UPDATE 4th July 2007: I am now withdrawing these charges against Cunningham with my apologies. See this post for an explanation.
God never forgives – he punishes.
This version of Cunningham’s words came from a blogger called Cat. Today Hugh has provided an alternative and very likely more accurate version of Cunningham’s words:
God doesn’t forgive sin, he punishes it.
Well, there is a small distinction here. I can see how it makes sense to say that God punishes sin but forgives sinners, especially within the framework of penal substitutionary atonement according to which God is understood as punishing Christ for the sin of others, so that the others can be forgiven.
Unfortunately for Cunningham, this version of his words is all the more clearly in flat contradiction to the Bible and the Apostles’ Creed, which clearly teach about the forgiveness of sins. (Fortunately for Cunningham, God does not condemn people eternally for false doctrine, but that’s another issue which I want to blog about separately.)
Hugh also wrote:
it’s great that RC stood up and taught some hard truths about our God.
Here is part of the comment which I made in response to Hugh:
Hugh, thanks for correcting Cunningham’s words. However, if your God is the Christian God described in the Bible, what he was teaching were not hard truths but hard lies. One of the most basic statements about God is found in Exodus 34:7: he is “forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”, although he does so in such a way that “he does not leave the guilty unpunished”.
In fact this verse seems to say that God forgives sins but punishes sinners, the opposite of what I suggested at the beginning of this post. The verse is hard to understand, but it certainly cannot be reconciled with the teaching that God does not forgive sins.
To take this beyond the Old Testament, here is something more which I wrote in a comment at Threads from Henry’s Web, providing further evidence of how far Cunningham has gone astray:
We don’t need to add anything to the creed to condemn some of the stupid and offensive things that this crowd say. Take for example UCCF director Richard Cunningham’s words “God doesn’t forgive sin, he punishes it”. This is already in specific contradiction to the following words in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in … the forgiveness of sins”, and of course in contradiction to Jesus’ solemn words instituting the Lord’s Supper, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28, TNIV). No need to add anything to the creed to show that Cunningham is a heretic.
There, I said it: Richard Cunningham, director of UCCF, is a heretic, because he has formally denied an article of the Apostles’ Creed as well as some of the most important teachings of the Old and New Testaments. I can also list as evidence that God or Jesus forgives sins, just from the New Testament, Matthew 6:12, 9:6, Mark 1:4, 2:10, 11:25, Luke 1:77, 3:3, 5:24, 7:48, 11:4, 23:34, 24:47, John 20:23, Acts 2:38, 5:31, 8:22, 10:43, 13:38, 26:18, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, Hebrews 8:12, 1 John 1:9, 2:12.
Because of this false teaching, and unless he clearly renounces it, Cunningham should be removed from his prestigious position and required to stop preaching and teaching before he does further damage to one of the central aspects of the gospel message, the forgiveness of sins.