Defending Purgatory


#1

Hi everyone, I showed someone a couple of articles about Purgatory and this is what they had to say:

I just can’t buy it. Purgatory? Another place for souls to linger. Don’t you think we are purified enough in this lifetime?

Sorry to say, but I think Purgatory is just another example of religion borrowing from ancient beliefs (prayers for the dead)and instilling fear in congegrates.

How should I respond?

Thanks in advance.


#2

By his line of thought, either everyone goes straight to hell upon death because all have sinned and nothing unclean can enter heaven (that’s why it’s heaven);

Or everyone goes straight to heaven because life here on earth as well as death purifies us, rendering even a lifelong murderer and a kind nun perfectly equal in the eyes of God. That nullifies all His commandments then.

That doesn’t sound like a very JUST God to me.


#3

Purgatory, to me, instills more hope than fear. It means I can make mistakes and still make it to Heaven. All our sins have consequence, which we must feel ourselves. We must repent totally of our sins, surrender our pride, in order to get into heaven.


#4

I just can’t buy it. Purgatory? Another place for souls to linger. Don’t you think we are purified enough in this lifetime?

Actually, no, I don’t think we are purified enough in this lifetime. At least, most of us are not. Ask your friend how many people he knows who were completely sinless before they died.

Sorry to say, but I think Purgatory is just another example of religion borrowing from ancient beliefs (prayers for the dead)and instilling fear in congegrates.

First, it only instills fear in people who misunderstand it. I find it a very hopeful thing and consistent with God’s mercy. Growing up a Protestant, I was always uncomfortable about the lack of resolution about the matter of those people who were not “born again” and didn’t have “saving faith in Jesus”. What I was taught as a Protestant seemed to indicate that unless someone was specifically Christian and specifically believed in Jesus, they would go to Hell. Not that this was ever stated directly in my church, mostly they would just say that we didn’t know. This all seemed to me to be contrary to a merciful God. There are millions of people throughout the history of the world who never had an opportunity to hear about Jesus, or lived before He came, or were held back by serious circumstances from becoming Christian. Purgatory provides hope for those people.

Second, the Jewish people practiced prayers for the dead. Our religion comes from their religion and yes, it does and should borrow heavily from it. Just because Jesus established a new covenant doesn’t mean the old one gets completely thrown out. Was God’s covenant with Noah dissolved when the covenant with Abraham was formed? I certainly hope not because then God could destroy us all in a flood whenever he feels like it. Jesus said that he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. That means that the laws and practices of the old covenant aren’t thrown out, they are merely perfected. The old covenant was based on a partial revelation of God, whereas our new covenant is based on a more complete revelation. The things previously revealed are still true. We just know more about them now.


#5

I showed her some of your replies and this is what she said:

[quote]Actually, no, I don’t think we are purified enough in this lifetime. At least, most of us are not. How many people do you know who were completely sinless before they died?

Let’s ask the mother of a child riddled with cancer whether or not she, and certainly the child, have been purified enough during this existence. If she just lived an ordinary life, committing ordinary sins, in my opinion there isn’t a wee transgression she could have committed that would justify the suffering and death of her child. And how about the child? What possible horrible deed has a baby committed that would earn him a place in Purgatory rather than in the lap of God? Not purified enough? au contraire my friend, sometimes too much!!!

First, it only instills fear in people who misunderstand it. I find it a very hopeful thing and consistent with God’s mercy. Purgatory, to me, instills more hope than fear. It means I can make mistakes and still make it to Heaven. All our sins have consequence, which we must feel ourselves. We must repent totally of our sins, surrender our pride, in order to get into heaven.

By the line of thought you mention in your posts, either everyone goes straight to hell upon death because all have sinned and nothing unclean can enter heaven (that’s why it’s heaven); Or everyone goes straight to heaven because life here on earth as well as death purifies us, rendering even a lifelong murderer and a kind Nun perfectly equal in the eyes of God. That nullifies all His commandments then.

I honestly don’t know what happens to us when we die. It would be comforting to believe that a place called Heaven awaits me. I haven’t committed any henious crime that would send me to Hell. On the other hand, as a human being, I’ve done more than a few things which required my repentence. And I did. My life has also been difficult, much through my own fault and some not at all. The tragedies I have endured have cleansed me, purified me, sanctified me. Can I hear an Amen? In other words,I am just an ordinary human with ordinary sins. But serious and destructive situations have befallen me. There’s no reason to name them but suffice it to say I considered each incident hell, not Purgatory…pure Hell.
I’ve performed more good deeds than most,and done them with a kind and willing heart. My actions have never been dictated by the promise of some reward in the after life or by fear of eternal punishment. And now, at the time of my death, I understand that all that suffering was for naught and I have to float around in Purgatory until it’s deemed sufficient punishment.
Now THAT doesn’t sound like a very JUST God to me.

