Efficacy of confession and absolution

Discussion in 'Liturgy, and Book of Common Prayer' started by Rexlion, Dec 2, 2020.

  1. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    I liked what you wrote here Stalwart.

    We should not assume though that another's lack of sactification in one area of their life necessarily has resulted in them 'losing' God's justification in the whole of it. BOTH justification AND santification come from God and are unmerited as far as salvation is concerned.

    Justification is gifted by God, sanctification requires our cooperation with God in putting us to rights over perhaps a lifetime. WE are ALL works in progress as far as sanctification is concerned, so I think "If he lacks sanctification, then he lacks justification." may be a slight over statement of a half truth, rather than the whole unvarnished truth about justification and how we might or might not 'lose' it.
    .
     
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  2. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    Depends. If forgiveness is asked the answer is no. Hence why we need confession and absolution
     
  3. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    I think the assumption would be that the 'friend' would not ask forgiveness of someone who they don't believe forgives.

    Which is the scenario you claimed not to make any sense.

    Rexlion's explanation of how it can be that salvation can be 'lost' makes sense if the person losing it neither cares nor believes they are forgiven or even need forgivness, particularly from a God they either despise, despair of or perhaps do not now believe even exists.

    Your alternative seems to be a requirement to be continually running to God confessing every minor infringement of The Law of Love, in order to obtain or secure the salvation you have been freely given as a gift from God. Confession and absolution are not essentials for individual believers, unless conscience convicts them and prevents them from feeling free to approach communion with a Holy God.

    Confession and absolution are provided to ensure the whole congregation approaches God Almighty in a properly contrite and grateful frame of mind.
    .
     
  4. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I will have to take some time to digest and ponder this. But one problem I have with it is, I cannot see anywhere that the Bible distinguishes between two kinds of righteousness. That smacks of doublespeak nonsense at first blush. But perhaps someone can point to some scriptures....?
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2020
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  5. Thomist Anglican

    Thomist Anglican Member Anglican

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    I'd have to agree. I don't see two kinds of righteousness in Scripture. Two kinds of grace definitely, prevenient grace and efficacious grace. But not righteousness. I only see one, the Righteousness of Christ that is given to those who trust in Him.
     
  6. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I was a little hasty, because of imprecision in the English on this.

    When we say “righteous” in English, we usually mean right beliefs, holy behavior, ie. Sanctification.

    But when the English translations of Scripture mention “righteous” it’s always in the verses about God’s external righteousness, such as Jeremiah 23:6, “the God, our righteousness”. In other words Justification.

    This English clumsiness is behind your confusion with this. You read Jeremiah 23:6, or the Epistles, and it’s all about God’s righteousness. Then you hear some yahoo like me talk about us having to work up our own righteousness, and you get justly indignant; but all I’m doing is using “righteous” in the colloquial sense of holy or sanctified. English is horribly muddled on this point.

    In short, “righteousness” in the the English Bibles talks about God, justification. But “righteousness” colloquially among the English speakers talks about personal holiness, sanctification.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2020
  7. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Well, every time I have referred to righteousness in this thread, it has been in regard to the Scriptural use of the term. So it appears that you may have jumped to a conclusion based upon your preferred, colloquial usage of the word, a usage which I do not share and am not utilizing. I hope that helps us in keeping this to the issue at hand.

    The issue is, what is the efficacy of absolution (primarily in the Eucharistic liturgy, which is the most common usage). You have drawn a distinction between justification (which is akin to righteousness, and it derives from the same Greek root word) and sanctification. I have set forth reasons why absolution is not efficacious toward righteousness (and thus justification). Are you now saying that absolution pertains, and is efficacious in regards, to sanctification? If so, please elaborate further. I must confess (but expect no absolution :laugh: ) that my RC upbringing trained me to see priestly absolution as being specifically applicable to justification.

