My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Review: Bible and Reconciliation: Confession, Repentance, and Restoration

Bible and Reconciliation: Confession, Repentance, and Restoration Bible and Reconciliation: Confession, Repentance, and Restoration by James B. Protho
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It can be argued that the whole concept of sin and forgiveness is a founding principle to the Christian faith. In this installment of the “ Catholic Biblical Theology of the Sacraments” series, the primary focus here is where this pattern is found within the Christian Holy Scripture, with the principle target audience being Catholics of the Latin Rite where the Sacrament of Reconciliation is an important element. Beginning with the Old Testament, we examine how the concept of how the People of God (aka [Proto]-Israelites) turn away from God (aka sin), suffer consequences (sometimes seen as punishment), repent or turn back to God and finally reconcile with God’s forgiving mercy. The second half of the book looks at this pattern in the New Testament, were reconciliation is less communal and more personal or individual. It is repeated enough in both cases that there is now real doubt about what this cycle is or how it works …

Where the book stretches and is less convincing, is the need to have a human mediator of reconciliation (aka priest absolution) where the author primarily looks at the power of the Apostles, and ultimately the church authority, was created to power to bind and loose on earth and translating that as giving them exclusive authority to do so. This approach is unlikely to have the same interpretation outside the Catholic Church … and I think this may be a missed opportunity. There is a very brief discussion about traditions within the early church where sins were confessed to the whole community. There is another very brief sentence that explained that as the severity of penance was reduced/relaxed, the concept of confession and reconciliation was expanded to less serious sins (aka venial sins). That whole hierarchy os sins and what can be reconciled by the individual and what needs a mediator is frequently misunderstood by non-Catholics … and I was hoping for more on that (despite the Title limiting the discussion to the Bible). That makes this a solid book for what it was designed to do, I just wish it had done more.

The chapters and sections in this work are:

1. Confession and Reconciliation An Encounter with Divine Mercy
2. Sin, Mercy, and Promise Foundations in Genesis 1–11
3. Mercy, Penalty, and Mediation The Patriarchs and the Exodus
4. Rebuke and Promise for Israel Kings and Prophets
5. Confession, Restoration, and Penance Psalms and Sages
6. Confessing in Hope, Awaiting the Messiah
7. Jesus and the Mission of Restoration
8. Christ, the Spirit, and the Ministry of Forgiveness
9. Be Reconciled to God! Sin and Restoration in the Pauline Letters
10. Growing in Christ, Confessing in Hope The Catholic Epistles and Revelation
11. The Manifold Mercy of God

Some of the other points that really got my attention are:
Our rational soul is not undone by sin, though sin darkens natural reason and “weakens” and even “saps” the will’s capabilities. Many distinguish the rational soul as the divine image and God’s likeness as our actual state of embodying divine attributes.

God’s mercy is enacted for the world through the death and resurrection of Christ, a singular event at a particular place and time in the world’s history, but one whose saving power is limitless, paying the ransom for every soul past, present, and future. Yet to individual souls this gift must be mediated and received through other humans.

Generally, since Scripture speaks of various acts like fasting, almsgiving, forgiveness, and prayer obtaining rewards or being acceptable offerings to remit sins (e.g., Ps. 51:17; Sir. 3:30; Matt. 6:14; Luke 11:41), only grave sins—particularly murder, apostasy, and adultery—were brought to the Church as requiring sacramental penance and reconciliation.

As penances began, in many places, to become less arduous, and as the medicinal value of the sacrament became recognized to heal and strengthen Christians in the fight against sin, the broader value of sacramental reconciliation became recognized not only as the bishop’s task to address grave sin but also as part of the priest’s ministry to treat venial sins.

In the sacrament of reconciliation, too, Christians must humble ourselves to confess and name our sins and to be willing to accept a penance as we receive God’s forgiveness. But we do it because we believe and hope in the God who reconciles us in Jesus Christ and speaks to us through his mediators.

Confession is not a request for a mere “clean slate,” but a petition to be admitted to a restored and ongoing relationship with God. This is God’s goal in rebuking sin: to reconcile us to walk anew in his friendship. This is what psalmists want when they confess and express contrition. The assignment of penance by a priest builds this aspect of renewed relationship into the rite of reconciliation.

Like Job, Tobit laments his life and prays for death (Tob. 3:6). Unlike Job, he holds God to be righteous over against Israel and even against himself, even for unintentional sins.149 Tobit is a model of the penitent piety encouraged in the exilic and postexilic periods.

The apostles also have to use their authority to bind and loose in governing the Church and dealing with disputes and sin. They do so in deciding to appoint deacons under them to manage the affairs of the Church and communal distribution when their tasks become unmanageable (Acts 6:1–6). They do so in their teaching and governance, determining the Church’s practice in the case of Gentile (non-Jewish) converts and whether they should be required to undergo circumcision and adopt Mosaic purity customs.

Awareness of one’s sins, of how far one has “fallen,” is important to repentance (Rev. 2:5). Self-examination is a part of developing self-control, diagnosing ourselves so that we can see more clearly how to repent and grow in virtue or what graces to pray for.
I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.