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 installment, the Catholic apologist continues his section on “Catholic Life and Practice” as he responds to Protestants’ objections to Catholicism’s notion of performing penance for sins, when Jesus said on the cross, “It Is Finished.”
Not only does the Roman Catholic church teach its members that they must regularly confess their mortal/major sins to a priest to obtain absolution, it also teaches they must then make amends for their sins by doing one of the three forms of penance – prayers, fasting, or almsgiving.
“Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must ‘make satisfaction for’ or ‘expiate’ his sins. This satisfaction is also called ‘penance.'” – CCC 1459
In contrast, born-again Christians believe, as the Bible states, that Jesus Christ’s salvific work on the cross was complete and sufficient and nothing more can or need be added for those who place their trust in Him as their Savior. Protestants often cite John 19:30 and Jesus’s last words on the cross as their support:
“It is finished.” – John 19:30
Broussard responds with three arguments:
(1) Broussard suggests the possibility that by saying, “It is finished,” Jesus simply meant that His earthly ministry was complete, which would not preclude the obligation of performing penance. A second possibility, according to Broussard, is that Jesus meant “the human race is reunited back to God” by His completed sacrifice and that “saving grace is made available for all humanity” (p. 249). In the confessional, the priest, as alter Christus, “another Christ,” absolves the sinner, thereby remitting the eternal consequences of sin, but penance must still be done to atone for the temporal consequences of sin.
(2) Broussard offers three passages as proof-texts that “the New Testament reveals that penance is a part of Christian life”:
(3) Broussard then presents six passages that he alleges involve penance and sanctification.
First regarding penance:
- Matthew 6:16-18 (…when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites…)
- Proverbs 16:6 (By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for.)
- 1 Peter 4:8 (…love covers a multitude of sins.)
Then regarding sanctification:
- 2 Corinthians 7:1 (…let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit…),
- James 1:2-4 (…let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete…)
- Philippians 2:12 (…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.)
Broussard concludes by arguing that (A) since continuing sanctification is necessary for salvation “after being initially saved by the completed work of Christ on the cross,” and (B) since “penance is one of the ways by which we can be sanctified,” therefore (C) “penance doesn’t undermine the sufficiency of Jesus’ death on the cross.”
Let’s now respond to Broussard.
Because this lengthy (7 pages) chapter deals largely with the penance associated with the sacrament of reconciliation/confession, Broussard would have helped his readers by grouping it with the preceding chapter #26 and chapter #27 that dealt with that topic.
I observe that Broussard covers a lot of Catholic theological territory in this chapter by defending both post-confessional penance and by defending sanctification as a requirement for salvation. The average reader is undoubtedly thoroughly confused by Broussard’s arguments and his accompanying proof texts, so I will attempt to cut to the chase as briefly as possible.
Yes, evangelical Protestants believe that by saying, “It is finished,” Jesus Christ was declaring the completeness of His salvific work on the cross. A supporting passage in Matthew 27:51 states that immediately after Jesus uttered those words and died, the veil of the inner sanctuary of the Jerusalem temple was miraculously torn in two, from top to bottom, indicating mankind now had direct access to God and His salvation through the mediation of Jesus Christ. Jesus had accomplished His earthly mission and His perfect and complete saving sacrifice could not be added to.
Let’s touch upon the two major themes presented by Broussard in this convoluted chapter:
Penance: The RCC teaches that while eternal punishment for mortal/major sin is remitted by the priest in the confessional, the temporal punishment remains and must be atoned for by the supplicant via acts of penance in this life or expiated via the fires of Purgatory in the next. We have already thoroughly examined Catholicism’s false teachings regarding the confession of sins to a priest and Purgatory and there is no need to backtrack. The average Catholic could not explain this notion of temporal punishment and its atonement via penance.
Sanctification: In chapters 12 through 17 of this series we thoroughly examined the irreconcilable differences between Gospel Christianity and Roman Catholicism regarding the roles of justification and sanctification in connection with salvation. Gospel Christians believe, as the Bible teaches, that we are justified and made righteous only by Christ’s perfect righteousness that He imputes to us when we accept Him as our Savior by faith alone. After we are saved, we follow the Lord in obedience (albeit imperfectly) as we become increasingly sanctified in our thoughts and deeds. Ephesians 2:8-10 states the correct relationship between faith and works:
“8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
We are justified only through our faith in Jesus Christ and His imputed perfect righteousness. Our subsequent good works attest to our salvation in Christ, they are not the basis of our salvation.
Roman Catholicism puts the cart before the horse by teaching that sanctification merits salvation. The RCC teaches a person must become subjectively, intrinsically holy enough to merit their salvation. Broussard states the Catholic position, that sanctification, including penance, leads to justification and salvation, but, of course, Gospel Christians disagree. We cannot merit our salvation in any form or fashion. Jesus paid the entire debt for our sin on the cross.
Our bottom line to this convoluted chapter: The RCC’s doctrine of penance, as well as most of its other doctrines, certainly do undermine the sufficiency of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
86 Bible Verses about Jesus Sacrifice Being Sufficient