Archive for the ‘Steve Ray’ Category

All Have Sinned – Except Mary? (Responding to Steve Ray)

March 31, 2013

Steve Ray (Roman Catholic) writes:

From the early centuries Mary was considered the All Holy One and considered as without sin. Rom 3:23 is a general statement but does not mention exceptions to the rule. For example, Jesus was a man without sin, therefore an exception.

Jesus did not come short of the glory of God, because Jesus is God. Recall that the text says:

Romans 3:23
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Moreover, it’s not just Romans 3:23.

Romans 3:10
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Romans 5:12
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Job 25:4
How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?

Psalm 143:2
And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.

This falls into the category of manifest exceptions. A similar manifest exception is explained here:

1 Corinthians 15:27
For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.

I would love to see this testimony to Mary as “the All Holy One.” While it may possibly exist (there are many extant writings, “Holy One” is a divine title and “all-holy” is a divine attribute. So, particularly in the early patristic period and among orthodox writers, one would not expect to find this attributed to anyone but one of the persons of the Trinity.

But certainly Scripture does not describe Mary as sinless. On the contrary, she herself recognized her need for a Savior:

Luke 1:47
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

Steve Ray continued:

The New Adam (Jesus) is without sin. From the 1st century Mary has been viewed as the New Eve. It would be appropriate, actually proper, that the New Eve be without sin also.

The bride of Adam was Eve, but the bride of Christ is not Mary, but the Church.

And the church will be sinless:

Ephesians 5:27
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

Indeed, Mary as a member of that church is now in heaven, holy and immaculate. But it was through the work of Christ purifying her – first sanctifying her and later glorifying her. She was not sinless, just as none of us are sinless.

Again, there may have been some fathers who called Mary a “new Eve,” but she’s hardly a close parallel to Eve.

Steve Ray continued:

Those who die before the age of reason, or who are mentally deficient are also exceptions. Job could even be called an exception if you take God’s report of him literally (Job 1:8).

This is just a rehashing of Pelagius’ error. Both Pelagius and Julian of Eclanum cited Job as an example of a person who was perfectly holy before the law. But Augustine, in Section 12 of Book 2 of “The Punishment and Forgiveness of Sins,” denies that Job was sinless (and more expressly in section 14).

The statement, therefore, “He that is born of God sinneth not,”[1 John 3:9] is not contrary to the passage in which it is declared by those who are born of God, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”[1 John 1:8] For however complete may be a man’s present hope, and however real may be his renewal by spiritual regeneration in that part of his nature, he still, for all that, carries about a body which is corrupt, and which presses down his soul; and so long as this is the case, one must distinguish even in the same individual the relation and source of each several action. Now, I suppose it is not easy to find in God’s Scripture so weighty a testimony of holiness given of any man as that which is written of His three servants, Noah, Daniel, and Job, whom the Prophet Ezekiel describes as the only men able to be delivered from God’s impending wrath.[Ezekiel 14:14] In these three men he no doubt prefigures three classes of mankind to be delivered: in Noah, as I suppose, are represented righteous leaders of nations, by reason of his government of the ark as a type of the Church; in Daniel, men who are righteous in continence; in Job, those who are righteous in wedlock;—to say nothing of any other view of the passage, which it is unnecessary now to consider. It is, at any rate, clear from this testimony of the prophet, and from other inspired statements, how eminent were these worthies in righteousness. Yet no man must be led by their history to say, for instance, that drunkenness is not sin, although so good a man was overtaken by it; for we read that Noah was once drunk,[Genesis 9:21] but God forbid that it should be thought that he was an habitual drunkard.


But let us see what Job has to say of himself, after God’s great testimony of his righteousness. “I know of a truth,” he says, “that it is so: for how shall a mortal man be just before the Lord? For if He should enter into judgment with him, he would not be able to obey Him.”[Job 9:2-3] And shortly afterwards he asks: “Who shall resist His judgment? Even if I should seem righteous, my mouth will speak profanely.”[Job 9:19-20] And again, further on, he says: “I know He will not leave me unpunished. But since I am ungodly, why have I not died? If I should wash myself with snow, and be purged with clean hands, thou hadst thoroughly stained me with filth.”[Job 9:30] In another of his discourses he says: “For Thou hast written evil things against me, and hast compassed me with the sins of my youth; and Thou hast placed my foot in the stocks. Thou hast watched all my works, and hast inspected the soles of my feet, which wax old like a bottle, or like a moth-eaten garment. For man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of wrath; like a flower that hath bloomed, so doth he fall; he is gone like a shadow, and continueth not. Hast Thou not taken account even of him, and caused him to enter into judgment with Thee? For who is pure from uncleanness? Not even one; even should his life last but a day.”[Job 13:26 – 14:5] Then a little afterwards he says: “Thou hast numbered all my necessities; and not one of my sins hath escaped Thee. Thou hast sealed up my transgressions in a bag, and hast marked whatever I have done unwillingly.”[Job 14:16-17] See how Job, too, confesses his sins, and says how sure he is that there is none righteous before the Lord. So he is sure of this also, that if we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us. While, therefore, God bestows on him His high testimony of righteousness, according to the standard of human conduct, Job himself, taking his measure from that rule of righteousness, which, as well as he can, he beholds in God, knows of a truth that so it is; and he goes on at once to say, “How shall a mortal man be just before the Lord? For if He should enter into judgment with him, he would not be able to obey Him;” in other words, if, when challenged to judgment, he wished to show that nothing could be found in him which He could condemn, “he would not be able to obey him,” since he misses even that obedience which might enable him to obey Him who teaches that sins ought to be confessed. Accordingly [the Lord] rebukes certain men, saying, “Why will ye contend with me in judgment?”[Jeremiah 2:29] This [the Psalmist] averts, saying, “Enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified.”[Psalm 143:2] In accordance with this, Job also asks: “For who shall resist his judgment? Even if I should seem righteous, my mouth will speak profanely;” which means: If, contrary to His judgment, I should call myself righteous, when His perfect rule of righteousness proves me to be unrighteous, then of a truth my mouth would speak profanely, because it would speak against the truth of God.


Steve Ray continued:

Romans is also discussing that it is not only the Gentiles that have sinned but also the Jews. All can be a collective of peoples. “You Jews think you are righteous because you are of Abraham? You think only the Gentiles are in sin. No, all have sinned, Gentile and Jew alike”

Yes, “all” can have that sense. But the “there is none righteous, no not one” does not have a similar semantic range.

