Purgatory Pickle

There is a very common misunderstanding among Evangelicals regarding purgatory.
Earnestly Contending (which, for reasons unknown has no commenting capability) post
a quote from Charles Spurgeon, represents well.

“But shall I tell you who the gentlemen are who generally raise objections to the glorious privilege of assurance? There are, first of all, the adherents of the Pope of Rome. Of course, the Papist does not like full assurance. And why? The Pope and his priest would have a lean larder if full assurance were well preached. Only conceive my brethren, if the Roman Catholic could get the full assurance of salvation, surely the Cardinals would hardly find money enough to buy their red hats. For where were purgatory then? Purgatory is an impossibility, if full assurance be possible. If a man knows himself to be saved, then he is not to be troubled with a silly fear about waiting in the intermediate state, to be purified with fire, before he can enter into heaven. Purgatory is only acceptable to those poor trembling souls who know of no sure salvation here, and are glad of this deceptive hope of a salvation to be wrought in the world to come. Purgatory being thus builded upon a lying imposition — on the fears of ignorant consciences, becomes what brave old Hugh Latimer used to call it, ‘Purgatory Pick-purse,’ to the poor sinner, and ‘Purgatory Fillpurse’ to the vagabond priest. Once let full assurance be given to all Christian men — first make the Romanist a Christian, and then let him be fully assured of his interest in Christ, and away goes purgatory, and there will never be a soul found to tremble at it any more.” – Charles H. Spurgeon; from a sermon on Sunday, April 28th, 1861(emphasis mine)

There is no salvation to be wrought after death, in purgatory or elsewhere. Even if Catholics believed in full assurance, they could believe in purgatory. Purgatory is not a destination, but a lay-over. Only those who are saved experience purgation, i.e cleansing. Nothing imperfect can enter the presense of God in heaven. Humans are certainly far from perfect. By the end of our lives, we have accumulated spiritual scar tissue that sin produces. Also, even the most saintly of individuals is not entirely conformed to Christ and His commands at death. Therefore, all stain of sin and its waste products must be purged from us before we enter the beatific vision.

UPDATE: Steve, a faithful reader, has provided some Scripture to support the need purgation.

“As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper.” – Luke 21:58-59

“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw — each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 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 3:10-15

“And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6

“But nothing unclean shall enter [heaven], nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” – Revelation 21:27

Catholic Anwers has an excellent defense of purgatorian doctrine that readers might enjoy. Apologist Mark Shea (a former Evangelical) wrote one, too. C.S. Lewis, a Protestant author and a favorite of mine, tossed in his two cents as well.

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

25 thoughts on “Purgatory Pickle

  1. Tom Smith

    “No one (ourselves included) can pluck us from the Father’s hand.”

    But when do we come to be in the Father’s hand? I’d say it’s when we die in Christ, not when we first accept him.

    Thank you for your prayers for the Pope. I, and I’m sure many others, appreciate it. By the way, it has been a pleasure debating with you on these two topics.

  2. Funky Dung

    “Let me just say though that believing in purgatory or a purgative middle state does not disqualify one from salvation, it may simply increase one’s anxiety about death and rob one of the peace of forgiveness and full fellowship.”

    On the contrary, like C.S. Lewis, I do not fear purgation. I welcome it. Whether I’ll persevere until my dying day – now that’s a worry! We Catholics don’t believe in final assurance of salvation because we recognize the capacity for apostasy in every member of the Body.

  3. Funky Dung

    “Will they simply stay in purgatory until their debt is fully paid?”

    Yes. Remember, though, that purgatory is not a permanent residence. Eventually, all souls pay their debt and pass on into heaven. Also, we pray for the dead so that God might have mercy on them and lighten their sentences, so to speak. Their are even prayers for particularly bold, pious, and/or foolhardy individuals who wish to take upon themselves the entire debt of someone else. Bear in mind that this would only remove temporal punishment from someone, not free them from need of purgation. We all still need to be cleansed. Jesus gives us the cure to the disease of sin, but we must still seek the Divine Physician for treatment of the damage sin does to us.

