October 29, 2020

A Question from a Friend: About Purgatory and Being “With the Lord”

Note from CM: I get emails with lots of questions, and I received one from a good friend the other day. Here is the query and how I answered it. How would you have responded?

• • •


Hi Chaplain Mike,
I miss our religion discussions. Do you believe that when a person dies, they go immediately to heaven? You are so knowledgeable about many things, so I know that you know that Catholics believe in Purgatory. Do others?

I remember a saying once, that went something like,
To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord!

Just curious

• • •

My Answer:

Great question. Do you recall that “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” was part of a scripture passage that was read at our friend ____________’s funeral? It’s from 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.

My short answer to your question is this, and this is exactly how I would put it:

I believe that when people die they enter into the care of God.

I believe that they are “with the Lord” in a way that we are not at this moment. I believe that they are with God in the realm of God (heaven) and that God is taking care of them, making them whole and new and preparing them for the resurrection and new creation.

Now the next part of your question is more tricky.

You suggest that being “in Purgatory” is something different than being “with the Lord.” But I would say it isn’t.

Purgatory is about being purified, and even if there is some kind of purifying that takes place after death, we are still in God’s realm and in God’s care during that purifying process.

So I would say that even those “in Purgatory” (and I don’t think it’s a separate “place”) are in God’s care. Catholics are taught in the Catechism to view Purgatory as a mercy, not a punishment.

That’s my short answer. If you want to read further, feel free. Here are a few perspectives on Purgatory.

Protestants do not believe in Purgatory. To them the idea of suffering for our sins after death implies that Jesus’ death was not sufficient to take away our sins and that we must somehow add to his sacrifice.

But they are missing the point. Most Protestants do not understand that Catholics are not talking about whether or not a person has been forgiven and accepted by God. Purgatory is not about that. According to the Catechism: “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.”

I think this is possible, and there are some scriptures that may support it, such as:

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Cor 3:10-15)

Protestants emphasize that, when a person trusts Christ, he or she is declared righteous by God. We are forgiven and accepted by God. Now and forever.

However, many Protestants fail to read correctly a passage like 2 Corinthians 5:21 — “For our sake he [God] made him {Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Notice that it doesn’t say that Jesus took our sins so that we might be declared righteous. It says he took our sins so that we might become the righteousness of God.

God’s purpose for us is that we will actually become righteous people, and the Catholic teachings of purgatory and praying for the dead give expression to an understanding of how that happens.  Obviously, when we die, none of us will be perfectly righteous. We need to be transformed to enter God’s presence. That’s where some kind of purifying process comes in.

Protestants, in my experience, just assume that God will instantaneously purify us at the moment of death and receive our souls into his presence without any need for further intervention.

Many Christians in the Eastern Orthodox churches are somewhere in between. They believe in praying for the dead, though not so much for their purification as for their comfort until the day of resurrection.

However, some emphasize at least the possibility of some purification of our souls after death. Here is a quote from Father Seraphim Rose:

In the Orthodox doctrine, on the other hand, which St. Mark teaches, the faithful who have died with small sins unconfessed, or who have not brought forth fruits of repentance for sins they have confessed, are cleansed of these sins either in the trial of death itself with its fear, or after death, when they are confined (but not permanently) in hell, by the prayers and Liturgies of the Church and good deeds performed for them by the faithful.

These things are mysteries that none of us can be dogmatic about. I like this quote from an article about the Orthodox church’s views and those of the early church fathers:

Some Church Fathers, such as St. Cyprian and St. Augustine of Hippo, seemed to believe in a purification after death. However, the character of this purification is never clarified, and especially (as St. Mark of Ephesus underlined at the Council of Florence) it seems there is no true distinction between heaven, hell and the so-called purgatory: all souls partake differently in the same mystical fire (which, according to St. Isaac of Syria, is God’s Love) but because of their spiritual change they are bound to different reactions: bliss for those who are in communion with him; purification for those in the process of being deified; and remorse for those who hated God during their earthly lives.

Because of this confusion and inability of the human language to understand these realities, the Church refrains from theological speculation. Instead, she affirms the unbroken Tradition of prayers for the dead, the certainty of eternal life, the rejection of reincarnation, and the communion of the Saints (those living and those who have fallen asleep in the Lord) in the same Body of Christ which is the Church. Private speculation is thus still possible as it was in the time of the Church Fathers.

I hope I haven’t bored you or over-explained all this.

The bottom line, in my view, is that those who die are in God’s care, and God will do what is best to make them whole and new in his presence.

