>It breaks my heart to report that The New York Times is running a story today about the return of indulgences. Yes, that’s right, indulgences. It was the selling and abuses of indulgences that sparked Martin Lutherto nail his “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” or 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg in 1517, which is widely regarded as the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.
According to the article, the indulgence is one of the traditions that was decoupled from mainstream Catholic practice in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council that has been revived by Pope Benedict XVI. The articles describes indulgences:
According to church teaching, even after sinners are absolved in the confessional and say their Our Fathers or Hail Marys as penance, they still face punishment after death, in Purgatory, before they can enter heaven. In exchange for certain prayers, devotions or pilgrimages in special years, a Catholic can receive an indulgence, which reduces or erases that punishment instantly, with no formal ceremony or sacrament.
There are partial indulgences, which reduce purgatorial time by a certain number of days or years, and plenary indulgences, which eliminate all of it, until another sin is committed. You can get one for yourself, or for someone who is dead. You cannot buy one — the church outlawed the sale of indulgences in 1567 — but charitable contributions, combined with other acts, can help you earn one. There is a limit of one plenary indulgence per sinner per day. [emphasis mine]
Although we often tend to think of these issues in terms of theological debate. We must remember that the theological concern is pastoral in nature. This system of penance is directly opposed to the gospel of redemption accomplished and applied by Jesus Christ.
The purpose here is not to point out every error, but in the quote above, notice the words in italics–until another sin is committed. The indulgence accomplishes the exact opposite of what it promises. Its design is to extend hope to the one who earns it–but only until the next sin is committed. It doesn’t secure anything! Where is the hope in that?
All that is accomplished by the indulgence is the reminder of the ongoing dilemma of sin! All the indulgence can accomplish is to reveal that it is not the answer. Worse yet, rather than providing hope, it obscures and robs hope.
This revival of indulgences is a reminder that there is still a need for the gospel of the Protestant Reformation. So keep on protesting and seeking to be reformed according to scripture–and pray for those languishing in bondage to the false gospel of indulgences.
[HT: Scott Clark]