Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Truth About Forgiveness by John MacArthur

book cover
The Truth About Forgiveness
by John MacArthur

ISBN-13: 9781400204151
Trade Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: May 1, 2012

Source: Review copy from the publisher received through the BookSneeze program.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Does anyone really want to forgive? Or admit that we need forgiveness? Whether we’re giving or receiving, forgiveness is hard. It seems unfair. It feels unnatural. And as best-selling author and pastor John MacArthur demonstrates, forgiveness apart from Christ is unnatural. It is only as we understand our need, Christ’s power and example, and what it really means to love that we can embrace two of the most liberating acts of love: forgiving and being forgiven.

My Review:
The Truth about Forgiveness is a Christian book primarily about God's grace and forgiveness toward us (though he also made the point that we should pass this forgiveness on to others).

The author started off with 12 pages (out of 112 pages) ranting about modern psychology. His points in relation to forgiveness could have been handled in 2 pages. I was hoping to be able to hand this book to unbelievers, but the rant came across to me as off-putting unless you already agreed with him (and I did), so I doubt that the people who need to know about forgiveness the most would even get past those pages.

What the book actually said about forgiveness was correct, but I was surprised at how often the author made comments--and even built his case for forgiveness--on things not actually mentioned in the Bible. And he could have easily stuck with the plentiful Scriptures that talk specifically about forgiveness.

For example, the author stated with certainty that the Pharisees had come in Luke 5:17-26 to condemn Jesus and thwart his popularity (page 23). This was early in Jesus' ministry, and nowhere in the 3 gospel accounts of this event does it state that this was their intention. And the Bible doesn't hesitate to say when it was someone's intent.

The author also portrayed the Pharisees as the main Bad Guys of the gospel, which books like Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus clearly demonstrate isn't true. Even in the Luke 5:17-26 event, two of the three gospel writers that talked about this event only mention the Scribes showing unbelief. Yet MacArthur focused on the Pharisees instead.

While I recognize that this wasn't meant to be a scholarly work, it would have been nice to know where he got his information about what Pharisee's believed (like his comments on page 61), the cultural information behind the parable of the prodigal son, and so on. He seemed to be making a lot of assumptions and even added to the Bible in an attempt to increase the impact of what was actually given in the Bible. For example, the Bible doesn't even mention a village in Luke 15:11-31, but the author spent several pages making a major point out of how the father saved his prodigal son from the shame of having to walk through the village (pages 72-80).

He also commented several times (for example, pages 18, 86) on how the Pharisees had made all these rules so that they could earn their way into rightness with God. Yet, as I understood it (and, unfortunately, I'm not sure which places I read this), the people came to those who knew the Law really well and asked them to make these boundaries so that they wouldn't sin accidentally.

It'd be like a young woman who wants to be modest asking her mother what, exactly, makes up modest clothing. Yes, it could easily turn into being all about necklines and hem lengths, but that doesn't mean the mother originally made those rules to make her daughter earn her righteousness.

Basically, I think there are books out there on the topic of forgiveness that are more focused on what the Bible actually does say on the topic, and I'd recommend them instead. (For example, Forgiveness: Breaking the Power of the Past by Kay Arthur).

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

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