Blog 105: 3.4.4 - 3.4.9

Sean Lucas

The second part of repentance for medieval theologians was confession. Calvin starts by dismantling the Roman practice of "auricular confession," that is, the practice of annual confession of one's sins to his or her priest. Calvin demonstrates that the support for such practice is slender at best, resting on allegorical and plain shoddy exegesis of key Bible texts (3.4.4-6). He also points out that the practice has only been established from 1215, was not practiced in some parts of the Eastern church, and not enjoined by Chrysostom (3.4.7-8).

Again, Calvin's concern here is pastoral: "we maintain that Christ was not the author of this law which compels men to list their sins...and so this tyranny was at length introduced when, after piety and doctrine were extinguished, mere ghosts of pastors had taken all license, without distinction, upon themselves" (3.4.7). Because pastors were not familiar with the biblical doctrine of repentance, they developed external activities that bound consciences and damaged souls.

While there might be benefit in mutual confession of sins (3.4.6), biblical confession was straight-forward: "Since it is the Lord who forgives, forgets and wipes out sins, let us confess our sins to him in order to obtain pardon" (3.4.9). The only way we will confess our sins to God--meaningfully, deeply, really--is when we believe that the Lord is the faithful one who calls sinners to himself to find peace, comfort, and healing. "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts before him; God is a refuge for us!" (Psalm 62:8).