Always happy to talk about our faith with you.



  1. Thanks, CM, for what you wrote. The EO point of view is really interesting.

    I do know of at least one Protestant writer who does believe in purgatory — Jerry Walls at Houston Baptist University.

    His book is well worth reading.


  2. Iain Lovejoy says

    Quite a few Protestants believe in an “intermediate state” between death and final resurrection which can involve the purification of sin and the repentance of sinners, which sounds a lot like both Purgatory and the eastern Orthodox view.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      But they can’t call it that — Too ROMISH.

      If I remember the history of the term “intermediate state”, it refers to the disembodied state between death and Resurrection. Which eventually took over the Christian Afterlife. displacing the New Heavens and New Earth until it became a Christian Elysium and eventually pop Fluffy Cloud Heaven (Peter Pan nightgowns, halos, harps and all).

  3. When I see all the Christians who don’t get along, it seems somewhat obvious to me that there’s going to have to be some sort of ‘slapping’ going on up there to get them all into shape 🙂

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I think the same thing when I see all the Catholic flakeouts claiming Direct Visions from Mary.
      (Just as End Time Prophecy is the Evangelical way, so “Mary Channeling” is the Catholic way to flake out.)

      Makes me want to see St Mary actually show up to these wannabe Visionaries and slap some sense into them.

  4. It’s clear that most people who die have not gotten a good start on the kind of transformation that a truly holy life would require. I don’t see how transformation can occur without the one to be transformed being present to the process, since what is involved necessarily requires a kind of education and change in understanding and behavior. To learn, one must be awake and aware and participating in the process of education, so I count myself among the Protestants who believe in Purgatory, and I think your reply to your questioner is a good one.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And the usual Evangelical substitute (Walk the Aisle, Say the Magic Words, and ZAP! It’s All Under the Blood) seems very lame in comparison, like a Consolation/Booby Prize.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        P.S. As Sci-Fi Catholic once put it about End Times: “Our explanations should at least pass the Cool Test. Since we don’t know for certain, our speculations should at least be Cool.”

  5. Adam Tauno Williams says

    “…the Church refrains from theological speculation…”

    Blessings to the Orthodox.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Smart move.

      I’ve seen Speculation atop Speculation atop Speculation to where it bears NO resemblance to Reality.

      The historical type example is Medieval Angelology and Demonology, where each generation mistook the previous generation’s Speculations for FACT and added their own layer of Speculation, generation after generation after generation.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > Speculation atop Speculation atop Speculation

        Isn’t that the DEFINITION of Theology? Using the power of logic to extrapolate from poetry great teetering towers of hubris.

        • Dana Ames says

          Yeah, well we’ve had a few of those types, Finn, but EO mitigates against that sort of logical extrapolation. The EO definition of “theologian” is one who prays. The sensibility is that one who prays honestly and deeply enough is actually able to study God himself, not simply ideas about him.

          From “The Orthodox Church” by Met K. Ware:
          “Theology, mysticism, spirituality, moral rules, worship, art: these things must not be kept in separate compartments. Doctrine cannot be understood unless it is prayed: a theologian, said Evagrius, is one who knows how to pray, and he who prays in spirit and in truth is by that very act a theologian.”


  6. I would think that one unadulterated glance at God As He Is would be enough to either totally purify or totally drive away anybody – process be damned (pun intended).

    • But we are unable to take an unadulterated view of God, unless our hearts have been made pure: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. The purification comes first; it is the precondition for being able to see God.

      • Ooh, you’re good (both of you)!

      • I think you’re reading just a teensy bit too much into that one verse. 😉

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          And Born-again Bible-believers(TM) don’t?

        • Iain Lovejoy says

          But it’s not just that one verse. That uncleansed sinners cannot bear to look on God, or be in the presence of God, indeed that it is death to do so is a constantly recurring theme in the OT. Even Moses’ face reflecting that glory was too much to bear.

          • Yes, I think that beatitude near the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount touches not only teaching in other parts of our scriptures, but the experience of mystics down through the history of Christianity and the other world religions. Only the pure can see God in all God’s purity.

          • I’m still enough of a believer in imputed righteousness to hold tgat purity can be imputed as well as legal standing. Yes, only the pure can see God – but did not Jesus also say that those who see Him, see the Father in all His fullness?

            • Yes, he did, but that begs the questions: Do we really see Jesus? Any of us? What human being fully sees any other created human being, never mind the God-Man? We don’t even see ourselves fully. Learning to see Jesus is a lifelong, and (I think) more than lifelong, undertaking.

