I received another response concerning my previous post about the distinction between sins, this time from one of the priests in the bible study group:
I'm not sure how much light this information sheds on our discussion from last week. To be quite frank, I'm not sure how useful it is to rank sins (unless you are intending to create a system of penance or, at the worst, a system of indulgence). Paul says that the wages of sin is death. From my perspective, ANY sin that keeps you from God could be a "mortal" sin. I tend to look at sin in terms of relationships: ie. that all sin is a sin against love - love of God and love of other people. I find it helpful in preaching the gospel to about all sin breaking our relationship with God, but I just don't see how distinquishing between venial and mortal sins would actually be helpful in my ministry.
Probably the only real use I see of "grading" sins is in terms of leadership, which then brings us full circle back to the discussion from last week. In other words, are their sins that disqualify people from spiritual leadership? (the epistles to timothy probably are helpful here) But, unless you are going to argue that adultery and conspiracy to murder are venial sins, I'm just not sure how this distinction helps us understand I Samuel.
Here is my response:
I was merely pointing out the fact that there was indeed a distinction. The Apostles and Fathers of the Church and everyone else in the Church until the Reformation clearly taught that there was a distinction. Luther himself even said so. It wasn't until Calvin came along with his Reformed Theology that the distinction between mortal and venial sins were cast aside.
You said that you are not sure how useful it is to rank sins unless there is a system of penance or indulgence. Once again, the Apostles and Church Fathers have taught that there is a system of penance and indulgence. Penance (confession) is a sacrament in the Catholic Church and some would argue that it is also in the Anglican Church. In your Book of Common Prayer the rite can be found on page 447. It is very similar to the Catholic rite of Penance.
Even as an Anglican I knew that there were mortal and venial sins. It is not something I just picked up as a Catholic. That is why I was surprised when most people at the Bible study were not familiar with the concept.
As for asking whether adultery and conspiracy to murder are venial sins, the Church teaches, and has always taught, that they are mortal sins (sins that if you die with them on your soul, you go to Hell). But if you repent of a mortal sin, then the sin becomes venial (a sin that if you die with on your soul you will still be able to go to Heaven). That's the key issue I think concerning Saul and his leadership. Saul doesn't repent of his sins, thus they remain mortal. David however, with a contrite heart, repents and fasts, thus no longer making his sins mortal and enabling him to remain in God's favor.