The Definition of Dichotomy

In response to “The Definition of Forgiveness”:http://www.joeyday.org/2005/02/14/the-definition-of-forgiveness, “B.P.”:http://www.joeyday.org/2005/02/14/the-definition-of-forgiveness#comment-78 said:

bq. You are correct that God commands us to forgive unconditionally, but He Himself sets conditions on His forgiveness. But you are INCORRECT to state that we Latter-Day Saints do not believe this way.

I apologize if you got confused. My statement was a little fuzzy. I did not mean to say that I believe “God commands us to forgive unconditionally, but He Himself sets conditions on His forgiveness.” I meant to say that Mormons believe that and I disagree with it. I personally believe there is only one kind of forgiveness. God expects us to forgive unconditionally, and he also forgives men without condition.

I have clarified my statement in the original post to better reflect what I meant to say. I added the clause, “According to Mormonism.”

B.P. said:

bq.. “Mormons have two different definitions for forgiveness…�

With respect, you’re wrong. Latter-Day Saints do NOT believe this. …

D&C 64:10 states:

“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.�

That certainly points out the “dichotomy� between what we as God’s children are expected to practice, and what the Lord with His perfect knowledge will do regarding forgiveness.

p. With all due respect, it seems to me you’re having trouble making up your mind. You say that Mormons don’t have two definitions of forgiveness, but then, almost in the same breath, you point out the obvious “dichotomy”. Can you please clarify this for me?

This entry was posted in essay.
  • God expects us to forgive unconditionally, and he also forgives men without condition.

    Is God’s Forgiveness Unconditional?
    Does God forgive without condition? He does not forgive all people or all sins. Therefore, God must put some condition (or restriction) on his forgiveness. The condition might be “I will forgive you, if you truly repent.” The condition also might be “I will forgive you, if I have chosen you.” Both statements show a restriction or condition.

    God can only forgive people “without condition” if he forgives all people and all sins. The scriptures teach that God forgives some people, and he does not forgive others (see Exodus 33:19, Exodus 34:7, Romans 9:18, D&C 64:10). They also teach that God forgives some sin, but he does not forgive all sin (see Matt. 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-29, D&C 76:31–39). Such statements clearly indicate a conditional forgiveness, for an unconditional forgiveness would cover all people and all sins.

    What is the Condition?
    Since these scriptures indicate a conditional forgiveness, what is the condition? The scriptures teach that faith in Christ and repentance are two conditions for God’s forgiveness. (Please read Alma 42:13–27.)

    God is completely just. A judge is unjust who frees one criminal unconditionally, but not others. God’s justice prevents him from forgiving anyone who does not have faith in Christ. If God were to forgive those who do not have faith, he would not be just. So, a necessary condition for God’s forgiveness is faith in Christ.

    God is also wise. A judge is unwise who frees a criminal when the criminal plainly intends to repeat the crime. God’s wisdom prevents him from forgiving anyone who does not repent. If God were to forgive those who do not repent, he would not be wise. So, a necessary condition for God’s forgiveness is repentance.

    Faith and repentance do not pay for the sins, nor do they earn God’s forgiveness, they merely allow God to extend mercy and still remain just and wise. (If you didn’t read Alma 42:13–27, please do so now.)

    Why must We Forgive without Condition?
    We must forgive without condition simply because we do not know who has faith and who has not. We do not know who has repented and who has not. God knows these things, so he may judge (see 2 Chronicles 6:30). Since we do not know these things, we may not judge. If we judge others unjustly, we may also be judged unjustly…for that is just (see Matt. 7:1-2).

    What is my point?
    My point is that God cannot forgive “without condition” unless he forgives all people for all sins. The scriptures show that he does not forgive all people for all sins, so he must have conditions for forgiveness, else he would be unjust and unwise. The conditions for God’s forgiveness are simply faith in Christ and true repentance. However, we must forgive others without condition because we do not know who has truly repented and who has not.

  • Contradictory Posts
    I realize that my last post seems to contradict some of my earlier posts. I have now said that God’s forgiveness is both conditional and unconditional.