That doesn’t sound like a very JUST God to me.

Second, the Israelites practiced prayers for the dead. Our religion is the fulfillment of their religion and yes, it does and should borrow heavily from it. Just because Jesus established a New Covenant doesn’t mean the old one gets completely thrown out. Was God’s Covenant with Noah dissolved when the Covenant with Abraham was formed? I certainly hope not because then God could destroy us all in a flood whenever he feels like it. Jesus said that he came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. That means that the Laws and practices of the Old Covenant aren’t thrown out, they are merely perfected. The Old Covenant was based on a partial Revelation of God, whereas our New Covenant is based on a more complete Revelation. The things previously revealed are still true. We just know more about them now.

There were many other religions, sects, etc. which practised Prayers for the Dead. Most likely Judaism borrowed from those and Christianity, as you say, borrowed from them. Doesn’t make Purgatory any more feasible or understandable.
[/quote]

I’m kind of new at apologetics so, I’m not too familiar with a lot of subjects and arguments, so I would appreciate some help with responses. Thanks.


#6

Not everyone will have to go through purgatory, and those who feel only pain in this life will be that much happier in Heaven.

In Pugatory, you feel the pain you’ve caused. Some people have not caused much pain over the course of their lives, thus, purgatory for them, if they must go through it at all, will be brief. We all have flaws (your friend’s flaw may be pride:p --joking.)

The pain you feel in life is the same as that you feel in purgatory, that is, temporal punishment.

Look at Isaiah 6. Isaiah admitted his flaws and was purified of them.


#7

The more I learn about Purgatory the more it makes sense to me. I definitely want to go to Heaven (who doesn’t?!) but if I have to go Purgatory first, that’s okay with me. At least the Poor Souls there never have to fear of being seperated from God for eternity.


#8

I honestly don’t know what happens to us when we die. It would be comforting to believe that a place called Heaven awaits me. I haven’t committed any henious crime that would send me to Hell.

It sounds like your friend doesn’t understand sin. The tiniest lie is a heinous crime that would send anyone to Hell. I’m slowly coming to terms with the truth of Catholicism, and for me the key to making sense of Purgatory is making sense of sin. I think that might be your friend’s problem as well.

Also, on your friend’s reply about the mother with cancer and her child, everyone who believes in Purgatory also believes that not everyone has to go there, so the simple answer to that objection is that she very well might not have gone to Purgatory.

As for arguing Purgatory in general, the comment that shot me right between the eyes was this (and I can’t remember who said it, but I think it was someone on EWTN): If I break your glasses, you can forgive me and our relationship will be fine, but what about your broken glasses?


#9

Point her to Luke 16:19-31 - in this story, we see that the dead rich man is suffering but still feels compassion for his brothers and wants to warn them of his place of suffering. There is no suffering in heaven nor compassion in hell because compassion is a grace from God and those in hell are deprived from God’s graces for all eternity. So where is the rich man if he isn’t in hell or in heaven? He is in purgatory.


#10

The rich man is in hell. Verse 23 says that he is in torment in Hades. Then in verse 24 the rich man says he is being tortured in flames (which is how Christ repeatedly describes hell). The biggest problem that this story presents is in verse 26: “*And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.” * The idea of purgatory states that once one expiates the consequences due to their sins, they will be welcomed into Heaven, as they are then perfect and holy (correct me if I am wrong there). But this passage states that those with the rich man will never be able to go to Abraham’s bosom, nor can those with Abraham ever leave.
Sounds like hell to me.:slight_smile:


#11

Your friend’s problem is she comes from an inconsistent and irrational basis of argument as well as imperfect human judgement. That is, she judges by her own personal perspective, biases and human standards. Have her look at the pattern of all her arguments and disbelief. It’s always “I don’t” “**I **have been good”, “I have repented for what I did wrong [by her own standard]” etc. . It’s all about her own perspective, her own judgement and her own personal opinion. God is infinitely above the smartest or most holy human being on the planet and even the highest angel.

