Q & R: Forgiveness and Inspiration

Two questions from a pastor:

I’m a Brethren In Christ pastor and I really have appreciated your needed and often inspiring work. I have two questions that I haven’t read much about. The first is related to forgiveness. You and others have mentioned that we teach that God wants us to forgive our enemies but we seem to have a theology where God doesn’t have to. However, certain passages of Scripture seem to say that through Jesus’ work God has indeed forgiven everyone. This unconditional forgiveness would be an aspect of salvation, but far from what God really is after – reconciliation and relationship. I haven’t read much on this and was wondering your thoughts since I think it effects God’s view of people especially regarding future judgment.

When I read your question, I think of 2 Cor. 5:19. The issue, according to that passage, is not that God is holding our sins against us (because God isn’t) but that we haven’t turned to join God in “the ministry of reconciliation.” We’re still contributing to the problem instead of being part of the solution. I get the feeling in a lot of our Christianities that we stay focused on being forgiveness-dispensers and don’t move beyond that … to be God’s ambassadors working for reconciliation, participating in the new creation in Christ. These are themes I explore in Everything Must Change and A New Kind of Christianity.

The second question relates to inspiration. I have enjoyed wrestling with your new book NKOC, especially the constitution vs. library clarification. Now if like 2 Tim says, Scripture is “God-breathed” and if that alludes to Genesis as you have mentioned in the past and thus seems to mean “words that are life-giving”, could other writings outside the Bible be “inspired” as well? Could God be inspiring men and women today to share His fresh “God-breathed” words of life? I would appreciate any thoughts. thanks

R: I wouldn’t want to reduce “inspired” to “life-giving” – unless we specified that they are life-giving because of their special source and origin in the Holy Spirit. But back to your question – just about everyone (especially Pentecostals and Charismatics) agrees that the Spirit in some real way inspires or speaks through people today. And I think even among Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, you would hear statements like, “God really spoke to me through that sermon” or “God touched me through that book.” So just as a high understanding of the eucharist teaches us to see that all of creation can have a sacramental quality, I think a high view of Scripture can teach us to be sensitive to the voice of the Spirit that comes to us in many different ways.