Tag Archives: Bible Study

If you accept Jesus and become a Christian, will God make you happy?

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

This is a wonderful, wonderful post from Amy Hall, who writes for the Stand to Reason blog.

She writes:

I had a brief interaction with an atheist on Twitter a couple of weeks ago that unexpectedly turned to the issue of suffering when she said:

You clearly never had a time you were hurt. I don’t mean sick. I don’t mean heart broken. I mean literally a near death experience or rape or abusive relationship…. You can keep floating on a [expletive] cloud thinking Jesus will do everything for you but it’s a lie. What makes you so special?

That surprised me at first because it didn’t seem to have anything to do with the tweet she was responding to, and I was confused as to why she would assume I’d never been through anything traumatic. But then in subsequent tweets, when she revealed she had been raped, it became clear that her trauma had played a central role in her becoming an outspoken, obviously angry “antitheist.” She’s a self-described antitheist now because she thinks Christianity teaches Jesus “will do everything for you” to give you a perfect life, and now she knows that’s a lie. The rape proved her understanding of Christianity false.

So it made sense for her to reason that since I believe Christianity is true, I must still be under the delusion that Jesus is making my life special, which means I obviously never encountered any evil or suffering to shake that delusion.

All right, readers. I don’t want any of you to be thinking that if you become a Christian that these things should be expected to happen:

  • you will feel happy all the time
  • you will be able to sense God’s secret plan for your life through your feelings
  • God’s secret plan for your life will automatically work, even though it’s crazy
  • God will give you a perfect spouse and lots of money without you having to study anything hard, or do any hard work
  • you get permission to do things that that make you happy, even if they are expressly forbidden by the Bible
  • you don’t have to do anything that makes you feel bad (e.g. – talk to non-Christians about Christian truth claims), because God wants you to be happy

No! Where do people get this idea that if they convert to Christianity, then God will become their cosmic butler?

Amy has the answer: (emphasis mine)

Hear me, everyone: This is a failure of the church.

A friend of mine who was deeply suffering once said to me that many Christians are in for “an epic letdown” when they realize their preconceived notions about what God is expected to do for us are false. Pastors who preach a life-improvement Jesus are leading people down this precarious path to disillusionment.

If suffering disproves your Christianity, you’ve missed Christianity. The Bible is filled with the suffering of those whom God loves. The central event of the Bible is one of suffering. Love involves suffering. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” That means suffering.

It’s the church. It’s the focus on happy things and having of happy feelings and happy songs and preaching designed to make us feel good. I would say the comforting devotional reading doesn’t help to make us any tougher or more practical, either. That happy-clappy stuff just gives you a false sense of safety about your precarious situation. God’s job is not to prevent you from suffering. In fact, even if you make really smart, practical decisions, you can expect to get creamed anyway.

Please take 15 minutes and read the book of 1 Peter in the New Testament.

Here’s a summary from GotQuestions.org:

Purpose of Writing: 1 Peter is a letter from Peter to the believers who had been dispersed throughout the ancient world and were under intense persecution. If anyone understood persecution, it was Peter. He was beaten, threatened, punished and jailed for preaching the Word of God. He knew what it took to endure without bitterness, without losing hope and in great faith living an obedient, victorious life. This knowledge of living hope in Jesus was the message and Christ’s example was the one to follow.

Brief Summary: Though this time of persecution was desperate, Peter reveals that it was actually a time to rejoice. He says to count it a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ, as their Savior suffered for them. This letter makes reference to Peter’s personal experiences with Jesus and his sermons from the book of Acts. Peter confirms Satan as the great enemy of every Christian but the assurance of Christ’s future return gives the incentive of hope.

Practical Application: The assurance of eternal life is given to all Christians. One way to identify with Christ is to share in His suffering. To us that would be to endure insults and slurs from those who call us “goodie two shoes” or “holier than thou.” This is so minor compared to what Christ suffered for us on the Cross. Stand up for what you know and believe is right and rejoice when the world and Satan aim to hurt you.

Recently, I blogged about how suffering is compatible with an all-powerful God, so you might want to read that too if you missed it.

Are all sins equally bad? Or are there degrees of severity for different sins?

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

This question came up recently so I did some digging on theology web sites to find what Bible verses applied to the question.