The issue for most people is that they can not even begin to perceive just how holy and pure God and heaven are. Purgatory is an expression of God’s mercy that is consistent with his justice. We better hope for a purgatory since almost no one is pure enough to make it to heaven if they even had a deceptive, lustful or selfish thought! Not one! Who has that kind of discipline and self control? We know from scripture than not a single iota of impurity can enter heaven. NONE - not even good intentions that fall short and cause somone else to sin!

In fact, if one goes back and looks at Jesus’ teaching you will find that he teaches a lot about God’s Love & Mercy but he talks even more about God’s Justice! He makes it very plain that few can make it to heaven even though they try on their own without coming through the very very narrow gate (Jesus himself). It’s not about being justified in one’s own eyes or thinking one is good enough - none of us can be “good enough” on our own merits without God’s graces and Jesus helping us every step of the way. It is only by God’s grace and our active partnership and cooperation with that grace and the help of Jesus, Mary, the saints and loved ones that any of us has a chance at all. No one falls into heaven by accident or good luck. Nor can it really be earned or “purchased” by our own merits . We better hope for a purgatory.

People just don’t want to remember the bit about Jesus’ teachings on God’s justice. All humanity is born into sin (original sin). Only baptism purges that original sin. Because of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace we were cursed and start off “in the hole” so to speak. Man can do nothing on his own. Thank God He decided in His infinite Mercy and Love to rescue us or none of us would ever get to heaven! But God does so in a way consistent with his word and his Justice. He told us “we would die” if we disobeyed Him. Thus he permits us to suffer die and show the consistent truth of his word.

If your “friend” is not being hypothetical ask her if she has baptised that child that is suffering from cancer. If not please compel her to do so immediately!

A child suffering from disease may in fact be doing so by a special spiritual calling and grace of God for a purpose. God may be calling it to endure and suffer to offset the temporal penalty of the sins of her parents or others. It may be God’s plan that this child suffers so that they spend less time in purgatory or to bring them to Him rather than to fall to hell. As contradictory as it sounds it could be that the child with cancer could be blessed in its suffering. It may be called by God to suffer for the sake of others (esp. its parents) knowing spiritually that it has God’s favor and will be saved and will bring others to God. It’s easy for those of us not so stricken to say this. But the suffering of a lifetime (long or short life) on this earth is NOTHING compared to the ETERNAL sufferings in Hell or even a moment in purgatory. People can not imagine what eternal suffering in Hell is like. And people can not imagine the spiritual suffering (nor the spiritual joy) as soul suffers in purgatory for even a day of equivalent earth time knowing it is saved as it pines to be purified enough to be with God. Just as God permits one just soul (Jesus) to suffer to give the opportunity for many billions of souls to come to God the father. God will also permit millions of unworthy souls who consciously reject Him (or turn their back in indifference or malice toward love) to suffer eternally for the sake of giving time on earth for a single worthy soul to come to him. That is how much He values the just soul.

This life and its suffering is not what is important. We are all going to suffer to greater or lesser degree here. We are all going to die due to our original sins. But what is important is what is eternal. A lifetime, be it 1 day to 110 years of suffering or not is NOTHING compared to an eternity of punishment or an eternity of joy. Our only task here is really to chose to be a child of God and to help others make the right choice and give assistance and call on God for his help. If we reject God - we lose infinately.

James


#12

Being tortured in flames is also how the Catholic Church describes purgatory and if the Rich Man is in hell, how is he able to express concern for his brothers when compassion is a grace from God and those in hell are forever cut off from His graces?


#13

Let’s ask the mother of a child riddled with cancer whether or not she, and certainly the child, have been purified enough during this existence. If she just lived an ordinary life, committing ordinary sins, in my opinion there isn’t a wee transgression she could have committed that would justify the suffering and death of her child. And how about the child? What possible horrible deed has a baby committed that would earn him a place in Purgatory rather than in the lap of God? Not purified enough? au contraire my friend, sometimes too much!!!

Your friend is operating under some false assumptions here.

First, that we experience suffering because of the sins we personally have committed. Now, this may be the case sometimes. If I go around having wild promiscuous sex and get an STD, well, it’s because of my sin isn’t it? However, a child becoming the victim of a serious disease does not happen because of the child’s or mother’s or anyone’s sin. It’s just part of the corrupted world we live in. It happens. What counts is what you do about it.

Second, that suffering equals purification. Now certainly suffering can lead to purification, if we let it. We have to accept the suffering and let it change us, let it bring us closer to God. Suffering does not automatically lead to purification.

