Archives For Truth

We’re walking through Nathaniel & Hans’ Bluedorn‘s 2009 book, ‘The Fallacy Detective‘ for Homeschool at the moment. The Bluedorns do an excellent job of distinguishing  between the various logical fallacies, discussing how they work on and off the page. I’ve even learnt a few things I didn’t know, and gained clarity on a few of the more nuanced fallacies like ad hominem, straw man and equivocation.

The Bluedorns provide an easy to read text. Placing at the end of each chapter well written quizzes with some humour mixed in, they effectively teach a complex subject to their reader.

‘The Fallacy Detective’ was a recommendation from one of our American homeschooling friends and I can see why they were so excited about using it as a resource for lessons in logic and communication. I haven’t finished using this text, but once I am we will be revisiting it and beginning a walk-through of Nathaniel and Hans’ next book, ‘The Thinking Toolbox‘.

In the final chapter of ‘The Fallacy Detective’ the authors hone in on propaganda. The introduction to this section differentiates between propaganda and manipulative propaganda.

Some key points are made, such as,

‘Propaganda is any strategy for spreading our beliefs or ideas…Propaganda is not always bad. There isn’t anything wrong with spreading our ideas and encouraging people to buy our product – as long as we do it honestly’ (p.188).

The definition given for manipulative propaganda is,

‘when someone plays with our emotions in a way designed to make us agree with them without thinking through the matter carefully’ (p.189)

I had a problem with these definitions because they didn’t go deep enough. For instance, someone could easily use this to (falsely) justify the accusation that preaching is propaganda, or worse manipulative propaganda. So when teaching through this part, I added a qualifier. Throwing in the fact that there is a distinction between propaganda and preaching.  Granted the two are sometimes blurred by questionable sermons, poor theology, and stale dogma.

This is sometimes seen in the Charismatic movement, where the emphasis can be more on transaction and performance. By that I mean “naming and claiming something”, “having the [quote] right anointing [unquote], “feeling God’s presence in the band if it played well, and if it didn’t play to standard? Well, God somehow didn’t show up”.

Thus giving the congregation and spectator the guilty feeling that they somehow failed to impress God and are abandoned for not having done so. Jesus had a stinging rebuke for those in the temple, who confused preaching with manipulating others. Knowing the difference between preaching and propaganda, especially manipulative propaganda falls in line with that rebuke.

‘And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.’ (Matthew 21:1, ESV)

There’s a big difference between preaching and manipulating someone in order to get something. Preaching is about proclamation, invitation, empower faith seeking understanding and learning together in humility.

I take my own understanding of preaching, from Jesus and Paul, who together, teach us that preaching, in sum, is about saying “I give this to you, in order to benefit you” (paraphrased). It’s far removed from the sales room floor of crony capitalism, the soap box of Marxists, the auctioneer’s gavel and the manipulative propagandist who, hiding behind all of these platforms, has his and her ultimate aim as being, “what can I take from you to benefit me”. At the heart of this we hear caveat emptor – let the buyer beware; Jesus and Paul telling us to be careful about what is being sold to us, who is doing the selling, and why they are selling it.

Even without the distinction between preaching and propaganda, the final chapter of ‘The Fallacy Detective’ holds itself together. The differentiation between propaganda and manipulative propaganda is followed by a clear description of, why, how, when and where propaganda is used. This includes, among others, car salesmen, lawyers right up to celebrities, artists and politicians.

Again, not all propaganda is bad, but propaganda shouldn’t be accepted without question; my take on this is that caveat emptor becomes: beware the auctioneers.

This differentiation between propaganda and manipulative propaganda gives the authors the opportunity to prepare the reader for the discussion ahead. Every time they use the word propaganda, they mean manipulative propaganda. By only using the word propaganda, the authors ingeniously force the reader to make their own differentiation between the two.

The information video I’m posting below on Marxist manipulative propaganda, circa 1957 illustrates this differentiation and the definitions presented by Nathaniel & Hans’ Bluedorn. There’s some real insight into manipulative propaganda. For instance the video explains how most Marxists/Communists play the information warfare game. Adding to this, is the small presence of American manipulative propaganda, which pops up from time to time, clearly designed to push the Communists back by using their own strategies against them.

