Apparently there is a good discussion going around on the appropriateness of using the words "I absolve you" in the corporate confession in the Sunday Morning service and whether or not simply using a declaration of Grace would be more appropriate - not because I absolve you is not true - but that it may not be appropriate for every single person there as there may be those whom the pastor would not individually absolve.
(Note - if this doesn't fit exactly right - 1, I haven't read the stuff itself from a specific journal, simply comments around it, and 2, tough, that is what I am writing, and I am not attributing this position any individual. If you wish to state your position here -feel more than welcome - but don't go screaming that I misrepresented you - this blog is not about you - it's my ramblings. Now with that out of the way).
I love having corporate confession and absolution - and I wouldn't give it up for the world. I love having it when visitors come in, when Uncle Joe the baptist walks in. Why? Because it teaches so clearly what we believe. It sets the ground rules for everything that is to come.
1 - I, a poor, miserable sinner. . . You can't come in our church unless you know that you are a poor, miserable sinner. If you desire to live by your own righteousness, there is nothing here for you.
2 - ... temporal and eternal punishment... and this fact that I am a sinner has serious consequences. My mouth is writing checks my righteousness can't cash - and if left to myself I am up the creek - therefore I must flee to God for refuge.
3 - In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ. . . the Pastor ain't here cause he's a swell, or a nice guy - but he's here because of what Jesus Christ has said and commanded, and he's simply doing what Jesus not only would do but wants this man to be doing right now.
4 - I forgive you all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost - and people marveled that God had given such power to men. The fact that God gives to man the ability to forgive sins throws every protestant American for a loop - even though Jesus does miracles simply to demonstrate that He can indeed forgive sins.
All this is taught in that simple Confession and Absolution. I wouldn't abandon it for the world - in addition to the true forgiveness it gives it simply and elegantly establishes the frame work for everything else that goes on in the service.
But what, but what about those who don't believe? First - let the Spirit work through the Word - who knows, they may actually learn to repent and live. Second - it establishes what is going on - and if they cannot make this confession - they know that they don't belong - they can feel it, they know that they are foreign to this place. Let not the rejection of truth disuade you from the proclamation there of.
But aren't there other truths just as true that we could proclaim there? Why do we need to? It is not sloppy to say this absolution corporately -- don't you think hypocrites can come to private confession and absolution - especially if the Pastor praises it? (see what a good Christian I am. . . hee hee hee). I have never seen into the heart of may, I do not know who is a hypocrite either one on one or in the crowd - and my job is not to judge the hearts of man but rather to proclaim Christ and in His Stead and by His command declare sins forgiven.
But what about known sinners? Then hope their repentance is sincere, and hope the Spirit works on them - and leave it in God's hands. I'm all for corporate Confession and Absolution.