The Sin of Forgiveness by Edward F. Mrkvicka with Kelly Helen Mrkvicka
This new book uniquely titled The Sin of Forgiveness by Edward Mrkvicka is a look into the concept of forgiveness from a quite different angle. At the beginning, the author writes, “Godly forgiveness is, for the sinner and the wronged, a healing process whereby both can become spiritually whole again. The person granting absolution regains that was lost to the sin, while the sinner regains a rebirth ultimately seeking righteousness” (vi). This definition of forgiveness involves a healing on both sides but is much more akin to the concept of restoration. Forgiveness is not counting the wrong someone did to you against them and moving forward in relationship. For Mrkvicka, forgiveness is not to be offered unless there is a response rooted in repentance (viii). I get the sense that Mrkvicka is pointing out that unless a sinner repents, believes in Christ, then, only then will you be able to forgive him. This kind of thinking is not only unhelpful but dangerous in the end.
Areas of Disagreement
In the chapter on The Importance of Context, Mrkvicka writes, “This treatise on the subject of forgiveness is not my opinion, but rather the result of a lifetime of Bible study and Bible-based counseling” (1). Again, he writes, “However, I want to go on record again as stating that I have no religious opinions. Nor do I interpret God’s Word” (131). Every person who writes a book interpreting the Bible has to interpret the Bible using a method alongside certain resources. To say that this book is not the author’s opinion on forgiveness or that he doesn’t interpret the Bible displays a utter lack of his own writing. Mrkvicka interprets passages his own way time and time again.
On page 80 he writes, “When we forgive those who should not be forgiven, we make their sins our sins…I can’t speak for others, but on Judgment Day I’ll have enough trouble on my own without taking on the sins of others” (80). Mrkvicka cites no passage here but just doles out his own view that on Judgment Day God will judge us because we forgave someone whom we shouldn’t have. This is rather poor interpretation and even more important a dangerous dose of medicine for believers. Not only is this not true, but is also unwarranted from the Scriptures.
Many of the forgiveness passages in the New Testament concern the relationship of believers in the church and their sin against one another. Furthermore, throughout the epistles the common theme is that God does not count our sins against us because of what Christ has done, his work being applied to our account. Salvation is nothing less than the removal of a debt against God and a rescuing from the ravaging effects to new life in union with Jesus Christ. This kind of way of talking about forgiveness was not communicated very well.
Lastly, the Mrkvicka misunderstands the notion of once saved, always saved. If this is to mean that a prayer in a church said many years ago is a saving grace and the accompanying fruit is not there, I can go with him. Yet, the idea of once saved always saved, at least in Reformed circles, is that God preserves his people to the end because God is the one whom saves them completely apart from any effort they could do. Salvation and faith are both gifts and are fully dependent upon the God who gives them. Therefore, believing and then falling away and believing again rest more heavily on a view of salvation that comports with human effort.
I can’t recommend this book to those wanting to understand forgiveness. The idea that repentance and forgiveness go together is one that I thought was a good point. However, I think the book misses the point in too many areas to be of encouragement to believers.
Thanks to Cross Focused Reviews and CrossLink Publishing for the review copy of this book in exchange for review.