Blog 109: 3.4.27 - 3.4.31

Stephen Nichols

Among the list of things I missed by not growing up Catholic would be the discussion of venial and mortal sins.  Alas, all lost on me.  But one thing I do remember hearing while growing up is that sin is sin, that the heart is desperately wicked, and that, well, sinners sin a lot.  Calvin puts it this way, "For not a day passes when the most righteous of men does not fall time and again."  No amount of time in the confessional will make amends.  


The categorizing of sin, venial or mortal, and the development of sophisticated schemes of "satisfaction," penance and absolution, merely serve to minimize sin and its heinousness by making it clinical, sterile, manageable--all of which sin is not.  Scripture, Calvin tells us brilliantly, gives us "a stout battering ram" to any such programme (3.4.30).  Sin requires a complete payment, total satisfaction.  And that satisfaction only comes through the sinless (venial and mortal sinlessness) life and atoning death of Christ.