Definitions: Forgiveness, Knowing God

by Joseph

Dear Joseph,

I really like that preamble to the creation story. It gives a reason other than “God got bored” for why he created us in the first place.


“It is forgiveness because we must not pay the debt”


But the debt must still be paid, even if not by us. And so the debt is not forgiven.



Sending the boat, one could argue, could have happened with or without intervention from God, which reminds me of another point I’ve been mulling over lately: God seems to get credit for things that very well may have happened anyway and he gets to dodge the blame for things that he could have prevented if he’d wanted to.

People are inconsistent in their beliefs about God’s nature. Not that they have any hope of understanding it in the first place, but at least stay consistent with the information he’s provided us.

—Thomas


 

Dear Thomas,

I see your point about something still having been payed, even if that thing was a debt, and therefore not really qualifying for the technical definition of forgiveness. I agree, definition-wise, that there isn’t really “forgiveness” in that case. However, my family once incurred a huge-normous fee at a hospital that exceeded our means to ever reasonably pay off. This was obviously a debt. Upon examining our situation, the hospital called us up and said, “your debts are forgiven,” and took the debt off our shoulders. Did the doctors and nurses who helped us not get payed? No, they did, but the money came from somewhere else, a generous stranger or a reserve fund for people like us—I don’t know. But I always thought their use of language was interesting: “your debts are forgiven.” According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, one meaning of “forgive” is to “cancel (a debt).”

Once we theologically replace the threat of “do this or else I’ll destroy you” with “do this or suffer the natural consequences” in God’s intentions, He becomes far less extortionate in nature.

With regards to your comment about understanding the nature of God, I do believe that we can have a hope of understanding it, but if it is to be revealed to us it would be from God Himself and not the conjecturing of man—though one thing can be certain: His ways are higher than ours. For instance, with the joke about the boat angel/dude, one way of understanding such a situation is to realize that the influence of God is something constantly available to us if we want it. For the saint or sinner, turning one’s thoughts to goodness in general (moral goodness, what we might deem “righteousness”) unlocks the influence of God in that person, even without that person realizing it. It places us in the right times and at the right places to act as an instrument in God’s hands for good. With that said, the person ending up in said position is only so doing because he has heeded the small promptings of the spirit of God throughout his day—he has chosen for himself to follow God’s will, though inadvertent. The person who wrongs another, or commits a crime, cannot be said to have been under the influence of “God,” and if he so contends I would say that an evil spirit has deceived him into wrongful worship.

In all cases, we use our will to either follow God’s will and do good, or not. I do not believe that God “willed” the explosions at the Boston marathon, for instance, but that the darkened minds of a couple instruments in Satan’s hands did the will of the devil. Could they use their will and say to the world, “God made me do it!” Sure. Would they be wrong? Absolutely. God desires our well-being and happiness, but the process for our eternal development (at this stage, at least) occurs in a place where we cannot see Him and we are subject to the negative repercussions of the actions of others, wicked or otherwise.

I would like to write more, but my time is limited today. I’ll hear from you soon, I’m sure.

—Joseph

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