              • That question leads to a labyrinth that none can escape. Do you REALLY know and love your spouse? Do you REALLY know your motives? Questions like these lead only to despair. Trusting Christ as He is revealed to us in Scripture and liturgy is the only exit.

                • I don’t find that they lead to despair, but to relying on Christ. The point I’m making is that neither your gaze, nor mine, can exhaustively take in any human being, and certainly not Jesus Christ. Those who have an unadulterated view of Jesus are the pure in heart.

        • @Eeyore, I hope that you know me well enough to know that I’m not a proof-texter. I quote that particular text because I think it connects with a powerful stream of human religious experience and wisdom, not limited to Judaism or Christianity, but evidenced again and again down through time in the religious history of humankind. It is that truly catholic testimony that I want to reference, and rely on, in mentioning this text.

          But, in addition, this blog has repeatedly emphasized that we should place more value on the teaching of Jesus than is typical in evangelicalism, which tends to favor the Epistles above the words of Jesus. Why is it wrong to put much weight on his teaching in this matter of seeing God? Who would know better than Jesus what are the conditions and preconditions of seeing God?

          • But that verse should not be the only verse that informs the discussion. Jesus also said that the disciples had seen Him, and that that was the same as seeing God. And I think we can all agree that that bunch of misfits was NOT pure of heart… 😉

            • In John 14:9, he said those who had seen him had seen the Father, but the passage starts with a question that makes us wonder whether they had really seen him or not: “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?”

  7. Very good CM. As a post-evangelical (or former-, ex-, resentful-, whatever), I hadn’t given a lot of thought to purgatory, or what happens after death (specifically between death and resurrection) until recently (thanks to N. T. Wright’s emphasis on resurrection rather than a disembodied ‘heaven’ as the true hope of the early Christians). However, the ‘present with the Lord’ and instantly transformed idea has always troubled me. And the fact that the NT has almost nothing to say about the ‘intermediate state’ does make it hard to be dogmatic. I wrote the following to a friend a while back (recognizing the nature of apocalyptic literature and the dangers of building doctrine on texts that are full of symbolism and visions).

    And this ‘heavenly’ existence, the ‘intermediate state’ is not one of endless bliss. In Rev 6:10, the ‘souls under the alter’ cry out ‘how long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Aside from the fact that these people, in the very presence of God (where we supposedly have left our ‘sin nature’ behind) are not acting very Christ-like – calling for God to avenge their blood (doesn’t sound much like ‘forgive them for they know not what they do’ or ‘love your enemies’ does it?), they are very much aware that things are STILL not what they should be. There is still sin and injustice and violence on the earth and they are impatient for God to bring it all to its end and bring about the promised restoration and their final hope – resurrection and life on that restored earth. Heaven doesn’t sound like eternal bliss to me. It sounds like there is an acute awareness that things are not yet done, and perhaps even some lingering ‘unChrist-likeness’ in our character.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I wonder if the Intermediate State was postulated to maintain unbroken continuity between the Mortal life and the Resurrected one. (Even if — as in the SDA idea of “Soul Sleep” — the person has NO conscious memory of the Intermediate State or passage of time between death and resurrection.)

      Like the Trekkie go-round about how the Transporter works — does it teleport YOU to the destination or does it destroy the original YOU and replicate an exact copy at the destination? If the latter, YOU are dead and no longer exist; the “you” who appears at the destination (whether that is the starship Enterprise or a New Resurrected Body) is just an exact copy.

      Without some sort of “intermediate state” or “soul” to transfer an unbroken first-person viewpoint trace between source and destination (as in the JW version of “Soul Sleep”), teleportation (or Resurrection) is NOT “YOU”. Continuity is lost.

      In his Riverworld series, Philp Jose Farmer (one weird dude) had to postulate the same thing — a personality matrix/memory trace external to the constantly-resurrecting bodies of Riverworlders — to maintain unbroken continuity.

      When theologians tried to figure out the mechanisms of Christian “victory over the grave”, things got a lot hairier than the original concept of Christus Victor — Victorious over Death.

  8. I can think of the leader of a certain unnamed country who will be there long after I graduate. C.S.Lewis believed in purgatory, if I’m not mistaken. He maps out an inclusivist position in the Great Divorce, and evangelical s like Billy Graham have spoken about the widenness of God’s in somewhat similar ways. I’m thinking actually that it will be a pretty big group in an interim state of purification. If you don’t mind a bit of theological conjecture, maybe the perfected saints – alluding again to Lewis – have that as a job in Heaven instead of strumming harps all day and trying out their wings.

