Forgive me all, but I came by this thread, and I could not help but notice that some of you fail to see why Orthodox Christianity sees Roman Catholic views on salvation as LEGALISTIC, and I thought I might just add my two cents.
The inability of Orthodoxy to understand purgatory stems from the fact that Orthodoxy bases its teaching of salvation on THEOSIS(SANCTIFICATION), while Roman Catholicism and much of Protetantism bases salvation on SATISFACTION, but James already did a great job in illustrating this. In Orthodoxy, sin is spiritual disease, which is healed when the Incarnated Lord teaches us how to correct our marred image and move again from image to likeness. To become gods by grace, by participating in the Divine Nature, that is truly salvific (2 Peter 1:4).
The legalisms of Roman Catholicism are clearly apparent. They look at metaphors of salvation as “debt” and “owing” (the Parable that Christ spoke, St. Matthew 18:21-35) and instead of seeing this as one of the MANY metaphors for salvation, the RCC runs with it and sees it as explanation. Christ also likened our salvation to a lost sheep or coin that the owner goes out and finds. Are we going to vainly argue that if we are lost, we wait for God to come and find us? How does this explain the role we play in our own salvation, our SYNERGY with God, where we’re told to Resist the devil, to submit to God, to choose life. These are all ACTIVE, where the metaphor is PASSIVE. Clearly these metaphors are not meant to be in and of themselves, explanations on salvation, but show us the many facets of the Mystery of Salvation.
Orthodox say that by participating in the Divine Nature, by participating in His grace, which is not created (If I understand correctly, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but RC’s see grace as a created phenomenon.). Through struggle, walking the straight and narrow way, by denying the self, our spiritual disease begins to heal and we move from image to likeness. It’s not a fluke that St. Ignatius of Antioch called the Eucharist, “the MEDICINE OF IMMORTALITY”. It truly IS! It heals our spiritual diseases (sins). If then, the Church is the HOSPITAL of our SOULS, then what we do in the Church IS THERAPEUTIC EXERCISE. We pray, fast, give alms to restore spiritual health.
Roman Catholic views on salvation stress SATISFACTION. God is somehow offended with us, and we must give back what we owe. But God is love, and that does not change. Yes, God loves the just and the unjust equally, and He allows the rain to fall on both. God is not a respector of persons…He loves all the same. Human actions do not cause God to change–this is absolutely unscriptural. While we were sinners, God took on flesh and INCARNATED!!!! Surely this is NOT a God Who stops loving us when we’re bad.
But RC’s argue that Christ’s death on the Cross appeased the Father’s will for SATISFACTION, but only removed the Eternal Punishment, leaving what they call the Temporal Punishment. The “temporal punishments” still exist. What are these temporal punishments? Was Christ’s Death not enough to destroy it all? What Roman Catholics would call PUNISHMENT, I think Orthodox call SPIRITUAL MEDICINE. After confession, a spiritual father may counsel the confessed party to pray their prayer rope, or do make prostrations, to read a certain number of chapters of the Bible or some holy writings, etc. This is not A PUNISHMENT!!!! No! This is a means of educating that soul in the ways of humility, of bringing it back to the ways of humility. A penance is NOT making up for sins, or DUE PUNISHMENT, but preparing the spiritual body for receptions of medicine–the Holy Eucharist, and training it to fight off disease (sin) in the future. Surely those sins, and any residues are forgiven when they are confessed and absolved by the priest, who has the authority through Christ. Lessons that God bestows upon us afterward are not punishments, but they are blessings, to help us to understand to walk in a new way. It is good that You have humbled me, that I might learn Thy statutes, we read in the Holy Scriptures.
God is Love (1 John 4:. This does not change. Yes, God loves the just and the unjust equally. All are HIS! God does not get angry or offended, nor jealous. These biblical mentions indicate ANTHROPOMORPHISMS–THEY TRY AS MUCH AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE TO ILLUSTRATE GOD WITH WORDS. God is not jealous, this word was used to try to illustrate how God, who loves us so completely, wants us to exclusively love Him. It’s not jealousy the way we understand it, because jealousy is a passion of imperfect men, not of the Most High. While we were sinners, Christ DIED FOR US. This is not a god who stops loving us when we’re bad.
In Roman Catholicism, salvation requires SATISFACTION, which is a philosophy from Roman public law, to which someone who offends must give restitution, satisfaction for an obligation not met. Tertullian was the first to use this in Christian writing, according to Pelikan’s Emergence, the Christian Tradition, pg. 147.
According to Rome, sin has a punishment here, and a punishment in the eternal life. Godman’s death on the Cross satisfies God’s anger toward us, but temporal sin remains, even after confession and forgiveness. It is not accidentally, (keeping in line with this theme of satisfaction) that since Vatican II, Penance is now also called “Reconciliation”. The Council at Trent argues that even after FORGIVENESS, one has to work off temporal punishment, a residue of sin, through self imposed penances or the penances of a confessor. (These are not punishments, but Roman Catholics, seeing them as such, call them TEMPORAL PUNISHMENTS). When Christ forgives the sinful woman who weeps at His feet, He doesn’t say, “Your sins are forgiven you…BUT work off your temporal punishment”. YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN YOU, NO SUB CLAUSES OR OUTSTANDING “ACCOUNTS.
Ofcourse if penance is PUNISHMENT that MUST be served, and not a lesson for the already forgiven, then it has to be expiated even if someone dies. This ushers in purgatory, a place or state clearly unheard of in the Bible, but argued by deduction because a place HAS TO EXIST TO WORK OFF THIS PUNISHMENT. It is the view that penance is punishment that makes PURGATORY necessary. And it is THIS NOTION OF SATISFACTION, that makes RC’s understand penance as PUNISHMENT, which is simply NOT THE CASE.
What happens with purgatory? Well, if purgatory is a place to expiate outstanding debt, then surely friends and loved ones can help you “PAY WHAT YOU OWE”. Next logical legalistic step: MERIT. One can transfer MERITS they work of their own free will, for a loved one in purgatory. Their merit is transferred to their account. This is a teaching of the Council of Trent.
And what’s more, is that the Roman Catholic Church does teach that many saints, the Lord Himself, had TOO MUCH MERIT, SUPERABUNDANT MERIT, apparently more than was necessary to ensure their salvation. So what happens? Regardless of the fact that the Scriptures tell us that the virtues and goods of a soul accompany one into eternity (Apocalypse 14:13) to help them, RCC says that God gives back “SPIRITUAL CHANGE” to those who were too VIRTUOUS, so that their extras could be tapped in to those lacking it, who really need the assistance. This is clearly LEGALISTIC, a balance of ledgers, this is not the otherworldliness of Christianity.
Someone in the forum stated that RC’s don’t care if Orthodox see their theology as too reliant on logic and deduction, and philosophy, and that RC’s see Orthodox theology as TOO MYSTICAL, denying the gifts that God has given us. Well, the Fathers who defined the beliefs of the Mysteries of the Church surely DID use what God had given them, but remembered at the same time, that they were talking about a Church that was OF ITS VERY NATURE MYSTERIOUS and SACRAMENTAL. Surely, there is no such thing as TOO MYSTICAL, because we will never know FULLY how two people become ONE FLESH in matrimony, or how the Gifts become the VERY SAME LORD OF LORDS, or HOW GOD SEES THE HEART WHEN IT COMES TO SALVATION. Knowledge of God is not expiated in this life…we know what God has chosen to reveal, but much remains Mystery.