For most hardcore Marxists there is no truth, but that which is filtered through the lens of Karl Marx. As the script writers for the video accurately describe:

“America is the major obstacle that stands between the grave-digger [Communist] and its intended victim. Here is target number one for the Reds and who’s in the bulls-eye. You are being in the bulls-eye. It’s important to know something about the enemy’s weapons and how to spoil their aim. That aim is nothing less than world conquest, and subversion by every possible means, is the cheap method used.The keyword is conflict.
Outside of the red countries themselves conflict must be promoted everywhere. Every dissatisfaction must grow into a resentment. Every resentment must become an argument. Every argument must grow into a fight. Every fight must blossom into a riot. Every riot must expand into a war. Every war must end in devastation.Where, there, in the ruins, communism finds its chance. For the Communists there must never be a compromise. Never a settlement of disputes, only conflict.”

If, as the video concludes, the only ‘effective defence against [manipulative] propaganda is the truth’, then the way forward for the aggressor, in any information war, is to attack the truth. The truth is watered down in order to get people to second guess it; smothering the truth in lies, half-truths, and the displacement of absolute truth. On this level truth means that at any stop light, red can be made to mean “go” by any individual who so desires, and no one is liable for the consequences.

This is why one of Roger Scruton’s more tongue in cheek comments in his 1994 work Modern Philosophy carries so much weight:

‘A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ‘merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.’  (pp.5-6)

Worth noting is the date this video was made. With the benefit of hindsight, the information presented shows that those who came before us, were not as ignorant as we are about the dangers posed by Communism and all forms of manipulative propaganda.


References:

Bluedorn, N. & H., 2009 The Fallacy Detective Christian Logic

Scruton, R. 1994 Modern Philosophy Bloomsbury Publishing

Image design: Rod Lampard Photo: Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

Whatever the result of the SSM vote today, far too many influential Christian leaders were silent on the issue. Letting the ACL, journalists, conservative politicians, and grass roots pro-traditional marriage groups carry the burden and face abysmal abuse.

Right off the bat, I know of ten, including Pastors, teachers and artists who remained alarmingly quiet during the national debate; five of whom hold prominent positions.

This communicates one of three things to Australian Christians as a whole.

The first, these ”shepherds” care more about their pay packet and position, and therefore silently agree with SSM.

The second, these “shepherds” are affable, eager to people please and compromise their faith, the bible, history, biology and healthy orthodox doctrine.

The third, these shepherds were too scared to speak out in support of protecting traditional marriage, and refused to participate in the debate.

I suspect the latter is more relevant than the former two. It doesn’t reflect well on the state of freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion in Australia.

No matter what the result. That’s where our real lament should find itself today.

Even If a “No” vote wins, our collective lament today should be about the decline of truth and the downgrade of our freedom to speak it.

“For the shepherds have become stupid And have not sought the LORD; Therefore they have not prospered, And all their flock is scattered.” Jeremiah 10:21
“Many shepherds have ruined My vineyard, They have trampled down My field; They have made My pleasant field A desolate wilderness.” Jeremiah 12:10

My contributions to the Same-sex marriage debate in Australia can be found here:

Conscientious Abstention From Same-Sex Marriage Is Not The Same As Racism


References:

Image: by underrated 19th Century artist, John Martin, Sodom & Gomorrah, 1852

candle-simple-framed

Defending against the hits

                Who has any real-time for this?

From the aggressors who blubber about niceties,

comes spiteful splattering subtleties.

               mud thrown over the walled city of Notifications,

               to distract plausible argument with great ironic howls of  “fallacy.”

Thus ends the great claims of integrity, from those who,

at the push of a button,

              hashtag their “internet solidarity.”

Intoxicating red bubbles demand you click

               and then engage with their foul spit.

To the odorous sentiment of superiority

           there is little antidote to its insanity

Reasoned argument is no guarantee

            and qualifications have zero sway in it,

So goes the condemnation of your disagreement

Only policy sellers; club dwellers with paid membership are “free.”