  9. Mike, do you think the evangelical process of sanctification in this life resembles the Catholic purgatory in the next life? Or is sanctification exclusively evangelical?

    Also, is purgatory driven by works or by grace? It seems to me that sanctification is more driven by works.

    • Ted, they are similar, but the sanctification process is always viewed as incomplete, unless you hold to some view of perfectionism. The point of purgatory is that it is a final purification, so it actually fits more with the Protestant doctrine of glorification.

    • Dana Ames says

      Ch Mike can answer, of course, but in the meantime…

      ISTM this is one problem with the grace/works understanding, esp if grace is a kind of “thing”. “Works” implies being able to “do” something; but how can a person “do” anything without a body – which we do not have in the interim state? No, everything has to be grace, originating in God and being ultimately his work, though I would not use the word “driven” to describe the process. Nothing “drives” God (unless you want to count self-giving love).

      To my knowledge, sanctification is a feature of every Christian group, whether they call it that exact name or not. It simply means “becoming holy.” There are lots of ways God works holiness in us, through the circumstances of our lives that are completely beyond our control, that don’t require us to “do” anything except persist in trusting him.


      • Thanks, Mike and Dana.

        Dana, you’re right that nothing drives God. I was thinking that if purgatory is grace-driven it’s God who does the driving. Work, on the other hand, often driven by pride or greed or anything other than God. Or by God, I suppose, not denying him anything.

        Jeri and I just saw A Wrinkle in Time last night. Fun movie, based somewhat on the book, which I’m halfway through reading right now. Oprah behaved herself. As with most movies, the book is way better.

        I read Madeleine L’Engle’s wikipedia page and under “Religious Beliefs” she is quoted as saying, “I cannot believe that God wants punishment to go on interminably any more than does a loving parent. The entire purpose of loving punishment is to teach, and it lasts only as long as is needed for the lesson. And the lesson is always love.” Perhaps L’Engle was describing a kind of purgatory.

        Wikipedia also describes her as believing in universal salvation, and for that she’s been blacklisted by a lot of Christian bookstores and churches. So far, I’m finding the book version of Wrinkle very Christian. The movie was way more dualistic, Eastern religion (not your Eastern Orthodxy, Dana) and even at odds with L’Engle’s beliefs. Notably, that darkness is greater than light, even though in the book L’Engle has Mrs. Who quoting John 1:5, “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

  10. I scoffed at the idea of Purgatory as a fundamentalist but now embrace it as a very strong possibility (and necessity). I think our growth continues on the other side. There’s a joke about a restaurant called Purgatory.
    Decent enough place but don’t expect anything we’ll done. Sushi, steak tar tar, pasta al dente. That reminds me of another place called Karma. No menus. You just get what you deserve.
    I don’t imagine Purgatory being a ‘place’ I think if it is true it is a state of being in a state of change and growth that is not without some difficulty. Purgation is never a comfortable process in any form. It involves losing and weaning and sloughing off of things that were once necessary and dear but which we have not let go of freely. It’s fortunate pain. But then Revelation 21:4 – “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

    • Just another note about ‘place’. The childhood images of heaven hell and purgatory were of places. Heaven and hell are both described as having gates. By implication there must be walls as well or else you would have a Blazing Saddles type tollbooth in the middle of the desert that could simply be walked around. The importance of it is that if purgatory is a place it would seem to be separate from God who is in the other place called heaven. That connotes some separation from God. On the other hand, if it is a state of being wherein we are being brought through a fire, of sorts, it is a morph of what is happening right now as we go through the current fire while in full communion and oneness with the Spirit of God. It is God himself who is bringing us through this change. He is not watching from a distance.

      • One final note. A criticism of the purgatory idea has been that people will embrace a sinful life here with the thought that everything will get straightened out in purgatory and they don’t have to worry about it now. That thinking is highly flawed on a few different fronts but in the context of this conversation the flaw would be this: purgatory is not a desired or comfortable state, either here or on the other side. While change is painful here , my suspicion is that it is much more so on the other side. Here we can at least distract ourselves with our toys.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          What was George Carlin’s definition in “Class Clown”?
          “Temporary Hell”?

