I’m going to comment on this post:
More importantly, all of us need to meditate a whole lot more on the first thing Jesus said as he was excruciatingly nailed to the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
i) An obvious problem with Blomberg’s argument is that his prooftext is anchored in a verse of questionable authenticity. Blomberg is surely aware of the fact that scholars are divided over the authenticity of this verse. It is therefore precarious for him to build his entire case on what may well be a scribal interpolation.
ii) Moreover, it’s deceptive of Blomberg to center a whole post on this particular verse without bothering to inform his readers regarding the text-critical issues. Many of his readers aren’t aware of the problem.
iii) Finally, Blomberg acts as if there’s only one side to this question. But fellow NT scholar A. B. Caneday has taken issue with unconditional forgiveness in his monograth Must Christians Always Forgive? So it’s not an open-and-shut case.
The examples could be multiplied. “Father, I can’t have a wholesome relationship with ‘M’ or ‘N’ unless they show signs of true repentance and change. But please forgive them, and help me not harbor a grudge, plot retaliation, blame you, lose faith, or do anything else that keeps me from growing in imitation of my true Master, Jesus Christ.”
Did we learn anything this year on Good Friday? Did we even bother to worship with God’s people on it? Or did we just jump straight to the joy of Easter? And then how much of our Easter celebration was truly Christian?
In my experience, Blomberg is a good example of somebody who harbors grudges.
Someone needs to give people like these Desmond Tutu’s book on the Truth and Reconciliation movement in South Africa.
I’m no expert on S. African political history, but based on my recollection of news coverage at the time, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a pragmatic, even cynical way to avert civil war.
It wasn’t practical to prosecute all the culprits. Not only did you have the white-on-black crime, but you also had the black-on-black crime. Black gangs who’d “necklace” (i.e. put burning tires around the necks of) other blacks. Even Winnie Mandela was complicit in the death of a boy.
So the new gov’t created The Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a way of sweeping many atrocities under the rug and putting the past behind them. It wasn’t idealistic or Christian. It was just a way of moving ahead.
Someone needs to introduce them to men and women in the Middle East or West Africa who have been mutilated and partially dismembered by attacking forces in ethnic wars, who nevertheless reach out to their attackers with forgiveness through the Christian gospel.
Actually, African and Middle-Eastern Christians have a perfect right to defend themselves.
Also, notice how Blomberg uses the politically correct, airbrushed term “ethnic wars,” when so much of the violence is fomented by Muslims.
Someone needs to immerse them in the Amish community for awhile, where forgiveness of enemies is routine and genuine.
Let’s consider a few examples, shall we?
This week, "Primetime: The Outsiders - The Amish" looks at people who are radical believers. Elizabeth Vargas reports on a disturbing side of the Amish community and interviews Mary Byler, a woman who broke the Amish code by reporting sexual abuse to authorities. Byler became the center of the scandal that rocked her tight-knit Amish home in Wisconsin when she told the Sheriff's office that she was raped hundreds of times - by eight or nine men, including her own brothers, who did confess to the crime. According to sociologist Donald Kraybill, confessing in the Amish Church for wrongdoings is the key step to forgiveness, and the standard punishment for any infraction is banishment from church activities for six weeks. Byler, on the other hand, felt the punishment was not enough. "You're being grounded for six weeks," she says. "It's just really ridiculous punishment. The funny thing is that they view drinking alcohol until you puke as bad a sin as raping somebody." She also speaks out about what brought her to her final decision to go to the authorities and what life after leaving the Amish community is like. This report originally aired in December 2004.
Amish Woman 4: My mom was a very gentle soul. She was always a servant to everybody else. She always made sure everybody was taken care of, except mom. She always tried to be the submissive woman. And already then I wasn't sure about that word "submissive." And then I married an abuser, and then the word "submission" just became a monster.
