Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Critique of Chuck Phelps' Forgiveness Lesson (Pg5)

I’m going to deal with the right side of the handout, “The Methodology of Forgiveness.” It’s broken down into two parts, “The Responsibility of the Offended” and “The Responsibility of the Offender.” The first thing I want you to notice is the disparity between the topics. The “offended” with is dealt with on most of the page but the “offender” gets FOUR lines. Again, I think we have the focus wrong. Why do we focus so much on the offended and so little time on the offender?

Offended Person
#1 – vertical forgiveness – why? Did the offended person sin? I guess one way is to ask God to forgive the person, just like Jesus did on the Cross for us but the offender would still have to accept that forgiveness and so the sin must still be dealt with.

#2 – did the offender sin? Chuck Phelps calls it a “true offense.”
            Not all offenses come from sin. Sometimes people feel they’ve been “sinned” against but they have not but it’s still something that needs to be resolved. Mistakes, misunderstanding, differences of opinion, or any other number of things can cause problems between people. If we weren’t prideful, selfish, self-centered, and sinful people, we’d be more understanding and have less problems but that’s not going to happen.
            If it is a sin, we should also ask, “was it a crime?” “Did he break the law?” And then we should deal with it accordingly.

#3 – “Confront those who offend you.” The beginning of Luke 17:3 states that “if a brother sins, confront him…” We seem to focus on the person who was offended doing the confrontation but that does not need to be the case. If I know someone has sinned against another person, I also have that responsibility to confront the sinner.
a.       – obedience not revenge – as long as we realize that consequences are not revengeful 
b.      – for the good of the offender –what?
c.       – designed to edify – what?
      I think I know what he’s saying but confronting sin is for the good of the body of Christ. Dealing with sin does not always seem good to the offender but if sin is dealt with, it’s good in the long run, even with consequences.

#4 – forgive ….”unconditionally”…  I may need to forgive unconditionally but that does not mean that the consequences of the offense are removed and I’m afraid that the removal of consequences is usually how this is interpreted.

#5 – Proverbs 15:1 has nothing to do with this statement

#6 – II Thess. 3:14-15 does not apply to this statement either.

#7 – What does forgiveness have to do with looking for real change from the offender?

The Offender

#1 – “own your offense” – good

#2 – “demonstrate your repentance” – “..might include…before a civil magistrate.”

– this is the only time law enforcement is mentioned and in such a strange way. If he broke the law, this should not be optional and the offended has this option as well.

#3 – don’t expect to be “best friends” immediately

If I was to believe this, I would think the offender has little responsibility in making things right and that the offender should wait to be confronted with his/her offense before he/she has to do anything.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Critique of Chuck Phelps' Forgiveness Lesson (Pg4)

Again, the first half of the lesson is going over what he’s gone through in the first three lessons. In #5, under Vertical Forgiveness, he states, “Instead of seeking vengeance, I am to UNCONDITIONALLY release the offense to God.” I would say that this is fine and good unless a crime has been committed, such as: theft, murder, rape, molestation, vandalism, etc. We can still release the offense to God but this still does not release the person from the justice of the law. Justice is NOT vengeance. It is a form of releasing the offense to God through the means of law enforcement whom God has put in place to deal with those things.

In #6, Chuck Phelps clarifies the “condition” of forgiveness by saying that the offender can’t receive forgiveness unless he asks for it from the person whom he has offended. I would say that this is correct and I would also say that this is when relationships can start being repaired.

He then goes on to talk about “forgiving and forgetting.” He does not spend much time with this and in this lesson does not appear to be equating the two but that you choose to “forget” even if it comes to your memory.

I dealt with the idea that forgiveness does NOT equal forgetting and you can read my post called FORGIVE = FORGET?

He is correct that forgiveness is an act of obedience and love and has nothing to do with feelings.

Friday, July 20, 2012

My Incredible Wife

I want to publicly say that “I LOVE MY WIFE!!!” My wife is a great woman. I don’t think she realizes how special of a person she is and as I’ve watched her over the past ten years, she has just become an incredible woman. I know she’s an inspiration to many but I want you to know that she’s an inspiration to me also. I love to see how God is using her to help others, just by being a friend. How her friends know they can call her for support and not judgment, for advice and wisdom, and sometimes just to chat because they need a friend and they know she’ll listen. I love her heart for people that are hurting and how she empathizes deep in her heart and soul when she receives a message (email, FB, etc.) from someone who is hurting. I know she wishes she could do more but she does her best to comfort and support the wounded heart the best she can.

I’m impressed with her ability to take care of her family. She handles the day-to-day operations of our family of feeding, clothing, laundry, cleaning, shopping, couponing, medical visits, paying the bills, discipline, crowd control, and basic all-around wisdom. I love how excited she gets when she’ll come home from the store and bought $50 worth of stuff for $15 or she saved 50% on the food bill and is still disappointed that she didn’t do better. She’s just awesome this way in making our finances stretch as far as possible.

