The Sheperd of Hermas


How does the Catholic Church view a claim made in the Sheperd of Hermas listed here with regard to repetative sin?

But I am warning you he said if after this great and holy call anyone is tempted by the devil and sins that person has one opportunity for repentance. But if that one sins repeatedly and repents it is of no use for such a person for that person will scarecely live.


While I am not certain on the Church’s position on this passage (other than that The Shepherd of Hermas is not divinely inspired), doesn’t this passage clash directly with Matt 18:22 (where Christ instructs that we should forgive one another seventy times seven times)?

I also think that the passage offers little hope for those who struggle with sin to ask for forgiveness again because “it is of no use for such a person for that person will scarecely live.”

Albeit there is some practical sense in trying to ensure that the process of seeking forgiveness is not abused (i.e. that people seeking forgiveness are truly attempting to amend their sinful ways of life), who are we to refuse forgiveness to someone who is honestly asking for it and desiring to follow Christ after much personal suffering and struggle?

Lastly, isn’t the Church a “hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints”? Doctors do not refuse cancer patients who have returned because their cancer came back from remission.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if I have missed the point or anything important, because I have done that a few times in the past.


In the ancient Church after baptism it was assumed you would not sin again…that is an excommunicable sin. If you did commit such a sin…and at that time there were four that were considered excommunicable, you were out. Eventually, the Church reconsidered but you only had one chance at forgiveness. The sinner entered the Order of Penitents and did years of penance before being accepted back into the CHurch. BUt if you sinned again you were out with no chance of returning. Needles to say, many waited until they were basically on their deathbed to be baptized or to confess their sin.


The book doesn’t make the distinction of excommunicable sin. Fortunately, for us it wasn’t canon (although it came close). But in Holy Living it give the impression that you’re done for if you dont’ “get it right” the first time. What if you repreat your sin and confess it more than once?


I like reading the ECF and this book has been interesting. Yet with my recent return to Catholicism I feel like I’m never doing enough. I know the Church teaches that you can’t earn salvation that its by grace yet in practice it seems the church like Hermas seems to put all sort of caveats to that. And I’m stressed. Where is the balance? Keep in mind I’m coming from years of Salvation at a single point of time and works flow from that mentality


Very simply - Christ said ‘whose sins you forgive they are forgiven’. There’s no specification that such forgiveness isn’t available for repeated sin. Quite the contrary - Peter reiterates that the just man falls seven times a day.

I’d take the words of our Lord against those of the writer of The Shepherd, whose view certainly doesn’t seem to have been supported by any other early Christian writer or Church Father.


I understand that on a logical level but getting it to make the 14 inch jump is difficult. Sure but Paul also says to run the race but I keep stumbling.


We all stumble, every day, INCLUDING the just! That’s St Peter’s whole point - the just stumble TOO. The winner is the one who stumbles but then gets back up and keeps going towards the finish line.

Remember St John’s words as well - ‘if we say we do not sin, we are liars and the truth is not in us’. This including himself. And this is from one who was ‘saved’ if anyone was! And he said so well after your average OSAS believer would’ve declared him assured of salvation and among the elect.

St James exhorts us to confess our sins. Not just ‘those few who have sins, confess them’, but all - because we ALL have sins and we can ALL benefit from confession. Again, he said so (not excluding himself) well after an OSAS-er would’ve declared him ‘saved’. :shrug:

closed #9

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