Thursday, November 09, 2006

A few aspects of the status of Purgatory

Here are a few follow-ups to questions raised during our last session, taken from Wikipedia's basic article on Purgatory:

Besides the concept expressed in early Christian writings of purification and suffering after death, as well as the efficacy of prayer for the dead (see above), no explicit use of the Latin word purgatorium (purgatory) is recorded before the 11th century. One of the first documents to mention purgatorium by name was a letter from the Benedictine Nicholas of Saint Albans to the Cistercian Peter of Celle in 1176.

Dogmatic definition of purgatory was given in 1254, following the normal pattern of doctrinal clarification, with concepts having roots in Scripture and Tradition being given explicit names and further unambiguous theological description by dogmatic decrees as needed. ...

Though most Protestant churches embrace the somewhat similar doctrine of glorification, they largely reject explicit belief in Purgatory, especially in the precise Catholic theological definition. ...

Lutherans, following the later teachings of Martin Luther, deny the existence of purgatory and do not pray for people who have already died. Luther wrote in Question No. 211 in his expanded Small Catechism:

"We should pray for ourselves and for all other people, even for our enemies, but not for the souls of the dead."...

Protestant disbelief in "purgatory" partially centers on the idea that it implies that Christ's blood sacrifice on the cross was insufficient to save humanity in whole and represents a human desire to perform some works that can "assist" them through into Heaven.

Some Eastern Orthodox sources, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate, consider Purgatory to be among "inter-correlated theories, unwitnessed in the Bible or in the Ancient Church" that are not acceptable within Orthodox doctrine,[7] and hold to a "condition of waiting"[8] as a more apt description of the period after death for those not borne directly to heaven. This waiting condition does not imply purification as it is linked to the idea "there is no hope of repentance or betterment after death." The prayers are simply to comfort those in the waiting place.

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