Steve Ray continued:

This is born out in Psalm 14 from where Rom 3:9 (parallel passage to Rom 3:23) is quoted. Here is says, Psalm 14:2–3 “The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.”

This doesn’t support the previous assertion that this is just about “both Jews and Gentiles.”

Steve Ray continued:

Yet immediately following we find that God has his righteous. Psalm 14:5–6 ”There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would confound the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.”

This refers to those who are justified by faith, not those who are immaculately sinless.

Psalm 14:7 “Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.”

The “righteous” people Steve Ray is pointing to are those in captivity in a foreign land for their sins!

Steve Ray continued:

As a Baptist I used to use the Bible often for proof-texts and sound bites. Scripture is much more subtle than that. It is our tradition, whether Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, etc., that guides us in our approach to Scripture. The real question is, which tradition will you allow to direct your interpretation and study? I chose the tradition that was practiced from the first century until today – which is Catholic.

Of course, people’s traditions can interfere with letting the text of Scripture speak for itself. We should not glory in that, but seek to minimize the effect of our traditions, allowing the text to speak for itself.

That said, the fathers writings are valuable. I happen to have two patristic commentaries on Psalms in front of me. On Psalm 14, Augustine (354–430) says:

There is no one who does anything good, no, not even to the very last one. This expression, not even to the very last one, can either be understood as including that particular one, which would mean nobody at all, or it can be taken to mean “with the exception of one,” indicating the Lord Christ … This latter interpretation is the better one, because nobody is deemed to have done anything good right down to Christ, because nobody can unless Christ himself has shown how.

(Expositions on the Psalms, Psalm 1-32, at Psalm 13[14]:1, The Works of St. Augustine, a Translation for the 21st Century, p. 175, trans. Maria Boulding, OSB)

Likewise, Cassiodorus (c. 485 – c. 585) states:

They are corrupt because in abandoning the sanity of the Scriptures they have demonstrably fallen into sinful thoughts. … There is none that doth good But what about the patriarchs? Did Noah not do good when he was obedient to the Lord’s commands, and entered the ark to be saved? …. Even today through the Lord’s kindness good things are done through the action of just men. But so that this denial may become wholly meaningful to you, ponder the words that follow: None, even to one. In fact that only One is Christ, without whom human weakness has not the strength either to begin or complete any good thing. So the statement was justified that no man can do good unless through His mercy we have gained Christ. When we reach Him and do not abandon Him, every good is undoubtedly performed.

(Explanation of the Psalms, Vol. 1, at Psalm 13[14]:1, Ancient Christian Writers, vol. 51, p. 150)

Before posting, I thought I would check the catena found in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series. There I found some interesting words from Asterius the Homilist (4th/5th century):

“There is no one who speaks good,” when all the disciples fled as they abandoned him. John ran off naked. Peter denied him, the disciples fled, the spear of doubt pierced the soul of Mary. There was no one who showed the fruit of love in his suffering. … Even after his death, the soldier pierced his side. … Surely he has visited us and wants to save, but none desires to be shown the medicine.

(Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Psalms 1-50, at Psalm 14:1, pp. 110-11, ellipses in ACCS, for discussion of Asterius’ Nicene credentials, see Wolfram Kinzig’s “In Search of Asterius: Studies on the Authorship of the Homilies on the Psalms”)

So far from supporting Steve Rays “Jews and Gentiles” interpretation, Asterius even apparently ascribes sinful doubt to Mary!

I’m sure Steve Ray is very much enamored with traditions, but his traditions are not as ancient as he supposes. He ought rather to follow the still more ancient traditions of the apostles, who were inspired by God to inscripturate the revelation given to them. If he had done that, he could avoid the corruption of those who abandon the sanity of Scripture and fall into the sinful thought of ascribing sinless perfection and immaculate conception to Mary.


Steve Ray Mis-identifies the Gates of Hell

February 2, 2013

Pilgrimage panderer Steve Ray has some video clips up at his site (link). In the first video (starting around 4:50 into the clip, with the key portion beginning at 7:00), you can hear Steve Ray discussing the idea that Jesus’ reference to “the gates of hell” is a reference to a deep crevice near the mouth of a cave at the back of a temple. It was sad to see one of the members of the pilgrimage spouting back the idea that the cave was the “gates of hell.” The folks on the pilgrimage do seem very sincere, and it seems clear that Steve Ray is misleading them.

Gustav Dalman’s “Sacred Sites and Ways: Studies in the Topography of the Gospels” (trans. Paul P. Levertoff, 1935) has this to say:

Caesarea Philippi (in Christian Palestinian Aramaic Ķesaron de-Philippos) was a city well known among the Jews under the name Ķesariyon (Little Cesarea). Tradition, however, has never connected the present Banias with any incident in the life of Jesus, although in the time of Eusebius a statue of Christ was venerated there, which the woman with the issue of blood (Mt. ix. 20), a native of this district, was supposed to have dedicated, and which the emperor Julian replaced by one of himself. So there is absolutely no foundation for the purely fanciful connection of the rock, the gates of hell, and the Church, of Mt. xvi. 18, with the mountain-wall above the Jordan spring, the wide grotto that is found in it, and the temple of Pan before it.

To the Jews the cave of Paneas with its supposedly bottomless pool was merely the source of the Jordan which gushes out below it, being therefore one of the “fountains of the deep” of Gen. viii. 2. Legend has it that Moses desired to enter Canaan by means of this subterranean cave, but God refused his request. Nor did the heathen look upon this dwelling of the god Pan as the abode of a sinister power of Hades, but rather as a cave inhabited by the protector of the flocks and herds on the mountains. Exuberant life comes from the spring and nature wears a smiling face, bestowing never-failing refreshment. This was (and still is) the impression that the Paneion left upon the beholder. Herod’s temple to Augustas, which stood between the cave and the spring, the water of which was used for purification from the defilement caused by contact with a corpse (Para. viii. II), must have also meant to Jesus only a defiling of a God-given stream and not a symbol of men rallying round the Lord’s Anointed.

(pp. 203-204, footnotes omitted, See this review of Dalman’s work, if you have questions about the work.)

In Jewish Wars, Book I, Chapter 21, Section 3, Josephus describes the place this way:

3. And when Caesar had further bestowed upon him [Herod] another additional country, he built there also a temple of white marble, hard by the fountains of Jordan: the place is called Panium, where is a top of a mountain that is raised to an immense height, and at its side, beneath, or at its bottom, a dark cave opens itself; within which there is a horrible precipice, that descends abruptly to a vast depth; it contains a mighty quantity of water, which is immovable; and when any body lets down any thing to measure the depth of the earth beneath the water, no length of cord is sufficient to reach it. Now the fountains of Jordan rise at the roots of this cavity outwardly; and, as some think, this is the utmost origin of Jordan: but we shall speak of that matter more accurately in our following history.

