Friday, August 5

Gods Forgiveness

Lately Steve over @ Freethinking Faith has been discussing the nature and basis of God's forgiveness towards sin. From what I can gather (and correct me if I am wrong here Steve) but he is advocating something like this - Humanity sins constantly, and is thus in need of forgiveness from God. God is loving, forgiving, and merciful, and in this love he will readily forgive our trespasses. Steve also says that the idea that Jesus Christ died on the cross as a kind of metaphysical transaction for our just punishment for being human (an eternity in hell) negates the whole idea of God's mercy. Since God's wrath was taken out on Jesus, Christ took the punishment away from us, which does not make God very 'forgiving' or 'merciful' in any sense of the word.

Finding all of this very convincing, I decided to search the gospels myself in an attempt to find what Jesus really taught in this regard. The number of texts I could use here is enormous, so I'll pick out my most favourite and use that. First of all, I think it is very important to understand that Jesus gave and taught forgiveness of sins BEFORE his death. He offered remission of sins to many people well before his crucifixion, and his disciples found life eternal in Jesus Christ before Pentecost. This is important because when examining Gods relation to sin, it does not start with Jesus death but Jesus life. His death was not an event that opened the floodgates of heavenly forgiveness for sins. But also, in another way, if Christ resisted the criminals death that he suffered through, His claims on divinity would be dubious because he failed to live up to his own ideals.

Keeping this principle in mind, I want to now examine a few of the many meaningful encounters Jesus had with people concerning forgiveness of sins:

Luke 7:36-50

Matthew 6:14-15

Matthew 18:21-35

All amazing passages; and all offer an illumination of God's attitude towards sin. Forgiveness of sins is characterized here as being extremely lenient. Jesus forgave very openly prostitutes and other terrible sinners. They did not have to pay back their debt in any way, they didn’t have to beg or commit their life to him. These sinners were forgiven because they 'loved much', because they forgave other men also, and because they had great faith. (NOTE: Faith here does not mean an "intellectual belief in some maxim" (for example Christ's divinity), faith was always characterized by a great act of commitment the man had for Jesus. And after that 'leap of faith into Jesus' a man lived by faith by essentially living a Christ-like life. Faith was and is existential, and should never be associated with intellectual belief.)

With these amazing and encouraging examples of God's extreme love and mercy, Christ also gave a very grave warning concerning forgiveness of sins that must not be overlooked. In
Luke 7:47
Jesus said that the man who is forgiven little, loves little. In
Matthew 6:15
Christ said that if we forgive not other men also, God will accordingly not forgive us. In the amazing parable Christ gave of the kingdom of heaven in
Matthew 18:21-35
, the way God relates to sin is told with extreme directness. In the story the servant here asks the master, just like the sinner asks God, to forgive his big debt (in our case sin). The master forgives freely, showing a great amount of mercy, love, and forgiveness. But later on, when another servant talked to the forgiven servant and asked to relieve a much smaller debt, he was incredibly harsh on the other servant, forcing him to repay the debt. Now, when the master heard about this, he sent for the servant and told him how wicked he was, and sent him to jail, forcing him to repay his debt.

This makes it seem like there is a sin that can not be forgiven by God, maybe being what Jesus talked about when he spoke of the "sin against the holy spirit". The hypocrisy in the servant is blindingly obvious, the master forgave the servant for a very large debt, and the servant did not show even an iota of that forgiveness when talking with the other servant. This shows not only that he was hypocritical, but that he was never grateful to the master for what he did, and therefore did not love the master.

The biggest lesson we can learn from these passages is that if our Christianity is not expressed existentially, then it is not really Christianity at all. As James mentioned in his epistle, faith without works is dead. A non-existential Christianity is essentially dead, or as I like to say it is not Christianity at all. When Luther corrected the errors of the Catholic Church, it seems church history since then has not only learned from these errors, but has over-exaggerated everything Luther seemed to teach, and the result of this process is "modern Protestantism".


Blogger SteveJ said...

Bravo, Tim!

Where can I find some books on Existential Christianity?

11:08 PM  
Blogger SteveJ said...

Hey, I posted and the blog still reads 0 posts, even after refreshing. What gives?

4:55 AM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Im not sure?... If you mean comments, it says 2 comments now.

Anyway, books on Existential Christianity is a difficult topic. "The cost of Discipleship" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is quite good and very close to existential Christianity, even if he dosen't explicitly use the term. Kiekergaard set the intellectual and philosophical foundation for existential Christianity in books like "Philosophical Fragments" and "Concluding Unscientific Postscript", but he expressed his views on Christianity directly with books like "Practice in Christianity", "For Self-Examination", and "The moment". That is all the books I know of at the moment.

But with that said there are alot of liberal christians who indirectly express the idea in their books, especially on the liberal side.

9:08 AM  
Anonymous eddie said...

Awesome thoughts Tim! If only everyone could really grasp this, because this is the Way.

Thanks for highlighting these important truths.


6:15 AM  
Anonymous grace said...

Nice site. There is a free CD or tape that uses subliminal affirmations to assist in the forgiveness and letting go process. You can get it at

5:39 AM  
Anonymous forgive said...

Thanks for your contribution to the blog world. There are some free subliminal mind training tools that helped me with fear and forgiving--the whole letting go process, and you can get them with no hitches attached at

4:46 AM  
Anonymous anxiety said...

Some say forgiving is Divine--but now-a-days it's almost essential unless we want to live in fear and anger. There are some absolutely free programs (subliminal and hypnosis) available from Eldon Taylor's site at They helped me.

5:09 AM  
Anonymous fear said...

Forgiving, letting go--releasing fear and so on can be so difficult and yet so easy if the mind just attends to a little re-training. There are some free subliminal and hypnosis programs for these issues at and they helped me.

4:26 AM  
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