Dylann Roof victims 2
Forgiveness

Dylann Roof is forgiven and forgiven and forgiven by victims' families

 

On the evening of 17th June 2015, Dylann Roof attended a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where, by all accounts, he shot dead nine Christians as they were praying to their Lord. He is white; they were black. The motive is black and white. According to a (developing) summary account:

..He then began to disagree when they began speaking about Scripture. After a while, the shooter then stood up and pulled out a gun.. aiming it at 87-year-old Susie Jackson. Jackson’s nephew, 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders, tried to talk him down and asked him why he was attacking churchgoers, to which the shooter responded, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” When he expressed his intention to shoot everyone, Sanders dove in front of Jackson and was shot first. The suspect then shot the other victims, all the while shouting racial epithets. He also reportedly said, “Y’all want something to pray about? I’ll give you something to pray about.” He reloaded his gun five times. Sanders’ mother and his five-year-old niece, who were both attending the study, survived the shooting by pretending to be dead. Dot Scott, president of the local branch of the NAACP, said she had heard from victims’ relatives that the shooter spared one woman (Sanders’ mother) so she could, according to him, tell other people what happened. Before leaving the church, he reportedly “uttered a racially inflammatory statement” over the victims’ bodies.

He disputed their interpretation of Scripture, and then proceeded to shoot them dead, one by one, sparing a woman in order that she might bear witness of the terror to the world. And the world has heard about the evil, the pain and the grief. But it has also heard of the boundless grace and mercy of God as, one by one, members of the victims’ families told Dylann Roof that they forgave him. He wanted a single witness to his hate; instead, he got a church full of witnesses to the counter-intuitive love and selfless sacrifice of Christ.

In a remarkable moment in court during the bond hearing, relatives of the nine spoke directly to Dylann Roof. He tried to stir up hate and foment division: they simply forgive him, over and over again.

Nadine Collier (daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance): “I just want everybody to know, to you, I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul. You hurt me, you hurt a lot of people, but God forgive you, and I forgive you.”

Anthony Thompson (husband of Myra Thompson): “I forgive you and my family forgives you, but we would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent, confess, give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ, so he can change it, and change your ways no matter what happened to you, and you’ll be okay through that. And you’ll be better off than how you are right now.”

Felecia Sanders (mother of Tywanza Sanders): “We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautiful-est people that I have known. Every fibre in my body hurts., and I will never be the same. Tywanza Sanders is my son but Tywanza was my hero; Tywanza was my hero. But as we say in the Bible study, we enjoyed you, but may God have mercy on you.”

Alana Simmons (granddaughter of Rev’d Daniel Simmons): “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof, everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived and loved and their legacies will live in love. So hate won’t win, and I just want to thank the courts for making sure that hate doesn’t win.”

Bethane Middleton-Brown (sister of Rev’d Depayne Middleton-Doctor): “Depayne Doctor was my sister. And I too thank you (the judge), on the behalf of my family, for not allowing hate to win. For me, I’m a work in progress, and I acknowledge that I am very angry. But one thing Depayne has always joined in our family with, is that she taught me that we are the family that love built. We have no room for hate so we have to forgive. I pray God on your soul, and I also thank God that I won’t be around when your judgement day comes with him. May God bless you.”

Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven‘ (Mt 18:18). These Christians bear witness to the world of the unmerited love of God. There is holiness in forgiveness: it challenges the legalistic inclination toward an eye for an eye. The unrepentant sinner has no place in the community of God, but the vilest crime is no bar to the mercy of Jesus. The Church’s response to those who murder and hate must be missionary; not rejection. When we rebuke or expel offenders, we are exhorted to leave the 99 sheep and minister to the one who went astray, because ‘..it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish‘ (v14).

The Church has been given authority by God to bind and loose, and it may do so where two or three believers are gathered because Christ is there among them. Jesus instructed His disciples to forgive, and the Holy Spirit aids us to contend against the hate, hurt, resentment and yearning for vengeance. The extent to which we forgive is the measure of our incarnation of God’s mercy. We can forgive, but we cannot force those who trespass against us to accept that forgiveness, for that requires humility, honesty and their acknowledgment of sin. Those who will not hear cannot learn. Their future judgment belongs to God.

  • magnolia

    Thanks very much for this. They have amazing levels of forgiveness. I wonder whether the man who shot them was deranged or brainwashed, as it looks entirely illogical to have chosen to punish this set of people for crimes that were entirely outside their lifestyle.

    • magnolia

      Drug addict on at least suboxone, and probably others, with white supremacist views, and probably mood swings from the drugs, I see.

      • Inspector General

        Drugs are no defence. In cases of where individuals ‘wish to make a point’ by mass murder, they voluntarily drug themselves up on substances like amphetamine sulphate. The reason being “I had doubts that I could have completed my mission without it”

      • sarky

        And a gun as a 21st birthday present…..utter madness.

  • Inspector General

    Forgive the unrepentant? Can it be done? To forgive someone who has not asked for forgiveness, and presumably, if set free, may well make his way back to the church and shoot another nine?

    The forgiveness is clearly invalid. Who would like to inform the family members of that. The Inspector isn’t…

    • sarky

      How is it invalid? Better to forgive than to be consumed with hate and anger.

      • Inspector General

        It has to be invalid. Otherwise we are obliged to forgive our own would be killer BEFORE he strikes the fatal blow.

        • sarky

          Didnt jesus do that?

          • Inspector General

            Not really. He was on the cross at the time. He had effectively been killed, so the divine forgiveness came AFTER said blow…

          • sarky

            Rubbish. Jesus knew he was going to die and the whole purpose of his time on earth was that death and the forgiveness of sin it would bring.

          • dannybhoy

            You don’t know that.
            Even worse, you don’t believe it…

          • sarky

            If jesus is god then off course he knew. And yes, I don’t believe it.

          • Inspector General

            Divinity was thrust upon Jesus. He never asked for it.

          • sarky

            Errrm isn’t he supposed to be eternally divine? ??

          • Inspector General

            He is. He was divinely created upon this earth by God the creator. He himself recognised this by calling God his father. Divine beings are just that, divine. And by definition, also immortal.

          • Inspector General

            As it’s you, better remind that immortal is hard to kill, if it can be achieved at all.

          • sarky

            But he wasn’t killed, he came back.

          • dannybhoy

            As part of the Godhead He knew what the plan was in the event that man disobeyed. But He didn’t know (as God) what it would feel like as a man to be separated from God because of our sins
            When it says He became sin for our sake, it means that our Lord experienced on the Cross all the evil thoughts and deeds that men have had through the ages.

            2nd letter to the Church at Corinth. chapter 5..
            ” We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
            Imagine how your little child might feel to be suddenly surrounded by all sorts of evil grownups intent on destroying her innocence and trust.
            Then magnify it.
            And no smart comments from anyone.

          • Inspector General

            Did he now? And his wail of desperation on the cross about being abandoned?

