Was The Reformation a Runaway Train?

Disinformation is an intentional spread of false or inaccurate information designed to discredit a conflicting information or support false conclusions. Catholicism has perfected this tactic to a tee. As a result, the Protestant Reformation has been caricatured and the Reformers demonized. Rome portrays the Reformation as a runaway train, inspired by wanton lust, arrogance and self-independence in order to justify her apostasy and falsehoods.

Today, a number of well-researched books and Christian websites have cleared up much of the disinformation Catholics are being fed with by Rome’s legatees. But let’s take a look at some examples:

“The Roman Catholic Church was the only Christian Church in existence prior to the Reformation, therefore, if it went into apostasy, then Christ’s promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church failed”

There are several false assumptions wrapped up in this one sentence. First, what is today called the “the Roman Catholic Church” was not a monolithic system that sprang up from Christ’s apostles (like Athena from Zeus’ skull) retaining a doctrinal continuity for 2,000 years. It was a gradual invasion and taking root of false doctrines all through the centuries that gave rise to it. It took much time and circumstances – often the influence of pagan ideas – for Roman Catholicism to emerge into what it is:

“The magnificent conception of a Catholic church bound together in one organization, one faith, one ritual could hardly have been realized by imagination alone, without the aid of time and circumstances” (James Thompson, Edgar Nathaniel Johnson. An Introduction to Medieval Europe, W. W. Norton & co., 1937, 46).

This is why ancient catholicity and modern Roman Catholicism are as different as chalk and cheese. The fact is, not all Christian churches were part of the Latin church even in the 4th century. The Edict of the Emperors Gratian, Valentinan II and Theodosius of February 27, 380 shows this:

“We order those who follow this doctrine to receive the title of Catholic Christians, but others we judge to be mad and raving and worthy of incurring the disgrace of heretical teaching, nor are their assemblies to receive the name of churches. They are to be punished not only by Divine retribution but also by our own measures, which we have decided in accord with Divine inspiration” (Sidney Ehler and John Morrall, Church and State Through the Centuries, Burns & Cates, 1954, 7).

Even though what these early writings meant by “catholic” is far different from what Roman Catholicism espouses, yet it’s clear that it was because of the “heretics” outside it that the Inquisition was brought up. Bishop Alvaro Palayo, an official of the Curia, also made a reference to these Christians about 300 years before the Reformation:

“Considering the Papal court has filled the whole Church with simony, and the consequent corruption of religion, it is natural enough the heretics should call the Church the Whore” (De Planct Eccl. ii. 28 cited by Ignaz von Dollinger, The Pope and the Council, London, 1858, 185).

Martin Luther also said: “We are not the first to declare the papacy to be the kingdom of Antichrist, since for many years before us so many and such great men (whose number is large and whose memory is eternal) have undertaken to express the same thing so clearly and plainly” (Ewald Plass, What Luther Says, Vol. 1, 36)

When Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail over His church, He was referring to the revelation of Himself which Peter expressed (Matt. 16:18). The gates of hades are powerless against the church as long as she believes and confesses this truth. This is based on Christ’s faithfulness, not an alleged “charism of infallibility.” Jesus was referring to the Church, His Body (all true Believers) in that passage, not an institution.

Roman Catholicism is a departure from Christ and the faith “once handed down” by its denial of the sufficiency of Scripture, the sufficiency of Christ and His sacrifice. So, the promise in Matthew no longer applies to it (Jude 3). The apostasy of the Roman church became full-blown at the council of Trent (16th century) where it codified its false doctrines.

Notably, the Council of Trent wasn’t a linear continuation of the Latin or Medieval church. In fact, the Western church before Trent was more pluralistic in doctrine than the Roman church between Trent and Vatican I. Therefore, one can say there were Christians in the Roman system and outside of it through the centuries. These were the ones who constituted the true Church, not the religious institution.

The only “Christian” groups outside the Catholic Church before the Reformation were heretical. The Albigenses were Manicheans (Dualists) who practiced mass suicide and sexual immorality

In Catholic lingo, a “heresy” is any deviation from a doctrine defined by the Church. Apparently, these Christian movements were judged as heretics, not on the basis of their writings in contrast with Scripture, but for their disagreement with the Roman church (Rome positions itself as the standard of orthodoxy).

