Monday, October 03, 2011

Guilt made Personally Manageable

In order for Protestantism to work, the gravity of each sin must be flattened out to equal the gravity of every other sin. Though some Protestants hold to "degrees" of sin, for all Protestants every sin must be forgivable through the mechanism of a private act of faith.

In Protestantism, there can be no such thing as grave or mortal sin *normally* requiring the intervention of a higher ministerial / sacramental agency.  Nor must forgiveness ever depend upon some consequent act of repentance, much less some restitutive token. 

At best, some sort of "memory healing" might be attempted in order that psychological wholeness be restored.

Protestantism has simplified the problem of guilt to what concerns God and the individual alone and what may be managed within the individual's subjective state.

The Protestant project depends for its validity on whether guilt is simply the imputation of personal sin.  But if guilt is a condition and more:  the state of a community of persons--if guilt is a network of disordered relationships its remedy cannot be applied solely in the realm of private subjectivity. 

And here we come to the necessity that faith be not reduced to a movement of a creaturely mind (knowledge, assent, and trust), but must be a public objective reality transcending individual minds.

9 comments:

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charles said...

First, I'll deal with the question of 'satisfaction' in the Reformed Church of England. Note: Anglican churches never abandoned auricular confession, but how it's practiced depends upon the rector. Perhaps I'll provide the quotes for such. Later I want to give some material on English ecclesiastical courts. Meanwhile, regarding "satisfaction":

"That person which by open denunciation of the Church is rightly cut off from the unity of the Church, and excommunicated, ought to be taken of the whole multitude of the faithful, as an Heathen and Publican, until he be OPENLY reconciled by penance, and RECEIVED into the Church by a judge that hath authority thereunto."-- Articles of Religion. XXXIII

"If among those who come to be partakers of the Holy Communion, the Minister shall know any to be an open and notorious evil liver, or to have done any wrong to his neighbor by word or deed, so that the Congregation be thereby offended; he shall advertise him, that he presume not to come to the Lord's Table, until he have OPENLY declared himself to have truly repented and amended his former evil life, that the Congregation MAY THEREBY BE SATISFIED;" -- rubric found in all historical BCP's, here, 1928 BCP, p. 85.

"First, I wish at every PUBLIC penance a sermon, if it be possible, be had. Secondly, In the same sermon the grievousness of the offence is to be opened; the party to be exhorted to unfeigned repentance, with assurance of God's mercy if they so do; and doubling of their damnation, if they remain either obstinate, or feign repentance where none is, and so lying to the Holy Ghost. Thirdly, Where no sermon is, there let a homily be read, meet for the purpose. Fourthly, Let the offender be SET DIRECTLY OVER AGAINST THE PULPIT DURING THE SERMON OR HOMILY, and there stand bareheaded with the sheet, or other accustomed note of difference; and that upon the some board, raised a foot and a half at least above the church floor; that they may be in loco editiore, et eminentiores omni populo, i.e., in a higher place, and above all the people. Fifthly, Item. It is very requisite that the preacher, in some place of his sermon, or the curate after the end of the homily, remaining still in the pulpit, shall PUBLICKLY INTERROGATE the offenders, whether they do confess their fault, and whether they do truly repent: and that the said offenders or penitents should answer directly, every one after another, (if there be many), much like to this short form following, mutatis mutandis.
Preacher. Dost thous not here, before God and this congregation assembled in his name, confess that thou didst commit such an offense, viz. fornication, adultery, incest, &c?
Penitent. I do confess it before God and this congregation.
Preacher. Dost thou not also confess, that in so doing thou hast not only grievously offended against the majesty of God in breaking his commandment, and so deserved everlasting damnation, but also OFFENDED THE CHURCH OF GOD BY THY WICKED EXAMPLE?
Penitent. All this I confess unfeignedly.
Preacher. Art thou truly and heartily sorrowful for this thine offence?
Penitent. I am, from the bottom of my heart.
Preacher. Dost thou ask God AND THIS CONGREGATION heartily forgiveness for thy sin and offence: and dost thou faithfully promise from henceforth to live a godly and Christian life, and never to commit the like offence again?
Penitent. I do ask God AND THIS CONGREGATION heartily forgiveness for my sin and offence: and do faithfully promise from henceforth to live a godly and Christian life, and never to commit the like offence again.
This done, the preacher or minister may briefly speak WHAT THEY THINK MEET for the time, place, and person: desiring in the end the congregation present to pray to God for the penitent, &c., and the rather, if they see any good signs of repentance in the said penitent.' -- Form of Penance devised by AB Grindal. pp. 387 Strype's Life of Grindal. taken from p. 252-253, Hierurgia Anglicana.

charles said...

cont'd
I intentionally used the Reformation name of the Church of England since Grindal based this service upon Scotland's first Book of Worship where a similar office for Penance is provided. In the Scottish book, the office is really, really LONG, longer than the communion service, taking about a third of the book. Anyway, both England and Scotland had forms for Penance in the 16th century, seeking to fully restore the original or primitive sense of 'satisfaction', namely, reconciliation with congregation.

The rubric found in our 1928 prayer books is a extant reference to public penance, and rectors are free to reinstitute this type of penitentiary alongside regular private confession in the parish.

