Archive for November 12, 2010

(Apologetics) John Vs Mike – 5

Posted: November 12, 2010 by CatholicJules in Apologetics

From the website: http://www.pro-gospel.org, by Mike Gendron

Mike Gendron:

Purgatory: Purifying Fire or Fatal Fable

Catholics who believe a purifying fire will purge away their sins are deluded victims of a fatal fabrication. The invention of a place for purification of sins called Purgatory is one of the most seductive attractions of the Roman Catholic religion. Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church described this deceptive hoax brilliantly. He said: “Purgatory is what makes the whole system work. Take out Purgatory and it’s a hard sell to be a Catholic. Purgatory is the safety net, when you die, you don’t go to hell. You go [to Purgatory] and get things sorted out and finally get to heaven if you’ve been a good Catholic. In the Catholic system you can never know you’re going to heaven. You just keep trying and trying…in a long journey toward perfection. Well, it’s pretty discouraging. People in that system are guilt-ridden, fear-ridden and have no knowledge of whether or not they’re going to get into the Kingdom. If there’s no Purgatory, there’s no safety net to catch me and give me some opportunity to get into heaven. It’s a second chance, it’s another chance after death” (from “The Pope and the Papacy”).

The Origin of Purgatory

There was no mention of Purgatory during the first two centuries of the church. However, when Roman Emperor Theodosius (379-395) decreed that Christianity was to be the official religion of the empire, thousands of pagans flooded into the Church and brought their pagan beliefs and traditions with them. One of those ancient pagan beliefs was a place of purification where souls went to make satisfaction for their sins.

The concept became much more widespread around 600 A.D. due to the fanaticism of Pope Gregory the Great. He developed the doctrine through visions and revelations of a Purgatorial fire. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (CE), Pope Gregory said Catholics “will expiate their faults by purgatorial flames,” and “the pain [is] more intolerable than any one can suffer in this life.” Centuries later, at the Council of Florence (1431), it was pronounced an infallible dogma. It was later reaffirmed by the Council of Trent (1564). The dogma is based largely on Catholic tradition from extra- biblical writings and oral history. “So deep was this belief ingrained in our common humanity that it was accepted by the Jews, and in at least a shadowy way by the pagans, long before the coming of Christianity” (CE). It seems incomprehensible that Rome would admit to using a pagan tradition for the defense of one of its most esteemed “Christian” doctrines.

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Mike Gendron:

The Origin of Purgatory

There was no mention of Purgatory during the first two centuries of the church. However, when Roman Emperor Theodosius (379-395) decreed that Christianity was to be the official religion of the empire, thousands of pagans flooded into the Church and brought their pagan beliefs and traditions with them. One of those ancient pagan beliefs was a place of purification where souls went to make satisfaction for their sins.

John Martignoni

I commented on the 1st paragraph of Gendron’s article in the last issue (#141) which you can find on the “Newsletter” page of our website (www.biblechristiansociety.com), so I’ll start with “The Origin of Purgatory” in this issue.

Okay, what’s the first thing wrong with what he says here?  He’s arguing from silence.  He states that there is “no mention of Purgatory during the first two centuries of the church.”  My response is, “So what!?”  First of all, do we have every single thing that was written by Christians during the first two centuries of the Church?  Not hardly.

Second of all, if he is going to offer the supposed silence of the early Church (as found or not found, I assume, in early Christian writings) as proof that the doctrine of Purgatory is a false doctrine, then he would also have to believe that salvation by faith alone (Sola Fide) is a false doctrine, so also Sola Scriptura (Scripture as the sole rule of faith for Christians), so also Once Saved Always Saved, so also individual interpretation of Scripture, so also Baptism as being merely symbolic, and many other doctrines that Mr. Gendron holds near and dear.  Nowhere are any of these beliefs of Mr. Gendron mentioned in the early centuries by the Church (nor in later centuries, either).  Mr. Gendron, I ask you, where in the writings of the early Church do we see the teaching of salvation by faith alone?  We don’t.  That is a dogma formulated by Martin Luther and his “church.”

The next thing wrong with what he says is this: He offers absolutely no back up for his claim that the belief in Purgatory was brought into the Church when “thousands of pagans flooded into the Church” in the late 4th century.  Please Mr. Gendron, can you give us some 4th century source documents that support this claim of yours?  Or, are you relying solely on “tradition” for this belief?  Fact of the matter is, Mr. Gendron is indeed relying on tradition for this statement.  And it’s a tradition that stems from a complete lack of integrity in historical scholarship, or rather, from just a complete lack of historical scholarship period.

