Monday, June 28, 2010


I got back home Saturday afternoon from the Calvin Center.  Since getting home, I have slept, gone to worship, and seen the musical "Chicago"; but mostly slept.

Even though this morning's reading took several pages of space within the Institutes, there is not a whole lot to say about Calvin's arguments against purgatory.  In a nutshell, those who support the doctrine of purgatory have to really twist around some specific texts in order to come up with this doctrine.  Calvin used many more words than I would have to show their errors.  Calvin does refer to the doctrine of purgatory as "a deadly fiction of Satan, which nullifies the cross of Christ, inflicts unbearable contempt upon God's mercy, and overturns and destroys our faith."  Once again, Protestants believe that we are saved through faith alone, not through a combination of faith and works.  We believe that Christ completely paid the penalty for our sin, not that He partially paid a penalty through His death on the cross.  The doctrine of purgatory takes away from what Christ did for us.  It unnecessarily heaps requirements upon believers who have already been freed from the bondage of sin.

The next several sections are Scripture texts that the "Romanists" (as Calvin calls them) use in defense of the doctrine of purgatory.  I will highlight a few of them here.  The first one he uses comes from Matthew 12:32.  It reads, "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come."  The Romanists claim that this "age to come" is referring to purgatory and that sins can be forgiven there, just not blasphemy against the Spirit.  Calvin rebuts their claim simply by showing that the Lord is speaking of the guilt of sin.  He uses Matthew 25:32-33 to highlight his point by stating that it will be at this time that the lambs will be cleansed of all offenses.  Some Romanists state that in Matthew 5:25-26 is referring to purgatory.  Calvin says that this would be true IF the judge here is God, the accuser is Satan, and the guard is an angel.  Jesus here is not stating that but rather he is speaking of actions between men and that we must act in accordance with equity and not necessarily the letter of the law.

Calvin examines the Scriptures in Philippians 2:10 and Revelation 5:13.  He also discounts the passage from II Maccabees 12:43, first and foremost because this book is not canonical.  The closest passage in Scripture to what the Romanists claim is I Corinthians 3:12-15 which reads, "Now if anyone builds on this foundation with each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."  The Romanists declare that this "fire" is actually purgatory.  Calvin breaks down this passage for us.  First, this passage refers to all men.  Romanists try to exclude saints and martyrs from this passage.  He goes on to show that the wood, hay, and straw are works based on a human foundation.  These will be lost.  Whatever is built on the Holy Spirit, represented by gold, silver, and precious stones, will survive all things. 

Finally, the Romanists appeal to the early church for defense of this doctrine.  First of all, this doctrine does not extend all the way to the earliest church.  Calvin declares that praying for the dead is not found anywhere in Scripture.  Mourning for the dead and the burial of the dead are both found, but not praying for their salvation.  Some Gentile customs had influenced some in the early church, however, their errors are not found in Scripture.  Their errors do however remind us that death does not equal destruction, but a "crossing over" from this life to the next.  Augustine even fell into error by following his mother's request to "be remembered in celebration rites at the altar."  Augustine did not test this request by the norm of Scripture.  If he had, he would have realized the problem. 

Tomorrow's reading: 3.6.1-3.6.5

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