Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #167

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

I posted a new video on YouTube a few weeks ago and kept forgetting to mention it. This one is on: Is Faith Greater Than Love? Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOCTI-iVS-k

Also, for those of you who pay any attention at all to the numbering of these newsletters, last week’s edition was incorrectly numbered as Issue #167. It should have been #166.


Mr. Thrasher has indicated to me that it will be a couple of weeks or so before he will be able to make his next response in our debate on Peter being the first Pope, so, in the meantime, I want to share with you an email exchange I had with one Mary Freeman.

Mary is a Fundamentalist Protestant who emails me after almost every issue with comments that just don’t make much sense if she actually read the newsletter. I ignored her for the longest time, but after receiving a particular email from her, I decided to try and have a meaningful dialogue with her.

The exchange was on the topic of Purgatory. As you will see, it is another case of someone who simply wants to spout off about how wrong the Catholic Church is and is not interested in, or possibly is not capable of, a rational and logical dialogue on matters pertaining to Catholic teaching.

Below I start with her original email and then proceed in chronological order with the exchange. I also throw in some “Strategy” comments so you can follow my thinking process and use what I’ve done here in your own conversations.


Mary Freeman:

how in the world did the catholic church ever come up with purgatory.  Jesus purges to the utmost and He is faithful to forgive.  don’t you believe that Jesus is capable of forgiving to the core of the sin? what do you even believe He acommplished on the cross?


John Martignoni:

If you will be willing to answer a few questions, I will prove to you that you actually believe in Purgatory and I will also show you that the teaching on Purgatory is indeed very scriptural.

1st question: Are you a perfect human being right now?  In other words, you never have a bad thought about anyone or anything; you never commit a sin; you never talk ill of anyone; you pray always; you never pass up a chance to be reading Scripture and learning more about God…you’re perfect?  Yes or no?



I don’t want to waste my time by launching into a full blown defense of Purgatory, because I know that it would probably have little to no effect on someone as Fundamentalist as she is.  And, I don’t want to let her set the tone.  So, I’m not going to bother addressing her questions about what Jesus can and cannot do and what He did or did not accomplish on the Cross – she won’t believe what I have to say about Catholic teaching on those matters anyway.  I want to turn things around. I want to put her on the spot.  I want her to defend her position.  I want to use the "How to Be Offensive (Aw-fensive) Without Being Offensive (Uh-fensive) Strategy," (from the talk, "Apologetics for the Scripturally-Challenged").  I want to be asking the questions rather than answering them.

Mary Freeman:
Jesus accomplished total forgiveness on the cross.  Purgatory only proves that the catholic church doesn’t really believe in the saving death and resurrection ofJesus, who is the Almighty.  He said "Father forgive them for they  do not know what they are doing". We sin in ignorance and we sin even though we know it is wrong, and He is faithful to forgive when we cry out to Him.  There is heaven and there is hell, both are eternal.


John Martignoni:

So, I assume from your answer that you are saying, "No," you are not perfect right now and that you do indeed sin.  Given that, I ask my next question, are you made perfect upon your entrance into Heaven, yes or no?  


Notice that while she did not directly answer my first question with a simple yes or no about whether or not she was perfect and without sin, she did answer it indirectly by saying "we sin."  So, that allows me to acknowledge her answer to my first question and then move on to my next question.  Also, please note that I completely ignored her comment about what Purgatory "proves" in regard to Catholic teaching.  She is obviously ignorant of Catholic teaching and not really open to hearing what Catholic teaching on the "saving death and resurrection of Jesus" actually is, so why bother spending a lot of time explaining it and quoting from the Bible and/or the Catechism, when she will not pay any attention to what I have to say on those matters. 

It’s very easy to get frustrated when you put a lot of time, effort, and energy into responding to someone and they turn around and simply ignore all of it and respond as if you have written none of it.  So, instead of doing that, ignore their comments and use questions of your own to set the tone.  Now, if they are actually responding to what you have to say with rational and reasoned replies, then by all means address what they have to say.  My words above are for those all too many people out there who are more interested in you listening to what they have to say than they are in having a conversation and actually listening to what you have to say.


Mary Freeman:

there is heaven and hell. Luke 16:19-31 Jesus said there is only heaven and hell, there is no crossing over because of a gulf separatingthe two places. the two characters in Luke 16:19-31 were given final judgement, where they went is forever. the bible says that when wesin we have Jesus to go to, we must seek the light while we have it. someone on their death bed who gives themselves over to Jesus will go to heaven when they pass from the flesh into perfection. someone who gives themselves over to Jesus many years before they die willgo to heaven also when they  pass from the flesh into perfection. we are good enough for heaven, just trust Jesus when He says "you are forgiven".  when we give ourselves to Jesus He forgives us, we have no past, we are forgiven forever. purgatory can’t purge us from sin or punish us enough to make us good enough for heaven, Jesus did all that when He conquered the world, He conquered to the utmost, believe that and you areheaven bound. purgatory can never accomplish anything because purgatory doesn’t exist.