    After refreshing my memory of antinomianism, I can confidently state that I am not an antinomian, nor is the proposition I've advanced in this thread "antinomianism." As Paul wrote, God forbid that we should use our liberty in Christ as a license to sin. As Christians, we are redeemed from the curse of the law but we have a moral duty to please God with obedience. However, the fact remains that spiritually we do have liberty in Christ because He bore our guilt on the Cross. Thus we have been given God's grace and God's righteousness, we have been justified, and we were absolved of unrighteousness at the moment of our new birth. I'm not talking about sanctification or our call to be Christlike when I say any of that, because to me that's an entirely separate issue from righteousness. And absolution, in my view, has always pertained to righteousness (in the Scriptural sense of the word). Positionally we have been made holy (set apart unto God) and have received His own righteousness through our personal faith, despite our lack of merit.

    Sanctification is, I think, a word best utilized in the sense of progressively becoming more Christlike, more obedient, and more yielded to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is a lifelong journey in which none of us ever reaches the pinnacle of perfection. Some of us strive :sweating: more diligently than others, and quite honestly some of us Christians don't really strive much at all. :rolleyes: But even within the life of one who hardly tries to be pleasing to God, which one of us is equipped to judge such a one and condemn him? Lest we forget, our Lord prefers even the cold Christian over the lukewarm. We may have good reasons to wonder if the non-striving one truly has a living faith and is right with God, but our focus must always be on our own love walk. We heed James' words and avoid 'faith without works' in our own lives, not to attain righteousness, but because it is God's will and because we (should) want to please Him. Good works don't apply toward righteousness, but toward sanctification.

    Now, if the priest's pronouncement of absolution is meant to somehow make us more obedient and yielded to God, and if that is what you mean when you say that the absolution is efficacious, I'd like to hear the rationale. But at the moment, I still think that it's meant to make us think that God is right at that moment removing the guilt of sin from us (even though He already did that, and did so most comprehensively, when we first believed) for righteousness' sake.
     
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  8. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Is it possible that 'sanctification' (rather than 'righteousness') is the term that has two different uses in the Bible? Many passages refer to sanctification as something accomplished by God when we believed, while a few refer to it in relation to obedience.


    If you're using the term in the former usage (something accomplished by God), I agree. If you mean it in the latter way (dealing with how hard we're trying to be obedient), I don't necessarily agree.
     
  9. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted".” Luke 18:13-14.

    There is no indication that the tax collector managed to ''turn his life around, straighten up, and fly right with God during the following week". He could well have turned up at the temple next sabbath, still a tax collector, still ashamed of the fact, still admitting his desperate need for forgiveness, and still justified as he sorrowfully went back home again to the weekly grind of survival in a wicked, godforsaken presuming, world.

    Which all goes to highlight the difference between the way we human beings justify or not a persons behaviour and the way GOD justifies that same behaviour.

    The fault is actually with us and our ungodly undiscerning attitudes to other sinners.

    By Christ it's called hypocrisy, often applied to Pharisees. Luke 18:10-14.
    .
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2020
  10. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    That's exactly right. You've nailed it!

    The RC world has a muddled view of justification, where it is seen as an infused 'substance' that carries with it both justification and sanctification, both God's righteousness and our holy living, within the one word. So when the RC priest pronounces absolution, yes the idea is that he makes you righteous with God. Which is, absolutely, works righteousness (as you said some posts above).

    In the Scripturally-founded worldview that you and I are striving to keep ourselves in, this theology makes no sense.

    So then if we distinguish justification from sanctification, then it becomes possible to sin without losing one's justification (at least immediately). People are fallible, and we fall from holiness all the time, but that does not mean we automatically lose righteous status in God's eyes. We have God's righteousness by our faith, and even when we fall we remain in his bosom.

    However, although the grace of love and patience is offered to us, it only goes so far. God will not forever extend himself to us if we are unrepentant sinners who do not live in accord with the justification he gave us. Thus we are inescapably demanded to live holily, in accord with our God who is holy. When we fall, it is okay (justification remains), but we must repent and be absolved (in sanctification) in order to resume our striving towards holiness.
     