For instance, Priscillian, the Bishop of Avila, was falsely accused of “heresy,” immorality and witchcraft and beheaded (along with 6 others) in 385 A. D. whereas 7 of the works he wrote to refute these charges have been discovered in the library of the University of Wurzburg, Germany.

In the same vein, most of the sources accusing the Albigenses of heinous crimes are Catholic works, which may not be reliable. Even when one examines some of them, certain truths still emerge. James Capelli, a 13th century Franciscan lector in Milan wrote:

“The rumors of the fornication which is said to prevail among them is most false. For it is true that once a month either by day or by night, in order to avoid gossip by the people, men and women meet together, not, as some lyingly say, for purposes of fornication, but that they may hear preaching … They are wrongfully wounded in popular rumor by malicious charges of blasphemy from those who say that they commit many shameful and horrid acts of which they are innocent” (Walter Wakefield and Austin Evans, Heresies of the High Middle Ages, University of Michigan Library, 1991, 305).

Surprisingly, Catholic inquisitors wrote that Albigenses “were condemned for speculations.” Their trial showed they believed “a Christian church ought to consist of only good people … [that] the church ought not to persecute any, even the wicked; the law of Moses was no rule for Christians; there was no need for priests, especially of wicked ones; the sacraments and orders, and ceremonies of the church of Rome were futile, expensive, oppressive, and wicked…” (William Jones, The History of the Christian Church, New York, 1824, 455)

Apart from the Albigenses, there were also the Waldenses, Bogomils and Poor men of Lyons whose few surviving writings showed they were “heretics” to Rome only. Two notable works: History of the Evangelical Churches of Piedmont (1648) by Samuel Morland and An Inquiry into the History and Theology of the Ancient Valdenses and Albigenses (1838) by George Fabler, drew on works dating back to the 13th century indicating that the beliefs of these pre-Reformation groups were similar to those of Evangelicals today.

“It is now clearly known that the Paulicans were not Manicheans” says a historian, “the same thing may probably be said of the Albigenses.” He added, “The Roman Catholic Church sought diligently for excuses to persecute. Even Luther was declared by the Synod of Sens to be a Manichean. The Archbishop Usher says that the charges of Manicheanism on the Albigensian sect is evidently false” (John Christian, The Glorious Recovery of the Vaudois, London, 1857, 1 xvii).

The Reformation was just a revolt from the mystic from Wittenberg (Martin Luther), the logical orthodox from Geneva (John Calvin) and the heterodox rationalist from Zurich (Ulrich Zwingli)

This is a disinformation. The Reformation was not a “revolt” by any means, since the Reformers stood for the same truths that many within and without the Roman church all through the centuries stood for.

Archbishop Agobard of Lyons (779-840) spoke against image worship and the church’s unbiblical liturgies and practices. Bishop Claudius (8th century) rejected Catholic traditions, saints and relic veneration. Peter of Bruys (12th century) spoke against Catholic dogmas and left the priesthood; he was killed for it.

Henry of Lausanne, a monk, who exposed the errors of Rome was arrested in 1148; he died in prison. Berengar of Tours opposed transubstantiation based on Scripture, the church fathers and reason; he was excommunicated.

Men like Jan Hus, John Wycliffe, William Tyndale and Wessel Gansfort stood for the supremacy of Scripture long before the Reformation. Contrary to what Catholics are made to believe, Luther, Calvin and Zwingli were neither loons nor buffoons. They proved their cases by appealing to the church fathers, church councils and reason.

When Luther posted his 95 theses at the door of the church of Wittenberg, he still adhered to some Catholic doctrines (e.g purgatory, Mariolatry etc). His intention was to reform the church from within, not to leave it. But when the Roman church couldn’t prove its ideas from Scripture, but instead excommunicated Luther at the Diet of Worms, he had to leave.

Other lesser-known Reformers were Nicolaus von Amsdorf, Henry van Zutphen, Propst Jakob, Johann Esch, Heinrich Voes and Hess Kaspar. Most of them were killed for disagreeing with Rome. Catholics may have sank too deep to question the tyrannical system of Rome that crushes every voice of dissent, nevertheless, the Reformation was God’s plan to call His people out of an apostate religious system.

