Carson: The most painful things I’ve ever borne are betrayals by Christian friends

Here’s how Don Carson recently replied to a question about suffering during a Q&A. (This is a lightly edited transcript from 13:37 to 14:40 in the audio file.)

  • We grew up in some of the suffering of French Canada.
  • I’ve had typhoid because I went to Africa and came within death’s door.
  • I’ve had two or three other diseases that have almost taken me out.
  • My wife’s had cancer that has almost taken her out. She didn’t expect to live to 50; she just turned 59.
  • But that’s part of the stuff of life, isn’t it? And if you’re a Christian leader, then sooner or later you go through situations in churches and relationships that are really tough. The most painful things I’ve ever borne are betrayals by Christian friends.
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“Forgiving oneself is, quite frankly, incoherent.”

And what biblical warrant is there for this easy way many have of talking about “forgiving myself”? In the domain of pop psych, we all know, more or less, what we mean. But in the matrix of Wright’s discussion of what forgiveness is and entails, you have to have two parties to talk about forgiveness: the offender and the offended. Forgiving oneself is, quite frankly, incoherent. One can accept God’s forgiveness, and the forgiveness of others, and press on in various ways. But talk of forgiving oneself merely has the effect of muddying the crispness of the earlier discussion.

-D. A. Carson, review of N. T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, RBL (April 23, 2007): 7-8 (emphasis added).