Monday, December 15, 2014

Indulgences: What they are and arent

I was looking at some sort of article describing military rosaries.  Apparently there's a resurgence in men wanting rosaries that look more manly and less like jewelry.  The person wrote that he designed a military rosary replica, using a Pardon Crucifix because it has indulgences associated with it.  Yes, it did until it was left off the Manuel for Indulgences from the 1980s.  Now any sacramental used in a devote way in order to obtain an indulgence is associated with indulgences.  Sorry that was a rather wordy way of saying if you decide to pray the rosary while using your blessed rosary you could gain an indulgence.

But what are indulgences?

Basically they are penances which remove punishments from sin.  God is the God of justice.  If you sin, you will end incur a punishment that you receive in this life or during purgatory.  You can accept your punishment by gaining an indulgence. 

Indulgences do not mean you have been forgiven for sin.

Let me repeat that:  the only way you can be forgiven for sins is to ask for God's forgiveness and go to confession.  An indulgence has nothing to do with the sin being removed.  An indulgence only remits the punishment part. 

I guess an illustration is in order:  Say you are a small child.  You see your brother with a toy that you want.  You slap your brother and take the toy (sin).  Your mother (the Holy Church) tells you that you've done something wrong.  Woops!  You ask to be forgiven, and you are.  So you go back to skipping around?  Uh, no.  There's usually a punishment involved like returning the toy and time out.  You are still forgiven, but still incur punishment. 

If you want to know what to do to gain an indulgence, here's a link with more details.  

A number of Protestant churches believe once you are forgiven that's it.  You get off scott free. 

Let's look at what CARM says and break down where they go wrong. 

Granting an indulgence of a certain number of days or years means that is how many days or years is removed from the time of punishment a person must undergo in purgatory.

In the past the Church used "days" for partial indulgences.  No one was sure how many exactly were remitted.  This was a best guess estimate in ideal circumstances which confused believers.  So in the 1980s they removed the "days" association.  CARMs a little behind the times on this update.

On the inside of the cover of the New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism published in 1969 there is a prayer....

To further illustrate how behind the times the CARM article is they use an example from the 1960s.  Again we no longer associate days or years to saying certain prayers for partial indulgences.  

It is ridiculous to think that reading doctrine and saying a prayer removes time of punishment in the Catholic-invented place called purgatory.  It is nothing more than a means to control the Catholics and keep them dependent on "The Mother Church."

Purgatory is in the Bible so are prayers for those in purgatory.  Jesus makes numerous allusions to purgatory such as being purified by fire and needing to come dressed appropriately to partake of the wedding feast.  See Matt 12:32 and 1 Cor 3:11-15. Also you don't have to use your indulgences on yourself.  They can be applied to those in purgatory.  My son, who is four and thus is usually in a better state of grace then myself, frequently lights a candle and says the Jesus prayer to remit time in purgatory for his Great-Grandfather.  

I'm not sure how the use of purgatory and indulgences keeps one dependent on the Church either.  Indulgences are not mandatory.  You can use them or simply spend time in purgatory being purified.  It's a choice.

In short, this treasury of the church of Rome is a means by which it keeps its people dependent upon its sacramental, ecclesiastical system.  Without participation in Roman Catholic Sacraments, future punishment will be far more extensive. 
Actually it's Christ who brought the sacraments as a way to receive His Graces just as He created the Church to administer them.  I would not say it's the only way because in the Old Testament many people receive Grace without accessing the Sacraments.  However the sacraments are the most available way. 

As for future punishments being more extensive, I have to laugh at that one.  Punishments are incurred from personal sins.  Just like the severity of sin varies with individuals so too do the punishments.  You can't very well expect a person who led a horrifically sinful life versus one who did not based on their own understanding to incur the same amount of debt.  And the Church discusses this extensively when discussing sin.  You can be saved outside the Church if you live in North Korea for example because God is a God of Mercy.

 The Roman Catholic Church keeps its people coming back to it, dependent upon it, needful for the dispensing of the treasury of merit that it has at its disposal.  Instead of the Roman Catholic being completely sanctified and justified in Christ, by the work of Christ on the cross, the very propitiation offered by the Lord in his sacrifice is usurped by the Roman Catholic Church.  The power and priesthood and mediatorship of Christ is replaced by that of the Roman Catholic Church, and it becomes the means by which the so-called people of God are relieved of their sin punishment. 