Third, that we are sent to purgatory because we are sinners. Upon death and judgment there are not three options, there are only two. It is not Heaven, Hell or purgatory. It is Heaven or Hell. If you are an unrepentant sinner you will likely go to Hell. If you are a repentant sinner and a follower of God then you will likely go to Heaven. Purgatory is merely a preparation for Heaven. Most people when they die are still suffering from a tendency to sin. Well, you can’t go to Heaven and experience God’s presence if you are still a slave of sin. Nothing unclean can enter there. Purgatory is where we go to finally allow God to make us completely pure. That is spotless, stainless, free from any taint. It is not the next worst thing to Hell. It probably won’t be particularly pleasant at first because complete submission to God and dying to sin never is. That’s the sin getting in the way again. Purgatory, believe it or not, is a good thing. It’s a gift from God.


#14

Verita, the reason people suffer from a tendency to sin is because we exist in sinful bodies. It is the weak flesh, coupled with the sinful world in which we live that makes someone prone to sin. “The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Furthermore, no Christian should be a “slave” (ie. let the lives be mastered by) to sin, but we should be trying to continually grow in the Spirit. Most importantly, however, is that Christ’s shed blood washes over and purifies in the eyes of God all who believe in Him, for Jesus suffered fully so that after death, believers would not (Is 53). It is the belief in Christ that makes us pure and holy in the eyes of God, not some post-death abuse.

Again I say that Luke 16 is referring to the wicked going to hell for eternity and that it emphasizes the need to be Christ-like in the world.


#15

I don’t have a convenient CCC to point to. But from my readings of the Church saints I have a perspective interpretation I can convey.

Even the fallen angles in hell (even Satan) retain some semblance of their original angelic nature. The same is true for the fallen from grace humans. God as part of his Justice apparently permits those souls (originally angelic as well human) that are condemned to hell to retain some small sufficient original nature and grace for them to “exist” as an entity. If God withdrew all his grace these would simply be annihilated and cease to exist with no ability to suffer punishment at all). In other words they have to have an ability to exist to even suffer the punishment and to relate to the massive severity of the punishment that they are receiving. So it is said that fallen angels get to see small visions of the glory of the loyal angels in heaven that they used to be a part of. The same is said to occur for fallen human souls - they will see while burning spiritually visions of some of their “saved” family or friends (“the nerds”) who obeyed God and held fast to God’s commandments . This infuriates those in hell and invokes an unfathomable supernatural envy, despair and loathing at the knowledge of the severity of what they missed and have NO hope of ever participating in. It is too difficult for the human mind to fathom the severity of that. Much less so add on the other torments (physical and spiritual and facing God’s eternal Holy Wrath in a personal way. ). The damned are left no peace and have the perpetual fact that they are ALONE FOREVER with no love, no compassion no friend and no hope. Souls in Hell find the only thing they ever thought they needed - themselves but with NO GOD and no light and the emptiness of the rejected opportunity - for all eternity.

In this particular scripture we can assume that God permitted that damned soul a special grace sufficient to convey the severity of what “it” suffered in human terms. God permitted it to relate to a familial relational impression - perhaps only temporarily and perhaps only for the purpose of fulfilling scriptures. The prophets have always warned that no matter if somone would come back from Hell to warn others that people still would not believe and continue to sin. So God apparently fulfills scripture by allowing this scriptural conveyance to make His case - since we hear the story and still arrogantly refuse to listen.

As a side note: I have learned through my reading that even the fallen angels in hell recall or retain an impression of the memory of their original pride and honor and rank in their angelic nature. While these fallen angels are eager to tempt humans into debasing themselves and engage in sins and every vile sexual perversion (e.g. unnatural or deviant sex) they actually abhor the very acts themselves as beneath their nature (pride survives apparently) and do not want to witness the actual perverse acts. They only want to hurt God by bringing humanity down to a debased level but find the behavior vile itself and would be loath to do or observe the actual acts themselves yet remain out of envy and loathing very eager to torment any who fall to hell for whatever reason.

James


#16

"(“the nerds”) who obeyed God and held fast to God’s commandments " :rotfl:

Thanks for that response. What are these books you mention, I’d like to read them. :thumbsup:


#17

Again, this goes against church teaching which tells us that those in hell are forever deprived from God’s graces.


#18

I agree that no one, no Christian or non Christian, should or indeed has to be a slave to sin. But some of us are nonetheless. Many people, Christian and non Christian, continue to sin though they know it is wrong. The only way to be free of the tendency to sin is by directing our will to submit to God’s perfect will and by allowing Him to fill us with His grace.

