The Holy Bible and Confession

Dr. Robert K. Rudolph is since 1932 Professor of Theology in the Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Philadelphia. The Reformed Episcopal Church has existed since 1873 when it broke away from the Protestant Episcopal Church because that denomination was persistently moving back into Roman Catholic errors of doctrine. Today the denomination numbers over eight thousand members about evenly divided between white and black who belong to about forty parishes in two northern synods and thirty parishes in one southern synod.

The seminary has 84 students from some 26 denominations or independent churches who arc studying under 4 full-time and 3 parttime professors, an Reformed and Calvinists in doctrine, using the theological writings of Berkhof and Hodge. We want to become acquainted with these Christian brothers who from a somewhat different tradition share our common Reformed Faith as taught in God’s inspired Word.

Beginning with the communist concept that no one has any right to privacy of notion or opinion; that commissars should watch over the movements of every citizen; that it is the duty of every citizen to spy upon the other and that it is the duty of every citizen to confess any wrong thoughts he may have bad, and then continuing with the present popularity of “sensitivity training” for government employees which is being used all too widely, and to group therapy among Christians; the need for a clear grasp of what God has indicated about confession in the Bible must be apparent.

One of the factors which came into the Church during the dark ages when the Church sought to control the lives of its members and to direct them, not by the proclamation of God’s truth, but, rather, by exercising direct control over them, was the confessional booth with its indication that man had the power to forgive sin a thing always denied by the Bible and to prescribe penance thereunto. The way in which wicked priests took advantage of those whose weakness they thus knew became the theme of many stories, and the basis of objection to the whole notion of confession during the Reformation. Only recently have the ritualistic High Churchmen in the Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church, reintroduced this heinous practice.

But among protestants generally there is now a new wave of popularity for confession in the name of psychological health and wen-being. This follows .the outbreak of confession practiced by the Buckmanites in the thirties and forties except that by them it was to be a means of contact with lost individuals. So specific did those confessions of particular sins become that this practice was banned from a number of secular campuses due to their salacious nature. But now we are being told that James 5:16 where we are directed to confess our sins one to another directs a return to this sinful way. As the late Dr. Machen pointed out to the writer, that passage does not demand that we confess specific and lurid sins but simply that we confess when we are guilty of some offense to the person whom we have hurt. That it cannot be thought to mean such a practice is evident, he said, from Ephesians 5:12, “For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” Both the late Bishop Rudolph and Dr. Machen warned the writer that we are to “forget those things which are behind” (Phil. 3:13), and they noted emphatically that dwelling upon sin and thinking about it tends to increase it wherefore God has indicated that we should think on: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report” (Phil. 4:8).

Doubtless one reason why there is a felt need in this area comes out of the fact that there ha-s been a breakdown of discipline. People have not been brought to face their wicked deeds by due process of accusation and proof bcause too many people have been influenced by Freud’s notion that one should do anything that comes naturally and not be repressed. Talking about sin just as seeing sin in the theater or reading about it in the paperback will, certainly, increase its prevalence.

Confession should be to Christ and to Him in secret, pointed out my good perceptors. He is an omniscient Confessor from whom the secrets of NO heart is hid! He is also a confessor with full power to forgive sin, a power which He purchased for us on the cross –what a sure respite from the load of sin this provides! And He too can give us His Holy Spirit so that we may be strengthened not to repeat our offenses. The agency of the true Christian psychiatrist or other counsellor is to describe sins in general Biblical terms and to admonish that if it be present, it is to Christ, alone, that one should bear his soul. To confess to a man or a group of men is to put man in God’s place! Truly Christian counsellors know how susceptible they are themselves to sin and will not allow themselves to be tempted by knowing some weakness which has been confessed by another.

Too much modern counselling argues that all are deeply scarred by maladjustment; they fail to note that the difference between normalcy and abnormality is as clear in psychology as it is in medicine. Only a small proportion of the population is sick at any one time—not half, or three-quarters—or all! ThReaders’ Digest (p. 78, Jan. 69) quotes Mark Twain:

“Confession is good for the soul and bad for the reputation.” That issue points out that “totalitarian states place great emphasis on the proposition that their citizens keep no secrets, that they confess all. In this way the state dehumanizes its people.”

Then, too, there is a tendency in group therapy that one patient will learn from the waywardness of others how to be worse. No psychologist, if he be Christian, has any right to demand any confession except to Christ Jesus. the Lord, neither should he invite it or welcome it—the more particularly in mixed groups—but even in groups of the same sex there is the danger from such practices of the growth and increase of homosexuality. The more sin is made familiar and talked about, the cheaper it becomes to the wicked human heart. Let us in Christ’s dear Name, the rather, think upon truth and those things which are of good report!