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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Article XXII. Of Purgatory.The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory. . .is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

Often, when in debate or discussion with other Christians, it is posited that Anglicans believe in “Purgatory.” I often reply “Why do you think that?” The answer usually is “Because you pray for the dead.” Indeed, we do pray for the dead, and we believe the dead pray for and with us—but does this mean that we follow the peculiar teaching of the Church of Rome on this matter? The answer is, based on historical and dogmatic theology, an emphatic “no,” but one that often demands explanation to both Anglicans and those outside of the Anglican tradition.The equation of Purgatory with the Intermediate State (in the Anglican teaching, the state in which the souls of all of the faithful departed exist before the Resurrection of the dead) is an erroneous one, especially since the Roman Church elaborates upon both Purgatory and the Intermediate State (in this line of thinking, occupied when “the souls” pass out of Purgatory before the Resurrection, translating their status from that of mere “souls” into true “saints,” and thus necessitating the feast day of All Souls along with that of All Saints); to adopt the Roman terms while attempting an Anglican description usually results in linguistic confusion and theological consternation (See Bishop N.T. Wright’s For All the Saints ).

Indeed, in that the Roman teaching is clearly rejected in the East, such a teaching can in no wise be held as a “Catholic” doctrine proper. When we read Eastern Orthodox texts on such issues there are often narrow variances of opinion than those found in the West and far less elaboration. This from Father Pomazansky’s Orthodox Dogmatic Theology:

"Concerning the state of the soul after the Particular Judgment, the Orthodox Church teaches thus: “We believe that the souls of the dead are in a state of blessedness or torment according to their deeds. After being separated from the body, they immediately pass over either to joy or into sorrow and grief, however, they do not feel either complete blessedness or complete torment. For complete blessedness or complete torment each one receives after the General Resurrection, when the soul is reunited with the body in which it lived in virtue or in vice (The Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs on the Orthodox Faith, paragraph 18). Thus the Orthodox Church distinguishes two different conditions after the Particular Judgment: one for the righteous, another for sinners; in other words, paradise and hell. The Church does not recognize the Roman Catholic teaching of three conditions: 1) blessedness, 2) purgatory, and 3) gehenna (hell). The very name “gehenna” the Fathers of the Church usually refer to the condition after the Last judgment, when both death and hell will be cast into the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15)."

Here it would seem difficult to apply the “Purgatory” label as many moderns wish to use it.

When we look at other Anglican dogmatic texts, such as Browne’s Exposition on the Thirty-Nine Articles, or The Christian Faith by C.B. Moss we are confronted with differing views on these issues within a narrow range of opinion, seeming closer to the Orthodox teaching than to the Roman. Few Anglican authors and even fewer Orthodox authors use the term or designation “Intermediate State” to denote a place of pain, suffering, or retribution for sin. However, the Roman Catholic tradition, and some Anglo-Catholics modeling their views after it, emphasizes the pain and satisfaction that are required of the sinner for the sins of his life. How are we to keep this line of thinking in concert with the Comfortable Words (all from the Holy Scriptures) of the Anglican Eucharist, in which we are assured from Scripture that Christ is the propitiation for our sins? Indeed, how are we to read such a view of purgation (in which a satisfaction of pain is required) in light of the Anglican Eucharist’s canon that states Christ is the “full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world”? N.T Wright summarizes the issue when he says in For All the Saints:

"I cannot stress sufficiently that if we raise the question of punishment for sin, this is something that has already been dealt with on the cross of Jesus. Of course, there have been crude and unbiblical versions of the doctrine of the atonement, and many have rightly reacted against the idea of a vengeful God determined to punish someone and being satisfied by taking it out on his own son. But this is to mistake caricature for biblical doctrine. Paul says, in his most central and careful statement, not that God punished Jesus, but that God 'condemned sin in the flesh' of Jesus (Romans 8.3). Here the instincts of the Reformers, if not always their exact expressions, were spot on. The idea that Christians need to suffer punishment for their sins in a post-mortem purgatory, or anywhere else, reveals a straightforward failure to grasp the very heart of what was achieved on the cross." p 30