          • dannybhoy

            He felt abandoned because He as God had out of love for His Creation had chosen to live as one of us; and as One who had never been separated from the Father and Holy Spirit , He actually felt on our behalf what it meant to be truly separated from God by taking on Himself our sin….

          • Inspector General

            or more likely he had no idea of what the plot was, and the happy ending in store thereof.

          • sarky

            Just one of the parts of the story that doesn’t make sense.

          • Inspector General

            Perhaps not to you…

          • Anton

            Read the last lines of the psalm he was quoting on the cross. But you are right about forgiveness.

          • dannybhoy

            The divine forgiveness had been planned outside of timeold boney knees.
            God knew the risk He was taking (and I suspect there was far more going on in the Heavenlies than we currently know about.)
            Crying out, I look back on my life and despite my health problems now, I thank God for all the places I have been, people I have met, hard graft I have done..
            Life is actually wonderful!
            Too much introspection or “why me?” can lead to depression.

    • Ian G

      The discussion studiously ignores scripture. Romans 5:6 -11 but especially verse 8. The Inspector is wrong.

      • Inspector General

        Objection noted Ian G and passages duly read.

  • Dreadnaught

    Forgiveness? So why put him on trial when the option will lay with others to demand the death penalty. String the bugger up without a moments hesitation then give all the forgiveness they have if it helps them cope with the reality of this heinous act.

    • Inspector General

      Agreed. May his death be as a warning to others, and lives may be saved after he breathes his last. Of course, if the families then want to bestow forgiveness upon his corpse and damned soul…

    • Phil R

      Forgiveness does not mean you forgo punishment.

      • Dreadnaught

        So whats the point of punishment? who does forgiveness benefit?

        • Phil R

          The victim

          • dannybhoy

            The truly repentant who realises that he or she is guilty as charged.

      • dannybhoy

        “Escape” punishment?

  • len

    It would be only too easy to have a ‘knee jerk’ reaction to the apparent senseless killing of Christians and I believe the intention behind this killing and other killings is to provoke racial tension…..
    Why forgive, why not demand revenge?(which is the normal human reaction?.

    The answer to that I belive is that the enemy of Christians(and mankind) wants to gain reason to accuse believers before God of disobeying the direct command of Jesus Christ to forgive our enemies.
    Forgiveness is not some weak apathetic’ excusing’ of barbaric behaviour towards Christians but a’ turning over of the perpetrator of these crimes into the hands of God who will administer perfect justice….

    For those who practice’ forgiveness ‘is to live in the Grace of God where the Accuser of the Brethren cannot follow you….

  • The Explorer

    In 2006 ten Amish girls were shot in a schoolroom. The killer was angry with God, and killing the Amish was a way of showing his anger. He then shot himself.

    The Amish visited his widow to see they had no grudge against her, and that they forgave her husband.

    The Media were bewildered by their attitude. But the Amish made the following points. The crime mattered, but they did not know the killer’s motives. The killer would be judged by a just God. That was the point of difference between the Amish and the Media: The forgiveness made sense only in the context of judgment in an after life.

    The forgiveness here may be an echo of that incident.

    • Anton

      Forgiveness is also to prevent oneself becoming bitter.

    • dannybhoy

      It goes back to our dual nationality as Christians.
      We may choose to turn the other cheek, to suffer persecution for righteousness sake.
      But we are also citizens of an earthly kingdom. We have to be aware that by imposing our heavenly kingdom values on non Christians we undermine law and order, which God has instituted for unsaved mankind.

  • Inspector General

    Those of us who are longstanding followers of this site will remember our own Cranmer forgiving (passively) the artiste formerly known as ‘Dodo’

    The bird was truly repentant, expressed remorse, and promised to change it’s unpleasant avian ways, such as dumping on people, like the blogs creator, from a great height. Forgiveness did not exactly start flowing immediately, but it came, of sorts, in due course.

    That is how it’s done…

  • Phil R

    Many posters here seem to linking forgiveness with punishment.

    The two are quite different and to forgive does not always mean that you forgo punishment.

    Indeed punishment is often the most Christian response.

    yes even if you forgive

    • Inspector General

      Tis true Phil. Whatever happens to him, his life is effectively over. To be given a minimum of a hundred year sentence with no parole and to spend much of it in a small cell waiting to die. Of course, millions could be saved by dropping the blighter with a rope around his neck…

      • Phil R

        That is why prison is the most inhuman of punishments

        • Inspector General

          One has always considered putting a man away for life with no hope of release amongst the most cruel of human behaviour…

          • Dreadnaught

            Yet every murderer’s barrister pleads for it instead of the DP. What would you prefer IG?

          • IanCad

            Dreadnaught,
            In the USA you may get both. As in the case of Michael Selsor.
            Convicted and sentenced to death in 1976. Executed in 2012.

          • Dreadnaught

            Not sure whether that isnt more cruel than the crime. At least here we let our murderers out in ten years or so (sarc.)

          • IanCad

            Dreadnaught,
            A year after his sentencing the Oklahoma death penalty was ruled unconstitutional and his sentence was changed to life without parole. He continued to appeal his conviction, and in a later retrial was again found guilty. By this time the state had complied with federal standards and the death penalty was reinstated. Thus the state could again sentence him to death – which they did.
            Surely, by any standards of fairness, this is a gross violation of the 8th amendment (Cruel and unusual punishment)

          • Dreadnaught

            Quite so; it hardly falls into what we call civilised behaviour.

          • dannybhoy

            If you take somebody’s life deliberately and it is evidenced that you did it, then what is wrong with the death penalty?

          • Inspector General

            Danny, from Amnesty….

            “Why the Death Penalty is wrong

            Denial of human rights. Sentencing someone to death denies them the right to life – enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

            There you go, how twee. What the nine victims think about that is not recorded…

          • dannybhoy

            Aaaaa – Ha!
            “There you go, how twee. What the nine victims think about that is not recorded…”

            So despite the fact that you think we’re only here for God’s amusement and that life is a cruel joke etc etc and so on…
            and that Happy Jack is concerned that you may qualify for burning at the stake as ‘an heretic’.. you do still care about what goes on…

            As I said, you’re winding us all up surely.. :0)

          • Inspector General

            Oh yes. One appreciates Gods order. But when that order is broken…then we ourselves administer justice.

          • dannybhoy

            What about the “here for God’s amusement” bit?
            One has mulled that idea over and eventually rejected it on the grounds that,
            a) One is a creature
            b) As a creature one can only experience the world through the senses given.
            c) Someone called Jesus came into the same world I inhabit.
            d) He knows more than I do.
            e) He loved me enough to be willing to give His life so that I might be pardoned and sanctified.
            f) Ergo, He deserves my trust and commands my loyalty. Alleluia!
            Simples…

          • Inspector General

            Hmmm Perhaps one isn’t making himself clear. There doesn’t seem to be a word in English to describe our relationship with God. Let’s try us as a diversion, an interest. Our antics occupy the creator’s attention. He observes keenly, as so he might, not having any direct hand in the cause of those antics, such as this shooting.

