say that he believes it to be true.

However, Steve Ray wants to insist that to be in Purgatory is to be present with the Lord. Steve writes:

Third, Purgatory is not “away from the Lord” strictly speaking. Those in Purgatory—whether it is a place or a state of transition—are not apart from the Lord. In fact, it is the love of God that is purifying them. I have always said that Purgatory is like the front porch of heaven. Those who are in Purgatory know they have arrived! But you can read more about that in my article on Purgatory here.

So, don’t let someone trick you with the old “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” argument. It is fallacious and deceptive. Again, the Catholic Church is correct.

Although Mr. Ray loves to claim that the argument from Scripture against Rome’s false doctrine of Purgatory is “fallacious and deceptive,” one should immediately see that Mr. Ray himself is here employing a fallacious and deceptive argument. The love of God is with believers at all times. Indeed, Scripture teaches us that “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)

That means that we have the love of God right now, here on Earth. Consequently, the kind of “present with the Lord” that Paul is talking about cannot possibly have to do with experiencing the love of God, for we experience the love of God now. It has to do, instead, with a presence of location. Christ is physically in heaven now, and we will join him there when we die. Purgatory is not where Christ is, nor should we believe the pushers of transubstantiation who tell us “Lo, here is Christ” in the priest’s hands “or, lo, he is there” in the monstrance (quite the opposite, “And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not:” Mark 13:21). Instead, Christ is seated at the right hand of God the Father (1 Peter 3:22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.), from whence he will come (John 14:28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. ) to judge the world (Psalm 96:13 Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.) at the last day (John 12:48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.).

Mr. Ray states that he has always said “Purgatory is like the front porch of heaven.” However, Thomas Aquinas (considered a doctor in the Roman Catholic church – and arguably her foremost theologian) states:

Nothing is clearly stated in Scripture about the situation of Purgatory, nor is it possible to offer convincing arguments on this question. It is probable, however, and more in keeping with the statements ofholy men and the revelations made to many, that there is a twofold place of Purgatory. One, according to the common law; and thus the place of Purgatory is situated below and in proximity to hell, so that it is the same fire which torments the damned in hell and cleanses the just in Purgatory; although the damned being lower in merit, are to be consigned to a lower place. Another place of Purgatory is according to dispensation: and thus sometimes, as we read, some are punished in various places, either that the living may learn, or that the dead may be succored, seeing that their punishment being made known to the living may be mitigated through the prayers of the Church.

Some say, however, that according to the common law the place of Purgatory is where man sins. This does not seem probable, since a man may be punished at the same time for sins committed in various places. And others say that according to the common law they are punished above us, because they are between us and God, as regards their state. But this is of no account, for they are not punished for being above us, but for that which is lowest in them, namely sin.

– Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Appendix II (Purgatory), Article 2

By “situation” Thomas means the place where Purgatory is situated, that is, its location. Notice that the first option that Thomas gives is one that represents the teaching that Augustine opposed (namely that the elect taste the fires of hell). The second option that Thomas gives is more broad, but notice that Thomas rules out the possibility that the place of Purgatory is above us, as it would be if it were the front porch of heaven. So while the magisterium of Ray may teach that Purgatory is the front porch of heaven, the traditional teaching in Romanism is that Purgatory is a place of immense suffering, probably adjacent to hell.

But that’s not quite the end. Ray ends his article by providing a caption for one of the pictures that decorate his article. The caption reads:

(Piccture: Purgatory is a place of mercy; it is a place of joy for having arrived.)

(error in original)

Ray’s warm and fuzzy view of purgatory as a place of mercy and joy are not what we would call the traditional view. Traditionally, purgatory is a place of strict justice and misery. The whole point of purgatory is that people have unexpiated guilt for their sins, which guilt is expiated through their suffering. It is only an expression of “mercy” and “joy” in that vicarious acts (alms, masses, and the like) can liberate the person without the person undergoing the full extent of the torture, and the torture is of finite duration, coordinate with the amount of sin that is to be purged. And whatever else Purgatory may be, it is supposed to be a place of transition, not arrival. It is not designed (in Romanist theology) as a destination in itself, but as a means to the end of heaven.

If, as Scripture teaches us, “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous” (Hebrews 12:11) and if Purgatory is indeed a place of chastening (as the Romanists so frequently allege) then it follows that Purgatory is not a place of joy but of grief. Why does Mr. Ray oppose both the implications of Scripture and the traditional view of his own church? The answer to that question requires speculation.

Possibly, Mr. Ray realizes that the idea of God torturing those he loves after their death is not a doctrine that makes any sense. Perhaps Mr. Ray thinks that the view of Purgatory as a horrible place – a view that helped folks like Tetzel fund papal luxury in the middle ages – is something that is repulsive and repugnant to the folks who Mr. Ray is attempting to convert to Romanism.

