Monday, July 17, 2006

2 Timothy 1:16-19 - Onesiphorus in Purgatory???

Seems I indirectly started a series on the Scriptures (and assumed “Scripture” verses) which are alleged to support purgatory. I think I will stay on this subject for awhile. I figure that if a refutation of the doctrine is to be made, it starts with the Scriptures Catholics claim imply a purgatory. With this in mind we go to 2 Timothy 1:16-19 which reads:

May the Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me, and he was not ashamed of my chain, but having come to Rome, he more diligently sought and found me. May the Lord give to him to find mercy from the Lord in that Day. And in what things he served in Ephesus, you know very well.

The argument usually goes like this:

From the context, it seems certain that Onesiphorus is dead (This is also the opinion of the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible; vol 3; p 603). Paul praises his Christian friend, Onesiphorus, for his good work, but notice Paul does not presume immediate entrance into heaven for his dear friend (Even if Onesiphorus is not dead, Paul still asks the Lord to be merciful). Why be merciful, if all Christians go straight to heaven? We either have Paul praying for a dead person, or we have him interceding for him for mercy on his judgment day. In either case, purgatory alone can explain such thoughts of Paul. If there is no purgatory, then Christians go straight to heaven, which is the popular Protestant belief. If this is so, then Paul's remarks are totally off base; it would be meaningless to ask mercy for Onesiphorus. Purgatory alone makes the passage coherent (see here Purgatory).

Onesiphorus was very faithful. In spite of Paul’s situation (remember Paul was chained to a soldier), he not only sought him out, but did so diligently. Paul was very thankful for his faithful disciple and bestowed his blessing upon him and his family. The context of the passage doesn’t really reveal if Onesiphorus is alive or dead. Paul could have easily stated the same if Onesiphorus was away or jailed; thus he bestows these blessing upon his family residing in Ephesus. The Roman Catholic priest who wrote this allows for the possibility that Onesiphorus is alive, which is a rarity considering many do not waver and claim he is dead. Yet, Catholic tradition state that Onesiphorus died in 81 A.D. (see here: St. Onesiphorus) and considering that these sources place Paul’s death at around 67 A.D. (see here: St. Paul) this would place Onesiphorus’ death some 14 years AFTER Paul. For those who insist that Onesiphorus is dead in the passage, this would be a case where a Catholic tradition contradicts Catholic apologetics.

Yet, the writer assumes that a purgatory is implied even if Onesiphorus is alive and he bases this on Paul’s prayer for mercy on “that Day.” This is a leap in logic considering that God can grant mercy at the general Judgment without the need for a purgatory. This would entail reading purgatory into the verse. There is no reason to jump this far considering that the fact that God allows us into heaven is based on His mercy. But why did Paul specifically pray for mercy upon Onesiphorus, especially if there was no reason to? It can be gathered from the context of the verse that Paul was merely being reciprocal to the house of Onesiphorus. In other words, he prays for mercy upon Onesiphorus because Onesiphorus had mercy on him with his visits. There is no need to inflict purgatory into the verses when there is nothing which lends to it.

In closing, I must mention that, according to Rome, the majority of us will endure purgatory. Only the saints and those who die in martyrdom will bypass it. Scripture evidently speaks of a heaven and a hell, but for purgatory, where the majority will go, it’s odd that the writers can only muster “implications.” That's quite an oversight. Indeed, it is odd that one could only muster implications considering its importance in the afterlife. Asides from its absence in Scripture, we realize that for almost two centuries there was nothing which even remotely resembled afterlife purgatorial thought, Origen and Clement of Alexandria being the first to indulge a concept of it with its fruition coming in the 12th century.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Let's look at 1 Corinthians 3:12-15

Some observations on the verses:

"And if anyone builds on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, grass, straw, the work of each will be revealed; for the Day will make it known, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire will prove the work of each, what sort it is. If the work of anyone which he built remains, he will receive a reward. If the work of anyone shall be consumed, he shall suffer loss; but he will be saved, but so as through fire" (1Corinthians 3:12-15)

It is claimed that the man in the verse "...will be saved, but so as through fire." According to Roman Catholics, this puts the man squarely in the fire and, thus, the man becomes the object of purification. Of course, common sense tells us that the fire must come into contact with the object in order to cause purification, thus, once again, the man must burn in the fire to which effect causes the purification.

