In the comments on my discussion of ghosts CC asked: “Dr. Rauser, could you explain the purgatorial possibilities open to Protestants? I’ve never heard of this. It would certainly be fascinating in its interpretive potential as it applies to the paranormal.”
Glad to oblige CC.
Purgatory, boiled down to essentials, is constituted by the following claim:
(1) the process of sanctification in the regenerate continues posthumously.
That’s it. All you need for purgatory is (1). You can always add additional claims like “this posthumous process of sanctification expiates the guilt of sin” but a claim like that is not essential to the doctrine of purgatory.
There is no inconsistency between the core claims of Protestantism and (1). Therefore, it follows that Protestants can accept a doctrine of purgatory.
Just to hammer this point home, let’s assume that a Protestant has absolutely impeccable credentials because she holds to the following very traditional, mainstream Protestant claims:
(3) Double imputation: at the moment of regeneration/conversion the guilt of the elect person is imputed to Christ and his righteousness is imputed to the elect.
(4) Justification: at the moment of double imputation the elect person is justified.
There is simply no conflict, or even discernable tension, between (2)-(4) and (1). Thus, a Protestant who has reason to believe that the process of sanctification continues posthumously should have no problem accepting (1) whilst retaining.
Of course (1) itself is not sufficient to do paranormal duty. For that one would need additional claims about the possibility of the dead interacting with the living (e.g. through potergeist activity, EVP, crisis apparitions, seances or whatever). Granted some of those claims would be more controversial than others. But at the least as I have argued the existence of ghosts is a claim well supported in scripture and church tradition. Consequently, the wisest conclusion for the Protestant is that it is possible that at least some paranormal experiences could be explained as interactions with deceased persons completing their posthumous purgatorial sanctification.
And all this means that the Protestant now has another possibility for that chain rattling and moaning sound coming from the basement. Didn’t think you’d see old Uncle Charlie again so soon, did ya?