Justification and Post Baptismal Sins … Research Paper
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Confession and penance have been rooted in Church doctrine since the Didache, which states, "In the congregation thou shalt confess thy transgressions, and thou shalt not betake thyself to prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life."[footnoteRef:1] In fact, prior to the Didache, the epistle of Pope Saint Clement to the Corinthians reads, "The Lord, brethren, stands in need of nothing; and He desires nothing of any one, except that confession be made to Him."[footnoteRef:2] The Shepherd of Hermas likewise continues to espouse the virtue of confession as being integral to faith. Confession is a requisite response to sin, especially among the baptized. "…but the sad man is always committing sin…by grieving the Holy Spirit he doeth lawlessness, in that he doth not intercede with neither confess unto God."[footnoteRef:3] The act of confession is a necessary act of faith restoring one's soul to the pre-baptismal state, and yet there is also an underlying theological foundation to confession. Confession becomes the vehicle through which the Holy Spirit can manifest grace and intercession. In Parable 2 of the Shepherd of Hermas, confession becomes synonymous with divine intercession, which "hath great power with God."[footnoteRef:4] [1: Didache 4:14] [2: Pope Saint Clement. "Epistle to the Corinthians," p. 52 Retrieved online: http://www.ewtn.com/library/patristc/anf1-1.htm] [3: Shepherd of Hermas. The Shepherd of Hermas. Trans. J.B. Lightfoot. 3:2. Retrieved online: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/shepherd-lightfoot.html] [4: Shepherd of Hermas. The Shepherd of Hermas. Trans. J.B. Lightfoot. 1:5. Retrieved online: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/shepherd-lightfoot.html]
The Shepherd of Hermas further points out that God forgives via the act of confession: "God and our Lord, Who ruleth over all things and hath the authority over all His creation, beareth no grudge against them that confess their sins." [footnoteRef:5] Through confession, one's sins are absolved, absorbed, and pardoned absolutely. Confession is therefore the means by which to absolve sins, and restore the soul. The Shepherd of Hermas posits the efficacy of confession is so great as to be the only means by which absolution is possible; only through God's grace via the bilateral state of confession may the sin be transmuted. There are two reasons why confession possesses metaphysical power. One reason is that the sinner provides genuine penance, proving repentance, in the act of confession. This aspect of confession is in the direction of the human being confessing sins to God. The second reason is that forgiveness is God's response, in the direction of the Holy Spirit offering absolution in Grace. However, it is important to note that the Shepherd of Hermas established early the need for earnest penance; that repeatedly sinning and repeatedly confessing proves one's insincerity.[footnoteRef:6] Tertullian would later reinforce the notion that God's clemency is far from liberal or unlimited. Rather, Tertullian suggests that for the gravest sins, a person only has one chance to confess and receive absolution; God does not forgive willful sin ad infinitum. In the 16th century, Arminius would reaffirm the importance of refraining from willful behaviors. The state of forgiveness is a state of grace, a gift of God that can readily be lost through impertinent behavior. [5: Shepherd of Hermas. The Shepherd of Hermas. Trans. J.B. Lightfoot. 23:4. Retrieved online: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/shepherd-lightfoot.html] [6: Shepherd of Hermas. The Shepherd of Hermas. Trans. J.B. Lightfoot. 4.3.1-6. Retrieved online: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/shepherd-lightfoot.html]
The Shepherd of Hermas goes further in his analysis of the function of confession, to note that confession is the antithesis of denying God; that to not confess is essentially to deny God and therefore commit the gravest sin of all: "These things I say unto you that waver as touching denial and confession. Confess that ye have the Lord, lest denying Him ye be delivered into prison."[footnoteRef:7] The Shepherd of Hermas echoes the Gospel of Luke, as Cyprian would later point out in his exegesis of Luke 12:8: "Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven: but he that denies me, him will I also deny."[footnoteRef:8] Thus, confession becomes the cornerstone of personal salvation in Catholic doctrine by the second century. The only act more important is Baptism. Baptism is the foundation stone, and penance through confession is the ongoing maintenance or "recovery of one that was lost."[footnoteRef:9]. [7: Shepherd of Hermas. The Shepherd of Hermas. Trans. J.B. Lightfoot. 27:7. Retrieved online: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/shepherd-lightfoot.html] [8: Cyprian of Carthage. On the Lapsed (De Lapsis), 20.] [9: Tertullian. De paenitentia, 4:32. Retrieved online: http://www.tertullian.org/latin/de_paenitentia.htm]
The function of penance becomes more pronounced and sophisticated with Tertullian's astute analysis in De paenitentia. Tertuillian takes repentance further, even opting to distance the theological dimension of repentance from the act of confession. For repentance for Tertullian is God's will and God's prerogative; absolution is not the right of the human being. A person is not entitled to grace or forgiveness; the person earns it through earnest penance. Furthermore, and most importantly, penance comes from faith. Faith is in fact the midwife of penance. "Since the urge to repentance had proceeded from faith, it was through repentance justified by faith."[footnoteRef:10] God prefers repentance because it affirms faith. Cyprian continues the trend of promoting confession as a cornerstone of faith. "I entreat you, beloved brethren, that each one should confess his own sin, while he who has sinned is still in this world, while his confession may be received."[footnoteRef:11] [10: Tertullian. De paenitentia, 4:18. Retrieved online: http://www.tertullian.org/latin/de_paenitentia.htm] [11: Cyprian of Carthage. On the Lapsed (De Lapsis), 29.]