The Protestant church was started by King Henry VIII who wasn’t allowed to take an extra wife by the Pope

This remark is quite revealing, though not in the way Catholics intend. Henry VIII was a staunch Catholic who wrote a polemic Assertion of the Seven Sacraments Against Martin Luther (which earned him the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ from the Pope). In 16th century England, the Catholic church was not in the good books of the common people. The priests were immoral; the church owned about a fifth of all property in England and levied heavy taxes on the people.

Then the King wanted an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he could marry the more beautiful and perhaps more fertile Anne Boleyn. But Pope Clement VII, pressured by Catherine’s nephew, Emperor Charles V, refused to grant Henry’s wish. This prompted Henry VIII to break with Rome and declare himself head of England’s Catholic Church. This decision was supported by the House of Commons (since popular sentiment against Rome was already high).

“Henry was now the sole judge of what, in religion and politics, the English people were to believe” wrote a historian. “Since his theology was still Catholic in every respect except the papal power, he made it a principle to persecute impartially Protestant critics of Catholic dogma, and Catholic critics of his ecclesiastical supremacy” (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Simon & Schuster, 1950, VI, 529).

It was during Henry VIII’s time that Tyndale was burned at stake for translating the Bible into English. Henry died in 1547 leaving “a large sum to pay for Masses for the repose of his soul” (Ibid, 577). Contrary to what Catholics are told, he wasn’t a Protestant!

By Faith Alone

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Justification by faith alone (sola fidei) was Martin Luther’s cry after he read Romans 1:17 and realized that God’s righteousness could become the sinner’s righteousness by faith alone.

After he nailed his 95 thesis on October 31, 1517, his view was condemned by Rome and the Reformers equally condemned Rome’s view of justification.

After more than 400 years, on October 31 1999, in Augsburg, Germany, representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and of the Roman Catholic Church signed a Joint Declaration of Justification, disclaiming previous differences.

As a result, “the corresponding doctrinal condemnations of the sixteenth century do not apply to today’s partner.

This consensus presupposes that the Reformation was unnecessary; that it was based on a “misunderstanding” on Luther’s part or that he was deceived to think he had found “sola fidei” in Scripture whereas the Catholic church had taught it all along.

But to the shame of the joint declarers, none of the condemnations Rome placed on Protestant beliefs has been removed till date.

This is why Catholics still attack sola fidei (and sola scriptura) as a novel concoction by Luther – a notion refuted by the fact that other Reformers (Calvin, Zwingli, Denck, Hess, Propst, Voes etc) also stood for sola fidei.

Sadly, many Christians today are not well informed of the issues behind the Reformation, thus they are ill-equipped to respond to the Catholic well-worn rhetoric.

Now, why is sola fidei so important? Because it provides the foundation of the bridge that reconciles God and man. Take this doctrine away and Christianity falls.

If we allow this vital doctrine be discarded into the theological dung hill, the door to apostasy, legalism and ecumenism is thrown wide open.

The Declaration was a result of a 30 year dialogue between Lutheran and Catholic leaders. Yet when a jailer asked apostle Paul “what must I do to be saved?” He answered: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). It was that simple. He didn’t say “give me 30 years to explain it to you.”

If the Bible teaches justification by faith alone apart from human works of any kind, to water it down or reject it would be a perversion of the Biblical Gospel that saves.

Justification – What is it?

The Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines justification as “the declaring of a person to be just or righteous. It is a legal term signifying acquittal.”

Another reference work defines it as “a divine act where God declares the sinner to be innocent of his sins.” Note these Biblical usages of the term “justify”:

Deuteronomy 25:1 “…that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked.”

Job 13:18 “Behold, now I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall be justified.”

Isaiah 5:23 “Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!”

From these and other passages, to justify implies to “declare,” “reckon” or “show to be righteous.” It doesn’t mean to make righteous. A man is justified before God when He reckons him righteous.

Justification involves 3 things: pardon from sin’s penalty, imputation of righteousness and a position of right-standing before God.

I. Pardon

Since Adam’s fall from his position of right-standing before God, all of mankind stands guilty and condemned. “There is none righteous … For all have sinned” is God’s declaration (Rom. 3:10, 23).

Jesus had to come to pay sin’s penalty to remove this guilt so that man can be justified and “have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1).

To pardon means to forgive; to release a person from punishment or to acquit like when the death penalty was lifted from Barabbas as the guilty criminal and Jesus took his penalty (Luke 23:25).

Or, when Paul mediated with Philemon over Onesimus and asked him to put his debt to his own account (Phile. 1:18). This is what being justified means.

