Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Just How Serious Is Sin?

This post could also be aptly named 'Sola Fide Smackdown Part 3' (Following Parts 1 & 2) since its so strongly correlated.

I heard someone say once that the Lutheran Church was like a Catholic Church without the guilt (this was a Lutheran speaking). So I guess you could say that the reformed Church is like a Lutheran Church without the similairities to the Catholic Church and without the guilt (just the core doctrines remaining). By the time you get down to mainline evangelical Churches, even those core doctrines are in danger. Some even have abandoned them. (See how the copy of a copy of a copy only degrades and never rebuilds or ahem.. reforms?)

Back to the topic at hand. Sin & guilt. Those outside of the Church see a lot of guilt in the Catholic Church. Yes. Catholics feel guilty when we sin. When I really started to understand the Church's teaching on sin, forgiveness and purgatory, I really began to understand Christ's teachings to their fullest extent. In the same way that John 6 literally came alive almost as if the words themselves were jumping off the page at me once I realized the truth of the Real Presence, His own words on sin, repentance and the afterlife really started to make sense. (Not that I was necessarily feeling confused about them before, but they were certainly marginally important to me at best since according to Protestant theology they have no real weight). Now I fully understand that they in fact do...

Let's paint the picture so we'll all know what we're talking about. Here are the two views (summarized):

Protestants (like Muslims) believe that a heart felt recital of a prayer of repentance and acknowledgment of faith is sufficient (regardless of what happens thereafter) to earn one's way into heaven no questions asked. There is no consequence (other than earthly ones) for sins commited after being born again. There is no price paid for sin since Jesus has paid the price already. (It should be noted that some Protestants, like Baptists, believe that you can lose your faith after being saved. How this fits in with faith alone I'm not really qualified to answer...) In a nutshell, Protestants believe baptism is an external sign and nothing more (even to the point of not being required) However, in the reformed branch, the Westminster Confession says this of Baptism:

V. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.

And basically teaches (like the Church) that ordinarily, one cannot be saved without being Baptized although it seems not quite as strong of a point in the reformed faith. Protestants believe that true forgiveness comes only when you believe in your heart. At that point, all sins past & future are forgiven. Therefore you can walk the alter on Sunday, murder someone on Monday, die on Tuesday, and be living it up with the saints in glory on Wednesday. (This is all provided that you truly felt it in your heart from the beginning). Protestants would argue that a person who is truly saved will not go out and do such a thing. And yet, we know that Christians do... The Protestants are then forced to say "yes Christians sin but they cannot live in sin and be at peace" or something like that... I think this is a fair assesment of the Protestant belief...


The Catholic Church teaches (and always has) that yes sin matters even after you come to the faith. Jesus said:

And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell(1)

and again:

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.(2)

Hmmm.... does it sound like sin matters?

Again:

Many will tell me in that day,Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works? Then I will tell them, I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity. Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock.(3)

And if you're still not convinced, read the parable of the talents. Christ's teachings are consistent. Sounds to me like He is pretty serious about you actually putting your money where your mouth is. Sounds to me like sin really has consequence even for a 'born again' Christian. If the words 'Depart from me, you who work iniquity' doesn't strike fear into your heart, you and I are going to have trouble reaching common ground on anything. I dont understand how doctrine which deviates from the teaching of the Church (faith alone) can provide an adequate feeling of safety for those who believe faith alone saves you. Will you debate theology with God when you stand before His throne?

Now Protestants would accuse me of using 'straw man' tactics. "We believe that sin matters too!" They say this only because they refuse to carry out their beliefs to their logical conclusions. Its akin to the atheist who stubbornly insists that he/she can legitimately believe in morality.

However, Catholicism makes so much more sense to me. At Baptism you are forgiven of all your sins. If you commit further sins, you must pay for them. Confession forgives mortal sins and partaking of the Eucharist forgives venial sins.

Even St. Clement (the 4th pope still in 1st century) in his first epistle to the Corinthians said:

You stretched forth your hands to God Almighty, beseeching Him to be merciful to you, if you had been guilty of any involuntary transgression.

When describing the coming together of the early saints. So now you see the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church. In deed, your venial (involuntary) sins are forgiven at the mass. Whatever sins are left over at the time of death must be purged from you by the fires of purgatory. This also complies neatly with Sir Isaac Newton's law 'every action has an equal and opposite reaction'. Every sin must be accounted for before you enter the kingdom.

In this light, what Christ said "if your eye causes you to sin"... makes quite a bit of sense. Why, if my sins were forgiven long ago, would I even think to pluck out my eye to avoid sin? Who cares about sin when its already forgiven!!!

