Purgatory Thought Experiments, pt. 2: A Response

TurretinFan has published a “Response to Heschmeyer’s Purgatory Thought Experiments.” The original “Heschmeyer’s Purgatory Thought Experiments” can be found here. I’ll post his comments in red, and my responses in black; when I quote from the original post, I’ll put that in blue.

First of all, let me just say that he provides some really good contributions to the discussion in at least two areas. He talks at great length in the post about 2 Samuel 12:13-14, and how David’s son foreshadows Christ. God punishes David’s son for David’s sin: later, Christ, who is repeatedly called the Son of David in the New Testament, fully absolves David. This wasn’t really in the scope of my original post, or why I brought 2 Samuel 12:13-14 up, but I think it actually reinforces my point quite well. David’s son and Son bear the punishment for David’s sin, but David is still chastised. Second, TurretinFan attacks the areas which he thinks are weak in the argument. Even though I think he’s wrong, it provides lots of clarity for areas I need to work on explaining things more clearly, areas I need to be more careful with my word choice and so forth. In all honesty, I could say that about most of the commenters here: you all are really good at providing thought-provoking comments, and even though I’m bad at responding sometimes, they bring me immense joy. Now, without further ado, his responses and mine:

1) Fairness vs. Forgiveness
Heschmeyer relies throughout on what is “fair” but is simultaneously posing questions in which there is an assumption that forgiveness is taking place. Forgiveness is mercy – it runs in the opposite direction of “fair.”

I’m not sure what it means to say that forgiveness is opposed to fairness, but I know that God is both just and forgiving, so even if there exists an inherent tension at points, they’re not running in opposite directions. I said originally, after Thought Experiment One, “Just because you forgive someone, it doesn’t stop you from demanding redress for the thing done wrong. If someone steals your car, repents, and apologizes, they don’t get to keep the car just because you forgive them. It’s possible for you to (a) take the car back and not forgive them; forgive them and let them keep the car; or (c) take the car back and forgive them. The repentant criminal is no less forgiven in (c) than (b).” If he’s going to criticize that conclusion, let’s see an actual criticism of that conclusion. He just asserts without support that these two things run opposite one another. But if you can both (b) forgive someone and let them keep your car, or (c) forgive them and still get your car back, it seems that forgiveness and redress are not contradictory. Finally, I’m not just “assuming” that forgiveness is taking place, like it’s some oversight. I’m explicitly stating it as part of the Thought Experiments.

So this, his first point, was disappointing. He didn’t really interact with what I’d said: he just asserted that I was overlooking things which I’ve explicitly accounted for throughout the post he was criticized.

Even if the breaker is really sorry for having broken the item, fairness still demands that the breaker make the breakee whole, restoring what belonged to the breakee and cleaning up the mess resulting from the breakage.

I’m not sure where he’s going with this part: it’s exactly my point – that forgiveness and being made whole are two separate things. In Thought Experiment Two, I explicitly provided that “Nevertheless, it isn’t fair to the owner’s coworkers to simply write off the cost of this vase, and so he requires some sort of redress. The child, by his own merits, can never pay off this vase – he’s a child. So you, out of love for your child, pay the cost of the vase, even though you are, yourself, innocent.” So I already acknowledged (1) that contrition and forgiveness don’t preclude being made whole, and that (2) there are circumstances wherein the contrite are incapable making the harmed party whole by their own merits. As I explained later in the same Thought Experiment, this shows the absolute necessity of Christ. Without Christ, no matter how genuinely sorry we were for our sins, we could never appease that debt. In real life, the universe’s Owner paid for the damage caused by sin out of His own pocket by hanging on a Cross for us, but having a third party pay for the debt clarified that He wasn’t simply ignoring the debt’s existence, but actually satisfying it.

