Praying to the Saints, Purgatory, and the Apocrypha - 05/04/2003
i was reading your section on catholicism and i found it well quite disturbing. i am currently attending a catholic school and before i attended a baptist school. my years being at a baptist school i have learned many different issues revolving around catholics. i do not understand why my protestant brothers and sisters do not in plain terms leave other christian faiths alone. i was constantly being bashed of my faith and i found that how could christian people show so much hate against catholics, jews, anglicans etc. and it was not just at this school it was also in other protestant schools. i feel that every christian church was founded by God and they all contain a different custom that each person desires which all came from the original church. i have some issues to bring up and you prolly have heard of them already but again maybe in my words it may come easier.
on the issue of mary and the saints being worshipped i can plainly say that is false as other individuals have mailed you. to put into plain words you may ask someone to pray for you if your having a bad day a sick day etc? that is the same thing as it is with mary and the saints. you tell them to pray for you and your troubles that you may acquire. you may ask why dont you just pray to God for these troubles as i had encountered by my former baptist friends. well because it is nice to know that you have someone who is praying for you who has already met the savior while you pray to the lord. as you have friends pray for you so it is the same idea with mary and the saints.
the issue of purgatory is another that i noticed came up on your website and it does with people of all faiths(including catholics). purgatory simply is a necessary purification before entering into heaven. and you may ask why do you need this purification, if the blood of jesus christ our savior has washed our sins away. from a definition in the catechism of the catholic church "for those who find themselves in a condition of being open to god, but still imperfectly, the journey towards full beatitude requires a purification. it is a condition of temporary punishment for those who departed their life in gods grace, they are not entirely free from the venial faults due to their transgressions. one example of a purgatory is when moses and aaron were punished from being accepted into the promise land yet god forgave them. modern protestants though they do not use the name purgatory in their teachings they frequently use the doctrine "middle state" as written by christian dogmatics, as no soul leaves this present existence in a fully complete and prepared state, we must suppose that there is an intermediate state, a realm of progressive development in which souls are prepared for their final judgment. in the new testament there are several passages which refer to a purification process. (matthew 12:32) and whosoever shall speak a word against the son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the holy ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. in (col. 912) jesus advises a widow to pray for the soul of her husband for his resurrection.would you enter into heaven with your wood and hay and stubble and thus defile the kingdom of god, or on accound of these hindrances would you remain without and receive no reward for your gold and silver and precious stones?, for our god to those who can comprehend heavenly things is called a cleansing fire who consumes not the creature but the creature himself has built (I cor. 3)
also with the additions of the books of the bible i am still unsure about the issue but i have come across two ideas. one is that martin luther got rid of the books for they did no agree with his teachings of faith. second was that the protestant bible is in hebrew and the catholic bible took the greek version. but for more information go to www.catholic-pages.com
thank you brother in faith for listening to my issues and the issues of others, God bless you and your teachings of others to salvation
CONTENDER MINISTRIES RESPONSE:
Greetings and thank you for contacting Contender Ministries. No one should be attacked personally for his or her faith. If you have been, you have my sympathy. I have also been personally attacked for my faith, and it's not much fun. It does seem to come with the territory, as Jesus and Paul both said in the Bible that we would be ridiculed for our beliefs. When your protestant brothers and sisters do not "leave other faiths alone," it is because we have been instructed to contend for the faith and confront heresy. There is a lot of hate in this world. Hatred of people is wrong, but it is scriptural to stand against heresy and false doctrines. In other words, I don't attack you personally, but I will come against the false religious ideologies that go against sound biblical doctrine. With that said, let's address some of the issues you raised in your email.
Your first point regarding intercessory prayers directed toward Mary and the saints. It is not only smart, but also scriptural to ask others to pray for you (Col 4:3, James 5:16). However, Mary and the saints are human beings who are deceased. If you are asking them to intercede on your behalf, then you are assuming they are in a position to hear your requests. That deifies them with a godlike ability, and your request is a prayer. The Bible instructs us to pray for others (who are alive) and ask others (who are alive) to pray for us.
To say that purgatory is a necessary purification is to deny that the grace of God is sufficient. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." [emphasis added]
You bring up Matthew 12:32, which talks about anyone who speaks a word against the Son will not be forgiven “in this world, nor the world to come.” This is a fairly commonly cited passage, which fails to bolster a case for purgatory. “This world” in this sentence is represented by the Greek word, aion. Of the 128 times aion is used in the Bible, most of its uses refer to an age, or period of time. In fact, our current word “eon” comes from this word. Most scholars agree that when Jesus mentioned “this world,” He was referring to the Age of the Law into which He was born. The “world to come” to which He referred, is the Church Age, or Age of Grace that began with his resurrection and continues today. To say that this verse alludes to purgatory is to make a huge stretch that simply does not match the facts.
"Fire” and “fires” are mentioned quite frequently in the New Testament. There are occasions (such as 1 Peter 1:7) in which fire is mentioned metaphorically as a purifying element in our lives. It is a mistake to interpret these passages as referring to purgatory. These passages refer to the trials and tribulations we Christians face in our daily lives. These troubles act as a fire that refines us spiritually, and burns up the waste in our spiritual lives. The other mentions of fire refer to the unending fire of hell. It is into this fire that the “chaff” (the unrepentant) are thrown.
Probably the best refutation of the doctrine of purgatory is outlined in the book of Hebrews, chapter 10. Here, the author addresses the sacrifice of Christ, and contrasts it with the regular animal sacrifices that occurred under the law. Below, I’ve included verses 8 through 18 from Hebrews 10. I’ve added emphasis, but encourage you to read it from your own Bible as well:
First he [Jesus] said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first [the law] to establish the second. [grace] And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
"This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds."
Then he adds:
"Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more."
And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.
According to Catholic doctrine, the sacrifice of Jesus forgives sin that has been committed up to the point of confession. For sins committed after that, we are required to seek justification and atonement through the seven sacraments. Sins that follow us into death must be purified by purgatorial fire. But as you can see in verse 10 and verse 14, we are made holy “once for all,” and made perfect “forever” by the one atoning sacrifice of Christ. Verses 17 and 18 do an excellent wrap-up by telling us that when we have accepted the forgiveness of Christ, our sins are remembered no more, and there is “no longer any sacrifice for sin.”
The only specific mentions of purgatory are found in the apocryphal books. You had two theories for why the Protestants discarded those books. Unfortunately, both of them are off target. When you suggest that Martin Luther “got rid of those books for they did not agree with his teachings of faith,” you’re partly correct. You see, perhaps you should ask why the Old Testament apocryphal books have never been accepted by the Jewish scribes, and why even St. Jerome hesitated in translating these until the Council at Nicea pressured him to do so. The reason the apocryphal books are not found in the Jewish Bible is because the numerous chronological and historical errors show that they are not divinely inspired works (God is not the author of error). This is the same reason that Jerome originally wished to exclude them. They were added, under pressure of Roman Catholic leadership, because nowhere else in the Bible can scripture be found to support several pre-conceived Catholic doctrines, such as purgatory. Your other theory that the Protestant Bible was from Hebrew and the Catholic Bible was from Greek is also erroneous. The Old Testament books were translated from Hebrew and the New Testament books were translated largely from Greek. That is the same in my Bible as in yours.
I hope this clarifies some things for you. Thank you again for writing to us, and may the Lord bless you and speak to you.
Ben and Jennifer Rast