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Are Indulgences Biblical?

Protestants often challenge Catholics to provide biblical evidence for their belief in indulgences. Can such a challenge be met? Karlo Broussard shows that it can.



Paragraph 1471 of the Catechism defines an indulgence as “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.”

This presupposes that punishment remains after God has forgiven our sins and that we can do something to satisfy it.

But is this biblical? I think it is.

The Bible is full of examples of God remitting the eternal punishment due to sin while still willing temporal consequences. For example, David is forgiven of his sin in 2 Samuel 12:13-18 yet must suffer the death of his son. The Psalmist says in Psalm 99:7-8 that God forgives but avenges wrongdoing. Even Jesus teaches in Luke 12:47-48 that the servant who did what is deserving of punishment without full knowledge will be punished, but in lesser degree.

It is such temporal consequences that indulgences remit. By virtue of its authority to bind and loose, the Church declares certain acts to be of such value that, if they are performed under certain prescribed conditions, sin’s temporal consequences can be remitted, either partially or fully. It is no different than Jesus’ teaching in Luke 11:41, “give alms…and behold, everything is clean for you.”

The Church grants indulgences to help its children heed St. Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 2:12, “work out your salvation,” and to cooperate with God in bringing to completion the good work he has begun in us—Philippians 1:6.

So, the motifs of temporal consequences due to sin and the Church’s authority to bind and loose make a solid biblical foundation for the Catholic dogma of indulgences.

If you want to learn more about this topic and others like it, visit our website at catholic.com.

For Catholic Answers, I’m Karlo Broussard. Thanks for watching.


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