    Blindfolds are complimentary.

      Comments of support a necessity.

        Popularity a commodity;

           Victims to pounce on are compulsory.

                Yet…

                 truth, although reduced in its capacity,

                 and so forced into a quiet solemnity,

                 will have its ideological chains eroded by reality.

Like the wax of a burning candle, Light will dissolve each man-made chain into obscurity.


1 Timothy 6:3-5 & 20-21

(RL2016)

Truth RL2016I like to read a book, then read what that author read before writing that book.

One thing we’re big on in theology [we have to be] is literary criticism:part of this scientific process is taking a statement back to its original source through questions, analysis, research and faith-filled dialogue about our reasoned conclusions.

It’s a sure guard against deception and ignorance. We want [or rather need] to be as sure as we can be that when and where God has chosen to speak, we are able to clearly hear and discern that Word.

A good reason for our focus on this is highlighted by Eric Voegelin in his 1968 book, Science, Politics & Gnosticism:

‘The deception of the reader occurs when a text or citation is separated from its context and is used in isolation from it’s original intended meaning.’ [i] (paraphrased)

Voegelin had just gotten through explaining how Karl Marx in his doctoral dissertation of 1840–41 misrepresented the statement, “In a word, I hate all the gods” , from Prometheus in Aeschylus’ ‘Prometheus Bound.’

Stating that, “anyone who does not know Prometheus Bound must conclude that the quoted “confession” sums up the meaning of the tragedy, not that Aeschylus wished to represent hatred of the gods as madness.”

‘In this confession, in which the young Marx presents his own attitude under the symbol of Prometheus, the vast history of the revolt against God is illuminated as far back as the Hellenic creation of the symbol.’ [ii]

From Genesis to Revelation on into Church History, the lesson is clear enough: not everyone who claims to speak for God is actually of God. We need to ask faith-filled questions, have a well-informed BS meter and in humility come to a conclusion about what is and is not genuinely of God. We do this by first establishing the what, where and to whom God has revealed Himself; what God has consistently revealed about Himself to humanity from outside of humanity.

Bonhoeffer, in his lectures on Genesis, recorded in DBW3: ‘Creation and Fall‘, substantiates good reasons for this process. According to him, in the Garden, God’s Word was used as a weapon against God. The result being a catastrophic fallout between the creature and its benevolent Creator.

The power to decree that which is right and wrong, good and evil, is now considered to have been taken up into the hands of humanity. Rather than a new day dawning [enlightenment], darkness descends [truth is hijacked] and humanity descends with it. The source that determines what good and evil is, is relocated; reassigned by, and lowered down to a Creatorless humanity. Humanity in its abstraction from God devours itself. Burdened with lust for dominion and power it seeks to overthrow God – “they want the kingdom, but they don’t want God in it” [iii]; which as we’re told in the Biblical accounts, is ultimately destined to failure and the overbearing governance of unjust, corrupt rulers.

‘Thus for their knowledge of God human beings renounce the word of God that approaches them again and again out of the inviolable center and boundary of life; they renounce the life that comes from this word and grab it for themselves. They themselves stand in the center. This is disobedience in the semblance of obedience, the desire to rule in the semblance of service […]’ [iv]

But this doesn’t happen without a decisive response from God. He isn’t wounded outside His own choosing  [e.g.: as He does for our sakes in Jesus Christ]. Neither is He killed off. Instead humanity is found to have mortally wounded itself.

However, God shows compassion. He acknowledges this and graciously intervenes, providing covering for nakedness, discipline (when necessary), direction and posterity. Despite its new rebellious claim-to-godlike knowledge and power. Its misuse of the divine-human relationship to oppress, deify self, murder and deceive. His creature is not abandoned. God remains God for us, even when He disagrees and takes a stand against us.

“Blessed is the man or woman who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They are like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when the heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

God chooses not to jettison His creature and instead chooses to heal and save it. Even though His creature is now so fused with, and consumed by the maddening effects of the primal Human act that deceptively puts God’s Word to use against Him.