Here’s what Ligonier said:

It’s clear that we have different degrees of sin when we consider the warnings of Scripture. There are at least twenty-two references in the New Testament to degrees of rewards that are given to the saints in heaven. There are different levels, different rewards, and different roles in heaven. The Bible warns us against adding to the severity of our judgment. Jesus said to Pontius Pilate, “He who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11). Jesus measures and evaluates guilt, and with the greater guilt and greater responsibility comes the greater judgment. It’s a motif that permeates the New Testament.

The idea of gradation of sin and reward is based upon God’s justice. If I commit twice as many sins as another person, justice demands that the punishment fits the crime. If I’ve been twice as virtuous as another person, justice demands that I get more of a reward. God tells us that entrance into heaven will be only on the basis of the merit of Christ, but once we get to heaven, rewards will be dispensed according to works. Those who have been abundant in good works will receive an abundant reward. Those who have been derelict and negligent in good works will have a small reward in heaven. By the same token, those who have been grievous enemies of God will have severe torments in hell. Those who have been less hostile will have a lesser punishment at the hands of God. He is perfectly just, and when He judges, He will take into account all of the extenuating circumstances. Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matt. 12:36).

A while back, my friend Dina sent me a sermon where that exact passage (John 19) was brought up by the pastor.

I think the correct position is that any sin is enough to separate you from God, but some sins are more severe than others in God’s objective standard of right and wrong.

OK, that was fine and good, but then I noticed a few days later that Michael Krueger had also blogged about this “all sin are equal” view, too.

Krueger says this:

First, to say all sins are the same is to confuse the effect of sin with the heinousness of sin.  While all sins are equal in their effect (they separate us from God), they are not all equally heinous.

Second, the Bible differentiates between sins. Some sins are more severe in terms of impact (1 Cor 6:18), in terms of culpability (Rom 1:21-32), and in terms of the judgment warranted (2 Pet 2:17;  Mark 9:42; James 3:1).

Even more Bible references, so we’re not on the wrong track.

So then why do some people insist that all sins are equal? It turns out that it is coming from the secular ideal of non-judgmentalism.

Krueger explains:

We should begin by observing that this phrase does not come from Scripture.  People do not use it because it appears in the Bible. Why then do they use it?

One reason, as noted above, is that some Christians use this phrase to uphold the seriousness of sin. It is viewed as a way to remind people not to be dismissive about their sin or regard it is a triviality.

Others use this phrase as way to “flatten out” all sins so that they are not distinguishable from each other.  Or, to put it another way, this phrase is used to portray all human beings as precisely the same.  If all sins are equal, and all people sin, then no one is more holy than anyone else.

In a world fascinated with “equality,” this usage of the phrase is particularly attractive to folks. It allows everyone to be lumped together into a single undifferentiated mass.

Such a move is also useful as a way to prevent particular behaviors from being condemned.  If all sins are equal, and everyone is a sinner, then you are not allowed to highlight any particular sin (or sinner).

Needless to say, this usage of the phrase has featured largely in the recent cultural debates over issues like homosexuality.  Yes, homosexuality is a sin, some Christians reluctantly concede.  But, they argue, all sins are equal in God’s sight and therefore it is no different than anything else.  Therefore, Christians ought to stop talking about homosexuality unless they are also willing to talk about impatience, anger, gluttony, and so on.

Krueger also posted this fascinating follow up post, where he looks at how the phrase is being used by people on Twitter.

Look at these tweets:

  • All sins are equal. People tend to forget that. There is no bigger or smaller sin. Being gay and lying, very equal.

  • all sins are equal in God’s eyes. whatever you’re doing, is no better than what someone else is doing.

  • If you have sex before marriage please don’t come on social media preaching about the wrongs of homosexuality. All sins are equal

  • Need people to realize that all sins are equal… don’t try to look down on me or question my faith just cuz you sin differently than I do.

  • Don’t understand why you’re so quick to judge me, when all sins are equal. So much for family..

  • if you think being gay is a sin, let me ask you something, have you not done anything wrong in your life? all sins are equal. we’re sinners

  • Nope no difference at all. All sins are equal no matter what you’re running for. The bible says do not judge lest ye be judged

  • A huge problem I have with religion is the notion that all sins are equal. Like pre-martial sex and murder are the same amount t of bad.

  • people do bad things because they believe that all sins are equal and ~god~ loves y’all equally so he’s going to forgive you naman ha ha ha

  • It a sin to condemn another sinner and their actions. All sins are equal. So what makes you better than the person you’re condemning?

  • I think so b/c having sex before marriage doesn’t make you less of a women then if you waited until marriage.. all sins are equal soo

  • friendly reminder, all sins are equal in gods eyes so you’re not better than I am in any way. please worry about your own sins before mine.

