02 December 2008

Book review — Unpacking Forgiveness, by Chris Brauns

by Dan Phillips
Unpacking Forgiveness, by Chris Brauns (Crossway: 2008; 235 pages)
I suppose you could say that there are two kinds of Christians: (1) those who think the subject of forgiveness is simple, and (2) those who actually have tried to wrestle with all the Biblical data on the subject. Put Chris Brauns in the latter category. And now, his wrestling is our gain.

First, an overall impression. This is really an excellent book on many levels. For starters, who would think that a doctrinal book on such a complex topic would be a page-turner? Yet this is. Brauns masterfully interweaves real-life dramas and traumas as illustrative to his treatment of a subject. He'll set up a nightmarish situation, then turn from it to the Biblical teachings, and then return to the outcome of the scenario. Again and again I was reading, ran out of time, hated to have to put the book down, and hustled to get back into it — to find out how the incident developed.

Brauns' writing style is engaging and lively, yet the contents are deeply Biblical, Christ-centered, and challenging. He writes with passion, humor, biblically-instructed intelligence, and a pastor's heart. This is no lab-report issued from a research cell in a high tower somewhere above the city, where some brainiac theoretician bloodlessly relays his findings, and leaves the rabble to work out the details. Brauns gets right down into the details. His conviction is that "There is no wound too deep for God to heal; there is no question too complex for him to answer" (p. 23).

Brauns is a good pedagogue. His definitions are careful and pointed. As he builds his case, he reviews what he has already said. He knows the value of repetition.

Now to specifics.

In his opening chapters, Brauns opens up both the complexity and the importance of the issue. Showing that God (in some sense) conditions His forgiveness of us on our willingness to forgive others, Brauns makes it an eternal issue, and not a peripheral detail.

Brauns' position is not what I'd call the popular evanjellybeanical stance. You may get a quick glimpse on where you currently stand in relation to Brauns' understanding of forgiveness by checking out the results of a survey he gave on that subject.

Brauns affirms the Biblical teaching that our forgiveness should be patterned after God's forgiveness. That is, it should not necessarily be instantaneous and unconditional, eradicating all horizontal consequences. (As I've argued, this can be not only unbiblical, but irrational.)

Rather, like God's forgiveness, our forgiveness should be conditioned on repentance, and may involve temporal consequences. As our Lord said, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him" (Luke 17:3).

Brauns shows that "God's forgiveness is gracious, but not free" (p. 45f.), that it is conditional (p. 47), that it is a commitment (p. 47f.), that it "lays the groundwork for and begins the process of reconciliation" (p. 48f.), and that it "does not mean the elimination of all consequences" (p. 49f.). He defines God's forgiveness as
A commitment by the one true God to pardon graciously those who repent and believe so that they are reconciled to him, although this commitment does not eliminate all consequences (p. 51).
Having laid this foundation, Brauns devotes the rest of the book to showing how Christians must follow God's pattern in dealing with wrongs and injustices in our own lives. He provides the general definition for human forgiveness:
A commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated (p. 55).
The offer of forgiveness is unconditional (p. 55), but the granting is not.

In what follows, Brauns defines and explains repentance and reconciliation; deals with bitterness and resentment; gives examples of difficult and thorny situations; and answers a number of practical, nuts-and-bolts questions. Brauns speaks both to the offender and the offended. He reminds the offender that "Whenever it is possible, Christians should make restitution for wrongs they have committed" (p. 205). You break, you replace; you steal, you restore; you shame, you break your back to repair honor — and don't imagine that you've repented and are forgiven if you do not work at full restitution.

Brauns provides a good deal of useful material to guide us in searching our own hearts, making sure our attitudes are sufficiently humble and focused. He discusses church discipline, and devotes a chapter to discerning situations where the wise and gracious course would be simply to drop a matter and love it over. Brauns also deals practically and fully with situations in which offenders do not repent, in which forgiveness is very difficult or impossible (i.e. the offender has died, unrepentant), in which Christians cannot come to agreement.

Decades ago, I had to work through some extraordinarily difficult issues regarding repentance, forgiveness, restitution, reconciliation, and consequences. I had nothing to help me but Scripture, and scattered bits and pieces. I came to basically the same place as Brauns — but my, it would have been easier if I'd had this book!

