This blog is devoted to discussing the pursuit of eternal life.
Discussion and participation by readers is desired,
but contributions should correlate to the book,
The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology
of Perseverance & Assurance

Thomas R. Schreiner
& Ardel B. Caneday

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Sin of "Unconditional Forgiveness"

If you are looking for the blog entry titled "The Sin of 'Unconditional Forgiveness,'" I am sorry to disappoint you, but I have removed it. I did so because I rewrote the piece so that any use or citation of my work on forgiveness of sin should refer to my rewritten piece, originally written to be published in a popular Christian magazine, rather than my blog entry which was only a preliminary essay, at best. I had forgotten to remove the essay from this blog, but I was recently reminded of this, so I have now removed it.

On Forgiveness of Sin


~ The Billy Goat ~ said...

Well said.

The is one point I would like to see more discussion on. Those who for Biblical reason will not grant forgiveness may face the charge of holding a grudge. I would like to hear your comments on what is sinful grudge holding in contrast to Biblical withholding of forgiveness. Is there grudge holding that is not sinful?

Here are a few somewhat rambling thought of my own. If the thought of revenge against the one who sinned against me is consumming my thoughts and time to the point where that is all I think of and that desire for revenge becomes a motivating purpose in my life, I am probably in trouble. At this point Paul's admonition that "Vengence is mine says the Lord, I will repay." applies. A related issue to this is how much will I let this person who sinned against me control my life? If I am carrying a sunful grudge, that person is still influencing my life way more then I should be letting them. Is Christ my Lord or not? If so, I dare not let that other person continue to influence my life, ie- have authority over my life, even negatively.


A. B. Caneday said...


You raise a significant issue.

Not administering forgiveness of sins to the unrepentant person must also entail always being ready, eager, and earnestly desiring to be able to administer the forgiveness of sins. The right posture, of course, also would be for us to be praying for the unrepentant person to repent so that we will be released to administer forgiveness of sins. One can hardly hold such a posture and hold bitter resentment in one's heart at the same time.

Not administering forgiveness of sins to the unrepentant person is always right. Holding a grudge is always sinful. It seems to me that bearing a grudge always entails sin. For a grudge, as I understand the term and concept always entails deeply held resentment or bitterness.

Such resentment or bitterness does hold captive many individuals that I know. They behave the way you describe--consumed with thoughts of revenge against another.

Prominent examples of bearing a grudge that I have encountered and that come to my mind have to do with people who bitterly resent individuals who either have repented of sinful actions or have apologized for some social faux pas [there is a vast difference--one entails sin, the other social manners]. The grudge bearer simply refuses either to forgive the sinful deed or to excuse the social faux pas.

I do know some cases of grudge bearing against individuals who have refused to repent. I also know of other cases of individuals who have long borne grudges against individuals who actually have repented of their sins. It seems to me that Jesus addresses this latter kind of grudge bearing in Matthew 6:14-15--For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Jesus' unstated assumption is that the person has repented.

Did we, who one by one and sometimes in droves left RBC, not have to deal with unrepentant church leaders who remain unrepentant to this day? It may be true, and I fear that it may be true, that some who left RBC have become bitter and resentful toward the leaders who most assuredly sinned greatly, frequently, and badly. I fear that some became captured with resentment, anger, revenge and even rage toward those men. Their continually speaking of the matter years after the fact betrays their bitterness.

This is where imprecatory psalms and prayers are so very crucial, enabling us to give expression to godly anger and a desire for the Lord to pour out his vengeance upon those who have sinned highhandedly, but to express this to the Lord God and submit to his providence, for he said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay."

Once we left RBC, we were determined to move away from Grand Rapids, as much as we loved the city. We were determined to move away so that we would not have to live under the shadow of the sinful leaders of RBC, all with the purpose of moving on with our lives and our careers, unhindered by continual reminders of the horrible sins that church leaders committed against us and so many others. It was the best thing for us to do. We have never regretted leaving Grand Rapids, even though it was painful to leave so many dear friends behind. We removed ourselves physically from the continual reminders, and, thus, we left behind all those things that would otherwise have tempted us to harbor resentment and bitterness. Instead, we came to pity those leaders, some of whom entirely proved to be what we always knew them to be. Bitterness never set in because we took positive gospel measures to see to it that resentment would not capture our hearts and minds.

Great questions!

A. B. Caneday said...

Thanks, Bill, for the question. I added a brief segment to the essay to make the necessary distinction between forgiving as God forgives and being unforgiving or bearing a grudge.