Given the recent discussion on the problems that flow out of a position of unconditional forgiveness, it is a good time to point to another excellent resource. Since Unpacking Forgiveness was published, Ardel Caneday published his booklet, Must Christians Always Forgive? A Biblical Primer and Grammar on Forgiveness of Sins
With the tragic case of the murder of Pastor Fred Winters in view, Caneday unfolds the biblical logic for conditional forgiveness. Caneday reasons:
- Forgiveness always concerns sin.
- God forgives confessed sin.
- God’s forgiveness correlates to our forgiveness.
- Our forgiving must be like God’s forgiving of our sins.
- God’s forgiveness of sin is for the repentant and so is ours.
- Not to grant forgiveness of sins to the unrepentant is not the same as being unforgiving
Caneday takes the time to explain some of the problems that result from unbiblical teaching on forgiveness. Here is one quote:
If we “unconditionally forgive” the sins of unrepentant people we subvert the gospel of Jesus Christ mock God, and diminish the glory of the cross. Those who advocate and practice “unconditional forgiveness” do so out of misunderstanding the gospel’s teaching. While thinking that they embrace the magnanimity of God’s mercy and grace, without realizing it, they actually sabotage the magnanimous grace of accomplished through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ (p. 15).
One of the more helpful distinction Caneday makes is his point that, “Not to grant forgiveness of sins to the unrepentant is not the same as being unforgiving.” Hence, Caneday stresses, “We must always be ready to forgive, eager to forgive, praying that the Lord would grant repentance to the unrepentant person in order that both he and we may grant forgiveness of sins.” (p. 16)
Caneday’s primer is concise, well reasoned, and practical. It is affordable and recommended reading for anyone who wants to understand what the Bible teaches about interpersonal forgiveness. You can order it here.