Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Questions for Catholics - Part 3 - Purgatory

In this section Prasch challenges the concept of Purgatory and erroneously attributes the Deuterocanonicals (which he, like many other non-Catholics, calls "Apocrypha") to the "Middle Ages," but we'll get to that in a moment.  Let us begin this response where he begins:
Let us begin, please, with my first question. In the first epistle of St. John 1 :7 we read that the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin. The blood of Christ “cleanses” – Greek “katharizo” – takes away all our sins. All sin. We are told in the New Testament we are saved by grace through faith. (Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:8)The Greek word for “repentance” is “metanoeo” which came in the Middle Ages to be understood as “to do penance”, but the Greek word means “to repent”. The blood of Christ cleanses from all sin when we repent and accept Him. That is what the New Testament teaches. My first question to my Catholic friends is this: If the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin, can you explain why the Roman Catholic catechism imparted by the Roman Church – nihilo obstat from the Vatican – why it says you can atonement in purgatory for you own? Indeed, you must. And why the temporal consequence of sin can in part be negated by indulgences?
First off, we're in "Part Three" now and have already answered several questions, yet Prasch is stating this is his first question?  He sure has an interesting way of counting!  Triviality aside, the Greek word for "repentance" (metanoeo) he has correct, but repentance is not merely lip-service.  To "do penance" is to demonstrate you are/were sincere in your confession.  From the earliest days of the Church we have examples of even public penance for certain sins.  Pope St. Clement wrote to the Corinthians during the First Century:
" a system of penance that was already in operation and needed only to be applied to particular cases, like that of the Corinthians to whom Clement of Rome wrote his First Epistle about A. D. 96, exhorting them: “Be subject in obedience to the priests (presbyteris) and receive discipline [correctionem) unto penance, bending the knees of your hearts” (Ep. I “Ad Cor.”, lvii). [qtd. here].
So we see that the practice was already in place of receiving discipline from the priests, which is what we call "penance."
With that said, let us answer Prasch's "first question:"  "If the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin, can you explain why the Roman Catholic catechism imparted by the Roman Church - nihilo obstat from the Vatican - why it says you can atonement (sic) in purgatory for your own?"  My first objection to this question is that while Prasch cites a source, it is only a vague reference.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church is broken into paragraphs which are numbered.  If you're going to say the CCC says something, please cite the actual paragraph, not the whole volume.  Second, the nihil obstat is not a statement of infallibility, it simply states that the reviewer (which is not "the Vatican" in any case, but might be someone AT the Vatican).  Finally, to the meat of the question, I submit the CCC nowhere says we can atone for our own sins.  Prasch exhibits an ignorance of Catholic teaching on this matter.  Purgatory is not a place of atonement - for every single soul in Purgatory has already had each and every sin atoned for through the blood of Christ.  Purgatory is a place of final purification before entering Heaven, for nothing impure can enter into Heaven (Rev. 21:27).  For example, Johnny broke Mr. Jones' window; Johnny asked for Mr. Jones to forgive him for the offense - which Mr. Jones did, but Mr. Jones still expects Johnny to do whatever is necessary to replace that broken window.  While Johnny is forgiven, all is not good until that window is replaced.  Likewise, if we commit a mortal sin which is a "sin unto death" (1 John 5:17) and confess that sin, the priest may give a discipline, a penance (like we saw earlier reference to in the First Century) and while God may forgive that sin - the stain of that sin is not remitted until the penance is done.

Then his "second question:"  And why the temporal consequence of sin can in part be negated by indulgences?  Well, at least Prasch is seeing the difference between the sin itself and the temporal consequence of the sin (in our previous example, Johnny breaking the window was the sin, replacing the window is the temporal consequence).  Why can or does this happen?  Because the Church has so decreed!  Keep in mind, Matthew 18:18, the subject matter of the discussion is (but not limited to) the forgiveness of sins - and Jesus Christ empowered our first bishops, the Apostles, with the authority to forgive OR retain sins.  Sins they forgive are forgiven, sins they do not forgive are not forgiven.  
That, we all know – the indulgences– were the way the construction of St. Peter’s, the Vatican, was financed. The Dominicans said when a coin into the box rings, a soul in purgatory springs. You can have sex with Mary, the mother of Christ and be forgiven if you have the right price. That's what they said. Catholic scholars have admitted this. (The Dominicans, of course, the perpetrators of the Inquisition.) Again, I’m not attacking, I’m only stating facts that Catholic historians admit.
On to another question:
If the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin, why is it that you have to atonement in purgatory for your own? 
Now, I wasn't going to say anything the first time, but he's done it again.  "Atonement" is not a verb, it is a noun but twice now Prasch has used it as a verb.  I believe he means to use the word "atone" and perhaps English is not Prasch's first language.  We can get what he means, but it makes for an awkward sentence.

