There are 2.1 billions Christians in this world. We are the largest religious group and the closest rival are the 1.7 billion Muslims. Catholics number 1.3 billion and Protestants are around 350 million. In spite of the much larger number of Catholics, Protestants are very active in western nations. Many Catholics have been converted over to their faith, but this is mainly due to the Catholics ignorance of their own faith and being unable to respond to attacks against it. While this chapter will not be a complete course on Catholic apologetics, it will give you enough information to defend the doctrine of Purgatory.
Objection #1: Purgatory isn’t mentioned in the Bible
Fundamentalists believe that the bible is the sole rule of faith. In other words, all Christian doctrine is in the bible. No other authoritative source is needed. So, the doctrine of Purgatory is to be rejected because they can’t find it in the bible.
There is one small problem here. Sola scriptura (using the bible as the sole rule of faith) is unbiblical. Fundamentalists believe that all of their doctrines are in the bible. The bible even says that not all doctrines are in the bible.
Fundamentalists believe in the doctrine of the trinity and the divinity of the holy spirit, but neither of these doctrines are in the bible. The first time the trinity was mentioned by a Christian was 190 AD by Tertullian. While the word, Purgatory, is not in the Bible, there are many passages that allude to its existence.
1 Corinthians 3:15 is the most commonly used biblical passage that Catholics use to show the existence of Purgatory: “the one whose work is burnt down will suffer the loss of it, though he himself will be saved; he will be saved as someone might expect to be saved from a fire.”
Blaspheming the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in this world, or the next: “And anyone who says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but no one who speaks against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven either in this world or in the next” (Matthew 12:32). This implies that there is another world where sins can be forgiven. It can’t be Heaven where there is no sin, or Hell where there is no repentance, but it must be a third place where sins can be forgiven (i.e. Purgatory).
Another passage talks about a place where you will not be released until you paid your debt: “In truth I tell you, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:26).
Jesus spoke about an unforgiving debtor would be tortured until he paid his debt. He said that the same thing would happen to us if we didn’t forgive sins against us: “And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:34-35).
Nothing unclean can enter Heaven: “Nothing unclean may come into it: no one who does what is loathsome or false, but only those who are listed in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27). If you die with unrepented sin, or ar attached to worldly things, your not clean enough to enter Heaven. These things need to be purged from you before you can enter. The purging takes place in Purgatory.
Objection #2: There is no need for Purgatory. Jesus paid the price for our sins.
The Protestant view of salvation is very different from the Catholic one. They believe that Christ’s death on the cross completely redeemed mankind and therefore there is no need for the expiation of sins in Purgatory. They believe that Catholics claim that the redemption of Christ was incomplete which is why we believe in Purgatory. There is, therefore, no need to pay for sins and suffer in Purgatory because Jesus already paid for them in full.
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24). Ronald Knox interpreted this passage as “the obvious meaning is that Christ’s sufferings, although fully satisfactory on behalf of our sins, leave us under a debt of honour, as it were, to repay them by sufferings of our own”. We must suffer for our sins, either here on earth or in Purgatory.
Objection #3: Purgatory wasn’t believed by the early Christians. It was invented centuries later by the Catholic Church.
Fundamentalists believe that the early church was non-denominational. They weren’t Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and certainly not Catholics. The first followers of Christ were just Christians who used the bible as their sole rule of faith. The early church seems to be exactly like the Protestants who started 16 centuries later.
Catholicism is believed to have been started in 313 A.D. with the Edict of Milan by Constantine. After that, the real Christians went into hiding where they would reappear 1200 years later and claim that they were there all this time.
Since Purgatory is a Catholic doctrine, Fundamentalists claim that the early Christians didn’t believe in this doctrine. However, there is evidence that the early church prayed for the dead. The catacombs in the first century had inscriptions requesting prayers for the dead. The first Christians were Jewish converts who had already had a long tradition of praying for the dead. There aren’t any records of Christians protesting against prayers for the dead. This is a time when any heresy led to a violent reaction from the then extremely conservative proto-Christians.
Objection #4: Praying for the dead is unbiblical.
The Jews have been praying for the dead before the time of Christ: “For had he not expected the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead, whereas if he had in view the splendid recompense reserved for those who make a pious end, the thought was holy and devout. Hence, he had this expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin” (2 Maccabees 12:44-45). This is a biblical text with Jews praying for the dead.
Even today, the Jews pray for the dead.
Objection #5: The Church uses Purgatory to make money.
If Purgatory is a money making scheme, it isn’t a very good one. A mass for the dead typically costs $10 for a donation, but this amount isn’t fixed and can be set to a lower amount or waved if the priest feels the parishioner can’t afford it. Most of these Masses take place on days outside the Sunday services, where no collection is taken.
Considerably more money is generated on a Sunday Mass where you have hundreds of people donating money. Masses for the dead are definitely not a money maker.