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  11. Thomist Anglican

    Thomist Anglican Member Anglican

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    I really appreciate EL Mascal's view on righteousness. He would say that its not a black or white situation but that its both. When we come to faith, God imputes the righteousness that Christ merited to us as our own righteousness but He also infuses use with that righteousness to live holy lives since we are incapable of living holy lives without the grace and righteousness of God being now apart of us. Mascal was truly a man of the via media and I strive to imitate that as well.
     
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  12. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Okay, you're saying that a priest's pronouncement of absolution is efficacious in sanctifying us. I'm wondering what is the earliest writing we have in support of this? Which of the early fathers explained this? Or is there something in the Bible that I've missed? I'm trying to understand how a pronouncement of God's pardon (forgiveness) is not meant to indicate a change in our state of righteousness but a change in our state of sanctification.

    Another question: if the actual increase of sanctification comes when we repent of sins (and thus further separate ourselves from evil), isn't the pronouncement just 'window dressing' on what's already happened? If so, seems like it's not really 'efficacious' at anything other than providing reassurance.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2020
  13. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Any absolution pronounced by any priest is only provisional anyway. Words spoken by any human being cannot commit God to a suspension of judgment. God has not abdicated sovereignty to anyone but Jesus Christ, so it still remains eclusively within the trinity.

    Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all them that with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; -
    Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strenghten you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    Essentially this is a request to God that the congregation may have 'hearty repentance' and 'true faith' in turning to Him. The priest is only telling them what happens if they do.

    Forgiveness of sins, (from our own point of view, not God's), can only be obtained through hearty repentance, and hearty repentance can only be achieved by self knowledge, (which most of us do not fully have, others could tell us so). This means, when finally all the chips are down, that effective absolution absolutely depends only upon the 'true FAITH' of the individual in the atonement of Christ, which God wrought for all in the world, hanging on a cross. by not holding our sins against us. 2 Cor.5:19.

    So Rexlion, you are right to remind us that the confession and absolution are just a reminder that 'FAITH' is an absolute requirement for reconciliation with God and absolution dates back to our baptism and our obedience to the following command:

    "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." John 14:1-4.

    We already know how to get there, all anyone has to do is believe in Christ, and then die.

    If we remain in the faith, we all qualify eventually.
    .
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2020
  14. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    To me it’s pretty simple, just straight up logical: absolution deals with sins. Sins are in the sanctification category, not justification category.

    When we sin, that is not a change in our justification, but in our sanctification. Agreed?

    Just so, when we are absolved from sin, that is not a change in our justification, but in our sanctification.


    Repentance alone is not enough to receive pardon.

    Say you mistreated your friend, and are now on bad terms. Later, you feel bad about it and repent, albeit without telling him. Does that fix the rupture? No, the relationship is restored only after you tell him, and then he says back, I forgive you.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2020
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  15. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I'm beginning to see, I think.


    Ah, but suppose you look at a woman and have thoughts of lust. Must you apologize to the woman and seek her forgiveness? (That's a good way to get one's face slapped, I suspect.) Or suppose you covet the red Corvette that passes you on the highway. Who do you apologize to? My point is that pardon comes from God upon repentance, and 'fixing a rupture' in human relationships is somewhat tangential.