At the same time, Cyprian seemed to prefer a policy of "deferment of reconciliation for the lapsed," especially regarding the theological necessity of penance prior to communion.[footnoteRef:12] Rooted in the concept of original sin, which is the logical basis for baptism immediately after birth, is also the concept of pre-communion confession. Penance has come to mean precisely that: the "process by which a person restores communion with God."[footnoteRef:13] [12: Bevenot, Maurice. "The Sacrifice of Penance and St. Cyprian's De Lapsis," p. 182, Retrieved online: http://cdn.theologicalstudies.net/16/16.2/16.2.1.pdf] [13: Rapp, Claudia. "Spiritual Guarantors at Penance, Baptism, and Ordination in the Late Antique East." In A New History of Penance. Ed. Abigail Firey. Brill, 2008, p. 121.]
Likewise, Cyprian stresses the importance of humility as an ongoing psychological preparation for salvation. Tangible or overt sin is not a prerequisite for confession, for the natural state of a person is sinful. Even those who are considered saintly shall confess, thus affirming their honesty and their understanding of their sinful nature. "Although possessed of a good conscience, and having often deserved well of the Lord by obedience of faith and fear, yet they did not cease from maintaining their humility, and from making atonement to the Lord, even amid the glorious martyrdoms of their virtues."[footnoteRef:14] [14: Cyprian of Carthage. On the Lapsed (De Lapsis), p. 31]
Until Origen, the process of confession entailed one's personal repentance without an intermediary. This makes sense especially given Cyprian's view that all beings are naturally lapsed. As Church hierarchy and doctrine became entrenched, priests became intermediaries to assist with and encourage regular acts of confession in order to promote the sustenance of faith within their communities. Origen went so far as to suggest that priests have approached a state of purity sufficient to receive confessions, and thus directly aid in the process of absolution and reconciliation through what Rapp calls "absorption."[footnoteRef:15] The state of one's soul after post-baptismal sin depended directly on the ability to confess, truly repent, and to do so not privately but publically with a priest or bishop as witness. Augustine's Confessions represents a form of public confession that underscores the relationship between original sin and the need for continual humility. No Christian doctrine on the centrality of confession strays far from scripture, upon which the writings of Augustine were based. [15: Rapp, Claudia. "Spiritual Guarantors at Penance, Baptism, and Ordination in the Late Antique East." In A New History of Penance. Ed. Abigail Firey. Brill, 2008, p. 124.]
Subsequent to Augustine and during the medieval flourishing of the Church, clergy becomes the intercessor between the sinner and God. Clergy is the advocate of the penitent. As such, the clergy also affirms the individual's standing in the Church. This view of public penance evolved through Augustine's input to form the underpinnings central to both Eastern and Western thought on confession and post-baptismal sin. The Council of Trent later solidified the principle of penance as a sacrament, in tandem with baptism. Baptism is the "gate" though which the soul enters the Church as a soul prepared for salvation; confession is for those who "afterward have defiled themselves by some crime."[footnoteRef:16] Further differentiating baptism from confession, the Council of Trent affirms, "this sacrament of penance is for those who have fallen after baptism necessary for salvation."[footnoteRef:17] With the Council of Trent, prior exegetical attempts to elucidate the role of penance in Christian practice and theology become codified into dogma. In order for confession and penance to restore the soul to God, the soul first must be restored by and to the Church.[footnoteRef:18] Excommunication became a symbol of the Church's unwillingness… [END OF PREVIEW]
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