Monday, May 23, 2016

"What Can I Do With My Guilt?" by RC Sproul: A Review

The simple truth is that if God forgives us, we are forgiven. That's an objective state of affairs. Maybe our friends will not forgive us. Maybe our spouses will not forgive us. Maybe society will not forgive us. Maybe the government will not forgive us. But if God forgives us, we are forgiven. That doesn’t mean that we were never guilty. We cannot have forgiveness without real guilt. But forgiveness releases us from the punishment that we justly deserve because of our guilt. Through it, we can be restored to a healthy and loving relationship with God.

It is a universal experience among humans: guilt. Thus, how we handle guilt is of great importance. Religions around the world offer a number of various answers, rituals, and ideas. Such traditions place much faith on personal works, ritualism, and moralism. Secularism seeks for answers in psychology and victimization. Guilt implies the existence of sin. As a result, many have tried to mythologize sin and thus dissolve guilt altogether.

But none of it works. Whether we are guilty of sin or we are sinned against, guilt and shame are ours nevertheless. When it comes to the issue of guilt and shame I believe Christianity shines and has a message that will speak to people around the world.

This is why I turned to RC Sproul's short book What Can I Do With My Guilt? (free Kindle download here). Sproul is a well-established and respected theologian and writer. His "Crucial Questions" series is a series of short books (I read this volume in one setting) that addresses important questions of the faith.

Key to Sproul's argument here is the objective and subjective nature of guilt. Here he helpfully differentiates between guilt and guilt feelings. Once the reality of guilt is established, Sproul lays out the hope of the gospel in how it addresses our guilt - chiefly forgiveness. Ultimately, the only way guilt can be remove is for the cause of guilt to be forgiven and only God can do that. Antinomians might label sin a myth, secularists may turn to therapy, and legalists may turn to moralism, but none of it washes away our sin.

My one criticism is minor. It is critical that Christians emphasize both forgiveness and cleansing as it relates to our sin. We are not merely given a clean slate, but a new heart. Sproul discusses the cleansing power of the gospel but does not make it center stage. This is a real weakness. My criticism is not to suggest that Sproul denies it, but that it did not receive the attention it deserved. In addressing guilt, we need both propitiation and expiation. This brief volume did not emphasize the latter, I believe, enough. 

Overall, however, this is a helpful book at a really good price (again, its free on Kindle). It is written at the popular level and thus can be understood by all believers. 

For more:
Free eBooks: RC Sprul's Crucial Questions Series Books
"Everyone's a Theologian" by RC Sproul: A Review
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