Assurance By Purgatory in This Life?

Certain puritan experimentalists (and quakers) move the “purgatory” into this life, before the first death. Max Weber called it a work-ethic to confirm to ourselves that we are elect.

The Persistence of Purgatory (Richard K Fenn) traces Western attitudes toward time back to the myth of Purgatory. As popular understandings of Purgatory became increasingly secularized, the lifespan of the individual became correspondingly purgatorial. No time could be wasted. Fenn demonstrates the impact of Purgatory on the preaching of Richard Baxter and William Channing, but he also argues that John Locke’s views can only be understood when placed within the context of a belief in Purgatory.

Roman Catholics like Sungenis will always talk about a “difference” between a paradigm with quid pro quo conditions and  the  “in the family now” paradigm with “mysterious conditions”. But I would shift the paradigm comparison to that between those who teach that Christians are imparted with the divine nature and thus enabled to meet “conditions in the covenant” and those who refuse any notion of “conditionality” except that which depends on Christ’s finished work.

Even though the revivalist family is not so strict as to demand perfection, it does keep asking its members to ask themselves— am I the fourth dirt in the parable, or one of the other three?

I am neither an Arminian nor a federal visionist, and I don’t believe that the justified elect lose their election, and therefore I don’t think that Christians have to do stuff to stay in (internally in?) the new covenant. Those “in the family” tend to let you by faith alone, or even without that if you are an infant, but then after a while, they will let you out the back door if your faith is still alone. In addition to faith, they ask—what have you done lately?

It’s like my wife saying to me—the wooing doesn’t stop now. Sure, I married you already but now I want to see the big house with the bird nests in the big back yard. I am not denying that a husband should do stuff for his wife. But I ask the revivalist– how much does a husband have to do in order to keep the wife! Is it always just a little bit more than what I have done already?

When I walked down that aisle 33 years ago, was I thinking— now that I am married, I don’t need to love her? It’s not strictly “quid pro quo” necessary? I need to love her, but it’s “mysteriously conditional?

Our works are not necessary to obtain God’s blessings. Romans 4:4—“To the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due”.

What I do for my wife is not like mortgage payments on a note which can never be burned. I am not like Jacob who had to work seven more years after he got in the family (and that after seven years already)

Married is married. What we do doesn’t keep us married.There is no cause-effect relationship between our works and some second final justification, because the elect are saved by Christ’s work. Christians share in what Christ has, not because of what they do but because they are still married to Christ.

The federal visionists warn us that the new covenant now expects more of us because we COULD now do more if you wanted to. Despite talk of the divine assistance available, the subtext is threatening and ominous– it’s not strict and perfect we want, but we shall wait and see what you do, and we will never say it specifically about you, but we will say in a general way–not enough recently, maybe out of the family now….

Sure it’s great that water baptism has united me to Christ but how am I to know that I will keep covenant from now on in (so let me die first before I do something which will put me out of the covenant, let me die sooner rather than later). This is what I mean by purgatory now, before the first death.

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13 Comments on “Assurance By Purgatory in This Life?”


    Chris Pajak: 1. I will not live one moment, i.e. one breath longer than the Lord already knows I will.
    2. The number of my sins will not be any more or less than the Lord already knows they will be. Thus making “my performance”, either positive or negative, a moot point.
    3. Until the mortal puts on the immortal all men sin and fall short. (1 Cor 15:53;Gal 5:17).
    4 Christ satisfies God’s justice as demanded in the righteous requirement of the Law, on behalf of the elect. (Romans 8:1-10; John 17:1-23)
    5. Christ’s death frees us from the law. He did not die to wipe our slates clean, only to have us start again under the law. (Hebrews 9:11-10:23; Galatians 5:18)
    6. The law increases the trespass, since through the law comes knowledge of sin, thus making the law to be the power of sin. (Romans 5:20-6:18; Romans 3:20; 1 Cor 15:54-58)
    7. Therefore, if the benefits of Christ’s death (both justification and sanctification) become effectual based on God’s offering it to men, plus our acceptance or rejection of it in both word and deed, (synergism), then His obedience alone is insufficient to save anyone. If sanctification is a progressive work, then the teaching of purgatory, as necessary in the process, is true whether it be the post-death pit stop on the way to glory preached by Rome, or the pre-death legalisms of the evangelical world which of course begs the question of what happens to the saint if he/she should die before confessing and making penance for their current sin.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    In the “early church”, there was a popular notion of waiting to become a Christian. The idea was combined with the idea of becoming a Christian by becoming watered by the church. The idea was to delay becoming a Christian so you could keep sinning before that. The idea was that Christians stop sinning. Therefore folks like Constantine-despite agreeing that their killing was sin-delayed being watered because they thought of water as some kind of medicine that would keep them from sinning. Since Constantine did not want to be kept from sinning yet, so he delayed the water.

