Friday, February 27, 2015

THE FALSE DOCTRINE OF PURGATORY (Part 1)



Purgatory… the name brings to mind creepy images of dark caves filled with suffering souls in smoke and fire.  There is much speculation, even from the “experts,” about how it actually works, and the degree of suffering, or how long one stays there.  But is Purgatory real?  Is it another place or state of being somewhere between Heaven and Hell?  Is it something that Christians should be concerned about?  And most importantly, does the Bible teach this concept?


Official Catholic Teaching


The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

“1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. 

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: 


As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin." From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: 


Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.”


So, according to this, when most people die, they may not be “fully purified” and ready to enter Heaven, since nothing unclean can enter it (Revelation 21:27).  According to the Catechism, we should pray for the souls in Purgatory and offer “works of penance” on their behalf, apparently, to lessen their pain and to help get them out sooner than “scheduled.”  But this is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Works-Based


What is offensive to the gospel is not so much the possibility of having “another place or state” besides Heaven and Hell, but the idea that a mere human can pay for sins, whether his own or someone else’s.


First and foremost, we reject the concept of Purgatory (as all Christians should) because it involves a works-based salvation (Romans 4:4-5, Ephesians 2:8-9).  That is, Purgatory involves a sinner having to work or to endure some sort of suffering for his sins, and this work or suffering supposedly helps to atone for those sins.  But according to Scripture, this is impossible.  Atonement for sins involves the death of a PERFECT substitute (Hebrews 7:25-28; 10:14), and we know that there is only one Person who fits in that category, the Lord Jesus Christ.  No sinner can atone for his own sins, because he is tainted.  So, no one is qualified but Jesus, and we can do nothing to add to His work on the cross.  See also this article:




Other Problems


Ok, so what about the time of the Rapture / Resurrection? (1 Corinthians 15:50-52)  Those who are still alive when the Resurrection happens will not have time to go to Purgatory because Paul says that when it happens, “So shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).  Wouldn’t it be unfair that those who rise on that day (still having imperfections in their life) won’t have to endure the pains of Purgatory, like all those who died before them?
   

But Catholic apologists may say, “Punishment in Purgatory does not have to be months, years, or centuries long. Their purification could possibly last just one second!  We just don’t know ‘how time operates’ in the next life.”  Maybe so, but the doctrine of Purgatory has more serious problems to work out than “how time operates in the afterlife.” 


Anyway, concerning the length of time it takes to be “purged” and ready for Heaven, we believe that we will be changed instantly after death.  If our bodies are changed and perfected in the “twinkling of an eye” in the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:52), then why can’t our soul and spirit be changed in like manner when we die?  We see no biblical reason to believe otherwise.


Temporal Punishment


The Sixth Session of the Council of Trent says:


"If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema." (CANON XXX)


Purgatory is largely based on the concept of “temporal punishments.”  According to Trent, the sinner destined for Purgatory is forgiven the guilt and the eternal punishment of his sins, but he still has “temporal punishment” to pay. 
   

According to the online New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, (under Purgatory, subheading “Temporal Punishment”) it is “clearly the teaching of Scripture” that temporal punishment is due (to be paid) even after a sin is pardoned by God.  It goes on to give examples, like Adam being given the power to govern all things, yet he still had to work the ground which was cursed.  Moses was forgiven for striking the rock twice, yet he was not allowed to go into the Promised Land (Canaan).  David was forgiven for his sin with Bathsheba, yet their child still died.  Again, through these examples, the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia is attempting to prove that the concept of “temporal punishment” in Purgatory is biblical.  But these examples were earthly punishments!  These are consequences that happen here on earth, not in the afterlife.
 

To use another example, if someone who is married commits adultery, there can certainly be “temporal consequences” for his / her actions.  The two involved in the sin may be forgiven by God, but there are still possible consequences to their sin.  That is, 1) there is always the threat of a venereal disease, 2) one offended spouse could want a divorce, 3) the offended spouse could be violently jealous, or 4) a pregnancy could result from the adulterous affair.   Again, these are all earthly consequences.  But according to Scripture, there is no punishment, temporal or otherwise, for the Christian in the next life.  The only after-death punishment that the Bible speaks of under the New Covenant is Hell, and ultimately, the Lake of Fire… but that is only for the UNbeliever.


Are We Forgiven…Or Not?


One popular Catholic priest said in a debate that the idea of Purgatory is “Pay now, or pay later,” in the sense of working out a debt.  But that is certainly not the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ.  The simple truth is, if we are “forgiven” for a sin but there is STILL some kind of punishment for us to pay, then we are not really forgiven, are we?  And it must follow that the work of Jesus on the cross was not really enough to pay the full penalty for your sins after all (1 John 1:7-9).  But would any real Christian dare say that?  That’s blasphemy!  If HIS payment was not enough for your sins, there will NEVER be enough payment for them.  But thank God that His suffering on Calvary is totally sufficient. 


