Monday, April 6, 2020
Live streaming absolution. . .
Luther said in his Small Catechism: Confession has two parts. First, that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven. Those words not only presume a personal encounter but also expect it as one of the parts. Though there might be a means of a personal encounter when the direct technology of a live audio or video between penitent and pastor, it would be a stretch to suggest that modern live streaming or recorded services provide such a connection.
Luther continues: I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself. If the pastor is to absolve those who repent of their sins and desire to amend their sinful lives, how is he to ascertain that they indeed repent of their sins and desire to amend their sinful lives without any direct connection between them?
Live streaming may give a person the opportunity to hear the Word proclaimed and preached, but it certainly does not provide the same setting as a pastor surveying the faces of the people he knows or the pastor in private confession addressing one who has acknowledged his or her sins before him. Of course, we admit gladly that the penitent may confess directly to God but that is certainly not the point of live streaming or recorded worship services. There the presumption is that the penitent is depending upon the vocal absolution of the pastor for the assurance of his or her forgiveness. That being the case, I wonder how well we have thought this through. Perhaps there is a way that this might be legitimate but I do not see it yet and wonder if someone will help me feel better about the idea that the absolution live streamed or video or audio recorded is the same as people in view of the pastor.