Volume. XXII, No. 36
Sunday, 02 March 2008

From the Pastors Heart: Product of a Rotten Heart

There are so many religions and names of gods and goddesses in this world.  Quite often, commoners like us assume that religion must be able to help people to become better in every possible way.  After all, if there are divine beings, and they are good, then their followers must be good and kind.  However, if we read newspapers and listen to news programs, there are many disturbing news relating to religions and religious people.  In the name(s) of God or gods, there are mass killings and discrimination.  In the name of religion, evil acts are done without any remorse.  This is one of the many reasons why atheists or agnostics raise strong objections to the notion of the existence of a good God.  I do not intend to deal with other religions and their practices in this article.  My primary focus will be given to one particular teaching in church history that has hurt and harmed the Church and Christians even today.  It is about indulgences.  Let me give you a definition for indulgences according to the Code of Canon Law (can. 992) and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1471) for the Church of Rome: “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.”  Under the heading of “the Gift of Indulgences,” the Church of Rome teaches about plenary indulgences as following: “4. A plenary indulgence can be gained only once a day. In order to obtain it, the faithful must, in addition to being in the state of grace: have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin; have sacramentally confessed their sins; receive the Holy Eucharist (it is certainly better to receive it while participating in Holy Mass, but for the indulgence only Holy Communion is required); pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.  5. It is appropriate, but not necessary, that the sacramental Confession and especially Holy Communion and the prayer for the Pope's intentions take place on the same day that the indulgenced work is performed; but it is sufficient that these sacred rites and prayers be carried out within several days (about 20) before or after the indulgenced act. Prayer for the Pope's intentions is left to the choice of the faithful, but an "Our Father" and a "Hail Mary" are suggested. One sacramental Confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but a separate Holy Communion and a separate prayer for the Holy Father's intentions are required for each plenary indulgence. . . . 7. Indulgences can always be applied either to oneself or to the souls of the deceased, but they cannot be applied to other persons living on earth.”  (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/tribunals/apost_penit/documents/rc_trib_appen_pro_20000129_indulgence_en.html)


Some of you must be surprised that even today we still hear of indulgences. It is a fact that the indulgence issue was one of the major contributors to the conflict between Martin Luther and the Church of Rome.  It was almost 500 years ago, but this issue is still relevant to us today.  The following are a few articles from Luther’s famous 95 theses, which set fire to the Reformation movement in the early 16th century: (32) They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon. . . (33) Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him. . . (45) Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God. . . (50) Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter's church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep. . . (51) Christians are to be taught that it would be the pope's wish, as it is his duty, to give of his own money to very many of those from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole money, even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold. . . (52) The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it. . . (76) We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not able to remove the very least of venial sins, so far as its guilt is concerned.


John Tetzel was an infamous Dominican monk, who was sent to Germany by Pope Leo X to collect money for the use of the church, such as, providing funds for the Pope, purchasing paintings and other artworks for the Church of St. Peter’s in Rome.  In order to raise the needed money, indulgences, stamped pieces of paper or ticket and a declaration that the buyer had received pardon for the commission of sins, were sold,.  John Tetzel was one of the indulgence sellers who later had debates with Martin Luther over the issue of selling indulgences.  Here is a good story about the foolishness of procuring indulgences: “The better class of the parish clergy did not like him [indulgence seller], because wherever he went the people became more wicked; he sold the right of murdering an enemy for seven ducats; those who wished to rob a church were pardoned if they paid nine ducats; while the murder of father, mother, sister, or brother, cost only four ducats.  The men and women who bought these indulgences naturally liked to get value for their money, and so crime abounded where the pardon-seller went.  Quiet people also objected to him, because his presence caused such a tumult and so many scandals. He sent men before him strangely dressed, who stuck up notices, and who went through the streets and along the country roads telling that he was coming, and boasting the excellence of the pardon tickets he had for sale.  Here are some of these proclamations: ‘The pardon makes those who buy it cleaner than baptism, purer even than Adam in a state of innocence in paradise.’  ‘As soon as the money chinks in the bottom of the strong box, the buyer is pardoned and is free from sin.’  After these mountebanks came the pardon-seller with his assistant in a strong wagon, which was drawn up in the middle of the market place.  Then Tetzel appeared – on his one side an iron cage, in which were the pardon tickets hanging from the bars; on the other, a strong box, into which the money was thrown; and he puffed his wares like a quack doctor at a country fair” (T. M. Lindsay, The Reformation, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2006, 4).


