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Friday, September 21. 2007
Aimee at Historical Christian takes a detailed look at the past and present role of much-maligned and historically-abused indulgences (h/t, Dr. Bob).
I do not know a lot about Catholic practice, but I liked what I read. I am a somewhat religious man. I worship and seek a relationship with a God of Truth and Mercy, through Jesus. I believe that sin is sin, and that action is required to undo it. I believe that sin alienates us from God and from our fellow humans. I believe that we are all sinners - but that's no excuse.
Indulgences, which are a current Roman Catholic practice, are part of the way sin can be addressed. One quote:
Read the whole, meaty thing. (It is fitting, but just by chance, that I post this on Yom Kippur.)
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I'll copy here my lengthy answer to Aimee's lengthier post:
As a protestant pastor, I will say this is well-written and there's a lot common ground here. Sin does hurt others and does harm our relationship with God. And most Christians don't take sin seriously enough. But these doctrines of indulgences, penance, and reconciliation come from a very different understanding of grace and the nature of the Church.
Christians do not need a priest to declare absolution or assign penance. Either Christians go directly to Christ as our High Priest (because there is only one mediator between God and man), or we rely on one another as equal inheritors of God's grace (as James tells us to confess our sins to one another). The "Church" is not a hierarchy of priests which intercedes for the laity, but the body of all believers. You are the Church.
So "the Church" in the Bible does not dispense or apply the treasury of Christ's merits (and the saints, by the way, add nothing to the satisfaction won by Christ -- that is patently unbiblical). Grace is a gift of God freely received by faith alone. If it is not a gift, then it is a wage, something we've earned, and it is no longer grace. I've yet to find an example of Jesus assigning penance to Peter, Thomas, or anyone. "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent" (John 6:28-29).
And when Paul writes that he is filling up in his flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, he's obviously speaking of following the path of suffering which Jesus has marked out for His followers -- not the disciplinary punishment for some unnamed sin. You might want to read Paul's argument in Galatians: "Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" (Gal. 3:2-3). You weren't saved by God's grace in Christ through works of penance! So why would God save you by grace, then maintain you by your own efforts?
The problem with these doctrines is that they point people to "the Church" as an institution and not to Christ. And I think it's done out of fear that if people really understand the infinite depths of God's grace which we have already received in Christ, people will live ungodly and presumptuously. This is exactly the issue Paul addresses in Romans 6. But the answer to abuses of grace is not legalism, fear, and works of righteousness.
On what possible biblical basis can one argue that there are merits of Christ (and the saints!) which we have not received and which we need the Church to dispense? Priestly dispensations of grace diminish the glory of God's free grace to us in Christ. They make God appear to be stingy and angry and the priest the generous and gracious intercessor. They defame God for the glory of man and distance people from Christ.
"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died -- more than that, who was raised to life -- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Romans 8:32-35)
Thank you very much, Pastor Jeff.
Appreciate your taking the time, ad you gave me plenty to think about.
Fork over the bucks and buy your way out of sin, and help finance a great cathedral too. Good deal all around.
Just an FYI - Aimee responded to my comment above, then when I tried to engage her based on her reply, she deleted my follow-up post. She then deleted another follow-up asking her if she knew what happened to my response. She apparently decided that I don't know enough about Catholicism, she didn't have time to answer me, and that my questions would only confuse her readers.
A word to the wise.
Hello Barrister - I noticed your Trackback on my blog and wanted to say thanks! I know Catholicism can be tough to wrap the mind around for Protestants (I used to be one, you know), so I appreciate your noting my post. Take care!
Jeff, did you get the e-mail I sent to you after I deleted your comment? I was explaining that I am a graduate student busy with teaching and doing my thesis project, so don't have time for an extended debate. Your comment required a response as it was full of misstatements about Catholicism, but I don't have time now to engage you in a debate. My blog is non-controversial, for Catholics and those sincerely interested in Catholicism, not for extended debating with those who are not (at least not at this time, while I am busy in school). As a sister to a brother in Christ, I ask you to understand that.
I find it ironic that you expect to come to other people's blogs and make your views known, but won't extend that politeness to others.
You didn't want to engage the substance of my comments and summarily deleted them without comment. I was not rude, offensive, ungracious, dishonest, or vulgar in anything I said. You wanted to have the last word, so you did -- in a rather underhanded and ungracious manner.
Because Maggie's Farm linked to your post, I thought it was only fair to give the readers here the information which you think your readers don't deserve -- namely, that comments critical of Catholicism may be deleted without comment or warning.
And we're all busy.
And your comment about being busy especially rankles. I obviously put a good bit of thought and time into my last comment. That you disagreed with it doesn't diminish the value of the effort I put into it.
You summarily threw my comments (and my request for an explanation!) in the trash can, effectively telling me that you will publish comments with which you agree, but will let others waste their time and efforts if you disagree.
