John Inazu (Washington University; Google Scholar), Tim Keller on Forgiveness:
My past two newsletters have examined the topic of forgiveness [Pandemic Forgiveness and The Incomprehensible Witness Of Forgiveness]. ... I thought the topic merited one more engagement, so I reached out to my friend, Tim Keller. ...
Tim’s latest book, out just this month, is Forgive: Why Should I and How Can I? [blogged here]. It explores the power of forgiveness and how we can practice it in our lives.
Here are a few highlights from our conversation.
John Inazu: What prompted you to write this book now?
Tim Keller: Two reasons. First, as a pastor I’ve spent decades teaching and counseling about this subject. It is one of the main resources that Christianity provides. But secondly, it seems that forgiveness is “fading” in our society. Some on the Left says that forgiveness is a way for oppressors to stay in power so we shouldn’t grant it to them. Others on the Right are now complaining that we cannot go into the public square with compassion—rather, we should be tougher, less forgiving. But social relationships cannot be sustained without forgiveness. Marriages, families, friendships—they all require forgiveness in one way or another. ...
JI: We know that forgiveness does not always require a Christian or even a theological framework. For example, Nelson Mandela did not base his forgiveness on religious commitments. But your new book argues that the Bible teaches “human forgiveness must be based on an experience of divine forgiveness” and “we must consciously base our forgiveness of others on God’s forgiveness of us.” How do you account for the Mandelas of the world?
TK: The Christian resource is powerful—it shows you that you are a sinner saved by sheer grace and living only by forgiveness from God. That both strengthens you and humbles you so you more easily forgive those who sin against you. But even without an overt belief in God, if you think of yourself as someone who—in general—needs forgiveness too, then you can still forgive others. Many of the Greek philosophers despised forgiveness because, since they thought of themselves as virtuous persons, they had no need for forgiveness. My guess is that Mandela had a different view—he probably had some sense that he needed forgiveness, too, and that freed him to extend it.
More on faith and forgiveness:
- The Incomprehensible Witness Of Forgiveness (Nov. 12, 2022)
- Pandemic Forgiveness (Nov. 6, 2022)
- Faith, Forgiveness, And Little League Baseball (Aug. 14, 2022)
- Esau McCaulley: The Dangerous Politics Of ‘We Will Not Forgive’ (Oct. 3, 2021)
- Tim Keller: The Fading Of Forgiveness — Tracing The Disappearance Of The Thing We Need Most (May 16, 2021)
- Ted Lasso, Law School Deaning, And The Power Of Forgiveness (Aug. 2, 2020)
- July 4th, Hamilton, And The Power Of Forgiveness (July 4, 2020)
- Forgiveness And Mercy: Our Most God-Like Power (Jan. 5, 2020)
- Forgiveness: Law, Faith, Christmas, And Hamilton (Dec. 8, 2019)
- From Moses To Hamilton: A Dean’s Journey (Aug. 31, 2017)
- C.S. Lewis & Lin-Manuel Miranda: How I Found My Faith In Mere Christianity And Deepened It In Hamilton (July 24, 2017)
- Hamilton And Law School Deaning (July 7, 2017)
- Forgiveness In Charleston (And Beyond) (June 21, 2015)
- Forgiveness (Oct. 25, 2013)
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