Jesus told a parable in which a sinful tax collector was placed in a better position spiritually than a praying Pharisee. The tax collector “went down to his house justified” (Luke 18:14). The tax collector’s justification was an instantaneous reality.

There was no process, no time lapse, no flames of purgatory. The man only understood his own helplessness and knew he owed an impossible debt he could not pay. He did not recite what he had done, he only pleaded for divine mercy and looked to God to do for him what he could not do for himself.

In essence, justification is solely based on what Christ – not man – has done.

II. Imputation of righteousness

When Adam sinned, his sin was imputed on the human race. “So death spread to everyone, because everyone sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

When Christ died at Calvary, the sin of the human race was “imputed” on Him (2 Cor. 5:18-21). He died for our sins and rose again for our justification (Rom. 4:24-25).

Jesus Christ spoke of a divine righteousness. “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:20) “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).

A sinner is justified when he obtains this perfect righteousness – God’s righteousness – which exceeds that of the Pharisees, and stands before God as if he never sinned. When a person is justified, Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed to him and he receives it by faith (Romans 4:9-11).

III. A position of right standing before God

Justification is a divine judicial edict which changes our status. It doesn’t change our nature, but our position.

For example, when a pastor says to a man and woman at an altar, “I now declare both of you husband and wife,” legally, they become married. Nothing inside them actually changes when those words are spoken, but their position or status before God, the law and everyone present changes.

When a jury reads his verdict in court, a defendant is no longer “the accused.” He either becomes guilty or innocent, depending on the verdict. His nature is not changed, but his position is.

So he is either imprisoned if guilty, or walks away free. This gives us a picture of justification.

A sinner who puts his faith in Christ’s work is pardoned and has Christ’s righteousness imputed to him. Thus, his position changes from that of a sinner under God’s wrath to that of acceptance and a recipient of full privilege in Jesus Christ.

He becomes freed from any charge of guilt because the merit of Christ is reckoned to his account (Rom 8:33). When a person is justified:

(a) He is made a fellow heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17).

(b) He becomes God’s spiritually adopted child (Rom. 8:15).

(c) He is “united with the Lord” (1Cor 6:17).

(d) He is in Christ and Christ is in him (Gal. 3:27; Col. 1:27).

Faith Alone or Not Alone?

Roman Catholicism also teaches justification by grace through faith. But what is missing, however, is the word “alone.”

By omitting this vital word, they re-define justification, grace and faith in a way that undermines what the Bible teaches on these subjects.

Rome declares:

If anyone saith that he who has fallen after baptism … is able to recover the justice which he has lost … by faith alone without the sacrament of Penance … let him be anathema” (The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, Ch. xiv, Can. xxix).

In Catholic theology, through baptism (often done at infancy), all sins are pardoned and the Catholic receives initial justification. This grace of justification which can be lost through mortal sin is restored through penance.

Evidently, the work-based sacramental system of Rome blinds Catholics to justification by faith alone.

Baptism does not confer any grace, neither does the water have any cleansing power. An infant cannot understand the gospel “which is the power of God unto salvation to them that believe” (Rom. 1:16).

An infant cannot choose whom to serve, let alone believe in Christ. Even if the recipient is an adult, his faith in physical objects – water, candles, chants, or incense – to impart grace, is misplaced and unscriptural.

Biblical faith “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Faith always involves what is unseen. It is no more faith to believe in something present in a visible form.

Since grace and justification are invisible qualities, receiving them can only be by faith which is invisible. Faith reaches out to the unseen world of the spiritual and eternal.

In fact, the Christian Faith is not based “on the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” Because “the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).

Grace, justification or salvation are eternal and invisible, and therefore are received only by faith – not by objects, ceremonies or rituals.

Another problem is that sacraments and rites have nothing to do with justice or punishment and therefore cannot pay for sin. No ritual can satisfy a court of law in paying the penalty prescribed for a major crime, let alone God’s infinite penalty.

The sinner can either reach out in faith and receive God’s pardon offered in Christ or reject it and face the penalty.

The Council of Trent also says:

If anyone saith that by faith alone the impious is justified in such wise as to mean that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtaining the grace of justification…let him be anathema” (Ch. xvi, Can. ix).

Roman Catholicism teaches that justification is when an individual’s soul is being infused with grace through the sacraments which makes him righteous and enables him to perform good works.

