Critical Thinking

Krishna Purgatory, where they would be cleansed and

Krishna Tikkani

Prof. Spiro

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ACS 1000-H05

12 December 2017

Sin, Salvation,
and Sanctification

Sin is defined in
the Bible as a “transgression of the law of God” and “rebellion against God” (1
John 3:4, Deuteronomy 9:7). Sin separates humans from God, preventing salvation
and leading to an eternity in Hell. Jesus, during his time on earth, traveled the
region he lived in preaching about repentance from sin and the way to eternal
life. Ultimately, it came down to whether or not one had a faith that what
Jesus did on earth by dying on the cross and being resurrected that would save
them from their sins and deliver them to eternal life with God. Dante takes
this foundation and delves a little deeper, categorizing what he believes are
the most fundamental venial sins that continue to separate us from God. He then
takes those Christians who suffered from these sins and had them sent to
Purgatory, where they would be cleansed and purified before being able to enter
heaven. These sins are then ranked by level of the mountain which those sinners
reside on, which implies that some sins are worse than others. Dante, in Purgatorio, draws from Jesus’ ideas
about sin for the basis of the terraces of sin in his purgatory; however, everything
Dante writes about the punishments and methods of the cleansing of sin and
getting to heaven find no support from the Bible. The severity of the sins is
also of Dante’s creation.

To begin, nowhere in the
Bible is such a place called “Purgatory” said to exist, and as such any
argument for purgatory is purely interpreting scripture. The Bible does have a
great deal to say about sin, though. Isaiah 55:6 says we must “seek the Lord
while he may be found, while he is near”, and that after death we are “destined
for judgement after death” (Hebrews 9:27). Also in the Bible are passages that
explain how the only second chances for salvation come in the earthly life,
such as the famous John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, which says that when you profess
belief in Jesus Christ you are saved, and Acts 16:31, which says the same thing
again. Furthermore, death is to be “away from the body, and at home with the
Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). But in no place can it be found that death is
“away from the body, being cleansed in the purifying fires of purgatory”.

Such bold statements of
faith and defining sin are also declared by Jesus himself. In the parable of
the wedding feast in the gospel of Matthew (22:1-14), Jesus explains how those
who reject the gift of salvation and favor their own good works over the grace
of God will be condemned to Hell. Jesus, in Matthew 23:23, shows how the pride
of the Pharisees led them to becoming hypocrites because they did not want to
be exposed as wrong and telling lies to the people. Matthew 12:32 says that
there is “no forgiveness in the age after this one” for sinning against the
Holy Spirit. Finally, in Matthew 5:25-26 Jesus tells his disciples that it is
better to settle sinful matters before the “final judge”, or else it won’t be
forgiven and again, they are sent to an eternal suffering in Hell.

From the gospel of Luke, Jesus
tells us to “love your enemies” (6:27), and to “love God with all your heart,
soul, and mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (10:27). These commandments
provide the foundation upon which Dante builds his version of purgatory, as the
seven sins described in the poem can be derived from not following these
commandments.

The basic premise of
purgatory is that sinners are given another chance to “repent” and be cleansed
and purified of the venial sins that tarnish their otherwise good-standing
relationship with God. In Dante’s purgatory, there are “punishments” that are
more akin to burdening tasks that the penitent must repeat over and over until
they are deemed “pure” enough to move up the mountain. The only example given
in the poem of a soul moving on to heaven is that of Statius, when the mountain
“trembles when a soul feels it is pure, ready to rise, to set out on its
ascent, and next there follows that great cry” (Purgatorio XXI.58-60). The
mountain gives a signal to souls that move on to heaven.

The seven sins in Dante’s
purgatory are based on the different misdirections of love. First, there are
Pride, Envy, and Wrath, which are all love of negative consequences toward
others. Next, there is Sloth, which is a lack of the right kind of love toward
others. And the last three, Avarice (and Prodigality), Gluttony, and Lust, are
all an excess of love of things that should be loved up to a certain point past
which it is deemed inappropriate. Through their own efforts and practices are
they cleansed of sin in Dante’s purgatory. When Jesus says that his payment on
the cross is sufficient as the ransom for all sins, Dante seems to miss that in
describing what purgatory is. What it should be described as is a place where
any remaining traces of a sin not able to be repented fully on earth are made
up for. The souls in Purgatorio are
depicted more as sinners who belong in hell than saved people with small
imperfections remaining. One interesting aspect of Dante’s journey through Purgatorio is that he is inscribed with
seven “P’s” on his forehead, representing that he must overcome all seven of
the sins that souls go to purgatory for. However, throughout the journey up the
mountain, he attributes his change in perspective to Virgil and Beatrice, but
not God. How can someone writing a poem about the Christian afterlife fail to
mention God where He should be mentioned? This aspect of Dante’s thoughts was
astounding as he claimed to be such a devout Christian himself.

            The only
similarities between what Jesus says in the Bible and what Dante says in Purgatorio is the correlation between
the “love your neighbor” commandment and the sins being misapplications of love
for those neighbors. Other than this, Dante deviates heavily from anything that
can be corroborated by Jesus’ teachings.

            The
differences in perspectives on sin in both Jesus’ teachings from Dante’s
description of the penitent souls is drastic. One of the first things taught to
Christians is that all sins separate from God, and left unchecked, the Bible
says, leads to eternal damnation. Therefore, how is the idea of purgatory
supported, if sins left unchecked post-salvation lead to eternal punishment?
How can sins be ranked as deserving more or less severe punishments? While sins
might not be equal in severity as determined by humans, they are equal in
penalty and on the other side, forgivability. Dante’s purgatory gives a second
chance after death to get to heaven for souls that otherwise would have been
left to the upper regions of Hell. The Bible says that while you have an
unlimited number of chances to enter into a right-standing with God, these
chances only exist in the earthly life. Once death comes, if you haven’t
crossed that line of faith, then your luck has run out. But this argument only
applies to the non-believers or those not fortunate enough to have been given a
chance to put their faith in Christ.

            Furthermore,
the whole concept of purgatory implies that the righteousness of Christ was
insufficient in cleansing believers of sin implies two things: that faith alone
does not fully justify a believer alone, and that some personal works must be
done to remove sin, when it is taught that works don’t fix sin, only faith and
repentance does. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and
this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one
can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Works of the living cannot change God’s
judgement. Another argument that shows the discrepancies between Dante’s vision
of sin and the Bible’s description comes from Romans 8:38-39, which says that
“neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the
future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all
creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ
Jesus our Lord.” If this is to be taken as biblical truth (which it is), then
how can there be such a place (purgatory) in which the soul is separated from
God? The evidence does not support Dante’s story. Finally, the idea that
sinners have another chance at redemption is not only unbiblical in nature, but
contradictory from scripture.

            Dante’s
poem was written with the intention to be a literary work, as opposed to a
theological work, and as such can expect to fail most theological
interpretations of it. Dante was a poet, not a theologian and most likely did
not care if what he was writing was theologically accurate, as it only had to
be of literary excellence, which it is. Jesus’ ideas of sin inform Dante only
to the extent of determining the sins that should be included in purgatory, the
sins that Christians continue to suffer from following salvation, as they are
only venial in nature and misapplications of live. However, everything past
this point has very little biblical evidence to support it. So, while one could
make theological interpretations using the text, it is not the ideal direction
to take with the poem as it appears to point toward being more of an allegory
for a human life and the paths that can be taken based on each person’s
journey.

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