Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Examining Indulgences In Light Of Scripture

        "The Church invites all its children to think over and weigh up in their minds as well as they can how the use of indulgences benefits their lives and all Christian society...Supported by these truths, holy Mother Church again recommends the practice of indulgences to the faithful. It has been very dear to Christian people for many centuries as well as in our own day. Experience proves this." (Indulgentarium Doctrina, 9, 11)

        "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin. Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead." (CCC, # 1471)

        Reconciliation with God takes place through the atonement of Jesus Christ itself. The remission of any punishments for sin cannot occur as a result of any good works done on our part. Our confidence in God having provided a way to restore our relationship with Him comes not from anything we can do to reduce the punishment for sin, but solely through Christ's redemptive work. Further, it makes no sense to say that the merits of Mary and the saints are applied to Christians when Scripture describes them as already having been fully reconciled to God through the atonement of Jesus:

        "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2)

        "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." (Romans 5:8-11)

        Our record before God in Christ is as a clean slate. The wall of hostility that existed between man and God has been taken down because of Him. We who place our trust in Christ are legally acquitted from the penalty of sin. The Bible never speaks of believers undergoing punishments for sins that God has forgiven, unless we are referring to earthly consequences for unbecoming behavior.  

        We cannot receive remission of temporal punishments for sin before God "under certain prescribed conditions" because Jesus Christ Himself has turned away His wrath at the cross. That has already been dealt with. In fact, the atonement of Christ was the way in which God could pardon sin while satisfying the requirements of divine justice:

        "whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins." (Romans 3:25)

       The idea of punishments for sin having yet to be meted out in the afterlife despite being forgiven by God does not accurately reflect our position before Him in Christ. He stands in our place before God to avert His righteous anger:

        "Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people." (Hebrews 2:17)

        There can be no expiation for sins done on our part because Jesus Christ Himself saves us to the uttermost. He finishes what He starts. We are not left to ourselves to deal with any aspect of sin or its penalty because Christ Himself brings about our salvation to its entirety:

        "...he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25)

        The idea of indulgences is rendered superfluous at best, since the author of Hebrews describes the work of Christ as making perfect forever those who have been sanctified:

        "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." (Hebrews 10:14)


Justin Horn said...

Haven't indulgences been done away with? Catholics don't still practice this right?

Jesse Albrecht said...

As the article itself shows, the Roman Catholic Church has not done away with indulgences.