Insight on the News
Is Mass Absolution Effective?
● In early December 1976 a mass absolution service was performed at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee. Present in the sports arena were about 12,000 Catholics, who supposedly were thus forgiven by a bishop for their past sins without being questioned or making confession to a priest. Though general absolution has been used at times of “grave need” (as when soldiers have gone into battle), this was the first mass absolution ceremony of its kind in the United States. According to the Associated Press, “the service was designed to lure alienated Catholics, particularly divorcees, back into the fold.”
Is general absolution effective? Not according to the Bible. It says nothing in favor of such a rite and does not instruct Christians to make confession to a priest. Also, there is nothing in the Bible to indicate that any imperfect individual can grant absolution from sins. Though Christians needing spiritual assistance are encouraged to seek aid from congregational elders, Jehovah God alone can pardon error. (Jas. 5:13-15) So, King David said to God: “My sin I finally confessed to you . . . And you yourself pardoned the error of my sins.”—Ps. 32:1-5.
Life Beyond Death?
● The view that there is life after death is held by 73 percent of the American populace, according to a recent Gallup poll. As supposed proof of this belief, proponents have pointed to feelings described by persons revived from clinical death. These sensations reportedly include calmness, deep peace, euphoria and a feeling of floating free from or out of the body.
Some persons are ready to accept such “proofs,” but others look at matters from a different standpoint. For instance, “Science Digest” reports: “Not quite so ready to believe is Dr. Russell Noyes, professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa, who for years has been studying people who have had close calls with death. He points out that people who regain consciousness after being pronounced clinically dead and those who experience the threat of death report similar feelings of calmness and often euphoria. These and other out-of-body experiences, he says, are most likely fantasy projections—the mind’s way of coping with the overwhelming specter of death.”
Conclusions drawn by researchers do vary, but not to be overlooked is the testimony of the Holy Scriptures. Rather than supporting the theory of life after death, the Bible says: “The dead themselves do not praise Jah [Jehovah].” Why not? Because they have gone “down into silence,” and “as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.” (Ps. 115:17; Eccl. 9:5, 10) No, there is not continuous, unbroken life beyond death. But, for the masses of mankind who are within God’s provision, there is the assured hope of restoration to life by resurrection during the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ.
God—Father and Mother?
● According to the newspaper “Upsala Nya Tidning” of November 18, 1976, Ulla Barth, a priest of the Lutheran Swedish State Church, objects to viewing God as a male. “We must get away from personalization: God is a movement, a deliverance, a creating power,” she said. Similarly, sometime ago Dr. Leonard Swidler, a Roman Catholic theologian and church historian of Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, prepared a tentative liturgy revision that eliminates sexual classification in referring to God. Swidler suggested prayer that says, “O God, our Father and Mother.”
Some may view these ideas as quite desirable. But what does the Bible indicate?
Rather than indicating that God is “a movement, a deliverance, a creating power,” the Scriptures say: “Jehovah is a manly person of war.” (Ex. 15:3) Also, Jesus Christ opened the Model Prayer with the words: “Our Father [not Father and Mother] in the heavens.” (Matt. 6:9) Nowhere does the Bible characterize God as feminine. Rather, it is said, “Jehovah will rejoice in his works,” and we are told: “As a father shows mercy to his sons, Jehovah has shown mercy to those fearing him.”—Ps. 103:13; 104:31.
However, God is not physically like a fleshly human male. “God is a Spirit,” said Jesus, “and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”—John 4:24.