Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next chapter, the Catholic apologist continues his section on Sacraments and the specific topic of confessing sins to a priest as he counters evangelical Protestants’ objection that “We Confess Our Sins Directly to God.”
Last week, Broussard pretty much covered this topic of the confession of sins to a priest with his “God Alone Can Forgive Sins” chapter (see here). In this chapter, he takes a slightly different tack on the same topic, perhaps as part of a strategy to amass fifty chapters?
The Roman Catholic church teaches that its members must confess all “mortal” sins to a priest in order for them to be forgiven:
“Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: ‘All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession…'” – CCC 1456.
“Indeed bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” – CCC 1461
In contrast, Gospel Christians confess their sins to God alone and cite 1 John 1:9 as one of their proof texts:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Broussard responds to this evangelical argument with three rebuttals:
(1) The Catholic apologist posits that 1 John 1:9 doesn’t specify direct confession to God and can be interpreted so as to accommodate the Catholic view.
(2) Broussard refers to his Greek lexicon once again and suggests that the word, “confess” (homologeō), used in 1 John 1:9, “has a public connotation, which would suggest that the confession of sins that John speaks of is not merely a direct confession to God.” The Catholic apologist states that public confession presided over by a priest was once the church norm, but “over the course of time, the Church adopted the ordinary practice of private confession of sins to a priest” (p.150).
(3) Broussard’s last argument is that (A) since confession of sin was public in the Old Testament, then (B) it must follow that public confession would also be the proper mode in the New Covenant. He cites Leviticus 5:5-6 as a proof text for his first assertion and then cites James 5:16 as a supporting text for his second assertion: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another…”
Okay, let’s answer Broussard’s rebuttals.
(1) Only by artifice can a Catholic twist 1 John 1:9 to mean confession to a priest. It’s clear that the recipient of our confession referred to in the verse is God:
If we confess our sins (Question: To whom do we confess our sins?), he (Answer: God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
We must note here that 1 John 1:9 is not a salvation verse. Catholics and Gospel Christians have opposing views on justification and salvation. Catholics believe they must continuously confess their mortal (major) sins to a priest and receive absolution in order to maintain their justified standing/justification before Holy God. Gospel Christians believe justification is a one-time event when we repent of our sin and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and receive His imputed perfect righteousness. We then confess our sins daily to our Father for “relational forgiveness,” NOT for salvation. 1 John 1:9 is about relational forgiveness, NOT about salvation. See the article far below regarding 1 John 1:9 and relational forgiveness.
(2) Broussard suggests that homologeō (“confess”) used in John 1:9 can mean a public confession or a declaration as well as a private confession and from that he interpolates the Catholic view that the apostle John was referring to public confession before a presiding priest. We have no argument with the fact that homologeō can mean either a private or public confession or declaration, but the undeniable fact is that nowhere in the New Testament do we read of believers confessing their sins to a priest. Broussard admits that private (auricular) confession to a priest was not standard practice in early-Catholicism. It wasn’t until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 AD that the practice was standardized. Why the change from group to auricular confession? Catholicism boasts that it is Semper eadem, “always the same,” but has capriciously changed many of its doctrines and practices over the centuries.
(3) Broussard proposes that the Israelites confessed their sins to the Levitical priests in the Old Covenant just as Catholics confess sins to their priests. This is amazingly poor and self-serving hermeneutics. Leviticus 5:5-6 refers to God’s instructions to the Israelites to confess their sins directly to Him before bringing their animal sacrifice to a priest. There is not one Old Testament scholar, rabbinical or evangelical, who would agree that the Israelites confessed their sins to a priest. As for James 5:16, the verse simply exhorts believers to ask forgiveness from a fellow-believer whom they have offended, the same underlying message in Colossians 3:13.
The Roman Catholic church teaches heresy by interposing priests as mediators between God and men when God’s Word proclaims, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” – 1 Timothy 2:5.
Confession of sins to a human priest is blasphemous and has led to the abuse of many credulous, trusting penitents by celibate, predatory priests.
“Who can forgive sins but God alone?” – Mark 2:7
See the articles below for more information:
Why do we need to confess our sins if they have already been forgiven (1 John 1:9)?
What does the Bible say about confession of sin to a priest?
Keep in mind that 75% of Roman Catholics do not comply with the requirement of yearly confession (at a minimum) even though they are threatened with eternal damnation for not doing so. Also keep in mind that while Mr. Broussard zealously defends such doctrines as the confession of sins to a priest, his pope and the prelates of the RCC teach that Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and even atheists may also merit heaven if they follow their religion or conscience.
Next up: “We’re All Priests”