10 February 2014

On Temporal Consequences

What is the Church's attitude toward the temporal consequences of sin? First, we admit that they are there and that they are not remitted by the keys. Most crassly, the thief on the cross had his sins eternally forgiven, but he also temporally died as a thief nailed to a cross—his temporal punishment was not remitted.

And yet, having said so much, we've not yet thought with the mind of the Church. For when we confess our sins in the Divine Service, we do not exempt OURSELVES from being utterly worthy of temporal punishments for our sins, and yet we dare to ask forgiveness for ourselves and relief even from temporal consequences.

Further, in the great Litany we ask for more. We ask for one another's relief from the temporal consequences of sin. Consider the way the Church teaches us to conclude our prayers following the great Litany:

L: O Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
C: Do not reward us according to our iniquities.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, You desire not the death of a sinner, but rather tha we turn from our evil ways and live. Graciously spare us those punishments which we by our sins have deserved, and grant us always to serve You in holiness and pureness of living; through Jesus, Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
C: Amen.


L: Call on Me in the day of trouble.
C: I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.
L: Spare us, O Lord, and mercifully forgive us our sins. Though by our continual transgressions we have merited Your chastisements, be gracious to us. Grant that all these punishments which we have deserved may not come upon us, but that all things may work to our everlasting good; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
C: Amen.

Rather than ever saying to a brother or sister: "So sorry. You have to deal with the temporal consequences of your sins" (with the implied: "And thank God mine aren't as bad as YOURS!"), the Church teaches us to stand alongside our brother and sister and plead with them that the temporal consequences of OUR sin (theirs and mine, both equally worthy of punishments both in time and eternity) not be visited upon either of us. For who, indeed, then could ever hope to stand—now or in the coming Judgment?


Pr. H. R. said...

Indeed! God help all whose task it is to temper justice with mercy; who must strike a balance and somehow neither snuff out the smoldering wick nor turn the Gospel into an excuse for sin.

Anonymous said...

David Scaer's article on Luther's Theology of Anfechtung is superb.

WM Cwirla said...

Very well said, William. There are far too many in our circles who not only would pick up the first stone, they would gladly throw it overhand.

Jim Davis said...


The first stone was quite large, like a foundation stone. It would be thrown by the person most offended by the one to be stoned. Throwing it overhand (one handed) is not practical; use two hands to throw it with vigor and attempt a significant bone-breaking injury to the one to be stoned.
In Jesus' story, no one would throw the first stone, because no one would admit to being victimized; so they walked away, one by one.