‘That is the ultimate possible rebellion, that the lie portrays the truth as a lie. That is the abyss that underlies the lie—that it lives because it poses as the truth and condemns the truth as a lie.’ [iv]

Sources:

[i] Voegelin, E. 1968, Science, Politics & Gnosticism: Two Essays, (paraphrased). Kindle (Loc.492)

[ii] ibid, 1968

[iii] Johnny Cash, U2 ‘The Wanderer’

[iv] Bonhoeffer, D 1937, Creation & Fall, Fortress Press (pp.109-116)

[v] ibid, 1937

#mypeople

June 18, 2016 — Leave a comment
Ambrose of Milan

 

 

 Ez_18

Ez_33

1 Tim_2_3_4

2 Peter 3_9

Book_Carmen Berry

‘Who’s to Blame?’ addresses the concept of the victim trap. This is created when emotions such as guilt, shame, fear, anger and grief are mismanaged. Blame, accusation, distorted perspectives, the mismanagement of fear, setting boundaries and the wrongful denial of our own God-granted personal power are all at the heart of this text. Therefore this review will outline Carmen Berry and Mark Baker’s discussion on how important it is to keep (not make) perpetrators of abuse accountable by encouraging victims to set boundaries and redefine relationships, which are proven to be unhealthy (understood by the authors as being not mutually beneficial).

According to Berry and Baker, we know we have ‘fallen into the victim trap, when our identities are heavily influenced, if not defined, by past abuse’ (1996:216). Abuse equates to any situation where we have been ‘mistreated, i.e.: not given the respect, protection, and honour deserved’ (1996:165); ‘Self-esteem, a sense of self-worth, and even identity is undermined by abuse’ (1996:147 & 148). They assert that ‘our personalities are shaped by the way we perceive how others have treated us’ (1996:79). Symptoms of this could include a ‘power imbalance…where:

a) A person believes that the suffering of others is more important than their own pain

b) They falsely ‘believe that they are powerless’ (Berry & Baker 1996:12-13).

c) As a result of mistreatment ‘develop lifelong attitudes about ourselves based on how we were treated then’ (Baker & Berry 1996:11)

d) ‘When we are mistreated, especially if the violation occurs in childhood, it is common to feel damaged, defective and worthless’ (1996:146).

A key ontological imperative for Berry and Baker is that we all have personal power. They  explain that personal power is ‘not about being more than someone else, but about knowing who you are and who you are not…'(1996:213 & 214)

They believe in making the ‘unconscious conscious’ (1996:98). An important part of this is understanding that:

‘human pain doesn’t stay frozen in a moment of time but echoes far beyond instances of mistreatment. Unless we regain a sense of our personal power, we carry our pain in our minds, our bodies, and in the way we treat other people’ (1996:19).

A significant element to arriving at this understanding is acknowledging that behaviour, such as denial, ‘places us in the position of being unaware and even naïve. Neglecting to resolve painful and anxious feelings keep us tied to the abuse and the abuser’ (paraphrased 1996:24).Engaging in a quest for revenge only serves to tie the victim to the offender. The reason for this is that retaliation escalates the conflict by feeding the cycle of abuse. For Berry and Baker, blame and denial are false ‘shields of protection that create a prison of isolation’ (1996:73, paraphrased)

Another way in which people may find themselves caught in the victim trap is when they ‘feel responsible for another adult’s actions or emotional well-being’ (1996:10). Berry and Baker state:

 ‘it is often difficult to recognize that a relationship is ensnared in the victim trap. It is only with time that we can determine this. For example: a pattern of behaviour, such as mismanaged fear, will emerge that establishes whether we are in healthy relationships or not’ (paraphrased Berry & Baker 1996:10).

‘we fall into the victim trap by using guilt as a means of controlling others or by allowing ourselves to be controlled in an effort to please others…taking responsibility for their unhappiness and attempting to please to assuage a false sense of guilt’ (1996:105).