These works supposedly make him justified enough to merit eternal life. So in Catholicism, justification is a long process of the individual being made righteous in a moral sense.

But Scripture is clear that the grace of justification is not “infused” through sacraments; it is received by faith. No amount of works can justify (Gal. 2:16). “Therefore, it is of faith, that it might be by grace” (Rom. 4:16). If it’s by grace alone, then it’s also by faith alone.

“To the man who does not work, but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Rom. 4:5). The justified one does not work; he trusts God, confesses his wickedness and his faith is credited as righteousness.

The tax collector in Jesus’ parable went away justified without performing any good works or ritual whatsoever because it was solely on the basis of his faith that he received a new status.

Everything necessary to atone for his sin and provide forgiveness had already been done on his behalf. All he had to do was receive it by faith.

Catholics love to quote James 2:14 “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man says he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?

James was writing to Christians – those who were already saved. There is an outworking of the grace received in justification evidenced by good works (1 Tim. 6:18, Tit. 3:8, Eph. 2:10 etc). This is sanctification, which is distinct from justification.

Catholics flog around this line because Rome confuses justification with sanctification without noting the distinctive between both:

1. In justification, God imputes Christ’s righteousness to the sinner’s account (Rom 4:11). But in sanctification, the righteousness is imparted to the sinner practically and personally.

Justification is like being given a white Tuxedo coat to cover your stained shirt while sanctification is being given a good detergent to wash your shirt.

2. Justification changes a believer’s status or position (Rom. 5:1-2) while sanctification changes his nature and internal state.

3. Justification is an event while sanctification is a process. Though both are elements of salvation, (God doesn’t sanctify whom He doesn’t justify), we need to keep these distinctions in mind.

To muddle them up as Rome has done, is to have a religious system where people trust their works in place of Christ’s work. This makes out justification as an incomplete process without any assurance of salvation.

Luther’s “Alone”

It is argued that Martin Luther added the word “allein” (alone) to Romans 3:28 in his German Bible translation – by his own authority – to promote sola fidei. But Luther himself explained in his Open Letter on Translating, why he rendered the text this way:

The text itself, and Saint Paul’s meaning, urgently require and demand it. For in that passage he is dealing with the main point of Christian doctrine … So, when all works are so completely rejected which must mean faith alone justifies – whoever would speak plainly and clearly about the rejection of works will have to say ‘Faith alone justifies and not works.’ The matter itself and the nature of the language requires it.

There are Catholic New Testament versions also containing “alone” in Romans 3:28. The Nuremberg Bible (1483), Italian Bibles of Geneva and of Venice (1538) all had it.

Luther’s translation was completed before the Council of Trent defined justification. By Roman Catholic rule, if a doctrine is yet to be defined by an infallible council, one can disagree with it or even contradict it.

Luther also indicated where he got his authority:

Furthermore, I am not the only one, nor the first to say that faith alone makes one righteous. There was Ambrose, Augustine and many others who said it before me.

Catholic scholar, Joseph Fritzmyer cited these examples:

Augustine in De Fide et Operibus (22:40): “God’s commandments pertain to faith alone if it is not dead [faith], but rather understood as live faith which operates through love.”

Victorinus: “But only faith in Christ is salvation for us” (Pauli Ephesios 2.15-16)

Thomas Aquinas: “Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone. Rom 3:28″ (Expositio in Timotheum cap. 1, lec. 3)

Ambrosiaster: “through faith alone they have been justified by a gift of God” (Romanos 3:24)

Bernard: “…is justified by faith alone” (Canticum serm. 27.8). Origen noted the same in his Commentary on Romans (cap. 3), as well as John Chrysostom (Hom. Titum 3:3) (Romans, A New Translation with Interpretation and Commentary, Yale University Press, 1993, pp. 360-361).

The Joint Declaration fraud notwithstanding, Rome still teaches a false gospel that is opposed to the totality of Scripture.

The Origins of Purgatory

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The idea of Purgatory was neither taught by Jesus nor His apostles. How it became an integral belief of the Catholic Church today can be seen by looking at its origin, development and purpose over the centuries.

1. Prayers for the Dead

Purgatory belief can be traced to the unbiblical practice of praying for the dead. Writings of some early church fathers contain references to prayers for dead loved ones to have ‘refrigerium’ (refreshment or pleasures of paradise).

Mohrmann Christine in a philological study comments that the term “refrigerium” refers to “heavenly happiness” that “Among the later Christian writers, refrigerium is used in a general way to denote the joys of the world beyond the grave, promised by God to the elect” (Le Goff Jacques, The Birth of Purgatory, University of Chicago, pp. 46-47).

While prayers for the dead can be found in their writings, they do not contain the idea of purgatory as Rome believes it today. William Webster stated that:

“For at least the first two centuries there was no mention of purgatory in the Church. In all writings of the Apostolic Fathers, Irenaeus and Justin Martyr, there is not a slightest allusion to the idea of purgatory. Rome claims the early Church nevertheless believed in purgatory because it prayed for the dead. This was becoming a common practice by the beginning of the third century but it does not, in itself, prove that the early Church believed in the existence of a purgatory” (Church of Rome at the Bar of History, Banner of Truth, 1997, 114).

2. The “Architects” of Purgatory

The practice of praying for the dead led to belief in a third state between heaven and hell. This doctrine can be majorly linked to 5 church fathers:

(a) Tertullian (A.D. 160-220): He was the earliest church “father” to pray for the dead though he admitted that there is no direct Biblical basis for it.

He wrote: “If you look in Scripture for a formal law governing these and similar practices, you will find none. It is tradition that justifies them, custom that confirms them, and faith that observes them” (De Corona Militis 3:2-3).

Note this statement carefully the next time a Catholic quotes some Bible verses or church fathers to try support purgatory.

In Tertullian’s time, the act of praying for the dead was merely a practice – not a doctrine, let alone a dogma. Tertullian only spoke of this concept after he had joined a heretical group called the Montanists.

(b) Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-220): He was a key proponent of purgatory. During his time, the issue of baptismal regeneration led to much debate and in order to explain where those who sinned after baptism would go, the idea of a place where they can be purified by fire after death was adopted.

(c) Origen (A.D. 185-254): He and Clement of Alexandria were the two main architects of purgatory beliefs. Much of what these men wrote cannot be believed by most Catholics or Protestants today.

They both engaged in allegorical interpretation of the Bible, ignored its literal, historical-grammatical meaning and mixed it with strange ideas.

Through his absurd bible interpretations, Origen denied the existence of Hell; believed that Satan would be saved and also believed in the pre-existence of the human souls. He adopted the idea of an afterlife corrective, punitive cleansing of the soul from Greek philosophy and dualism.

(d) Augustine (A.D. 354-430): He also endorsed prayers for the dead. It seems his thinking was influenced by his mother’s dying wish to be remembered in his prayers.

Though he wrote about salvation by faith, he also popularized the theory of purification after death through sufferings.

(e) Gregory the Great (A. D. 540-604): This bishop of Rome, though ignorant of the Biblical languages, wrote extensively resorting to silly, allegorical twisting of the Bible.

In his work, Morals on the Book of Job, he twists the names of people, things and even syllables in the book of Job giving them mystic meanings. He claimed Job represents Christ: his wife represents the carnal nature; his 7 sons represents the apostles; his 3 daughters represents the faithful laity who worship the Trinity; his friends, the heretics and Job’s 7,000 sheep, the faithful Christians!

(Note that Gregory the Great rejected the canonicity of the apocryphal books of Maccabees).

His ideas of purgatory emerged in his dialogue with a Roman archdeacon named Peter in his work, The Dialogues. In it, he described “in incredible marvels and visions of the state of departed souls.” However, he admits transmitting hearsay, that he didn’t see these alleged visions himself (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. III).

3. The Fruit of Purgatory

For about 500 years after Gregory cooked up purgatory, it didn’t become an official doctrine. In the Medieval era, it made way for all manner of extortion and outright deception.

The fifth century Irish “saint” Patrick was said to have been frustrated by his people’s refusal to believe in purgatory, so he “prayed that God would help him convert the people.” Then Christ allegedly showed him a pit in the ground which is said to lead to purgatory.

Some people were let in into the pit and came up to tell others terrible tales of hell (Biebler Ludwig, The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 1960, 93:137-44).

This “entrance to hell” remained for centuries. After investigations, the pit was called a grievous fraud and finally closed on October 25, 1632. (It seems purgatory and hell were not distinguished from each other at that time).

By the 19th century, the specific site of this pit is no more certain.

