In the Oration, St. Gregory of Nazianzus talked about “last baptism,” the baptism of eschatological fire, longer lasting and more painful than one’s penance for sins (Or. 39.19). Some Protestants have been using arguments from few Orthodox who refused to acknowledge any intermediary state for the departed. Claiming that such is a Gnostic idea which crept into Eastern Orthodoxy from Latin scholasticism and has no Apostolic foundation.

This question is not necessarily coincide with the controversy between Fr. Seraphim Rose and Fr. Lazar Puhalo but comment surrounding the dispute can be be included in the answer. In Eastern rites Catholicism we believe in Aerial Toll Houses, it's a consensus in our tradition but apparently this is not the case in Eastern Orthodoxy.

  • Thank you for the question, and your other questions. They are introducing me to a Christianity I know little about. +1 Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 18:38
  • It's probably best for a question like this to focus on one side of the debate at a time anyway – so, given your answer, this one could be "What is the Orthodox argument in favor of toll houses," while another could be asked to get the "against toll houses" view. If you'd like I can make the necessary edits. Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 12:56

1 Answer 1


It's a complex issue which might not be addressed completely by this answer right now. But given enough time I'll elaborate more detail to address many aspects related to this controversy in great depth on my next update. For those unfamiliar with the debate between Hieromonk Seraphim Rose and Archbishop Lazarus Puhalo, this might be a good preliminary introduction to Toll Houses controversy within Eastern Orthodox communion.1 As for now I'll provide a support for this view. Later, I'll add a counter argument from those who rejected this teaching. Each sides on this controversy read the same passages from the Fathers but come to two opposite conclusions: Fr. Seraphim herald this teaching as an Orthodox faith while Fr. Lazarus condemn this teaching as a heterodox innovation. The former claim to preserve this faith from the Fathers while the later claim that this novelty is unknown to the Fathers.2

We believe that the souls of those that have fallen asleep are either at rest or in torment, according to what each has done; — for when they are separated from their bodies, they depart immediately either to joy, or to sorrow and lamentation; though confessedly neither their enjoyment nor condemnation are complete. For after the common resurrection, when the soul shall be united with the body, with which it had behaved itself well or ill, each shall receive the completion of either enjoyment or of condemnation.

And the souls of those involved in mortal sins, who have not departed in despair but while still living in the body, though without bringing forth any fruits of repentance, have repented — by pouring forth tears, by kneeling while watching in prayers, by afflicting themselves, by relieving the poor, and finally by showing forth by their works their love towards God and their neighbor, and which the Catholic Church has from the beginning rightly called satisfaction — [their souls] depart into Hades, and there endure the punishment due to the sins they have committed. But they are aware of their future release from there, and are delivered by the Supreme Goodness, through the prayers of the Priests, and the good works which the relatives of each do for their Departed; especially the unbloody Sacrifice benefiting the most; which each offers particularly for his relatives that have fallen asleep, and which the Catholic and Apostolic Church offers daily for all alike. Of course, it is understood that we do not know the time of their release. We know and believe that there is deliverance for such from their direful condition, and that before the common resurrection and judgment, but when we know not.

Patriarch Dositheous of Jerusalem, Council of Jerusalem in 1672, Decree 18.

Some EOs argue that this confession might be influenced by Latin's influence. As I'll later show, such accusations can't be sustained because this synod is accepted by Patriarchal Sees of Constantinople, Serbia, and Moscow. If it's true that Dositheous was influenced by the Jesuits, those Sees wouldn't accept this synod. To make it more complicated I'll go through one by one EO saints and discuss whether or not they teach the doctrine of Toll Houses explicitly:

Two Nuns, who had both been Abbesses, died. The Lord revealed to me how their souls had been subjected to the aerial tests, how they had been tried and then condemned. For three days and nights I prayed, wretched as I am, entreating the Mother of God for them, and the Lord in His goodness pardoned them through the prayers of the Mother of God; they passed all the aerial tests and received forgiveness through God's mercy.

Archimandrite Lazarus Moore, St. Seraphim of Sarov: A Spiritual Biography, New Sarov Press, 1994.

This is a very controversial subject to discuss. The Orthodoxy of this teaching as it is now stand has not been decided. Personally, as a Byzantine rite Catholic I believe in Toll Houses, especially because Pope St. John Paul II referred to Hieromonk Seraphim of Sarov as a Catholic saint. To keep my neutrality on this subject, on my next update I'll add counter arguments from those who deny Toll Houses. The purpose of this answer is to bring an awareness and to inform Catholics, Orthodox, and Evangelicals alike about this controversy. That it's not true that the idea of purgatory is unique to Latin's theology. As this answer will later show, both East and West do develop this doctrine around the same time period. The Latins dogmatized this teaching at the Council of Florence in 1439 while the Greeks kept it as theological discourse among the Fathers without dogmatizing it.

1 In my next update, I'll include Eastern Catholic and Oriental Orthodox position on Toll Houses.
2 To be neutral in my answer I'll address both sides as thorough as possible. Because some of the debates resolve around the variations between the Greek and Russian texts. I'll try my best to simplify my answer by discussing the most debated texts for brevity.

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    This was great. When is the update ;) ? Commented May 7, 2015 at 8:13

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