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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Reviving Private Confession

There's a neat article in the Wall Street Journal about the renewed emphasis on Confession in both Roman Catholic and non-Roman circles. Here it is.

Sometimes when you talk about going to private confession, otherwise conservative Lutherans look at you like you've grown a second nose on your face. It's like they've never heard of such a thing in the Lutheran church, except perhaps in the context of criticizing the Church of Rome.

To a large extent, this confusion arises because of a mistaken view of what private confession is for. It's not a time for God, your pastor, or the church to condemn you. Quite the opposite. It's a time and a means to be set free from condemnation.

The fact is that this is something Martin Luther addresses in the Small Catechism. He says:

"...we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself...."

One of our seminary professors, Rev. John Pless, has this reminder in an excellent article on the topic. Note the very clear instruction from Martin Luther:

Our practice of confession/absolution must grow out of Evangelical-Lutheran theology. "It is taught among us that private absolution should be retained and not allowed to fall into disuse" says Article XI of the Augsburg Confession. Martin Luther was no less adamant in the Large Catechism: "If you are a Christian, you should be glad to run more than a hundred miles for confession, not under compulsion but rather coming and compelling us to offer it...Therefore, when I urge you to go to confession, I am simply urging you to be a Christian" (LC: "A Brief Exhortation to Confession, 30,32, Tappert).

Prof. Pless's excellent article entitled Your Pastor is Not Your Therapist is located here.

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