Forgiveness and Resurrection

Yesterday I did a little co-conspiring with Mark Scandrette and the guys from ikon here in San Francisco. We recorded a podcast about forgiveness (stay tuned for download details).

The conversation generated a number of thoughts and questions, not all of them worked out in our short time recording. Perhaps one of the most important has to do with entrusting judgment to God. At some level, especially for people who have been badly wounded, abused, left behind after a loved one has been killed, forgiveness will be tied to a conviction that the God of all the earth will do what is right.

Is that really the God who composes the Christian story? Is that really the God who beckons us to forgive and even to bless those who persecute us?

In my estimation, we have too often surrendered a major resource for answering this question because we have built our theology of forgiveness so much around the cross that we have neglected the crucial place of the resurrection.

Resurrection means not only that God has accepted and forgiven us in Christ. This much is true. But it also means, more generally, that the economy of this world is not equipped to bring about the just judgment of God.

The God of all the earth will do what is right, but this mortal life and its systems of power and even of justice are not the heavenly court.

Resurrection promises that there will be reversal. Injustice cannot escape the righteous judgment of God.

4 thoughts on “Forgiveness and Resurrection”

  1. I would suppose that not all the distress in the world is because of sin (thousands of years of evolution). So, how does even resurrection make up for this? Much human distress would seem to be of types that we share with animals, how is the distress of animals made up to them? My inclination is to think there is no explanation we ever will be able to understand (and how could animals understand it), so that it never will be ‘made up’ to us, we will just have to accept that everything is alright now (when we are in the kingdom). I suppose that won’t matter to animals, and won’t, after all, be so bad for humans! Nevertheless, I cannot see any satisfactory answer to the problem. For that matter, I can’t see an actual logical connection between sinning and the visitation of distress, it just seems to be a view of things that comes naturally to us, that if someone does wrong they deserve punishment. As also, it just seems natural to us to feel that doing well deserves reward.

  2. Two things:

    I would argue that judgment overall is not only concerned with condemnation of injustices or the separating of good from evil (which we disciples, indeed, must leave to the divine realm of things), it is also concerned with the capacity to form both an impression and expressed opinion by way of distinguishing and evaluating a particular event, issue or spirit of the times.

    Secondly, I would also argue that this latter sense, as opposed to the former sense, is what truly defines us as humans both in a general and biblical fashion.


    Because the act of judgment entrusts one with the capacity to render amazing, thought-provoking, and well paced dialogue, like we see in a Coen brothers film (i.e. O Brother Where Art Thou — dialogue between the three travelers on their odyssey is just simply brilliant); it entrusts one with the capacity to fill a much needed niche in rendering original poetic form, like we see with Emily Dickinson’s newfangled form of slant rhymes and playful, nearly whimsical punctuation, which, mind you, wasn’t just a simple attempt to be cute or creative, rather she was utilizing it as a shrewd critique of a prevailing overwrought form of art which was sternly dogmatic about how to compose a poem — it had very sharp teeth; it entrusts one with the capacity to initiate, organize and manage a movement, as we see in Paul’s travels to Asia Minor and Greece and back, sensitively and skillfully balancing an expression of discipleship in Christ which BOTH praises and rebukes, criticizes and energizes (both tearing down and building up, like a good prophet!).

    Though — and this is my crucial point — there is nevertheless a continuum that is struck between judgment in the sense of injustice and judgment in the sense of creativity, whereby not only does God function as critical yet creative judger but we too are called to image and function as critical/creative judger.

    In this way, while I agree that a theology of resurrection is more suitable than a theology of the cross, and while I agree that a resurrection theology is more about God’s power displayed on earth with the result of a kingdom of God which, in time (only known by the Father, so says Jesus), is to descend and alight earth come eschaton (image in Revelation), I wonder if earth and heaven are two entities which push and pull each other, both empowered in their own respective ways.

    If resurrection is a reversal of things, as you maintain, then how can we simply throw all responsibility and judgement up into the divine lap, awaiting its move? Further, doesn’t reversal logically imply a continuum or process, an embattled, complex both/and situation (the already-here-but-not-quite-yet-fully-so paradox)? So, in order to understand this paradox of Christian discipleship we must be able to think both critically and creatively — to discern and make thoughtful judgments which will always have grave importance, even impacting the kingdom’s pending nature one might argue… For, as Scripture says, we are able to hasten the coming of the kingdom with apt discipleship (2 Peter 3), and we have the power and capacity to judge the angels (1 Cor. 6; Hebrews 2).

    Resurrection theology thus must mean something incredibly earthly as well as heavenly: a mutual interdependency in dialogue, rather than a mutual exclusivity which boasts a one-way discourse.

  3. Jesus doesn’t seem to need either cross or resurrection to forgive and teach forgiveness as essential to the kingdom.

  4. I agree and I haven’t found these exact words anywhere else, and I’m hoping they are original (because they appear uncited in my dissertation), but they capture your post: “forgiveness is a resurrection act”

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