Sacramental Confession is an unbiblical concept – FALSE

Hello old friends, long time no blog.  So since I posted my last video concerning the whole “Why I hate religion but love Jesus” viral video that went around last week, I received quite a few comments, most of which were positive, but some that brought forth some great questions.  One of which I received from an old high school acquaintance who I highly respect, however is a Protestant, with very Protestant views.  On my post she commented saying:

Your poem is clearly written from a Catholic perspective, allowing you to assert whatever Catholic traditions the church teaches as truth without them all being grounded in scripture.
I read an article by Kevin DeYoung that talks about this video. He says “The argument—and most poems are arguing for something—rests on the sharp distinction between religion on one side and Jesus on the other. Whether this argument is fair depends on your definition of religion. Bethke (the poet in the video) sees religion as a man made attempt to earn God’s favor. Religion equals self-righteousness, moral preening, and hypocrisy. Religion is all law and no gospel. If that’s religion, then Jesus is certainly against it”. However, he does point out many flaws within Bethke’s spoken poem. One of them is that Jesus certainly did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them (Matt 5:17). He also founded the church (Matt 16:18) and established church discipline (Matt 18:15-20)
An institution that is built upon Christ with the purpose of glorifying Him as the Saviour is what the church was designed to be (by Christ himself). God is certainly not against this true religion, but He is against any religion that is built upon any other foundation. We know God is against false religion, but we usually equate that with Islam or Buddhism. We forget that the most dangerous lies are the ones mingled with truth. As you watch the video, don’t forget that the author is making a point, not providing a doctrinal statement. In a sense, true Christianity is a religion (a word which is almost impossible to define). It is vital to remember that a guise of Christianity can never replace a personal relationship with Christ, otherwise, this religion is as effective as any other false religion.

…Lets start with “the sacrament of confession”-the practice of confession is not grounded in Scripture. It is a tradition that was not made “canon law” until the 13th century. Therefore, at best it is extra-biblical. Now, what does the Bible say? 1 Tim 2:5 plainly declares that “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”. God speaks about confession of sins in 1 John 1:9, but there is no mention of a priest or any other mediator other than God (1Jo 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.) The entire book of Hebrews presents Christ as the ultimate high priest and sacrifice for sins (Heb 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.) Search priest or priesthood in Hebrews and you will see that every verse describes how Jesus is better than any human priesthood. In fact, Peter called believers a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 1:9). Finally, what is the point of a priest if Hebrews 4:15-16 are true? 

The second point I took note of during your poem was when you stated “don’t have to base our faith on Scripture alone”. Sola Scripture – Scripture Alone – was the single truth that prompted the protestant reformation. Martin Luther lived by this statement – it was the slogan for all the reformers (and is in every protestant doctrinal statement today). This truth is a big deal, because once you reject it, you can believe whatever you like. Muslims, Mormans, and Catholics all believe in Jesus, they just do not believe in Scripture alone. They add the Quran, or the Book of Mormon, or in the case of Catholics, the Catechism and traditions. The Scripture declared itself to be the Word of God (2 Tim 3:15-17, Rev 22:18-19 – this verse is about Revelation, but I think the principle applies to scripture). There is no reason to expect new revelation, especially not revelation that contradicts biblical authority. 

Here was my Catholic response to this:

So, I’ve spent some time in prayer and study to prepare for this discussion. Looking at the statements you’ve made, I realized what it took for me to come to the conclusions I have, which has come about through much reading and researching of the course of 14 years (since my reversion to the Catholic Faith). Therefore, I truly feel that a simple facebook post does not do justice to these topics, since entire books have been written about each of them. I all honesty, I feel like I’m standing in front of a skyscraper and someone is asking me how it was built. That being said, though I do not have the ability to write entire books in a Facebook post, I will do my best to give a basic but full response to each of the topics I feel you’ve brought forth in your post (and the issue is much larger than Sacramental Confession). I will post each topic in a separate post for the sake of organization. I hope this help to at least show what the faith of the Catholic Church is and where it comes from. I also encourage my other orthodox Catholic friends who may be reading this to chime in if they feel I have missed something. 

 Firstly let us begin with the Scriptures, on which you found your claims. To understand the Sacred Scriptures from a Catholic perspective, one has to ask where did the Bible come from? The long and short of it is…the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church compiled the Canon of Scripture – for reference see: http://www.catholicapologetics.org/ap030700.htm
Therefore, those who compiled it and were able to validly recognize whether it was divinely inspired, is the sole interpreter of those writings.

So where this point leads me to is, if the Canon of Scripture was not definitively compiled until the 300s, what did the early Church Christians base their faith upon? Apostolic Tradition. 