It is further claimed that the man will "suffer loss." Some Roman Catholics will interpret the word "suffer" to mean that the man will endure some sort of extreme discomfort or pain. The word for "suffer loss" is zēmioo which, according to Strong's Concordance, means:

To injure, that is, (reflexively or passively) to experience detriment: - be cast away, receive damage, lose, suffer loss.

So, the next logical step is to determine what the man is suffering the loss of or if the man himself is going through some sort of suffering. Before we can determine this, the verses speak of the fire testing each man's "work"; thus, we know that the "work" passes through the fire. According to vss. 12 and 13, the works are those men build on the foundation of Jesus Christ. In the context of the rest of the chapter, these are the "works" of ministry. Contextually, the incorruptible materials used to build upon the foundation of Christ will endure the fire, but that which is corruptible will burn away. So, it makes perfect sense that the corruptible works of the man will be destroyed by the fire, thus this correlates with how he suffers. He suffers in the same manner one does when he sees his possessions go up in flames. Yet, he isn't the object of the flames. He escapes the fire. This is comparable to the man whose home catches fire. All his possessions, that which he worked for remain inside. He runs out before the flames claim him. When the flames are put out, he salvages what he can. Yet, almost everything is gone with the exception of that which the fire could not burn. He finds his jewels and other valuables, but that which couldn't endure burned away. Yet, as the verse plainly states, he escaped the the fire. He managed to get out. In essence, this analogy is what the passages show clearly, thus to say that it is purgatorial, placing the man as the object of the "purifying" flames, is forcing the text to say something it doesn't say.

One other thing that bears mentioning, there is no salvation in purgatory according to Rome. The soul who goes there is already saved and, whether it be a literal fire or not, must endure a cleansing in purgatory. Yet, the verses show this to be in reverse. When the man escapes the fire this is when he is "saved." According to Rome, the soul in purgatory is already saved, yet must endure the fire and released when satisfaction is attained, the stains of his sin having been purged, but this doesn't exegete well with the passages which would have the the man saved after he endures the fire.

All in all, it's a wonder that folks would actually believe these passages imply a purgatorial cleansing, when the only objects enduring the flames are those which are away or apart from the man and not those which are attached to him. How one sees a purgatory in a passage which seems to be so anti-purgatory is beyond me.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Vicious Circle: the "Anti-Catholic"...

The term “anti-Catholic” is used quite often in Catholic apologetics and in a misleading way. Many Catholic apologists, books, and apologetic websites use the word liberally and without looking back. It instills in their listeners and readers the thought that someone hates their church. In many cases, I believe it is done purposely. After all, who would want to listen to an awful “anti-Catholic”?

The word is often used in conjunction with words such as “misrepresents” and “ignorant.” For example:

Anti-Catholics are ignorant and misrepresent what we truly believe.”

Now, the average Catholic will look at rhetoric such as this, formulate a opinion, and react accordingly, usually rejecting what the Protestant has to say even before hearing it. There is no need to hear the "anti-Catholic" because he hates Catholicism and he hates Catholics. The word brings bonding, solidarity, a sense of being, belonging, and commitment.

Admittedly, there are some who may wear their hearts on their sleeves on both sides, Protestant or Catholic, and some may just be spiteful, hateful, ignorant, and misrepresentative people to begin with, but for the majority of Evangelicals involved in apologetics this is simply not true. The majority of us are simply concerned Christians who disagree with Roman Catholic distinctives (the doctrines that define Roman Catholicism) enough to voice our our opinions against these distinctives. We believe that the Gospel is at stake here. One cannot forsake it for the sake of unity, thus we exercise our God-given right to voice our disagreement with doctrines we feel are a part of "another gospel" (see Galatians 1).

The irony in all this is that Catholics are inherently “anti-Protestant” although many don't realize it. Why? Because they are of the position that Protestants are those who left God's true church and this church is the Roman Catholic Church. Now this is a concern because the Catholic desires that Protestantism, however one defines the term, ceases and returns to the ancient Catholic church. Well, Protestants consider themselves "catholic", a part of the universal church, and that's all well and good, but regardless of the antiquity Rome claims, when the Protestant mentions to the Roman Catholic that Rome doesn’t resemble the church of old and that she- because of her distinctives- isn't the church of old, the Catholic regresses and claims that the Protestant is “anti-Catholic” because he tries to take away what from this evident "truth." The Protestant's position is never indulged because he is "ignorant" and "misrepresentative" and those who hear these words walk away from the "anti-Catholic."

