Friends in St. James Anglican Church, Kingston, Ontario, patiently encountered the radical thinking in this book, and gave kind criticism in classes, groups, and personal discussions.
Dr. David Ward of the Chemistry Department of Queen's University discussed the topic again and again with me at a weekly lunch. Since then he has been ordained as an Anglican Minister and is Rector of St. Mary Magdalene's Church, Picton, Ontario.
Ginny Puddicombe stayed in our home for a year and gave enthusiastic encouragement throughout a difficult time as the book was coming to birth.
For thirty years Mollie Brow has consistently helped to shift wheat from much chaff with marvellous perception of what is obscure, and unnecessary. Since then we have reworked some of the 1983 seed thoughts from this book in a joint book titled Adultery: An Exploration of Marriage and Divorce, 1996.
None of the above should be held in any way responsible for ideas that need discussion and clarification among Christians of all denominations.
Wherever chapter and verse references are given, quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Other quotations are literal translations from the Greek New Testament, or the traditional wording of the King James Version.
This book was written hastily on my first computer, and published in a rough form for evaluation and discussion in 1983. The thousand copy private edition was well received among friends, but I never got a publisher. The book now seems to be worth including on this Model Theology web site to illustrate the most important model shift in my life.
This is the text of the original book with some major editing. But I have taken out the parable-poems which were designed to lighten the heavy subject, and these will appear with others that seem relevant under the title Poems That Model: The Parables of Life, 1996. Chapters 4-10 have also been omitted because the material was reworked in Adultery: An Exploration of Love and Marriage, 1996.
I would value comments and corrections by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am sorry I cannot cope with letters that give no e-mail address.
"Your sins are forgiven" was a characteristic expression of Jesus. And yet most of us read our Bibles, go to church, and are ridden with guilt. Paul wrote: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). Why then should we feel so continuously condemned?
Or put it the other way. The devil is called "the accuser of our our brethren" (Revelation 12:10). His business is to accuse, discourage, make us feel outcast and rejected by God. How strange that we so easily accept the logic of his model.
By any standards guilt is a miserable experience. It destroys our health and wholeness. If it is not defused it causes psychological and physical damage to our system. If we try to forget or suppress, it only makes things worse.
The purpose of this book is to show that guilt need not dominate our lives. There are ways to dissolve it. To live totally we must learn to live without guilt. Whether we can live totally without guilt is a question of terminology, and the exact dividing line between guilt in the bad sense and the consciousness of faults which must be corrected will hopefully become clearer as we proceed.
Of course living without guilt raises problems. If we did learn to live without condemnation, wouldn't the motivation to repentance be dulled? Does freedom from guilt lead to antinomianism (the view that there is no right or wrong to bind us)? These questions actually show that we are on the same track as Paul the Apostle, who faced identical problems: "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? . . . What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? (Romans 6:1,15, see also 7:7) These are the perennial objections of people who fear freedom. They assume that accepting guilt and ascribing guilt are the bread and wine of Christianity. The good news is that life and freedom begin when guilt is taken off our back.
Living without guilt does not mean that we forget to say "I am sorry." If I have wronged a friend, kept him waiting, hurt her, I apologise immediately and put as much right as I can. That can be done without wallowing in guilt. All the more with God. If we are conscious of wronging God, hurting his interests, ignoring him, or failing to do what was required of us, we should not rest till we are right with him.
Theologians call getting right with God confession, and accepting God's forgiveness is called receiving absolution. But whether we need to confess to a friend we have wronged, or to God when we have sinned, there is no need to live even for a moment under guilt.
If one of our children dropped one of our best dinner plates, I was proud of them when they came and said so, and I immediately assured them the matter was finished. Even in more costly matters like wrecking a car, I would not want to say "well, first go and feel really bad about it for a few weeks, and then we will see if I can accept you as my child again." None of us enjoy the reproachfulness of parents who are always disappointed with the performance of their children.
Nor does living without guilt deny a consciousness of our own sinfulness. Three times Paul speak frankly of the "sin which dwells within me" in the same breath as he says "there is therefore now no condemnation" (Romans 7:17, 20, 23, 8:1). When we meet with God we have times of overwhelming horror at the deviousness of our own heart (Isaiah 6:1-6). Like Peter, we weep bitterly when we deny the Lord, and we feel sinfully unworthy when we see Jesus at work (Matthew 26:75, Luke 5:8). In recommending living without guilt I certainly cannot remove contrition from the centre of Christian experience. But the experience is one of sensing one's total inability to love simultaneously with knowing that we are still totally loved. We are not loved because we have first felt our own sinfulness.
By the end of the book readers will decide whether a model of living totally without guilt fits the words of Jesus in the Gospels and the explanations of Paul in the Epistles. But even if readers want to amend the model at some points this rather radical book will have succeeded if it gives a sense of freedom, joy, liberation instead of miserable, cringing despair.