2) Conflation of Dignity and Physical Categories

In fact, whether or not the breaker is really sorry is relevant only to the dignity offense against the breakee. If you spit on someone’s shoe, you are doing more than ruining the leather, you are insulting the person. The same occurs (to a lesser extent) when one is negligent with the goods of another. One is showing that one lacks the proper regard for that person and also for God who set your duty to be careful of the goods of others.

When someone apologizes sincerely for harming another, he is attempting to terminate the offense against the dignity of the person whom he has offended. After all, if you break someone’s car and then don’t apologize, the dignity of the person continues to be harmed by your continued disdain for them as evidence by your lack of contrition.

His point here is that satisfaction for the debt (in this case, the physical damage caused) is distinct from forgiveness for the offense itself, what he calls the dignity offense. In other words, if I steal your new car and crash it, and give you an identical new car, I still owe you an apology, because my actions were wrong, even if (after compensation) they haven’t put you out at all objectively. They were a violation of your rights and dignity.

What I don’t understand is how he claims that I conflate these, as I make the distinction between them pretty explicitly:

  1. The child apologizes, and the store owner, in his mercy, forgives him.
  2. Nevertheless, it isn’t fair to the owner’s coworkers to simply write off the cost of this vase, and so he requires some sort of redress. The child, by his own merits, can never pay off this vase – he’s a child. So you, out of love for your child, pay the cost of the vase, even though you are, yourself, innocent.
  3. There is still, however, the mess that the broken vase made. May the store owner demand the child clean up this mess?

That’s from my original post. # 1 deals with the dignity offense, # 2 deals with the debt, and # 3 deals with the natural consequences of the initial sin. (That is, even if I replace your car and apologize and am forgiven, I still may be responsible for cleaning up the crashed old car, or serving a prison term for the theft, etc.). In the explanation of Thought Experiment Two, I notice that sin is both a trespass and a debt. The former relates to dignity offenses, the latter to physical debts/damages.

So again, TurretinFan seems to be criticizing me for omitting things which I pretty blatantly included.

Another reason to apologize is attempt to bring about reconciliation. In other words, we may apologize in order to attempt to restore friendship between us and the person whom we have offended. If they accept our apology, we can be friends again, otherwise they may continue to be aggrieved at us for the offense we caused.

Let me be clear. This is absolutely irrelevant to what I originally wrote. Sure, apologies between friends can help restore the friendship. In the first Thought Experiment, I used a parent and child to establish a loving parental bond with all of the responsibilities that accompany that. But in the Second, the harmed party is a stranger: the store-owner. At no point do I deal with the issue of friendship, and it’s nothing but a straw man here.

3) Imposition of Divine Command for Forgiveness on Fairness Structure

We have a divine command that requires us to forgive others. That is our duty toward God, however, not our duty toward the person who has offended us. A person who offends us has no right to demand that we accept their apology. When we apologize to another person, we should do so not insisting that they accept our apology as a matter of our right.

Instead, we are commanded to forgive others as a duty toward God in gratitude of the forgiveness he has given to us. God does not have a similar reciprocal duty. God is not required by any higher power to forgive and man has no right to demand forgiveness from God for sin.

This actually gets us back to the fairness versus forgiveness issue that we started the article with. Heschmeyer’s discussion seems to assume that fairness requires that we forgive those who apologize but that fairness also requires that the person who broke the item pay for it, clean up the mess, etc.

Yet again, he accuses me of arguing the opposite of what I actually argued. He argues that God doesn’t have a responsibility to forgive us. Absolutely, I agree. That’s why I said in my original post:

  1. The child apologizes, and the store owner, in his mercy, forgives him.

If it’s in his mercy, it’s not an obligation. Also, go back to where I said:

If someone steals your car, repents, and apologizes, they don’t get to keep the car just because you forgive them. It’s possible for you to (a) take the car back and not forgive them; forgive them and let them keep the car; or (c) take the car back and forgive them. The repentant criminal is no less forgiven in (c) than (b).

(a) explicitly addresses your freedom to not forgive, even when redress has been made.

