Indulgences are a major obstacle to Christian unity …

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This article provoked some sad thoughts:

Pope says Catholics can receive plenary indulgence for Guadalupe devotion

One of the ideas which provoked the Reformation, and which the Reformers did away with as an unbiblical innovation, was that of indulgences:

Not just the sale of indulgences (Tetzel: “As soon as the gold in the casket rings
The rescued soul to heaven springs”) but the notion that by doing certain good works one could obtain remission of temporal punishments for sin.

According to the New Testament to wages or punishment for sin is deathFor the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 ESV); in addition to this punishment the Bible also talks about earthly consequences of sin (which cannot be remitted by an indulgence), but it does not distinguish between temporal and eternal punishment for sin. When God forgives sin (which he does, based on Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, rather than based on our good works) he also forgives the penalty for sin, and we don’t need an indulgence.

The fact that, while the Roman Catholic Church has prohibited the sale of indulgences, it still holds fast to the concept of indulgences itself is, from a classical reformed perspective, one of the major obstacles for ecumenism. The forgiveness and salvation provided by Christ is not at the disposal of men. It is true that in the practice of confession, based on John 20:21-23Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”, a human minister pronounces and proclaims God’s forgiveness, but he does so based on the finished work of Christ, not based on arbitrary conditions set by the church, as described in this article.

I have many dear brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church—we are united in our faith in Jesus, in His death and resurrection, and in his coming again in glory, and I am involved in the Round Table, an initiative here in Austria where we work for the reconciliation of Christians and churches, but for the unity of the church this is, to me, an unsurmountable obstacle.

 

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