Berry and Baker suggest that one key area where we can ‘manage our emotions’ (1996:27) is by taking responsibility for our pain and ‘not taking responsibility for the actions of others’ (1996:58). To do this we need to examine the feeling behind the feeling and then establish and ‘enforce’ (1996:53) boundaries in order to help us ‘redefine relationships’ (1996:25 & 101) where necessary.

blame

Source: Creative commons

Putting boundaries in place will involve communicating consequences for those who violate our borders through violence; physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual abuse. If this does not happen then we fall into the victim trap by assigning blame either to ourselves or others. Consequently inaction creates a ‘false sense of security that limits our understanding of reality’ (1996:20 & 25). The result is mismanaged fear because it ‘assigns blame from a distance or fights a perceived enemy, using blame as a weapon’ (1996: 65).

This advice comes with the caveat which is that ‘our efforts to set boundaries is not to change others’ (1996:54). This is because the motivation which drives setting boundaries is personal responsibility for change because ‘confronting someone with our feelings and expecting them to change is unrealistic’ (1996:60).

In explaining how to set boundaries effectively Berry and Baker make a distinction between vulnerability and openness (1996:79 & 80). For example: “vulnerability” requires wholehearted contribution: it is truthful and prone to attack, whereas “openness” can be a form of self-protection; a shield (that becomes a prison) which is often expressed as a ‘façade making us look like something we are not… contra to vulnerability, openness creates the illusion of intimacy with others’ (1996:80).

When we recognise that we truly have the power to change ourselves and our situation we can engage in positive action on behalf of ourselves and others. By doing this we learn to deal with  difficult people, ‘gaining the confidence to manage whatever emotions we have in order to hold others accountable and resolve unfinished business from the past’ (1996:28).

Baker and Berry’s advice reinforces the concepts advocated in ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’. They encourage replacing lies and misbeliefs, with the truth. 2 Cor. 10:4-5 comes to mind.

Blame is indicative of ‘an overwhelming hopelessness, despair and regret’ (1996:71)…’blaming is an ineffective way to protect ourselves from harm because it draws attention away from the genuine problem and the reality of our power in the situation’ (1996:72).

blame3

Source: creative commons

This pertains to mismanaged power which is evidenced when someone attacks us from a place of ‘self-righteous’ (1996:71) indignation – a superior sense of morality (seen in both left and right socio-political polemics which are often infused with emotionalism), a false sense of entitlement and hyperbole (‘’I did this for you and you’ve never done anything for me’’). For example: we moralize the issue; flawed arguments based on ‘opinion’ (1996:51) utilising ad hominem (elitist overgeneralization e.g.: one bad/all bad), tu quo que (hypocrisy) and reductio ad absurdum (ridicule by exaggeration), rather than on faith or fact.

Communicating our pain requires the right approach. For Berry and Baker this means ‘having the courage (knowledge of self-worth, freedom and ability grounded in God) to participate in the difficult conversations’ (1996:89, emphasis mine). According to Berry and Baker in order ‘to manage power effectively, we must develop a healthy view of failure’ (1996:41-50) which moves towards a ‘centred self’ (1996:50).This is significant because ’healthy power is assertive rather than aggressive, healing rather than hurtful…the point of power is not to look strong to others but to become stronger with them’ (1996:47 & 49).

In Conclusion ‘Who’s to blame?’ is a useful guide to helping the individual take responsible action for the potential outcomes of their circumstances, emotions and relationships. The essence of this review has been to outline why Berry and Baker believe we all have power to redefine unhealthy relationships. In order to do this I primarily focused on what the victim trap is, what the authors consider the causes to be and how it can be avoided. Reading victimization through the lens of Berry and Baker’s work has made a significant contribution to my journey towards healing. Blame, accusation, distorted perspectives, the mismanagement of fear, setting boundaries and the wrongful denial of our own God-granted personal power are al at the heart of this text.