As I already explained one does not need to gain indulgences.  Actually the Church believes that Christ sanctifies and justifies completely through His work on the Cross.  St. Paul actually discusses how we can participate with Christ.  Gaining an indulgence is merely working off a punishment.  While the Bible discusses forgiveness being freely given and completely unearned, it does not say that punishment is completely remitted.  As I've already said, there are many Biblical illusions to purgatory and the need for purification.  I've also said that it was Christ who established the Church and not some sort of metaphorical church but a real Church of Believers.  So far most of the article is pot-shots at the Church's authority.  It does not actually show Biblically or otherwise that God not punish or purifiy.  

This is a blasphemous claim of Rome that detracts from the power and glory and sufficiency of the cross.  All Roman Catholics should stop looking to the church as its means of salvation and/or as a means of deliverance from punishment.  Instead, the Roman Catholic should look to Christ alone through faith alone for the forgiveness of his/her sins.
Read Col. 1:24.  If any Roman Catholic believes that the Church is the means of salvation and means of deliverance from punishment, they've got problems.  All Catholics believe that Christ saved us and Christ delivers us.  The Church has been given its authority from Christ to "bind and loose."  It does not hold this authority on its own. 

The obvious problem with indulgences is that they negate the all-sufficiency of the cross. It was Jesus who took our punishment.  He took our place, so that we do not have to suffer any punishment for our sins so that we might be made right with God. We are not saying that sins do not have consequences and punishments.  We are saying that being made right with God is not by our suffering but by Christ's.
"Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.  6 All of us like sheep have gone astray.  Each of us has turned to his own way.  But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him." (Isaiah 53:4-6).
There is a common Protestant theory that Christ's sufficiency on the Cross did away with everything.  What the Cross did was 1)forgive sin and 2) remove eternal punishment ie hell.  You still have to do something to receive forgiveness and remove eternal punishments.  Catholics believe in confession and baptism.  Protestants have a variety of different techniques like altar calls, believer's prayer, etc depending on the flavor and variety of denomination.  What one forgets is about temporal punishments (Heb 12:5).  The Bible discusses that God forgave Adam and Eve, but they were still cast out of Eden.  The Israelites ended up going to the Promise land but had to wander the desert for 40 days.  Temporal punishments were not removed.  Please see above for references to purification by fire.

Expiation is "a term associated with the removal, cleansing, or forgiveness of sin."1 But how does a person expiate or cleanse himself of his own sins?  He doesn't.  If there were a means by which we could cleanse ourselves on our own sins, then God would have provided that.
This whole paragraph doesn't make any sense.  First he says that a person can't cleanse himself of sin and then he says that if God wanted that to happen, God would have provided a way.  First of all, God cleans us of sin.  We can't do that.  An indulgence isn't about the remission of sin.  It's about the remission of temporary punishments.  He's conflating two things and seems to be doing so for half the article.  Secondly God does not force us to accept his Grace.  There are some Protestant denominations who all but say that the elect are forced into salvation, but Catholics believe in free will. In other words, you have to cooperate with God in order to receive salvation.  God provides methods in which we can cooperate.  
Nevertheless, out of the teaching of purgatory and temporal punishment comes the teaching of indulgences--a means by which punishment for sin is reduced through a person's own sufferings.  How horrible is this teaching since it reduces the power and glory of the cross and says we can expiate our own sins instead of trusting in Christ alone for this.  The Roman Catholic Church needs to recant its false teaching and urge its people to look to Christ alone and not to its mediatorship, its priesthood, its treasury of merit, its sacraments, or its rules and regulations for the salvation of souls.
The indulgences practice is not a biblical teaching.
I'm not sure why this person thinks an indulgence is personal suffering.  While there is redemptive suffering, gaining an indulgence isn't met through redemptive suffering.  An indulgence involves confession, reception of communion, and doing some pious act such as praying the rosary in a group or reading the Bible for half an hour.  I've yet to hear a Protestant refer to such as as suffering.  And again he is conflating expiating sins with remitting of punishment.  How can one have a fruitful dialogue if one doesn't make a good argument and instead puts all sort of inflammatory and wrong information on a web page?  The practices of indulgences is in the Bible just not in the Protestant version.  The terms purgatory and indulgence aren't used in the Bible, but neither is the term Trinity.

I hope this helps clarify and demystify indulgences.  If you got a question, please post it in the combox.

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