If there's a second edition, I'd like Brauns to take a look at some alternative handlings of his key passages. Particularly, he argues at length that our willingness to forgive indicates whether we're saved or not. He leans heavily on Matthew 6:12-15 (p. 119ff.). "Saying, 'I cannot or will not forgive,' is essentially another way of saying, 'I am thinking about going to hell'" (p. 128). I'd like to see Braun interact with the alternative interpretation of this passage, that Jesus is speaking of familial/relational forgiveness ("Your Father"), rather than judicial/eschatological forgiveness.

In sum: must-read for pastors; should-read for all.

UPDATE: see a followup article on one of Brauns' real-life illustrative stories here.

Dan Phillips's signature

58 comments:

Marie said...

Woo-hoo....I got 100 on his quiz! (Well, you kinda gave a way the answer to #6 in your entry). Looks like a worthwhile read.

donsands said...

"There are times when it is wrong to forgive."

A lot of Christians answer false to this one I noticed, and have noticed.

Sounds like an excellent book. Thanks for the review.

The other aspect of forgiveness for me, is when I'm supposed to ask for forgiveness, which I have to do a lot, it seems.

DJP said...

...you kinda gave a way the answer to #6....

Aigh! I'm a cheat-sheet!

Lee Shelton IV said...

"...and don't imagine that you've repented and are forgiven if you do not work at full restitution."

Dan, does the author discuss Christians who think they must work to pay back God for His forgiveness? That's an issue that doesn't seem to get much attention today. While restitution may apply to earthly interpersonal relationships, we shouldn't believe that it's actually possible to make restitution to God for our sins.

Frank Turk said...

Would asking a specific question about forgiveness derail the meta of the excellent book review?

What about praising the general content of the books Crossway has produced in the last 3 years (and beyond)?

DJP said...

Lee (IV), my own statement is in the light of Matthew 5:23-26. I know Brauns is perfectly clear that our eschatological forgiveness is completely earned, deserved and worked-for — by Jesus Christ, on our behalf; and is bestowed on us graciously.

I'll try to look through to see if he speaks specifically to your question.

DJP said...

Frank, you can derail a meta by asking if you can derail a meta!

TOTALLY agree with you about Crossway. They're the new Baker, now that Baker is Eerdmans. That, or better.

< /industry geekspeak >

Chris Brauns said...

Dan, thank you for your affirming comments. My family has prayed a great deal that the Lord will use this to encourage people to be more biblical in how they approach forgiveness.

Thank you also for your encouragement about a different interpretation of Matt 6:14-15. You are the second person inside a month that has suggested that approach. I will consider that more carefully.

While I'm a little biased, I totally agree about Crossway. It is a blessing to see the kinds of books they are consistently publishing. And, having interacted with them in the context of writing my book -my impression is that this is a really quality team. They are Christ-centered in their theology, hard workers, and knowledgeable about publishing.

rosemarie said...

Thanks for the review, as a biblical counselor I am always looking for biblical answers to the big questions that plague us. Forgiveness is something that we all wrestle with.

teytalis said...

Thanks for the review.
As a close friend of Chris' I had the opportunity to be in close proximity at the tail end of the publishing stage of this book. At that time I was struggling tremendously with forgiveness in a very close relationship. This book is a God send; an easy read even for an average Joe like me.

NoLongerBlind said...

Just ordered this based on your review.

Struggling with this issue in a complex family situation; how to/should I forgive when the offender is unrepentant.....

..looking forward to the read...

Rachael Starke said...

"may involve temporal consequences"

"this commitment does not eliminate all consequences."

I actually have a copy of this book on its way and fully intend to read it cover to cover. It absolutely hits where I am at the moment - and just in time for Christmas! :)

It's the above issue of consequences and resitution that I'm up against. It seems simple enough with the tangible examples you note. But what if the issues involve unkind words, harsh attitudes, sins that are less "tangible."

Also, it's been my experience that some people pull the "well, there are consequences to your sin" as a way to kind of blackmail people into proving their repentance (according to their own set of requirements rather than God's), or to justify a lack of mercy.

And amen and amen to the Crossway endorsement. May their tribe increase!

Stefan said...

"...and don't imagine that you've repented and are forgiven if you do not work at full restitution."

In the context of human relationships (Dan's original context), there's a whole lot of stuff packed into this short exhortation.

In other words, you can't just say you're sorry with your lips; you've got to work to make things right, out of a repentant heart.