As I've said, it's your blog so that's your decision. But I think others should be aware of the way you run things before they waste their time submitting comments. You're not the only one whose time matters.
Wow...a virtual fight from another blog has spilled over to this one...cool
Jeff, I came here to thank the Barrister for Trackbacking to my post, as a courtesy, and found you reproducing your comment to me here.
I have explained to you both in private and in public what my situation is, and yet now I find you attacking me here. Why are you doing this? I don't write to pick fights - I write to share my faith, and I always welcome sincere inquirers, as the Barrister here apparently is. If you don't believe what I believe, fine, but why pick a fight about it, just because I'm not available when you want me to be?
I left a reply to your post which you deleted without notice or warning. I spent quite a bit time on it, and I don't appreciate my efforts going to waste because you feel that your readers can't hear from a Protestant without your being able to respond. You say you deleted my comment because you don't have time to answer. That's a rather unusual way to deal with commenters.
If you're not willing to let non-Catholics post on your blog without your approval and/or response, courtesy would suggest you let people know that in advance.
Since you don't give that notice and since you deleted my comments without warning and because Maggie's Farm had a link to your piece, I came here to warn the readers that it's your unstated policy to delete comments from visitors who challenge Catholic doctrine (unless you have the time to respond).
As I've said, it's your blog and you can operate by whatever rules you wish. I think people who go to your blog expecting to be able to engage in discussion and debate should be forewarned, that's all.
WOW! Now my original post and Aimee's original reply have been deleted, too!
If she finds a way to erase my blog, I'll be really upset.
Jeff, it's disingenuous of you to conduct one conversation with me in private, and another very different conversation here in public. You e-mailed me and complained that your original post and my reply had been left up, making it look like you had no reply to my response, so I removed them too and e-mailed you back that I had done so.
But now, I find you attacking me again in public. As I said, I'm swamped with the startup of my graduate thesis project, and have no time right now for a lengthy debate with you about the merits of Catholicism. I also in good faith offered by e-mail to continue the debate some other time, when I have more time. It has nothing to do with whether I'm willing to deal with an anti-Catholic Protestant like you, as I've dealt with plenty like you before. It's nothing new.
So, again I ask, why are you doing this? It appears more and more that you have no reason other than to smear the reputation of a Catholic.
Frankly, you're making me wonder if you're a pastor at all, as your public behavior on this blog is like no pastor I've ever encountered before, Protestant or Catholic.
Which makes me disinclined to debate you at all, as it appears one of us is not acting in good faith, but in bad.
PS: You mention your blog, but you've left no link for it either here or on my blog. Why is that? Are you afraid someone might come try to debate you, and make you look bad?
I'm growing very tired of this. Whether or not you have the time to answer blog comments is not a reason to delete them without warning or public comment. I spent a good bit of time engaging your post and you threw my efforts in the trash. That's rude and uncalled for, and it suggests that you're unwilling to leave comments on your blog if you disagree with them. As I've said repeatedly, it's your blog so you can run it however you like. But I think people oughtot be warned their comments will be deleted if you're too busy to answer them.
So the only reason for mentioning it here is to forewarn people that their comments might similarly disappear.
And the only reason I've not linked to my blog in my comments over the months I've been visitng Maggie's Farm is that I don't feel the need to advertise myself. You do know how to Google? I'm hardly hidden.
But to help you, I've now included a link to my blog. You'll find that I have links there to a number of interesting writers with whom I frequently disagree. I think that's a good model for engagement and discussion.
And as a point of clarification, I am not "anti-Catholic" - unless that means challenging some of your doctrines from a biblical basis. What I am is anti-people-who-delete-your-comments-if-they-don't-have-time-to-answer-them.
And despite all the above, you're still welcome to come visit my blog, leave comemnts, and disagree with me. And whether I agree with you or have time to answer, your comments will be left there for others to read and make up their own minds.
I can see why you would be growing tired, as it must be tiring to conduct the kind the attack you have on me the past couple of days. Yet I've done nothing more than decline to engage you in debate, and feel no need to leave unaddressed assertions on my blog.
I even obliged you, by removing your original comment and my response, after you complained that they were making you look bad. And I have twice asked you, in public and in private, as a brother in Christ to respect my situation. Yet you respond by continuing to misrepresent my motives. And all in the name of “pastor.”
Yes, I did Google you, using the last name you provided in your e-mails, and found your church and that you are the senior pastor of your congregation. Surprising. I wonder if your congregation is aware of how their senior pastor behaves in blogdom, propounding his theories and attacking and defaming other bloggers who decline to engage him, while hiding his own identity and blog from public view until challenged (and by the way, you are still hiding your identity, though not your blog).
And yes, my blog is mine, not yours. And given the nature of my blog, I see no reason why I should provide a free venue for a contentious, disingenuous blogger such as yourself - especially one who throws a public tantrum when he doesn't get his way.