Next, I'll try to provide something on ecclesiastical courts which began with the vestry, went to a deanery and diocesan level, all the way up to the Crown. Hence, courts had multiple levels. Courts could also be used in combination with the penitential form(s) above. Of course, we're speaking of 'notorious evil livers' not the little girl who told a lie over the weekend.

Sincerely, Charles

charles said...

Hi Andrew. Here's some more quotes re: the English system of discipline, partly showing its hierarchy as well as the corporate nature of penance. I will post a few examples, the first from Collin's 1571 canon and the last two from the Hierurgia Anglicana. Sadly, Protestants, more specifically Anglicans, have not kept these forms today, but they were part of our orthodox period, and such exists in our immediate reservoir of history.

From the 1571, p. 66-68: "“If any do contrary, upon contempt or stubborness, they shall present both him, and them whom he received, personally in the next visitation. If any offend their brethern, either by manifest adultery, or whoredom, or incest, or drunkenness, or much swearing, or bawdry, or usury, or any other uncleanness and wickedness of life, let the churchwardens warn them brotherly and friendly, to amend. Which except they do, they shall personally show them to the parson, vicar, or curate, that they may be warned more sharply and vehemently of them: and if they continue so still, let them be driven from the holy Communion, till they be reformed. And that all which live unchastly and loosely, be punished by the severity of the laws, according to their deserts. The same churchwardens shall present those adulterers, whoremongers, incestuous, drunkards, swearers, bawds, and usurers in the Bishops and Archdeacons’ visitations.”
cont'd

charles said...

From the Anglicana, part III, p. 4,9:
"1604. The Canons of 1604, i. to xii. and cix., contemplate the excommunication of various kinds of offenders; of impungers of the laws relating to the Church; of schismatics; of scandalous offenders against morality. These same canons, lxviii. and cix., make a clear distinction between the lesser excommunication or deprivation of the Holy Communion, and the greater excommunication lacking which the Burial Office is not to be refused, by which latter excommunication the offender is altogether excluded from the company of the faithful-- Editor, 1904.

1605. "Whether doth you minister every six months denounce in his parish all such of his parish as do persevere in the sentence of excommunication, not seeking to be absolved: and whether hath he admitted into the church any person excommunicate, without a certificate of his absolution from the ordinary or other competent judge.' -- Visitation Articles of AB Bancroft. Cardwell, Doc. Ann. ii, 108.

1669. "That the canon about excommunication be read and excommunicates be denounced, according to the said canon.'

'That he cause the Clerk to inform the Parson (if churchwardens do not) when any excommunicated persons enter the church or churchyard, to which end and purpose there shall be a list kept in the vestry of all persons excommunicated.'-- The remains of Denis Granville, i 131, 133, Surtees Soc. vol. xxxvii

Between Grindal's form for Penance and Bancroft's canons, this really gets me thinking what the St. Louis means by 'restoring ecclesiastical courts'. If such courts include what I've posted, then they are of great urgency given discipline is a precondition to the making of God's Kingdom or the christian commonweal. ?

Richard said...

Firstly, as I understand it, forgiveness is understood as being something obtained by God, not merely a private act of faith. This would seem to imply that no other agency but oneself is present in the undertaking, but God is also present and knows all- we are to seek favour with God, not with men, surely?

Secondly, is an act of repentance not required? I think not- firstly as James says, faith without works is dead- if repentance is an act of faith, it must be accompanied by teoutworking. The very word signifies a turning around- that is, to turn from one's previous practice of sin and resolve to no longer live by it. "Can we who died to sin, live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:2) [Admittedly, tis is something I need to do myself.]

As Protestants are bound by sola Scriptura, however, then we cannot escape certain Biblical admonitions to make public confession as being at least valid: "confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed" (James 5:16) may be relevant.

A. M. said...

Richard: Thank you for visiting Unpopular Opinions. You write, “we are to seek favour with God, not with men, surely?” This is correct, but we are to seek God’s favor through the agency of his approved priests:

“Then said Jesus to them again, ‘Peace be unto you. As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said unto them, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained" (John 20:21-23).

When you write, “Secondly, is an act of repentance not required? I think not- firstly as James says, faith without works is dead etc.,” I'm confused. Do you mean that repentance is or is not required as a condition for forgiveness?

I’m glad to hear you think public confession of sin as at least being valid. But, I'm making the case that it is more than just an option.

Scripture teaches that public profession of faith (not just internal assent) is necessary for salvation: “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10: 9-10).

If entrance into the Kingdom of God requires an outward act of confession, then the necessity of outward confession isn't inherently contrary to the biblical doctrine of justification.

If outward confession is compatible with justification by faith, then confession to a priest may also be compatible.

The teaching of the Catholic Church is that confession of sin to an approved priest is necessary for the remission of sins. If Christ gave this power to his apostles he intended for it to be used.

When asked why he became Catholic, G. K. Chesterton responded, "Because I want my sins to be forgiven."

Private confession of sin isn't good enough. The Gospel has been given to us not only that we may be assured of forgiveness but also that sin itself might be destroyed. This takes place by rectifying our formerly disordered relationships by entering and abiding within the communion of Christ's body, the Church.

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