QUESTION 4 (I think) ABOUT CONFESSION TO A PRIEST
I want to say a word about Father Seraphim Alexiev's concept of confession. In the book "Forgotten Medicine," Father Seraphim Alexiev said that no person will be saved unless he confesses every single sin in detail to a priest. This idea is no where taught in the New Testament, nor in the early Church. Who decides how much detail has been given? I personally can give a lot of detail. The concept of detail is totally subjective, and depends on the person making the confession. Does that mean nobody was saved until the invention of confession to a priest? In "The Emergence of the Christian Tradition," volume 1, Jaroslav Pelikan said that confessing to a priest was optional in the early Church. Since it was optional, who is Father Seraphim Alexiev to put such a heavy burden on people, when Scripture and the early Church never taught his concept? If confessing every single sin in detail to a priest was so important, that a persons salvation depended on it (like Fr. Seraphim is teaching) don’t you think God would have included this important truth in the original message of the New Testament? Father Seraphim’s view is obviously a man-made development. It’s just another example of man trying to control, and destroy the liberation and freedom we have in Christ, by keeping us bound by fear and guilt. A ROCOR priest recently told me that Fr. Seraphim's teaching on confession was not accepted by the Orthodox Church.
In the parable given by Christ about the publican who went to the temple to pray, the man simply said "God be merciful to me a sinner." And Christ said he went home justified. He did not confess every single sin in detail like Father Seraphim would demand.
In the early Church, confession to a priest was optional. Why is it mandatory today?The evidence shows that confession evolved from public confession to private confession, and was made to monks, not priests. Why the changes? In the West, it was not until Aquinas that confession was elevated to a sacrament.
Public confession is found in the Didache and Epistle of Barnabas.6:2.
J.N.D Kelly writes: "With the dawn of the third century the rough outlines of a recognized penitential discipline were beginning to take shape. In-spite of the ingenious arguments of certain scholars, there are still no signs of a
sacrament of private penance (i.e. confession to a priest, followed by absolution and the imposition of a penance) such as Catholic Christendum knows to-day." "The system which seems to have existed in the Church at this time, and for centuries afterwords, was wholly public, involving confession, a period of penance and exclusion from communion, and formal absolution and restoration - the whole process being called exomologesis." (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines: Revised Edition, p.216.).
In Augustine's later writings, confession was for grave sins like adultery. (On the Creed, 15,16). Smaller sins were taken care of by prayer to God.
"Modern biblical scholars today, however, do not find either in the text or in the context of these passages [Matt. 16:16; 18:18; John 20:23] an account of an institution of a reconciliation ritual." (Osborne, The Harper Collins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, p. 1083) (brackets mine). (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines).
Edited by Euthymios, 26 November 2014 - 06:36 AM.