Peter Speckhard on confession of sins

Peter Speckhard on the confession of actual sins

A confession of sins that only focuses on original sin to the practical exclusion of actual, concrete sins changes the whole nature of being sorry and repenting. … If you find out a friend has insulted you and lied about you behind your back, and he … apologizes to you by saying, ‘Everything I’ve ever said or done has been vile and inexcusable,’ he’s neatly avoided the only hard and only spiritually salutary part of confession. In theory he has apologized even more than necessary. He has utterly abased himself before you. But in fact he has not apologized at all. … [for] it is the pit-in-the-stomach, fear-and-trembling[ly] difficult to enumerate, even to oneself, any actual sins as though they are spiritually, eternally significant [sic]. But it is also the only thing the Gospel speaks to, the only thing that brings peace. It is way easier to say, “I am the worst, most horrible person who has ever lived,” than to say, “I stole ten dollars from the cash register at work.” The Old Adam is only really afraid of saying the latter. … In our day, it might be a lost cause to make individual, private confession and absolution a regular, normal part of the typical Lutheran person’s piety. But if we’re going to rely on a rite of corporate confession to take its place, we need to make sure we’re retaining the essential character of confessing one’s sins, not reciting a creed.

from “In bondage to sin — not exactly!” Forum Lettter 46.10 (Oct, 2017): 3-4.

Rowan Williams on the forgiveness of sins

Rowan Williams on the forgiveness of sins

“Belief in forgiveness is just as much a matter of faith as anything else in the creed. It is no more obvious and demonstrable than the existence of God or the divinity of Jesus Christ. This is perfectly clear if we think a little about the meaning of forgiveness and the realities of human existence and relationship. I am what I am because of what I have been and done, good and bad. My self is woven out of a great web of complicated motivation, reflections, intentions, and actions, some of which have turned out to be creative, while others have been destructive for myself and for other people. And mature persons need to be able to see and accept the inevitability of others – to own the whole of ourselves, to acknowledge realities both past and present, to destroy all the crippling illusions about ourselves that lock us up in selfish fantasies about our power or independence. I depend on the past, and it is part of me; to deny it is to deny myself. I am my history.”

Rowan Williams, A Ray of Darkness, 3rd Ed., (Cowley Publications, 1995), 49.