Stefan said...

(That's the rhetorical "you," as in "I.")

Gayla said...

I also just ordered the book per your recommendation. Looking forward to reading it.

CraigS said...

This looks excellent, thanks for the review

Solameanie said...

Frank,

Wasn't "Forgiveness" also an Eagles song?

(listens as the brakes of the meta train screech loudly)

Seriously, this is a very difficult issue for me, as well as friends. Where I struggle is that I often think I have forgiven, but then keep rehearsing the situation with the usual result of rekindled anger and resentments until I manage to throw water on them again. Some friends of mine struggle with it even more intensely, using the argument that sometimes it's impossible to restore relationships when trust has been broken. And against all our objections and excuses, we come back again against the brick wall of what Scripture commands us to do.

pamkd said...

Great review! I have just finished the book and I'm sure to go back to it often. Pointing to scripture of where to find what Chris says in 'Unpacking Forgiveness" is a huge help to me, not always knowing where to look. It also gives good argument to some who may disagree, thinking forgiveness is just a simple everyday thing we do as Christians. It is not simple and not automatic, but this book certainly gives anyone a clear picture of what we are to do as Christians. Final comment: "Unpacking Forgiveness" is a great, stick to you book!

Larry said...

"...and don't imagine that you've repented and are forgiven if you do not work at full restitution."

I think these kinds of statements confuse the issue of forgiveness. Does God only forgive us it we work at full restitution? Am I permitted to withhold forgiveness if someone doesn't measure up to my standard of "working at it"?

If we are to forgive as God forgave us, I am not sure this can be a standard because I don't think it is a standard that God uses.

I think we actually need two foci here: For the offended, you forgive. You cannot wait until you see fruit of repentance because God doesn't wait until then. This idea that we have to see fruits before forgiveness is not a biblical one, (though I am not sure Chris is saying that since I haven't read the book).

For the offended, you must work at restitution and work to show sorrow. Period.

The other though I have is this: The idea of eliminating consequences is true, but I don't see biblical merit for the offended to impose consequences. The consequences are built in to the act, but the offended party has no biblical right to impose consequences.

DJP said...

I'm sure a lot of people have that same reflexive reaction, Larry. I hope you read the book and work through the Scriptures with Brauns; I think you'll find it instructive and helpful, as I did.

Terry Rayburn said...

There are different dimensions of forgiveness that are not Scripturally addressed fully by the English Bible words "forgive" or "forgiveness" (and their Greek counterparts).

This is important in counseling, because in cases where the Offender does NOT repent (or can't, being dead or moved away, for example) the Offended is often inclined to hold resentment, bitterness, or hatred in their heart.

They hold onto their resentment (which I contend is another dimension of unforgiveness) claiming a right to it, since the Offender never repented.

So, while the Offended may SAY they forgive (or say they would have if there had been repentance), the repentance clause becomes an excuse for violating the other side of the forgiveness coin, which is "love".

I would define forgiveness in this sense as "not holding something against someone as regards your unconditional love for them".

This doesn't imply reconciliation, which may not be right or possible.

It's merely the other side of the coin of Christian *love*, which may be defined as, "truly, by the Holy Spirit, desiring the best for the one loved", which is, of course a fruit of the Spirit.

Much more could be said, but the "red flag" is this, for all who do biblical counseling (which should be all of us in some context):

If you limit your thinking to the idea that biblical forgiveness is only that kind which is conditional on repentance, you will have a huge gap in your counseling bag of tools.

And your counselees may miss the "spirit" of forgiveness as a result, while claiming the "letter".

DJP said...

The letter is a pretty important thether, though, in a topic riddled with so much traditionalism and sentimentality. Don't you think? I don't have warrant to press someone to do something to which God doesn't press him, in the name of concepts I've isolated from their Scriptural definitions and anchors.

Braun does treat bitterness at length and, in my judgment, Biblically.

If you read it and blog on it, Terry, please drop me an email to make sure I get a chance to read it. Please?

Luke said...

Thanks for the recommendation.

Chris Brauns said...

Terry,

I would agree that Christians should not harbor bitterness or resentment.

At the same time, it's important to use biblical words with biblical definitions.

I'm sure you wouldn't suggest that we redefine forgiveness because the English and biblical usage does not address all the dimensions. But, I think that's where we are headed when we make an evaluation that the Bible doesn't cover all the nuances of the word "forgiveness."