We should view any period of “purgation” (if we are even to employ the term, perhaps “growth” or “purification” would be better terms) in the Intermediate State as the 1549 English and 1928 American Prayer Books put it; as simply a period of “continual growth” in God’s “love and service,” a view I have heard espoused by Lutherans, Anglicans, Orthodox, and Baptists alike (a Baptist New Testament professor of mine from Westminster Seminary described it in this manner). This way of thinking of the Intermediate State puts to rest notions of satisfaction for sin and places the emphasis on the inexhaustible nature and love of God; it also eliminates any notion of the ahistorical and theologically incoherent idea of an “Anglican doctrine of Purgatory.”I include the Eastern Orthodox position to show that the notion of Purgatory as found in Roman teachings is not found in the East, and therefore cannot as such be labeled as “Catholic,” unless we take the Roman doctrine to be the measure of the terminology. Indeed, the classical Anglican position on prayers for the departed bears a greater resemblance to Orthodoxy than it does to the medieval concepts of the Church of Rome. As Meyendorff (1979) recounts in Byzantine Theology:

"The debate between Greeks and Latins (on the question of Purgatory). . . showed a radical difference in perspective. While the Latins took for granted their legalistic approach to divine justice—which, according to them, requires a retribution for every sinful act—the Greeks interpreted sin less in terms of the acts committed than in terms of a moral and spiritual disease which was to be healed by divine forbearance and love. The Latins also emphasized the idea of an individual judgment by God of each soul, a judgment which distributes the souls in three categories: the just, the wicked, and those in a middle category—who need to be “purified” by fire. The Greeks, meanwhile, without denying a particular judgment after death or agreeing on the existence of the three categories, maintained that neither the just nor the wicked will attain their final state of either bliss or condemnation before the last day. Both sides agreed that prayers for the departed are necessary and helpful. . .even the just need them;. . .in particular. . .the Eucharistic canon of Chrysostom’s liturgy. . .offers the “bloodless sacrifice” for “patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith,” even for the Virgin Mary herself." p 220-221

So here even the state of the most blessed is to be viewed". . .not as a legal and static justification, but as a never-ending ascent, into which the entire communion of saints—the Church in heaven and the Church on earth—has been initiated in Christ. In the communion of the Body of Christ, all members of the Church, living or dead, are interdependent and united by ties of love and mutual concern; thus the prayers of the Church on earth and the intercession of the saints in heaven can effectively help all sinners, i.e., all men, to get closer to God." p 221This view of growth during the Intermediate State as a “never-ending ascent” is expressed, as was mentioned above, in the Anglican Eucharists of the 1549 English and 1928 American Prayer Books. The emphasis is not on penance, nor on pain, nor satisfaction for sins (which Christ has already paid) but on growth “in the knowledge and the love of God” of those who have “died in thy faith and fear.” This emphasis is the Body of Christ as the Communion of Saints, who all continue in their walk with God before the Resurrection, is taught in the American Prayer Book—but it goes no further than this measured theology and it is accepted by and differentiated from Purgatory by Reformed minded Anglicans. Litton’s Introduction to Dogmatic Theology, a text that places Anglican theology firmly in the Reformed and Protestant school of thought, summarizes the difference between the Roman concept of Purgatory and the traditional doctrine of the Intermediate State shared by most Christians not in the Roman Communion (notice the similarity to Meyendorff’s logic):

"The Romish doctrine of purgatory must not be confounded with the belief of spiritual progress in the intermediate state, against which no objection from reason or Scripture can be urged. . . .But the doctrine of the Roman schools is of a different character. It is forensic in nature, and implies the payment of debt not fully discharged in this life. "

As noted above, in Orthodox theology, the prayers for the faithful departed are even offered for the Virgin Mary (assuming that she too is increasing in grace and the knowledge and presence of God and being conformed to His image—theosis). Therefore, praying for the faithful departed—as expressed in the 1928 American Prayer Book—is a truly “Catholic” doctrine and can be held by Anglicans, as is praying with them in the worship of the Church: “Therefore with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name. . .” We pray for the faithful departed in their growth in love and knowledge of God’s love as well as with them in the thanksgiving of the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood.

16 Comments:

Blogger Death Bredon said...