  4. Steve N

    Approximately 3000 bytes. Use a text editor (e.g., notepad, nedit, emacs, vi) to create comments that you know will be long. Though you should’ve been able to right-click the haloscan popup window and choose back… that way you could’ve at least snarfed what was left…


  5. Funky Dung

    As far as I know, the Church doesn’t see purgation as punishment, either. I certainly don’t, at least not in the way that Hell is punishment. Purgation is about repairing the damage done to my soul by my sins. It is temporal punishment that is given to those in a loving relationship with God. Hell is eternal punishment given to those who reject Him.

    I’m curious to hear your thoughts about the following bit of Scripture. It has application to this discussion as well as the notion of salvation without faith in Jesus.

    “And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, `My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.” – Luke 12:42-48

  6. sibert

    Assurance over-rated? We can assuredly reject His grace, even after we are saved we can turn from Him into an evil life, but His salvation is eternal. No one (ourselves included) can pluck us from the Father’s hand.

  7. sibert

    Aw man, is there a word limit? I stayed up till 3 am and lost half of my argument to a word limit!! I go to get to bed, guys. I’ll finishmy post in the morning. Sorry…

  8. sibert

    I don’t want to defend Spurgeon or his comments. I feel like he was judging, and his comments smack of pride. However, I will ask you to back up your rational of purgatory and our need of being purges of our scar tissue with scripture, Funky. Spurgeon’s 140-year-old comments disqualified themselves on their face, but I would lovingly ask you to qualify yours as well. Thanks in advance…

  9. sibert

    I just read the rasorkiss link, and it made the arguments I was going to make better than I could have. Let me just say though that believing in purgatory or a purgative middle state does not disqualify one from salvation, it may simply increase one’s anxiety about death and rob one of the peace of forgiveness and full fellowship. I don’t think the doctrine is going away anytime soon (it is tied to to many other doctrines like venial vs mortal sins, indulgences, etc) but I do feel like this discussion is fruitful; it is part of the “working out of your faith”. This is a mystery worth discussing. The very fact that C.S. Lewis believed in a purgative state (not necessarily the one described by Catholic doctrine) gives me pause. His longing though seemed to be not for punishment of his venial and unconfessed sins, but cleansing from them. That is what the blood is for. Still, there are too many individual scriptures to disprove it and the entire weight of the new testament seems to lean in another direction. Anyway, sorry I couldn’t post Mon night like I had promised. I actually had it all typed into the haloscan field and my dial-up connection fritzed out on me, so I lost everything I’d been working on. God bless you all.

  10. sibert

    In regards to the opening lines, you apparently do see purgatory as punishment, even though it is temporal or brief. God does punish in anger (the flood), but I think all punishment He meets out is rooted in love, in intructing, even to the unbeliever (He would have none perish..). Punishment and discipline are two different concepts, but always go hand in hand. Once we are out of this earthen vessel and in His presence, what need have we of being disciplined?
    As to the passage from Luke, please allow me more time to read and pray. I think the translation you were using simply rendered a part differently form the one I was looking at: After the servant had abused his authority, verse 46 says “The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers”. The only version I have with me at work is a little NIV. Not my favorite translation. I would love to have you thought on this passage. BTW, our prayers are with the Pope.

  11. Steve N

    It seems that the argument has moved on to other RCC particularities but I just have to deal with sibert’s assertion that “entire weight of the new testament seems to lean in another direction” away from purgatory. The problem is that the entire weight of the NT leans in two directions:

    1) Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved;

    2) Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.

