This thread was theological from the start, including the title. There's nothing wrong with that. And the posts of the individuals criticizing Alan have been theological.
Alan didn't explicitly criticize the families of the victims, though he may have had them in mind among the people holding or potentially holding the misconception he was correcting. Even if he had criticized the families, there wouldn't have been anything inherently wrong with that. Jesus, Paul, and other Biblical figures sometimes corrected people's grieving, including on explicitly theological grounds. You can love people and grieve with them, yet also correct them, for their own good and the good of others looking on. If you read Alan's first sentence commending the victims' families, followed by his comments on forgiveness that didn't even mention the families and cited an argument used by other people in other contexts, what you ought to come away with is that Alan is concerned about the families and that he's concerned about other people. That's not something he should be criticized for. He should be commended for it.
I agree with Matthew about interpreting people charitably, and I agree that people often express themselves imprecisely and that the context of grieving should be taken into account. And I couldn't understand what people were saying in some parts of the video. But if we interpret the video like we'd interpret anything else, the theme of pronouncing forgiveness to a person who seems unrepentant did come up at times. We know that many people hold such a view, even if none of the people in the video intended to advocate it. So, it made sense for Alan to address the subject. Though we could interpret the comments of the people in the video a different way, charity doesn't require irrationality (1 Corinthians 13:6). Probabilities are superior to possibilities, and we have to be honest about the evidence. When the people in the video repeatedly pronounce forgiveness in a culture in which the view Alan was responding to seems to be so popular, it's likely that the people in the video meant what they seem to have said. To suggest otherwise may be motivated by some charity, but it's also bad reasoning.
The video has some good elements, but it's not beyond criticism. Alan's comments are a good supplement to the video. I don't think the people criticizing Alan have given us any reason to agree with them. Let's love the relatives and other individuals close to the Charleston victims, but let's also love the other people involved in these discussions, people who might be misled by false notions of forgiveness.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
Yes, You Can Correct People Who Are Grieving
Justin Taylor recently put up a post about the Charleston shooting. Among other things, he posted the popular video of people associated with the victims pronouncing forgiveness to the shooter. Below is a response I just wrote in the comments section of the thread. You can read the thread to get the context I'm addressing: