Previously published as Seventy Times Seven (1997)
Johann Christoph Arnold
Category: Christian Life & Discipleship
If you are looking for an easy answer to this book's title question, then you will be looking in the wrong place by reading the book itself. With no simple platitudes to placate us, and no seven steps to perfecting forgiveness to follow, this book is a hard, even harrowing look at the reality of what it means to be hurt and be able (or in some cases, unable) to forgive.
There is no lofty theorising to detach the reader from the reality of the subject in hand. Instead, Arnold lets the real life situations speak for themselves through personal testimonies. These are often told in the first person, which gives the reader almost the feeling of a private view into the peoples' lives. Sometimes this is a little too close for comfort, and I had to put the book down regularly to 'catch my emotional breath' because if I didn't, I felt like I was fast-forwarding through a year of the toughest counselling cases with all the worst possible scenarios imaginable (child abuse, murder, terrorist bombing, jilted bride…)
Each chapter deals with a different aspect of forgiveness including blaming God, accepting responsibility, and breaking the cycle of hatred. Arnold presents the situations relating to the different topics and then does a brief reflection at the end. There are no quick fixes to any of these issues, and Arnold's ability to deal with this with wisdom and sensitivity is the book's overriding strength. He even ventures onto the rough terrain of the turmoil of those who cannot forgive, even though they try.
'Why forgive?' is not a complex book - it is easy to read in terms of language and length, but equally hard-going in its subject matter. That said, it does not leave the reader with a sense of hopelessness, but rather an appreciation for the complexity of life and all it can confront us with - and how we can respond.
Caroline Wenger, April 2008
Caroline Wenger lives in Switzerland and eats cheese nearly every day. She enjoys creative cooking, learning German, teaching English and hopefully being a mother (her first baby is due in April 2008). She has been writing book reviews at a leisurely pace since graduating from the London School of Theology in 2006.Orbis Books | Order from www.christianbookshops.org