It would be like someone telling you to go into the mall and buy anything you want and he'd pay for it. But then also telling you "dont buy too much because it will be too expensive". These two dont make sense together. Why would it matter if its too expensive? How can it be too expensive if he is paying the cost? Likewise, if Christ told us "just believe in Me and all your sins now and forever are forgiven" and then later "be careful not to sin... in fact if your eye causes you to sin this is such a serious thing that you should pluck that eye out"... well I'd be a little confused. This is precicely what the Protestants think He said. (Yea yea im taking it out of context..... sure.... ) So you have the evidence. You can judge for yourself which makes more sense.

Of course faith alone and instant forgiveness is much more covenient. Its a much easier path. Its not hard to see why so many are drawn to it as opposed to that "Catholic guilt". But once again, logic, reason and historical credibility (not to mention the voice of the saints and martyrs) are on the side of the Catholic Church.

7 comments:

Dave Gudeman said...

You make two mistakes about protestant beliefs here. First, it isn't the case that sin doesn't matter, only that sin doesn't matter for salvation. Protestants believe that there will be rewards and punishments meted out to believers (although this shouldn't be what motivates us to do good), but once you become a Christian, this is like an adoption or a (Godly) marriage, we have become a part of the family of God and this relationship cannot be annuled. Would God disown his child for being disobediant? Is God less loving or less forgiving than human parents? You mention several parables for your point, but what about the Prodigal Son?

Second, your analogy about the mall spree misses the point, that when we are saved we become new creatures. We aren't supposed to avoid sin for fear of punishment, but because the Spirit of God in us leads us to want to do good. Anyone who does good simply to avoid punishment isn't doing good at all, he is simply following his own self-interest. God is not interested in that kind of goodness.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Like I said in the post -- "Now Protestants would accuse me of using 'straw man' tactics. "We believe that sin matters too!" "

Sure there's no Protestant denomination that has a written dogma "sin doesnt matter" but faith alone logically reduces sin to something all but meaningless to a Christian. Martin Luther understood this. It's kind of like Nietzsche versus the 'lay atheist'. Nietzsche understood that an atheist has no real morals, life has no meaning, compassion is weakness etc... Did Martin Luther agree with what you're saying? Sure:

"No sin will separate us from the lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day" - Martin Luther

Ok like you said sin doesnt keep us from being saved. (Of course Jesus said otherwise which was the entire point of my post "if your eye causes you to sin...")

However, Martin Luther continues his heresy to it's logical conclusion:

"Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here in this world we have to sin. This life is not a dwelling place of righteousness"

And again...

"Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to."

In addition to the Scirpture I posted in the article, also see Heb.10:26-27... The Bible is just packed full of verses that are incompatible with this core Protestant belief.

Again, most Protestants would now disagree with Luther on these points, but thats simply because they arent taking faith alone to its logical conclusion like he did.

Would God disown a child for being disobedient? If sin doesnt send us to hell then Im confused as to why hell even exists.

In the parable of the prodigal son the son is penetant. He does not live in perpetual sin.

Im not sure what you mean by "your analogy misses the point". I think its a good one but we can just disagree on that I guess.

And I hear people talking about "I do good beacuse of the inner goodness in me" and stuff like that.. Maybe its true I dont know, I cant know other people's hearts. But I do know my own. And I know that Im not good enough to be righteous out of pure goodness without thought for consequence. Jesus didnt say "dont be selfish by storing treasures" He said dont be stupid by storing treasures on earth.. store them in heaven. Both methods are equally selfish. One is just wiser. Likewise, He didnt say "dont worry your sin wont send you to hell, just do good out of the inner goodness in your soul without thought for consequence" but rather He said (very practically and unpretensiously)

1. If your eye causes you to sin pluck it out (because that sin will send you to hell)

2. fear no man but fear God who has the ability to destroy your soul in hell.

I think Jesus is pretty clear.. Sin & hell are very strongly causally related.

Dave Gudeman said...

I didn't accuse you of using a strawman, I just said that you were mistaken in the things you said about Protetant beliefs. "Strawman" implies that you deliberately set up a weak argument in order to knock it down. I don't think you did that in the original article, but you seem to do it in your response to my comment in this quote "Sure there's no Protestant denomination that has a written dogma 'sin doesnt matter'". I never suggested that you suggested such a thing. What I said is that sin can matter even if it isn't going to send you to Hell. Don't you agree with this? Can't something be important even if it isn't going to send you to hell?