I love how she tries to make me a better man and father. I appreciate her for her wisdom and insight. I’ll be honest, I don’t always like it and I don’t always agree with her but when she says something, I take it under serious consideration. I respect her, her wisdom and her viewpoint and I try not to take it for granted. I’m not perfect but by God’s grace, I pray I’m getting better.

The longer I’m with her the more I love her. We fit pretty well together. Of all the people I know, there is nobody else that I’d want to be married to.

I love you, Sweetheart!!!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Critique of Chuck Phelps' Forgiveness Lesson - (Page 3c)

The “Why” of Forgiveness was addressed in handout 1 but it’s expanded even more here. In Matthew 6, Jesus never says that fellowship will be broken. This may happen but it’s because the sinner refuses to fellowship and holds on to an unforgiving spirit. You can’t have a good relationship and it’s hard to fellowship if you don’t forgive but God doesn’t cut off fellowship with us. He keeps working in our hearts to bring about forgiveness. Psalm 66:18 is not about powerful praying but about God not listening because we love our sin. Although God does say that we need to forgive, John 14:15 says that we’ll keep God’s commandments if we love Him. Although Chuck Phelps is correct in his statement, he could have used a better verse. Eph 4:32 says to forgive others because God has forgiven us. 

 Romans 12 talks about our relationship with one another and how a Christian should act towards one another no matter how that person treats you. Our natural tendency as a human is to treat others like they have treated us. In this passage, God is telling us to live differently and that God will take care of it. When God says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” you know it’s in God’s hands. This does not mean to overlook sin. Sin must be dealt with. If someone has committed a crime, God has placed people in authority who can deal with criminals. Seeking justice for a crime committed is NOT vengeance. Both forgiveness and justice can be accomplished together, they are not mutually exclusive.

And the final and probably the worst reason a person should “learn to forgive” is to “avoid the chastisement of God.” He uses Hebrews 12:6 that states that God disciplines his “sons.” What I think Chuck Phelps is saying is that if you don’t forgive, you are disobeying God, and if you disobey God, He will chastise you. So, if none of the other reasons for learning to forgive work, be afraid that you’ll get punished if you don’t forgive. I don’t believe that you need to be afraid of God’s discipline. It may not be comfortable or nice but it’s designed to teach and mold us into His image, unlike some of our chastisement of our children, which is usually to make them pay for doing something wrong and to teach them not to disobey us.

Critique of Chuck Phelps' Forgiveness Lesson - (Page 3b)

Here’s my biggest issues with this so far. This lesson is equating forgiveness with restoration of relationship and the two do not necessary go hand in hand. Forgiveness is a step toward restoration of relationship and that is the ultimate goal but there can be forgiveness without restoration.

For example, Christ died for the sin of the world. He paid the penalty for all sin and has offered forgiveness to the world but each individual must accept that gift of forgiveness and salvation to have that relationship restored. Jesus on the Cross said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He forgave them without a “contract” or a “meeting” or any “fellowship” at that time.

You may offer and in your heart have forgiven the person who has sinned against you but the issue has not been dealt with. And maybe you want to meet and restore the relationship but there are many reasons this may not happen. First, the person who “offended” may not believe they did anything wrong. Second, the person who “offended” may not have sinned against the person and therefore has nothing to ask forgiveness for. Third, the person is not reachable by either distance, death, or something else. Fourth, the person who did sin refuses to confess sin. Fifth, fill in your reason here.

Critique of Chuck Phelps' Forgiveness Lesson - (Page 3a)

He does a review of the first two lessons. Always a good idea when teaching. Then Chuck Phelps is going to talk about the How and then the Why of forgiveness just like he did in lesson one but he’s going to come at it from a different angle.

He divides the How into Vertical Forgiveness (VF) and Horizontal Forgiveness(HF). I’m not sure “how” is the best term. It’s more an explanation about Vertical and Horizontal Forgiveness.

I wish he’d be more clear in his statements. Sometimes I wonder which statements are addressing the offender or the offended. In VF he states seven things. I can understand where he’s coming from on most of them but there are a couple I’m not sure about.
            -- “VF is unconditional.” It’s only true because God already paid the price for our sin and God promises forgiveness. This does not remove the natural consequences of sin.
            -- “VF does not require that the offender show repentance.” – This one puzzles me but my forgiveness is conditional on God’s actions on the Cross, not my behavior.
-- “VF is between the offended party and God.” – Why would the offended person need forgiveness? I believe this would apply to the offender.
-- “VF is a contract between God.” I’m not sure what this “contract” is about. My forgiveness is based on God’s work on the Cross and His promise that He’ll forgive me of my sins.

Chuck Phelps states that Horizontal Forgiveness (HF) is conditional (on what, I’m not sure). Maybe it’s conditional because the offender must repent and that it necessitates a “meeting” and this forgiveness becomes a “contract” (whatever that is) between the offended and offender. Supposedly this forgiveness “heals the alienation” but does not always require “fellowship” afterwards.

Matthew 23: 23-36

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
(Matthew 23:23-36 ESV)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Critique of CP's forgiveness (pg2)


Chuck Phelps is correct about mankind’s forgiven condition but then he gets to the definition of “forgive.” In column two he states, “The basic meaning of “forgive” is to release from a debt or penalty.” It sounds good until you realize that our debt and penalty is not released, it’s already been paid. Christ’s righteousness is applied to us. Yes, we don’t have to pay the penalty ourselves and in that sense we are “forgiven.” 

