03 August 2011

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We do urge a careful distinction between venial and mortal sins in our churches. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, *On the Church* p. 80.


James said...

Pastor Weedon,

What does this mean? I've always thought mortal and venial sin was a Roman Catholic dogma. How is this interpreted for Lutherans?


William Weedon said...

No, it was a distinction retained but Lutherans, but with a distinctly Lutheran twist. I'll let Chemnitz do the explaining:

Original sin, which still dwells in the flesh of the reborn, is not idle, but is the restless law of sin in our members, enticing, tempting, driving to sin with various suggestions and evil lusts. Ja 1:14; Ro 7:8; Ga 5:17. Since, then, one who is reborn does not delight in this kind of carnal lusts, and is neither led by them nor follows them, but earnestly represses and crucifies them as sins and mortifies them through the Spirit, lest they rule or be performed (Ro 6:12, 7:15, 8:13; Gl. 5:24), this very thing is a sure sign of true and earnest repentance. And when the reborn pray that God would not impute these weaknesses to them, but forgive them for the sake of Christ, and at the same time believe and trust that Christ, as the true propitiation, would, in the sight of God, cover this their uncleanness with His innocence and obedience (Ro 4:7; Ps 32:1; 1 John 1:7; 2:1-2), this also is a sure sign of true and justifying faith. And where true faith, in earnest repentance, apprehends Christ in the Gospel, and relies on Him and is supported by Him, there is no condemnation, but pure grace of God, forgiveness of sins, and eternal salvation (Rom 8:1:; 1 John 1:9; Ps 32:2). In this way there are and occur venial sins in the reborn, for which they are not condemned, because, as St. Augustine says, they live under grace.

But what if we indulge and delight in evil lusts and seek occasions to give them free reign? Then they become mortal sins (Rom 8:13; Ja 1:15), because there surely is no room for true repentance and faith where the lusts of the flesh are served and given reign, so that they break out into action. It is the nature and particular character of true faith that tit does not seek how to commit, continue, and heap up sins freely, but rather hungers and thirsts after the righteousness that releases and frees from sins. Therefore, where there is no true repentance, the Holy Spirit pronounces a very solemn sentence. Jer. 5:3,9; Rom 2:5,9; Luke 13:3; Rv. 2:5. And where there is no true faith, there is neither Christ, nor the Holy Spirit, nor the grace of God, nor forgiveness of sins, nor any salvation. Therefore what? Doubtless the wrath of God, death, and eternal condemnation, unless the fallen are turned to God again. Cl. 3:6; Rom 8:13. As a result of this, therefore, and for this reason mortal sins occur in the reborn, namely when repentance, faith, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are driven out and lost.

Enchiridion, 208, 209

William Weedon said...

Said briefly, then, venial sins are those sinful impulses we fight against by the Spirit's power that still arise within us, and which have no power to condemn those who are in Christ.

Mortal sins are any of the impulses to which we give in and allow to rule over our lives - rather than fighting them by the Spirit's power.

James said...

Thank you Pastor Weedon. I have a good RC friend and we talk religion/theology frequently. When he spoke of venial and mortal sins, I thought there was some logic there. I will have to tell him that Lutherans retained the concept - albeit the detailed interpretation is likely different. (We are amateur theologians. But it does force us to look things up and learn what we believe. And that's good.)