I tried to track down the work that Dalman was writing off as fanciful. Possibly he’s referring simply to the tourist trade in the area of his time. I found numerous references to the place as a tourist spot in 19th century travel literature (although not with that specific claim), so it would not be particularly surprising if that were the source of the myth.

In other posts we have discussed the concept of the “gates of hell.” We explained that they refer to the power of death (see the discussion here) and that this understanding is actually confirmed from the Apocrypha (see the discussion here).

There are more responsible tour guides. Here is an example of one:

The tour guide mentions something said by Hezekiah. I’m not sure what he has in mind, but I think he’s referring to the kinds of statements we see here:

Job 38:17
Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?

Psalm 9:13
Have mercy upon me, O Lord; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death:

Psalm 107:18
Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death.

That’s what Jesus was referring to when he said the “gates of hell.”  He was referring to the gates of death – Jesus’ resurrection will free us from the gates of death – they will not hold us in, if we trust in Christ alone for salvation.


Steve Ray vs. Thomas Aquinas on the Protoevangelium of James

September 13, 2012

In a recent post, Steve Ray describes the “Protoevangelium of James” in this way: “This document was written in the early 2nd century and known and loved by the first Christians.” On the other hand, Thomas Aquinas described this same work as “apocryphal ravings.” (see also the Decree attributed to Pope Gelasius)

Even the famous mariologist, Luigi Gambero, admits that “Its author must have been a non-Jew or, at most, a Jew who lived outside of Palestine, since he seems to possess a limited knowledge of Palestinian geography and Jewish customs.” (Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church, p. 35) In short, it is a work of lies.

Whether those are pious lies or just apocryphal ravings, as Aquinas judged, one wonders what motivates Rome’s apologists to try to prop up Rome’s dogma with such works?

I would be remiss to omit Jerome’s comment in his commentary on Matthew, at Matthew 23:35-36, regarding the slain Zecharias that Jesus mentions: “Others want this Zechariah to be understood as the father of John. They approve of certain daydreams from apocryphal writings that say he was killed because he had predicted the Savior’s advent. Since this view does not have the authority of the Scriptures, it is rejected with the same facility with which it is approved.” (St. Jerome, Commentary on Matthew, Thomas P. Scheck trans., Fathers of the Church series, vol. 117, p. 266)


Steve Ray’s "Convert" Promotion

June 27, 2012

Steve Ray recently promoted the supposed conversion story of atheist Leah Libresco. I wonder if he’s aware of her own self-description:

I’m bisexual. Other queer people’s experience of their orientation varies, but, as far as I’m concerned, I’m bisexual because gender feels about as salient to me as hair color when it comes to looking for dates. That means I’m already out of step with the Catholic Church before you even get up to gay marriage or any issue like that, because the Church thinks gender is much more central to someone’s identity than I do.

I imagine I’ll do a lot more reading and pick a lot more fights over the next few years. I’m willing to not date women in the meantime, but I wouldn’t necessarily universalize that choice. …

As to the larger political question: civil marriage is different than sacramental marriage. If people can’t muster a convincing argument against gay marriage that doesn’t depend on the revealed truths of the Catholic Church, then asking the government to ban it is like expecting the State to enforce kosher dietary law on everyone (or even only secular Jews). I still support civil gay marriage.



Steve Ray’s Letter Addressed

June 12, 2012

Steve Ray, pilgrimage pedlar, has posted an apparently fictional letter from “Lenny” to “Beau”:

Hi Beau, you mention “that Scripture is sufficient to teach us.” There is a problem with your statement is this; it is not in the Bible. Nowhere does it say that we should follow Scripture alone “Sola Scriptura” or that it is all sufficient. Isn’t it interesting “Sola Scriptura” (Bible alone), which is believed to be Biblical by many people is not even in the Bible!

Steve Ray thinks that the idea that the Scripture is sufficient to teach us isn’t found in the Bible. Remarkable, eh? Can it be that Steve Ray has never read these texts?

2 Timothy 3:15-17

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Psalm 119:105

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:99

I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.

John 20:31

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

James 1:21

Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

John 5:39

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

Acts 17:11

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Are the Scriptures able to make you wise unto salvation? Are they able to illuminate one and make one wise than one’s teachers? Was the Bible written for the very purpose that we would read it and believe? Did Jesus himself commend people to search the Scriptures.

The moment someone believes “Bible alone,” they already believe a concept not found in the Bible. And those who believe “Bible Alone” reject the authority of the Church, a concept found in the Bible. “Bible alone” is one of three pillars of the Protestant Reformation. The problem is that it is self-refuting, because the moment you believe it, you already believe something not in the Bible. And so “Sola Scriptura” crumbles under its own weight.

There are churches mentioned in the Bible, and these churches do have authority. Parents are also described in the Bible, and parents have authority. Are parents infallible? No. Are church infallible? Also no. What’s misleading on Steve Ray’s part is to suggest that just because churches, like parents, have authority – it means that this authority can never be questioned. Steve Ray knows that there is such a thing as subordinate authority, but he pretends that there are only two categories: Roman totalitarianism and anarchy. There is a third way. The third way is that the churches have authority that is subordinate to the Word of God. They are not authorities over Scripture, they are authorities under Scripture.

That’s why Jesus commended the searching of Scripture, and why the Bereans were praised as “more noble,” because they searched the Scriptures daily to judge the truth of the teachings of the very apostles.

Let me relate to you a story. I was talking to a couple of people from the Milwaukee Church of Christ. He pointed out to me a verse in 2nd Timothy. “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2nd Tm 3:16). And so he said the Bible is it and I agreed the Bible is it. So he said, let’s go on. And I said fine, but before we do, I think we should also follow the Church.

And we should follow our parents too! But both our parents and the church are subordinate to Scriptures. The Scriptures are the inspired word of God, parents and churches are men (humans, for those who think “men” refers exclusively to males). When there is a conflict between parents and Scripture or church and Scripture, we have to follow the Scripture. So, for example, when the Scriptures teach us that religious veneration should be reserved for God alone, and Rome demands that Mary be given the religious veneration of hyper-dulia, we have to pick what Scripture says, over what Rome says, even if Rome happens to be our church at the time.

He became a little irritated with me and he said, we just went through this and you agreed the Bible is it. And so I asked him what he thought the pillar and foundation of truth was. He said, the Bible! I informed him, he was incorrect because the Bible says the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth; “You should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD, the pillar and foundation of truth.