    The teaching of ‘Lordship salvation” is not inherently related to some idea of “baptism as a means of grace”. But “Lordship salvation” is teaching that there will be less sinning after one becomes a Christian. You might want to “wait as long as you can” before you will need to make a ‘commitment” and “stop sinning”, but who knows about accidents and “cutting it close”, so the idea is that we “surrender” and ask God to begin enabling us to persevere in keeping the commands and the conditions of the covenant. Some of this goes with the idea of being able to be in a “new covenant” which continues to be as conditional as the old covenants

  3. markmcculley Says:

    If we are saved by the grace that gives (instead of the grace that causes us to work), why would we need to sacrifice the present age on the altar of the next age? Even though we are not yet immortal, we already have the legal right to the life of the age to come (justification before God).

  4. markmcculley Says:

    1833, he went off to Harvard, which he did not particularly like and where he was not found particularly likable. (One classmate recalled his “look of smug satisfaction,” like a man “preparing to hold his future views with great setness and personal appreciation of their importance.”) Thoreau spent two years at Walden but nearly ten years writing “Walden,

    A dualist all the way down, he divided himself into soul and body, and never could accept the latter. “I love any other piece of nature, almost, better,” he confided to his journal. The physical realities of being human appalled him. “The wonder is how they, how you and I, can live this slimy, beastly life, eating and drinking,” he wrote in “Walden.” Only by denying such appetites could he feel that he was tending adequately to his soul. “Walden,” in consequence, is not a paean to living simply; it is a paean to living purely, with all the moral judgment that the word implies.

    Robert Louis Stevenson, writing about Thoreau in 1880, pointed out that when a man must “abstain from nearly everything that his neighbours innocently and pleasurably use, and from the rubs and trials of human society itself into the bargain, we recognise that valetudinarian healthfulness which is more delicate than sickness itself.” To abstain, Stevenson understood, is not necessarily to simplify; restrictions and repudiations can just as easily complicate one’s life. (Try going out to dinner with a vegan who is avoiding gluten.) But worse than Thoreau’s radical self-denial is his denial of others. The most telling thing he purports to abstain from while at Walden is companionship, which he regards as at best a time-consuming annoyance, at worst a threat to his mortal soul.

    This comprehensive arrogance is captured in one of Thoreau’s most famous lines: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” It is a mystery to me how a claim so simultaneously insufferable and absurd ever entered the canon of popular quotations. Had Thoreau broadened it to include himself, it would be less obnoxious; had he broadened it to include everyone , it would be more defensible.

    In what is by now a grand American tradition, Thoreau justified his own parsimony by impugning the needy. “Often the poor man is not so cold and hungry as he is dirty and ragged and gross. It is partly his taste, and not merely his misfortune. If you give him money, he will perhaps buy more rags with it.” Thinking of that state of affairs, Thoreau writes, “I began to pity myself, and I saw that it would be a greater charity to bestow on me a flannel shirt than a whole slop-shop on him.”

    In reality, Walden Pond in 1845 was scarcely more off the grid. The commuter train to Boston ran along its southwest side; in summer the place swarmed with picnickers and swimmers, while in winter it was frequented by ice cutters and skaters. Thoreau could stroll from his cabin to his family home, in Concord, in twenty minutes, about as long as it takes to walk the fifteen blocks from Carnegie Hall to Grand Central Terminal. He made that walk several times a week, lured by his mother’s cookies or the chance to dine with friends. These facts he glosses over in “Walden,” despite detailing with otherwise skinflint precision his eating habits and expenditures. He also fails to mention weekly visits from his mother and sisters (who brought along more undocumented food) and downplays the fact that he routinely hosted other guests as well—sometimes as many as thirty at a time. This is the situation Thoreau summed up by saying, “For the most part it is as solitary where I live as on the prairies. It is as much Asia or Africa as New England. . . . At night there was never a traveller passed my house, or knocked at my door, more than if I were the first or last man.”

