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119 Is permission to sin a Catholic or Protestant tradition? Did Martin Luther give his followers permission to sin?


Martin Luther said; “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong…No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day”. 

IS CONFESSING YOUR SINS A PERMISSION TO SIN?

Some people speaking against the Church would say, you can sin on one day and be forgiven the next, only to sin the following day and be forgiven again.   Why would they say this against the Church as if it was a negative?  Don’t they believe that God can forgive sins?

And so why  were they suggesting that the forgiveness of sins was wrong; after all the Bible says; “Then Peter approaching asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times’ “ (Mt 18:21:22).   Do non-Catholics believe they can only be forgiven a limited number of times?

Actually, they were not saying that the forgiveness of sin is wrong, but they were suggesting that the Sacrament of Confession is a permission to sin.   Of course the sacrament of Confession as a permission to sin is non-Catholic teaching, not to be confused with Catholic teaching.   You will not find it anywhere in Catholic teaching, and so where does it come from?  It comes from Protestant teaching about Catholicism, not to be confused with the Catholic teaching. 

Okay, so permission to sin is not Catholic, but Protestant teaching.   And so where does the tradition of a permission to sin originate in Protestantism?   You guessed it; license for sin was first orchestrated by none other Martin Luther.   “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.”

Notice the above underlining.  This is the part that some Protestant scholars have removed because it is one of the more embarrassing statements made by Martin Luther.  I first heard of a PERMISSION TO SIN from non-Catholic sources and so I was originally unfamiliar with it.   I just don’t think it is fair for non-Catholics to take one of their Protestant traditions and impose it upon the Catholic Church.

Martin Luther was a mixed bag of tricks. Although he got many things wrong; he didn’t get everything wrong. Luther wrote a publication called the Small Catechism of Martin Luther which is still published today.  In this publication he defended confession from the confessor, as from God himself.   Some will say I only tell my sins to God, but this was not Luther’s understanding.  He proclaimed the sacrament of Confession.

SMALL CATECHISM OF MARTIN LUTHER:  

  • What is confession? Answer
    “We receive absolution or forgiveness from the confessor, as from the confessor, as from God Himself, and in no wise doubt, but firmly believe that by it our sins are forgiven before God in Heaven.”

Some will say, I only tell my sins to God, but Luther understood that telling sins to the confessor was in fact telling our sins to God.   And in this, Martin Luther was in conformity with the example of Jesus who breathed on the Apostles and gave them the power to forgive and retain sin.  (Jesus) said to them again,

"Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:23). 

Many reject this notion from Jesus.  So strong are their man-made traditions that they do not believe the Apostles had the power to forgive and retain sins even though Jesus gave them this power!