Steve Ray’s “gotcha” moment with the person who didn’t know this particular verse is pretty trivial. After all, “the church” in that verse doesn’t mean “a hierarchy,” it means a local congregation. Look at the context:

1 Timothy 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

In this verse, “the church,” refers to the local congregation – the house of God. It’s the place where Timothy is going to be behaving himself properly or not. When we expand out the context a little more:

1 Timothy 3:14-16

These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

Notice two things: first the truth that the local church upholds and protects is the gospel, of which Paul provides a short summary; second, the letter is being written because it contains something Timothy wouldn’t otherwise have, while “in the church” (in the absence of Paul’s personal presence). In other words, the text doesn’t affirm the sufficiency of “the church,” but rather the deficiency of the church, even while affirming the purpose of the church.

I wasn’t being disingenuous when I said the Bible is it. I believe this totally so long as we believe it (the Bible) totally. And the Bible tells us to listen to the Church so it must be included in order to follow the whole Bible. This is the 2nd reason “Sola Scriptura” is wrong, it ignores all the passages that give the Church real authority.

It’s disingenuous to say that the position of “Sola Scriptura” ignores verses that deal with church authority. None of those verses say or even suggest that the churches wield an infallible authority.

Again your statement “that Scripture is sufficient to teach us” is not Biblical. However, had you included the Church in your statement it would have been correct. The concept of “Sola Scriptura” is a Protestant understanding but it is rejected by many Protestants today because it is not Biblical.

Steve Ray is putting himself in a corner. Scripture never says that the church is sufficient, nor that “the church” has to be added to Scripture in order for Scripture to be sufficient. “Protestants” may reject Scripture’s sufficiency, but not for lack of clear Scriptural teaching. Moreover, are “Protestants” really able to read and understand Scripture? If Steve Ray says “yes,” then he’s conceded the key point of our contention, which is that people can read and understand Scripture and judge whether Rome is teaching the apostolic faith. If he denies that “Protestants” can read and understand Scripture, then why is he appealing to their interpretation of it?

By the way what church do you belong to? Is it 7th day Baptist or Adventist or say Pentecostal? Usually it’s like pulling teeth to get an Evangelical to say the name of their Church and where they are coming from. I get the impression that they are embarrassed. They make less than complimentary statements about the Catholic Church all the while they are reluctant to mention where they are coming from. And I might add, there are Evangelicals who are not into the Catholic bashing business. Some of them are my friends.

Steve Ray does not seem to get that Evangelicals are not, for the most part, ultra-sectarians like he is. They are about bringing people to Christ and the gospel, whereas Steve Ray is about bringing people to Rome.

When by our preaching people come out of Rome to a Reformed church, God is bringing them to the gospel. He’s also bringing them to a particular church and a particular congregation – but they are converting to Christianity not to a sect.

So, it’s not that we’re embarrassed – it’s that our focus is on presenting Christ. The gospel transcends our denominational boundaries, so that we can have unity of the gospel, even with those who are not of our particular denomination. There’s no Presbyterian or Reformed Baptist “Unam Sanctam.”

But is Steve Ray embarrassed to be associated with Rome? Perhaps he should be. Not just because of the scandals of the modern times, but because of the persecution of the gospel and her messengers, back when Rome had more political power.  The history of the papacy is something lurid and shameful, not something to be proud of.

More than that, though, the key thing he should be ashamed of is the departure of his church from the apostolic faith found in Scripture.  After all, the Scripture tells us what the Apostles taught and believed – and that doesn’t match up well with what Rome practices and teaches.  Rome’s celibate bishops don’t match up with the mostly married apostles and elders in the Bible. Rome’s prayers to Mary and the saints don’t find Biblical precedent.  Rome’s bowing down to images of men and angels is contradicted by Scripture, and we could go on and on.

More than all the scandals – which could happen to any fallible church – the most shameful thing is that Rome has departed from the gospel and declared herself to be infallible and irreformable in her dogma.  That’s a hardness of heart worthy of great shame.


Steve Ray Thinks Spurgeon was "Dillusional"

November 29, 2011

Yes, Steve Ray spelled it “Dillusional,” though I suspect he meant “Delusional.”  But what is the basis for Ray’s complaint?  Ray quotes Spurgeon as saying:

It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.

Ray does not provide the context.  Here is the statement in its original context:

In order to be able to expound the Scriptures, and as an aid to your pulpit studies, you will need to be familiar with the commentators: a glorious army, let me tell you, whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit. Of course, you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound Scripture without assistance from the works of divines and learned men who have labored before you in the field of exposition. If you are of that opinion, pray remain so, for you are not worth the trouble of conversion, and like a little coterie who think with you, would resent the attempt as an insult to your infallibility. It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others. My chat this afternoon is not for these great originals, but for you who are content to learn of holy men, taught of God, and mighty in the Scriptures. It has been the fashion of late years to speak against the use of commentaries. If there were any fear that the expositions of Matthew Henry, Gill, Scott, and others, would be exalted into Christian Targums, we would join the chorus of objectors, but the existence or approach of such a danger we do not suspect. The temptations of our times lie rather in empty pretensions to novelty of sentiment, than in a slavish following of accepted guides. A respectable acquaintance with the opinions of the giants of the past, might have saved many an erratic thinker from wild interpretations and outrageous inferences. Usually, we have found the despisers of commentaries to be men who have no sort of acquaintance with them; in their case, it is the opposite of familiarity which has bred contempt.

(Commenting and Commentaries, Lecture I)

Ray tries to justify his claim with the following argument:

But isn’t it ironic that Spurgeon is guilty of what he accuses others of neglecting? The Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostles and early bishops and their writings and practices are easily accessible.

Even if that were true, it wouldn’t justify calling the great evangelist “delusional.”  In point of fact, though, Spurgeon is accusing others of neglecting the use of commentaries.  He himself did not neglect their use.  So, no – Spurgeon is not guilty of what he accuses others of neglecting.

Moreover, the way in which the Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostles and other prophets (not “early bishops” in anything like the modern Roman sense of “bishops”) is not what Spurgeon is talking about.  Spurgeon is not, for example, suggesting that modern day Charismatics have an insufficient respect for Scripture.  Instead, Spurgeon is talking about people who engage in “Solo Scriptura,” and literally ignore what other exegetes have found in Scripture.

Ray has completely missed the mark with his usage of Spurgeon’s quotation.