    The hypocrisy is that Thoreau lived a complicated life but pretended to live a simple one. Worse, he preached at others to live as he did not, while berating them for their own compromises and complexities.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    The Precisianist Strain: Disciplinary Religion and Antinomian Backlash in Puritanism to 1638 (Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia), by Theodore Dwight Bozeman, p 20:

    “Penitential teaching expressly echoed and bolstered moral priorities. In contrast, again, to Luther, whose penitential teaching stressed the rueful sinner’s attainment of peace through acknowledgment of fault and trust in unconditional pardon, many puritans E included moral renewal. In unmistakable continuity with historic Catholic doctrine that tied ‘contrition, by definition, to the intention to amend,’ they required an actual change in the penitent. For them, a renewal of moral resolve was integral to the penitential experience, and a few included the manifest alteration of behavior. They agreed that moral will or effort cannot merit forgiveness, yet rang variations on the theme that repentance is ‘an inward sorrow . whereunto is also added a . . . desire to frame our life in all points according to the holy will of God expressed in the divine scriptures.” However qualified by reference to the divine initiative and by denial of efficacy to human works, such teaching also adumbrated Puritan penitential and preparationist teaching of later decades.”

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Arminian—You cite D. M. Lloyd-Jones’s account of how several famous preachers received their assurance through feelings and spiritual experiences—like seeing a light, or being ravished by joy…

    David Engelsma–. The Reformed tradition rejected mysticism just as heartily as it rejected salvation by works of the law. But Puritanism teaches that the way for a believer to get assurance is by a special, emotional, dramatic, datable, recognizable feeling. The public defenders of Puritanism tend to whitewash this aspect of their teaching, nevertheless, Puritanism does teach that you get this assurance from a mystical experience, such as a vision, a dream, or by an extraordinary providence in your life. In which case, you base your assurance of salvation, not upon Jesus Christ and faith in His promise. The result is that a majority of believers under that kind of teaching never get assurance, because they’ve never had that kind of experience. And what’s worse, they begin looking for weird experiences that may have happened to them, in order to give them confidence of their salvation.

    David Engelsma argues for presumptive regeneration—“Sometimes doubt is due to our own sinfulness. When we are not living in our faith, living a holy life, or living in communion with God, doubt is the chastisement that comes upon us. But it is one thing to recognize an ailment, and quite another thing to preach that it is normal for the majority of Christians to lack assurance.

    “I was a pastor for 25 years and when I dealt with members, I would attempt to discover if there was any cause behind their doubts, such as living in hatred of their brother, or in infidelity, or otherwise walking in deliberate sin. In which case, it would be understandable that they would come to doubt their salvation. Otherwise, I would tell them what the gospel itself says: believe on Jesus Christ, know Him as the Savior from sin, put your faith in Him for YOUR righteousness with God, and you will have certainty of salvation. God Himself promises hat everyone who believe on Jesus Christ is saved, will be saved, and will never be lost, and we have no reason to doubt whatsoever.”

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Marilynne Robinson—A contemporary of Luther’s who became St. Catherine of Genoa wrote a treatise on purgatory. In it she says that souls in purgatory feel an always increasing joy at the knowledge of God’s justice and grace. She speaks of the fires that torment them as interior, and as the flames of divine love. “Yet their joy in God does by no means abate their pain.” The selling of indulgences suggests that purgatory was not a state in which compassion would allow anyone to remain if it were possible to shorten the experience for her.

    Luther proposed that “Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives his money for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God”; and “if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter’s church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep”; and “Why does the pope not empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there?” and more to the same effect. He says, “To repress these arguments and scruples by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies.

  8. markmcculley Says:

    Philip Cary—-“For Augustine and the whole Christian tradition prior to Calvin, it is perfectly possible to have a genuine faith and then lose it. Apostasy from the true faith. For Calvin, on the contrary, there is a kind of faith I can have now which I am sure not to lose, because it comes with the gift of perseverance. What is more, I can know that I have such faith rather than the temporary kind.”