Catholic apologists will say, “But Purgatory is how redemption is actually applied to us.  It is the “final push” of the sanctification process.  This was God’s plan all along.”  


No, this was not God’s plan.  God plainly tells us, over and over, that redemption is “applied” BY FAITH, TRUSTING, BELIEVING in HIS work and suffering, not ours.  See also this link:



Conclusion


To make matters worse, our Catholic friends are obligated to believe this false doctrine under penalty of anathema (condemnation), as noted in the Council of Trent quote above.  But there is absolutely nothing in Scripture to indicate that there will be additional punishment after death for those who are forgiven.  Otherwise, the word “forgiven” is meaningless.


Purgatory is a denial of the sufficiency of Jesus’ work and suffering at Calvary.  But proud and fallen man likes to think that he can work or earn his way into Heaven.  He doesn’t like it when people point to the cross, and that alone, for salvation. 
  

Next month, we will conclude this series by taking a look at the Scriptures that Catholics (and others) use to try and support the doctrine of Purgatory.  Stay tuned…

Sunday, November 30, 2014

PRAYING TO THE SAINTS - REVISITED



A while back, we did an article on praying to the saints in Heaven, demonstrating how unbiblical this concept is.  The article can be found here:


Although this practice is found in the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, and even in some of the Protestant Churches, it seems to be most popular with Catholics.  Note what the Catholic Church says about this teaching...

Official Sources

The Council of Trent teaches that “it is good and useful” to invoke (pray to) the saints in Heaven and ask them for their prayers, their aid, and their help in “obtaining benefits from God.”  This same Council also warned that anyone who denies that this is true is “wholly to be condemned.” (Session 25, On the Invocation, Veneration, and Relics, of Saints, and on Sacred Images)

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the intercession of the saints will “fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness” and “by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.” (CCC #956)

The Catechism also says that “their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan.” (CCC #2683)

The Catholic document Lumen Gentium (“Light of the Nations”), which is a dogmatic constitution on the Church, tells us that the saints in Heaven, through their intercession, “lend nobility to the worship which the Church offers to God here on earth and in many ways contribute to its greater edification.” (Chapter 7, Paragraph 49)

According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia (online):

“Canonization is a precept of the Roman Pontiff commanding public veneration to be paid an individual by the Universal Church.“ [Emphasis added]  

And again:

“The pope then issues a Bull of Canonization in which he not only permits, but commands, the public cultus, or veneration, of the saint.” (“Beatification and Canonization”) [Emphasis added]

Concerning Mary, the Catechism says of her:

“… You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death” (CCC #966). [Emphasis added]

“Mary… by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation… Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix” (CCC #969). [Emphasis added]

“… The Church rightly honors ‘the Blessed Virgin with special devotion.  From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of “Mother of God,” to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs…’” (CCC #971) [Emphasis added]

If This is All True…

Ok, a lot of special claims have been made here concerning the intercession of saints, and (especially) Mary, in these official Catholic sources.  According to Catholics, praying to saints has been a “universal practice of the church” since ancient times.  If this is all true, and if praying to the saints in Heaven is “good and useful” to “obtain benefits from God,” if it does indeed “fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness,” and contributes so much to the “greater edification” of the church, delivering our souls from death, bringing us “gifts of eternal salvation,” and if the faithful are to “fly in all their dangers and needs” toward the saints’ protection... then surely, something of this magnitude would at least be mentioned in Scripture, wouldn’t you think? 

It’s Just Not There

If all of the Catholic sources above are correct, then praying to Mary and the saints must be a wonderful and spiritually helpful thing to do.  But if that’s true, then why is this concept totally absent from the God-breathed Scriptures (in spite of the confident claim of Catholics that this teaching is a biblical idea)?  In the Bible, there are literally hundreds of references to prayer, and not a single one of them encourages us to pray to someone OTHER THAN GOD.  In fact, we are warned that God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24; Nahum 1:2), and the constant example is to call upon HIM in time of need… not saints, angels, etc. (Jeremiah 33:3; Psalm 50:15; 91:15; Matthew 6:6, 9).  We are to pray to Him alone (Psalm 73:25).

So, has God been negligent, or perhaps even cruel, to withhold such a seemingly vital “treasure” from His people who study the Bible?  No, this teaching of praying to saints is not a treasure, but a trap!

Strain a Gnat… Swallow a Camel

It is truly amazing that Catholics can, on the one hand, see an infallible dogma (the supposed “Immaculate Conception” of Mary, herself) in Luke 1:28 … and yet, on the other hand, altogether MISS such a simple and obvious biblical pattern of praying ONLY to God, a concept that is thoroughly interwoven throughout all the Scriptures!  The pattern of hundreds of references to prayer is ignored in the one case, while a Catholic dogma is fabricated from the twisted “evidence” of (mainly) a single verse, in the other.  This is not only tragic, but dishonest.  And furthermore, to add insult to injury, remember, Catholics are commanded by the pope to pray to saints (as noted above) and those who don’t are condemned by the Council of Trent.