  • People don’t like when I suggest abortion as an option. This is a free country and all sins are equal so mind your business!!!

  • What I do is no worse than wat you do… all sins are equal no matter what it is… a sin is a sin

  • to god all sins are equal so you have no right to compare your sins to someone else’s bc in the end it doesn’t matter

The first thing that I noticed is that premarital sex and homosexuality are the most popular sins. I would think that divorce and abortion would be up there in the rankings, as well.

Something strange has happened in our society such that more and more people want to be led by their feelings, rather than be bounded by rules or standards. When people get caught breaking moral rules, rather than be accountable, they attack the person judging them. They would rather escape the judgment of their peers than admit fault and try to fix the mistake, and do better next time.

It’s so bad now, that the people who have morals and who make moral judgments are seen as the real bad people. The immoral people are on the offense, and even trying to ban people from being able to disagree with them. We’re seeing that with people who are being attacked for defending natural marriage against divorce and redefinition of marriage. In France, they want to make speech critical of abortion a criminal offense. And in Canada, they’ve now made speech critical of the gay agenda a criminal offense. (It’s already a human rights tribunal offense)

What is even more interesting is when the people who push the “don’t judge me” line try to justify it from the Bible. Very strange, but we seem to have forgotten the value of setting moral boundaries. Now moral boundaries are “evil”. Instead, having compassion for people who break the moral boundaries and harm themselves and others is “good”.

Robert Gagnon debates gay activist Jayne Ozanne on Bible vs homosexuality

Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign
Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign

I am tempted to say that this is the best podcast I have ever heard on the Unbelievable show. Do anything you have to do in order to listen to this podcast.

Details:

Prof Robert Gagnon has become a well-known voice advocating the traditional biblical view on sexuality. In a highly charged show he debates the scriptural issues on sexuality with Jayne Ozanne, the director of Accepting Evangelicals who came out as gay earlier this year.

The MP3 file is here.

If you can only listen for 15 minutes, then start at 49 minutes in and listen from there.

The following summary is rated MUP for made-up paraphrase. Reader discretion is advised.

Summary:
Intro:

  • Speaker introductions
  • Gagnon: scholars who support gay marriage agree that the Bible doesn’t support it
  • Gagnon: scholars who support gay marriage agree Jesus taught male-female marriage
  • Ozanne: I went to the hospital because I was sick from trying to suppress my gay desires
  • Ozanne: Doctors told me that I would die if I didn’t act on my gay desires
  • Ozanne: I decided to reinterpret the Bible to fit with my gay desires
  • Ozanne: According to my new interpretation, Jesus actually supports my gay desires

Segment 1: Genesis

  • Ozanne: In Genesis the Bible says that Adam needs a woman to complete him
  • Ozanne: I reinterpret this to mean that Adam needed a “complementarian human being”
  • Ozanne: Genesis doesn’t say whether Eve was complemented by Adam in that chapter
  • Ozanne: It’s not critical that men are complemented by women, a man could complement a man
  • Ozanne: Genesis 2 doesn’t talk about children, it’s all about adult needs from a relationship
  • Gagnon: Genesis 2 has never been interpreted that way in all of history
  • Gagnon: Genesis 2 language specifically implies a human being who is opposite/different
  • Gagnon: Genesis 2 language translates to complement or counterpart
  • Gagnon: Genesis as a whole teaches that the sexuality is for male and female natures
  • Gagnon: The extraction of something from the man that is given to the woman is complementarian
  • Ozanne: I think that people can be complementary outside of male-female Genesis language
  • Ozanne: I don’t want to discuss specific words and texts and Greek meanings
  • Gagnon: the text has always been read and interpreted to support male/female complementarity
  • Gagnon: the male-female nature argument is made because the two natures are complementary
  • Ozanne: the text was interpreted by patriarchal males who treated women like property, it’s biased
  • Ozanne: what is important to me is how Christ interprets Genesis (?? how does she know that?)
  • Ozanne: I am passionate about my interpretation of Scripture which supports my gay desires
  • Gagnon: just because a person is passionate about their interpretation it doesn’t make it right
  • Gagnon: I am not arguing for the male-female view based on passion, but on scholarship, evidence and history
  • Ozanne: both sides are equally passionate about their interpretations (?? so both are equally warranted?)
  • Ozanne: the real question is why God “allowed” two different interpretations of Scripture

Segment 2: Is homosexuality a sin?

