Monday, June 2, 2008

Individualism, Confession & Forgiveness

My hunch is that the practices both confession and forgiveness are also radically altered by individualism. Confession whether to a priest or another member of the church has likely been diminished by the privatization of belief. One need not bare such intimate details to another authority precisely because those matters are between the individual and God. Within evangelicalism many would say that we are all in need of an accountability group. And such things are good. My fear though is that it has a great potential to devolve into group therapy, where confession and forgiveness are geared toward Bellah’s expressivist individuals. Hans Boersma suggests that underlying our individualistic notions of forgiveness and reconciliation is our quest for self-fulfillment. These narcissistic endeavors are concentrated on the effects of ones feelings rather than “the need to discern whether there are tragic misunderstandings or culpable wrongdoing and repentance.”[1] Forgiveness may slip into an “economy of exchange” where confession and forgiveness are more focused the emotional effects rather than truthful responsibility.[2] Could this be played out both vertically and horizontally, in relationships with God and fellow humanity?

[1] Hans Boersma, Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 209.
[2] Boersma, 211.
[3] Mark Driscoll, The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 81-82. Driscoll is often lumped in with the Emergent but he would distance himself from that group and the subtitle is likely a shot in their direction.
[4] Boersma, 210.