Indeed, all the Eastern Prayers for the Dead that I could quickly get my hands on petition the Lord for (1) the continual spiritual growth and progress of the faithful departed; (2) for mercy regarding their sins and a good defense before the dred judgment seat on the last day, the General Bodily Ressurection; and (3) that souls and bodies of the faithful departed may have peace, rest, and a foretaste of the Kingdom.

Moreover, save for the Rominizing element, the Eastern apporach accords closely with the traditional Anglican qua Anglican litrugical tradition of Prayer for the Dead -- see the 1549 BCP Prayer for the Whole State of Christ's Church and the 1928 BCP (American) for Funeral Prayers.

BTW, Bicknell too has a decent, if somewhat advanced, discussion of Purgatory in his treatise on the 39 Articles.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Christian said...

I will point out that this idea of "the state of the most blessed is to be viewed. . .not as a legal and static justification, but as a never-ending ascent, into which the entire communion of saints—the Church in heaven and the Church on earth—has been initiated in Christ" is a heresy also. This one is called mobilism. To eternally journey toward God is to exclude any possibility of ever attaining that goal (this is immediately apparent if one looks up the difference between essential and accidental beatitude). Man's position as a 'comperhender' is quite different from his condition as a 'wayfarer'. To deny this difference is equivalent to removing the special kind of non-temporal duration in which the creature lives when it has been "freed from vanity", that is, freed from becoming and none-being. You are, in this way, shutting the creature up in time, making eternal life a continuation of time. The beatified creature will not look it will posses. In this regard, eternal life as a continuation of time is a regression to the Elysian Fields, a limiting of other-worldly happiness to an undisturbed continuation of the delights of this world.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Christian said...

PS: "Greeks, meanwhile, without denying a particular judgment after death or agreeing on the existence of the three categories, maintained that neither the just nor the wicked will attain their final state of either bliss or condemnation before the last day". In this we Romans agree with the Greeks, the heaven enjoyed by the saints and the hell hated by the wicked are not the final state. The last judgement has not happened! We all need our bodies back before we are in the final state! No Christian would deny that. The east has simply not decided to explain the situation any further.

4:16 PM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

Christian,

You missed the point that the ascent (from the quote by Meyendorff) is during the Intermediate State. It does indeed come to its fruition on the last day. However, you still manage to gloss over the substantial differences between the Catholic position (as represented here by Orthodox and Anglican theologians) and the Roman position. The Roman Church, by "explaining the situation further," went down the dark trail of indulgences and the selling of pardons to those in the afterlife.

AC+

4:38 PM  
Blogger Christian said...

Firstly the phrase "never-ending ascent" is used. If is never end then it will not end with the last judgement. This piece is ether heretical in the way I have outlined or it is badly written.

Viz the Eastern view of Purgatory the Eastern Orthodox Synod of Jerusalem, held in 1672, declared that "the souls of those that have fallen asleep are either at rest or in torment, according to what each hath wrought" (an enjoyment or condemnation that will be complete only after the resurrection of the dead); but the souls of some "depart into Hades, and there endure the punishment due to the sins they have committed. But they are aware of their future release from there, and are delivered by the Supreme Goodness, through the prayers of the Priests, and the good works which the relatives of each do for their Departed; especially the unbloody Sacrifice benefiting the most; which each offers particularly for his relatives that have fallen asleep, and which the Catholic and Apostolic Church offers daily for all alike. Of course, it is understood that we do not know the time of their release. We know and believe that there is deliverance for such from their direful condition, and that before the common resurrection and judgment, but when we know not."

That clearly means that the East agrees with the West that there is a third state other than rest or torment exists. They choose to call it Hades we call it Purgatory thus the Anglicans have nothing like that and so are at odds with the universal position of orthodox Christianity.

4:47 PM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

Ok, I'm going to try this again. The quote is from Byzantine Theology by Meyendorff. The previous quote is from Orthodox Dogmatic Theology. Here it is: "We believe that the souls of the dead are in a state of blessedness or torment according to their deeds."

Two states. Not three. No third state.

"For complete blessedness or complete torment each one receives after the General Resurrection."