    Cary–“if Augustine is right about predestination, it is logically impossible to know you are saved for eternity without knowing that you are predestined for such salvation. That is precisely why Augustine denies you can know you are predestined for salvation….To require faith that you are predestined for salvation before admission to the sacrament is… to make faith into a work

    Mark Mcculley–To me it looks like Cary (Anglican,but with a Lutheran theology) is saying that faith must have as its object present faith but not future faith AND not penal satisfaction . The idea of sins having already been paid for by Christ’s death has no place in his thinking. Cary is caught in a discussion about the nature of faith, in which he says that other people’s faith is a work, because he thinks the object of other peoples’ faith is not true.

    Philip Cary—”Catholics don’t worry about whether they have saving faith but whether they are in a state of mortal sin—so they go to confession. Reformed Protestants don’t worry about mortal sin but about whether they have true saving faith—so they seek conversion. Luther points here to the words “for you,” and insists that they include me. When faith takes hold of the Gospel of Christ, it especially takes hold of these words, “for you,” and rejoices that Christ did indeed died for me.”

    Philip Cary—Catholics don’t worry about whether they have saving faith but whether they are in a state of mortal sin—so they go to confession. Reformed Protestants don’t worry about mortal sin but about whether they have true saving faith—so they seek conversion.

    Luther points here to the words “for you,” and insists that they include me. When faith takes hold of the Gospel of Christ, it especially takes hold of these words, “for you,” and rejoices that Christ did indeed died for me

    For what the sacramental word tells me is not: “You must believe” (a command we must choose to obey) but “Christ died for you” (good news that causes us to believe).

    It is sufficient to know that Christ’s body is given for me. If I cling to that in faith, all will go well with me. And whenever the devil suggests otherwise, I keep returning to that sacramental Word, and to the “for us” in the creed, where the “us” includes me. Thus precisely the kind of faith that is insufficient to get me admitted to the Puritan sacraments—which is to say, mere belief in the truth of the creed and trust in my baptism—is all the faith I have. If Luther is right, it is all the faith I can ever have, and all the faith I need.

    the Reformed tradition generates pastoral problems that cannot be helped by the sacrament, because neither word nor sacrament can assure me that I have true saving faith. The logic of the matter, it seems to me, makes it impossible to split the difference between these two positions and get the best of both

  9. markmcculley Says:

    . It could also be that there’s some amount of modern unease with enthusiastically declaring you think somebody, historically, did really come back from the dead—that, while Christians still live in expectation, they believe some of their expectations have already been fulfilled in history. Christianity is more easily lived as a sort of everlasting Ingmar Bergman film: better to expect and expect and never have to deal with the realization of expectation—to enjoy, even prioritize, uncertainty, doubt, and anguish.

    Another reason, I suspect: Christianity, or at least American Christianity, has a difficult relationship with joy. (Though given that the most recent papal exhortation is called “rejoice and be glad,” perhaps it’s a global problem.) For those American Christians whose faith has been shaped—inevitably—by a reaction to the various feel-good Christianities that abound, the safest thing to do is simply to avoid any occasion of happiness. Focusing on anything other than the cross feels like cheap grace, a concession to the facile optimism all around us. We don’t deserve Easter, the general upbeat nature of the culture makes it impossible to celebrate properly anyway, and as soon as is humanly possible we should retreat back into the shadows.

    It would certainly be foolish to claim that American culture is overly penitential, or that we aren’t ridden with cheap grace. But all grace, by definition, is undeserved; that applies no less to the brooding intellectual than it does to the flagrantly wicked. And what distinguishes cheap grace from grace isn’t the extremity of our penance or devotion to suffering (read: brooding), but recognition of sin and a contrite heart—not, precisely, the same thing. Avoiding cheap grace may mean avoiding grace altogether

  10. markmcculley Says:

    According to William Ames, whose volume, The Marrow of Theology, was highly influential on the Reformed confessional tradition, progressive sanctification is a threefold process. First, negatively speaking, it involves purging of the “filthiness, corruption, or stain of sin.”3 “Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). Second, positively speaking, “Its end is the purity of God’s image.”4 The Holy Spirit infuses and imparts more and more holiness into the believer, conforming him more and more to the good law of God and thus to the image of Christ. “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25). Third, “The end is called a new and divine creature.”5 The final goal of progressive sanctification is renewal after the image of Christ, restoring the image of God that was marred by the fall, which is only finally attained at glorification. Ephesians 4:24 says believers are to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God.” Progressive sanctification, like definitive sanctification is imperfect.