          • Phil R

            If we are not free to sin e.g. in this case. Then we are not free to worship. If we are not free to worship then our worship is meaningless.

          • dannybhoy

            “God is not a fool.”
            Bet He’ll share that ringing endorsement with the angels…. :0)

          • Phil R

            God is not a fool to think that worship without choice is worth anything at all

          • dannybhoy

            There is. It’s Creator/Father -child..
            As per Bible/manual.
            At the end of our days I trust myself into God’s keeping, and if He turns out to be a Catholic, I’ll just have to bite the bulet and ask forgiveness of St Luther…..

          • Inspector General

            One is rather fond of his theory. It gives him the advantage over atheists who tend not to have a definite reason why we exist, other than we do. However, they are quite adamant we are not here through divine will. It does so amuse when they strenuously point that out, often until they’re blue in the face. Must know something the rest of us can’t decipher…

          • dannybhoy

            You sound more and more like the recalcitrant child who needs his backside smacked and sent to bed with no supper.
            But not burnt at the stake….
            :0)

          • The Explorer

            Could there be such a thing as forfeiting the right to life? (By, for instance, taking the lives of others?)

          • Inspector General

            Of course. The only sure reason against the death penalty is that you have the wrong fellow. But advances in forensics, CCTV etc, now nullify that. Besides, one is sure a future Home Secretary would commute if there be the slightest doubt.

        • Anton

          Well said! Not found among the punishments in the only code of law ever written by God…

    • Dreadnaught

      So; accepting that there is a god and an afterlife inhabited by ‘souls’, would you expect god to forgive the Islamic butchers of Isis. Don’t duck out by offering the old ‘its not up to me to predict god’s response’ that’s a cop out as we are talking here of forgiveness in the material world – the only one we know.

      • Phil R

        God does not forgive the butchers of IS IS

        They are condemned. But not because they are nasty bastards

        • Darter Noster

          I agree that there is a difference between religious forgiveness and the death penalty as a secular punishment. However, I do not believe you can state that God will not forgive the butchers of ISIS. The forgiveness of God is infinite to those who truly repent. Whether or not they will is of course another matter.

          • The Explorer

            If they think they are carrying out the will of their God, what is there to repent about?

          • Darter Noster

            Nothing.

            But hopefully they will come to see that God does not want them to do what they do.

          • The Explorer

            They’ll have to switch allegiance to a different sacred book with a different message.

          • Hmmm …. but if they are following their consciences – as malformed and twisted as these are – are they culpable in the eyes of God?

          • Phil R

            Not what I said

            to be clear. Salvation is only through Jesus

          • GKStudent

            God’s love is all giving. The dependence is our receptivity. God knows thoroughly what imperfection each one of us has. He knows, like a diamond refiner, how to cut out those imperfections, if and only if, of course He’s patient for that too, if and only if we give ourselves into His love as the diamond gives itself fully into the Jeweler’s hands.

      • carl jacobs

        would you expect god to forgive the Islamic butchers of Isis.

        Yes, I would if they repented. Why would I expect this? Because God Himself has said it, and He is true to His word. But you must understand that forgiveness has a foundation in the work of Christ on the Cross. Those acts of murder for which the killer repented were not unpunished. They were punished with the full weight of Hell.

        There is no man so sinful that his attending bill of indictment cannot be nailed to the Cross.

    • dannybhoy

      Good point Phil. I believe that we can forgive, but the law remains the law, and that even if a Christian commits a serious crime, he/she should accept that there are consequences.

  • And therein lies the difference between Christianity and the “religion of peace”. Indeed, therein lies the difference between Christianity and all other faith systems. The unique revelation of Our Lord and Our God. We forgive because Christ forgives – endlessly.

    • Phil R

      Yes but we forgive for our benefit.

      Not his.

      I think he realises that

      • Benefit? We forgive because Christ forgives – both him and us – if there is repentance and acceptance of saving grace.

        • CliveM

          We forgive because that is what we are told to do.

          Sometimes I don’t listen however !

          • You can’t be “told” to forgive. Whilst it is an act of the will, not emotion, you either accept the grace to do so or not.

          • CliveM

            The bible tells us we are commanded to forgive. The Lord’s Prayer includes the words “forgive us, as we forgive those who trespass against us”.

            Jesus says we should forgive “7 times 70 times”.

            I think we are told to forgive.

          • Well, yes, we are commanded to forgive but we can only follow the commands of Christ through an act of will, strengthened by accepting God’s grace. It’s more than simply being “told”; that was Jack’s point.

        • Phil R

          But we are told to forgive. With or without repentance.

          So as not to harden our hearts. For our benefit not theirs.

          • We are commanded to love selflessly … and to offer forgiveness.

          • Phil R

            Because to do otherwise is a disaster for our hearts.

            You see God knows us.

          • Well yes, that’s the basis of Natural Law. To live according to God’s design for us will bring us inner peace in the face of all horror. However, this is slightly more nuanced than what Jack understood as a more utilitarian position. It also means great anguish of heart, as wrath and the desire for revenge is more natural to sinful man.

  • carl jacobs

    I often wonder about my own reaction to this kind of circumstance. Would I act in similar fashion if someone shot my children in such a cold-blooded senseless fashion? My assessment of myself is that I would not, but I wonder at the usefulness of such an assessment. Grace is given in time of need. It’s a marvel that men would react in this way, but it’s not men we should be marveling at.

    God, give us courage to honor You in the midst of trial, for of myself, I know I would not.

    • dannybhoy

      As far as I am concerned it is their absolute conviction that Jesus is Lord and Jesus died for their sins which enabled them to forgive this messed up individual.
      The wife and I sent them an email of condolence and support. Of course they don’t know us from Adam, but they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and if we believe in the Church Universal then we are family.

      • CliveM

        I still don’t think I would be able to forgive. I can forgive evil done to myself, much more easily then sin done to my family.

        • dannybhoy

          That’s natural Clive, but all the more wonderful that these Christians offered forgiveness.

          • CliveM

            I agree.

    • Dreadnaught

      I sincerely hope your trust in Faith is never tested in such a manner old Chap.

      • carl jacobs

        Faith is nothing, Dreadnaught. I do not trust in Faith. I trust in God who is the object of my faith. He who is faithful and true.

    • Darter Noster

      I do not think I could forgive him if he killed a loved one of mine in this way. I would love to say that I could, but in reality it would take a very long time, if it ever came. I know I am supposed to forgive, but I frequently cannot and do not do what God wants of me under circumstances much less trying than these. I pray for God’s blessing on these people whose love of Christ enables them to do what seems impossible.

  • The Explorer

    Did the abolition of the death penalty coincide with the decline of belief in the after life?

    • Logically, one would expect it to be the other way around. If there’s no vengeance in the next life, let’s impose it in this.

