Friday, June 18, 2010

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, 'Cause I Try and I Try...

I really get frustrated with computers.  Not only do I have to fix them all day long, but mornings like this one really get me.  Just as I started writing this blog, and the screen on my laptop died.  So now I am going to have to repair or replace that computer.  Then, I went into the living room and my home theater PC tells me that I am having memory issues (computer memory - I knew that my mind had issues already).  I ran some diagnostics and found out that one of my memory chips is bad.  I was a little nervous when I turned on my work PC this morning, but so far so good.

Today, Calvin wraps up the section on problems with the Roman doctrines of confession and satisfaction.  He starts with more discussion on the right and wrong use of the power of the keys.  He makes a great logical argument against the Roman doctrine by stating that absolution depends on faith (the Romans agree with this).  A priest is not qualified to judge anyone else's faith, therefore the priest cannot judge the absolution of a sinner.  The Roman doctrine says that a full confession must take place, but how can the priest possibly know if the confession is full?  Using their logic, Calvin says "For where confession is not complete, the hope of pardon is also impaired."  He goes on to say that the priest must wait and suspend judgment until he knows that the confessor has repented in good faith.  Finally, most priests are not qualified for the position that they hold.  Calvin puts it this (somewhat humorous) way:  "Finally, such is the consummate ignorance of priests that the greater part of them are no more fitted to exercise this office than a shoemaker to till fields."  After Calvin points out the errors in the Roman Catholic doctrine, he then clearly states the Reformed position:  "For absolution is conditional upon the sinner's trust that God is merciful to him, provided he sincerely seek expiation in Christ's sacrifice and be satisfied with the grace offered him."

Once again Calvin says that a more in-depth look at the power of the keys will occur in book IV of the Institutes.  He reminds the readers here that only God can forgive our sins.  What Christ said to Peter in Matthew 16:18-19 was not some secret message that is passed down from one pope to the next or any other secret knowledge or power to be able to absolve people from their sin.  This is a perversion of the Scriptures to declare that there is some special knowledge hidden to all except an elite few.

Calvin summarizes all these sections on confession by making the following points.   God is the one who forgives us of our sins.  It is His right to do this.  Anyone who attempts to take away this function from God is imposing a "tyrannous law and one promulgated in contempt of God."  These are human regulations being imposed on believers, not God's law. 

In today's last section, there is discussion of the third part of the Roman Catholic process of penance which is satisfaction.  According to the Catholic doctrine, one must engage in tears, fasting, offering, and works of charity to help redeem himself of his sins.  Calvin speaks of this doctrine by saying, "With these we must pay our debts to God's righteousness...compensate for our transgressions...[and] merit his pardon."  No wonder Luther was so irate with the Catholic church and preached over and over justification by faith alone.  We can in no way merit God's pardon.  No way, no how!  It is by grace alone that God forgives us of our sins, not by anything we have done.  Forgiveness is a free gift of God.  Calvin declares, "When Scripture says, 'by the name of Christ,' it means that we bring nothing, we claim nothing of our own, but rely solely upon the commendation of Christ, as Paul declares: 'God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against men on his account'."

Tomorrow's reading: 3.4.26-3.4.29

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