Saturday, 23 April 2011

Total Forgiveness?

I've been readiing Dr. Ted Williams' "Christ or Therapy - For Depression and Life's Troubles"; a very helpful, easy to read book.

One of its insightful analyses is of the teaching of "Total Forgiveness"; the idea that the Christian should forgive everyone, unconditionally, and that this is the path to inner peace.

Williams shows how this idea in its contemporary form was unknown to previous generations of Christians, and is a significant corruption of the Christian doctrine of forgiveness, brought in through humanists via the secular counselling movement. Its major defects are:
  • Authentic Christian forgiveness is based on real dealing with sin, and achieving reconciliation between the offender and the wronged party. "Total forgiveness" is based upon the wronged party granting a forgiveness within themselves - a forgiveness which is not usually communicated to the wrong-doer (and the wrong-doer may not agree that it was needed), and which is not based upon any actual dealing with the evil committed.
  • Christian forgiveness aims for objective righteousness in God's world. "Total forgiveness" aims at the therapeutic healing of the wronged party, to give them inner peace, and is thus essentially a selfish enterprise.
  • These things being so, the "wronged party" self-identifies; they deal only with their counsellor, who takes their word for it that they are wronged and then deals with their feelings; in an authentic Christian process, when necessary credible judges are brought in to give their opinion based upon Scripture.
  • Christian forgiveness is ultimately based on the principle of atonement, and is not received unconditionally but rather when repentance has been credibly manifested. "Total forgiveness" is based upon nothing; righteousness is simply cancelled. Thus, "Total Forgiveness" promotes a sub-Christian view of God's character.
Some Christian "Total Forgiveness" advocates also add rank blasphemy to their teachings; e.g. R T Kendall's teaching that it is necessary for us to forgive God! As Williams says, the idea that a fallen creature can imagine that he needs to forgive God beggars belief.

The Bible forbids Christians to hold grudges, to be bitter or otherwise hold on to wrongs. It commands us to hand over our wrongs to God, and to entrust ourselves to him and his righteous judgments in due time, in all humility knowing that we ourselves are sinners. We are to stand ready to forgive when repentence is credibly shown, and at that time to deny it to nobody. But "Total Forgiveness" is not a Biblical concept, but a humanistic one which - as humanism does - is ultimately an anti-Christian attack on the doctrine of God and his righteousness.

1 comment:

Ned Kelly said...

Such a book has been long overdue. I have never understood Total Forgiveness as preached by many pastors, as it requires people to have a higher moral standard than God. Forgiveness by God is contingent upon repentance - no repentance, no forgiveness. That is not to say that we stop loving those who offend us, or that we should harbour ill-feeling towards others. Forgiveness is not about the offended moving on, but the offender. Unless the offender recognises their sin, and vows to sin no more, forgiveness is empty and in a sense, can reinforce the sinful behaviour. Loving the offender is more than just compassion and warm fuzzy feelings, it is about doing what is best for them irrespective of what it may cost you. If God forgave us our sins without repentance, there would have been no need of the Cross. This shows that forgiveness is a covenant between the two parties - it costs the offended to forgive, but always contingent upon repentance by the offender.