      Jack suggests it declined with the decline in belief in freely choosing to commit evil acts. Sociologists and psychologists will always find a human explanation for acts of murder. That said, what actual point does execution serve in a godless age? How does it help achieve salvation for an atheist?

      • The Explorer

        I think you have it. The abolition of the death penalty coincided with a decline of belief in evil. No one does wrong intentionally. It may be the victim’s fault for existing: if the victim did not exist, the victim could not be killed.

        • Inspector General

          It doesn’t help that modern psychiatry has managed to rename evil as mental illness, despite the only true mental cases are detected by their behaviour long before they reach the stage of killing others.

          • The Explorer

            RIght. Prison isn’t about punishing criminals; it’s about curing them. Go in anti-social and come out ready to be a contributing member of society. Wonderful idea in all respects except reality. It’s why re-offending rates are not talked about, and hidden where possible: or they might lead to some fundamental re-thinking about what makes people tick.

          • …. and yet there are social and psychological drivers of crime and people do get rehabilitated.

          • The Explorer

            True. The percentage is the issue. A 90% success rate would be wonderful and exonerate a belief in the basic goodness of everybody given opportunity.

          • Lol … you don’t expect much then. Not everybody is good, though and we all have to learn self control and self restraint. And as punishment is inflicted to fit the crime, it’s worth a shot even if only 20% are able to turn their lives around.

          • Ivan M

            The criminals operate on a cost-benefit ratio. Right now in the West, the benefits outweigh the costs. In India for reasons having to do with the ineptitude of the police, the benefits similarly outweigh the costs. But not so in Singapore, where the punishment is swift, condign and certain. If rapists were to be caned as in Singapore, it is a certainty that such incidents would be much reduced. As there are no bragging rights accruing to someone with red welts on his buttocks.

          • Anton

            No prisons in Mosaic Law, the only criminal justice system written by God. He knows what He is doing.

          • Death, slavery and banishment, Anton? Society has moved on a bit since the time of Moses. Plus, there’s no longer any need to exterminate one’s enemies after wars.

          • Anton

            Human nature has not changed since that time and therefore the Mosaic regulations and sanctions relating to moral behaviour are still appropriate today. (Obviously I do not advocate animal sacrifice in Trafalgar Square.)

            Prisons are universities of criminality that penalise
            inmates’ dependants while providing shelter and food to prisoners at the expense of others who have to work for it.

          • Human nature may not have changed but the Way revealed in the New Testament not based that of the Mosaic regulations and sanctions – though the moral commandments have not changed.

            For example, nowadays we wouldn’t contemplate death for acts of adultery or for acts of homosexuality. Or are you saying it remains appropriate for these sanctions to still be imposed?
            The Mosaic law was suited to the developing civilization of the Israelites. The severe punishments which it prescribed for transgressors, as Jack sees it, were necessary to bend what the Bible describes as s stiff necked people and to impose compliance with external authority. It used fear of repercussions as a means of enforcement. Still, it also tried to it curbed licentious thoughts and covetous desire and the love of God and of one’s neighbour was the great precept of the Law.

            Surely a Christian would admit that the Mosaic Law and its sanctions was not perfect but contingent, and that Christ came not to destroy it but to fulfil and perfect it?

          • Ivan M

            There has been development as you indicate. Jacob’s sons made a slaughter of their neighbours – among whom they settled – to avenge the rape of their sister. All Jacob would aver was that the boys had made life difficult for him with the villagers. The “eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth” legal maxim in Exodus was a distinct improvement over that which ruled over Jacob’s sons.

            By the time of the prophet Jonah, God was already more relaxed about enforcement, what with people not knowing their left hand from their right.

            Among at least some of the Israelites around Jesus’ time, stoning as a punishment for adultery was passe. St Joseph, when he knew that the Virgin Mary was with child, at first sought to spare her embarrassment, instead of doing what is common even now in some villages in India and Pakistan, take her to the village square to be humiliated and abused.

            The Jews had kept pace with the moral development of the human race, being in the vanguard throughout history.

          • Anton

            The point is that the church is a volunteer society whereas ancient Israel was a nation and needed a legal code. Our nation also needs a legal code, and Mosaic Law is the only one ever written by God and so should be taken very seriously indeed as a precedent. There need to be some differences because gentile nations do not have a ratified covenant with God and because animal sacrifice is obsolete since the crucifixion, but human nature hasn’t changed and so I believe that the ‘moral’ laws and penalties for their violation remain appropriate.

            I would not implement them unilaterally if I had the power, though, because God gave ancient Israel a choice to accept the covenant with the laws he was proposing, to which they assented by acclamation. So I would use secular arguments to advocate such laws and seek to change the climate into one in which those laws were understood as appropriate. Thomas Aquinas’ arguments concerning ‘natural law’ would be a huge help in that. The one law I would institute against the people’s will if necessary is capital punishment for murder, for that was commanded to all mankind at Genesis 9:6.

          • So you are saying you would seek a mandate to stone adulterous women to death and execute men for homosexual acts. Just how would you argue for those penalties?

          • Anton

            Do you think God was wrong to mandate death for a married woman and her lover in ancient Israel?

          • That’s not what Jack asked. He’s already answered the question anyway.
            Do you believe the Mosaic sanctions are appropriate today?

          • Anton

            You’re not the only one who thinks he’s already answered the question…

          • … and for heresy and spreading heresy?

          • Anton

            Britain is not a covenant nation. Religion should therefore be a matter for the private conscience. My advocacy of Mosaic Law is limited to certain laws, as explained above.

            Anyway, who decides what is heresy? Jesus was crucified for it and some say that certain Catholic practices are heretical judged against the Bible.

          • Now you’re equivocating.

            “My advocacy of Mosaic Law is limited to certain laws, as explained above.”

            The death penalty for murder, adulterous women (not men?), and male homosexuality. And would you advocate changes to the Mosaic Law on rape and evidence?

            Why do you want to ignore the very first Commandment on which the sanctions? Don’t you think heresy exists or that it matters not to God anymore?

          • Anton

            Please stop putting words in my mouth and look at the situations that I did mention rather than those I didn’t, and in the light of my criteria for which parts of Mosaic Law I advocate unchanged and why. I set out those criteria at the start of this discussion and have not spoken inconsistently with them so it is false to say that I am equivocating.

            Those components of Mosaic Law that deal with interpersonal relations (‘moral law’) I advocate unchanged because human nature hasn’t changed. Why is adultery any less of a sin because we live now in an industrialised society? Was God wrong to command capital punishment for a married woman and her lover in ancient Israel? You ignored that question earlier; what is your answer? If you consider that He was right, why do you think this is inappropriate now? The seriousness of sin did not change at the crucifixion, did it?

            In the pentateuch God does not explain the reasons for every law he gives, but the differing treatment of a married man who commits adultery, and a married woman, is presumably because a man needs to know that the children he supports with his labour are his and that there are no cuckoo chicks in his nest. The difference relates directly to the most fundamental roles of man and woman, toil and childbirth (both termed ‘labour’), as cursed by God in Genesis 3 following the Fall.