This is the completion--at the General Resurrection.


Again, from the Dogmatics text:

"Thus the Orthodox Church distinguishes two different conditions after the Particular Judgment: one for the righteous, another for sinners; in other words, paradise and hell. The Church does not recognize the Roman Catholic teaching of three conditions: 1) blessedness, 2) purgatory, and 3) gehenna (hell). The very name “gehenna” the Fathers of the Church usually refer to the condition after the Last judgment, when both death and hell will be cast into the “lake of fire.”

Two states. Not three, and a clear rejection of the third state. If the Synod of Jerusalem is your authority here, it cannot be accepted in the manner you present it, in that it is rejected by many Orthodox theologians because it is not in agreement with the teaching of the Orthodox Church on these matters from the period prior to 1054. It does not have the consensus of the Church Catholic. It is not the teaching of the Orthodox Church, it is, rather a teaching "unwitnessed in the Bible or in the Ancient Church" and something to be rejected as such (Greek Orthodox Church of America).

The quote you keep objecting to is from page 221 of Meyendorff's Byzantine Theology: ". . .not as a legal and static justification, but as a never-ending ascent, into which the entire communion of saints—the Church in heaven and the Church on earth—has been initiated in Christ. In the communion of the Body of Christ, all members of the Church, living or dead, are interdependent and united by ties of love and mutual concern; thus the prayers of the Church on earth and the intercession of the saints in heaven can effectively help all sinners, i.e., all men, to get closer to God." If you think his words are heretical it is only because you continue to read them in context.

The section from the same text which precedes this quote affirms that this process ends at the General Resurrection:

"The debate between Greeks and Latins (on the question of Purgatory). . . showed a radical difference in perspective. While the Latins took for granted their legalistic approach to divine justice—which, according to them, requires a retribution for every sinful act—the Greeks interpreted sin less in terms of the acts committed than in terms of a moral and spiritual disease which was to be healed by divine forbearance and love. The Latins also emphasized the idea of an individual judgment by God of each soul, a judgment which distributes the souls in three categories: the just, the wicked, and those in a middle category—who need to be “purified” by fire. The Greeks, meanwhile, without denying a particular judgment after death or agreeing on the existence of the three categories, maintained that neither the just nor the wicked will attain their final state of either bliss or condemnation before the last day."

Again (and again): "Neither the just nor the wicked will attain their final state. . .until the last day."

5:30 PM  
Blogger Fr. Robert Hart said...

Being purged, that is, purified before entering the Presence of God and seeing Him in His holiness is one thing. But, temporal punishment and the application of merits as credits owed by God due to the supererogation of saints, are doctrines that blind the eyes to the sufficiency of Christ's own death and sacrifice. The writer of Hebrews would agree with me- or rather, I agree with him.

7:18 PM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

Or perhaps as C.S. Lewis thought, that our growth after death (as those in Christ) perhaps has an aspect of purgation to it. As we come to know the severity of our sins we feel heartfelt remorse for such things, which may even be painful. But this is all speculation, and as Fr. Hart rightly suggests, if we link such speculations to notions of purgation to the even more speculative notion of the supererogation of the saints, and then to indulgences applied in the afterlife, we are down a dark road with no light coming from the Scriptures nor the ancient Church.

AC+

7:50 PM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

The manner in which most Orthodox view the "Orthodox confession" of the 17th century, which is why many Orthodox theologians do not seek to "conform" their teaching to them, but rather to the Scriptures and the Fathers:

"In the 17th century, as a counterpart to the various "confessions" of the Reformation, there appeared several "Orthodox confessions," endorsed by local councils but, in fact, associated with individual authors (e.g., Metrophanes Critopoulos, 1625; Peter Mogila, 1638; Dostheos of Jerusalem, 1672). None of these confessions would be recognized today as having anything but historical importance. When expressing the beliefs of his church, the Orthodox theologian, rather than seeking literal conformity with any of these particular confessions, will rather look for consistency with Scripture and tradition, as it has been expressed in the ancient councils, the early Fathers, and the uninterrupted life of the liturgy. He will not shy away from new formulations if consistency and continuity of tradition are preserved."

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is any of this important?