Ray then stated:

They practiced the primacy of Rome, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, new birth through water baptism, a church structure with bishops, priests and deacons.

They didn’t “practice” papal infallibility, transubstantiation, or the papacy.  The apostles themselves didn’t provide a church structure of bishops, priests, and deacons.  Steve Ray is being awfully selective in his description of what things some of the fathers taught or practiced.

Moreover, it is one thing to “ignore” what the early fathers taught, and another to disagree with them.  What is interesting is that we can justify our departure from their teachings (where we depart from them), whereas Mr. Ray cannnot.  Why?  Because oral tradition is not one of our sources of authority.  We don’t assume that important things – things necessary for salvation – were omitted from Scripture.

If, however, what the early fathers taught they taught because of oral tradition, why doesn’t Mr. Ray agree with them on everything? The answer, of course, is that in reality and in practice the “magisterium” trumps both Scripture and tradition for a member of the Roman communion.  It doesn’t matter that not one church father taught, held, believed, or practiced (for example) papal infallibility, transubstantiation, or the bodily assumption of Mary.  It doesn’t matter that Scripture doesn’t teach those things.  Rome says it, they believe it, and that settles it.  Sola Ecclesia.

Ray continues:

The 2nd century “church service” was a perfect blueprint of the Mass today and does not even remotely resemble the “Baptist church” of today.

Quite the opposite.  While there would certainly be differences from what one might think of at a “Baptist church” (which one does Ray even have in mind), there would have been a complete absence of Roman missals from a second century church – and an absence of idols, as well.

Ray concludes:

Why does Spurgeon think so much of what he supposes the Holy Spirit showed him (a tradition unknown before the 16th century) while he ignores what the Holy Spirit universally revealed to the early Church and which has been taught and practiced in an unbroken line in the Catholic Church for 2,000 years?

In point of fact, of course, Spurgeon didn’t ignore what Rome claims to teach.  Moreover, Rome’s historical claims to teach what was revealed 2000 years ago are lies.  Ray knows very well that the early church didn’t hold to papal infallibility, transubstantiation, prayers to Mary, the bodily assumption of Mary, and so forth.  That’s why he words his claims in squirrely ways, as we saw above.

For example, he claims that they “practiced the primacy of Rome.”  How exactly does he think they did that?  They didn’t take that to mean that the bishop of Rome was infallible.  They were comfortable conducting large councils that were not called by – or even attended by – the bishop of Rome (councils like Nicaea).  They settled theological disputes by appealing to Scripture, not to some papal ruling.

Rome didn’t even have a singular bishop in the beginning of the church at Rome.  Once Rome came to the point where it had only a single bishop, he may have received a lot of respect.  But that’s hardly all Rome requires people to believe – nor does Rome deserve the respect it once did.  It no longer has the kind of track record it did when some of the early fathers praised it.

– TurretinFan

Questions Steve Ray Thinks "Bible Chrisians" Can’t Answer – Answered

October 4, 2011

Steve Ray seems to think that there are questions that we Bible Christians cannot answer. (Link to his post)

Not only can we answer them, we have answered them. For the most part, they are a bunch of loaded questions that are actually not that hard to unload and answer. The answers I provided below may not even be the only or best answers. Nevertheless, so as to bring to Mr. Ray’s attention the answers that were provided over a year ago, the following provides an easy index of the responses.

Just click on the question for the answer. 