            I am not stating that God has commanded capital punishment for an adulterous wife and her lover in gentile nations. He hasn’t. I am arguing that the precedent remains valid and why. In the case of capital punishment for murder, however, as well as its appearance in Mosaic Law there is its appearance in Genesis 9:6. There it is an unconditional command to all mankind after the Flood in a covenant which, unlike ancient Israel’s, did not become obsolete at the crucifixion. (If you think it did then you must consider that God would be free to break his word never to repeat the Flood…) Do you believe we should disobey this command today?

            I advocate freedom of religion because we are not a nation with a ratified national covenant with God containing terms stating that we shall worship him alone. And, as I asked before, who gets to define heresy?

          • “I am not stating that God has commanded capital punishment for an adulterous wife and her lover in gentile nations. He hasn’t. I am arguing that the precedent remains valid and why.”

            Valid?

            Surely it was contingent on disciplining and preparing Israel as the People of God from whom the Messiah was to be born. Amidst pagan society, with all sorts going on, the Jews had to live differently and especially in sexual matters. Nowadays, if a man has doubts about paternity, there’s always DNA. And you’ve not mentioned the death penalty for acts of sodomy between men. You would still see this as legitimate – subject to a nation voting for it?

            It seems to Jack, that whilst God doesn’t give His reasons for the Mosaic sanctions, these can be discerned. And Jesus rather changed the approach, wouldn’t you say? He said adultery in the heart was as bad as actually committing it.

            Jack has no beef about the death penalty. He doesn’t think it necessary or helpful to our society anymore, but it has always been, and always will be, upheld as a legitimate and potentially just punishment in Catholic Tradition as well as in Scripture for murder. How about for abortion?

          • Anton

            Not sure about abortion Jack; I note that the death penalty for women for various offences in Mosaic Law took no account of whether she was (visibly) pregnant, but it’s a complex issue.

            “It seems to Jack, that whilst God doesn’t give His reasons for the Mosaic sanctions, these can be discerned.”

            Yes, that’s what I said a long way up this dialogue, and Thomas Aquinas is unexcelled at doing so with his writing on Natural Law. The reason for selective punishment of wives who commit adultery rather than husbands is obvious too, as explained. DNA testing is never going to match capital punishment as a deterrent; the aim is to stop adultery from happening rather than find out who the father really is.

            “preparing Israel as the People of God from whom the Messiah was to be born.”

            I think you mean “letting Israel live long enough under righteous laws and fail to keep them that a way to help them was obviously called for, which God in his mercy provided”. Those are righteous laws, they were righteous laws before the Crucifixion and the definition of righteous law did not change at that event, did it? Nor did human nature. That is why the “moral laws” in the Mosaic code remain appropriate; I have already explained my criteria for which laws aren’t appropriate and why. (In particular, ours is not a covenant nation and animal sacrifices are obsolete since the crucifixion.)

            One of the 10 Commandments was not to envy, but for obvious reasons there was no penalty prescribed for envy in ancient Israel this side of the grave. Ditto with adultery in one’s heart.

            Grace is a lot better than law but that is for the church, and we still live in the world where our nations need legal codes. It is folly for Christians not to begin from the only code given by God – whose ambassadors we are – and then decide which of its laws we should NOT argue for.

            “Jack has no beef about the death penalty. He doesn’t think it necessary or helpful to our society anymore, but it has always been, and always will be, upheld as a legitimate… punishment… in Scripture for murder.”

            Now you are equivocating! Capital punishment for murder is a direct command of God to all mankind in Genesis 9:6 and it remains in force (are you willing to say God might break his word about no repeat Flood?) So why is it supposedly not necessary or helpful for our society to obey God any more?

          • Jesus taught us mercy and forgiveness and that we are all sinners, Anton. Jack believes the moral laws of God hold – not the imposition of the Mosaic sanctions. Death may be justified for adultery (and for acts of male sodomy), as well as for taking an innocent person’s life – certainly, if unrepented, they will lead to Hell..

            However, as Jack said earlier, the sanctions were suited to the developing civilization of the Israelites. The severe punishments prescribed for transgressors were necessary to get the nation in shape and root out old practices.

            Christ is the author of the New Law. He claimed and exercised supreme legislative authority in spiritual matters. In Him the Old Law had its fulfilment and attained its chief purpose. The legislation and sanctions of Moses had for its object to form and preserve a peculiar people for the worship of the one true God, and to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah who was to be born of the seed of Abraham. The new Kingdom of God which Christ founded was not confined to a single nation, it embraced all the nations of the earth, and when the new Israel was constituted, the old Israel with its separatist law had fulfilled its mission. By the death of Christ on the Cross the New Covenant was sealed, and the Old was abrogated.
            .

          • Anton

            God does not recognise any such thing as human “civilisation”. Both music (representing the arts) and metalworking (representing technology) come from the line of Cain, not the godly line of Seth. To think our civilisation is better than ancient Israel who were just a bunch of country bumpkins is cultural imperialism, human (secular) arrogance, etc.

            Are you suggesting that at the moment of the crucifixion the appropriate system of laws for people all over the world suddenly changed, even though most of them didn’t know Judea even existed? That is the corollary of what you are saying and does it not act as a reductio ad absurdum argument against your position?

            You are confusing the church and the world, but for now we Christians live in both and the question of what laws are right in the world, as distinct from the arrangements in the church, still needs addressing.

            It is overly simplistic to say that the new covenant in Christ outdates the Old Testament. The OT covenants have to be taken individually. For the Mosaic one that is true. The covenant with Noah described in Genesis 9 remains in force (or else you should worry about another flood) and therefore we must advocate the death penalty for murder as commanded in Genesis 9:6 to all mankind, not just ancient Israel.

          • “God does not recognise any such thing as human “civilisation”. Both music (representing the arts) and metalworking (representing technology) come from the line of Cain, not the godly line of Seth.”

            Eh? This is a new one on Jack.

            Christ taught mercy and forgiveness, Anton.

            Executing people for sexual sin as a means of securing compliance through fear, was right when God chose a people from whom His Son was to be born. And it’s why heresy was punishable by death. The Israelites were a stiff necked and hard hearted people.

            As for capital punishment for murder, the then Cardinal Ratzinger once said:

            “Not all moral issues have the same weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father (John Paul II) on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion.
            While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment.
            There may be a diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

          • Anton

            If Ratzinger thought that there was room for a diversity of opinions on capital punishment for murder then he did not know how to read the Bible, for Genesis 9:6 is unequivocal and this is not the Mosaic covenant but that with Noah which has never been superseded. (If it has then live in fear of another Flood…)

          • Civil authorities can set aside a punishment in this life for prudential reasons and for reasons of mercy. Are you seriously suggesting that God said if we don’t execute murderers then there will be another flood?
            And you have not answered Jack’s points about the Mosaic sanctions being contingent on the need to discipline a particular people at a particular moment in history. It’s not about one group being more “civilised” but about God imposing stringent conditions for particular reasons i.e. to make ready a people ready for the Messiah.
            Jack finds it hard to take your point seriously that human artistic and technological developments, as well as scientific advancement, come from Cain’s seed and not Seth’s. Do you have biblical authority for this claim?
            And you are still dodging around the issues of executing homosexual men and adulterous women. You really believe God demands this as justice today? God’s moral laws hold, but the sanctions of the Mosaic law and the rituals associated with it, were replaced by Christ with an approach of internal change through the Holy Spirit and love and mercy towards others, rather than fear and external sanctions.