  • Gagnon: Jesus affirmed traditional sexual morality, which forbids homosexuality
  • Gagnon: Jesus teaches that marriage is male-female, and limited to two people
  • Gagnon: No one in history has interpreted the Bible to say that homosexuality was not immoral
  • Ozanne: Jesus came to bring life, and that means he supports homosexuality
  • Ozanne: I was dying, and embracing my gay desires allowed me to live, so Jesus approves of me
  • Ozanne: God says “I am who I am” and that means he approves of me doing whatever I want
  • Ozanne: There is an imperative to be who I am, and that means embracing my gay desires
  • Gagnon: Jesus argued that the twoness of the sexual bond is based on the twoness of the sexes
  • Gagnon: Jesus did not come to gratify people’s innate desires, he called people to repent of sin
  • Gagnon: Jesus did reach out to sinners but he never condoned the sins they committed
  • Gagnon: Jesus’ outreach to tax collectors collecting too much and sexual sinners is the same: STOP SINNING
  • Ozanne: I don’t think that Romans 1 is talking about homosexuality
  • Ozanne: I think it’s talking about sexual addiction, not loving, committed gay relationships
  • Ozanne: Paul was condemning pederasty in Romans 1, not loving, long-term, consensual sexual relationships between gay adults
  • Gagnon: nothing in the passage limits the condemnation to pederasty
  • Gagnon: the passage was never interpreted to be limited to pederasty in history
  • Gagnon: rabbis and church fathers knew about committed two-adult same-sex relationships, and said they were wrong
  • Gagnon: the argument for marriage is based on the broad two-nature argument, with no exceptions
  • Gagnon: the condemnation is not limited to exploitative / coercive / lustful / uncommitted relationships
  • Gagnon: even pro-gay scholars agree the passage cannot be interpreted Ozanne’s way (he names two)

Segment 3: The showdown (49:00)

  • Ozanne: I don’t care how many pages people have written on this
  • Ozanne: God says that “the wisdom of the wise I will frustrate” so you can’t use scholars, even pro-gay scholars, to argue against my passionate interpretation
  • Ozanne: I am not interested in the text or history or scholarship or even pro-gay scholars who agree with you
  • Ozanne: what decides the issue for me is my mystical feelings about God’s love which makes my sexual desires moral
  • Ozanne: you are certain that this is wrong, but your view does not “give life” to people
  • Ozanne: your scholarship and historical analysis is “a message of death” that causes teenagers to commit suicide (= you are evil and a meany, Robert)
  • Ozanne: “I pray for you and your soul” (= opposing me will land you in Hell) and “I hope that listeners will listen with their hearts” (?? instead of their minds?)
  • Ozanne: you can prove anything you want with research, even two mutually exclusive conclusions, so you shouldn’t rely on scholarship and research since it could be used to prove my view as well
  • Ozanne: instead of relying on research, you should rely on your heart and your feelings about God’s love to decide what the Bible teaches about sexual morality
  • Gagnon: you are distorting the gospel in order to make your case
  • Gagnon: attacking my “certainty” is an ad hominem attack to cover your dismissmal of the scholarship and history
  • Gagnon: you distort the gospel to make it seem like Christ just wants us to get what we want, when we want it, with who we want it with
  • Gagnon: Christ calls us to take up our cross, to lose our lives and to deny ourselves
  • Gagnon: you have a notion of what “fullness of life” is, but it’s not reflective of the gospel
  • Gagnon: Paul’s life was much more troubling than yours, mine or anyone else around here
  • Gagnon: Paul was beaten, whipped, stoned, poorly sheltered, poorly clothed, poorly fed, shipwrecked, and anxious for his churches
  • Gagnon: on your view, he should have been miserable and angry with God all the time
  • Gagnon: but instead Paul was constantly thankful and rejoicing to be able to suffer with Jesus and look forward to the resurrection
  • Gagnon: I have suffered too, but the suffering we go through never provides us with a license to violate the commandments of God
  • Ozanne: “the ultimate thing is what people feel God has called them to”
  • Ozanne: My goal right now is to tell young people that homosexuality is fine so they don’t commit suicide
  • Ozanne: the view that homosexuality is wrong is “evil and misguided”
  • Gagnon: the greater rates of harm in the gay community are intrinsic to homosexual unions, not caused by external disapproval of homosexuality