Basically, there are two issues we need to consider if we want to know more about the reasons for spiritual degradation during the medieval times.  The real essence of the sale of indulgences lies in rotten theology of the churches of the Middle Ages.  The key error of this rotten theology in relation to indulgences is that there was a thought that spiritual life must have external expressions.  So even repentance and forgiveness of sins required some sort of external expressions, in this case, through selling and buying indulgences.  Therefore, people were required to say prayers a certain number of times daily, or fasting on certain days.  Then, this practice went on even to believe that the forgiveness of sins could be achieved by paying money to buy indulgences.  The other issue is of the separation of clergy from laity.  If a man was ordained, he was regarded as spiritual.  If money was given to the Church, it was regarded as spiritual.  Ignatius, one of the Church Fathers, was the first one who considered the clergy the necessary medium of access for the people to God.  He said, “‘Whosoever is within the sanctuary (or altar), is pure; but he who is outside of the sanctuary is not pure; that is, he who does anything without bishop and presbytery and deacon, is not pure in conscience.’  Yet nowhere did he represent the ministry as a sacerdotal office. . . . Clement of Rome, in writing to the congregation at Corinth, draws a significant and fruitful parallel between the Christian presiding office and the Levitical priesthood, and uses the expression ‘layman’. .  as antithetic to high-priest, priests, and Levites.  This parallel contains the germ of the whole system of sacerdotalism” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 2, Eerdmans, 1985 reprint, 125-6).   Thus, the clergy became a special group of people, distinguished from the Christian people or “laity.”  As a result, the universal priesthood by all true believers of Jesus Christ has been neglected.  When the Scriptures are neglected, theology becomes rotten by human reasoning.  Here is a good illustration from Cardinal Cajetan, Pope’s Legate to the German Diet, who examined Martin Luther.  Having met him, the Cardinal said: “I can dispute no longer with this beast.  It has two wicked eyes, and marvellous thoughts in its head.”  Luther said of him that he was not fit to judge in spiritual things “as a donkey was to play on the harp.” 


Christ alone is our Savior, there is no one else besides Him between God and man.  Give all glory to Him and pay attention to your Bible.  Rotten theologies only stink!



Your Pastor



More Lively Hope




Baptism, Confirmation & Membership Transfer on 23 Mar. Anyone interested, please see Ps Ki by today.

Sunday School Teachers required. Please see Dn Edwin D’Mello.

Church Directory Update: Please provide your contact details to Sis Josephine Wong.

New Ladies’ Fellowship Committee: President: Sis Peng Ha Yeo, Secretary: Sis Alice Lee, Treasurer: Sis Sally Law, Committee members: Sisters Sally Teng & Giok Sin Yeo.

Senior Citizens’ Fellowship Meeting for this month has been cancelled.


Looking Ahead

Sunday School Cooking Competition and Video: 10am, Mon, 10 Mar.

Ladies’ Fellowship - Welcome & Gathering at 10:30 am, Mon, 10 Mar.

Good Friday, 21 Mar, The Lord’s Supper at 7:30 pm.

Easter Sunday, 23 Mar:

        7:30 am Sunrise Worship Service

        8:45 am Cambodia Missions Presentation

Family Bible Camp at Victor Harbor: 24-26 April. Speaker: Bro David Weng.

BBK: New class begins on 16 Mar. Please see Ps Ki, Elder Lee or one of the Deacons if interested.


Praise & Thanksgiving

Journey mercies: Bro Raphael & Sis Bernadette Ng (Brisb/Adl); Mrs Tee & Sis Yee Min Tee (JB); Sisters Joyce Chen & Tabitha Heah (Adl).

YAF’s Outreach at O – Week (Adel Uni): helpers, God’s guidance & many students reached.

YAF Dinner & Welcome Night: Good turn-out of new students, fellowship & activities.

Church activities: BSAG, Joy, Maranatha, & Sparks4Christ.

Election of new committee of Ladies’ Fellowship.

Discharge from hospital: Sis Margaret Pearson.

Ebenezer BPC, Melb - New Session elected.


Prayer Items

Health & God’s healing - Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren, Rev Peter Chua, Rev Peter Clements, Rev Edward Paauwe, Rev Timothy Tow, Dr S H Tow, Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Bros S Dhamarlingam, Makoto Kobayashi, Raphael Ng’s father, Richard Pearson, Richard Tee, Winston Selvanayagam; Grandpa Ki; Sisters Myung Ki, Alice Lee’s father, Margaret, Dianne, & Sarah Pearson, Aranka Rejtoe, Susan Veradi, Sylvia White & Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law; Auntie Oei & others in affliction.

Cambodia Missions - Rev David Koo & Ministry; Bro Philip Vana Rith (Sihanoukville) Bro Chanthon & Sis Siang Lai (Siem Reap).

Laos Missions - Bro S Dhamarlingam & family.

India/Pakistan Missions - Pastors & Believers.

Kuching Missions - Teo family.

Sketch n’ Tell Ministry - Bro H S Lim.

Salvation: family members, relatives & friends.

Journey Mercies - Bro Richard Tee (Melb); all those travelling.

Jobs - Bro Daniel Volvricht.

New Ladies’ Fellowship Committee - preparing for meetings & fellowship meetings.

The Lord’s provision for a new church van and floor coverings for our Sunday School rooms.

God’s guidance in their careers and provision of accommodation - Bros Jonathan Liao & Richard Tee, Sisters Gillian Ong & Min Yen Chia in Melb.



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