Question:

I was reading "What is wrong with Catholicism?" because I was Catholic by default, like you said. I had serious doubts, but what I found is that you made a big mistake. You say that man cannot grant forgiveness, but when I was reading the Bible, Jesus said that His priests, people, ministers, pastor or whatever you want to call them can forgive sins. I invite you to read, John 20:20-23. If this is wrong, then tell me where in the Bible it say man cannot forgive sins? This wasn't just for the twelve disciples, it was for generations to come. The church evolves the same way everything evolves. Just like you now use a book instead of a scroll.

There are things where I agree with you, but you should do your homework better before leading a faith church, using an open Bible instead of carefully selected chapters and verses to sustain your claims. God Bless you.

P.S. I'm not a priest, or not even affiliated with a church, I just read the Bible at take my own conclusions.


Answer:

"So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained"" (John 20:21-23).

Though you assert differently, Jesus in this passage is talking to ten of the twelve apostles. "Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came" (John 20:24). Judas was also absent since he hanged himself after his betrayal of Christ. There is no indication that this was a general statement that applies to others. The fact that Jesus specifically mentions that he was sending them (the Greek word apostello), indicates he is talking to these men in regards to their future duties as his apostles ("one sent").

Jesus gave the apostles authority to bind what is right and wrong upon the world. He talked about this duty before in Matthew 16:19; 18:18. This is not to say that they could decide on their own what was sinful and what was not, but rather they had the authority to declare Christ’s law and it would be binding on others. They would be acting as ambassadors of Christ and would be his full representative to the world. Thus, the apostles became the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20). You can see them acting with full authority on a number of occasions (Acts 8:20-23; 13:9-11; I Corinthians 14:37). While preachers today have the authority to teach and uphold God’s revealed word, the apostles had the authority to actually reveal what God wanted taught.

Forgiveness is the removal of a debt owed. If I do you harm, you can choose to forgive the debt that I owe you because of the damage I did. Thus, you can forgive me. "And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us" (Luke 11:4). Yet, most of us understand that you can't forgive me of harm that I did to a third-party. That debt is between me and that other person, and it is that person's responsibility to forgive the debt owed. For the same reason, man cannot forgive sins committed against God because it is God who has born the brunt of our trespasses. I can pass on the message of forgiveness that God has given to mankind, but I can't forgive anyone's sins directly.

God forgives because He desires it, not because we deserve it. "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins" (Isaiah 43:25). Nor does He grant forgiveness simply because someone else says God ought to forgive a person's sins. We can pray and ask God to forgive a brother, but the reason God forgives is because of His own desires. "To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him" (Daniel 9:9). There is no other God like our God. "Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy" (Micah 7:18).

The Jews understood that forgiveness of sin belonged to God. That is why they were upset when Jesus stated that a man's sins were forgiven. "Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mark 2:7). They had the right premise, but came to the wrong conclusion. Jesus proved he did have the right to forgive sins -- something no one else can do. "But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" --He said to the paralytic, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house." Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all" (Mark 2:10-12). The Jews missed the point. Jesus did have the power to forgive sins. God supported the claim by the miracle shown. The conclusions should not have been that Jesus blasphemed, but that he truly was God here on earth (Matthew 1:23).

To claim that a church may "evolve" and remain pleasing to God is to set yourself contrary to what God taught. "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-10).

The argument you use is facetious. A change in the medium used to present the word of God does not change the message. The Catholic church has change its message over the years continually further from the truth recorded in the Bible.

Hey! Thanks for the reply. It really helps a lot. I'm an empty, open book looking to learn more every day. Sorry if I have so many questions. I hope you understand me.

So when you say it was just for the apostles, does that mean that all of the Paul letters cannot be used or applied to us because they were sent to Romans, Ephesians, Corinthians? Have a great day.

When you read "that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed" (Titus 2:4-5), why aren't these instructions applied to men? It is because they are addressed to women.

When you read "Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come -- and the books, especially the parchments" (II Timothy 4:13), every Christian isn't expected to find Paul's cloak in Troas and bring it to him. Why? Because these are specific instructions to Timothy at that point in time. Why is it in our Bibles? Because we learn numerous things about Paul's life, situation, and attitudes from these words. See "Inspiration and Trivia" for more details.

The answer to your question is both "yes" and "no." Let's take Corinth for an example. Every church doesn't have a man having sex with his step-mother among its members (I Corinthians 5:1); yet, we see what the problem was and how it was to be properly handled. And thus we learn: "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1). Throughout the letter Paul emphasized that he wasn't teaching things differently in Corinth than what was taught in all the churches.

  • "For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church" (I Corinthians 4:17).
  • "But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches" (I Corinthians 7:17).
  • "But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God" (I Corinthians 11:16).
  • "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints" (I Corinthians 14:33).

From this we learn and understand that the teachings given to each church were applicable to all churches. Sure there are specifics which cannot be directly applied, but even in them we learn from the examples set for us.

If you or I went selected by Jesus and sent out into the world, being promised the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then the words in John 20:21-23 would have direct application to us. But we haven't been sent by Jesus and the time of miracles ended as promised (I Corinthians 13:8-10). Still the information recorded there is important. It is vital that we understand that the apostles did not teach their own ideas, but Jesus' and had the help of the Holy Spirit to guide them. It is vital for us to understand that they didn't take authority for themselves, but were given authority to bind Jesus' commands upon the church. It is why Paul had the right to say, "If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord" (I Corinthians 14:37). And it explains why I don't have the authority to write what I want and claim that everyone must adhere to my teachings. All I can do is teach what has already been authorized. "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen" (I Peter 4:11).