          • Yup. If there is something like purgatory I’m guessing it’s not a Bahamian island vacation experience just based on the nature of reality is we know it. We cling fiercely so it’ll take some prying. Yes, it is speculation but it seems sensible nonetheless.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              But doesn’t that drift into the Fundy implication of God being so Holy he cannot stomach us at all (unless we’re “under the blood”) and seems obsessed with PUNISH PUNISH PUNISH SMITE SMITE SMITE?

              • No. I mean He is with us in the operating room doing the surgery. He is the healing physician.

      • Dana Ames says

        Well ChrisS,

        in Revelation, at least, it’s not properly “heaven” that has gates, but rather the city that comes down. If you’ve read Wright, you understand that “heaven” in Hebrew thought referred to everything about reality that is not visible (including stuff like the air and the space between us and the stars, so all that’s “up there”). It never was a “place”…

        One of St Isaac the Syrian’s prayers expresses the Orthodox view well:
        “You can see my sores hidden within me; stir up contrition, though not corresponding to the weight of my sins, for if I become fully aware of the extent of my sins, Lord, my soul would be consumed by the bitter pain produced by them…. ”

        God has no need to punish us. Because of our blindness, we can’t see the ramifications of our un-love. When we come into the full light of his presence, we will see, and we will know – and that knowing will be what torments us. And that knowing will drive us to the feet of the Savior – quickly for some, not so much for others – but, I am permitted to hope like St Isaac, eventually for all.

        Christ is risen!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          If you’ve read Wright, you understand that “heaven” in Hebrew thought referred to everything about reality that is not visible (including stuff like the air and the space between us and the stars, so all that’s “up there”).

          The Unseen part “of all that is Seen and Unseen”.

        • I see no punishment at all. I see healing. Again, if it is real.

  11. “the Church refrains from theological speculation” is a quote that comes up in Orthodox catechisms a lot and I LOVE it. =)

    Thanks for including us, CM!

    • “The Church refrains from theological speculation…”

      Any church that doesn’t have theological speculation doesn’t have human beings in it. 😉

      • Iain Lovejoy says

        I think what is meant is that while the Church’s members can speculate as much as they like, the Church as a body carefully avoids taking a position on it.

        • But every – EVERY – tradition has a specific, stated claim on these matters.

          • I have to agree with you. Without speculation, the Orthodox Church would not have arrived its own traditional beliefs about the intermediate postmortem state; to assert that one does not speculate may easily be a way of disallowing the speculation of other churches, while giving your own speculations a free pass.

          • Iain Lovejoy says

            I am a member of the Church of England. Good look finding a “specific, stated claim” from them. (NB – Don’t start on the 39 Articles, nobody agrees in what they mean.)

  12. When I was in church leadership I was asked this question many times, usually in the context of a Christian friend either worried about their own death or who had just experienced the death of a Christian loved one. (This was not the same question as the “will non-believers go to hell” question, which also came up frequently.)

    I think CM’s short answer about people entering into God’s care is pretty spot on, and for many people, all the assurance they need. I answered in a similar way myself, placing the emphasis on our belief borne out in scripture and the witness of the saints that God loves us, that God knows us intimately, that God can be trusted, and that God is faithful and will bring us to him.

    Usually that is what people are really getting at when they ask the question. Sometimes people will get more specific then, as CM’s friend did about Purgatory. I try not to go into specifics and the differences among the various branches of the church unless the person really wants to go there. But even then, I stay as general as possible and keep the emphasis on how much God loves us and can be trusted.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      (This was not the same question as the “will non-believers go to hell” question, which also came up frequently.)

      Though there is some overlap, i.e.
      “Define ‘Non-believer’.”
      All too often it’s “Thee, NOT Meeeeee!”

  13. Christiane says

    “I believe that when people die they enter into the care of God.”

    Yes. Chaplain Mike, I love your phrase ‘into the care of God’ . . . .
    as my own two favorite prayers are
    “Jesus Christ I trust in You”
    “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us”

    ” . . . the spirit will return to God who gave it”
    (from Ecclesiastes 12:7)

    • Divine Mercy Chaplet?……

      • Christiane says

        Hi Radagast,

        no, not the Chaplet which I have seen on EWTN . . . .

        those prayers come from a ‘coffin’ on which they were engraved and I found that they resonated with me very powerfully at a time in my life when I had lost someone very dear to me suddenly. Those prayers I found on a ‘vimeo’ called ‘The Coffinmaker’, here is the site:

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        In an SF novella I co-wrote set in a hard-edged space opera universe, we called it “Saint Faustina’s Chaplet”.