  1. “Where did Jesus give instructions that the Christian faith should be based exclusively on a book?” 
  2. “Other than the specific command to John to pen the Revelation, where did Jesus tell His apostles to write anything down and compile it into an authoritative book?” 
  3. “Where in the New Testament do the apostles tell future generations that the Christian faith will be based solely on a book?” 
  4. “some Protestants claim that Jesus condemned all oral tradition (e.g., Matt 15:3, 6; Mark 7:813). If so, why does He bind His listeners to oral tradition by telling them to obey the scribes and Pharisees when they “sit on Moses’ seat” (Matt 23:2)?” 
  5. “Some Protestants claim that St. Paul condemned all oral tradition (Col 2:8). If so, why does he tell the Thessalonians to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thes 2:15) and praises the Corinthians because they “hold firmly to the traditions” (1 Cor 11:2)? (And why does the Protestant NIV change the word “tradition” to “teaching”?)” 
  6. “If the authors of the New Testament believed in sola Scriptura, why did they sometimes draw on oral Tradition as authoritative and as God’s Word (Matt 2:23; 23:2; 1 Cor 10:4; 1 Pet 3:19; Jude 9, 14 15)?” 
  7. “Where in the Bible is God’s Word restricted only to what is written down?” 
  8. “How do we know who wrote the books that we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Hebrews, and 1, 2, and 3 John?” 
  9. “On what authority, or on what principle, would we accept as Scripture books that we know were not written by one of the twelve apostles?” 
  10. “Where in the Bible do we find an inspired and infallible list of books that should belong in the Bible? (e.g., Is the Bible’s Table of Contents inspired?)” 
  11. “How do we know, from the Bible alone, that the individual books of the New Testament are inspired, even when they make no claim to be inspired?” 
  12. “How do we know, from the Bible alone, that the letters of St. Paul, who wrote to first-century congregations and individuals, are meant to be read by us as Scripture 2000 years later?” 
  13. “Where does the Bible claim to be the sole authority for Christians in matters of faith and morals?” 
  14. “Most of the books of the New Testament were written to address very specific problems in the early Church, and none of them are a systematic presentation of Christian faith and theology. On what biblical basis do Protestants think that everything that the apostles taught is captured in the New Testament writings?” 
  15. “If the books of the New Testament are “self-authenticating” through the ministry of the Holy Spirit to each individual, then why was there confusion in the early Church over which books were inspired, with some books being rejected by the majority?” 
  16. “If the meaning of the Bible is so clear—so easily interpreted—and if the Holy Spirit leads every Christian to interpret it for themselves, then why are there over 33,000 Protestant denominations, and millions of individual Protestants, all interpreting the Bible differently?” 
  17. “Who may authoritatively arbitrate between Christians who claim to be led by the Holy Spirit into mutually contradictory interpretations of the Bible?” 
  18. “Since each Protestant must admit that his or her interpretation is fallible, how can any Protestant in good conscience call anything heresy or bind another Christian to a particular belief?” 
  19. “Protestants usually claim that they all agree “on the important things.” Who is able to decide authoritatively what is important in the Christian faith and what is not?” 
  20. “How did the early Church evangelize and overthrow the Roman Empire, survive and prosper almost 350 years, without knowing for sure which books belong in the canon of Scripture?” 
  21. “Who in the Church had the authority to determine which books belonged in the New Testament canon and to make this decision binding on all Christians? If nobody has this authority, then can I remove or add books to the canon on my own authority?” 
  22. “Why do Protestant scholars recognize the early Church councils at Hippo and Carthage as the first instances in which the New Testament canon was officially ratified, but ignore the fact that those same councils ratified the Old Testament canon used by the Catholic Church today but abandoned by Protestants at the Reformation?” 
  23. “Why do Protestants follow postapostolic Jewish decisions on the boundaries of the Old Testament canon, rather than the decision of the Church founded by Jesus Christ?” 
  24. “How were the bishops at Hippo and Carthage able to determine the correct canon of Scripture, in spite of the fact that they believed all the distinctively Catholic doctrines such as the apostolic succession of bishops, the sacrifice of the Mass, Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, baptismal regeneration, etc?” 
  25. “If Christianity is a “book religion,” how did it flourish during the first 1500 years of Church history when the vast majority of people were illiterate?” 
  26. “How could the Apostle Thomas establish the church in India that survives to this day (and is now in communion with the Catholic Church) without leaving them with one word of New Testament Scripture?” 
  27. “If sola Scriptura is so solid and biblically based, why has there never been a full treatise written in its defense since the phrase was coined in the Reformation?” 
  28. “If Jesus intended for Christianity to be exclusively a “religion of the book,” why did He wait 1400 years before showing somebody how to build a printing press?” 
  29. “If the early Church believed in sola Scriptura, why do the creeds of the early Church always say “we believe in the Holy Catholic Church,” and not “we believe in Holy Scripture”?” 
  30. “If the Bible is as clear as Martin Luther claimed, why was he the first one to interpret it the way he did and why was he frustrated at the end of his life that “there are now as many doctrines as there are heads”?” 
  31. “The time interval between the Resurrection and the establishment of the New Testament canon in AD 382 is roughly the same as the interval between the arrival of the Mayflower in America and the present day. Therefore, since the early Christians had no defined New Testament for almost four hundred years, how did they practice sola Scriptura?” 
  32. “If the Bible is the only foundation and basis of Christian truth, why does the Bible itself say that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim. 3:15)?” 
  33. “Jesus said that the unity of Christians would be objective evidence to the world that He had been sent by God (John 17:20-23). How can the world see an invisible “unity” that exists only in the hearts of believers?” 
  34. “If the unity of Christians was meant to convince the world that Jesus was sent by God, what does the ever-increasing fragmentation of Protestantism say to the world?” 
  35. “Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” What is the expiration date of this verse? When did it become okay not only to disobey the Church’s leaders, but to rebel against them and set up rival churches?” 
  36. “The Koran explicitly claims divine inspiration, but the New Testament books do not. How do you know that the New Testament books are nevertheless inspired, but the Koran is not?” 
  37. “How does a Protestant know for sure what God thinks about moral issues such as abortion, masturbation, contraceptives, eugenics, euthanasia, etc.?” 
  38. “What is one to believe when one Protestant says infants should be baptized (e.g., Luther and Calvin) and another says it is wrong and unbiblical (e.g., Baptists and Evangelicals)?” 
  39. “Where does the Bible say God created the world/universe out of nothing?” 
  40. “Where does the Bible say salvation is attainable through faith alone?” 
  41. “Where does the Bible tell us how we know that the revelation of Jesus Christ ended with the death of the last Apostle?” 
  42. “Where does the Bible provide a list of the canonical books of the Old Testament?” 
  43. “Where does the Bible provide a list of the canonical books of the New Testament?” 
  44. “Where does the Bible explain the doctrine of the Trinity, or even use the word “Trinity”?” 
  45. “Where does the Bible tell us the name of the “beloved disciple”?” 
  46. “Where does the Bible inform us of the names of the authors of the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John?” 
  47. “Where does the Bible [tell us] who wrote the Book of Acts?” 
  48. “Where does the Bible tell us the Holy Spirit is one of the three Persons of the Trinity?” 
  49. “Where does the Bible tell us Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man from the moment of conception (e.g. how do we know His Divinity wasn’t infused later in His life?) and/or tells us Jesus Christ is One Person with two complete natures, human and Divine and not some other combination of the two natures (i.e., one or both being less than complete)?” 
  50. “Where does the Bible that the church should, or someday would be divided into competing and disagreeing denominations?” 
  51. “Where does the Bible that Protestants can have an invisible unity when Jesus expected a visible unity to be seen by the world (see John 17)?” 
  52. “Where does the Bible tell us Jesus Christ is of the same substance of Divinity as God the Father?” 



Steve Ray’s Response to Michael Welton Critiqued

April 22, 2011

Steve Ray has posted a response to comments made by Michael Welton in Popes and Patriarchs. There is a lot of filler in the response, but Mr. Ray aims to address essentially two issues (1) Basil’s words of dismissal of Rome and (2) Basil’s failure to appeal to the Bishop of Rome as a supreme authority.

As to the first issue, Basil himself wrote:

I accuse no one; I pray that I may have love to all, and “especially unto them who are of the household of faith;” [Galatians 6:10] and therefore I congratulate those who have received the letter from Rome. And, although it is a grand testimony in their favour, I only hope it is true and confirmed by facts. But I shall never be able to persuade myself on these grounds to ignore Meletius, or to forget the Church which is under him, or to treat as small, and of little importance to the true religion, the questions which originated the division. I shall never consent to give in, merely because somebody is very much elated at receiving a letter from men. Even if it had come down from heaven itself, but he does not agree with the sound doctrine of the faith, I cannot look upon him as in communion with the saints.

Steve Ray cuts the mention of Rome out of the quotation, beginning at “And, although it is a grand testimony …” but I have provided it to you, since it is significant to the question.

Steve Ray’s response is that Basil’s words must be understood as hyperbole. “Why? Because if Basil here denounces Rome, he denounces God as well.” (p. 6) Of course, Mr. Ray’s argument is empty: Romanism (the view that denouncing Rome is denouncing God) is not Basil’s worldview. Steve Ray says we have to view Basil’s words as hyperbole because if we don’t they conflict with Romanism. The “begging the question” fallacy is aptly illustrated by his remarks.

Steve Ray goes on to complain that Basil could have been even more explicit in his denial of Rome’s authority (“He could have easily said, ‘I reject Rome’s presumed authority which they have unlawfully arrogated to themselves.'” pp. 6-7). But Mr. Ray’s example mistakenly assumes that in Basil’s day Rome claimed universal authority.

