Tuesday, September 25, 2007

God and the Priest: Who's Doing the Forgiving?

Recently, "kobe" from the HCR forum asked a question about the meaning of Jn 20:23, where Jesus gives the apostles the power to forgive sins. Of course, Protestants are always confused by this verse b/c it has the potential to drastically change their ideas about the role of man in the work of God. They simply have no conception of anyone being responsible for forgiveness than God Himself. Calvinists in particular are often monergistic and so hesitate to attribute anything to man whatsoever.

Anyway, after I posted this information on Jn 20:23, I received a rebuttal from "kobe." What follows is his rebuttal and then my response to it.

Pax Christi,
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Thanks for the reply phat, but to take that Scripture literal at face value goes against LOADS of other Scripture, mostly all in the NT about only the blood of the innocent Lamb being able to wash away sins, as well as repenting to God. This is THE ONLY Scripture I've ever seen that implies people can forgive or withhold forgiveness of others' sins. I'm sure you'd love to know what "other Scripture" I'm referring to and would like to respond to it all, but I just don't have time for that now, nah mean? Thanks again, God bless you.
It seems that you have this impression of me that I'm someone who spends all day looking for debates to get into. I'm really not. I just defend my faith when it is called into question.

It also seems that you didn't read my post very carefully, b/c I said that it is God who does the forgiving, it is just that he does it through the priest. God is the first cause. The priest is the instrumental cause.

Do you deny that God uses us as his instruments? I hope not, b/c the Lord himself said about Paul, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel" (Acts 9:15). It's that type of thing that is going on when the forgiveness of sins is received through the Sacrament of Confession. In Acts, Paul is God's instrument for the carrying out of God's name. In Jn 20:23, the Apostles are God's instrument for the forgiveness of sins.

If you deny the possibility of being God's instrument, then you deny Acts 9:15. If you do not deny the possibility of being God's instrument, then there must be some way in which a human being can be involved, and yet the actions is still attributed to the Lord. Otherwise, God's words about Paul would make no sense, and neither would it make sense for Paul to say that Jesus is our Savior in one place (cf. Titus 2:13) and then say that he (Paul) himself saved people in another place (cf. Rom 11:13-14; 1 Cor 9:22). See what I mean?

It is b/c of the causality at work here that Catholics can affirm the role of the priest and still say that:
  • God is doing the forgiving,
  • We are turning to God for forgiveness,
  • The Blood of the Lamb is washing us clean (after all, it is the blood of the lamb that gives ALL the sacraments their efficacy).
As for your comment that Jn 20:23 is the only scripture that seems to say that God gave the apostles the power to forgive sin, what about the other Scripture passages that I provided in my last post?

Pax Christi,

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