Some scholars declared that sparse documentations from 5th century Ireland support this tale and that “St.” Patrick never visited Lough Derg where the “purgatory pit” allegedly was. It was a 12th century horror tale cooked up to fill the pews of the Catholic church (The Medieval Pilgrimage to St. Patrick’s Purgatory, 1988, 8-9).

The Catholic crusaders were promised that they would bypass purgatory if they died in those wars. This also led to Indulgences – remission of temporal punishment through certain conditions laid down by the Church – which generated great wealth for Rome by selling the people a bogus ticket to heaven.

In 1170, Pope Alexander III decreed that no one could make a valid will except in the presence of a priest. Anyone who disobeyed this law was to be excommunicated – a decree feared more than death in those days.

Since the priest was often the last person to be with the dying (to administer the “last rites”), one can be certain that this ploy was meant to enrich Rome.

During the time of Martin Luther, the pope needed money for the construction of St. Peter’s in Rome, so he sent a Dominican monk, Johann Tetzel, to sell indulgences to the people.

Tetzel would carry with him a picture of the devil tormenting souls in purgatory and repeat the statement written on the money box: “As soon as the money in the casket rings, the troubled soul from Purgatory springs.” It worked like magic and the coffers became full (Martin Luther, Wider Hans Worst, 1541, 538).

Even today, Catholics who have no one who could say Masses for them after death fear being forgotten in purgatory, so they join the Purgatorial Society and donate to them yearly so they will say Masses for them after death. That’s Rome’s “insurance policy.”

4. The Purpose

Not only did purgatory bring Rome influence and loyalty, it also boosted papal control over nations. A Catholic historian explains:

“It had been said before that the power of God’s vicar extended over two realms, the earthly and the heavenly … From the end of the thirteenth century a third realm was added, the empire [rule] over which was assigned to the Pope by the theologians of the Curia- Purgatory” (Ignaz von Dollinger, The Pope and the Council, 1869, 186-7).

Medieval Gnostic works such as Apocalypse of Peter or Paul, which presented a view of the afterlife in tune with Greek paganism had also shaped the views of the people.

These were the factors that influenced the Council of Florence of 1439 to make purgatory an official dogma. The council of Trent and modern catechism rely on this Council of Florence in defining purgatory.

5. Pagan origins

Purgatory was already known in paganism before its adoption into Catholicism.

Virgil, a pagan Latin poet who lived between 70-19 B.C. divided the departed souls into three different places in his writings: Elysium for the very good, Tartarus for the very bad and Erebus for the indifferent or moderately good (Bell’s New Pantheon Historical Dictionary, John Bell, Charles Thornthwaite, 1790, Vol. I, 379).

Greek philosopher, Plato (427-347 BC) spoke of Orphic teachers in his day “who flock to the rich man’s door, and try to persuade him that they have a power at their command, which they procure from heaven and which enables them by sacrifices and incantation … to amend for any crime committed by the individual himself … Their mysteries deliver us from the torments of the other world, while the neglect of them is punished by an awful doom” (Homer Smith, Man and His Gods, Brown and Co., 1952, 127).

Stoic philosophers taught that there was a place of fire after death that was for enlightenment and the purging of the soul from the corruptions of material life before one could enter spiritual peace. They called it Empurosis (Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 22, 660).

Hindus and Buddhists “also believe in heavens and hells where souls who are not immediately reborn spend time. They then spend some temporary time there. These are in effect the equivalent of purgatory because they are temporary states in the soul’s long progress towards eventual salvation” (Encyclopedia Americana 23:19).

Zoroastrians also believe that there are 12 stages of purification after death before they are fit for heaven.

Catherine Beyer in her article, Purity and Fire in Zoroastrianism, stated that Zoroastrians believe that “all souls will be submitted to fire and molten metal to purify them of wickedness. Godly souls will pass through them unharmed while the souls of the corrupt will burn in anguish.”

In contrast to these pagan systems, the Bible doesn’t support the idea of an afterlife “third state”. Jesus’ consistently spoke of the evil and the good (Mt. 5:45) the narrow way and broad way (Mt. 7:13-14), the wise and foolish virgins (Mt. 25:2) the sheep and the goat (Mt. 25:32) without any reference to a “third” or “neutral” group, because there is no “third state.”

There are only two eternal destinations beyond the grave – Heaven and Hell.