Let’s look at a few sources that place the Christian belief in Purgatory before the 379-395 AD timeframe cited by Mr. Gendron.  First of all, we see Tertullian clearly talking about what we call Purgatory, although he called it Hades, in his Treatise on the Soul which was written around 210 AD: “In short, if we understand that prison of which the Gospel speaks to be Hades, and if we interpret the last farthing (see Matt 5:25-26) to be the light offense which is to be expiated there before the resurrection, no one will doubt that the soul undergoes some punishments in Hades….”  Lanctatius offers purgatorial language in The Divine Institutions around 310 AD: “But also when God will judge the just, it is likewise in fire that He will try them.  At that time, they whose sins are uppermost, either because of their gravity or their number, will be drawn together by the fire and burned [Purgatory].  Those, however, who have been imbued with full justice and maturity of virtue, will not feel that fire…”

Also, we have citations of the Christian tradition of praying and offering sacrifices for the dead from before the timeframe cited by Mr. Gendron as to when the “innovation” of Purgatory was first introduced.  These citations are important, because if there is no Purgatory, then Christiian prayers for the dead are useless since if you’re in Hell, prayer is of no avail to you, and if you’re in Heaven, prayer is not necessary for you.  Only if one has a belief in the concept of Purgatory do prayers for the dead make sense.

From the Epitaph of Abercius, who was Bishop of Hierapolis, from about 180 AD: “May everyone who is in accord with this and who understands it, pray for Abercius [after his death].”  But why if there is only Heaven or Hell?

Tertullian, from his treatise, The Crown, around 211 AD: “A woman, after the death of her husband…prays for his soul…And each year, on the anniversary of his death, she offers the sacrifice.”

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, when discussing the Mass in his Catechetical Lectures, around 350 AD, describes the prayers in the Sacred Liturgy: “Next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and of all among us who have already fallen asleep; for we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn Sacrifice is laid out.”  How could it possibly benefit the souls of the deceased if there is only Heaven or Hell?

All of which shows, that when one uses actual historical documents, rather than a fabricated history that grows out of bigotry towards the Catholic Church, it is quite easy to show that the Christian belief in Purgatory pre-dates the period that Mr. Gendron claims it was brought into the Church by pagans.  And not only do these actual documents show that Christian belief in the concept of Purgatory pre-dated the timeframe given by Mr. Gendron, but these actual historical documents tend to point to the fact that the belief was widespread and existed in the earliest period of Christianity.

By the way, Mr. Gendron, what Church was it that these “thousands of pagans” came into?  You obviously believe it was the Catholic Church.  So, by your words here, you are, in essence, admitting that the Catholic Church was the original Christian Church, are you not?  So, if the Catholic Church was the original Christian Church, can we not say that it was the Church Jesus was speaking of when He said, “And the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it?” (Matt 16:18).  Yet, you believe that the gates of Hell did indeed prevail against it.

Mike Gendron:

The concept became much more widespread around 600 A.D. due to the fanaticism of Pope Gregory the Great. He developed the doctrine through visions and revelations of a Purgatorial fire. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (CE), Pope Gregory said Catholics “will expiate their faults by purgatorial flames,” and “the pain [is] more intolerable than any one can suffer in this life.” Centuries later, at the Council of Florence (1431), it was pronounced an infallible dogma. It was later reaffirmed by the Council of Trent (1564). The dogma is based largely on Catholic tradition from extra- biblical writings and oral history. “So deep was this belief ingrained in our common humanity that it was accepted by the Jews, and in at least a shadowy way by the pagans, long before the coming of Christianity” (CE). It seems incomprehensible that Rome would admit to using a pagan tradition for the defense of one of its most esteemed “Christian” doctrines.

John Martignoni

Don’t you love it!?  The “fanaticism” of Pope Gregory the Great.  Again, his claim that this “concept” of Purgatory became much more widespread in the 600’s has already been proven false by the documents I cited earlier.  The concept of Purgatory was already shown to be widespread in the early centuries of the Church.

I also love how he quotes the Catholic Encyclopedia (CE) to show the “fanaticism” of Gregory the Great.  Furthermore, he claims that Pope Gregory “developed” the doctrine through “visions and revelations,” yet offers no source for these claims.  I’m not saying that Gregory didn’t have visions about Purgatory – I don’t know if he did or didn’t – my point is, Mr. Gendron always and everywhere offers no corroboration for his claims.

He then makes the claim that the doctrine of Purgatory is ” based largely on Catholic tradition from extra- biblical writings and oral history,” as if there is absolutely no scriptural evidence for this doctrine.  I ask each of you to go to http://www.newadvent.org, click on the “Encyclopedia” tab, and then look up Purgatory in the Catholic Encyclopedia there.  See if you think Mr. Gendron is being a bit disingenuous in his claim after you read all of the Scripture verses – Old Testament and New – cited in that article.  It’s one thing to disagree with the Church and the Early Church Fathers as to how to interpret this or that Scripture verse, it is something of an entirely different nature to pretend that the Church depends not a whit on Scripture for the certainty of its teaching on this particular doctrine.