Where the offender is still living - - Christians must wrap the package of forgiveness and graciously offer it to all - - we must have an attitude of forgiveness or a willingness to forgive.

Biblically, forgiveness is not fundamentally a feeling, though feelings are involved. Fundamentally, it is something that happens between two parties.

The trajectory of automatic forgiveness pretty quickly becomes universalism - - that God forgives all people.

Where the offender is deceased, the Bible models and prescribes that believers leave justice to God.

Thanks for your thoughtful interaction. This response is a bit scattered - - hopefully, it is a bit more coherent in the book!

Chris Brauns said...

Solemeanie,

Your comments about the challenge of not mentally rehearsing things is insightful. Personally, I find this one of the more challenging aspects of forgiveness.

I have a chapter in my book, "When I can't stop thinking about it." I call it the challenge of the mental gerbil wheel (and that's not original to me).

One Derek Kidner quote is very insightful. "An obsession with enemies and rivals cannot be simply switched off, but it can be ousted by a new focus of attention."

The more we focus our attention on Christ through his word, the more we can win the mental battle.

Solameanie said...

"Mental gerbil wheel."

I like it! And I can't help but think of this.

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

Sounds like I'll need the book....

(The pain has to end some time....)

Giraffe Pen (기린 만년필) said...

The author of the book says "Rather, like God's forgiveness, our forgiveness should be conditioned on repentance". What do you say to that, though, in relation to when Jesus was on the cross and gave forgiveness to those who crucified Him, saying "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do"?

CR said...

Hmm...sounds interesting. I wonder how close Brauns is with Jay Adams on Forgiveness. Sounds like there are similarities between the two. One of the best books I've read on forgiveness is by MacArthur. In fact, I think I need to read it again. But I think I will also read this book during my long break at the end of the month.

CR said...

Oh, just noticed that the author himself is interacting in this meta.

Giraffe Pen (기린 만년필) said...

Actually, Dan, I've been blogging about this issue as it's applied to my own situation (especially today). I'd appreciate it if you would have a read of it and give me some advice.

Chris Brauns said...

Giraffe Pen,

As it relates to your question about Jesus' prayer on the Cross. Here is an excerpt from Unpacking.

I have preached and taught this material on a number of occasions. Two questions almost always come up. First, whenever it is argued that forgiveness should be preceded by repentance, some will counter, “Isn’t it true that Jesus forgave those who crucified him?” They allude to the crucifixion account in Luke 23.
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
~ Luke 23:33-34
The short answer to that question is, “no,” Jesus did not forgive them. If you think carefully about this passage, you will see this is the case. Jesus prayed that those who crucified him would be forgiven in the future, he did not thank God that they were already forgiven. If they had already been forgiven, such a prayer would have been superfluous.
Jesus surely could have forgiven them on the spot himself, had they been repentant on the spot. We know from elsewhere in Scripture that Jesus had authority to forgive sins. Indeed, there were times when he told people that their sins were forgiven (Luke 5:20-24, 7:49).
Notice also that on the cross, in exactly the same context where Jesus prayed that his killers would be forgiven, Jesus does grant forgiveness to someone else! There were two criminals hanging with Jesus, and one of them repented. Jesus forgave him immediately: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” He did not say, “I pray that you will be forgiven.” He forgave him. And, Jesus’ forgiveness promised a new relationship: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Stephen’s prayer for those who stoned him closely parallels the interceding prayer of Jesus on behalf of his tormentors.
And falling to his knees he [Stephen] cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
~ Acts 7:60

I would not be the first to observe that the apostle Paul’s conversion was an answer to Stephen’s prayer. Paul, who stood nearby holding the garments of those who stoned Stephen, was later saved. But, again, it could be pointed out that Stephen did not say to those stoning him, “I forgive you.” Paul was not forgiven until he repented on the road to Damascus. Hypothetically speaking, if Paul had lost his life in a chariot accident during the time period between Stephen’s death and his own conversion, Paul would not have gone to heaven.

Chris Brauns said...

CR,

I would say my position is fairly close with Jay Adams and John MacArthur . . . In fact, I quote them both in an appendix about what others say about unconditional forgiveness.

I think my position is also similar to Ken Sande's (another excellent resource).