          • Anton

            “Are you seriously suggesting that God said if we don’t execute murderers then there will be another flood?”

            I did not do that. I am making the point that the covenant with all mankind through Noah is still in force, and that any theology which airily states that Jesus put an end to Old Testament ways needs to look at the OT covenant by covenant. Do you agree that this particular covenant is still in force? Do you agree that Genesis 9:6 is therefore an unconditional command to all mankind to implement capital punishment for murder?

            “you have not answered Jack’s points about the Mosaic sanctions being contingent on the need to discipline a particular people at a particular moment in history.”

            I have, although my answer seems not to satisfy you. At this point I am content to let readers decide, although please feel free to ask me further questions. I am also content to use the adultery issue as my example of a “moral” regulation from Mosaic Law that should be in force today. I regard the argument that human nature hasn’t changed, therefore such divine regulations remain the appropriate precedent, as one that you haven’t knocked over.

            “Jack finds it hard to take your point seriously that human artistic and technological developments, as well as scientific advancement, come from Cain’s seed and not Seth’s. Do you have biblical authority for this claim?”

            I said that music (representing the arts) and metalworking (representing technology) come from the line of Cain, not the godly line of Seth; the references are Genesis 4:21 and 4:22. “Civilisation” is a human concept, and a vain one. There are better and worse ways for cultures to be but all people are fallen and that is what the Bible is about.

          • “Do you agree that this particular covenant is still in force? Do you agree that Genesis 9:6 is therefore an unconditional command to all mankind to implement capital punishment for murder?”
            Genesis 9 merely recounts the primal founders of various human activities. This includes tent makers and shepherds. The reference is to players of harps and pipes and to iron and brass work. Are you suggesting these activities are tainted in some way? That humankind is somehow divided into descendants from Cain and from Seth? Presumably, the Flood ended that?
            Would you agree that Jesus Christ was at full liberty to change the sanctions established by God for Noah and that He could do so without breaking God’s promise not to flood the earth? Are we still required to drain the life blood from animals before eating them?

          • Anton

            Music is a metaphor for the arts and they are not more tainted than any other human activity, but all human activity, including that which we consider the finest, is fallen; that is God’s point. As for metalwork, its premier use has been in warfare. It is Genesis 4 (not 9) that recounts these things and do you presume it is a coincidence that some things were associated with the godly line and some with the ungodly?

            “Would you agree that Jesus Christ was at full liberty to change the sanctions established by God for Noah”

            No, because God chooses to be bound by the covenants he has made; he keeps his word. (As for the Mosaic covenant, Jesus *fulfilled* it rather than abrogating it.)

            “Are we still required to drain the life blood from animals before eating them?”

            Yes; and this is repeated to gentile Christians in the conclusions of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts, where this statute come between two others relating to food, which is highly suggestive. (You don’t think that “abstain from blood” means just “don’t commit murder” do you? Jesus had already said that to his followers and the Council was summoned to see what else needed to be adopted from Moses.) There is no need to worry in practice because most commercially available meat is very well bled, but I certainly avoid black pudding. All this is because blood is life and life is sacred unto God, as stated in the Pentateuch.

          • Ummm …. you have some odd beliefs. In the Covenant with Noah, God didn’t say do this and that and He would not flood the earth again. His promise wasn’t conditional, as Jack reads it.

            The Council of Jerusalem determined that Gentile converts to Christianity needed to observe only a tiny fragment of the Law, including the prohbittion of consumption of blood. But within the lifetime of Paul he was already teaching that decisions about foods were personal and that the only concern should be whether or not the eating would give scandal to a weaker believer.

            Are you opposed to blood transfusions too?

          • Anton

            No; “abstain from blood” in the context of blood connoting life means treat blood as sacred, not to be used as foodstuff. And blood transfusions give life. As for my beliefs appearing odd, that is a normal reaction to the unfamiliar, but the covenant with Noah applies to all his descendants which according to the Bible means everybody, and unlike the Mosaic covenant it has not come to an end in Christ. So it is clear the capital punishment is commanded for murder and we are not to eat blood. In Romans 13:4 Paul clearly approves of the death penalty in principle, and if not for murder then for what else; while Acts 15:29 states that Christians are to abstain from blood with dietary commands stated immediately before and after. So this command is right there in the New Testament. Paul’s comment about kosher being a private matter post-crucifixion is about pork, shellfish and other animals forbidden by Moses, but he was involved in Acts 15 so the freedom he speaks of must be conditional on the commands there. This doesn’t mean a big change in the diet of Christians who reach this understanding – just keep clear of one or two types of sausage and black pudding.

            Let me clear up this Flood business. I have never stated that if man abrogated the commands to Noah then God would definitely send a second Flood. Apart from anything else God’s side of this covenant is not conditional on man keeping his side. But the point I am making is that if anybody commits the theological error of lumping this covenant (and others in the OT) together with the Mosaic and saying it is gone then they should, logically, live in fear of another Flood.

          • So, according to your views, Islam is actually correct in stoning women adulterers and executing male homosexuals?

            Jesus, as God, has full authority to teach a message of love and mercy and salvation through the power of the Holy Spirit – as opposed to external sanctions and fear of punishment. Whilst not condoning the adulterous woman, Jesus invited those without sin to be the first to throw a stone at her. We are all sinners and, without repentance and conversion, face damnation. Eating black pudding or a medium rare steak is the least of our concerns.

            The Church, through the Apostles, has the authority to teach God’s laws and suitable penalties for making amends. Perhaps we should be focusing on the evils of artificial contraception, abortion, serial adultery (called second and third marriages) and euthanasia, rather than attempting to impose contingent sanctions from different times. The nature of man has not changed – the New Covenant through Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit was, however, a game changer.

          • Anton

            You seem not to realise that what Jesus teaches is binding on the church, but Christians have also to live in their nations which are pagan or secular and must have legal codes. What should the laws be and why? I’m not going to repeat myself on that subject.

            If you look at my posts again you will see that steak is from an animal that has been bled in modern slaughterhouses, which matches God’s command (how it is cooked is irrelevant). If more people did their own butchery as in the past then these things would be easier to understand, but if you wish to eat black pudding (ie, blood) then please consider that Acts 15:29 states that Christians are to abstain from blood, with dietary commands stated immediately before and after this one.

