Dear Gary; Years ago in a small town in up-state NY, there was a fairly small congregation of Catholics and a rather old priest. When the new rules of Vatican II came out and they started having face to face confessions the congregation felt funny about having to admit that they committed Adultery. So since they were a small congregation and only one priest they worked out a kind of code system, whenever someone in the town committed Adultery, in Confession, they would just tell the priest that they had "slipped in front of the fountain". As the years went by this system worked out fine. The congregation grew and the priest grew older, finally a younger priest was sent to help out. No one thought to tell the young priest what was going on. One day the town was preparing for the town fair, as the Mayor and the town Councilmen were seating themselves on the platform in the center of town, the new priest was also there. So, the Mayor turned to one of the Councilmen and said I am going to have some fun with the new priest. Father, the Mayor said, has anyone "slipped in front of the fountain" lately? The young priest said: "Mayor, you should really do something about that fountain, your wife slipped in front of it just last week!"
The point that I would like to make here is that part of our Christian walk, means falling! It is stated in a funny way here but there is nothing funny about sin! I have already showed you in Scripture that Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation. [John 20:22-23; James 5:14-16; etc.]
IS THERE SUCH A THING AS MORTAL AND VENIAL SINS?
Remember this; sin is sin, and all sin offends God deeply!
James wrote; "Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said,'Do not commit adultery' also said, 'Do not murder' If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker" [James 2:10-11]
"Some" say that since James said this, if we break the least commandment we break them all, since this is true there is no difference between Mortal and Venial sins! In fact they claim that the separation of Mortal and Venial sins is a unique Catholic invention of doctrine!
Jesus makes a distinction, in Scripture, in the Gospel of Luke 16:10, Jesus reminds us that if we can not be trusted in small matters, we can not be trusted in big ones!
This brings up the point that I am trying to make, Jesus separates big and little matters!
Why did He say that the one who knows his master's will and does not do it will be beaten with many blows, while the one who does not know his master's will and does not do it will be beaten with few blows. [Luke 12:47-48]
Both are not doing the master's will, but each for a different reason, both receive separate punishment. If all sin is the same as some would have us believe, why is there a separation in the punishment?
There would seem to be extenuating circumstances. That means that how or why the particular sin occurred would change how it effects our relationship with God. Whether God considers it to separate us a great deal or perhaps just a little. If all sin is one in God's eyes, what is the Apostle John getting at when he writes, "if anyone sees his brother commit sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death" [1 John 5:16-17]
WHEN THE GOSPEL WRITER SAYS, "THERE IS A SIN THAT LEADS TO DEATH" HE IS CLEARLY STATING THAT THERE IS SUCH A THING AS "MORTAL" SIN!
The only death that matters to us as Christians is the death of our Soul or to put it another way, the loss of our Salvation! [Matthew 10:28] "And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can kill both soul and body in Gehenna."
Mortal comes from the Latin word "mors" which means "death"!
Some (I use the word some because many but not all Protestant groups teach the points that I am bringing up in these letters, I am not an expert at their teachings, but I do try to represent them fairly, each group teaches something a little different, so for brevity sake I generalize by using the word some), Some, say that the Catholic Church made up the idea of Mortal and Venial sin. We can see from Scripture that this is not so. (I am not at all sure why they misrepresent the facts in the face of such clear evidence, but I would venture a guess and say they are trying to further prove their incorrect point that once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior we can never lose our Salvation.) If they accept the idea of Mortal sin they have to accept the idea that they can indeed lose their Salvation!
Some Christians while teaching vehemently that there is no such thing as Mortal and Venial sin, teach the idea of "backsliding" and "stumbling". Backsliding is more serious than stumbling.
At Liberty college, (Jerry Falwell's University in Lynchberg, Virginia, Dr. Fink, one of the instructors; teaches that there are "Big' sins and "Little" sins! I happened to be at one of his lectures one summer. He said, "There are big sins and there are little sins, if we commit a big sin we can lose the Holy Spirit, but never our Salvation. If we commit a big sin we need to Repent before we can get the Holy Spirit back into our lives!" Although this was an actual teaching at the college, the professor is wrong! In [Romans 8:9] "Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him." Clearly according to this verse if we loose the Holy Spirit through sin, then we have lost our Salvation because according to Scripture we no longer belong to Christ!
We can see that other churches believe in different sins, but they can not call them Mortal as the Bible does because this would disprove one of their main beliefs, "that we are Saved by Faith alone" and that "our Salvation is a free gift from God which we can never lose"! By the way the Catholic Church teaches that Salvation is a Free Gift from God, but of course; we can lose our Salvation.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? According to [Matthew 10:22] 'but whoever endures to the end will be Saved." and again [Matthew 24:13] "But the one who perseveres to the end will be Saved."
We can see that how we end our lives is the most important! Is this all that should concern us? Let us start with our Lord's command, "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father if perfect." [Matthew 5:48] The word in Greek for "perfect' is "teleios", which means each of us must strive to develop his unique potential, under God, to the fullest possible extent. These words are both a command and a promise. We know that (as Christians), only the grace of God can bring about this process of Sanctification. Some criticize Catholic teaching on Sanctification. They assume that striving for Sanctification denies Justification by Faith. Sanctification is a "work', something we do for our Salvation.
Since the average Protestant is guaranteed Salvation (according to them) why strive for Sanctity in this life, regardless of what the bible says!
[1 Peter 1:15] "but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct;"
The Bible would not tell us to be Holy, if God did not want us to be Holy. Also, God promises us the Grace to carry out all that He commands [Romans 5:20] "but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more..."
What can we see thus far? As Christians we have a call to holiness! We can jeopardize our getting to heaven through the life we lead! We have to repent and when possible tell our sins to a priest, getting back into God's Graces!
Your Brother in Christ; Philip
John 8:34 Jesus answered them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.