Of course . . . I am an author . . . so I think this is such an important subject that there is value in different perspectives. . . It's essentially like listening to different pastors preach on the same passage. Though they may all agree, there is value in listening to more than one.

But, honestly, you would be in good shape beginning with those guys. I would definitely read Ken Sande's book if you haven't read it.

donsands said...

"Jesus prayed that those who crucified him would be forgiven in the future, he did not thank God that they were already forgiven."

And the Jews who were there, had blasphemed the Holy Spirit, and so there would be no forgiveness for them, in this age, nor the next.

Jesus taught us to forgive. And then He asked the Father to forgive people who had just hammered spikes through His hadns and feet.
Jesus made His teaching of forgiveness even more incredibly credible.
What a Savior.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

Thanks so much for posting a review of this book. This area, forgiveness, is such a key area in our Christian lives and I am pleased to recommend this book.

Brother Chris Braun, if you are still reading these comments - thank you - this book has been useful to me in my ministry. May the Lord encourage you in His instrumental use of your gifts for His glory.

Terry Rayburn said...

Dan,

"I don't have warrant to press someone to do something to which God doesn't press him, in the name of concepts I've isolated from their Scriptural definitions and anchors."

Agreed. That's why I "press" him from the standpoints of Love and Anger/Bitterness, both biblical concepts.

What Chris calls "willing to forgive" (presumably, if conditions of repentance were met) is a matter of the heart.

I'm simply expanding on that heart matter in a very practical way important in biblical counseling.

The alternative is way too common, namely, someone *saying* they forgive (or would if there was repentance), but remaining in the bondage of bitterness because only the conditionality of forgiveness was addressed, not the "love" aspect.

This manifests itself in the mind (albeit inarticulately) as, "I forgive them. I won't even bring it up again. But I'm not going to love them, and they better watch it in the future." (If there was repentance).

Or if there was no repentance, "I'm not only not going to forgive them, since they didn't repent, but I'm also darn sure not going to love them."

As a counselor, one is not ultimately responsible for the counselee's response, but if the counselor doesn't recognize these dynamics, there is a blind spot that neither the counselor nor counselee can see clearly.

DJP said...

There certainly isn't any "cover" for that kind of attitude in Brauns' book, Terry. As I said, if you read and interact, please drop me a line so I can benefit from your thoughts.

Many are expressing concern about folks' unwillingness to forgive. Fair enough. Permit me to voice an additional concern about folks who are unwilling to repent, or who inflict terrible personal damage, mouth a "Sorry," and then are all about "Let's move on and stop bringing up the past!" — with none of those fruits of repentance which the Word calls for.

Terry Rayburn said...

Chris,

"I'm sure you wouldn't suggest that we redefine forgiveness because the English and biblical usage does not address all the dimensions. But, I think that's where we are headed when we make an evaluation that the Bible doesn't cover all the nuances of the word 'forgiveness'."

I think the Bible *does* indeed cover all the nuances of the word "forgiveness", but not within the word "forgiveness" alone.

There are wider biblical contexts than a mere word study, and the verses that contain that word (I'm not saying that's what your book is, of course).

Side road example, using "love":

Since love is "patient" and "kind", etc., it behooves us to look into "patience", "kindness", etc., for insight into "love". Not being content to merely define "love" and cite the Scriptures which use the actual term. This is an important distinction between "exegesis" (drawing out the actual content) and "hermaneutics" (interpreting the content in a wider context).

"Biblically, forgiveness is not fundamentally a feeling, though feelings are involved. Fundamentally, it is something that happens between two parties."

I agree that it's not fundamentally a feeling, just as biblical love is not.

However, I am advocating that forgiveness in it's fully-rounded sense goes beyond just a two-party transaction.

For a clear but extreme example, I can hold resentment and bitterness in my heart toward Adolf Hitler, and by extension even toward Germans and Austrians. I may (inarticulately vaguely) think in terms of, "How can I forgive that monster? I won't!"

Since he obviously can't repent, and though I may pretend that I *would* forgive him if he could repent, the truth is that I must "forgive" him in the fully-rounded sense, or I will develop a root of bitterness.

This is at the core of most racism. Atrocities are regularly committed by individuals from groups and classes who will not nor cannot repent.

There must be a love which covers a multitude of sins, a love that is a fruit of the Spirit, and which engenders not the "forgiveness" of full reconciliation, but the "forgiveness" that refuses to hold something against someone to the point of not biblically loving them.