4) Human Friendship conflated with Divine Justice (or Full versus Partial Forgiveness)

Related to the above conflations, Heschmeyer appears to conflate the issues of human friendship with divine justice.

Already, you should be able to tell that this is wrong, because it’s related to the above “conflations,” which weren’t, in fact conflations, and because it’s built upon the idea that I dealt with human friendship, when one of the two examples involved a shopkeeper and the other a parent, and neither a friend. Like I said, this is just a bizarre red herring which is entirely unrelated to my original post. The only person who gets lost in the haze of friends’ obligations to other friends is TurretinFan himself, and that’s because he introduces the irrelevant concept.

When Hechmeyer speaks of a person accepting an apology he is speaking primarily in terms of the person no longer being angry at the breaker. The anger of the breakee has been set aside and, to some degree at least, human friendship has been restored.

Other than the part about anger, this part is fine. Forgiveness is the setting aside of a righteous anger or displeasure. And since 2 Samuel 12:13-14 was brought up in both my original post and TurretinFan’s response, it’s worth noting that in the KJV translation of 2 Sam 12:13, Nathan says, “The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” So it seems that Nathan the prophet is quite fine applying this definition of forgiveness to God Himself.

Nevertheless, a person can stop being angry with the breakee and still expect payment for the item and a clean-up of the mess. Or can forgive payment but still expect clean-up of the mess.

Divine justice, however, is not satisfied when forgiveness is only partial. Being forgiven of part of your wrong-doing may lessen your guilt under divine justice, but it does not remove your guilt.

But this assumes that I’m arguing for partial forgiveness or partial restitution, which I’m not. In Thought Experiment Two, you pay the debt in full, but the damage done by the offense still exists. This is exactly like the real world of sin. Christ pays our Divine debt in full, but the consequences of sin don’t just vaporize. So I said in the original:

If my sin is stealing cars, and I got to Christ and get forgiven, shouldn’t I still return your car? Does my returning your car diminish in any way the forgiveness I’ve received from Christ? Likewise, if I’ve stolen something from Christ Himself, shouldn’t I be at least as inclined to restore it to the best of my ability? And if restoring to you doesn’t diminish Christ’s sacrifice, why would restoring to Him?

So Christ pays our eternal debt in full, but we’re still required to do the necessary steps to make things whole as much as possible, precisely because it’s not the debt that He’s paying. This is undeniable when it’s a third party we’ve robbed, and it makes no sense to conclude anything differently if it is Christ Himself we’ve robbed in some way? What’s bothersome here is that that language was in my original post, and TurretinFan had every opportunity to agree or disagree with it, but instead, he just acts as if it doesn’t exist. In fact, in the original, I even say: “Christ’s payment is fully efficacious, but it’s not intended to remove our obligation [to make redress], just as you wouldn’t, as a responsible parent, pay the storekeeper to clean up your kid’s mess.”

In terms of human friendship, we may view this sort of partial friendship as acceptable, but in terms of divine justice the same partial forgiveness is not enough. It is enough to have partial forgiveness from a friend because we can pay for the broken item and clean up the mess. It is not enough to have partial forgiveness from God because we cannot atone for our sins, even in part.

Again, this was addressed and ignored throughout the original post. I’m not saying that we do part of the atoning sacrifice for sin, and Christ completes it. The kid in Thought Experiment Two doesn’t pay a nickle for the broken vase, just as he doesn’t pay a nickle for the dropped glass of milk in Thought Experiment One. When it comes to paying the debt, Christ pays everything and we pay nothing. This is repeatedly and explicitly my point throughout the original post.

After this, he moves from my Thought Experiments to the Biblical support, and argues another category I’m alleged to have made a mistake:

5) Chastisement versus Penalty

Heschmeyer considers the account of David’s sin against Uriah, his plotting the death of Uriah to cover the sin of David’s adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba. Nathan the prophet comes to David and rebukes David for this sin, and David repents. God spares David’s life but takes the life of David’s son. Heschmeyer puts it this way:

David is forgiven. No matter how you read it. But his son still dies. Anti-Purgatory logic falls apart here: if he’s forgiven, how can he still be penalized? If he’s penalized, how can he be forgiven?