Segment 4: Concluding statements

  • Gagnon: gay male relationships on average have more sex partners and more STDs
  • Gagnon: female relationships on average have shorter-length relationships and more mental issues
  • Gagnon: the greater rates of harm are because there is no complementarity / balance in the relationships
  • Gagnon: everyone has some disappointment or suffering in their lives that hurts them, and that they are tempted to break the rules to fix, but we should not break the rules in order to be happy
  • Ozanne: both sides are passionate, so no one can be right, and evidence proves nothing
  • Ozanne: only feelings about “what God is doing” can allow us to decide what counts as sin or not
  • Ozanne: the main thing that is at stake here is to make people like us, not to decide what the Bible says about sin
  • Ozanne: my message to people is to do whatever you want, and ignore mean people who don’t affirm you
  • Ozanne: we should be more opposed to mean people who make non-Christians feel unloved than about doing what the Bible says

Bible study: Paul’s continuing effort to disciple the Thessalonians

U.S. Marines "The Chosin Few", December 1950
U.S. Marines “The Chosin Few”, Dec. 1950 (Chosin Reservoir, North Korea)

I was asked by my friend Kevin to do more Bible study, and two of the books he asked me to do are 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians. He had  reason for asking this, and I found out after I sent him my reflections. So, I thought I’d better write these up so that you all get something out of this, too.

Background

You can read more about the author, background and dating of 1st Thessalonians.

You can read more about the author, background and dating of 2nd Thessalonians.

You should read both books, and it’s easy because they are short.

The relevant parts

See if you can guess the point I want to make from what I cite from each book before you read my conclusion.

1 Thessalonians 2:3-12:

3 For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit;

4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.

5 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness—

6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.

7 But we proved to be gentle among you,as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.

8 Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.

9 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

10 You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers;

11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children,

12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

1 Thessalonians 2:17-20:

17 But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face.

18 For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us.

19 For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?

20 For you are our glory and joy.

1 Thessalonians 3:1-3,6-13:

1 Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone,

2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith,

3 so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this.

6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you,

7 for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith;

8 for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.

9 For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account,

10 as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?

11 Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you;

12 and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;

13 so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.

2 Thessalonians 1:3-4:

3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;

4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13:

6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you,

8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you;

9 not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.

10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.

11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.

12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.

13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.

OK that’s all I want to quote, now for what I thought about all that.

My thoughts

Well, Kevin wanted me to read this because he thinks that I hover around young Christians a lot and fuss about whether they are going to church, whether they are reading apologetics, whether they are doing their homework, and passing their exams. You would not believe some of the things happening in the lives of my Christians friends! Every day, I hear new things:

  • my dog died
  • my professor is a liberal bully
  • I’m starting university
  • I quit my old job and got a new job
  • I am starting an internship
  • I finished graduate school
  • I’m starting graduate school in September
  • I started putting money into a savings account
  • my grandmother died
  • I missed a final exam
  • I cried in class
  • my boyfriend wants sex or he’ll break up with me
  • I moved into a new house
  • my work hours are being reduced
  • I hate my job
  • I can explain why I want to change careers on Thursday night
  • I can study the Bible with you on Friday night
  • I’ve got baby ducks in my garden
  • the other people on my team aren’t working on our course project

And more. I think Kevin wanted me to know that he was glad that I was meddling in the lives of all of these people, and that it was similar to what Paul does. Paul does not preach to people so that he will think that he is important or clever. He likes to debate and persuade, but he also likes to get involved in people’s lives over the long term. Paul isn’t just swooping by to solicit donations or preen about how great he is and then leave. He actually has an interest in the lives of other Christians. He actually tries to set an example for them of how to live. He wants the people to follow his lead, not follow his words. He always says “do what I do” not “do what I say”. He doesn’t just do a big public event and then forget about the people that he spoke to.

So, my point in this is for you to read the two letters to the Thessalonians closely, and don’t be like these parents, pastors, apologists and celebrities who just speak and leave. Don’t look to the people you have influence over as a source of money or approval. Challenge those people to change, built them up, share with them, give them gifts. Instead of telling them how to live, tell them to follow your example. And watch out for their daily struggles and troubles. Make sure you know who else is influencing them, and have your say to persuade them that your Christian viewpoint is right. Don’t just talk. Don’t appear so perfect like you are high above the others. Instead, make your whole life an example of what you want to convince them of. Show them your plans and goals and sacrifices, let them see your reasoning. And be willing to let them tell you the really dirty details of what they are doing. Don’t be so far above them that you refuse to get down to their level and do what they like to do, so you can spend time with them and really listen.