In any event, “I shall never consent to give in, merely because somebody is very much elated at receiving a letter from men,” is clear enough of a testimony that Basil doesn’t view the letter from Rome as having supreme authority. Basil makes a direct appeal to a higher authority by stating, “Even if it had come down from heaven itself, but he does not agree with the sound doctrine of the faith, I cannot look upon him as in communion with the saints,” in which he seemingly alludes to Galatians 1:8 “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” One is left in full agreement that while conceivably Basil could have used even stronger language than he did, the language he used is plenty strong.

It should be noted that this is not the only place where Basil criticizes the West. Basil wrote:

I am moved to say, as Diomede said,

“Would God, Atrides, thy request were yet to undertake;

…he’s proud enough.”

[Homer, Iliad ix.]

Really lofty souls, when they are courted, get haughtier than ever. If the Lord be propitious to us, what other thing do we need? If the anger of the Lord lasts on, what help can come to us from the frown of the West? Men who do not know the truth, and do not wish to learn it, but are prejudiced by false suspicions, are doing now as they did in the case of Marcellus, when they quarrelled with men who told them the truth, and by their own action strengthened the cause of heresy.

Basil of Caesarea, Letter 239 (to Eusebius of Samosata), Section 2

On the second point, the question of whether Basil never appealed to the bishop of Rome as the supreme authority, Steve Ray attempts to answer the question by quoting from Basil’s Letter 70.

Mr. Ray writes:

Also, in Letter 70 Basil addresses Pope Damasus as “right honorable father” and admits that “nearly all the East . . . is being agitated” and concedes that the pope’s authority is “the only possible solution to our difficulties.”

Remarkably, Letter 70 is without address, although it is widely believed to have been written to Damasus of Rome, the addressee is identified only by various affectionate names such as: “right honourable father” and “your mercifulness.”

Moreover, it should be noted that Basil uses this affectionate term for Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria in his letter 66 to Athanasius (the exact same Greek term: “τιμιώτατε Πάτερ”) and similarly refers to Athanasius this way in letter 90 (“ὁ τιμιώτατος ἡμῶν πατὴρ”). I say this not to argue that Athanasius is the addressee, but simply to point out that at least equal dignity is given to Athanasius: this is not a proto-papalist speaking, but simply a bishop speaking to another esteemed bishop. It should be noted that Basil mentions that the addressee is in the same see as Dionysus, and while there were notable Dionysuses (Dionysi?) of both Alexandria and Rome, a references to “the East” (defined in the text as “Illyricum to Egypt”) seems to weigh in favor of Rome as opposed to Alexandria.

But lets move along from the affectionate title to the actual request. His actual request to his addressee is this:

I have been constrained to beseech you by letter to be moved to help us, and to send some of those, who are like minded with us, either to conciliate the dissentient and bring back the Churches of God into friendly union, or at all events to make you see more plainly who are responsible for the unsettled state in which we are, that it may be obvious to you for the future with whom it befits you to be in communion.

There is not here any request for exercise of authority and power. Instead, the request is for aid and encouragement:

We are lamenting no mere overthrow of earthly buildings, but the capture of Churches; what we see before us is no mere bodily slavery, but a carrying away of souls into captivity, perpetrated day by day by the champions of heresy. Should you not, even now, be moved to succour us, ere long all will have fallen under the dominion of the heresy, and you will find none left to whom you may hold out your hand.

Without further commentary, I think it is worth pointing out the use here by Basil of “churches” (plural) as distinct from buildings. Basil may view communion as universal, but his ecclesiology is one in which there are many churches.


Yet Another Steve Ray Patristic Error

March 6, 2010

I noticed that Steve Ray has reposted links on his blog (link to the blog entry). The links are to two documents he has written on “Mary: the Ark of the New Covenant.”

In previous posts in response to those articles, we have seen:

1) Steve Ray Misquotes Athanasius (follow-up with William Albrecht)(follow-up -again- with William Albrecht)

2) Steve Ray Misquotes Gregory the Wonderworker

3) A Full Run-down of Steve Ray’s Abuse of the Fathers in the articles.

4) Response to Steve Ray’s Audio Clip that accompanies the article

You might think that those responses would be enough to convince Steve Ray to stop re-posting the same errors, if not to go back and fix the errors that he had made. However, he continues to post, over and over again, the same errors.

You might also think that my previous responses (particularly number 3, above) would have exhausted all of the errors that Steve Ray had made in terms of his citation of the fathers.

You’d be wrong. Not only does Steve Ray continue to repeat his errors, I found that I had overlooked one of his errors.

I should add that in my response (4) above I overlooked one additional pseudographic work. Steve Ray cites “St. Methodius (815-8885) [sic]” as writing “Orat. de Simeone et Anna ii.”

Not only is there the obvious typo as to the date for Methodius, this work is another of the pseudographic/dubious patristic works. I didn’t bother to look carefully at it before, because I figured that the 9th century was late enough that it is no longer really the “early church” in any meaningful sense.

The interesting fact, however, is that the work is a pseudographic work that purports to be written by Methodius of Olympus/Tyre (died A.D. 311). It was written later than that, but it was written (by the forger pretending to be Methodius of Olympus) apparently before Methodius of Constantinople, the missionary to the Slavic peoples.

Although apparently the first printing of this work in the “Ante-Nicene Fathers” list did not include the bracketed material, the following footnote has been included at least since the 1890’s as a footnote to the title of the work:

The oration likewise treats of the Holy Theotokos. [Published by Pantinus, 1598, and obviously corrupt. Dupin states that it is “not mentioned by the ancients, not even by Photius.” The style resembles that of Methodius in many places.]

Additionally, here is some of what has been written about this work:

Of doubtful or spurious works ascribed to Methodius may be mentioned, a homily on the meeting with Simeon and Anna at the Temple. This is generally rejected both for reasons of style and because we have reason to think that the system of church festivals which it assumes was not in existence in the time of Methodius. On the date of the introduction of the festival Hypapante in connection with this homily, see [Dictionary of Christian Antiquity] p. 1140. But we cannot endorse the suggestion that the homily is the work of a later Methodius. The preacher expressly claims to be the author of the Symposium on Chastity; so that if the homily be not genuine it is not a case of mistaken ascription but of forgery, and a forger need not be of the same name as the author whom he personates.