Luther had the idea of being “Sola Scriptura”, but this idea of basing faith on Scripture alone cannot be found anywhere in the Scriptures. Actually it teaches something quite different, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.” 2 Thes 2:15. The oral tradition handed on from the Apostles led to the Canon of the New Testament. You are quite correct that the fullness of revelation was given to us in the Person of Jesus Christ. There is nothing that need be added to Divine Revelation, as it is complete in Christ. That being said, though we have received the fullness of Divine Revelation in the person of Jesus Christ, we must not neglect to see that Jesus, who promised the Holy Spirit, did in fact send the Advocate to them, to teach them and lead them into all truth, as Jesus promised. 

 So now with the basic understand that the Church bases her faith on Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, we can move to the point about sacramental confession. We as Christians are both in 100% agreement that Jesus is the sole mediator between God and us. Jesus’ blood redeems us. It is not a priest, or a set of rules, but a Divine Person, who loved us unto death and saved us from unending death.

The Bible however does teach that there exists a special class of clergy who have the authority to hear confessions and the power to forgive sin. John the Baptist did in fact baptize people, while they confessed their sins in Matthew 3:6. People came to St. Paul and confessed their sins to him in Act 19:18. The Apostles who are ordained as Bishops by Christ offers tells them in Matthew 18:18 “Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.” Again, Jesus tells His Apostles in John 20:23, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” St. Paul also says to the Corinthians in 2 Cor 2:10 “And to whom you have pardoned any thing, I also. For, what I have pardoned, if I have pardoned any thing, for your sakes have I done it in the person of Christ”.

The Bible encourages us to confess our sins also to one another, not simply to God alone (James 5:16). Christ gave His own authority to forgive sins to His Apostles, who passed down this authority through the laying on of hands, to other Bishops and priests. In Matthew chapter 9, we see, “6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . .” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7 And the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.” Emphasis needs to be placed here on the word “men”.

Getting back to the topic of Apostolic Tradition, we see that the early church performed acts of verbal confession. We can see from the Didache, written approx. 50 AD that “In church thou shalt confess thy transgressions, and shalt not betake thyself to prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life.” 4:14.

In the year 203 AD (keep in mind, before the Scriptures were compiled), Tertullian of Carthage, an early church father states about confession, “Yet most men either shun this work, as being a public exposure of themselves, or else defer it from day to day. I presume (as being) more mindful of modesty than of salvation; just like men who, having contracted some malady in the more private parts of the body, avoid the privity of physicians, and so perish with their own bashfulness. ” 

The Church did not require the Code of Canon Law to hold them to this fact that confession of sin was important. Lex Orandi Lex Credendi – As the Church prays, so she believes. This has always been the case – because it was given to them by Christ. 

“Moreover, how much are they both greater in faith and better in their fear, who, although bound by no crime of sacrifice to idols or of certificate, yet, since they have even thought of such things, with grief and simplicity confess this very thing to God’s priests, and make the conscientious avowal, put off from them the load of their minds, and seek out the salutary medicine even for slight and moderate wounds, knowing that it is written, ‘God is not mocked.’ God cannot be mocked, nor deceived, nor deluded by any deceptive cunning. Yea, he sins the more, who, thinking that God is like man, believes that he evades the penalty of his crime if he has not openly admitted his crime…I entreat you, beloved brethren, that each one should confess his own sin, while he who has sinned is still in this world, while his confession may be received, while the satisfaction and remission made by the priests are pleasing to the Lord?”~ Cyprian of Carthage A.D. 251).

In conclusion, I am unable to provide entire books on these subjects but have at least shown some of the materials used to build those skyscrapers. I have given some great quotes perhaps to get the ball rolling in your own mind. Perhaps instead of going back only 400 years to Luther, maybe the more important question to ask, “What did the Apostles and the early church fathers believe”? I think that would be an incredible place to begin if you really wish to question what the Catholic Church teaches. For the record, though Luther questioned some important stuff that the Church “presumably” taught, one thing he did retain was that confession was still a good idea and still practiced it even after he broke away from the Church. “All mortal sins are to be submitted to the keys of the Church and all can be forgiven; but recourse to these keys is the only, the necessary, and the certain way to forgiveness. Unless those who are guilty of grievous sin have recourse to the power of the keys, they cannot hope for eternal salvation. Open your lips, them, and confess your sins to the priest. Confession alone is the true gate to Heaven.” Augustine, Christian Combat (A.D. 397). AMDG

I hope this will help you in your discussions on the Sacrament of Confession!

In the Immaculata

Chris

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About catholichris

I am an orthodox Roman Catholic twenty-something husband with a passion for spreading the Faith, especially within the social media sphere. I work with Team Orthodoxy (orthodoxcatholicism.com), a Catholic social media team, dedicated to the work of the New Evangelization, in full fidelity to the Holy Father, Pope Francis and the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.

Posted on January 18, 2012, in Apologetics, Catholic, Current Events, education, faith, Love, Orthodoxy, Pope, Saints and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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