          • Anton

            Jack,

            I’m revisiting this subject because you aimed to marginalise me by painting me as out on a limb, but I’ve recently learned that the Westminster Confession of the 1640s, a definitive statement among English-speaking protestants, also understood that the moral/interpersonal aspects of Mosaic Law were for all nations for all time; see paragraph 5 of chapter 19:

            https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Confession_of_Faith_of_the_Assembly_of_Divines_at_Westminster

            I do not expect you, a Catholic, to have a high opinion of this protestant document but be aware that my view was formerly mainstream and that the 300-year movement in both Rome and protestant denominations to water these laws down is a result simply of Enlightenment secularism and theological liberalism. You are infected without realising it.

            You say things are different since Christ but that is the church, not the world, and our nations still need codes of law. Christians don’t (or at least shouldn’t) for we have been reset so as to be able to obey godly laws.

          • There is such a phenomena as mental illness, Inspector, and it’s not always detected.

          • Inspector General

            The Inspector’s definition of mental illness – when you’re spoon feeding someone and they dribble half of it down their front. Lorry drivers in Yorkshire who claim they hear voices or Scots keen on ‘recreational killing’ and burying the victims on the moors north of Manchester are not mentality ill. They are evil. EVIL, I tell you man!

          • Interesting test for mental illness, Inspector.

            Jack agrees there are some people so given over to depravity they can be described as “evil” – or at least their actions and capacity to commit the same crimes given a chance. Jack has only met a very few he would place in this category. All of them just seemed to have “something missing” and all of them were exceptionally adept at reading people.

          • Inspector General

            One bows to your professional experience in the subject.

          • Hmm ….

          • Anton

            This is a matter of definition, and I could equally well have butted in with a reply to the Inspector as to you, Jack, but is not the message of the Bible that the entire human race is mentally ill through being evil?

          • Inspector General

            Let’s not confuse mental illness with man’s wantonness Anton.

          • Excellent way of phrasing it, Inspector.

          • Pubcrawler

            Quite. Is transgenderism merely an instance of body dysmorphic disorder? (I do not know, not my field, but if anyone does . . .)

          • It’s a sign the world is going crazy because it has lost touch with reality. Being crazy and caught up in a moral delusion is different from being mentally ill.

          • There is a difference between actual mental illness and a natural predisposition towards choosing sin. A man suffering a psychosis and a man overcome with evil, are very different.

            Besides, Jack doesn’t go along with the idea of total
            deprivation. Rather, as he sees it, our capacity to resist evil and hold our passions in check, has been damaged fatally but not totally by the Fall.

          • carl jacobs

            umm … “Total deprivation?”

            Update: Oh, sure. Now you fix it.

          • Lol …. already edited, Carl.
            Why do you always come along when Jack makes a typing mistake?

          • As a Christian, albeit a Calvinist, you should know one is meant to point out errors discreetly, Carl, so as not to cause embarrassment.

          • carl jacobs

            That was discreet.

          • No remorse, Carl?

          • carl jacobs

            For being discreet?

          • For embarrassing Jack on a public forum.

          • carl jacobs

            If I actually embarrassed you, then yeah, I would feel remorse.

          • Jack is going through a sensitive phase …

          • Anton

            Deep waters; certainly there are people who make no sense in conversation and this is unrelated to the moral faculty. As for total depravity or not, I don’t know how to define degrees of depravity but I believe we often cooperate merely because it is in our own interest.

          • You should read some Dostoyevsky.

          • Anton

            Karamazov and Crime and Punishment are on my shelf.

          • Start with Poor Folk, then The Idiot, then Demons and The Brothers Karamazov; leaving Crime and Punishment until last. It’s quite a journey if you have time. Jack wants to reread them.

          • Anton

            I can find the time but I’m careful of my eyes nowadays.

          • Jack didn’t know this about your eyes and is sorry to learn it. He knows you are a very keen reader.
            Talking books?

          • Anton

            My eyes have plenty in the tank but they are definitely ageing and I have particular use planned for them in the next few years, writing rather than reading a couple of books (one academic science, one not) and so I ration them. Junk reading such as newspapers went a long time ago and I deliberately have no TV, although those things are also about conserving time as much as eyesight. I appreciate your concern; thank you.

  • IanCad

    To hear those dear people offer their forgiveness was a tear-jerker; and I am humbled.

    Such dignity and faith in times of grief is an inspiration to all those of us who profess the Lord Jesus.

    For we who are jaded could there be better evidence of the Holy Spirit – The Comforter – working?

    Such mercy and graciousness is not of flesh.

  • Whilst I don’t at all want to denigrate the example of these American Christians, I’m not sure that everybody is obliged to follow them.
    God will not forgive the unrepentant. We should pray for those who sin against us, asking God to forgive them (Luke 23:34), which He will do by bringing them to repentance, but we are not required to forgive those who will not repent. Those who disagree should read Luke 17:3-4.

    • Anton

      You and I have nothing to forgive this gunman for, as he has not wronged us; but it is wonderful that those who were wronged are forgiving him, and it is right too, for their own sake – otherwise bitterness creeps in and there is no place for that in the Christian life. Your position suggests that we are competent to judge who has truly repented, and I doubt that.

      • Inspector General

        The alternative to forgiving is shunning. One does find merit in that.

        • Pubcrawler

          As a prod in the direction of repentance, shunning can be very effective.

          • Dominic Stockford

            And is utterly Biblical (1 Corinthians)

      • Hmmm …. and yet … we are not called to go beyond what God himself does when it comes to forgiveness. Are Christians obliged to forgive even those who are not in the least bit sorry for their offences against them? On the surface this sounds Christian, yet God Himself doesn’t do it. He only forgives those who repent of their sins.

        God has not and will not forgive the souls in hell for the simple reason that they did not ask for forgiveness. The question is, are we required to do more than God does when it comes to forgiveness?

        As Martin M points out, Jesus seems to answer this question in Luke 17:3-4:

        “[I]f your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

        According to this text, Jesus requires His followers to forgive only those who are sorry for their offences, just as God does. Did Jesus forgive everyone from the Cross when he said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do” in Luke 23:34? No, He didn’t; He petitioned the Father for those who had beaten and crucified Him to be forgiven, revealing his will that “all men . . . be saved” (I Tim. 2:4). This was not a declaration that these men were actually forgiven, or a declaration that he was forgiving everyone for all time.

        We have to distinguish between our calling to forgive those who are sorry and ask for forgiveness and our calling to love everyone without exception, including those who have wronged us and are not sorry that they did. Sometimes these two are conflated. Maybe the Christian path in this diabolic situation is to follow Jesus’s example and petition God that this man be brought to repentance and forgiveness and trust God to do the rest.

        • Anton

          That Jesus conditions forgiveness on repentance in Luke 17 doesn’t mean he doesn’t go further elsewhere. In Luke 17 he was talking about being wronged by one’s “brother” but elsewhere he says Love your enemy, which is impossible if you haven’t forgiven him.