To put it in a practical counseling context, it's not just the technical "conditional forgiveness" doctrine that will set a counselee free, but the truth of an un-conditional heart forgiveness which is a manifestation of biblical love.

Terry Rayburn said...

In the third-from-the-last paragraph of my last comment, "who will not nor cannot repent" should be grammatically corrected to something like, "who will not or cannot repent".

This for the benefit of Dan, who has become my welcomed grammar editor, and has kindly done his job privately, outside the public shame of blogdom :)

[Dan is now chuckling to himself, "Terry thinks that's the ONLY grammatical faux pas he committed in that comment?!!"]

Thanks, Dan.

CR said...

Thank you Mr. Brauns for the extra information.

Giraffe Pen (기린 만년필) said...

Hi Chris, you said that Jesus had authority to forgive sin and indeed he did... In Mark he forgave the man who descended from the thatched roof, who was actually lowered down to have his paralysis healed. Before Jesus healed the dude's body he FORGAVE his sins... The irony though is that the guy wasn't looking for forgiveness but physical healing... He never repented but Jesus forgave him, so my question's the same as before. How does this story fit in with the thesis that Jesus only forgave people who outwardly repented? Jesus' killers didn't and the paralytic in Mark didn't.

R W S said...

I have been on both sides of the fence and realize that at times forgiveness and reconciliation is dependent on both the offended party and the repented party ,willing to work in a manner worthy of their christian confession. To reconcile to one friend it took almost 10 years and I have admit on my part it was pride and a lack of humility that withheld my forgiveness .It took a fall of my own to break me and open my eyes . As to the repented party proving they have truly repented , I do not totally agree that this is sound if based on the offended parties criteria. Because they can also use it like a battering ram and have no real interest in forgiveness or reconciliation in the first place , which I have seen. If one asks to be forgiven and shows true contrition , we must forgive then the reconciliation can begin, and trust can begin to be restored. I hold that above all things these matters are what should radically show Christ's love in a world that holds grudges and lacks forgiveness.

DJP said...

Many seem to have that concern. I've more often seen the converse.

The wronged person should be willing and eager to forgive; the repentant offender should be eager to do all he can to restore what he damaged, with interest. That is the Biblical standard.

The wronged person shouldn't have to list terms, and in the case of a genuinely repentant person likely does not have to, any more than the Lord had to do with Zacchaeus. So far from saying, "I said I'm sorry, now let's move on," it was Zacchaeus who appropriately sprung to volunteer a program of restitution, which the Lord clearly approved.

If his victims declined, that was their affair. But they should not have had to ask; Zacchaeus did well to take the initiative.

I must say, I'm puzzled at so much eagerness to protect offenders from being obliged to "bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance." In all my travels and experiences, firsthand and vicarious, I've never had the impression that folk who slander, impugn, and badly and materially wrong others are over-eager to demonstrate concrete deeds of repentance.

donsands said...

"Before Jesus healed the dude's body he FORGAVE his sins... The irony though is that the guy wasn't looking for forgiveness but physical healing"

It was the four others who brought him, who were the ones with faith. Jesus saw their faith. Very interesting.
"The guy wasn't looking for forgiveness"?
Perhaps he was.
The overwhelming truth that our sovereign God wanted to show forth here, is that Christ had the power to forgive sin.

If we look at all of God's counsel, we know that to be forgiven, one has to ask for mercy, and has to have a heart that is penitent.

This man, no doubt knew he was a sinner, and needed forgiveness. Perhaps not in the purest sense, but nevertheless he knew he was in need of forgiveness.
Not unlike my own salvation. Many cobwebs were in my spirit just before Christ brought me to repentance, and granted me His mercy. My mind knew little of the truth at that time, but I knew I was a sinner, and needed mercy and forgiveness, but only by His grace.

sdCorinne said...

WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW! You have no idea how timely this is for me. Praise be to God for answered prayer in unexpected places (not that I don't expect great things from Team Pyro - I just didn't expect this)!! Reading just this short post on forgiveness has lifted a burden...

Giraffe Pen (기린 만년필) said...

