Monday, January 2, 2012

The Ultimate Medieval Offset

By now you’ve heard of offsets. In our politically correct world, it’s no longer acceptable to burn coal to produce electricity, because it produces carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and who knows how many other “oxides” that haven’t even been invented yet. It’s no longer acceptable to drive to the grocery store to pick up that loaf of bread, because your car is belching hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. Not to worry though, because they’ve now invented the carbon offset. Pay someone to go plant a tree and you will have atoned for that trip to the grocery store in your gas guzzling SUV. (Never mind that they drove to go plant the tree, plus a separate trip to buy the tree too.) Companies can continue to pollute by buying carbon offsets to atone for their sins. They pay somebody else to do some environmentally friendly thing, such as building a wind or solar-powered generator. It’s a system that makes little sense, having spawned such ideas as the “Carbon Farming Initiative: Management of large feral herbivores,” more commonly known as killing camels.*

My favorite offset though, is the Ignorance Offset, which “allow[s] you to offset your own or someone else's ignorance by supporting the increase of knowledge elsewhere.” Maybe you or someone you know could benefit from one of these. Just kidding about the you part of that – Stand Firm readers are of course some of the smartest readers in blogdom.

Anyway, one of the original offsets was a medieval offset promoted by the Roman Catholic Church. This specific offset was offered to those who “couldn’t” participate in a crusade, but had available cash. Originally, if you participated in a crusade, you received an indulgence which immediately granted you temporal relief from the punishment for sin, as well as relief from purgatory. Since a crusade was viewed as a pilgrimage of sorts, many of the initial participants weren’t soldiers, but rather Joe the serf down the road who wanted to join the cause carrying his pitchfork and obtain the crusade indulgence. Since these hangers-on bogged down the war machine, the Catholic Church came up with a new and improved indulgence. Rather than go on the crusade yourself, you could instead pay the amount of money that was required to support a soldier, and still receive the indulgence. This was a “win/win” situation for everybody:
  1. It allowed the common folk to receive the coveted indulgence.
  2. It kept non-soldiers from getting in the way and sapping the resources of the military campaign.
  3. It kept the Roman Curia’s coffers filled.
  4. It was an incentive used to attract crusade supporters to offset Islam’s promise to their warriors of an immediate trip to heaven with its attendant feasts and eternal sexual gratification if killed while participating in the jihad.
Needless to say, the promise to the Islamic warrior is false, and so is the indulgence to the Christian. Everyone’s punishment for sin has already been accomplished by Jesus on the cross. There’s no working, or contributing, your way into heaven. Those who put their faith in indulgences are really putting their faith in their own good works, and placing themselves under the curse of the Law.

While the crusade indulgence no longer exists, indulgences in Roman Catholicism still do. Faithful Catholics labor under the fallacy that they must make satisfaction for their sins. If you know someone like this, the most loving thing you can do for them is to gently speak the Gospel to them, and show them how they’ve erred in their doctrine. There are no offsets needed in the heavenly kingdom.

*Thanks to Anthony Watts for pointing this one out.


Anonymous said...

Indulgence money was also used to fund the construction of palatial church buildings. In medieval times, clergy lived like greedy sultans while the 99% were left to starve. Failure of the RCC to address centuries of abuse has left many Europeans cynical about supporting any church.

An honest approach to fundraising would be to eliminate the gimmicks and require tithing.

By the way, where is the Lutherans come home website?


Cafeteria Lutheran

Fallhiker said...

Keep in mind the use of indulgences is one of the issues Martin Luther stood in opposition to. So Anti-indulgencism (is that a word?) is one of the foundations of the Lutheran Chrch

I wonder as I wander said...

I spoke about the false belief in having to make satisfaction for one's sins to a friend who is Catholic; the look of horror on her face, even when I showed from Scripture how the Roman church was in error was amazing. She became very unsettled and upset, even though I was being gentle with her.

I'm guessing she's had a few masses said for me, in hopes of saving my erring soul. *sighs*

Scott Diekmann said...

Thanks for your comment Wonder. As Article V, 144 of the Apology says, "Works are recognizable among human beings. Human reason naturally admires works. Reason sees only works and does not understand or consider faith. Therefore, it dreams that these works merit forgiveness of sins and justify. This opinion of the Law naturally sticks in people’s minds. It cannot be driven out, unless we are divinely taught." Hopefully the Holy Spirit will work on her through your comments, and that she will not reject the Gospel and instead come to a knowledge of the truth.