Forgiveness is much on my mind today after another day of cross-country travel and listening to NPR’s coverage of the Greek financial crisis. Who could forgive the Greek bank’s debt? Could someone in the international financial sector step up to forgive Greece the way that the families of Dylann Roof’s victims did? Would that kind of granting forgiveness stand up to the scrutiny that the AME church members has?
Someone else who needs forgiveness is Tullian Tchvidjian. I am glad to see that so far the bloggers in Reformed circles have decided to refrain from commenting on his recent admission of marital infidelity. It was an easy target — to see the man whom critics accused of promoting cheap grace and disregarding the law disregard the law. So far, only David Robertson, who must not have had any opinion about Greece, has weighed in:
I had had an interesting exchange with Tullian and his ‘Liberate’ ministry last year. Without really being aware of who he was, I had written a review of his book, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. It wasn’t entirely uncritical. Little did I know what it was like to step into the murky world of the American mega-church pastor. The congratulations from those who seemed to want to hang Tullian out to dry were matched only by the cries of those who saw me as some kind of right-wing legalist who had no idea of grace. To be fair, there were many who did not fit into either category but who were glad to get an outsider’s perspective. Sadly, the popularity of that article only served to indicate the truth of the truism that the best way to draw a crowd is to start a fight.
So you might expect a degree of schadenfreude from me. In that case you will be disappointed. I feel gutted and saddened at the whole situation. My critique of the book is not proved true by Tullian’s fall, any more than it would have been proven false by his continued ministry. Surely sorrow, discouragement and prayer can be the only appropriate responses for the Tchividjian family?
To his credit, Robbo refuses to score points except to take on the megachurch (which really should score points against the Wilt Chamberlain of Presbyterian megachurches — Redeemer TKNY):
The trouble with the corporate model of church is that it leaves the CEOs (otherwise known as ‘senior pastors’) as a combination of business manager, advertising guru and celebrity personality. And that is a very lonely and isolating position. Maybe a return to a more biblical pattern of church, with elders and preachers as ‘under shepherds’ and answerable to the wider church, rather than the stakeholders (shareholders?) of the local corporate church entity, might provide a better context for accountable ministry.
And why doesn’t that apply to TKNY?
But back to Tullian. What if someone like me decided publicly to forgive Tullian? Would that make sense? Mark Jones makes me think it might:
We are all aware, I trust, that all sins are committed against God. Therefore, no one can forgive sins in the way that God can. He has a peculiar authority that we do not have. All sins, whether mediately or immediately, are committed against God. Sometimes the neighbour is the medium, but the sin is still against God. Why is this important? Because if we forgive our neighbour, this does not relate to the guilt of his sin, but rather to the harm that has been done to us.
So when the family members of the killed “forgave” Dylan Roof, we are not forced to have to look at their forgiveness and then argue that they have no right to do so because there is no repentance from Mr. Roof. Rather, we are to understand their offering of forgiveness based on the harm that has been done to them because of the loss they have experienced.
In effect, they are not telling Mr. Roof that he is now justified before God. They are saying, you have harmed us and hurt us; and we forgive you for this harm.
Tullian has harmed the name of Christ and was a minister in a sister denomination. For that reason, I can conclude that he harmed fellow officers in NAPARC denominations. And by Jones’ logic, I can forgive Tullian.
So we have three cases of forgiveness: financial, legal, and ecclesiastical. Which ones are legitimate? Which ones deserve scrutiny?