I recently read an article written by RT Kendall in Christianity magazine. Entitled 'Why you have to forgive God', the article is based on Kendall's latest book 'Totally Forgiving God'. I haven't read the book, and will be commenting on the article only, which can be found here: http://www.christianitymagazine.co.uk/Browse%20By%20Category/features/Why%20you%20have%20to%20forgive%20God.aspx
Kendall assures us that he does 'not believe God is guilty of doing anything wrong. He has nothing to answer for.' So why, then, do we need to forgive God? Kendall says:
'...we forgive him not because he is guilty, but because we choose to affirm him as he is revealed in the Bible; and... we must set him free – letting him totally off the hook...'
'A few years ago, I wrote a book called The Anointing. I invited an old friend – a man highly esteemed in the theological world– to write the foreword, but he turned me down. I was quite devastated. But he did no wrong at all by refusing to commend my book. He was being true to himself. I had to forgive him. It would be inappropriate for me to criticise him for his decision. He had his reasons; he was not guilty of anything but being himself. This illustration of how I had to forgive my old friend does not begin to compare to the way God remains true to himself – but must be forgiven when we are disappointed or feel betrayed.'
It should be obvious by now that Kendall is using the term 'forgive', not in its usual, objective sense but rather in order to unburden himself of any feelings of bitterness and resentment (both sins, by the way) as a form of 'theraputic forgiveness'...
Kendall admits his friend did no wrong, and yet he feels the need to forgive him, translating his own hurt feelings to mean that he must forgive his innocent friend. One can imagine a person feeling wronged (even if in fact they have not been), and it is easy to see a (wrongly perceived) dilemma of whether or not to forgive someone. But how can a person 'choose to forgive' (or otherwise) someone they fully admit has done them no wrong? It appears that Kendall is simply unburdening himself of any feelings of resentment or hurt towards his friend; but rather than choose to do this in a humble and dignified manner, he 'chooses to forgive' him instead. And so it is with his 'feelings' towards God.
'Why does God appear to bless certain flamboyant ministries who uphold questionable teaching, but seem not to bless others who have sought to be sound, self-effacing and honest? This, and others like it, are questions I expect to have answered in heaven.'
Now I'm sure many of the godly men and women who attended Westminster chapel prior to Kendall's controversial tenure there have asked themselves the same question. Is this sort of 'complaint' really worthy of the name?
'How do you know if you are blaming God? When you realise you are feeling just the way Mary and Martha did (see John 11:1-44). They were very hurt at Jesus, who could have kept Lazarus from dying, but showed up four days after the funeral. They blamed Jesus for their brother’s death.'
Assuming they are in line with Kendall and 'blamed' Jesus, did Mary and Martha then piously decide to 'forgive' Him? Did Jesus ask for their forgiveness?
Jesus tells Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
And Kendall has already conceded that God is blameless. If God is blameless, He has done nothing which requires forgiveness. Kendall choosing to Forgive God is really him unburdening himself of his own emotional baggage. If Kendall in a moment of weakness has blamed God for bad things that have happened, and then realised that God is blamesless, then the next step in this equation is to repent of wrongly apportioning blame to God. Anything else is just incoherent.
Kendall says, 'In much the same way as we experience peace when we totally forgive those who have hurt us, so too when we come to the place where we totally forgive God. This is what happens when you let others off the hook, regardless of how evil they were, or how hurt you continue to be.' (Italics mine)
Despite Kendall's assurances that he believes God is innocent of all wrongdoing, he decides to employ the kind of language which could easily be seen to entangle God with guilt. This might cause considerable confusion to a waining brother or sister, and Kendall ought to know better than employ this kind of language.
Kendall says that forgiving God means '... setting him free, and affirming him – even though he let some horrible things happen to you.' (Italics mine)
But this is terribly weak. We affirm the God of the Bible in many different ways, one of which is by repenting. And this is what Kendall's 'forgiveness' really amounts to: a repentance for wrongly apportioning blame to God.
Kendall's use of Scripture is particularly dubious, citing Habakkuk as his 'hero'... Does Habakkuk 'forgive' God? He says: '...I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.'
Did Job give any indication that he 'forgave' God? Job admonishes himself and repents 'in dust and ashes.'
Ultimately, Kendall's thesis has no support from the Scripture.