John Martignoni:

Excellent!  You see, I just proved that you believe in Purgatory, even though you won’t admit to it.  Based on what you’ve said so far, you believe that you are imperfect right now.  Yet, you believe that when you get to Heaven, you will be perfect.  So, were you to die right now, imperfect, yet enter Heaven perfect, then that points to some process by which you believe the imperfect you was transformed into the perfect you, after death.  You can call that process whatever you want, but that’s what we call Purgatory.  Purgatory is the process by which the imperfect man is "purged" of his imperfections and made perfect.

In Hebrews 12:23, it talks about the souls of just men "made perfect."  Scripture, right there in Hebrews 12, confirms that there is some process by which the souls of the just are made perfect.  How are they made perfect?  By Jesus Christ.  How do they deserve to be made perfect?  Through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

In 1 Cor 3:13 – 15, it talks about how some, on their day of judgment, will suffer loss, as through fire, yet still be saved.   Please tell me, Mary, where does someone, after they die, suffer loss as through fire, yet still be saved?  Hell?  Nope.   Once you’re in Hell, you never get out.  Heaven?  Nope.  You don’t suffer loss as through fire in Heaven.  So where is this place where your works of hay, stubble, and straw are burned up, and you suffer loss as through fire, yet still get saved?

The problem for you is, you have a built-in bias against Catholic teaching without even really knowing what that Catholic teaching is.  Plus, you have never even considered the scriptural evidence for Purgatory.  So, I challenge you, Mary, to really think about what I’ve said here.  Because, again, I have shown that you believe in some process by which the imperfect, upon their death, are made perfect.  That’s what Purgatory is all about.



Again, she did not answer my question directly with a simple yes or no.  (You know, I can’t recall, in the thousands of times that I have asked various Protestants/Evangelicals/Fundamentalists/Baptists/etc. simple yes or no questions, ever getting a simple yes or no answer.  I’m starting to think those two words may not be in their vocabulary.)  But, she did answer the question indirectly when she used the phrase, "pass from the flesh into perfection."  So, again, I was able to acknowledge her answer to my question.

So, I had the answers to my two questions; therefore, I laid out, in a very simple, direct, and logical manner, the undeniable conclusion, based on her responses, that she believes in some process that occurs after death by which the imperfect becomes perfect.  And I told her that she can call that process whatever she wants, but that’s what we Catholics call Purgatory.  I even gave her some Scripture verses which back up what I said and what the Church teaches. 

Each and every one of you can use this very same strategy, or technique, on anyone you come across who questions or attacks the Catholic belief in Purgatory.  Just remember, no matter what they say, simply respond with question #1 above.  Don’t get sidetracked into some big theological discussion at the outset, because odds are that it will be a complete waste of your time as the other folks will simply ignore what you have to say and continue to insist, based on their ignorance of Catholic teaching, that the Catholic Church teaches things that it doesn’t actually teach or that the Catholic Church doesn’t teach things that it actually does teach.  So, get them to answer you before you answer them.

And, if you ask the question and they don’t answer it, either directly or indirectly, simply repeat the question and keep repeating the question until they do.  Tell them that you would be more than happy to discuss the items they are bringing up, but only after they answer your question.

Then, if you can get an answer to the 1st question out of them, hit them with the 2nd question and, same as before, keep hitting them with it until they answer.  When they answer it, then you do exactly what I did and show them that they actually believe in Purgatory, whether they realize it or not. 

If they respond in some rational and logical manner, then you may want to start talking about what the Church actually teaches on sin and the Cross and Resurrection and quoting the Bible and the Catechism and so on.  But first make sure that you have someone who is actually willing to hear what you have to say and can respond in some thoughtful manner.  If they can’t respond intelligently to your two questions, then that’s a pretty good clue that you don’t want to waste a whole lotta time on these folks. 


