“So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39)
Interestingly, in the apocryphal Acts of Pilate 5:1, Nicodemus make a similar plea to Pontius Pilate on Jesus’ behalf: “Let him alone and do not contrive any evil against him: if the signs he performs are of God, they will stand; but if they are of men, they will come to nothing.” We know that Nicodemus was a believer, and he is making a practical suggestion – giving Pilate an “out” from putting Jesus to death.
On a rather regular basis, I am asked via email about the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) and forgiveness of sins. The questions that I am thinking of are mostly from folks who are firmly entrenched in their Christian faith in the Protestant or Reformed tradition. But increasingly these days, inquiries also come from Catholics. Sometimes they are not really questions at all. They are invitations for me to debate them as they wish to free me from the errors of my Catholic beliefs or free the Catholic from the need to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The question is always some variation of “how can priests forgive sins” when – and here are the variations in their logic – (a) there is no such thing as priest, there is only Jesus as High Priest, (b) only God can forgive sins, (c) people only have one mediator, jesus Christ, and therefore one need only ask Jesus for forgiveness, (d) Scripture never talks about confessing sins to a priest, ….and I think that covers the common debate topics. Continue reading