Conclusion

Catholics will often tell us that when they pray to saints, they are simply asking the saints to pray, or intercede, for them (the Catholic).  But in many cases, it is obvious that their requests are so much more than just “asking for prayer.”  In Scripture, prayer is never “just asking.”  Rather, biblical prayer is an act of WORSHIP, humbly addressing Almighty God, and Him alone.  Attempting to address anyone (or anything) else in prayer (even if only for the purpose of asking for intercession) is idolatry.  Any alleged “benefits” from praying to Mary, angels or saints are deceptive, at best, and ultimately destructive to souls, at worst.

Monday, November 3, 2014

RE-DEFINING JUSTIFICATION



I see it happen all the time.  A Catholic and a Protestant will be discussing salvation, and the Protestant points out that the Catholic Church teaches that a person is saved by his faith plus his works.  But immediately, the Catholic will say, “Oh no!  We don’t teach that.  Salvation is not by works.  The Council of Trent teaches that justification is unmerited and not obtained by works of any kind (Session 6, chapter 8).”  But when the Protestant points to other sections of Trent (Session 6, chapters 10 and 16) to show that the Catholic Church does indeed believe in works for salvation, then they will start to back-track and point to certain Bible verses in an attempt to claim that believers really are saved by works.  They do a flip-flop.  What they first denied, they later try to vigorously defend.  You see, what the Catholic Church teaches is often confusing, even for Catholics. 

Much of the confusion seems to come from the fact that the Catholic Church believes that justification is split into two different categories:  “initial” justification and “ongoing” or “progressive” justification.  They believe that in the initial phase there are no works that merit salvation.  And, supposedly, this initial justification is achieved by water baptism (which, ironically, is a work).  But afterward, in the progressive phase, salvation is (according to them) indeed merited / earned by good works.  So, they believe a person can be justified at one point and then re-justified (or “more justified”) later.  But the fact is, they are confusing justification with sanctification, which involves the Christian’s growth process.  “Sanctification” means to be set apart for God’s use, and it is a process in which we are gradually conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 9:13-14).  Good works are part of this process, but they are done out of thankfulness for what God has done for us, never to merit salvation.

But according to the Bible, there is no such thing as “initial” or “progressive” justification.  Biblical justification refers to a judicial sentence or decision, as in a courtroom.  It is a term having strong legal overtones, and is used together with words like “impute” (Romans 4:8), “reckoned” (Romans 4:4, 9-10), and “counted" (Romans 4:3, 5).  Justification means to declare someone righteous.  It is a proclamation of one’s status by the Judge (God).  There is nothing “progressive” about such a decision.  It is a one-time proclamation.  So, there is no such thing as an “increase” of justification.   You can’t be “a little justified” or “partially justified.”  According to the Bible, you’re either justified or you’re not.
  
The righteousness we have, as Christians, is based on the righteousness of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and His perfect work.  Any type of righteousness that would involve some sort of “progressive justification” is based, to some extent, on the righteousness of the believer and his works.  But that would be an imperfect righteousness.  And that’s exactly the type of justification that the Catholic Church offers to its members.


In fact, Catholic teaching on salvation falls into the same error as that of the Judaizers.  See this article:




It seems that the Catholic Church’s redefining of justification has been subtle enough to confuse and deceive certain Protestants, as well.  Note, for example, the famous ECT documents (Evangelicals and Catholics Together), where some Protestants have joined with Catholics to promote “unity” and to stand together against certain evils in the world.  They even appear to now agree on justification, as well.  This may sound like a good thing.  But does this mean that the Reformation was all just one big misunderstanding, and that we should all hold hands and agree now?  Then why were there martyrs back then on both sides?  Did they all die for nothing?  Was it over a mere misunderstanding?  Hardly.  The differences between Protestants and Catholics were real back then, and they always have been.  What was error then, is still error now.  The ECT signers, in their quest for “common ground,” have come to an agreement on an unbiblical view of justification / salvation.


Conclusion


The apostle Paul was not so subtle in his view on salvation.  He says, “Are you so foolish?  having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?”  (Galatians 3:3)  Notice that Paul equates attempting to add works to the cross with living “by the flesh.”


My friends, out of all the Bible writers, it is Paul who deals with the concept of justification in the most detail (mainly Romans chapters 3-5 and the book of Galatians).  But he never tells us of a split justification like the Catholic Church teaches.  He uses no examples of “initial” or “progressive” justification in Scripture.  He offers no explanations or descriptions of this type of justification anywhere in his writings.  There is not even a brief mention of such a concept.


But on the other hand, Paul does tell us over and over that justification / salvation is obtained by faith and NOT by works (Romans 3:28; 4:2-6, 9-10; Galatians 2:16; 3:1-3; 3:11).  A man is saved by the grace of God through faith (i.e., trusting) in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and nothing else.  There is no list of good works, no sacraments, and no formulas that can be added to His sufficient work.  That is the simplicity of the true gospel.  But unfortunately, the Catholic view of justification is another gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4).