Mary Freeman:

In Cor 3:13-15 He will burn up (forgive) our sins of those who are His. He doesn’t do this by sending us through fire or a place called purgatory.  If this place really exists then Jesus would have to be there to make sure we are purged by some kind of fire, and He certainly isn’t in purgatory, He is sitting on His throne at His Father’s right side. and for those who do not believe in Him they will die in their sins John 8:23-24. Hebrews 12:23 doesn’t say anything about purgatory, once again this is talking about Jesus making us perfect when we cry unto Him in this lifetime. He is faithful to forgive. If purgatory did exist how long does it  take for someone to get out of there? Whereas heaven and hell are eternal.  do you read my statements? there is no purgatory, Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection has conquered sin, satan, and death.  Turn to Jesus and stop chasing after the pope. Follow Jesus instead.
John Martignoni:

I do follow Jesus.  Do you read my newsletters?  Stop relying on the biased and bigoted teaching of men that causes you to conform the Scripture to your beliefs, rather than conforming your beliefs to Scripture.  Read all of the Scripture verses I gave you and tell me what they mean if you want me to believe what you believe.  Tell me what 1 Cor 3:10-15 means, Mary?  You can’t do it, can you?  Because you rely not on what the Scripture actually says, but rather on what men tell you they say.  Tell me how a person who is imperfect when they die becomes perfect before they enter Heaven?  Please, Mary, I’m open to hearing what you have to say, but you aren’t answering my questions, you just keep saying I’m wrong.  I still don’t think you even understand what the teaching on Purgatory is all about, do you?  Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection has indeed conquered sin, Satan, and death, and that fits perfectly with the Catholic teaching on Purgatory.   There would be no need for Purgatory without it. 



From the standpoint of logic, if someone is imperfect at the point of death, but perfect when they enter Heaven, then it has to be that they went through some process by which their imperfections were gotten rid of, or purged.  So, what did she do when I showed her the undeniable conclusion that, based on her own comments, she believes, even though she doesn’t realize it, in some process by which someone is perfected after their death?  She denied it.  That, folks, is irrational thought.  Rather, it is the lack of thought altogether. 

Plus, look at her interpretations of 1 Cor 3:13-15 and Heb 12:23.  They make no sense.  When she says that 1 Cor 13-15 is talking about Jesus forgiving our sins when it mentions our works being "burned up," she is pretty much making that up on the fly.  It just doesn’t fit the context, especially when you consider v. 15.  How does being forgiven cause us to "suffer loss?"  How is our works being "tested" by fire (v. 13) the same thing as Jesus forgiving our sins? How is it being forgiven of our sins is in anyway analogous to being saved but "only as through fire?"  The fire here is obviously pointing to some painful process.  Where is the pain in Jesus simply forgiving us of our sins?  And, do you see where she gets to make up the rules of where Jesus has to be and what He has to do if there is a Purgatory?! 

And, her interpretation of Heb 12:23 says that it is talking about Jesus making us perfect in this lifetime.  But, she’s already admitted that we are not perfect in this lifetime…that we sin…that we are still in "the flesh."  So, she’s contradicting herself. 

The one thing I wanted to do in all of this was to put the onus on her to prove her case rather than allow her to just keep saying, "You’re wrong!" and me responding with pages of explanations and quotes from Scripture and the Catechism as to why the Catholic Church isn’t wrong, only to have it fall on deaf ears. I wanted to try and make her think.  But, as you can see, it didn’t work.  That does not mean, however, that this is a failed strategy.  Not at all.  There will be folks you use these questions on who will indeed stop and think and who might even say, "Oh, I see what you’re saying."  It has happened to me before. 

But, even if you don’t plant a seed of truth with them, you have, at the least, saved yourself a whole lot of time, effort, and frustration by not getting into some long drawn out conversation that will end up going nowhere.  Again, if they can’t respond directly and rationally to these two questions and to the conclusion you draw based on these two questions, then don’t expect them to respond directly and rationally to anything you have to say about Scripture and the Catechism.  Remove your sandals, shake off the dust, and move on.

By the way, her response to my last email was so off the beaten path and had no response whatsoever to what I asked her, so I simply deleted it and never replied to her again. 

One last thing: I have yet to have anyone say, in response to the 2nd question, that we are not perfect in Heaven.  Even those who, like Martin Luther, believe that when we are forgiven we become like piles of dung covered over by the pure white snow of Jesus’ grace.  I guess they believe we are perfect piles of dung in Heaven, or some such thing.  However, I have had a response or two to the 1st question, that didn’t fit the usual pattern.  I have actually had a couple of people tell me that they are now perfect here on Earth, sinless – by the substitutionary death of Jesus on the Cross for them.  What you can say should you ever be given that response, is this, "So, you have judged that there is nothing against yourself and you are therefore acquitted, eh?"  And then take them to 1 Cor 4:3-5 and tell them that even Paul did not say he was acquitted and that he did not judge himself…he left that up to God.  And/or, you can take them to 2 Cor 3:18 where it says we "all" are being changed "from one degree of glory to another."  If these folks are already perfect, then how come Scripture says we "all" are being changed from one degree of glory to another?  If you’re perfect, you don’t need to be changed.  And, if Christians are perfect and sinless people, then why do Jesus and Paul and the others, all through the New Testament, warn believers against sinning?  Makes no sense if we have already been made perfect.


In Conclusion

I hope everyone has a great week.

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Apologetics for the Masses