Donsands, I guess what I was saying in my last post is that I see cases in the gospels where Jesus has proffered forgiveness even though they did not necessarily seek it. The man in Mark, the thief on the cross, etc. I don't agree with the concept that the offender needs to repent before we forgive them... I know that needs to happen with God but we're NOT God. We're guilty of sin and OUR hurt doesn't require the blood sacrifice that Jesus gave to propitiate sin. The hurts that have been inflicted upon us, in my opinion, have already been paid for on our behalf on the cross, and unlike God I don't believe our forgiveness is contingent upon where the other person stands.

In Australia we had a book published called Forgiving Hitler, where a Jewish (Messianic) Jewish woman talked about forgiving a man, Hitler, whom she'd never met, was dead, and had never repented of his sin (at least publicly). I think it is possible for this to happen because as I see it a wronged Christian can 'cast' their offendedness onto the cross where ALL sin was paid for and have the legal problem of offence taken away. In that sense Jesus' blood performs the role of the scapegoat in Leviticus, which carried away confessed sin into the wilderness.

CR said...

Dan,

Maybe this book can be the second book of the year after we cover the 50pts book. We all need forgiveness and I think it would a good exercise to interact in our men's sessions.

donsands said...

"The hurts that have been inflicted upon us, in my opinion, have already been paid for on our behalf on the cross, and unlike God I don't believe our forgiveness is contingent upon where the other person stands."

Someone belittles me. That same person thinks I deserve to be belittled, and even slandered, and lied about.
He is exposed of his pride and self-righteousness, and yet he continues to say he is right.
Do I forgive him? He doesn't want forgiveness really.

Giraffe Pen (기린 만년필) said...

Well giving someone what they don't want or deserve is precisely what grace is, isn't it? We're told in Scripture to forgive our brothers if they sin against, whether they ask it or not. Sorry, the 'forgive someone if they ask for it' argument just isn't convincing. It seems to contradict what's spoken of in Scripture and defeats the point that Christians must be willingly prepared to do it. Waiting for the other person to make the first step is passive; as God's grace is active as I understand it so must ours be.

DJP said...

Giraffe, you've probably yarned on about a book you haven't read about enough. In saying "the 'forgive someone if they ask for it' argument just isn't convincing," you're directly disagreeing with Jesus on the subject, as pointed out in the post. And, as has been explained more than once, the notion of indiscriminately "forgiving" the unrepentant is not only unbiblical, but irrational.

Remember: this is a post and meta about a book. I try to make it a rule not to say much about books I haven't read. I commend that orientation to you. So, please, get the book, read the book, blog your thoughts on the book.

Giraffe Pen (기린 만년필) said...

Daniel, I'm discussing the broader topic of the issue of forgiveness- surely that's relevant, isn't it? I'm looking at what Scripture says- surely that's where authority comes from and is relevant isn't it? Or do you have all the goods on the subject? Do you think you have all the goods on rationality and are in a position to look down on me because I disagree with you? You need to humble yourself and get off your high horse.

Giraffe Pen (기린 만년필) said...

And no, Daniel, you don't have all the goods on Scriptural truth just because you read a book on it. You're not my judge or the final arbiter of truth. I didn't realise that you wanted to rig this discussion according to your personal models of truth and rationality!

DJP said...

I'm not? Oh, darn. But I am a host, and you are the guest, and sometimes I also must remind my guests of the rules, and enforce them.

As I'm doing with you. Wish you'd taken it with grace; but, regardless, take it you must.

Lin said...

Thank you for this review. I am buying the book. You wrote:

"I must say, I'm puzzled at so much eagerness to protect offenders from being obliged to "bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance." In all my travels and experiences, firsthand and vicarious, I've never had the impression that folk who slander, impugn, and badly and materially wrong others are over-eager to demonstrate concrete deeds of repentance.

6:01 PM, December 03, 2008

This is the number one problem in Christendom. I am so glad to see you address it clearly. How many people are we sending to hell because of cheap forgiveness?

That may shock folks that I say that but I witnessed a friend whose child was abused by a pedophile elder. The church rallied around the pedophile because he said, 'sorry' and admonished the family not to press charges but to 'forgive. But since they insisted on pressing charges, the church leaders called the family bitter and 'unforgiving'.

This sort of thing comes from faulty teaching on forgiveness.

DJP said...

I wish that weren't an instructive example, Lin; but it is. It's where the "instantly and unconditionally forgive and forget" thinking logically leads.

CR said...

This book has an endorsement from Jerry Bridges. That means a lot to me and will most likely get the book soon.