But Heschmeyer has made a two very fundamental mistakes. The first mistake is the mistake of confusing chastisement with penalty. David is being disciplined in the eyes of the nations for his sin against God. It is a chastisement, not a punishment. It is discipline to help David learn, not punishment that expiates sin.

First of all, chastisement and punishment aren’t different things. The American Heritage┬« Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines it as:

1. To punish, as by beating. See Synonyms at punish.
2. To criticize severely; rebuke.
3. Archaic To purify.

So I’m not conflating the two: they’re the same thing. But he really means that “It is discipline to help David learn, not punishment that expiates sin.” And once again, I’ve already addressed this (although there are various ways in which one might say that a sin is expiated, I’m assuming he means it in the sense that the Atonement expiated sin). In the very next passage I addressed, Wisdom 3:1-9, I addressed the language, “chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.” I said in response to this:

This makes it clearer what sort of suffering Purgatory entails. It’s not the torments of God’s wrath. It’s the loving care of a Father. And sure, it hurts, but lots of loving things do, like removing splinters, or getting immunizations. This is the same God who required circumcision, who had both religious and sanitary benefits, but which came at a fierce price of temporary pain. This same analogy to gold tested in fire is later found in 1 Peter 1:7. So even though we’re saved by Christ, we can still expect to have our faith refined by fire. This comports with the conclusions from the thought experiments above.

That’s the exact distinction he claims that I’m not making. My entire point was that the punishment TurretinFan calls chastisement is exactly the point of Purgatory. It doesn’t diminish or replace Christ’s unique Sacrifice, just as it is not replaced by Christ’s unique Sacrifice. That’s the point I make in the very section he criticized, as well.

The second mistake is to overlook the typological significance of this event. David’s son dies instead of David. For David’s sin, David’s son dies. Who bears the wrath of God for David’s sin? Not principally David, though he feels great sorrow at the death of his son, but the son instead. This is an illustration for us of the Son of David who died for all of David’s sins.

Like I said up top, TurretinFan is absolutely correct about the typological significance. But let’s plug it back in. David’s Son, Jesus Christ, bears the weight of David’s sin. But David is still punished; or, if you prefer, chastised. David’s chastisement doesn’t remove his sin or repay the debt, and isn’t intended to. Likewise, David’s son’s/Son’s bearing the wrath doesn’t mean that David won’t have to himself suffer. So David’s son bears the sin, and David still suffers due to chastisement. David’s Son later bears David’s sins, and all of ours. My point is that this doesn’t remove the potential that we will have to suffer chastisement and purification before we’re free from sin and able to enter Heaven, where nothing unclean can ever enter (Revelation 21:27).

TurretinFan concludes “God forgave David but punished David’s son instead. David received chastisement only, and not punishment.
That’s exactly my point. Because of Christ, the elect risk only purgation, not damnation. And purgation, although it is suffering, is not done out of anger, but love. Kerath25, at the end of the original post, wrote:

In short, if you are a peasant, working in a pigsty, and are suddenly summoned to the court of the King, you cannot go as you are, nor (if you are honest with yourself) would you want to. It would be a great offense to the King to appear covered in mud and other filth. You might wash really well in preparation for the visit, but once you arrive at the court, the servants at the gate politely inform you that you still have some washing to do.

They guide you to a great bath, where you are scrubbed vigorously, until all of the dirt is gone (note, they may have to scrub very hard, and it may hurt, but you endure it, knowing the pain is only temporary). After all traces of grime and even the smell of it are only a memory, you are given a new robe and escorted to the King.

Is there a difference between the logic Kerath25 offers in favor of Purgatory, and the logic TurretinFan offers in trying to disprove it? I think TurretinFan has just proven, at great length, my original point, all while hammering home how important the original distinctions which I made were.

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