          • Matthew 18:21-22 recounts Christ telling Peter that he must continually (“seventy times seven times”) forgive those who have wronged him. In the parable of the unforgiving debtor (Mt 18:23-35), our Lord proceeds to point out that God will deal with us mercifully only if we in turn will deal likewise with one another and states that God will deal harshly with us if we do not extend that forgiveness to others.

            So it is clear that God demands men forgive one another; not only that, but that men actively seek forgiveness from each other. It is also clear that human forgiveness, both in seeking and in granting forgiveness, is participation in the life of grace and of salvation.

            St. Thomas Aquinas tells us love is “willing the good of the other” selflessly. And this is what God does, because “God is love” (I John 4:8). God can do nothing other than will to share the infinite good of Himself with everyone ever created or conceived – even the souls who reject his love and forgiveness, because a God not loving would be a God contradicting his own essence.

            Thus God’s love is unconditional. This brings profound meaning to Jesus’ words: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). In essence, Jesus is calling us to love with that same unconditional love with which he loves. Regardless of varying situations and relationships in our lives, we are to will the good of the other.

            On the other hand, forgiveness, is not unconditional. God offers his forgiveness to all out of his unconditional love and, therefore, so must all Christians. But here’s the rub; because forgiveness is dependent upon the other, it cannot actually take place until there are willing partners on both sides of the divide.
            Is there a difference? Perhaps not for us a humans and so maybe it’s a fine distinction; but people will end up in Hell because they fail to repent and receive forgiveness.

    • len

      I personally do not think we are in the position to judge the hearts and minds of people regarding forgiveness .Someone can say ‘sorry’ but not be sorry in their heart at all it is simply expedient to say sorry.
      Forgiveness is a command not an option as to whether we deem the perpetrator to be sufficiently repentant..We are told to love our enemies how is this possibly if we withhold forgiveness from them?.

  • Actually, when you think about it, us forgiving someone an evil act materially does not matter to them. What matters is God’s forgiveness. However, selfless love of our enemy, praying that God moves them to repentance, so He forgives them, and our offering our forgiveness, may move them to conversion. Isn’t this one of the themes of Ben Hur? And, as others have said, it is good for our spiritual and emotional health.

    In our post-Christian society would one therefore expect to witness greater emotional and psychological problems in the population. Remove love and the offer of forgiveness and what are we left with? Take good and evil out as the explanation and say it is all genes, human sociology and psychology. So forgiveness is replaced by treatment. This leaves the victims of crime with unresolved hatred and a desire for vengeance and revenge. And this is just for crime. Imagine how it breeds unhappiness in other spheres of life.

  • DanJ0

    It seems to me that their forgiveness is necessarily aspirational at the moment. They haven’t had time to go through the stages of dealing with what happened yet. That said, it’s a good public response for a number of reasons. One reason is that it invites a comparison. Another is that the more the perp sounds off, the more he isolates himself in the face of that. I remember the Amish doing something similar a few years back.

  • doctordeb

    The best definition I ever read (not in any Christian text but in a Reader’s Digest article, btw,) is The Decision to Abandon the Desire to Get Even. (DADGE)

    This takes the matter out of the realm of emotions and, like Paul’s definition of Love,,,’Patient and kind’ etc., puts it in the realm of action. What we do or don’t do. God realises that to feel loving or to feel like forgiving is not the main point and we may be asking too much to expect that of someone. It is the attitude we adopt and the actions or lack thereof that really counts. As I see it, it is too hard not to feel a lot of contrary and conflicting emotions as do those devastated by the slayings in the S.Carolina church . I doubt if any of those people feel loving towards Dylann Roof, but God does not require them to. It is the decision of what to do with our negative feelings, however valid they may be, that counts.
    Neither does an attitude of forgiveness mean that victims should not seek and be granted justice.

    As for God’s forgiveness; as a Christian thoroughly embedded in Calvinism for many years, which I found cripplingly damaging to my faith in some ways, I have changed my views and so now have a different attitude to God’s forgiveness. I believe God sincerely extends forgiveness to ALL. The benefits of Christ’s death are for ALL, not just some. ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ I choose to believe that desire applies to ALL of us, not just the executioners and plotters of his death. (Or are we to believe that the latter were Elect and later came to faith and that is why Jesus picked them out? Surely not. Such speculation is not healthy. I leave it to Calvinist theologians.)

    Forgiveness is there for all who seek it. But reconciliation is a different matter. It is separate from forgiveness. God holds out forgiveness sincerely to all but is reconciled only to those who repent. Only those reconciled can enjoy his presence, here and in eternity. And He sets the terms of negotiation.

    I would hate to think that the sufferers in S.Carolina believe that in forgiving DR they are obligated to reconcile with him. I’m not saying that could not happen. Sometimes there are amazing examples of forgiveness and reconciliation with one’s enemies (eg. Corrie Ten Boom, and Richard Wurmbrand’s wife Sabina) If God enables that, wonderful. But that should be a work of His grace in the victim’s soul, not from self- or others-induced pressure on a victim’s conscience.

    I believe the victims of DR’s dreadful crime have it right. I hope in taking the stance of forgiveness on the basis of Christ’s command they do not worry or feel guilty if they still feel anger, hatred etc. That they take their emotions honestly to the Lord; the Holy Spirit will deal with those feelings over time. And that they do not worry if the other party does not repent. They cannot afford to wait for that or make peace of mind conditional on an outcome that may never happen; forgive anyway. Which is what these remarkable Christians have done. May this be a wonderful witness, may the Lord bring good out of this evil.

    • preacher

      Excellent post. thank you!.

    • dannybhoy

      “As for God’s forgiveness; as a Christian thoroughly embedded in
      Calvinism for many years, which I found cripplingly damaging to my faith
      in some ways, I have changed my views”
      Amen!
      “I believe God sincerely extends forgiveness to ALL. The benefits of Christ’s death are for ALL, not just some.”
      And again I say Amen!

      “Forgiveness is there for all who seek it. But reconciliation is a
      different matter. It is separate from forgiveness. God holds out
      forgiveness sincerely to all but is reconciled only to those who repent.
      Only those reconciled can enjoy his presence, here and in eternity. And
      He sets the terms of negotiation.”

      God freely forgives and redeems those who respond to His offer of salvation, but let’s notice that there was still a price to be paid, so that all creation would see that God is just as well as compassionate. He carries out His judgement against sin by taking the punishment upon Hinself as Christ Jesus our Lord. Alleluia!
      So too even though we can forgive sins against us, the Law that governs and protects society still has to be carried out.
      “Laws without consequences are just good advice..”

  • Dominic Stockford

    Yes, your conclusion is the inevitable place that we all need to go after such an event.

    No matter how amazing the forgiveness of Christians may seem, and how right is is for them to have such forgiveness, it is in the end irrelevant to the final end for the individual, in this case Mr Roof for this life is brief, and passes like the grass – it is only forgiveness from God gained through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us that can bring us eternal life.. And eternity is a very long time indeed.