Closely associated with the doctrine of unconditional love is unconditional forgiveness. Over the past two decades this has become a major element of the psychology movement. A form of therapy, it is not about reconciliation between people; it is about personal inner healing and self-esteem.
A major force behind the spread of therapeutic forgiveness is the Templeton Foundation, which is New Age to the core. Though a committed Presbyterian, John Templeton was an evolutionist, pantheist, and universalist. He rejected the Bible as divine revelation, brazenly claiming that the Bible was written by men who “were limited by cosmologies long since discredited” and whose writings were “ignorant and primitive” (The Humble Approach, 1995, p. 135). His biographical sketch says that “Templeton’s goal has been nothing less than to change mindsets about the concept of divinity.” Templeton said, “God is all of you and you are a little part of him,” and, “No one should say that God can be reached by only one path” (The Humble Approach, pp. 38, 55).
Templeton’s books have been recommended by Norman Vincent Peale (he called Templeton “the greatest layman of the Christian church in our time”), Robert Schuller (he put Templeton’s picture on the cover of his Possibilities magazine), and Rick Warren (he was one of the judges of Templeton’s Power of Purpose worldwide essay competition).
Since the 1990s, the Templeton Foundation has funded “scientific studies” on the power of forgiveness, and there has been an associated explosion of teaching on this subject, such as Colin Tipping’s Radical Forgiveness (1997); Robert Enright’s Forgiveness Is a Choice (2001); Fred Luskin’s Forgive for Good (2002); and Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness (2002). There is the Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance, the International Forgiveness Institute, the Institute for Radical Forgiveness, and the Forgiveness Project. Many of these people and organizations are New Age in perspective. The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance is “open to all religions, creeds, and beliefs” and uses forgiveness as an instrument of building a New Age of joy and peace. Colin Tipping’s mission is “to raise the consciousness of the planet through forgiveness.”
In light of the wholesale “repudiation of separatism” that characterizes modern evangelicalism and the charismatic movement, it is not surprising that Christian counselors have been quick to jump on the unconditional forgiveness bandwagon. There is The Art of Forgiving (1996) by Lewis Smedes, professor emeritus of theology and ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, and The Importance of Forgiveness (1997) by John Arnot of Toronto Airport Church, and The Choosing to Forgive Workbook by Frank Minirth and Les Carter, and The New Freedom of Forgiveness (2000) by David Augsburger, and Total Forgiveness (2002) by R.T. Kendall, and Choosing Forgiveness (2006) by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
The movement of therapeutic forgiveness is all about Self. It is unconditional forgiveness for my sake, to help me feel good about myself, to have personal peace of mind, to have personal self-esteem and psychological wholeness, even to gain “good karma points” and to avoid “inhibiting our very life-force.”
Not only am I taught to forgive others unconditionally, but also to forgive myself and even to forgive God. R.T. Kendall says that since “God has allowed bad things to happen ... He has allowed us to suffer when we didn’t do anything that we know of to warrant such ill-treatment ... We therefore must forgive him--but not because he is guilty, but for allowing evil to touch our lives” (Total Forgiveness, p. 33).
What blasphemy, what foolish audacity, for a mere man to think that he can forgive Almighty God! This is definitely the worship of a false god.
Like unconditional love, unconditional forgiveness is unscriptural. Biblical forgiveness is predicated on confession and repentance.
This is true vertically, between man and God. God’s forgiveness is not unconditional; it required the payment of a great price on God’s part (the giving of His Son on the Cross) and obtaining God’s forgiveness requires repentance. Jesus twice said, “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5).
There is a repentance that is necessary for the once-for-all eternal forgiveness of justification, and there is daily confession and repentance necessary for fellowship with God in the Christian life. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Adam and Eve weren’t automatically and unconditionally forgiven when they sinned. They were driven out of the Garden of Eden and required to live in a God-cursed world and then die, death being “the wages of sin” (Romans 6:23). They and their children were required to repent and put their faith in the coming Saviour as prophesied in the promise that the woman’s seed (Christ) would bruise the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15) and signified by Abel’s lamb. Of the first two sons of Adam, Cain and Abel, one believed and one did not, and one was justified and the other was not (Genesis 4:7; Hebrews 11:4). Ever since then, God’s forgiveness has been predicated upon repentance and faith, and those who reject the witness of God’s Spirit and God’s Word in these matters are destined for eternal punishment.
This is also true with forgiveness at the horizontal level, forgiveness between men. We are to be quick to forgive and we are to love our enemies, but this does not mean that we are to forgive unconditionally. As Jesus said:
“Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and IF HE REPENT, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I REPENT; thou shalt forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4).
The apostle Paul did not unconditionally forgive Alexander the Coppersmith (2 Tim. 4:14) or the heretics at Galatia (Gal. 5:7-10). He did not teach the unconditional forgiveness for those who sin against the testimony of Christ in the church (1 Corinthians 5).
Not only is unconditional forgiveness wrong, it is hurtful. As Dr. E.S. Williams writes:
“Nowhere in Scripture is the Christian told to unconditionally forgive an unbeliever who sins against him. To do so is only a meaningless gesture; for by what authority does a Christian forgive sin? This only leads to a false view of forgiveness, and the world will gain the idea that Christians practise cheap forgiveness, like New Age adherents. For Christians to offer unconditional forgiveness to all and sundry is to make a mockery of the Cross of Christ. ... The moral wrongness of unconditional forgiveness is that it condones sin and wrongdoing. The wrongdoer is not held accountable for his sin, but actually encouraged to believe that it is a light matter” (Christ or Therapy? pp. 99, 100).
Unconditional love and unconditional forgiveness are attributes of a false god, and not surprisingly, this god is encountered through mysticism.
Emergent leader Nanette Sawyer says that she encountered this god through contemplative prayer. She said that while “sitting in meditation, in a technique similar to what Christians call Centering Prayer, I encountered love that is unconditional, yet it called me to responsible action in my life” (An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, p. 44). This occurred AFTER she had rejected biblical Christianity and the gospel that Jesus died for our sins (p. 43).
She said that she found love and Jesus through meditation, but it is not the Jesus of the Bible nor is it the love of God as described in the Bible.
It is another god, another Jesus, another gospel, and another spirit (2 Cor. 11:4).
It is the god who is found through mysticism.
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