I never said that I do good because of an inner goodness; I said that the Holy Spirit prompts Christians to do good. It is the Holy Spirit that is good, not me. Paul discusses this issue in Romans 6: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" Paul never mentions punishment in that passage. He says that it is our new nature to avoid sin. Again, this doesn't mean that we have an inner goodness, it is more abstract than that --sin is no longer our natural state. Argue with Paul about it, not me.

Since Protestant doctrine comes almost entirely from scripture (unlike Catholic doctrine), they obviously don't agree with you that scripture contradicts their doctrines. For example, your quotes from Jesus were not said to Christians, so there is no contradiction in assuming that they don't apply to Christians.

Your analogy misses the point because it suggests that sin is limited only by cost. According to Paul, sin no longer has a cost to us; we avoid it (or should avoid it) because of who we are.

You said, "Would God disown a child for being disobedient? If sin doesnt send us to hell then Im confused as to why hell even exists." You can't imagine any use for Hell other than as a place to torture strayed Christians though eternity?

Hell was created for Satan and his angels. Catholics and many protetants (but not me) also believe that unbelievers will be sent there after death, so there is plenty of use for Hell without God disowning his children. (I believe that eternal death may be just what it sounds like --termination of existence-- rather than eternal suffering).

Anonymous said...

Dave,

I just want to say that I wish you the best. I would really love you to set aside some of the misperceptions of the Catholic Church though. I think that if you just inquired into all of you misperceptions you would see that you have been greviously misled.

I don't know how you can say "Since Protestant doctrine comes almost entirely from scripture (unlike Catholic doctrine), they obviously don't agree with you that scripture contradicts their doctrines" when the Bible was compiled by the Catholic Church. The Protestant doctrine did not exist until the 1500s. Logically, the men who, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, compiled the Bible in 325 A.D. would not do so to contradict the Traditions and doctrines that had already been strongly established.

I understand your difficulty in accepting Catholic doctrine because of the years of Protestant teaching. I was a Protestant who thought just like you did until a few months ago, after a long period of finding through the Holy Scriptures, the writings of the Early Fathers, the and by talking to a priest and knowledgeable Catholics that everything perception I had regarding the Catholic faith was false. I must be honest with you that I wish you would at least make an attempt to read and ask someone like a priest if your misperceptions are true. It pains me to read some of your posts and find that you don't really know what you're talking about (not meant offensively... more in regards to your approach to the Church). Nobody can make you believe anything you don't want to believe, but I think if you moved beyond the realm of blogs to find the truth you may come to some realizations, one way or the other.

I am no apologist or anything and I lack much knowledge. I do, however, work in a field that requires the ability to reason and use logic on a daily basis. Since I have come to the Catholic Church, I have can see how illogical and contradictory Protestant doctrines (or lack of) are. But that is not for me to determine, it is just something I noticed.

You said this in your first post: "First, it isn't the case that sin doesn't matter, only that sin doesn't matter for salvation. Protestants believe that there will be rewards and punishments meted out to believers (although this shouldn't be what motivates us to do good), but once you become a Christian, this is like an adoption or a (Godly) marriage, we have become a part of the family of God and this relationship cannot be annuled."

I don't know if you are qualified to speak for Protestantism, so I'll just assume for now that you are just a believer like me. Here you seem to have established a "merit" system for good works that "we" perform. That is something that Protestants often wrongly accuse the Catholic Church of believing. This is quite contradictory... maybe you'd like to clarify for me.

You also asked the following rhetorical questions: "Would God disown his child for being disobediant? Is God less loving or less forgiving than human parents? You mention several parables for your point, but what about the Prodigal Son?"

The Church does not believe that God "disowns" anyone. We have free-will. We separate ourselves from God through sin, impenitence, and a lack of will to repent (repent by the way means to not only confess of your sins but to completely convert your life from them). I'm glad you chose marriage as an example of the Lord's relationship to us. You're absolutely right, the Lord is completely faithful to us. It is us that become unfaithful in our "marriage" with him through our own decision to sin. God can do everything except for a few things: create another god, sin, and forcefully control our will. He will not stop us if we decide to divorce Him.

No, God is not less loving or forgiving than human parents. But neither will human parents lock up their child and force them to love them. As soon as child turns 18 years of age in this country, he can legally leave his parents and hate them for the rest of his life. There is nothing that the parents can do to force their child to love them. If we turn our backs on God, if we know of His graces and still actively sin against Him without remorse, are we showing Him that we love Him. Or are we runaways?

On the prodigal son... he made a decision to return to his father. The father did not come looking for him or send out soldiers to capture him and force him to receive his inheritance. If the prodigal son had not returned by the action of his own will to his father, he would not have had an inheritance.