Why I think this is important is that just because forgiveness has been sought for and has been granted, it does not absolve the fact that there are consequences to doing wrong. Chuck Phelps is not dealing with it here but later we’re going to see God’s command to forgive, just like Christ forgave us, and we should, but that does not stop the consequences of sin and I believe this is a big area where Christians, especially IFB, have issues.

I think the courtroom and living room analogies are good. It gives you a visual of your relationship with God.

Chuck Phelps goes on to Practical Forgiveness. He’s right in that we can’t lose our salvation due to sinning after salvation. Security of the believer is important but I think it’s important to realize that we’re already forgiven and he does point this out. I’m concerned when he says, “fellowship forgiveness is conditional.” I don’t believe that our fellowship with God is ever broken, it may be strained or tense because we have sinned, but it’s never broken and God’s always there. This may be what Chuck Phelps is saying but I’m not sure. I John 1:9 is God’s promise to us that He’s not going to turn us down when we come to Him in humbleness of heart, asking for forgiveness.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Critique of Chuck Phelps' lessons on forgiveness (pg1)

I’m going to do a critique of Chuck Phelps’ forgiveness lessons that he did at CHBC around May 2012. It will be done in parts because there are so many things I want to address. I hope that you’ll bear with me. If you’d like to know my credentials and my background, check out my tab.

At first glance, Chuck Phelps’ forgiveness handouts look fine, professional, and credible. I would expect to see these in most other IFB churches. The concepts or different aspects of forgiveness that he is teaching are not original with him but I’m assuming that he put these together for his use in his church. On closer examination, I’m having some real issues with what he is teaching and others like him are preaching as well.

I’m beginning to realize that the reason people have a hard time understanding forgiveness is because of the way it is taught or explained. We get confused between God’s forgiveness and our own forgiveness and how that should look. The other confusion comes from the mixture of topics and/or incomplete explanations of different aspects of forgiveness. The way Scripture is used can also cause problems with understanding because it is not always used properly. I’m seeing all these issues and more as I study Chuck Phelps’ handouts closely.

First of all, I find this a strange example to use for forgiveness. Nowhere in this story is forgiveness addressed. Yes, he was humiliated and rejected but nowhere in the story do I see forgiveness being asked for or received. There was a deal made and questions asked. Later he asks his daughter to forgive him of the vow he made but that’s not addressed in this lesson.

How about the following examples that could have been used?

            Adam and Eve – God’s forgiveness of their sin in the Garden of Eden.

            Joseph – forgiving his brothers who sold him into slavery. Definitely an example of humiliation and rejection.

            Bathsheba – abused by David’s power and authority. Whether it was willing or not, David took advantage of Bathsheba. That is abuse. Not only did he violate her, David also murdered her husband. We don’t see Bathsheba’s side of this story but at some point David probably asked for Bathsheba’s forgiveness.

            David – God’s forgiveness of David’s adultery, his counting the people, and other examples.

            Hosea – this prophet was instructed to marry a harlot who kept going back to her whorish ways and he kept bringing her back.

            Jesus – many, many examples but the biggest example is Him forgiving us of our sins on the Cross.

            Stephen – stoned

            Paul and Silas – jailed

I’m sure there are many, many other examples. These were the ones that came to me off the top of my head.

Forgiveness is difficult at times and the reasons that Chuck Phelps gives would be accurate.

Chuck Phelps then goes into How Forgiveness is Granted but does not really answer the question. He gives some aspects that might help in the forgiveness process and he uses Scripture out of context and misapplies the Scripture. James 5:16 has nothing to do with “the facts are clear.” It has to do with healing and making things right with one another and your prayers will be effective and powerful and healing will occur because you’ve made this right between God and each other.

James 5 would have been a good passage to use on Why Forgiveness is Necessary but it’s more from the aspect of confessing your sins and not necessarily forgiveness being granted, but that’s implied. In this section he says that in finding forgiveness, you find power. I realize what he’s trying to say but it’s actually the prayers that are effective and powerful. It’s more accurate to say that sin in your life is causing the loss of power. The emphasis seems misplaced in that it’s not the one granting forgiveness that gains spiritual power but the one asking for forgiveness of sin.

I Peter 3:7 tells you to honor your wife so that your prayers are not hindered. Although a husband may need to ask forgiveness from his wife from time to time, forgiveness is not what this passage is talking about.

Mark 11:25 says for you to forgive someone if you have something against them. This does not say who was in the wrong but ask forgiveness for what you have against them and in turn God will forgive you.

Acts 24:16 Paul made sure that he had a clear conscience with God and man.

Here is what occurred to me as I was going through this lesson. Our focus is on the wrong person. We talk about forgiveness and we focus on the person who was offended and sinned against and how they need to forgive. That is true but I believe our biggest focus should be on the one who did the offending and their confession of sin. It should be focused on the act of seeking forgiveness than giving forgiveness.