– A dictionary of Christian biography, literature, sects and doctrines, By William Smith, Henry Wace (1882), volume 3, p. 911 (author of entry is Rev. George Salmon, D.D., D.C.L., LL. D., F.R.S., Chancellor of St Patrick’s Cathedral and Regius Professor of Divinity Trinity College Dublin)

And now turn to your “Remarks on Mr. Palmer’s Letter.”[fn 4] Here you quote various spurious writings to prove that the blessed Virgin Mary was an object of invocation to the early Christians. You press into your service Methodius, the very learned Bishop of Olympus, or Patara, in Lycia, and afterwards of Tyre, in Palestine, who suffered martyrdom A.D. 303. You quote (p. 30) from a homily on which there is not the slightest question as to its being spurious. For, in the first place, the Benedictine Editor, in a note to Jerome’s works, [fn 5] says, once for all, that the “Symposium” is the only entire work of Methodius extant; and Baronius expressly says, “I do not hesitate to say that no Greek or Latin writer has left a sermon delivered on the feast of the Purification (called sometimes ‘Hypapantes,’ sometimes ‘Simeon and Ann’) before the fifteenth year of Justinian (A.D. 542), and that Pope Gelasius paved the way for the institution of that feast, by putting an end to the festivities of the Lupercalia, which were also observed in February.” [fn1] And the Benedictine monk, Lumper, in his “Critical Theological History,” [fn 2] &c., unquestionably shows that the homily you quote is of a much later date than you give it, by attributing it to Methodius.

– Dr. Wiseman’s Popish Literary Blunders Exposed, By Charles Hastings Collette, p. 25

After all this gaping, we have two testimonies only offered to us for the practice of 300 years: one a passage of Origen already rejected as spurious; and the other out of a tract of Methodius, if not certainly spurious, yet justly suspected by your own critics, being neither quoted by any of the ancients, nor mentioned by Photius; and of a style more luxuriant than that Father’s other writings are; and that speaks so clearly of the mystery of the Trinity, of the incarnation and divinity of the Word, whom he calls, in a phrase not well known in his time, consubstantial with the Father; of the Trisagion never heard of for above 100 years after his death; of the Virginity [FN1] of Mary after her conception; and of original sin; that your late critic, Monsieur du Pin, had certainly reason to place it among his spurious works, however it be now cited with such assurance by you.

[FN1: Bibliotheque, T. 1. p. 530.]

– A Preservative Against Popery, in Several Select Discourses Upon the Principal Heads of Controversy Between Protestants and Papists: Being Written and Published by the Most Eminent Divines of the Church of England, Chiefly in the Reign of King James II. Collected by the Right Rev. Edmund Gibson (Volume XIII), (1848), p. 56

A homily under the name of Methodius of Olympus dates probably from the fifth or sixth century. It contains long speeches of Symeon and Mary, and places emphasis on the praise of the Virgin. [FN52]

[FN52: CPG 1827; PG 18, 348-381]

– The Homilies of the Emperor Leo VI (Medieval Mediterranean, Vol. 14), By Theodora Antonopoulou (May 1, 1997), p. 180

The work has had supporters:

11. I think I have now put down the titles of all the works of Methodius, expressly mentioned by the ancients: however, it is not improbable that he wrote more; for Jerome says there were many other beside those mentioned by him. Euzebius’s passage above cited from Jerome seems to imply, that Methodius had written some good number of books before he became an enemy to Origen: and he might afterwards also write some other, which we are not acquainted with.
12. Anthere are actually several other [fn b] things now extant which are ascribed to him: such as, a Homily concerning Simeon and Anna; another Homily upon our Saviour’s entrance into Jerusalem; and Revelations, and a Chronicle.
These two last I think are generally rejected as not genuine.
The second likewise I suppose is defended by very few.
But the first homily, concerning Simeon and Ann, has more patrons. Not only [fn c] Combefis, and some others, but [fn d] Fabricius likewise pleads it’s [sic] genuineness. On the other hand, Tillemont [fn e] allows, there is no good reason to take it for a work of our Methodius. Oudin [fn f] strenuously opposeth it, and thinks it the composition of some other Methodius, later than ours by several centuries; as does [fn g] Cave. Du Pin [fn h] says that ‘it is not cited by the ancients, nor abriged by Photius. The author speaks so clearly of the mysteries of the trinity, of the incarnation, and the divinity of the Word, who he more than once says is consubstantial with the Father; of the hymn called Trisagion, of the virginity of Mary, even after her delivery; and of original sin; that there is room to doubt whether somewhat has not been added to this homily: beside that the style is more verbose, and fuller of epithets than that of Methodius.’ So that learned writer. And in my opinion these particulars are sufficient to assure us, that either this homily is not genuine, (which I rather think), or else it has been so interpolated as to be very little worth. Of this, and some other things ascribed to Methodius, Grabe [fn i] honestly says, they are either suppositious, or interpolated. I shall therefore make no use of this piece; or, if I do, I shall give notice of it particularly.

[fn b: See Tillem. Mem. Ec. T. v. P. iii. as before, p. 144, et notes 6 & 7 sur. St. Methode. Vid. etiam Fabric. ut supra, p. 257, 258.]
[fn c: Vid. Combef. In Method. p. 469.]
[fn d: Fabr, ut supra, p. 257.]
[fn e: Tillem. as before, p. 136 & 144, & note vi.]
[fn f: De Script. Ecc. T. i. p. 303, &c.]
[fn g: Hist. Lit. T. i. p. 152.]
[fn h: Du Pin, as before, p. 200.]
[fn i: Caeterum prostate quidem unus insuper et alter Methodii tractatus, e quibus plura, eaque luculentissima, pro – catholica trinitatis professione testimonia allegari possent. Se dab iis abstineo, quod tractatus isti aut supposititii, aut interpolate esse videantur. Grab. Annot. Ap. Bull. Def. Fid. Nic. Sect. ii. Cap. 13, in fin.]

– The Works of Nathaniel Lardner, Volume III (of XI), (1788), pp. 309-10 (he later writes: “I formerly shewed the reasons why I do not esteem the homilie concerning Simeon and Anna to be genuine. I am therefore far from alleging any thing out of it, as a proof of the sentiments of our Methodius. But if that piece had been genuine, I suppose it might afford an undeniable testimony to this Epistle.”)

In short, the work is certainly not the work of Methodius of Constantinople (815-885). There are also excellent reasons not to believe that it is a work of Methodius of Olympus/Tyre. At best it is a dubious work – if we follow the declarations of many of those set forth above, it is simply a forgery.

I doubt Steve Ray was aware of that issue, though I also doubt he cares. He hasn’t fixed his presentation in view of the correction that has already been offered, and I don’t expect that this latest criticism will move him to make any further correction to his papers.

– TurretinFan

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

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