Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Loraine Boettner’s List – Part 1: Introduction and Praying for the Dead

As I study the Christian faith and its history, I have found it increasingly important to do 2 things (well, many, but in this particular case, 2 especially) : 1) find the facts and 2) correctly represent the position of all sides involved. Something I have noticed, however, is that sometimes things are presented as fact, when they really aren’t. Whether it be an honest mistake (made my share!), or just plain ignorance of an opposing view (guilty there as well!), or stubborn refusal to really find out the facts and report them honestly…or anything in between, facts tend to get, well, misrepresented.

Few things are easier to misrepresent, I’ve found, than the position of the Catholic Church by non-Catholics [well-meaning as they may be] who wish to show the “errors” of “Romanism”.

Wayne A. Ariss wrote a lengthy treatise titled “Romanism” Revisited: A Factual and Historical Refutation of the “Boettner List”. In this work, Mr. Ariss takes Loraine Boettner’s “list” found in the first few pages of his book “Roman Catholicism” and sets out to address each item, one by one, to show that 1) not all the facts were considered or found and 2) the Catholic position was not correctly represented. We can never know for sure if it was just an honest mistake, or a hurried attempt to publish the book, or something else. But what we DO know is that there are many non-Catholics out there who rely on Boettner’s list for “accurate” information about the Catholic Church and often use the information in that book to convince ill-informed Catholics of the “errors” of “Romanism”.

First on the list is praying for the dead. This also happens to tie directly to item 9 (Purgatory), so I will address them both here. Boettner says that the Church invented praying for the dead around 300 AD, and invented the doctrine of Purgatory in 593 AD. The first thing that should stand out is, praying for the dead is done BECAUSE of this purgation…this Purgatory as the Church has called it. So, immediately, before even examining any further, Boettner has already contradicted his own claim about the invention of Purgatory.

As Wayne Ariss points out, “The concept of [temporal punishment for] sins being remitted after death is found in the Deuterocanonical book of 2Maccabees, 12:38-46, which was probably written about 124 BC. This is in itself makes Boettner more than 700 years off the mark, but the Catholic concept of Purgatory [which I’ll post below, straight from the Catholic source] still pre-dates Boettner’s claim by hundreds of years”. (Ariss)

And to be more specific, the concept praying for the dead dates back to pre-Christianity…to the Jews…already being mentioned as in passing in 2Macc…so Boettner is off by much further in my estimation. Now, with that in mind, let’s look at Boettner’s item number 1…praying for the dead.

Mr. Ariss has already done the homework, so I’ll quote him again: “The first Scriptural mention of prayers for the dead occurs in the Deuterocanonical book of 2 Maccabees, chapter 12, verses 39-46, in which Judas Maccabeus and his men pray for their fallen comrades, that God may forgive the sins of the dead men. 2 Maccabees was written sometime after 124 BC [1], which makes Boettner’s date more than 400 years off.
Examples of Christians offering supplication for the dead are found in grave scripts such as the Epitaph of Abercius, the Bishop of Hierapolis, written in 180 AD. On this grave marker, Abercius asks all who may read his marker to pray for him [2].
Other examples can be found in the works of the Christina apologist Tertullian, who lived approximately from 155 AD to 250 AD. In his work The Crown (211 AD), Tertullian mentions Christians offering sacrifices for the dead on the anniversary of their death [3], and makes a similar reference in his work Monogamy (213 AD), where he mentions widows offering prayers and sacrifices for their deceased husbands [4].
In the very latest of these two examples, Boettner is still nearly a hundred years off.” (Ariss)

[1] Introduction notes to the book of 2 Macc, NAB. New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co, 1969; pg 546.
[2] William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 1. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1970, pg78.
[3] ibid., pg 151.
[4] ibid, pg 158.

Now, what is this “Purgatory” that we are talking about? What does it actually mean and where does this belief come from? Contrary to some opinions, it is NOT an alternative to hell, and it is NOT a second chance, and it is NOT where someone can be forgiven from any sins. Purgatory is a place, or process, whereby those who are already saved, yet having the stain of sins-already-forgiven, are purified before entering into Heaven.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (CC C 1030)

The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. ” (CCC 1031)

This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."[2Macc 12:46]”. (CCC 1032)

So, what are these Scriptural references that the Church is referring to? We already looked at 2Macc., but there is also 2Samuel 12:13-14, where David is punished for his sin AFTER he has been forgiven. And in Heb 12:22-23, Paul tells us that there is a place or process by which the spirits of just men are made perfect. We also see in 1Cor 3:13-15 that there is a place where a saved man, after he has died, can suffer loss as through fire, and we know that nothing unclean shall enter into Heaven (Rev 21:27).

Straight from the Bible, then, we see the Catholic principles for Purgatory: 1) Scripture shows us, explicitly, that a man can be punished for his sin AFTER he had been forgiven (2Sam 12:13-18, et.al). 2) Scripture tells us, explicitly, that there is a place where a man, after he has died, and is saved, can suffer loss as through fire (1Cor 3:13-15). 3) There is a place, or process, where the SPIRITS of *just* men are made perfect (Heb 12:22-23). 4) Nothing unclean can enter Heaven.

Where is this place that Scripture tells us about, where the SPIRITS of JUST men are made perfect, where a man, though he is saved, can suffer loss as through fire? Is it Heaven? No…we don’t suffer loss in Heaven. Is it hell? No….no one gets out of hell. The Church has given the name “Purgatory” to this place, or process, where our souls are made clean…because nothing unclean shall enter Heaven (Rev 21:27).

For more information on the historical roots of Purgatory:

(Source for Wayne Ariss' work and brief biography on L. Boettner:   http://blackieschurchmilitant-apocalypsis.blogspot.com/search/label/Boettner  )

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