    With all of that said, I'd like to mention that I just read a somewhat helpful (albeit tangential!) article which discusses Richard Hooker's view of absolution: https://northamanglican.com/reformi...gdom-in-richard-hooker-and-thomas-cartwright/

    A brief quote from the article:
    Hooker’s explanation of the grounds of the minister’s confidence is the first hint that he rejects the Roman Catholic view. He argues that ministers declare pardon with greater confidence than laymen because they “have certainty…whereupon to ground their sentence.” But in explaining this certainty, Hooker argues it results “partly of faith and partly of human experience.” In other words, it is not owing to any ontological change in the priest as a result of his ordination that the priest is able to declare absolution, but rather this right is a function of the priest’s faith in God’s promises of forgiveness to the repentant and experience in judging the sincerity of repentance in the sinner. Priests hold an office which naturally—not supernaturally—suits them for the task of absolving.​
     
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  16. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    No, because that wouldn’t be an offense against her. And yet even there it would be an offense against God, wouldn’t you agree? So yeah having thoughts of lust about a woman would mean having to seek God’s forgiveness. (She doesn’t have to know, although maybe she should, sometimes it could lead to marriage because God works in mysterious ways!)

    To God, right? The source of all goodness, who purchased us with his blood to be his peculiar people, and be small mirrors of his holiness in the world around us.

    I haven’t read that part in Hooker, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were accurate. Hooker was equally weak on the Eucharist, where he was similarly at odds with the data in the Prayerbook, and the unanimity of the other (non-ecumenical) Divines. Let’s remember that Hooker was very ecumenical, because he set it as his task to bring the Puritans into the fold; thus all his energies were dedicated to how to reinterpret Anglican doctrines to make them more palatable to the Puritans and other dissenters. He was kind of a liberal or at best a so-called broad churchman, which is why I rarely cite him (that plus his English is nearly unreadable).

    Anyway there were plenty of other divines who sided with the BCP by saying that Absolution is effectual. Anthony Sparrow, the Rationale upon Common Prayer:

    And this Absolution is an Act of Authority, by virtue of a Power and Commandment of God to his Ministers, as it is in the Preface of this Absolution. And as we read S. Iohn 20. Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted. And if our Confession be serious and hearty, this Absolution is effectual, as if God did pronounce it from Heaven ... When therefore the Priest absolves, God absolves, if we be truly penitent.

    As the LaudablePractice blog helpfully points out, Sparrow even expressly asserts that the 3 forms of absolution are equivalent, lest someone quibbles:

    There be three several forms of Absolution in the Service. The first is that which is used at Morning Prayer...

    The second is used at the Visitation of the Sick...

    The Third is at the Communion...

    All these several Forms, in sense and virtue are the same.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2020
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  17. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    This is my specific reason for giving you a like. It is good and godly Anglican reasoning.

    Nevertheless I shall continue as a lay minister to stick to absolving or blessing our congregation, (thus including myself), in general terms rather than personal terms, substituting 'we' and 'our' instead of 'you' and 'your', as is required of me. I still think ordination confers something special.
    .
     
  18. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Well, my point was that you had said:
    You supported the proposition that repentance alone is not enough with examples that exclusively involve harm to another person (creating a 'rupture'). But plenty of sins don't involve harm to another person, so the examples don't serve as evidence that "repentance alone is not enough to receive pardon". In other words, I would have expected you to present evidence that priestly absolution is the thing needed to make it "enough." Because, you see, I'm still thinking that God absolves me of sin no later than the moment I repent, and if the priest never pronounced absolution I wouldn't be missing anything (seeing as how I am so convinced of God's will to forgive me, I don't need to be reminded by the priest). Does that make the pronouncement 'ineffectual' (at least to me, personally, since it is a redundancy)?
     
  19. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    I wouldn't say so. Just puts you and God ahead of the priest in getting there.
    .
     
  20. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I don't think you realized my point, namely that there's a curious detail about sin: it is always an affront against God. When you deal with another person, there are at least three parties involved: you, them, and God. God is present in every relationship of human beings.

    So when we are doing something sinful against a person, and suppose that they didn't realize it or didn't notice it, it remains that we still offended God by it. Our holiness and sanctification took a major hit. There was a tear, a rupture.

    But notice that even without another person, if the sin involved you alone, there is still an aggrieved party, namely God. God is present in every relationship of human beings.

    The only way to resume our journey of holiness is to mend the rupture with the aggrieved party; which is God in every case.
     
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