For the authors, holding others accountable by redefining relationships involves taking responsibility for both our actions and our pain. This is the antithesis to engaging in blame, revenge (1996:147) and feeling as though we are responsible for the responses of others. Under the surface this text challenges the popular notion of ‘just ignore them’, as well as the overly simplistic ‘’given’’ – ‘forgive and forget’.As such the material within ‘Who’s to blame?’ challenges the false belief that assumes victims of abuse are powerless to change or influence change themselves. ‘Who’s to blame?’ can be summarised by the statement ‘seek accountability not revenge’ (1996:167). One way we can apply this to our lives is by starting to develop a better understanding of the differences between discipline and abuse.

Bibliography

Berry, C.R & Baker, M.W who’s to Blame? Escape the victim trap and Gain personal power in your relationships 1996 Pinion Press Colorado Springs, CO, U.S.A

Available on kindle.

Related reading:

Setting personal boundaries – Passionate Christian Marriage


forgiveness

forgiveness (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

In my experience reactions to the words, “I’m sorry” occur in four ways:(approach/response)

1)      I am sorry – I am sorry too (healthy)
2)      I am sorry – it’s about bloody time you apologised, now earn my forgiveness. (one sided – unhealthy)
3)      I am sorry – Do you even know what you’re apologising for?  (dismissive – unhealthy)
4)      I am sorry – What do you hope to achieve by saying you are sorry? (demanding – unhealthy)

Correlated to this is the straightforward question ‘’what have I done wrong?’’, which is crucial to any conflict management strategy, this is because the purpose of the approach is to clearly identify what the actual problem is:

5)      What I have done wrong? – If you don’t know I am not going to tell you
6)      What I have done wrong? – Oh you know bloody well what you’ve done
7)      What I have done wrong? – Don’t you play dumb with me, I’m leaving you to figure it out

It is easy to see that six of the responses have the word ‘you’ embedded in each statement.The use of the word ”you” in this sense is accusative. It is unhelpful to the healthy outcomes by which forgiveness can be the ONLY conduit.

By contrast, notice that all seven approaches use the word ‘I’.  This is a key word because it indicates that the approach involves a concern for personal responsibility.

Often the person responding in this way dismisses, discounts and/or unrealistically and impatiently demands reparations for damages, before examining the authenticity of an apology. A significant historical example of this is the Allied demands on Germany after World War One.

However, from my experience I have observed that responses are often accompanied by guess work. That is, I am forced to try and figure out what has caused so much conflict. This “figure it out otherwise I’m not forgiving you” response is unhelpful because another person is required to participate in the process of forgiving or seeking forgiveness.

Cycles of abuse have to stop somewhere, and they only stop when somebody stands their ground, speaks, and acts on the truth.Removing yourself (establishing boundaries) from any cycle of abuse will mean that you create conflict in order to neutralize conflict and minimise harm.

This raises a few questions:

a)      Is forgiveness an assertive, rather than a submissive act?
b)      If so maybe our ideas about forgiveness need realignment?

Perhaps forgiveness is more like an interpersonal incendiary bomb than a fire extinguisher.

The former starts fires has a significant blast radius, and is most effective when used against targets which are already flammable (e.g: I am thinking Jer.23:29).

This image suggests that forgiveness effectively neutralizes conflict in an aggressive way. The blast radius of forgiveness is then measured by it’s point of impact; it’s influence, on any given interpersonal conflict. To forgive is too assert our freedom granted to us by the God who is free. Only in Him do we discover the true source of our Freedom expressed in His own act of forgiveness.

By necessity this means that every act of forgiveness we enter into becomes a necessary humanitarian act. An act of ‘faith and obedience’ (Barth, CD.IV.4). The basis of this act is the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus the Christ. On which we choose to not only stand, but live by the Spirit, with ‘resolute gratitude’ (CD.IV.4:158) in response to the gracious command of God.

Reconciliation is and can only be fuelled by forgiveness, as exemplified by Christ and the subsequent forgiveness of sin, granted through His willingness to act on our behalf. Therefore, forgiveness is an aggressive rather than a passive act. This is because the process of forgiving is both deconstructive and reconstructive. Since forgiveness is empowered by Christ’s example, its intent and purpose has a theologically motivated impact on ‘society and politics’ (Ben Myers).

