Thursday, June 17, 2010

Errors in Auricular Confession Requirements

Calvin continues pointing out errors with the Roman view of confession.  Yesterday we read how it was required by the Catholic Church of that time (not sure if it is still their viewpoint) that one must confess every single sin or have intention of confessing every sin the next time he goes to confession.  Calvin pointed out how impossible this is and that not even David was capable of remembering every sin he had committed, but still repented before God.  Calvin points out two conclusions from this requirement.  "First, it is simply impossible; therefore it can only destroy, condemn, confound, and cast into ruin and despair.  Then, depriving sinners of a true awareness of their sins, it makes them hypocrites, ignorant of God and of themselves."  So rather than attempting to confess every single sin we have ever committed, we should "pour out our whole heart in the Lord's presence," and acknowledge our sinfulness.  We should confess both the sins that we remember, and like David we must confess our "secret sins," (Psalm 19:12). 

Again, the Catholic Church of that time (still not sure what their current view is) believed that if every sin is not confessed to a priest, that the gates of paradise will be closed.  Calvin responds by stating, "For there is now no other forgiveness of sins than there always has been."  Before these human conditions were added that a priest must be used for confession, people had been absolved of their sins by God.  What if a priest goes against God?  What if he bound when God wanted loosed or loosed when God wanted bound?  "Therefore, it follows that certainty of binding and loosing does not lie within the competence of earthly judgment because the minister of the word, when he duly performs his functions, can absolve only conditionally."  God is the final judge, not a priest.  Only God can absolve anyone of his sin.

Calvin calls auricular confession "a thing so pestilent and in so many ways harmful to the church."  It should be "banished from our midst."  By only confessing once a year, people will begin to deny their sin until all at once they are bursting at their seams.  Then they dump all their sins on the priest at one time.  No sinner wants to have to go through this exercise, "except, perhaps, priestlings themselves, who delight in exchanging anecdotes of their misdeeds as if they were amusing stories."

These priests claimed that they have the "power of the keys."  Calvin denies that all of them do, saying that no one has the power of the keys who has not first received the Holy Spirit.  Yes, these priests say that they have the Holy Spirit, but their actions say otherwise.  He concludes that "no priestlings have the power of the keys who without discrimination repeatedly loose what the Lord had willed to be bound, and bind what he had bidden to be loosed." 

We have been reading about Matthew 16:19.  It reads, "...whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."  Finally, Calvin writes what these priests (and all believers) can rightly claim about this passage, "In this Word, the messengers of the gospel can through faith promise the forgiveness of sins to all in Christ; they can proclaim damnation against all and upon all who do not embrace Christ."

Tomorrow's reading: 3.4.22-3.4.25

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