9:52 AM  
Blogger Christian said...

Because if he is wrong then he is a heretic.

To be honest I totally reject that thesis because it suggests that all opinions that are hallowed by tradition are necessarily right. this is clearly false because some views are contradictory. Logically only one side can be right. To say otherwise is totally irrational.

10:00 AM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

I just realized I lost one of Christian's replies, the one I was responding to (which makes my response seem out of place).

In any case, the argument that Christian was (is) making is that the "Synod of Jerusalem" statements of 1672 "trump" and/or otherwise outweigh the comments and writings of various Orthodox theologians. Within Orthodoxy, however, this does not seem to be the case, hence my reply with a quote from Orthodox Information. As stated, if these statements are viewed as having only "historical importance," then theologians can reach behind them to the teachings of the Fathers and interpret them as such. In Roman Catholicism, however, the Scriptures and the Fathers are viewed in light of current teaching.

As to the question from Anonymous, these things are important because the provide the only valid foundation for ecumenical discussions with other Christian bodies.

10:39 AM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

Earlier you were not basing your position on logic, only on submission to authority. Also, the comments from Meyendorff are coherent and Orthodox, and that you were taking some of them out of the obvious context to make them appear to say something they did not.

Also, you state that only "one side can be right." You appear to believe in the Roman claims of doctrinal infallibility. I would be interested in hearing your responses to the chapter from "Catholic Principles" posted above.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Christian said...

I do indeed agree with those claims though I was not refering to that. I ws mearly saying that it is self evedidently true that noly one side of an argument is right (unless both are wrong). I will examin the above article when I get back from dinner (sorry, as you may have niticed i am in Britain).

Just as a side point - why do you apeal to eastern traditions for validation when the 39 articles states "the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred" ie: the Eastern Orthodox have erred.

As a total side point; it is good to see some real anglicans - most I know are raving evangelicals or psudo-catholics with bad morals. If I were born an anglican (of course, by providence, I wasn't) i would want to be a proper anglican (high and dry). :-)

12:12 PM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

Why do I appeal? I haven't thus far. Did you mean "Why do I not appeal?"

Most old High Churchmen (Orthodox, as they used to call themselves in the pre-Tractarians days) would not say that the Eastern Church as a whole has erred, only that the individual churches have erred from time to time. Indeed, some have commented (following +Jewel) that the Anglicans will return to Rome when Rome returns to Orthodoxy. I really have very few problems with most Orthodox theology that I've read. The Roman theology I've read is labored and full of special pleading. Honestly, I can't take the Roman claims seriously given that they weren't exercised during the time in the Church when they would have been most needed, during the Christological disputes. However, I am Western (many Orthodox claim that anything Western is in and of itself bad) and Augustinian (many Orthodox decry him as a heretic) and follow the teachings of the ancient Western Church on those matters that dealt with such issues. Of course, as you may have noticed, I do take the old Anglican claim to teach "Nothing but that which can be proven by Holy Scripture and that which the ancient Catholic doctors and fathers proved by the same." I am in Anglicanism (providentially) because I believe its ideals to be true.

Thanks for the somewhat sideways compliment. A large part of the problem with Anglicanism is that it is populated with pseudo-Romans with bad morals or "evangelicals" with little knowledge of their own history or doctrine (like most modern laity and clergy in the Roman Church). As another aside, I was happy to see Cardinal Ratzinger become pope. I think that if a body is going to have a Roman Catholic pope, he ought to be Roman Catholic. Sadly, the Church of England hasn't had a good Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury in some time.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Death Bredon said...

One High Church view is that Orthodoxy needs some mild reform to its praxis (e.g., purging institutionalized philetism and a certain amount of folk superstition); Rome needs more reform in doxa and praxis (though Vatican II properly understood and applied was generally in the right direction); and de facto Anglicanism needs to return to de jure Anglicanism (i.e., the historic fomrularies).

Until each communion cleans its own house, none is truly ready to play host to an orthodox-catholic reunion. Hence, as William Law cogently noted, abandoning my Anglican patrimony for Rome or the East, even if all faithful Anglicans followed suit, wouldn't solve any problem -- just change the set of problems before me.

9:03 AM  

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