Modern western culture – forgiveness

By Dave Henning / March 5, 2023

“[We have such] impoverished contemporary understandings and practices of forgiveness in modern western culture. . . .  If all that matters is individual autonomy, then forgiveness and reconciliation — which are designed to foster and maintain communion — are of little importance.”- L. Gregory Jones, Embodying Forgiveness (1995)

Timothy Keller concludes Chapter 2 of Forgive as he notes the need to recognize our culture’s background beliefs and assumptions that support the three approaches to forgiveness.

 1.  The Therapeutic Culture.  Above all, Pastor Keller stresses, our culture’s taken a strongly inward turn.  Therefore, modern therapy seeks to defend individuals from any influences that foist guilt-producing standards on them.  Thus, as an authentic person, you liberate yourself from any norms you don’t choose or create yourself.

In contrast, L. Gregory Jones views the church as the foretaste of a future world.  A world of love and community serving under the lordship of Jesus.

2.  A New Shame and Honor Culture.  Some call the new, merited shame-and-honor culture a new secular religion.  Because modern culture defines our primary concern as a demand for respect and affirmation of our own identity.  Hence, people respond in outrage to even the slightest offense.

However, this new reverse honor culture (aka ‘cancel culture’) values fragility over strength.  As a result, it creates a society of constant good-versus-evil conflict over the smallest issues.  So, honor culture believes that forgiveness short-circuits the ability of others to gain honor and virtue.  As Christians, though, we ground ourselves in a holy and just God, but also a merciful and forgiving God.

 3.  No Future without Forgiveness.  Pastor Keller describes the submerged anger and resentment beneath the surface of the human race to the tip of the iceberg.  Therefore, to learn to forgive requires powerful resources and helps.  In addition, there’s an urgent need for learning how to do small forgivenesses every day.  Pastor Keller counsels:

“We are awash in slights, letdowns, and inadvertent hurts, let alone the many deliberate ways people wrong us in small ways every day. . . .  We can’t love without forgiveness, but we can’t live without it either.”

Today’s question: How do you counter the modern western culture views on forgiveness?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Strictly secular sense of forgiveness”

About the author

Dave Henning

Leave a comment:

Call Now Button