There’s and interesting article on Patheos (patheos.com) about Evangelical who affirm Purgatory. Jerry Walls is one of those evangelicals and has written about about the subject: Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory…[LEFT]Here is a nutshell synopsis:
Heaven is a place of total perfection and that means humans must be perfected to enter into heaven.
The vast majority of people are far from perfection at death. Even the most devout of Christians is far from perfect.
Those who enter must be (1) perfect, (2) instantly perfected by God at the point of death, or (3) be sanctified after death. #1 is rare; #2 is most of the Protestants and #3 is not incompatible with Catholic, Orthodox and a small number of Protestants.
Thus, every theology must have some kind of purgatory theory: either instantaneous or through a process.
(Note: Pope Benedict XVI proposed that Purgatory may be instantaneous as well).
Yes, Jerry (who is a personal friend of mine) is actually to the “right” of Pope Benedict inasmuch as he thinks that Purgatory must involve time (on the grounds that all transformation in humans involves time).
However, his view is not identical to the Catholic one because it involves genuine probation. People in “purgatory,” in Jerry’s view, have the chance to accept or reject God’s grace, so it has two possible exits instead of only one as in the Catholic view.
Another evangelical who espouses something akin to Purgatory is Word of Faith preacher Kenneth Copeland. In his words (paraphrased, because I don’t have access to the exact quote), “You’re not gonna go waltzin’ into the Throne Room spoutin’ all the doubt’n’unbelief [that’s one word in his vocabulary] that you’ve been spoutin’ on Earth. You’re gonna go to school!”
Right. Walls’ point–a very sound one–is that everyone believes in some kind of purgation. (I think this is easier for Protestants who come from a Wesleyan background, like Walls and myself, to see than for many other Protestants who keep a laser focus on justification.) The disagreement concerns whether it happens before, at, or after death, whether it is instantaneous or a process, and whether it involves some kind of suffering.
Walls’ own view is that
For many, probably most people it will need to happen after death;
It will probably involve a process, because of the nature of the needed transformation; and
It will probably involve some degree of suffering, because changing from self-centered beings to beings totally full of God’s love is not an easy or comfortable process, whether in this life or after death.
My only disagreement (and I have some Catholic theologians on my side, at least tentatively) with these three points is that I’m not sure it has to involve time. I suppose I’m also a bit wary of emphasizing the “suffering” theme, because my own version of the Wesleyan Holiness tradition emphasized this (within this life) to an extent that has really stunted my spiritual life and has overshadowed me with guilt and fear. It may be more like the “good ache” you get from starting to exercise than like searing pain or psychological anguish.
Walls’ disagreement with Catholic teaching (and with me) lies in the fact that he believes that this purgative process is a continuation of probation–that it’s possible for some people to resist it and thus be damned. I agree with both Catholic and Protestant tradition that the decisions that set our course for eternity are made at or before death. Of course, if you hold to instantaneous Purgatory, then it’s easier to avoid what I believe to be Walls’ error on this point.
Very much so. His book on Hell is basically a more philosophical working out of the ideas in The Great Divorce, though there are many other influences as well and it’s a more original book than that description may make it sound.
Jerry is a huge Lewis fan and wrote the Lewis sections of a book comparing C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer.
I would agree with your comment about time. The next life is outside of time where there is just the eternal now. A concept we can’t begin to wrap our head around.
“suffering” otoh, is not excluded from the next life. Just think about hell.
Purgatory is not heaven, but a temporary condition of purgation before heaven. Since Paul says it includes fire and suffering, and doesnt say it’s a comfortable experience, we can’t then rule out suffering (whatever that experience of suffering means) for purgation [1 Corinthians 3:15](“https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1 Corinthians+3:15&version=RSVCE”)
Purgation is done to us. It’s done to the soul by God. It’s NOT something a person does themselves. The soul by definition is already saved. Heaven is guranteed after this is over. There is no such thing as going backwards after this is over. Things don’t reverse in the next life. Otherwise damned souls could be saved once in hell and go to heaven, and saved people could be thrown out of heaven or purgatory and into hell.
Because we are in time and space, we use analogies like instantaneous, day, weeks, years, etc to help us put time and space to an existence outside of time and space where time and space has no meaning.
Fr Alessio took care of Padre Pio in his last years. During a mass Padre Pio was celebrating, a sacristan who had died 70 years prior, came to Pio during mass in a locution asking Pio to offer his mass that day for his soul so that he could leave purgatory and enter heaven. Obviously God allowed that interchange to happen. And Pio added the sacristan to the mass that day. The sacristan spent a long time in purgatory in our way of counting time, but he was saved, because he died in the state of grace. He just needed to be made perfect before entering heaven which took 70 years in our time in purgatory to accomplish.
If we think about 70 years in our time, in an existence where there is no concept of time, 70 years is not even a blink.
Not an evangelical, but a few years back, in my senior year of College, I wrote a research paper on the development purgatory that had an overarching theme of post-mortem cleansing being a belief from the beginning of the Church. It wasn’t really till Augustine that the word “purgatorium” came along, which brought about a more recognizable view to the modern eye. Clement and Origen were some of the fathers I remember tracing the doctrine back to more vividly.
It was one of the more enjoyable assignments during my years at University; long nights studying/reading church fathers in the bottom floor of the library–“the dungeon”–and then coming out with a finished product…hey, what a minute… that kind of transformation sounds familiar…
I was under the impression you weren’t quite for the suffering thing, when you said .
My only disagreement (and I have some Catholic theologians on my side, at least tentatively) with these three points is that I’m not sure it has to involve time. I suppose I’m also a bit wary of emphasizing the “suffering” theme,
When I say, “I’m wary of emphasizing suffering” I don’t mean “there’s no suffering in the afterlife.” If I meant that, I would have said it. I said something else because I meant something else.
Did you see my analogy with the pain that comes from stretching muscles?
Of course it may be different than that. Who knows? Lewis’ analogy of having a tooth out (in the mid-20th century) may be a better one, for all I know. But I come from a tradition that told me incessantly that the path of holiness was a path of suffering, to the point that I was afraid to take joy in anything. I’ll take whatever suffering comes, in this life or the next, and I’m sure it will. But I’m wary of emphasizing it. Precisely that.
Belief, but only in a very simplistic definition. For example, I believe in a post-mortem state where an individual’s soul is cleansed, so as to enter heaven. Everything after that is speculation on the experience.