Sola Scriptura and Purgatory

Q. What scriptures support the Doctrine of Purgatory?

A. You ask for this because you are convinced that the final authority for your beliefs is scripture. And I know you are sincere in this because I was also, when I was a Protestant. But this practice would never have caught on if it had not been invented 1500 years after Christ, after the canonization of the Bible, and also, after the invention of the printing press. Because most people could not even read let alone afford a Bible. See my post on Sola Scriptura.

I want to be very clear about a very fundamental difference between the Protestant Churches and the Catholic Church. Starting in the years after 1517 Protestants began to sit down with Sacred Scripture and REJECT ALL HISTORICAL CHRISTIAN BELIEFS they did not like or that they could not find explicitly in Scripture. They mistakenly believed that they were deriving their new religion OUT OF SCRIPTURE. But this is simply not the case. As can be seen by the following evidence.

“Luther removed seven OT books and five NT books. Not because he found a table of contents in scripture alone but because these books contradicted his new religion.

The Protestants kept the historic Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation because they agreed with them and they were hinted at in scripture but not because they were stated clearly and unambiguously in scripture, the way Protestants demand scripture for Purgatory or the Immaculate Conception. As proof of this take the Jehovah’s Witnesses who reject the Trinity and Incarnation on the basis of scripture alone.

Luther and Henry VIII kept the doctrine of the Real Presence in the Eucharist based on their Interpretation of scripture alone but later reformers rejected this Historic Christian Doctrine based on their INTERPRETATION of scripture alone. And so the division of Christ’s Church began in earnest despite:

John 17:20-23“My prayer is …. 21 that all of them may be ONE, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. … I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be ONE as we are ONE: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete UNITY to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

…which Protestants ignore or interpret away despite their proclamation of Sola Scriptura. Once Sacred Scripture was unhinged from Historic Christianity anyone’s interpretation was just as good as anyone else’s. No final authority existed anywhere in Protestantism. So division was unavoidable.

So, regarding Purgatory I cannot give any scripture that categorically teaches the Doctrine of Purgatory that would satisfy a sola scriptura Protestant. I can show you verses that imply the doctrine HERE. I can show you writings of the early Church fathers from before the time when the Bible was canonized HERE or HERE at Catholic Answers. I can show you that the concept, of the need for purification before attaining Heaven, has roots in the Jewish Faith HERE.

If you are able to believe it is possible to sit down 2000 years after the birth of Jesus and read scripture and interpret it infallibly all by yourself, disregarding what Christians believed in the years immediately following the death of the apostles, you have more faith than I do. But, by what authority do you claim infallibility? Or does Luther claim infallibility? Or Calvin? Or any of the Protestant sects?

Sabbath to Suday?

Q. Who gave the Catholic Church and the other Churches the authority to change the Lord’s Day from Saturday to Sunday?

A. The change of keeping the Lord’s Day on Sunday instead of Saturday was by the authority Jesus gave to Peter and the Church He founded. By giving the keys of the kingdom to Peter and the Church and the power to bind and loose (a rabbinic formula meaning “authority to Rule) the day of worship was changed to Sunday in celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Interestingly, Jesus did nothing on Saturday or the Jewish Sabbath. But Friday was consecrated by His death and Sunday by His resurrection. Also, most if not all of His appearances to His apostles and others occured on SUNDAY.

So, of course those who do not accept the authority of the Catholic Church to rule would reject this change based on scripture alone. And others who also reject the Catholic Church and yet accept the sabbath change to Sunday accept this Catholic TRADITION and several others. Some of the other Catholic TRADITIONS Protestant accept are the canon of the New Testament, the Doctrine of the Trinity, and Incarnation. Because as I have said elsewhere, the New Testament and even the whole Bible is NOT a Systematic Theology text. Someone must interpret it. The question is: Who has authority to interpret it infallibly?

Why Does the Catholic Church Accept Traditions?

Q. Tradition is condemned in the Bible so why does the Cathlic Church base some of its doctrines on it?

A. Some people think the verses below condemn tradition and therefore, the Catholic Church.

Matthew 15:3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?

Mark 7: 9 And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe[a] your own traditions!

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

However, in scripture there are two types of tradition–human and apostolic. Some human traditions are bad because they oppose the true faith. Jesus condemns human tradition that negates the commandments of God and St. Paul warns the Colossians about deceptive philosophy based upon human tradition.

But, then in the verses below we see St. Paul commending and exhorting his readers to hold firmly to the traditions that he had taught them.

