‘Are you saved’? ‘When did you get saved’? These are common questions the Christian will ask of other Christians, or non-Christians. To the non-believer it’s a meaningless question in most cases. He doesn’t know what he needs to be saved ‘from’. Unless he has a Christian background or some vestige of Christian thought in his philosophical make-up, the question doesn’t make sense. As far as he’s concerned, he’s just fine the way he is, thank you very much. The non-Christian doesn’t know he has a ‘sin’ problem, doesn’t want you to necessarily point it out to him, and unless moved by the Holy Spirit would rather talk about something else. Not so with the Protestant and Catholic.
Protestants and Catholics are both taught that we need to be ‘saved’ from our sins, but that’s where the similarity ends. When a Catholic talks about sin, you must ask whether it’s a mortal sin, or venial sin, for this is what the Roman Catholic Church has separated all sins into. Then one must ask ‘how do you get rid of them’; ‘how are they canceled out’? The answer is different for a mortal sin versus a venial sin, and quite different from the Protestant view of what Scripture actually teaches.
A mortal sin is defined by Rome as ‘any great offense against the law of God’, so named because ‘it is deadly, killing the soul and subjecting it to eternal punishment’; mortal in that it destroys the life of grace and charity within a person, thus creating the threat of eternal damnation. Venial sins are ‘small and pardonable offenses against God and our neighbor’, where guilt is relatively minor. Venial sins are not thought to damn a person to hell, but increases the need for a person to have a longer stay in ‘purgatory’, a place of purifying fire (more on purgatory later).
Now, there is no ‘list’ within the Catholic Church to tell you which sins are ‘mortal’, and which are ‘venial’. There seems to be no agreement between priests, and thus any method of classification seems purely arbitrary; what is mortal according to one may be venial according to another. For example, it was once thought to be a mortal sin to attend a Protestant church, to own or read a Protestant Bible, or to eat meat on Friday! Vatican II (1963-1965) changed all this of course, but you can see the somewhat arbitrary nature of the classification of sins into mortal or venial. Yet, it’s still a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sunday morning without a good excuse (Saturday evening Mass can be substituted for Sunday morning Mass). Go figure.
The focal point here however, when we come to Scripture, is that we don’t find a distinction between mortal and venial sins. It’s nowhere to be found. What we do find, on the contrary, is that all sins are MORTAL! They’re ALL deadly. ALL deserving of eternal damnation. BOTH our thoughts and actions are weighed in the scales of God’s justice and found wanting. It’s true that some sins are worse than others, but it’s also true that if not forgiven, all sins lead to death.
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all (James 2:10).
Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. THE SOUL WHO SINS WILL DIE (Ezekiel 18:4).
For the wages of sin is DEATH…(Rom. 6:23).
To classify sins into mortal and venial just isn’t found in Scripture. There are no ‘greater’ or ‘lesser’ types of sin that are classified as such in Scripture. What Roman Catholicism ‘seems’ to be saying is that, ‘these sins (mortal) are really bad! But these others (venial)? Well, you can commit those and not really suffer too much. In fact, we’ll show you how you can get rid of your sins’. In Roman Catholic teaching, this is where ‘confession’, ‘penance’, and ‘purgatory’ come in, and will be the topic of our next posts.
(Credit to The Catholic Chronicles, edited and compiled by Keith Green, http://www.theboc.com/freestuff/keithgreen/catholicchronicles/index.html)
Vaya con Dios mis hijas,
Dear ol’ Dad