02 Jul 2018

Two Possible Functions of Confession

Religious 13 Comments

(This is a Religious post but I was traveling yesterday and won’t be doing anything secular today so…)

I was talking with a Catholic friend and the topic of the sacrament of Confession (or Penance) came up. I said that besides the theological arguments for and against, one could argue that the act of confessing your sins out loud to somebody could provide psychological relief, let you “forgive yourself,” and get on with your life. My friend said something like, “Yeah and just knowing that you would have to admit what you did to somebody might keep you in line.”

I chuckled and pointed out that he and I had given entirely different justifications for the activity, which (perhaps not coincidentally) related to our doctrinal views. As someone who (now, after years of study and transformation) endorses salvation through faith alone (sola fide), the way I handle the obvious, “So if a serial killer confesses on his death bed?!”-type objections is to say that once you have been freed from the slavery of sin, you have no desire to inflict pain on others except if you are harboring feelings of insecurity, shame, guilt, etc. One of the easiest tricks the devil can play is to convince you that you’re worthless, God doesn’t actually love you, etc., and that drives you to seek comfort in alcohol, strip clubs, and so forth.

13 Responses to “Two Possible Functions of Confession”

  1. Khodge says:

    Catholics teach that God has given us sacraments as a source of grace. Catholics who go to frequent confession will tell you that they repeat the same sins confession after confession. That is actually a good thing because we are creatures of habit constantly struggling with the same weakness. (You do NOT want a new and exciting different confession every time.)

    In my own case, I receive immediate graces necessary to avoid my sins, as long as I do not put confession off too long.I could easily find analogies in pop psychology (or even in the business world) but an acceptance of God’s grace through channels that He has provided is adequate for my faith.

  2. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    “One of the easiest tricks the devil can play is to convince you that you’re worthless, God doesn’t actually love you, etc.” Bob, how exactly do Christians believe the Devil interacts with humans? Does he plant thoughts in their heads, or what?

  3. Silas Barta says:

    >One of the easiest tricks the devil can play is to convince you that you’re worthless, God doesn’t actually love you, etc.,

    Not as impressive as convincing you of his non-existence though!

  4. Harold says:

    I agree more or less with the deathbed confession thing, as long as there is a requirement for the contrition to be genuine. If I commit sins with the intention of confessing them and have no intention to stop committing these sins, am I forgiven whatever the priest says?

    I think that a lot f Catholics believe they are forgiven if they go through the motions, whether there is genuine contrition and desire to stop sinning. My questions are, am I right in thinking that, and am I right thinking that going through the motions is not sufficient?

  5. Mark says:

    What is the point of confession? Both Catholics with their confession booths and Protestants with 1 John 1:9, claim confession is for forgiveness of sins. Both of those are a terrible understanding of confession and a faulty understanding of what Jesus’ work on the cross accomplished. To better understand confession, take seven minutes and watch this explanation.


    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      Mark, out of curiosity what denomination of Christianity do you belong to, since you’re criticizing both Catholics and Protestants?

      • Mark says:

        I’m a non-denominational Protestant. Catholic theology is not Christian, and on this subject, by and large Protestants don’t understand the grace message and have built a doctrine on getting forgiven based on one verse when there are tons of verses that show everyone was forgiven at the cross. Spend some time at basicgospel.net if you’d like a more complete explanation.

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