Finally, his last sentence above speaks volumes regarding Mr. Gendron’s integrity.  It seems incomprehensible that Rome would admit to using a pagan tradition for the defense of one of its most esteemed “Christian” doctrines. His method of selectively quoting Catholic sources and then offering his own biased and bigoted interpretation of those selected quotes, is disingenous at best, and downright dishonest at worst.  Let me put the quote from the CE that he cites as “using a pagan tradition for the defense” of the doctrine of Purgatory, in context:

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

“Purgatory (Lat., “purgare”, to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.

The faith of the Church concerning purgatory is clearly expressed in the Decree of Union drawn up by the Council of Florence (Mansi, t. XXXI, col. 1031), and in the decree of the Council of Trent which (Sess. XXV) defined:

“Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has from the Sacred Scriptures and the ancient tradition of the Fathers taught in Councils and very recently in this Ecumenical synod (Sess. VI, cap. XXX; Sess. XXII cap.ii, iii) that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar; the Holy Synod enjoins on the Bishops that they diligently endeavor to have the sound doctrine of the Fathers in Councils regarding purgatory everywhere taught and preached, held and believed by the faithful” (Denzinger, “Enchiridon”, 983).

Further than this the definitions of the Church do not go, but the tradition of the Fathers and the Schoolmen must be consulted to explain the teachings of the councils, and to make clear the belief and the practices of the faithful.
Temporal punishment

That temporal punishment is due to sin, even after the sin itself has been pardoned by God, is clearly the teaching of Scripture. God indeed brought man out of his first disobedience and gave him power to govern all things (Wisdom 10:2), but still condemned him “to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow” until he returned unto dust. God forgave the incredulity of Moses and Aaron, but in punishment kept them from the “land of promise” (Numbers 20:12). The Lord took away the sin of David, but the life of the child was forfeited because David had made God’s enemies blaspheme His Holy Name (2 Samuel 12:13-14). In the New Testament as well as in the Old, almsgiving and fasting, and in general penitential acts are the real fruits of repentance (Matthew 3:8; Luke 17:3; 3:3). The whole penitential system of the Church testifies that the voluntary assumption of penitential works has always been part of true repentance and the Council of Trent (Sess. XIV, can. xi) reminds the faithful that God does not always remit the whole punishment due to sin together with the guilt. God requires satisfaction, and will punish sin, and this doctrine involves as its necessary consequence a belief that the sinner failing to do penance in this life may be punished in another world, and so not be cast off eternally from God.
Venial sins

All sins are not equal before God, nor dare anyone assert that the daily faults of human frailty will be punished with the same severity that is meted out to serious violation of God’s law. On the other hand whosoever comes into God’s presence must be perfectly pure for in the strictest sense His “eyes are too pure, to behold evil” (Habakkuk 1:13). For unrepented venial faults for the payment of temporal punishment due to sin at time of death, the Church has always taught the doctrine of purgatory.

So deep was this belief ingrained in our common humanity that it was accepted by the Jews, and in at least a shadowy way by the pagans, long before the coming of Christianity. (“Aeneid,” VI, 735 sq.; Sophocles, “Antigone,” 450 sq.).”

After citing Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, the Catholic Encyclopedia mentions, pretty much as an afterthought, that even the pagans believed in the concept of Purgatory, “in at least a shadowy way,” and so what does Mr. Gendron focus on as Catholic justification for a belief in Purgatory?  Pagan tradition.  Do you think the people reading his article on Purgatory get a fair, honest, and objective view of why the Church believes as it does on Purgatory?  Absolutely not.  He seems to frequently use tactics that are less honorable than they could be.  He turns a brief mention of pagans believing in Purgatory in a “shadowy way” into Rome admitting that it uses “a pagan tradition for the defense of one of its most esteemed ‘Christian’ doctrines.”  All the CE was saying is that this belief in Purgatory was pretty much recognized as a universal truth.  I have heard Christian apologists, when making an argument for the existence of God, talk about how all ancient cultures believed, in some way, in the concept of a god, in order to merely show that this was a universal truth believed by pagans, Jews, and Christians.  Does that mean that Christian apologists depend on “pagan tradition” as a defense for their belief in God?  What a ludicrous statement!

Finally, what do you want to bet that Mr. Gendron wears a wedding ring?  Odds are that he does.  Problem is, where does the tradition of wearing a wedding ring come from?  Christianity?  Nope.  It comes from Paganism.  Oh my…