To answer Prasch's question directly - we don't atone for our sins - Jesus did that.  Purgatory is a place for saved people (each and every soul in Purgatory is already saved) to be purified from any stain of sin before entering Heaven.
The New Testament says perfect love casts out all fear. (1 Jn. 4:18) All fear. Why should someone die in fear of going to purgatory? In fact the Roman Catholic Church says in the catechism that if you say you're going to heaven and you know you're going you’ve committed the sin of presumption. 
Well again, this is not completely a true statement.  In fact, if you find yourself in Purgatory, REJOICE!  You have been judged to be SAVED ALREADY!  There should be no "fear" of Purgatory, at least not fear as in being afraid - but a healthy fear of respect is a good thing to have and can motivate one to lead a life which may avoid Purgatory altogether - for those, their purgation time has been here on Earth.
Now the New Testament says we can have a confidence we’re going to heaven (1 Jn. 4:17) if His blood has cleansed you from all sin, if you’ve truly repented and accepted Him. Please tell me, my dear friend, and again I'm only asking the question of you I once asked of myself, if His blood cleanses from all sin, why do you have to atone for your own in purgatory? 
And again, there is no "atoning" in Purgatory (and this time you used the verb properly, as opposed to the noun earlier).  Every single sin of those in Purgatory has been atoned for.  Any "sins which are unto death" (mortal sins) have been forgiven.  Any unconfessed "sins which are not unto death" (venial sins) are cleansed away in Purgatory along with any stain of any sin.  The point is, every single soul in Purgatory is already saved!  They are on their way to Heaven with no chance of going to Hell at that point.
And why can you go out and do something or buy something or get something that will give you an indulgence to reduce your sentence? Where is any such thing found or taught in the New Testament? Where did Jesus or the apostles teach it?
The Church teaches it and is given the authority to teach it in Matthew 16:18-19 and Matthew 18:18.
In the Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Church added the Apocrypha, the intratestamental literature to the canon of Scripture because there is one verse in the book of Macabees that says it's good to pray for the dead, which they took to mean getting people out of purgatory. However, the Early Church never held the Apocrypha to be part of the canon of Scripture – even the Roman Church didn't. 
This statement is not true.  Mr. Prasch needs to study the foundations of Scripture more.  The FACT is the Deuterocanonicals (Second Canon) were ALWAYS part of the Septuagint.  There are very good arguments that it was actually a Septuagint copy that Jesus and the Apostles quoted from.  For the first 400 years the Canon of Sacred Scripture was not as solidified as we have it now - in fact that solidification came at the end of the 4th century.  Prior to that there were several books of the New Testament which were not considered canonical - so by Prasch's standard should we reject those too?  And several other books were in earlier canons which were not included in the final canon, should we add those back in?  (Clement's Epistles, the Shepherd of Hermes, the Didache, etc.)
Secondly, it was a Jewish book written in the Greek language to Jewish people. 
Not quite true in that statement either.  The Septuagint was written BY Jewish people FOR Greek speaking Jewish people - keeping in mind that Greek was the lingua franca of the time right up until the time of Christ when Latin began supplanting it.
We’re told the Old Testament saints were in the bosom of Abraham waiting for the Messiah to come. In the context in which it was written that plainly meant praying that the Messiah would come so the Old Testament saints could go to heaven. It doesn’t mention purgatory. 
Agreed!  The Bosom of Abraham is NOT the same as Purgatory.
The term “purgatory” is found no place, even in the Apocrypha or in the church fathers as such. Not the Early Church fathers and not in the New Testament at all.
Agreed!  The English word "purgatory" would come about the 12th Century, the concept, however, predates the Incarnation.
His blood cleanses from all sin. Boldly we can approach the eternal throne the Scripture says. (Heb. 4:16) If we can boldly come before the throne of grace, how is that the sin of presumption? Is the New Testament wrong? 
Yes!  Boldly approach, be confident in your faith!  There's nothing wrong with such!  Proclaiming "I AM saved" before you have been judged is the sin of presumption.  Do not presume that you will not fall from grace and/or exactly how you will be judged.
If His blood cleanses from all sin, why should I believe in a religion, as I once did, that says I have to atone for my own?
Again, you cannot atone for your sins and the Catholic Church does not teach that you can.
St. Paul points out in his epistle to the Galatians if an angel of God comes with another gospel, don't believe it. (Gal. 1:8) If even an angel like Gabriel or Michael, an archangel, came and appeared to you and told you there was another gospel, another way of salvation, another good news of salvation by some other means other than Jesus paying the price for your sin on the cross, don't believe it. His blood cleanses from all sin. But I'm expected to believe it if I were Roman Catholic.
As a Catholic we believe and profess that Faith which was given to the Apostles, our first bishops, and passed down through the bishops in valid apostolic succession.  Catholics do not believe in the innovations of the 16th Century, ala Luther, Calvin and Henry VIII (among others), as I once did.
That is my question. If His blood cleanses from all sin, why should I be part of a religion that says I have to atone for my own in purgatory, when according to the New Testament there’s no such place. It’s never mentioned or named.
And again, it is NOT Catholic teaching that you can atone for your sins - Jesus Christ did that!  Purgatory is NOT a place of atonement!

As for Purgatory not being mentioned by name in Scripture - neither is the word "Trinity" mentioned, but the concept is there and defined later, by the Catholic Church.

Questions for Catholics Index

PART TWO - Questions of Co-

PART FOUR - Peter and The Rock 

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