Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next chapter, the Catholic apologist continues his arguments defending the existence of Purgatory as he attempts to counter Protestants’ assertion that, immediately after death, genuine Christians will be “At Home with the Lord.”
As we discussed last week (see here), the Roman Catholic church teaches that everyone who dies with venial (small, pardonable) sins on their soul or still has temporal punishment* remaining on their spiritual account must go to Purgatory to be cleansed before they can enter Heaven.
Evangelicals do not believe in Purgatory and often cite 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 to support their position:
“6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
This passage teaches that born-again Christians can anticipate being with the Lord immediately after death, with no intermediary state. Not so fast, objects the Catholic apologist. Broussard attempts to rebut the evangelical position with two arguments. Fasten your seat belts, my friends, because it doesn’t get any slipperier than this:
(1) Broussard contends that Paul’s mention of the two circumstances, either being in the body or being home with the Lord, doesn’t absolutely preclude a third circumstance. Broussard uses an analogy of being at work and wishing he was home. He asks, “Can we conclude…that if I’m away from work I must automatically be home?” He presents the intervening possibilities of stopping at McDonald’s for a burger or getting tied-up for hours in a traffic jam. Likewise, argues Broussard, being away from the body doesn’t necessarily mean being immediately with the Lord.
(2) Broussard then reapplies the same argument he presented in the previous chapter, that since God is not restricted by chronological time, the alleged cleansing in Purgatory could possibly take place in a twinkling of an eye and not contradict a face-value interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:6-8.
Let’s now respond to Broussard.
(1) Broussard’s hypothesis is so arbitrary, awkward, and artificial that I’m almost speechless. It’s clear to the unbiased reader of 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 that Paul is presenting an either/or exclusivity precluding a third possibility. Scripture teaches repeatedly that after death the unredeemed will go to Hell and those who are trusting in Christ as Savior by faith alone will go to Heaven.
“21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.” – Philippians 1:21-26
In the above passage, the apostle Paul states he is hard pressed to choose between two circumstances, either being in the flesh or with Christ, NOT three circumstances!
(2) Broussard is “grasping at straws” with this fanciful speculation. The Roman Catholic church has historically taught that the cleansing/punishment in Purgatory was according to chronological time. Partial indulgences were meted out in specific increments of time.
Last week, we thoroughly discussed how Purgatory is an integral part of Catholicism’s works-righteousness salvation system despite the lack of a Biblical basis. There’s no need to repeat those arguments again.
*Temporal punishment – According to Roman Catholic doctrine, a temporal punishment is a “punishment for sin that may be expiated in this world or if not sufficiently expiated here will be exacted in full in Purgatory.” Catholicism teaches that while a priest may fully pardon a mortal sin in the confessional, “all of the temporal punishment is not always taken away.” The vast majority of Roman Catholics could not define temporal punishment.
What does the Bible say about Purgatory?
Next up: “Caught Up with the Lord in the Air”