    However, if you look at all my posts together, you will see they are actually speaking with one voice, but two different definitions of the word “conditional.” Please let me explain.

    Here is the flavor of my past posts:

    Jesus forgives unconditionally. [In other words] if we repent, we will not have to pay any of the debt [for our sins].

    Still, we must ask for forgiveness. [Yet,] asking for forgiveness does not save us; Christ saves us. We will never repay Christ.

    [Although] Christ saves us…we must repent and ask for forgiveness…continually. Submitting yourself willingly to Christ and his commandments is the only appropriate response a person can offer [to Christ].

    Once again, if you truly have faith and repent, you will never have to pay for your sins or repay Christ for his sacrifice; he has saved you.

    How God’s Forgiveness is Unconditional
    All along, I have claimed that we will never pay for the sins we have repented of. That was my definition of “unconditional forgiveness.� God does not require us to pay him back. Once we receive forgiveness, we are free from the debt of our sin, and there are no strings attached.

    I have also made it clear that a person must have faith in Christ and truly repent to obtain God’s forgiveness. I declared that these actions are not “conditions” of forgiveness. They are “steps” in asking for God’s unconditional forgiveness.

    Imagine a chronological continuum with the following points from left to right:

    • Faith in Christ
    • Repentance: asking for forgiveness
    • Fruits showing repentance
    • Receipt of forgiveness (given on conditions below?)
    • Conditions of repentance (pay Christ back)

    In my mind, each point before “Receipt of forgiveness” is a “step” towards forgiveness. The point after “Receipt of forgiveness” does not exist. There are no conditions of forgiveness, only steps.

    How God’s Forgiveness is Conditional
    To those who would argue that these “steps” are actually “conditions” of forgiveness, I present my last post. If faith and repentance are “conditions” of forgiveness, then I agree that God’s forgiveness is conditional, for these steps are required.

    However, at that point, I must insist that God’s forgiveness cannot be unconditional; else, he must forgive all men for all sins. If he does not, then something is acting as a condition of his forgiveness.

    Parting Words
    Thank you for taking time to read my posts. I’ve written a lot to read, and I know your time is precious. My time is precious as well. Yet, I took time to write these posts because I think it is important for people to know that Mormons do not save themselves. They do not “earn� forgiveness, and they do not “pay Christ back.� Instead, they attempt to develop great faith in Jesus Christ, who alone can save them. Their faith is evident in their repenting and trying to keep his commandments. In fact, if they were not repenting and attempting to keep his commandments, you could certainly accuse them of not having sincere faith.

    I know that Christ is my personal Savior and Redeemer. He has paid the price for my sins and saved me from death and hell. He has done the same for everyone reading my words. Because of his atoning sacrifice and resurrection, we are all redeemed from the fall, we are saved from an endless death, and we are rescued from eternal suffering. These blessings are free, eternal, and completely unconditional, any way you define the word. We do not even need faith or repentance in order to receive these gifts. They come purely from God’s grace!

    Additionally, Christ offers us the chance to live with God again and to be like God. He promises us everything His Father has. We are to be co-inheritors of the Kingdom with Christ. Jesus invites us to accept this gift through faith and repentance. I pray that we may all have faith in the Living Christ and truly repent of our sins.

  • “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
    But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

    That’s from Matthew 6:14-15. How’s that for conditional forgiveness from God?

  • Steve said:

    A judge is unjust who frees one criminal unconditionally, but not others.

    Are you really so sure of this? If criminal A and criminal B both committed heinous crimes, how would criminal A’s pardon in any way obligate a judge to pardon criminal B? Having violated the law, criminal B has no right to cry foul play. Justice demands payment for his crime, and with respect to criminal B, justice is blind to the affairs of criminal A. Grace and mercy cannot be obligatory or forced, else they would cease to be grace and mercy. In my mind, the only act that would be unjust would be pulling unwilling citizen C off the street and punishing him in place of criminal A or criminal B.

    For a powerful exposition on this subject, Romans 9 simply can’t be beat. Please read it carefully.

