Monday, November 23, 2009

The Maccabees Revisited: Purgatory Undone

One of the worst things about the blogging world is when one can't keep up due to being ultra-busy. Don't get me wrong, it's fun to blog, but it can be rather disappointing when one can't finish what he started. Factor in complacency and the blog becomes an afterthought, only to be remembered from time to time. Become aware that it has been months since your last entry and you become aware that you don't have much to say. The blogosphere has become too big and you are oh so small. Oh, well.

I read a response from "Joe" to my blog entry "Purging purgatory from 2 Maccabees " some time back. I meant to respond but found myself getting complacent once again. A wife, four kids, church, and a time-consuming job can invoke complacency big-time. Yet, I will fight it off just to provide this response. Joe's words will be in blue, mine in black.

Before addressing the dogma of purgatory I must correct an error in your understanding of Catholicism. You claim that the statement below is Catholic teaching;“Those who die in a state of mortal sin cannot be prayed for. They are lost.”Whose soul would we pray for if not for that of a loved one who died in a state of mortal sin. No true Catholic would presume to know the disposition of anyone’s immortal soul nor believe that any soul is beyond the infinite mercy of The Lord.

Hi Joe,

I believe that the statement I made accurately sums up the Catholic position on mortal sin and, although Catholics don’t believe one can presuppose the state of anyone in the eternal, one can make a determination regarding the sin in which these men died. Therefore, in the Maccabean account, it is the 1st and 2nd commandment that is broken and that would involve mortal sin, thus cutting them from God, making it futile to pray from an alleged purgatory. To be fair, Catholics are told they can pray, this is part and parcel of Catholic doctrine, but my point has always been that there is inconsistency, especially when an obvious sin is committed and pointed out as the reason for their destruction (vs. 40). Considering that the nature of this sin implies the Catholic doctrine of mortal sin, these men went to hell, where prayer is ineffectual, and Judas’s eye seems to be on the resurrection, with the hope that the sin would be blotted from God’s remembrance as stated in the text. Again, this doesn’t imply a purgatory in the least, but an appeal to mercy in the Day of Judgment. Yet, these men didn’t die “godly” (vs. 45), which Judas presupposes, and winds up making quite the prayer request. Furthermore, if one assumes that their valiant actions, on behalf of a godly cause, would demand a more positive restitution, what about the “high places”, the pagan altars reused for the service of God? Was God pleased with His people's "noble" cause? What about Uzzah who evoked God’s anger when touching the Ark of the Covenant in an attempt to keep it balanced (2 Samuel 6:6-7; 1 Chronicles 13:9-10)? Was God pleased with his "noble" effort?

I would challenge your disbelief in purgatory in two ways, both in the case of the scripture you mention and using general logic. I would start with a definition of purgatory. Purgatory describes the state of soul that has not been damned but that requires purification before being worthy of the presence of God.

I am familiar with the doctrine of purgatory and there is really nothing to challenge. I believe that purgatory is an offshoot of the Catholic view of sin, a manmade doctrine. Furthermore, I don’t think that we can “rationalize” it into existence just because fallible human beings tend to categorize.

If the fallen comrades in 2 Macabbees had been judged at the moment if death, there would be no point in praying for them or offering sacrifices for them. If they are saints in the presence of The Lord, they require no sacrifice. If they are damned, there is no reason to sacrifice for them. The text clearly suggests a third state where prayers and sacrifice would be of use.

Or Judas could be making it up as he goes along, considering these men died for what he perceived a godly cause, so he acted upon his presumptions, thus you’re posing a false dilemma. I really don’t know how you can surmise that this demands a third state when Judas’s actions seem to appeal to God’s mercy in the Day of Judgment. In other words, if there were no purgatory inflicted INTO the verse, it winds up being a prayer for God’s mercy and involves actions based on hopes for His forgiveness and forgetfulness. Purgatory is simply being forced in.

I would also ask you consider how God (who is the source of our understanding of justice) could not allow for a purgatorial state. Take 2 cases;

1. The Blessed Virgin Mary who was without sin, was perfectly obedient to God, and mother to the Jesus.

2. A pedophile and murderer (who rapes, torments, steals innocence, destroys families and kills children) who, in his last hours of life repents for his sins and accepts Jesus. Surly there must be mercy for even so twisted a soul. But that soul cannot expect to be immediately received into Gods presence in same fashion as Mary after a life so full of egregious sin.

Why not? Why can’t a pedophile and murderer sincerely repent and turn to Christ, even in his last hours, and still enter the kingdom? What about Paul who persecuted the church and responsible for the murders of Christians? What about the thief who was told that “TODAY” he would be with Christ in paradise? Is it possible that God be that merciful? I believe that God can without the need for afterlife purification and there is no reason to believe that one must go through a purification process, in the afterlife, in order to attain heaven when the blood of Christ is perfect and able to cleanse us perfectly.

Just couple of points to consider.....You may also want to look at;1 Corinthians 3:11-15

I already commented on this in another blog entry. Purgatory doesn’t factor in. Read:

Luke 12:58-59

I don’t see anything “purgatorial” about the verses. If we interpret them on a spiritual level, there really isn’t any way to pay the “very last cent” (NASB), because we don’t possess the ability to pay for our sins. Only Christ can do this. Besides, you pose a bit of a conundrum because the Catholic position doesn’t claim that purgatory is for “payment” but for cleansing. I really don’t think you want to go further then what the verses plainly state.

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