You said, "Paul discusses this issue in Romans 6: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" Paul never mentions punishment in that passage. He says that it is our new nature to avoid sin... Argue with Paul about it, not me.
"

I don't know if Catholics need to argue with St. Paul since we are in agreement with him, just not the Protestant interpretation of what he says, but how the Church has interpreted his words for 2000 years. Your interpretation is a product that has arisen from the two doctrines created by Martin Luther 500 years ago "Sola Fide" and "Sola Scriptura". Plus, I don't think that the Catholic Church would have canonized any of St. Paul's epistles if they contradicted the Lord Jesus Christ and the other apostles, such as St. James.

You said, "For example, your quotes from Jesus were not said to Christians, so there is no contradiction in assuming that they don't apply to Christians."

Yes and no. The "if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away... (Matt. 5:29)" teaching is said in the Sermon on the Mount. Christ God at this point, since the end of the Beatitudes, was addressing the twelve disciples (though the people listened on) to prepare them for their future roles in the Church and to teach them what they were to teach to His flock. They were Jews at the time but became the first bishops of His Church. They were the first Christians, so they were called in the Acts of the Apostles.

I'm not trying to be argumentative, I really want nothing more than for you to try and educate yourself on what Catholic Church truly believes rather than what you think She believes, or what you have been falsely taught that She believes. The messages in blogs can seem to get too argumentative at times to bear any fruit. I hope I didn't trouble you.

Peace be with you,
Joe

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Dave:

I agree some things can be marginally important if they're not sending us to hell but thats marginal with a capital M.

'the Holy Spirit prompts Christians to do good' ---- this is where we start getting into pretty tough territory. So you said :

We should do good without thinking of consequence

I replied:

Im not good enough to do that

You replied

No one is, the Holy Spirit is the only one who does good...

So who really cares then if God is the one doing it anyway? Will God reward us for what He Himself did?

Like Joe said, I have nothing to argue with Paul about and Im not sure what you're insinuating that I should argue with him about?? St. Clement (the 4th pope) called Peter & Paul the "greatest heroes of the faith". Catholics are particularly fond of "Pauline Christianity" thats why we put so much of his writings in the Bible (I'm speaking on a worldly level, of course the Holy Spirit guided the Catholic Church into selecting the Canon). Remember, that book you quote from, Romans was written specifically to the Church at Rome!! It was written to us Catholics.

I agree with you that Catholic doctrine does not come entirely from Scripture (as Sola Scriptura is not one of our beliefs). And I do also agree that Protestant beliefs come almost entirely from Scripture (although along with the saints, martyrs and the 2000 year old Church I believe they have misinterpreted). However, Scripture does not contradict the doctrines of the Catholic Church while they most certainly contradict Protestant ones. The clearest example is of course when Protestants say:

"We are justified by faith alone"

where as the Scripture says (And I quote)

"You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone."

As for the analogy: we're not seeing eye to eye on that so I'll just drop it.

As for what you said about hell, I hope and pray that you're right. I hate the idea of hell. It may surprise you to learn also that I hope 'sola fide' is right too. Cuz hey... I got the faith part covered... trust me I believe! The problem is, I cant take a chance on something as important as my soul. Especially when the chances are.... Martin Luther was wrong. Even if, in my estimation, Martin Luther had a 99% chance to be right, it still wouldnt be worth risking my soul.

I hate to get in arguments like these. I know I start them because I have so much pent up frustration with the evangelical church. I think I'll get all of my frustration out soon enough though.

Andrew said...

wait so if we're so serious about reading Jesus' words and the words of the bible ... where is this stuff in the bible?

"If you commit further sins, you must pay for them. Confession forgives mortal sins and partaking of the Eucharist forgives venial sins."

This nonsense about paying for sins, venial sins, etc is not in the bible.

--

"reason and historical credibility (not to mention the voice of the saints and martyrs) are on the side of the Catholic Church."

Wait which history? The history of catholics torturing people to recant? Of catholics starting wars in europe?

--

"I dont understand how doctrine which deviates from the teaching of the Church (faith alone) can provide an adequate feeling of safety for those who believe faith alone saves you."

No protestant believes faith alone saves them. The view from matthew to revelations is that faith alone saves us, but no one is saved by fruitless faith. If faith is real it will have fruit. "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." -James 2:17

Tim A. Troutman said...

Andrew - thanks for stopping by. I was going to respond to your objections until I saw:

No protestant believes faith alone saves them.

And so in the interest of saving time for both of us, I'll just bow out. If you want to discuss these things in the future, please read up a little on Catholic answers or some site with basic Catholic apologetics - they'll answer all your concerns.