Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation  -     By: Jerry L. Walls
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Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation

Oxford University Press / 2011 / Hardcover

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Jerry L. Walls, the author of books on hell and heaven, completes his tour of the afterlife with a philosophical and theological exploration and defense of purgatory, the traditional teaching that most Christians require a period of postmortem cleansing and purging of their sinful dispositions and imperfections before they will be fully made ready for heaven.

He examines Protestant objections to the doctrine and shows that the doctrine of purgatory has been construed in different ways, some of which are fully compatible with Protestant theology. In particular, while purgatory has often been understood as matter of punishment in order to make satisfaction for sins that have not been fully remitted, it can also be seen as the completion of the sanctification process, an account of the doctrine that is fully consistent with the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith.

Purgatory assumes not only continuity of personal identity but also gradual moral and spiritual growth between death and resurrection. Different theories of personal identity are examined and assessed in light of these assumptions. Walls also shows that the traditional doctrine of purgatory is not understood as a second chance for salvation, but goes on to argue that it should be modified to allow for postmortem repentance. He concludes with an examination of C.S. Lewis's writings on purgatory, and suggests that Lewis can be a model for evangelicals and other Protestants to engage the doctrine of purgatory in a way that is true to their theology.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 232
Vendor: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2011
Dimensions: 9.30 X 6.30 (inches)
ISBN: 0199732299
ISBN-13: 9780199732296
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

Jerry L. Walls, the author of books on hell and heaven, completes his tour of the afterlife with a philosophical and theological exploration and defense of purgatory, the traditional teaching that most Christians require a period of postmortem cleansing and purging of their sinful dispositions and imperfections before they will be fully made ready for heaven. He examines Protestant objections to the doctrine and shows that the doctrine of purgatory has been construed in different ways, some of which are fully compatible with Protestant theology. In particular, while purgatory has often been understood as matter of punishment in order to make satisfaction for sins that have not been fully remitted, it can also be seen as the completion of the sanctification process, an account of the doctrine that is fully consistent with the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith. Purgatory assumes not only continuity of personal identity but also gradual moral and spiritual growth between death and resurrection. Different theories of personal identity are examined and assessed in light of these assumptions. Walls also shows that the traditional doctrine of purgatory is not understood as a second chance for salvation, but goes on to argue that it should be modified to allow for postmortem repentance. He concludes with an examination of C.S. Lewis's writings on purgatory, and suggests that Lewis can be a model for evangelicals and other Protestants to engage the doctrine of purgatory in a way that is true to their theology.

Author Bio


Jerry L. Walls has served as a Research Fellow in the Center for Philosophy of Religion at Notre Dame. He is the author of a trilogy on the afterlife, the first two volumes of which are Hell: The Logic of Damnation and Heaven: The Logic of Eternal Joy. He is also the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology.

Editorial Reviews


"Only Jerry Walls or C.S. Lewis could have written this splendid book on the history and philosophical theology of purgatory. It is clear, systematic, engaging, and illuminating."
-- Charles Taliaferro, Professor of Philosophy, St. Olaf College


"A fascinating account of the development of the doctrine of purgatory by a leading Wesleyan scholar. Walls traces Christian views on purgatory from the early church to C. S. Lewis and comes up with a surprisingly affirmative conclusion about a view of the afterlife that has divided Catholics and Protestants for nearly 500 years. An important and nuanced study."
-- Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University


"For a generation or more a stout Protestant doctrine of purgatory has been an accident waiting to happen. Given Jerry Walls's cheerful and articulate presentation, we can predict that a host of readers will be in no hurry to leave the scene until they have come to terms with this provocative proposal in analytic theology."
-- William J. Abraham, Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University


"Historically informed, philosophically competent, and theologically alert, the result is an impressive book...This is a splendid treatment of the topic -- as careful and fair a discussion of the doctrine of purgatory as one is likely to find."--Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews


"Historically informed, philosophically competent, and theologically alert, the result is an impressive book...This is a splendid treatment of the topic -- as careful and fair a discussion of the doctrine of purgatory as one is likely to find."--Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews


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  1. Age: Over 65
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    1 Stars Out Of 5
    July 13, 2012
    Bruce Kohfield
    Age: Over 65
    Gender: male
    Quality: 1
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    All his conclusions are mere inferences including those he drew from C. S. Lewis. It is no wonder that the work does not have a scripture index. His entire work is his own opinionating something that at times he admits to his credit.

    The concept is originally drawn from the practice of heathens and their attempt to appease whatever gods they thought existed relative to their dead relatives. In this sense it is simply another Roman catholic practice derived from heathen-dom including praying for the dead.
  2. Lynchburg, VA
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: male
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    A Valiant, Well-Written Effort
    March 31, 2012
    Jake
    Lynchburg, VA
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: male
    I'm a big Jerry Walls fan. I think it's a shame he hasn't gotten more recognition for his ability to produce work that is both scholarly and accessible to the educated layman. He's forceful, yet always affable, and his book on Calvinism is the best and most fair treatment of the subject. Walls is an evangelical United Methodist, so at first glance one might find it strange that he's supporting a doctrine so widely associated with the worst of Catholic Dark-Ages excess. Well not so fast. Walls' doctrine of purgatory is not quite as Catholic as you might think from the title.

    However he is clearly borrowing from, expanding, and tinkering around with the Catholic conception of this intermediate state; it certainly serves as the foundation for his own view. That also brings us to the greatest weakness of the book: purgatory itself is based on speculation rather than Biblical exegesis. Now don't get me wrong, I don't think that speculation is a bad thing when you can make the case that Scripture infers something, but in this instance it's just enough of a stretch as to not be entirely convincing.

    Now Walls doesn't take the view that one is burning off sins in purgatory, but rather that it serves as a place between death and the resurrection where one can finish the sanctification process. This obviously seems like something that could come out of the entire-sanctification tradition in Methodism, so it's not surprising that he takes this tack. It's Walls' interaction with Wesley on this point that constitutes some of the strongest material in the book.

    He devotes a whole chapter to the idea that purgatory could serve as some kind of second chance opportunity for some, something Walls believes is plausible. The most interesting chapter, I believe, is his treatment of C.S. Lewis' views on purgatory; it not widely known in the evangelical world that Lewis even believed in it, and this is the first study of his opinions on the matter that I've seen that has any real depth. Walls reveals all sorts of fascinating insights into Lewis' theology, including his views on justification and salvation. This chapter should be read by every evangelical, in my opinion.

    Walls ends the book by suggesting that this is merely a proposal, one that he's not seeking to turn into dogma. In this chapter he hilariously (in a great way) remarks that not only is purgatory compatible with N.T. Wright's theology (Wright is a critic of the doctrine), it might even "be crucial for a coherent account" of Wright's claims! That almost convinced me, as I am without question a Wright fan. As I said before, however, I remain unconvinced, though not because of any lack of effort on the part of Walls. If you're at all interested in learning more about this doctrine, I'd definitely recommend this work.
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