Friday, December 2, 2011

The Paranormal Christian – Purgatory and Ghosts

Dr. Michael Frisbee, DD/DM

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving last week.  The short work we last week left me a ton of work this week, and unfortunately, I spaced getting an article ready for my blog.  Thus, this week, my co-host on “The Paranormal Christian”, Rev Mark Hunnemann, is helping me out by presenting an article he wrote back in April regarding Purgatory.  We will be discussing this in greater detail on our show tomorrow night.

Purgatory and Ghosts.
Rev. Mark Hunnemann

Born the seventh of ten children, I grew up in a devout Roman Catholic family.  As a sensitive young boy, I understood Purgatory as hell with an ending; after the appropriate amount of time had been served, souls would be released. Who went to Purgatory? Any Christian who was not perfect when they died would spend a finite amount of time suffering in a hellish state in order to cleanse or purge away the remaining filth of sin.  After the soul had been perfected, then entrance into heaven was allowed. Thus, Purgatory was a virtual inevitability for every believer, except for a select few saints. Today, none of my siblings are Christians, and I suffer from scar tissue built up on my soul caused, in part, by belief in Purgatory. I would put bb's (bb gun) in my socks as a boy, and walk around in intentional discomfort, in order to suffer for Christ, and build up merit points which would lessen the length of my stay in short-term hell (Purgatory).

A growing number of paranormal investigators, especially Christians, are turning to the notion of Purgatory in an attempt to integrate their belief in earthbound spirits with their Christian convictions. Being trapped here on Earth, is seen as Purgatory. C.S. Lewis believed in Purgatory and he is the inspiration for some evangelical paranormalists embracing it too..

What response do I have? C.S. Lewis was one of the best read men of the twentieth century, as well as Christianity's most influential apologist (defender) during that period. He touched millions of lives, including my own.
However, Lewis never claimed to be a theologian. And I think he would disapprove of what many are saying about him in that regard. There were certain areas where he was aberrant: he did not believe in the inerrancy of the bible--AND he believed in praying for the dead and in Purgatory.
Regardless of what CS Lewis believed, the idea that the paranormal realm here on Earth is the place where souls experiences Purgatory is wrongheaded in a number of ways. First, from the data that we have from the vast corpus of EVP's, there is no correlation between official RC teaching on the nature of Purgatory and what is happening with alleged trapped souls. From their own voices, these entities--as a whole--give no expression of agony due to purgation of their sins. As I point out in "Seeing Ghosts through God's Eyes" precious little is said about sin, remorse for sin, longing for heaven, and the Person and work of Jesus. The body of EVP should be chock full of such expressions if the paranormal realm were Purgatory.
Second, official RC dogma states that only believers are allowed in Purgatory. Unbelievers are sent immediately to hell. That implies that every ghost trapped here on Earth is a Christian who is suffering hell-like torment. As seen above, that is simply not reflected in the data. Once you commit to using Purgatory as a means to explain the existence of ghosts, then you have painted yourself into a corner. To be consistent you would have to say that every ghost was a deceased Christian. That view does not have an ounce of plausibility.  If you mix Purgatory with the death criteria of becoming a ghost (any person can become a ghost given the right conditions), then you are left with a hopeless mess: some people are there because of traumatic death, and others are there suffering Purgatory! Again, official RC dogma does not allow for conversion/salvation in Purgatory--you already have to be a Christian to enter there and non-Christians go immediately to hell. There is no way a person can biblically defend the notion that hell is the paranormal realm.  If it is Purgatory (which it is not) then it can't be hell as well. RC dogma separates the two--one is temporal and the other is eternal; one has only believers in it, and the other (hell) has unbelievers and believers who die with unforgiven mortal sin. No time or need to elaborate on mortal and venal sins in RC theology-except it is repugnant to Scripture.
I cannot explain adequately the relief I felt as an 18 yr old young man when I first understood the gospel. In college I learned how the Reformation hinged on the debate about how we are justified before God. The concept of Purgatory is actually a symptom of a deadly disease-the belief that we are saved by faith in Jesus AND our good works. The Reformers restored the purity of the gospel by teaching that we are justified/saved by faith in Christ, plus NOTHING!! No more bb' more fear of more angst about the possibility of becoming a Christian ghost. We are justified by the imputing of Christ's righteousness to us, and not by the infusion of grace. If it were the latter, then we would need to stay in Purgatory for eternity before we were righteous enough in ourselves to merit heaven. In Christ, the Father sees us as perfect; but in ourselves we are still sinners. Every believer is a saint. That is wonderfully good news! Purgatory is a reflection of confusion regarding the nature of justification--which is the heart of the gospel. The righteousness that saves/justifies us is outside of us-it is an alien or extraterrestrial righteousness that resides in Jesus who is in heaven.. He declares us "Not Guilty" and transfers or imputes to our account the perfect 33 years of living that Jesus lived for us. This is not a fictional righteousness--it is the perfect life that Jesus lived for us, and which the Father sees. Hence, the notion of Purgatory is contrary to the core of the gospel. Sure, when we die we are filthy in ourselves, but praise God He views us "in Christ"--union with Christ.
Every topic we touched on could have been elaborated on further but I trust this was sufficient to help you see that Purgatory cannot be used to support the notion of ghosts--unless you reinvent the nature of Purgatory. The scars received from taking the Catechism seriously as a boy, give me little patience with the Purgatory tinkering going on today. The problem with having infallible Papal decrees and councils regarding the nature of Purgatory is that they are then irreformable--it can't be changed.... There are many Catholic Christians who love the Lord deeply. What I don't understand is the rush to embrace a doctrine which should unravel you emotionally if you truly take it to heart. It unraveled the heart of a little boy I once knew ...