Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Purgatory now

C. S. Lewis helped to popularize the notion of purgatory among quasi-evangelicals. That's a reason not to get your theology from Lewis.

One issue is how we define purgatory. Suppose we define purgatory as means of weaning believers from the attractions of sin. On that definition, this life is purgatory. God uses this life to wean Christians from sin. By experiencing the deleterious consequences of sin, it helps Christians to foster an aversion to sin. Sin has short-term attractions, but it causes long-term suffering. For Christians, life in a fallen world is remedial punishment. 

In the intermediate state, we''ll presumably remember the deleterious consequences of sin. However, the intermediate state won't have the temptations to sin that bombard us in this life. So purgatory, in a traditional sense, is superfluous and misplaced. 


  1. It is acknowledged that humanity cannot enter Heaven or see God as He is in our current state. We're too sinful, even as believers. At the point of death, have most believers reached a state of sinless perfection? I'm doubting that's the case. So, some sort of purification must take place. Whether that process of purgation takes a nanosecond or a decade or a century isn't the question. Time isn't experienced there as it is here. The question is whether it must happen at all.

    1. Acknowledged by whom? If sinners could be in the presence of God Incarnate, what difference, in principle does death make?

    2. To James:

      While purgation might entail purification, the reverse is not necessary the case. Purification can take place apart from suffering or temporal punishment. Especially if penal substitution is true, since Christ took upon Himself the eternal punishment due for our sins. Roman Catholics agree, but believe temporal punishment in purgatory awaits those not fully purified in this life. They'll point out that Protestants also have a similar doctrine of temporal chastisement of believers in this world. However, there's virtually nothing in Scripture itself that suggests purgatory. It's a teaching that derives from speculation not revelation. According to Paul, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord Jesus (apparently instantly). There's no hint of delay or a heads up regarding suffering for sins.

      2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
      3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.- 1 John 3:2-3

      The implication of the above passage is that progressive purification happens in this life (v. 3), and its instantaneous completion occurs upon entering God's and Christ's presence (v. 2).

    3. Re-reading my post, I didn't mean to say that RCs believe in penal substitution. Only that Christ endured eternal punishment in our place in some sense. But we may still need to endure temporal punishment in purgatory.