    Steve said:

    “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

    That’s from Matthew 6:14-15. How’s that for conditional forgiveness from God?

    Do you feel as if you’ve fulfilled that condition, Steve? Realize I’ve not asked this question mockingly. I’m being completely serious, and I hope you’ll answer with integrity.

  • Thank you for your thoughts, Joey. I just read Romans 9, and I promise to spend more time studying it in the next few weeks.

    I still believe “a judge is unjust who frees one criminal unconditionally, but not others.”

    Joey said:

    Having violated the law, criminal B has no right to cry foul play. Justice demands payment for his crime, and with respect to criminal B, justice is blind to the affairs of criminal A.

    As I understand, criminal B has every right to cry foul play in the United States if criminal A received preferential treatment for no apparent reason. Criminal A’s case becomes “precedent,” which criminal B will surely site if the circumstances of his crime are substantially similar.

    Accordingly, most judges differentiate among cases to show why they did or did not follow precedent. Usually, they outline in their opinion some reason or “condition” that led them to rule a certain way. They know they would be unjust if they pardoned some criminals and punished others without any explanation.

    Finally, although the president of the United States may pardon whom he will for any reason, theoretically, he pardons someone because it is the just thing to do in that particular case.

    Joey said:

    Do you feel as if you’ve [forgiven men when they sin against you], Steve? … I hope you’ll answer with integrity.

    You and Terry have asked me similar questions. I feel like you are trying to make a point, but I don’t know what it is. However, I will certainly answer your question “with integrity.” Why would I not?

    Since reading those verses in Matthew almost a week ago, I have pondered whether I have forgiven people or not. I have asked to Lord help me. I want to know if I haven’t forgiven someone. I want to know if I am holding a grudge. Once I know, I want the strength to forgive.

    Thus far, I have become aware that there are a couple people whom I have not fully forgiven. As I said before, I am not perfect. However, since recognizing my problem, I have taken steps to forgive and to show my forgiveness.

    I am certainly striving to forgive others. On numerous occasions I have approached people and apologized for having held a grudge. If I continue to learn from the Lord how to forgive others, I am confident that one day I will be capable of forgiving all men who sin against me.

    Having said that, I am not sure what difference it makes in this conversation. Please fill me in.

    I still feel that Christ stated an obvious condition for God’s forgiveness in those verses, and he meant it. I also feel it is a condition that can be kept. Do you feel otherwise?

  • Mirth

    Person B and Person A:

    For God to forgive one and not the other, when they have committed the same crime, is to make God a respecter of persons.

    Otherwise, there must be a condition of forgiveness. If God’s forgiveness is indeed unconditional, then all men everywhere are saved. Moreover, we are not talking about two definitions of forgiveness, we are talking about how God offers forgiveness in contrast with how he commands us to via D&C 64. Is it really inconsistent to say that God commands us to do something that he himself is privileged to doing?

    ie…Though shalt not kill vs. God’s destroying the doubting Israelites before crossing the River Jordan (and quite a few other instances as well) God certainly has the ability to give and take life as he pleases, yet he has given men commandments on how and under what circumstances to do this.

    Moreover, how are we to determine who is worthy and who is not of forgiveness? Are we capable of righteous judgement? Do we know the thoughts and intents of men’s hearts? God’s ability to discern these things is what enables him to judge (and forgive) according to justice and mercy. Since we are incapable of discerning who is and who is not worthy of forgiveness, God has told us to forgive all men, and he will make up the difference in the day of judgement. I don’t see an inconsistency in our forgiving all men, and GOD forgiving whom he will.

    Joey, surely you don’t believe that God forgives unconditionally — otherwise every mormon, pagan, muslim, christian, buddhist, murderer, rapist, etc. would be saved — unless God’s forgiveness does not necessarily lead to Salvation (could this be where some of us are talking past each other? Mormons equate forgiveness with an absolution of sin, which with enduring to the end results in exaltation). If we are not talking past each other…

    The core of the issue is what are the conditions? Many Christians will say, “accept Christ.” I would agree with that too, but my understanding of what accepting Christ entails is different from yours.