Debating forgiveness: must a person admit wrongdoing before being forgiven?

Two horses fight it out, may the best horse win!
Two horses fight it out, may the best horse win!

I was traveling outside the country when this debate came out, so I couldn’t blog about it right away. I’ve now listened to it three times. I liked it so much that I even ordered Chris’ book for Dina. She has listened to the debate, and is currently split between the two debaters. I am in firm agreement with the pastor Chris.

Here’s a link to the debate page on Moody Bible Institute’s “Up For Debate” program with Julie Roys. (H/T Kris)

Details:

Should Christians Forgive No Matter What?

Should Christians forgive someone even if he’s not sorry?  Or does true forgiveness require repentance and a desire to reconcile?  This Saturday, on Up For Debate, Julie Roys will explore this issue with Chris Brauns, a pastor who believes forgiveness requires repentance, and Remy Diederich who believes it does not.

Although I disagree with Remy, I only disagree with him about whether the guilty person must admit guilt and feel remorse and make restitution (depending on the severity of the offense). I agree with him on other things like no revenge, attitude of love, expressing willingness to forgive and be reconciled, etc. I also disagree with Remy on “forgiving God”, which I think is just crazy, because when God is engineering a person’s salvation, he never fails. I think that God is the Great General, and his strategies never fail to achieve the outcomes he desires (while still respecting free will). Whatever suffering or inadequacy or longing that you experience as a Christian is not some sort of mistake, horrible as it may be for you at the time. God is not your cosmic butler, although a lot of people these days seem to think that he is, and then they get disappointed.

Anyway, please listen to that debate and comment on it about who you think is right. I think my view (and Chris’ view) is in the minority in the church, because the church is so utterly dominated by feelings and radical feminism. I think my view (and Chris’ view) is the masculine view – the view that upholds moral standards, sets moral boundaries and defends the rightness of making moral judgments.

Below, I have pasted in some of my other thoughts on forgiveness from a previous post.

I think this is the key passage – Luke 17:3-4:

Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.

And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

That’s Jesus speaking, there.

Also, I was having a debate with someone who disagrees with all this, and while debating with her, I thought of another example.

Luke 18:9-14:

And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:

10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’

13 But the tax collector,standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’

14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

So again, no forgiveness without repentance.

Forgiveness is what happens when someone who is sinned against treats the sinner as if he had never sinned. It is not on the balance sheet. It is not brought to mind. It is not held against them in the future. The forgiver trusts the sinner again as if the previous sin had never happened.

In divine (vertical) forgiveness, there is no forgiveness without repentance. There are Bible verses above to show that.

My argument is twofold. First, there is a clear teaching of Jesus explaining the sequence of sin and forgiveness. Repentance precedes forgiveness, between humans (Luke 17:3). The verses cited by the forgive without repentance crowd don’t show the mechanics of how to forgive, they are making the point that if you want God to forgive you, you should forgive others. The parable in Luke 18:9-14 affirms this again – repentance always precedes forgiveness.

Second, we have an obligation to imitate God, and that means imitating the way he forgives those who sin against him. When I raise that with the unconditional forgiveness crowd, they want to insist that there is a difference, that the word “forgive” means different things. I’m not convinced.

Finally, I do think that forgiving someone is obligatory if they sincerely repent, and even if they screw up again and again. So long as the repentance is sincere, (like if there is restitution and a genuine effort to show an understanding how the sin affected the wronged party in writing), then forgiveness should be automatic. Depending on how bad the sin is, there maybe be more to do than just say “I’m sorry”. If the repentance is genuine, then I think the person who is sinned against must forgive, if they expect to be forgiven by God for the things they repent of.

Alan E. Kurschner adds one final point about the unconditional forgiveness view. He argues that there is serious textual doubt about the originality of Luke 23:34a, a text used by the pro-unconditional-forgiveness crowd. He has a journal article coming out on it, but a synopsis of his argument is here.

He also wrote this in a comment on this blog:

Second, on Matt 6:15, this is what I have to say. Notice the then-clause: “neither will your Father forgive your sins.” This would require universalism on the Father’s part according to the unconditional interpretation given the first half: “But if you do not forgive others their sins.” Since everyone has wronged the Father is the Father required to forgive everyone even if they are not seeking forgiveness?

So I think the case for the forgiveness being conditional on repentance is pretty strong, especially when serious harm has been caused.