    The nature of faith is one; therefore, it both justifies and sanctifies.. Perfectionistic antinomianism teaches that faith merely passively receives Christ’s holiness, but that it does not actively “strive … for the holiness without which none will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). This view fails to understand that saving faith simultaneously passively receives Christ’s righteousness for justification, but also actively pursues Christ and His good commandments for sanctification. Hebrews 4 explains that true faith is a faith of “rest” (Hebrews 4:3) as well as a faith that seeks to “strive” (Hebrews 4:11).

  11. markmcculley Says:

    not yet hocus pocus—Wickedness in the world. It is right for us to be frustrated when ungodliness abounds. As the psalmist writes, “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law” (Ps. 119:136). When people around us profane the name of the Lord and wholly reject his Word, we are discontent–not because it’s inconvenient to us but because it’s rebellion against our God.

    Our own sin. Until the day of Christ’s return, when we are made perfect in holiness, we will always be dissatisfied by our own sinful actions. Paul voices this godly discontent in Romans 7: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (v. 19). Every time we speak harshly to our children or fail to worship God we ought to be frustrated by our lack of holiness.

    The unsatisfied Christian life–what William Barcley calls “godly discontent”–bears little resemblance to the discontent of our ungodly neighbors.

    Our ungodly neighbors are frustrated with their circumstances but unconcerned about God’s glory. Their discontent with traffic and test scores overflows into grumbling, envy, and anxiety. Life’s difficult circumstances only serve to entrench their hatred of God and his ways.

    The Christian, on the other hand, trusts that God will accomplish all his holy will in and through our circumstances. And our holy discontent always draws us closer to him.

    Interestingly, this godly discontent actually leads the Christian to greater contentment. Barcley writes, “If sin is our greatest burden, all other burdens are made lighter.” When we are faced with frustrating circumstances–when our plans fall through and the rain clouds mount on the horizon–we should make God’s glory our first concern. Whatever our circumstances, no matter how disappointing, the thought of disappointing our God is even more pressing.

    The psalmist in Psalm 73 is so intent on seeking God that he calls it his only desire: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (vv. 25-26).

    He isn’t saying, of course, that there is literally nothing else he desires. He is saying that, by comparison, every other desire seems like nothing. He is content, but he is unsatisfied.

    Mark Jones–If God is never disappointed in his child’s lack of holiness, then he isn’t actually a very good Father (see Heb. 12), and we are not actually responsible agents in our Christian life….. Duguid presents a misguided view of the Holy Spirit’s goal in our sanctification. She contends that if the Holy Spirit’s “chief work” in sanctification is making us more and more sin-free, “then he isn’t doing a very good job”; after all, she claims there are unbelievers who are “morally superior” to Christians (p. 30). This view makes a mockery of the New Testament’s teaching on the moral difference between Christians and non-Christians (see Col. 1:21-22; Eph. 2:1-10; Rom. 6; 8:1-14), Duiguid’s book contains some rather strange statements, like the following: “If the sovereign God’s primary goal in sanctifying believers is simply to make us more holy, it is hard to explain why most of us make only ‘small beginnings’ on the road to personal holiness in this life” (p. 29).

  12. Mark Mcculley Says:

    In I Cor 3, Paul does not say that the people who have built with gold, silver and precious stones will go straight to heaven, or paradise, still less to the resurrection, while those who have used wood, hay and stubble will be delayed en route by a purgatory in which they will be punished or purged. . This passage, does not teach a difference of status, or of celestial geography, or of temporal progression, between one category of Christians and another.
    In fact, there are so many things said in the New Testament about the greatest becoming least and the least becoming greatest that we shouldn’t be surprised at this lack of distinction between the post-mortem state of different Christians. There is no reason whatever to say, for instance, that Peter or Paul, James or John, or even, dare I say, the mother of Jesus herself, is more advanced, closer to God, or has achieved more spiritual ‘growth’.

    Think about one of Paul’s best-known chapters, often rightly read at funerals. ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ,’ he writes (Romans 8.1). The last great paragraph of the chapter leaves no room to imagine any such thing as the doctrine of purgatory, in any of its forms. ‘Who shall lay any charge against us? … Who shall condemn us? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?… Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor the present nor the future, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!’ And if you think that Paul might have added ‘though of course you’ll probably have to go through purgatory first……

    John 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

    Acts 2:34 David did not ascend into the heavens

    Acts 3:15–”You killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead.”

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