I was so proud of my first child. But I also remember, I would sit at the window rocking my baby. And sitting there alone, and I cried a lot. I knew things were not as they should be, but I kept telling myself, it's okay, it'll be all right. But I would cry a lot. I talked to my husband, and he'd say, "We're married, and I'm the head of the house." I'd say, "You know, the Bible says the father is the head of the home as Christ is the head of the church. But we also need to remember that Christ was not up here like a master with a big whip." Well, that didn't work well, because I was confronting him, and I was doubting his words of wisdom. I soon learned not to say those things.
They always say that we need to go to the church first, which I did. I went to the church and I asked for help. The very first thing that the minister said to me when I said, "We've been struggling with a lot of abuse, and I need help," he looked at me and he said, "So what did you do that caused your husband to treat you this way?" That was such a blow. That was such a blow. In fact it came to the point where the church actually had both of us not be able to go to communion until we can see where we have failed. And I felt like an outsider looking in.
Finally I reached the point where spiritually I just said, "I'm just done. I've just had it, Lord. I don't know what to do. But I have to be connected with the church again." I told my husband, "I'm going to go back to the ministers, and I'm just going to lay myself out and say, 'Here I am. I'll take any punishment you give me. I'll do anything. I just need -- I need the church so bad.'" And he said, "Well, if you do, you're on your own because I'm not going to do it that way." And so that's what I did. I went back to the ministers, and I just cried, and I just said, "I'll just do anything you tell me to." I acknowledged anything and everything that I could think of under the sun. And yeah, say yes to things that I didn't really think were maybe exactly right to say yes to. But I did it out of obedience because I felt God nudging me that way. And I got back in the church, without my husband. Obedience is not easy.
Does Blomberg think we should emulate that way of addressing domestic violance?
Let’s take another example from the PBS special:
Slate: On October 2, 2006, a non-Amish man entered an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.
Slate: The gunman shot ten Amish girls. Five died.
Slate: That same day, Amish neighbors visited the killer's family.
Slate: More than 30 Amish attended the burial of Charles Roberts. Among them were the parents of several victims.
That probably illustrates the sort of thing Blomberg thinks Evangelical Christians ought to practice, but let’s step back and consider that for a moment.
i) Blomberg says Amish “routinely and genuinely” forgive their enemies. But is that true? I’m no expert on the Amish, but his claim strikes me as a hasty generalization.
I’m sure some Amish routinely and genuinely forgive their enemies (whoever that might be). However, in a fairly closed society like the Amish, I also assume there’s a degree of coercive conformity. You do what’s expected of you. You do what’s required of you. If you buck the system, you’re banished. Indeed, I just quoted two examples of that (see above).
So I’m guessing that some (many?) Amish go through the motions of forgiving others to continue functioning in the community. Forgiving under duress. Grudging forgiveness.
ii) Moreover, consider the case of the murdered girls. The surviving family members have had absolutely no time to emotionally process that utterly devastating tragedy before they are duty-bound to forgive the killer. Has Blomberg ever stopped to consider the psychological damage that might do?
Wouldn’t the survivors naturally be flooded with a range of emotions: shock, rage, hatred, and sorrow? Or the nagging afterthoughts–“If only I’d done something different, maybe this would never have happened.”
Suppose Caneday is right and Blomberg is wrong. Suppose the survivors are made to feel guilty about not wanting to forgive the killer? They’re already overcome with grief. They’ve suffered an irreparable loss.
Wouldn’t that place even more unbearable pressure on them? Aren’t they choking down their real feelings? Internalizing their true feelings? Masking their real feelings? Isn’t that likely to result in bitterness?
Indeed, isn’t there the considerable risk that some of them will end up hating God and losing their faith because they suffer from false guilt? Redirect their resentment at God because their elders taught them that it’s their solemn obligation to instantly and unconditionally forgive the killer of their children, and they just can’t bring themselves to do that?
Isn’t that an utterly merciless way to treat the surviving family members? Doesn’t that brutalize them all over again?
Shouldn’t they be allowed to work through their grief and loss at their own pace, without making inhuman demands on them? As it is, they will never recover. It will be an open wound.