Guest / Limited Access /
How Far Should Forgiveness Go?
Brian Macdonald
"Forgiving love is a possibility only for those who know that they are not good, who feel themselves in need of divine mercy, who live in a dimension deeper and higher than that of moral idealism, feel themselves as well as their fellow men convicted of sin by a holy God and know that the differences between the good man and the bad man are insignificant in his sight."
—Reinhold Niebuhr, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics

I wish I could believe every one of these words from Reinhold Niebuhr. Instinctually, I don't, wishing instead for Dante's hell for certain kinds of sinners—like corrupt pastors who egregiously violate their calling and never repent. In my unregenerate opinion, I believe these types of sinners should be relegated to the eighth and ninth circles of Dante's Inferno.

I've read numerous books on forgiveness. Some of them lead me to conclude that the authors have never known the kind of spiritual betrayal some Christians, including myself, have known. If they did, they could never write the pabulum they are selling.

A diverse collection of books—L. Gregory Jones's Embodying Forgiveness, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Ethics, Simon Wiesenthal's The Sunflower, Miroslav Volf's Free of Charge, and Desmund Tutu's No Future Without Forgiveness—offer honest help for my unforgiving heart. These writers grapple with the call to forgive in the face of real evil. They understand that pop psychology and cheap theology are no match for it. The murderous societies under which most of them suffered find their Christian complement in churches that, for example, allow or ignore the sexual abuse of children and punish those who call the abusers to account. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only
Looking Over the Fence
New research suggests scientists are more like neighbors than enemies of the faith. Andy Crouch reviews 'Science vs. Religion.'
RecommendedThe Very Worst Trend Ever
The Very Worst Trend Ever
How our love of brokenness actually fails us.
TrendingResearch Says: Young People Don't Want Hip Pastors
Research Says: Young People Don't Want Hip Pastors
A study of 250 congregations suggests that youth and young adults want substance rather than style.
Editor's PickRandy Alcorn: God Wants You to Find Your Happy Place
Randy Alcorn: God Wants You to Find Your Happy Place
Why happiness and holiness don’t have to be in conflict.
Christianity Today
How Far Should Forgiveness Go?
hide thisOctober October

In the Magazine

October 2010

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.