Daily Archives: November 9, 2008

Paul McCain slams Purgatory – without reading Luther or Benedict XVI closely

Just a note to point out that on his blog “Cyberbrethren”, Pastor Paul McCain is having a slam at the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory.

In the comments, Pastor Fraser Pearce points out that Pastor McCain may not actually have his theology of sanctification quite right according to Luther’s own writings in the Large Catechism.

Paul claims that Luther did not believe in any notion of purgatory at all. I left a comment there yesterday to the effect that Paul may not even have read Luther closely enough on the topic itself. That comment has not been “approved” by the blog owner. Perhaps he just hasn’t gotten around to doing any work on his blog, what with Sunday being a busy day and all.

Well, we have documented evidence that that Luther did hold a “notion” of purgatory. In his Confession on the Lord’s Supper (1528) Luther actually said that, while he rejects the doctrine as taught by the papists, he “knows of a purgatory”. Sadly for us, he doesn’t elaborate.

However, Pastor McCain should also have taken the time to read what Benedict has to say on the matter of Purgatory in Spe Salvi.

It is worthwhile reflecting that at the time of the Lutheran Reformation, many doctrines of the Catholic Church were not well defined, and were more a matter of custom and practice than clear teaching. So Luther’s tirades against Purgatory were against the idea of Purgatory as it was popularly understood at the time.

Even today, many people have mistaken ideas about what Purgatory is. Pope Benedict goes a long way to clarifying matters in his recent encyclical. I would challenge any Protestant to show how the doctrine as Benedict elucidates it is not completely faithful to the Gospel, faithful to scripture and, for that matter, completely faithful to the teaching of justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

If one wants to quibble that scripture says nothing about “purgatory”, one can also quibble that it says nothing about “sacraments”. But we form our doctrine through reflection upon the scriptural witness in unity with the Church.

Most of the teachings about Purgatory that Luther rejected, I would reject too. His critique of purgatory as it was understood and practiced in his day is, in many ways, spot on.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a “purgatory”, which Luther (and other protestants such as C.S. Lewis) seemed to understand.


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Recall Theophanous to pass liberal IVF Law????

God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform. As does the Brumby Government of Victoria.

The story in today’s edition of The Age “Brumby fights for IVF law” suggests that the Victorian Government’s bill to liberalise IVF laws to give single women and lesbians access to IVF technology could fail in the Legislative Council – unless Mr Theophanous (who voluntarily stepped down while fighting accusations of rape) is recalled to support the bill.

The article notes:

Mr Theophanous has sometimes voted against socially progressive laws — such as abortion reform — but Labor sources say he is likely to vote as directed if he is recalled.

Which raises more questions than I can possibly do justice to here.

1) Isn’t the Government saying elsewhere that this is a “conscience vote”? How then can Mr Theophanous be “directed” to vote in a particular way?

2) Isn’t this just a little bit cynical? How can the Government hold the high ground with regard to due process and justice when they recall to service a man who has been accused of rape to support a bill for “rights” of women? (In saying this, I do not in any way judge the guilt or otherwise of Mr Theophanous, for whom I have a great deal of sympathy about the way the media has treated this man who is still one of our democratically elected representatives in the government).

3) How can they be sure that Mr Theophanous – given his voting record – would agree to support the bill?

4) What is going on when morally questionable tactics are resorted to to press thorugh what is already a morally controversial law in our society?

I hope Mr Theophanous refuses. That may or may not “kill the bill”, but one can only hope and pray.

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The Letters of Venerable Antonietta Meo (d. aged 6 years)

I’m not a big one for devotions to particular saints. Aside from Sts Joseph and Michael (my patrons), my favourite saints day of the year is All Saints Day. Besides their prayers, and true to my Lutheran heritage, I believe that the greatest gift they can give us is their example of holiness. For this reason I am very interested in the beneficial nature of teaching the lives of the saints to children. My friend, Pastor Fraser Pearce, gave a copy of Amy Welborn’s The Loyola Kids’Book of Saints (see this page for this book and other titles by Amy), and it has been a real favourite with my children. It is aimed at kids at about 10-15 years old is well done, but I have often wished for a simpler book for younger children, complete with good traditional pictures or photos of the saints (kids like to see holiness as well as hear about it). Much that is about is overly churchy, and Amy’s book avoids this.

Today on a Vatican Radio podcast about Venerable Antonietta Meo, a girl who died of bone cancer in 1937, but who is famous for her letters to God, Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The texts of these letters are very simple and would make a wonderful book for children.

I will add it to my list of “ideas for when I retire”…

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