Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Why Reconciliation Is Not a Component of Forgiveness: A Response to Frise and McMinn (2010)

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Why Reconciliation Is Not a Component of Forgiveness: A Response to Frise and McMinn (2010)

Article excerpt

Frise and McMinn (2010) examined differing views of forgiveness among scholars and found that theologians were inclined toward the view of reconciliation being a necessary part of forgiveness while psychologists generally separated the two constructs. They suggest that forgiveness may be a continuum where subjective forgiveness is at one pole and relational forgiveness at the opposite. We attempt an explanation why theologians seem to struggle more to unite the two constructs and argue that human forgiveness must be distinguished from divine forgiveness. Forgiveness as love is always and without exception unconditional while divine forgiveness involves something more-the forgiveness of sins for those who return to God based on the crosswork of Jesus Christ. This distinction is crucial for both theologians and psychologists; while divine forgiveness results in reconciliation when persons accept Jesus and return to God in remorse and repentance, anyone who desires to forgive the offender should not be discouraged for any reason.

The purpose of this article is to respond to Frise and McMinn's (2010) article on the differing views of forgiveness and reconciliation among psychologists and Christian theologians. We are not necessarily responding to Frise and McMinn's view of forgiveness since theirs was an empirical study, but instead, we are trying to respond to some disagreeing theologians who conceptualize forgiveness differently from psychologists; as predicted by Frise and McMinn (2010) in the study, while psychologists were more clear about the distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation, theologians highly endorsed the view of the restoration of an ongoing relationship being part of forgiveness and saw that the two terms were, however complex, connected to each other. To make our case for forgiveness and reconciliation as distinct constructs, we will first introduce Frise and McMinn's (2010) study by stating the main issue in contention and the authors' concluding view on the controversy. Then, we will respond to Frise and McMinn (2010) by discussing the difference between person-to-person and divine forgiveness, the idea of forgiveness as unconditional rather than conditional love, and the interplay of unconditional forgiveness and conditional reconciliation. Finally, we will emphasize the importance of perceiving the distinction between divine and person-to-person forgiveness. We argue that acknowledging the difference between divine forgiveness and person-to-person forgiveness is necessary to understand that forgiveness in the form of unconditional love is distinct from reconciliation because the former is always and without exception unconditional while the latter is not.

Introduction to Frise and McMinn (2010)

Frise and McMinn (2010) examined the differing views of psychologists and Christian theologians on whether or not reconciliation is a necessary component of forgiveness through an online survey distributed to scholars both in psychology and theology. In Study 1, academic psychologists from both Christian and non-Christian graduate departments of professional psychology associated with the National Council of Schools and Programs in Professional Psychology (NCSPP) (n = 53; 29% response rate) and Christian theologians from departments of theology, religion, or biblical studies associated with the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) (n = 29; 29% response rate) were asked to rate on a 5-point Likert scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) each of the four statements: True forgiveness meant that a person 1) releases negative feelings toward the offender, 2) gives up a desire for revenge toward the offender, 3) develops positive feelings of goodwill toward the offender, and 4) is restored to an ongoing relationship with the offender. Following the survey, respondents were asked to reveal whether they believe that reconciliation is a necessary part of forgiveness or if it is a different construct, which became the basis for the authors' qualitative analysis. …

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