Blog 107: 3.4.16 - 3.4.20

Stephen Nichols

June 2 3.4.16-20 (1.641-647)

Throughout this chapter, Calvin keeps bumping into the "power of the keys" in the medieval practice of forgiveness and, as we're moving into in these chapters, satisfaction for sin.Hios fundamental point is that the keys are connected to the Holy Spirit (3.4.20).  Without the Spirit, those "priestlings," who profess to have the keys, merely "babble."  But that's not the worst of it. 

Calvin's pastoral concerns here cannot be missed.  Those who confess to the priest, Calvin argues, are then "emboldened throughout the year to sin . . . they never sigh unto God, they never return to their senses, but heap up sins upon sins until they vomit all of them up at once" (3.4.19).  Then the cycle starts all over again at the next confession. 

This malpractice creates a license that results in self-destruction.  At the end of the 95 Theses, Luther says away with the false prophets who say "Peace, peace," when there is no peace. 

I think what Calvin is dealing with here is not restricted to the medieval abuses of the confessional.  Sadly, these false prophets are still out there.