    I (am forced by historical orthodoxy to) believe these are two statements of fact that regard the eternal state of the believer. Yet, at first glance, there is in IMMENSE distance between them. What is the process of sanctification? Are we washed by the blood? Yes. Figuratively, but ALSO IN ACTUALITY… and therefore the vast weight of the NT is dedicated to telling us how we ought to live, i.e., to be sanctified. Now let’s say I get hit by a bus today. Am I perfectly sanctified? No. Could God just wave his magic sanctification want and MAKE ME perfectly santified? Yes. He could…. but he has not revealed such a magic wand. The way of the cross is the way of sanctification, and that sanctification means, if it means anything at all, ACTUAL SANCTIFICATION. So just as God has not revealed many “details” of purgatory, he has revealed even less about the “details” of the magic wand. I am therefore constrained to believe biblically that there is a conscious state between death and eternal bliss wherein we are “readied” to actually stand on the fields of glory.

    That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.


  12. sibert

    Steve and Funky,

    You both gave a great deal of material to go thru. So thanks for the response, but it may take a little while to peruse it all. I plan to respond in kind, but until then, what will happen to those faithful who, in the words of the New Advent “have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions”? Will they simply stay in purgatory until their debt is fully paid? I’ll not be able to respond again until later tonight, but God bless you both! James 3:17,18

  13. sibert

    Thanks Tom. I must say it has been fun and eye-opening! This is the deepest I’ve been in the word in awhile, so I’ve also got to thank you all for helping to make me hungry again. I really do not see how you can keep a blog spinning like this, Funky. It takes all of my free time simply to keep up with the few threads I’m thinking about! God bless you and thanks for this great forum.

    So,in response to the passage you posted earlier from Luke 12:42-48 :
    The parable given by Jesus immediately prior to this one was fairly similar. It stated however that whichever servants were found ready when He returned (I think we all agree that Jesus Himself is the master in these two parables) would be served by Him! The master would serve the servants who were faithfully tending their duties and were dressed in readiness expecting His return.
    The apostles (Peter actually) then ask Him if this parable was referring to just them or to everyone else too? Jesus then drops the bomb of the second parable on them. I think it is very fitting that Peter happened to be the one who voiced the question that probably all of the apostles were dying to ask. The second parable speaks directly to the servants who would be responsible for feeding and caring for the rest of the flock while the master was away. The reward for faithful service in this greater responsibility was indeed more wonderful; “he will put him in charge of all of his posessions”! However, the punishment for abusing the position was so much more dreadful than what they were probably expecting to hear. “The master will come on a day when he does not expect him and will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers”. This certainly sounds like this wicked steward will have lost his salvation. This interpretation does not seem to fit with my understanding (once-saved-always-saved) of the doctrine as I have learned it and hold it now. I have to be honest and say, though, that I really do not feel very shaken about it. There are a host of other verses that seem to encourage one to be firmly assured in one’s salvation. So I will indeed look into it further. But let’s finish the parable. The other slaves who knew the masters will and didn’t do it were punished with many lashes, and those servants who didn’t know the master’s will and commited sins worthy of flogging will recieve but few. This part of the parable seems to suggest that everyone would be considered a servant, saved and unsaved alike. The only other group mentioned in the parable besides the servants who knew the master’s will (including the steward) and those who did not are the unbelievers. I would assume these to be those who knew the master, but had rejected him as such. So the ones who did not know the master’s will were people who had never heard the gospel, and thy were to be punished but more lightly than those who knew better, but not assigned a place with the unbelievers. The problem

  14. Funky Dung

    The earliest I’d be able to tackle this would be tonight, if not tomorrow. Perhaps one of my readers can help me out with the defense. In the menatime, the word “purgatory” in the opening of my post contains a link to a Catholic Encyclopedia article on the subject.

  15. Steve N

    What’s the hangup with assurance? Isn’t it rather over-rated? We can be as completely sure of God’s grace to save and sanctify (synonyms in my book), and his willingness that none should perish, as we can be sure of our own ability to reject such grace. Free will is NOT an illusion.


  16. Charles

    Why do Catholics use 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 to prove Purgatory? It couldn’t be plainer in the text that the fire will reveal all works on “the Day”. The Day of Christ at judgment. ” The Day” is too obvious but surprisingly overlooked by Catholics.

  17. Pingback: Protestant Defends Purgatory | Catholic @ Ales Rarus

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