Dr. White recently debated Tim Staples on the subject of Purgatory, and particularly touching on the discussion in 1 Corinthians 3, that we’ve analyzed above (link to mp3 of the debate). I had the opportunity to ask a question (at the very end of the question-answer period). The question I asked Mr. Staples was: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?” (Romans 8:33-34) I would ask Mr. Ray the same question.

God justifies the elect. No one is able to lay anything to their charge – not “mortal sins” and not “venial sins.” No one is able to condemn the elect to suffering Purgatory because they are justified by Christ’s righteousness. It is God who justifies – who is the judge that sentences men to Purgatory?

– TurretinFan

Estius on 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

December 6, 2009

William Forbes relates for us the inconsistent comments of Estius on 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:

But before we leave this subject, let us quote a few sentences from Estius concerning that most celebrated passage, and “on which the fate of purgatory (so to speak) depends” [FN: Andrews Response to Cardinal Bellarmine Apologian, Chapter 8, page 208] in the opinion of most Romanists; “Others again,” he says, [[Estius] Commentary on 1 Corithians 3, at vs. 13, at the words “dies enim [] declarabit”] alluding to Bellarmine chiefly, whose opinion he here refutes without mentioning his name [TurretinFan’s note: This is an odd assertion, in view of what we’ve seen in Bellarmine on this passage.], “think that the Apostle uses the word fire in more than one signification. For in the first place they understand the fire of the general conflagration; in the second, they interpret fire as being the severe and just judgment of God by which all the works of men are tried and examined; lastly, in the third place, when it is said, that ‘the man himself will be saved, yet so as by fire,’ they maintain that the purgatorial fire of the souls after this life is meant. But to others it not undeservedly seems absurd, that the Apostle in a single passage of few words should use the word fire in so many senses; nor will any one easily persuade himself that on the third occasion, the purgatorial fire of souls is signified, if on the first and second a different fire is intended. Wherefore,” he says, “in order that in this obscurity we may reach the meaning of S. Paul, it appears, first, that the word fire ought to be taken in a single sense, in this place &c.” He therefore affirms that this whole passage must be understood of “the fire of the burning” at the day of the last judgment, and here he cites many testimonies of the ancients about the fire of the last day, as S. Basil [Of the Holy Spirit 15:36], S. Hilary [can. 2 in Matthew Section 4], S. Ambrose [Sermon 3 on Psalm 118, Section 15], Eucherius [Homily 3 on the Epiphany], Alcuin [3 of the Trinity, Chapter 21], Lactantius, [7 Divine Institutes, Chapter 21] &c.” See the author himself discussing at great length this subject.

In the end of his explanation, however, of this passage, he puts among other questions, this one also; “The third question; Whether and in what manner is the Purgatory of souls after this life proved from this passage? For if,” he says, “fire shall try every man’s work, and that trial is not to take place till the day of the Lord, and the expression, ‘saved as by fire,’ is to be referred to that same day, not only it does not seem that a Purgatory of souls immediately upon the death of the bodies can be built up from this passage, but rather the reverse; since the whole purifying is reserved for the last judgment. Nevertheless in the Council of Florence, the Latin Fathers, in spite of the dissent of the Greeks, held that Purgatory was to be established from this Scripture.” The author, lest he should irritate, and too much offend his own party, answers shortly that “the Purgatory of souls may be well and firmly collected from this passage,” also “of S. Paul.” But how coldly he performs this, judicious Reader, see with thine own eyes. For he rather plays than treats seriously about deducing that opinion from thence. Nay, he immediately after puts the question, “Why the Apostle, omitting all mention of the purifying of souls which takes place in the mean time, speaks only about the fire of the last judgment.” Reader, weigh his answer to this question, and you will very clearly see that the whole of this passage is to be referred in no respect to the Purgatory of souls, but to the fire of the last day trying the works of all men. Although in his commentary on the fourth book of the Sentences, this very learned man thought the passage should be very differently understood, namely, of the Purgatory of souls after death.

– William Forbes (Gulielmum Forbesium) A Fair and Calm Consideration of the Modern Controversy concerning Purgatory, Book 1, Chapter 1, Section 15

New American Bible on 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

November 20, 2009

The text of 1 Cor 3:15 has sometimes been used to support the notion of purgatory, though it does not envisage this.

– New American Bible, 1 Corinthians 3, Footnote 8, at 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, Vatican’s On-Line Edition (link)(same note at USCCB site)

The New American Bible is a Roman Catholic translation, published under the authority of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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