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

  1. David Bishop Says:

    Purgatory was in Baxter’s stuff? Now that I’ve seen how he influenced Cromwell’s blood thirsty army, I’m even more curious about how his thoughts on purgatory may have influenced Cromwell himself.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Dr. T. David Gordon in his book “Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The
    Media Have Shaped the Messengers” (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R 2009)
    “Some of the neo-Puritans have apparently determined that the purpose of Christian preaching is to persuade people that they do not, in fact, believe. The subtitle of each of their sermons could accurately be: “I Know You Think You Are a Christian, but You Are
    Not.” This brand of preaching constantly suggests that if a person
    does not always love attending church, always look forward to reading the Bible, or family worship, or prayer, then the person is probably not a believer…”

    “The hearer falls into one of two categories: one category of listener assumes that the preacher is talking about someone else, and he rejoices (as did the Pharisee over the tax collector) to hear “the other guy” getting straightened out. Another category of listener
    eventually capitulates and says: “Okay, I’m not a believer; have it your way.” But since the sermon mentions Christ only in passing (if at all), the sermon says nothing about the adequacy of Christ as Redeemer, and therefore does nothing to build faith in Christ. So true unbelievers are given nothing that might make believers of them, and
    many true believers are persuaded that they are not believers.”

    “It is painful to hear every passage of Scripture twisted to do what only several of them actually do (i.e., warn the complacent that not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven). And it is absolutely debilitating to be told again and again that one does not have faith when one knows perfectly well that one does have faith, albeit weak and imperfect…”

    “So no one profits from this kind of preaching; indeed, both categories of hearer are harmed by it. But I don’t expect it will end anytime soon. The self-righteous like it too much; for them, religion makes them feel good about themselves, because it allows them to view themselves as the good guys and others as the bad guys – they love to hear the preacher scold the bad guys each week. And sadly, the temperament of some ministers is simply officious. Scolding others is their life calling; they have the genetic disposition to be a Jewish mother.” (pp. 83-84)

  3. MARK MCCULLEY Says:

    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.

  4. 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

  5. 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).

  6. markmcculley Says:

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/19/pond-scum

    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.

  7. 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.”


  8. I am not usually a fan of N T Wright, but in this essay he says something very “Protestant” against the idea that some believers have attained better status than others at the judgment.

    Wright—“In I Corinthians 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. No: both will be saved. . This is a solemn passage, to be taken very seriously by Christian workers and teachers. But it does not teach a difference of status, or of celestial geography, or of temporal progression, between one category of Christians and another.”

    Wright—“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’.

    Wright—“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’, I think with great respect you ought to see, not a theologian, but a therapist.”

    Wright—Dante’s middle volume is the one people most easily relate to. The myth of purgatory is an allegory, a projection, from the present on to the future. The glorious news is that, although during the present life we struggle with sin, and may or may not make small and slight progress towards genuine holiness, our remaining propensity to sin is finished, cut off, done with all at once, in physical death.”

    http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Rethinking_Tradition.htm

  9. 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.

    https://faithalone.org/blog/the-current-crisis-in-assurance-an-interview-with-prof-david-j-engelsma/

    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.”


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