Sola Scriptura and Purgatory

Q. What scriptures support the Doctrine of Purgatory?

A. You ask for this because you are convinced that the final authority for your beliefs is scripture. And I know you are sincere in this because I was also, when I was a Protestant. But this practice would never have caught on if it had not been invented 1500 years after Christ, after the canonization of the Bible, and also, after the invention of the printing press. Because most people could not even read let alone afford a Bible. See my post on Sola Scriptura.

I want to be very clear about a very fundamental difference between the Protestant Churches and the Catholic Church. Starting in the years after 1517 Protestants began to sit down with Sacred Scripture and REJECT ALL HISTORICAL CHRISTIAN BELIEFS they did not like or that they could not find explicitly in Scripture. They mistakenly believed that they were deriving their new religion OUT OF SCRIPTURE. But this is simply not the case. As can be seen by the following evidence.

“Luther removed seven OT books and five NT books. Not because he found a table of contents in scripture alone but because these books contradicted his new religion.

The Protestants kept the historic Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation because they agreed with them and they were hinted at in scripture but not because they were stated clearly and unambiguously in scripture, the way Protestants demand scripture for Purgatory or the Immaculate Conception. As proof of this take the Jehovah’s Witnesses who reject the Trinity and Incarnation on the basis of scripture alone.

Luther and Henry VIII kept the doctrine of the Real Presence in the Eucharist based on their Interpretation of scripture alone but later reformers rejected this Historic Christian Doctrine based on their INTERPRETATION of scripture alone. And so the division of Christ’s Church began in earnest despite:

John 17:20-23“My prayer is …. 21 that all of them may be ONE, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. … I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be ONE as we are ONE: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete UNITY to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

…which Protestants ignore or interpret away despite their proclamation of Sola Scriptura. Once Sacred Scripture was unhinged from Historic Christianity anyone’s interpretation was just as good as anyone else’s. No final authority existed anywhere in Protestantism. So division was unavoidable.

So, regarding Purgatory I cannot give any scripture that categorically teaches the Doctrine of Purgatory that would satisfy a sola scriptura Protestant. I can show you verses that imply the doctrine HERE. I can show you writings of the early Church fathers from before the time when the Bible was canonized HERE or HERE at Catholic Answers. I can show you that the concept, of the need for purification before attaining Heaven, has roots in the Jewish Faith HERE.

If you are able to believe it is possible to sit down 2000 years after the birth of Jesus and read scripture and interpret it infallibly all by yourself, disregarding what Christians believed in the years immediately following the death of the apostles, you have more faith than I do. But, by what authority do you claim infallibility? Or does Luther claim infallibility? Or Calvin? Or any of the Protestant sects?


3 Responses to Sola Scriptura and Purgatory

  1. dbonneville says:

    In the same way it takes more faith to be an athiest, I would agree it concretely takes a lot more faith to rely on sola scriptura, since you are really playing it safe. Sola scriptura is simply another way to not trust God. What risk is there in trusting yourself? I would say that deciding what scripture says for oneself is really more simply a way of deciding how you are going to live regardless of what any other person might say. What ground more dangerous can man make for himself than that of private interpretation of God’s Word? That is overwhelmingly bold.

    I drifted from Catholicism unknowingly into Protestantism. But after 20 years of ministry outside the RCC, I realized that sola scriptura is more like a salespitch, or an impossibly good advertisement for a car. When you go to the lot, you get diverted by the sales people, and somehow end up with something other than what was described. Over time, you fall for other ads, and you go from model to model, with that unfulfilled yet very real and very deep yearning for that “first love” car in the ad. One day you find out, after talking to someone that worked at a car lot, that those advertised cars never really existed. It was all bait and switch.

    Sola scriptura is bait and switch. The bait looks good, but it never satisfies. If sola scriptura was a spirit, it would be a spirit of doubt, because it can never know if it “got it right” because it knows deep down that it is not infallible. Sola scriptura is really an attempt at saying “I don’t trust anyone but me” while not even being convinced of one’s own veracity.

    I posted this at with a bit more commentary. GREAT post!!

  2. bfhu says:

    You have hit the nail on the the head. Protestants, while earnestly seeking Faith, end up with a Spirit of Doubt exactly due to their ultimate self-doubt in their own infallibility—which is as it should be. But sadly this reality is hard to face.

    BTW the bait and switch “used car salesman” is OUR ENEMY not our deceived and beloved brethren.

  3. dbonneville says:

    Yes, the bait and switch is not a person per se – it’s a spirit. Yes, I want that to be clear! Many of our separated brethren live out what they know with a good conscience, albeit one with an unfulfilled longing they can’t quite seem to name or satisfy.

    Your summary is very pithy. I’m going to have to copy and paste that somewhere!

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