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Common Ground: CCC 1846-1876

by PastorWilliams on October 18th, 2017





As the Catechism now approaches the greatest problem facing mankind, it defines sin as “an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity” (paragraph 1849).

The key word in the definition that divides Roman Catholics and Lutherans is the word “wounds.” For the Roman Catholic, the idea persists that sin causes man to limp along in life. It is an impediment to communion with God and neighbor. It is an obstacle to be overcome. However, the Bible treats sin in a completely different way. The Bible doesn’t refer to sin as a wound. “But you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Sin doesn’t simply wound and impede man’s communion with God. Sin destroys it by killing the sinner’s soul.

The Catechism teaches sin’s wound so that it can continue to bring about works righteousness in the Christian life. The Catechism also says, “God created us without us; but He did not will to save us without us” (paragraph 1847, quoting Augustine Sermo 169:11, 13). There are, unfortunately, many gems like this among St. Augustine’s writings. However, one cannot be sure if he wasn’t quoting Pelagius from this simple quotation in the Catechism. It is difficult to understand rationally how the Roman teachers throughout the centuries have interpreted Augustine to be in favor of works righteousness when he devoted much of his life to debunking these very same teachings in Pelagius. However, the Roman Church has made the two opposites stand side-by-side because the Pope and the Councils have said so. And no one can question the Pope or the Councils. Look what happened to Luther when he did.

When it comes to the distinction between sins, there is another great divide between Lutherans and Catholics. Lutherans distinguish between original sin and actual sins. Roman Catholics distinguish between mortal and venial sins. Lutherans, because of the Biblical understanding of sin as causing death, believe that all sins are mortal. That dying with any unrepentant sin faces the possibility of Hell’s fires. Roman Catholics only label a few sins to be mortal and thereby damnable.

This is only rational because our human minds see that some sins are worse than others. However, God doesn’t work with this logic. The Catechism defines mortal sin to require three criteria: the gravity of the sin (does it directly break one of the Ten Commandments), full knowledge and complete consent of the action’s sinfulness (paragraphs 1857-1860). If one of these three criteria is not met, the sin is venial and can be taken care of with satisfactions or time in Purgatory. The provision is also made for “unintentional ignorance” (paragraph 1860), where one commits a sin that would be considered a grave offense but was done accidentally or without full understanding of the action.

Man’s main issue with sin is his desire to undersell and minimize it. However, God magnifies sin by saying that all sins are equal. Whether it’s the whitest of lies or mass murder, it is all the same in God’s eyes. All are equally damnable. All need to be repented of.

From → Common Ground

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