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.
Handout 1 – Jephthah – The Power of Finding Forgiveness
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.