Yet still we persist, following what we feel to be Paul's mandate. Trying to bring these issues into the forefront. Yet, when we try to bring them up, the Catholic apologists, books, and websites call us "anti-Catholics"...

... And so it goes...

Friday, July 07, 2006

Purging purgatory from 2 Maccabees

It is a common Roman Catholic argument that 2 Maccabees 12:40-45 implies purgatory in a stronger sense then our common Scriptures. It is further argued that, because Evangelicals don't accept this book as canonical, it doesn't impede what is stated in these passages. It reveals a belief in praying for the dead and the expunging of sin in the afterlife. Thus, it is argued, purgatory would be the sensible outcome of this expiation. I've read the passages over and over again, but cannot find anything which remotely supports anything which implies anything more then the resurrection. Neither have I found any writings of the early church which uses these passages in the way Rome uses it today. So, let us break down these verses and see what it leads to:

2Maccabees 12:40 - Now under the coats of every one that was slain they found things consecrated to the idols of the Jamnites, which is forbidden the Jews by the law.
Then every man saw that this was the cause wherefore they were slain.

Clearly, those who were slain died in the state of idolatry as the law forbids. Those who were present knew this to be the reason for their deaths. Parallel this to the Catholic teaching on mortal sin which would be comparable to their transgression of the law. Those who die in a state of mortal sin cannot be prayed for. They are lost. Judas' prayer would have been unanswered.

2Maccabees 12:41 - All men therefore praising the Lord, the righteous Judge, who had opened the things that were hid,

God has revealed before all the cause of their deaths. They died because they were idolatrous.

2Maccabees 12:42 - Betook themselves unto prayer, and besought him that the sin committed might wholly be put out of remembrance. Besides, that noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forsomuch as they saw before their eyes the things that came to pass for the sins of those that were slain.

These men prayed that the sin committed might be put out of God’s remembrance. Judas used these men as an example for the people to refrain from sin. He warned them what can happen if they indulge sin. It is unclear if the people prayed that God forget the sin in their midst or for these men.

2Maccabees 12:43 - And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum of two thousand drachms of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection:

Judas took a collection and sent it to Jerusalem so as to offer a sin offering. His intentions were pure and honest and because Judas believed in the resurrection he did so. There is no purgatorial implication here, but only that Judas believed in the resurrection—that the dead will rise again. He was hoping that his men would be raised. There was a Jewish belief that seems to have arisen later where the wicked would be destroyed. It is just as plausible to believe that Judas' believed in annihilation as he would in a purgatory.

2Maccabees 12:44 - For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead.

Again, this passage pertains to the resurrection. The dead CAN rise again without inflicting a purgatory into the mix. Also, why must it be purgatory that Judas is implying? What if Judas was of the view that God can forgive and forget sin before the general judgment? So far, the implication Judas leaves us with is that if one dies in sin then one can pray that his sins be forgotten.

2Maccabees 12:45 - And also in that he perceived that there was great favour laid up for those that died godly, it was an holy and good thought. Whereupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin.

Understand that the book was written by an "epitomizer" of “Jason the Cyrene” and he’s speaking about Judas Maccabeus. From his vantage point, he assumes that Judas is of the thought that these men may have died godly due to their service to God and regardless of their blatant disobedience to the law. Judas believed in the resurrection, thus he prayed for them. The writer assumes this to be a “good and holy thought.” Judas does the “reconciliation” because he believed they may be delivered from their sins. Again, all this is written with the resurrection in mind and all the Catholic can do is inflict “purgatory” and assume that this is what Judas is implying, but there really is no reason to believe this to be the case considering it doesn’t say how this “deliverance” is to take place. Judas could have assumed that God would merely forget their sins due to their servitude sans a purgatory. IOW, there is no reason to believe that Judas, much less the Jewish people, implied or believed in a purgatory, but could have believed that God could forgive sins after death forthright.

In ending, it seems the passages in 2 Maccabees 12 aren’t any more provocative then the common Scripture verses Catholics claim imply a purgatory. Truth is, Catholics cannot uphold this as evidence of a purgatorial belief anymore then the passages they claim from our common Scriptures. Again, there are no early writings which would corroborate that the early church viewed these passages to be purgatorial. Instead, as they do the common Scriptures, they seek implications and read their doctrine back into them.
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