5.2 Discussion: The Forgiveness of Sins
I was once talking with a non-Christian about forgiveness. He felt that it was immoral and wrong for God to forgive the wrongs a person had committed in their lifetime. In his view once a person had lied, or murdered the deed was done. He felt like it was immoral for a person who had done wicked things to simply say they were sorry and ask for forgiveness and for God to forgive them. According to this man once an immoral deed was done the guilt was permanent.
In a way, I certainly understood what the man was driving at. I have told my children that the words we say are like toothpaste squeezed from a toothpaste tube: once they come out, they can never go back in. Much of our deeds and our words are like toothpaste from a tube. When we lie to our mother as a child the deed is done, the lie has left our lips. Even if we instantly turn around and confess the lie it does not change the fact that a lie has been uttered. In that way, truly, our lives are cluttered up and gummed up with the toothpaste of our lives, words and actions that accrue guilt.
In my conversation with the non-believer I ask him if by guilt he simply meant feelings of guilt or subjective guilt or if he meant objective guilt. I illustrated the difference by a simple and short story: Imagine if you were two people who were driving down the road: Person 1 in front and Person 2 in the back. A dog ran out in front of Person 1 but he didnt see it. He did see, however, a pothole in the road and imagined the bump of hitting the dog to be the pothole so driver 1 continued on home and never thought about it again. Person 2 however, did not see the pothole but did see the dog. As his tire hit the pothole he thought he had hit and killed the little dog.
Stricken with guilt he pulled off the side of the road, picked up the dog and tried to find its owner. Once he had dropped the dog off at the owners home he went home feeling guilty for having killed the animal even though he had not actually killed it but only thought he did.
Now who felt guilt over killing the dog? Clearly Person 2. However, as we have told the story, it was Person 1 who should have or ought to have felt guilt but rather felt nothing at all. Subjective guilt is the feeling of guilt humanity has that, as our story illustrates, sometimes does and does not correspond with our objective guilt.
Illustrated another way, sometimes people who murder feel little or no guilt over their actions. If by guilt, we only mean subjective guilt than a murderer who has wiped out a whole family and feels no remorse is not thereby guilty and by what right do we put them in prisons or jail for they have no guilt? Conversely, objective guilt is the guilt we hold as doers of wrongful deeds whether we feel that guilt or not.
As I illustrated the story I asked him which guilt he was concerned with? He was concerned with objective guilt and so I asked him how does one remove objective guilt? Imagine going to a restaurant and ordering a hamburger. The cook, unbeknownst to you, spits upon your hamburger and you eat it, not knowing that you have been wronged. Has something wrong occurred? By whom to whom, how is it known? By all accounts the cook knows that he/she has wronged you but if he/she feels no guilt and no shame there is no subjective or felt wrongdoing involved. So does that mean no wrong has occurred? Clearly, this seems absurd, for if this were the case that only felt wrongs counted, murderers who wipe out whole families or people groups could not be guilty because there is, by definition, no one to feel the wrong. The Nazis, therefore, would be only guilty of the deaths of people who had loved ones left alive to feel the wrong of their death. To remove their wrongdoing, they simply had to kill enough people so that only those who were left were those who didnt care about those murdered. Clearly something was wrong with that reasoning.
So, we both reasoned together, neither subjective guilt nor subjective feelings of being wronged really mattered. What mattered was the objective guilt and objective wrongdoing. It was here that I closed my trap. Who could forgive objective guilt and objective wrongdoing? No human, not even a human who has been wronged, could forgive objective guilt. That was what Jesus provided for the believer.
Only God, who sees all and knows every wrongdoing and perceives every mistake, can offer forgiveness because he objectively sees all wrongdoing and perceives every objective guilt. Jesus death on the cross provided atonement for all of humanities wrong doing. He can remove both the subjective guilt we feel over our perceived wrongdoings and he removes the objective guilt for the wrongs we dont even know to ask forgiveness for.
Upon successful completion of this discussion, you will be able to:
Articulate what the Creed means by forgiveness of sins.
Textbook: I Believe
Textbook: What Christians Ought to Believe
Review the rubric to make sure you understand the criteria for earning your grade.
Read Chapter 6 in I Believe.
Read Chapter 14 in What Christians Ought to Believe.
Navigate to the threaded discussion below and respond to questions 6 & 8 on page 112 of I Believe.
Your initial post is due by the end of the fourth day of the workshop.
Read and respond to at least two of your classmates postings, as well as all follow-up instructor questions directed to you, by the end of the workshop.
Your postings should also:
Be well developed by providing clear answers with evidence of critical thinking.
Add greater depth to the discussion by introducing new ideas.
Provide clarification to classmates questions and provide insight into the discussion.
Be posted on three different days during the workshop.