Forgiveness is irreversibly transformational. There can be no going back if forgiveness is true forgiveness.

‘The foundation of forgiveness is the confession of our sins. Hiding sin in silence, not admitting and confessing it, is living in darkness, even if our lifestyle may have a Christian appearance!’ (Jobst Bittner 2013:L.910 & 1082).

This is consistent with the differentiation between forgiving, forgiven and seeking to be forgiven. For example:

Forgiving: (Col.3:7 & 13a) is about engaging in a dynamic personal response to damage and victimization. This is powerful and requires human effort.

Forgiven: (Col.3:13b) is about accepting that you already are forgiven, by far the most powerful of all three and the hardest to grasp because we need to understand that this reality is one that has first grasped us. This is based on God’s divine initiative – His free movement towards humanity to be for us. (Barth CD.IV.4)

Seeking to be forgiven (Col.3:13c) is about repentance, contrite admission of failures or ‘renunciation and pledge’ (Barth CD.IV.4). Seeking to be forgiven is to engage in a form of lament that reaches out. This is also difficult to do; it requires taking responsibility of our actions, humility, wisdom and a willingness to be transformed by acting on what we have learnt from our mistakes (Col.3:16).

In Colossians 3, Paul presents six lists. Of these six lists, four, form part of what is called an ‘ethical catalogue’ (DNTB). The remaining two lists are as follows:

1. ‘Forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive’ (Col.3:13)

2. ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thanksgiving in your hearts to God’ (Col.3:16)

Paul’s letter encourages us to ‘assert the primacy of scripture over culture’ (2006:62 – sola scriptura).One caveat that is drawn out from this is that unlike urban, Western philosophical syncretism, Christians should not confuse forgiveness with forgetting.

Pastor Jobst Bittner when talking about how survivors in Germany are dealing with the atrocities committed during World War Two, makes the observation that:

‘God’s answer for unhealed wounds is the power of forgiveness. This power, however, must not be confused with “forgetting” or “wanting to cover up”. The wounds of the Holocaust are still present in the third generation of survivors. They are the generation who are facing the truth and breaking their silence’. (Jobst Bittner, 2013:L.1658-1660)

The ‘repression of sin is graceless existence…forgiven sin does not mean forgotten sin’ (Busche citing Karl Barth in ‘Barth’ & CD.II.2 1957:756).  The brightness of Paul’s discourse on forgiveness in Col.3:13, makes it easy to miss the significance of his command in 13:9:

‘Do not lie to one another’

Forgiveness, in its truly Christian form seeks to break the silence by ‘putting on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator’ (Col.3:10).

Therefore I am not entirely comfortable to state, in complete agreement, with Alexander Pope, that ‘too err is human, to forgive divine’ (An Essay on Criticism, 1711). The reason for this is that Pope implies, when it comes to forgiveness, that human effort is pointless.

On the contrary, as we have seen from Paul’s words and from what Dallas Willard so profoundly explained, ‘Grace is opposed to earning, but not to effort’. Like an interpersonal incendiary bomb, the blast radius of forgiveness is to be measured from it’s point of impact; it’s influence, on any given interpersonal conflict.Forgiveness given authentically, may be received or rejected, nevertheless in both cases it allows for the truth to be seen.

Only then can the ‘creative power of forgiveness’ (Bloesch 2006:62) breathe, reconstruct, transform and free us.


Sources:
Bloesch, D. 2006 Essentials of Evangelical theology Hendrickson Publishers
Bittner, Jobst (2013-04-03). Breaking the Veil of Silence (Kindle Locations 1658-1660). TOS Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Charles, J. D. (2000). Vice and Virtue Lists. In C. A. Evans & S. E. Porter (Eds.), Dictionary of New Testament background: A compendium of contemporary biblical scholarship (C. A. Evans & S. E. Porter, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (1255). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press
Eberhard Busch (2008-06-01). Barth (Abingdon Pillars of Theology) (Kindle Location 1212). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.
ESV – Crossway Publishers
Willard, D. 2006 The Great Omission Monarch Books, Harper Collins USA