I just read all of Isaiah 53 and though it goes on at length about Christ’s sufferings and talks extensively about how he is bearing them for us, no where does it say that this means will will not suffer, either before or after death. God does purify us, but He can’t do it without our cooperation. He can’t force us to be pure. And as sinful humans, most of us resist His efforts to perfect us. Some humans (the Saints) are able to submit to this purification while here on Earth and therefore are able to go straight to Heaven. But most of us will retain our sinful tendencies (again how many people do you know who have died in a sinless state?) and therefore must still be cleansed after our deaths. That is purgatory. It isn’t somewhere we go for punishment. It is simply the time in which God finishes perfecting us. And it will take as long as we make it take. The more we resist Him the longer it will take and the more unpleasant it will be. But it will be done eventually. God will not give up on us.


#19

Sir Knight - do you not pray the Apostle’s Creed each Sunday with the rest of your Catholic brothers? I’ll elaborate in a moment.

You can’t use scripture to invalidate scripture. It’s not possible. Where there is apparent contradiction it can only imply a human error in interpretation or misunderstanding by the reader with respect to the intent of the human author. Generally, the problems come in when one forces a “fundamentalist” & “literal” reads of scripture. I suggest that you are making a literal interpretation that is in error.

Ask yourself how can anything exist without the grace of God? Nothing can exist onto itself without God creating it & permitting it to continue to exist. We may just have a semantic impasse here as to what is meant my the term grace. There are some existing Catholic controversies in this area (Controversies on Grace). But rather than getting all wrapped around the axle on complex interpretations of the semantics of grace I suggest that if one take a simple “awesome” view of God. From there we all can all admit that whatever “exists” or will exist is subordinate to God’s will and His permission. That puts all but atheists on a common theological ground and on “the same side”. That should take ego out of it too - as well as hidden agendas that often lurk in these forums. So from here we have a mutually “friendly” basis to expand on. The assumption is we all seek the same good end objective and trust in God. But God help the person willfully seeking to trip others through insincere motives.

From this assumed perspective of common faith in God it should be intuitively obvious that God never does anything that operates to diminish Himself nor invalidates a universal truth. We can safely assume that whatever appears inconsistent with His Truth & His Nature implies an absence of full knowledge or a mystery yet to be resolved or revealed. One might also ask how important such a small thing really is though to one’s own faith?

I don’t personally have the time to go scan the full scriptural repository to exhaustively prove to you how it is not a contradiction that a person in hell may “appear” to have an impossible “compassion” for the living. All I need say is that God has complete control and dominion over all creatures above and below (heaven, earth and hell). He can order a soul to state any truth he wants to reveal no matter where it is disposed without contradicting Himself. So I only need point to another scripture that makes a similar contradiction to your position to make the case that you are the one in error. Recall from your Apostles Creed (we Catholics should be saying every Sunday) and from scripture that Jesus descended to Hell after His death. He did this to claim His absolute lordship and authority over every matter in heaven, earth and the underworld.

[quote=From the Vatican]…
Christ went down into the depths of death so that "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live."484 Jesus, “the Author of life”, by dying destroyed "him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage."485 Henceforth the risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades”, so that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth."486
[/quote]

Do you imagine that God through Jesus can not enter into the Hell he created and remain completely unscratched, holy and undefiled and full of all grace? So do you still deny that it is not easily within God’s power to command a corrupt soul to speak in the semantics of human relationships and remain truthful even in Hell; and to recollect a familial relationship (that was probably selfish in life)?

Do you deny that God has dominion over Hell & has the power to freely enter into it unscathed and fully Holy and can order vile and corrupt souls to speak truthfully? I didn’t think so.

Do you really want to deny that Jesus descended to Hell as fully Holy as if its a contradiction to scripture? Hell is not mightier than God.

So how do you not find it within God’s ability to command a fallen soul to speak in the manner he did if it brings glory to God & manifests scripture? Also consider, outside a fundamentalist perspective the scripture writer may have been speaking through literary imagery as well.

Personally I don’t worry too much about these smaller details of scripture. But the bigger issue that alarms me here is that you seem to be actively fixated in holding a fundamental view as if to find evidence that either serves to diminish God or makes a case that He lied. It’s very dangerous to play the devil’s advocate here.

James


#20

Emphasis mine. :slight_smile:
There’s your friends’ problem.


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