Gregory & Purgatory

Gregory & Purgatory

Men’s ministry tomorrow, brothers. Make an investment in your soul. Work alongside Christ “who began a good work in you” and continues to labor to “bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Officers, we meet at 7:00a to pray for shepherding groups. For all men: don’t neglect difficult spiritual things. Whatever exactly Rev. 20:12 means for the redeemed of God, it also means everything that you do — or don’t do — matters.

For the discussion tomorrow we’ll be thinking out loud about the attraction, especially among Millennials, to “high church” traditions such as Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism (read this). I’ll share what it is that attracts me, personally, to those traditions and also what it is that repels me and will keep me from ever joining them. For example…

As I’ve been reading, here and there, from late antiquity (4th and 5th centuries) to the early Middle Ages, I’ve appreciated the godliness, courage, devotion, doctrinal concern, and spiritual-mindedness of men such as Gregory the Great, Chrysostom, Cuthbert, and Bede. Chrysostom was fearless in the pulpit and puts nearly all other preachers in the shade. But already by Gregory’s day (he died around 600), the doctrine of Purgatory was a fixed notion and typical of the shift away from the teaching and culture of the NT to a culture more like Medieval Roman Catholicism.

Here’s a story. Gregory once visited a dying monk. After the monk died, 3 gold coins were found among his possessions, a violation of his vow of poverty and, to Gregory’s mind, a betrayal of trust in God alone. Gregory had the monk and his 3 gold coins tossed onto a pile of manure and left to rot (!). With the passage of time and reflection on his own sin, Gregory felt remorse and said 30 masses for the soul of the dead monk to help him on his journey from Purgatory to Heaven. (No one knows, by the way, just how many masses are required for that journey.)

There’s a lot to comment on here, but I’ll limit myself to one thing: Gregory simply had no role, no business, no power, and no need to interject himself between the monk and his only savior and redeemer, Jesus Christ. Whatever the final state of the poor man’s soul, “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). For Gregory to think his 30 masses were necessary and effective is to misunderstand the complete and final efficacy of the Cross, the “once for all sacrifice” (Heb 10:10), and the intimacy with God enjoyed by every follower of Jesus Christ — an intimacy taught and brought about in the Incarnation.

More on all this tomorrow morning. Hope you’ve had a chance to enjoy the sunshine!