Review: Forgiveness and Justice

41nw4LO8FzL Bryan N. Maier is Associate Professor of Counseling and Psychology at Biblical Seminary near Philadelphia, where he has taught for over a decade. Maier also previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for five years. Maier has a MA (Biblical Counseling) and an MDiv from Grace Theological Seminary, as well as an MA (Clinical Psychology) and a Doctorate in Psychology from Wheaton Graduate School. Maier is the author of The Separation of Psychology and Theology at Princeton, 1868-1903: The Intellectual Achievement of James McCosh and James Mark Baldwin (Edwin Mellen Press, 2006) and the present volume Forgiveness and Justice: A Christian Approach (Kregel Ministry, 2017).

Forgiveness and Justice is a captivating exploration of the relationship between forgiveness and justice from a Christian worldview. Maier does a tremendous job grappling the task of defining forgiveness as it relates to God and the gospel. He roots forgiveness in the character of God as seen in the person and work of Christ, and disembodies the act of forgiveness from a variety of contemporary theories concerning the role of forgiveness in the healing process of the victim. For Maier, healing is a prerequisite for forgiveness, not the other way around. Moreover, Maier argues that repentance is required on the part of the perpetrator for forgiveness to take place in a healthy and productive manner. But, forgiveness should never be intended as or used as a self-centered means of therapeutic self-satisfaction or healing. This is not why or how God forgives us, and thus, it is not why or how we should approach the forgiveness of others. Throughout the volume, Maier is continually establishing his view under the presupposition that the Christian worldview is both true and accurate, and that the Bible authoritatively informs how we are to approach the task of forgiveness as a means of relational reconciliation.

There is much to be applauded about Maier’s approach. First, and probably foremost, Maier does an incredible job fusing the latest in psychological research concerning the benefits and dangers of forgiveness from a biblical worldview. Second, Maier does well to include ample discussion around the imprecatory Psalms and provides clear examples of how such can function as hope for the hurting in the midst of the healing process—ultimately pointing to the justice of God as the means of sanctuary. Third, Maier is extremely clear and accessible. Forgiveness and Justice was a captivating read, and it’s far outside my normal area of interest. That said it was also extremely informative and practical. I could easily see this work being formative for those in the field of counseling or pastoral ministry. It was very helpful and I identify as neither. The only shortcoming, apart from the foreseen disagreements I can see with his use of the imprecatory Psalms, is the use of endnotes. I know the publishing science behind it, but as a detailed reader, I do not like moving back and forth to the end of the book. It significantly prolonged an otherwise easy and enjoyable read.

Forgiveness and Justice: A Christian Approach by Bryan N. Maier is outstanding. Maier is easy to read, and while the material is somewhat weighty, it is very accessible. He is God-centered and gospel-driven in his approach, and readers will benefit tremendously from what he’s written. It was an unexpected journey that I am very happy to have taken. It comes highly recommended.

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