1 Corinthians 11:2 I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.

2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

The Catholic Church follows St. Paul and continues to hold to and teach the Tradition received from the apostles.

To clarify: In the Catholic Church what is meant by Tradition with a capital “T”  or when we speak about the authority of scripture and Tradition it is nothing less than the Teaching of the Apostles. This is the Faith as taught and handed down from the apostles of Jesus Christ. It does not refer to anything less. Scared Scripture itself is Apostolic Tradition. The New Testament contains the Teaching of the Apostles or Tradition .

The Canon of Scripture is also a Tradition since none of the sacred authors were inspired to write a Table of Contents for the Bible.

Constantine and the Catholic Church

Q. Didn’t the Catholic Church become paganized when Constantine forced everyone to become Christian?

A. If it did, then a Pagan Catholic Church canonized the Bible. So how could we possibly trust a Bible canonized by pagans?

The truth lies elsewhere. The idea that the Catholic Church became corrupted once Constantine legalized Christianity in the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. is a plausible idea grasped at and promulgated by anti-Catholics. The problem with this is that it does not hold up under scrutiny.

First and foremost, for Protestants and the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, is that the Bible they use to formulate their doctrines and all of Salvation History, was canonized by the Catholic Church (Pope Innocent 405 A.D.) long after Constantine legalized Christianity. So, if the Christian Church was sound only until Constantine, then the Bible was canonized by pagans. For more information about the process of canonizaton see my posts on the Old Testament, who decided which books would be in the Bible and Martin Luther’s view.

Secondly, if the Catholic Church had become pagan after the Edict of Milan, then there would have been absolutely no reason for Emperor Julian, the Apostate, to launch a major persecution of the Church in an attempt to restore paganism in 361 A.D.

And finally, the theory by many Anti-Catholics, is that during the first 300 years of Christian history the true Christian faith was alive and well but became corrupted with weird Catholic/pagan beliefs after Constantine, falls apart when one reads the early Christian writings of the first three centuries.

It is a warm thought for many non Catholics to imagine that the early church worship and beliefs were very much like present day Baptist, Calvary Chapel, Vineyard, or My Church etc. It is thought that the early church did not look anything like or believe anything like what the Catholic Church believes and practices today.

Quite the opposite is true. All of the beliefs of the Catholic Church were present in the very earliest writings of the Church Fathers. So, the unique Catholic beliefs in the perpetual virginity of Mary, her assumption, her immaculate conception, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, purgatory, hell, oral confession to a priest, sacramental baptism, Pope etc. were all believed by the Catholic Church long before she canonized the Bible.

How does one, with integrity, accept the Bible canonized by a Church one deems to be pagan or corrupt and then 1000 years after it is canonized remove seven books out of the Old Testament? On this theory it would be safe to accept the Book of Mormon as sacred but reject the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

On the other hand, if the earliest Christian Church had Catholic beliefs and practices how can a Martin Luther safely throw them out 1500 years later?

Paul Rebuked Peter

Q. In Galatians 2:11-14 Paul rebuked Peter for hypocrisy so it seems pretty clear that Peter was NOT infallible after all.

A. If the definition of the Dogma of Infallibility of the Pope included all the actions of the pope then the Galatians passage would indeed be evidence that Peter was not infallible. However, the Dogma of Infallibility DOES NOT include the actions of the pope. The Pope is only infallible when and ONLY when, he both 1) teaches on faith and morals and 2) when he teaches to the whole church.

In the Galatians passage Peter did not fulfill either one of the requirements for infallible teaching let alone both requirements. He simply did not promulgate any teaching for the whole church. He caved into peer pressure. He was weak at this moment.

Some might insist that he certainly was teaching by his actions. But again this is not the type of teaching referred to in the Dogma of Infallibility. But even if we concede that Peter did teach, still he was NOT teaching error to the whole Church. Therefore, it still would not meet the requirements necessary to be considered a failure of infallibility.

This Dogma does not imply that every word from the lips of the pope is infallible.

He could make errors in his speech as he walks with a Cardinal friend down the hall at the Vatican. (Not taught to the whole Church/not on faith and morals)

He could make arithmetic errors in his checkbook. (Neither about faith and morals nor for the whole Church)

In a meeting and discussion of theology with other bishops he could even make mistakes. (Not taught to the whole Church)

But none of these would disqualify him from being infallible because the Holy Spirit ONLY protects his teaching when it is about both faith and morals and it is being taught to the whole church