On confession

One of the things that the so-called ‘Parable of the Two Sons’ teaches us is that as far as God is concerned, repentance is not principally about the admission of guilt or the acknowledgement of fault but rather is first and foremost about the confession of death. Another thing that the parable announces is that as far as Jesus is concerned, real confession is subsequent to forgiveness. Confession is not a transaction. Confession is not a negotiation in order to secure forgiveness. Confession is, as Robert Farrar Capon avers in The Parables of Grace, ‘the after-the-last gasp of a corpse that finally can afford to admit it’s dead and accept resurrection. Forgiveness surrounds us, beats upon us all our lives; we confess only to wake ourselves up to what we already have … The sheer brilliance of the retention of infant baptism by a large portion of the church catholic is manifest most of all in the fact that babies can do absolutely nothing to earn, accept, or believe in forgiveness; the church, in baptizing them, simply declares that they have it … And our one baptism for the forgiveness of sins remains the lifelong sacrament, the premier sign of that fact. No subsequent forgiveness – no eucharist, no confession – is ever anything more than an additional sign of what baptism sacramentalizes … We may be unable, as the prodigal was, to believe it until we finally see it; but the God who does it, like the father who forgave the prodigal, never once had anything else in mind’ (pp. 140–1).


  1. Perhaps it’s strange that we declare that babies have forgiveness when, as yet, they have nothing to be forgiven for?
    Nevertheless, a fascinating commentary. Maybe my (adult) baptism was one of ‘confession’ rather than ‘forgiveness’.


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