Tuesday, 2 December 2008


I am in the library. I am reading and taking notes. I am also very tired, for some reason. I'm considering giving up working, but know I realistically can't do such a thing. Because I have available time now, and I need to use it. But that was obvious.


I'm currently reading Edward H. Flannery's response to The Sunflower. He's a Catholic, but I like the way he thinks. Every contributor up to this point has asked the question, 'is it right to forgive someone who has commited such vile offences?' Flannery, however, has the presence of mind to ask a different question:

‘Is it permitted to refuse forgiveness to a sincerely repentant malefactor?’

Everyone else has read the story with a degree of Jewish or philosophical or even Plain Old World-Weary cynicism. This Karl fellow, they say, were they Oxbridge types, are you sure he's penitent? Is he not just having us on, pulling our leg, feeling a bit sorry for himself? He's still a Nazi, after all. Always used to try and skip rugger, too, they would add.

Of course, we cannot go around handing out forgiveness to every one who says they are sorry. Or can we? Flannery points out the very Jewish way Jesus says '70 times 7', implying a repetitious and continual forgiveness. If someone says they are sorry, should we not forgive them? Whether or not they are truly repentant is God's business, but we should certainly do ours.


Tim Goodall. said...

A very pertinent twist of the question. It seems that there is an assumption from many that to forgive means to separate the forgiveness from the event - and thus forget the event/s.

But clearly this is not true, if only due to the fact that "forgive and forget" never actually works.

Forgiveness that Jesus offers and expects his followers to offer is different, an about turn from "forgive and forget".

Many seem to aim to separate out the act that needs forgiving from the act of forgiving - which is why there is such confusion and negativity in the responses to 'The Sunflower'.

We should forgive 70 times 7 times. An infinite amount. But forgiveness never comes from separating the event from the forgiveness - we need to face the event head-on, acknowledge it's evils and forgive nonetheless.

Not something humans can do alone.

David said...

D'you want to write my project, by any chance...?

Steve said...

I suppose a good question to ask is..."what is forgiveness to a non-christian?" for a christian forgiveness is about sorting stuff out between us and God, we acknowledge what's happened and how we feel about it, and then between us and God forgive the person, of course we still have to live with what happened, but its the emotionals and feeling we hand over so that Gods love can come through.

And even though we can't really forget about what happened...forgiveness is saying we won't bring it up again, like when you have an argument with someone and someone says "well you never say hi to me" or "that one time you hurt me"

so yeah i agree with tim, true forgiveness isn't something we can achieve on our own...but it is something we're called to do.

so I'm not sure where that leaves thousands, millions of people effected by what happened...