  14. john barry says

    Was not Cor 3.10 -3.15 about rewards given for works done, not salvation but kind of like merit badges in the Boy Scouts. John Barry is in the Boy Scouts , John Barry is saved but has no merit over than he accepted Christ. Mother Teresa is in Boy Scouts, saved, but has a lot of merit badges due to her earthly work . The “fire” is to ascertain the value of works for my reward in heaven Mother Teresa gets a lot of rewards, John Barry gets in but sits in the back section. Know this is simple but it is me writing this.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Just so long as you acknowledge Merit Badges in something other than Save The Most Souls.

    • I’m not saying that the purgatory interpretation is the correct one; only that this is a text that might support some kind of purgatorial theology.

  15. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Purgatory is an antechamber of God’s Presence where you have to deal with any Unfinished Business before you can enter in further.

    It provides an elegant solution to the dilemma of “What about someone who’s a Big-Time Sinner who gets Saved on his deathbed? Versus some saint who has been Faithful all his life? Why should the first enter in right away when he’s left a much bigger trail of damage, both to himself and others?” (You know the usual Evangelical Under the Blood workarounds to this one, “I Have a Verse!” and all.)

    It also explains some hauntings and ghosts — what if dealing with the Unfinished Business includes hanging around the old place? (You know the Evangelical It’s All DEEEEMONS workarounds to this one, Verse after Verse.)

    • I don’t think that needed to be explained – the Lord himself answered it in his parable of the workers and wages, people just find that parable’s ending unsatisfying! 😉

      It is riffed on great in the paschal homily of St. John Chrysostom and I smile a lot every year. In this, God’s ways are not like our ways.

    • Christiane says

      actually Headless, there IS at least one verse that is in the evangelical scriptures, Isaiah chapter 6, this:

      “Isaiah’s Vision of the Lord in His Glory
      …5Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” 6Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”

  16. Wow… I did not know some Protestants were open to a purification process before entering into the gates of Heaven… thank you for this CM.

    Growing up Catholic, we were taught as young’ns that Purgatory was a place, Pope John Paul II talked about it as a process – as the soul does not want blemishes in being in union with God.

    I had a discussion with a Greek Orthodox priest about 10 years ago, and as alluded to in another post Orthodoxy has a bit of a different view on Judgement, Heaven/Hell and the like. We got on the subject of Purgatory and he stated although purgatory is part of Western thought he stated from an Eastern view the soul goes through a series a toll booths or tests… sounding similar to the purification process of Purgatory. It was an enjoyable conversation. From what I understand Eastern thought ( Orthodoxy and also eastern and western Christian Mystics) focus on purification, illumination and union with God…. this seems to fit right into that formula….

    • Dana Ames says

      “Toll booths” is the subject of some argumentation among some Orthodox, whether they are actualities or not. My view is that some of the Fathers and holy monks came up with this metaphor in order to explain something about the “how” regarding something they intuited about what happens after death (the need, even desire, for further purification), but could not otherwise put into words – to try to understand something that we simply do not (yet) know. Orthodox are allowed to have opinions about things that are not the core beliefs of Christianity, and this is an opinion worth considering – not so much for itself, as something to be argued about, but as a pointer to something ineffable.

      The teaching of the Orthodox Church shows up in its expressions of worship. Toll booths are not part of our worship, and therefore not dogma. Even the greatest Fathers had opinions that are not the teaching of the Church. It is only the matters on which the Fathers all agree – the consensus – that made it into the expressions of worship in EO. Orthodox doctrine is found in our worship books.


    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Wow… I did not know some Protestants were open to a purification process before entering into the gates of Heaven…

      Note that these are NOT the altar-call Fundagelicals who have hijacked the name “Christian” without any adjective to mean themselves alone.

      It’s more of a spectrum, and the Fundys just staked out their end of the spectrum as the One True Way.

  17. Dana Ames says

    Very good answer, Ch Mike. You made it understandable without going overboard (as I would have done, alas) regarding delineating specific points. That’s why you’re serving the way you are now… May the Lord continue to help you in his love.


  18. Good discussion. But no amount of discussion can undo the fact that we have to continue to live as Christians with a great amount of uncertainty about the state and disposition of the soul following death.

    • What do we want? CERTAINTY!
      When do we want it? NOW!
      What do we want? CERTAINTY!
      When do we want it? NOW!


  19. The Eastern view is interesting. To the Hindus and Buddhists all heavens and hells are purgatories because they are not final destinies. As long as you can experience bliss or agony there remains that monstrous self which is the very thing being purged.