It seems to me that a staple of Christian life–even if we aren’t willing to admit it!–is the phenomenon of “feeling guilty”. Even though we know our sins have been forgiven, we still feel guilty, sometimes even more guilty than we might otherwise feel. This applies to any number of things, from wasting far too much time obsessing about (and sometimes coveting) new gadgets (i.e., pretty much everything in the Apple store), to spending money on a new dress that you didn’t really need, to not having gone on the run you said you’d go on (last week), to secretly disliking someone who is a friend, to not having done the laundry, to forgetting the birthday of someone important, the list goes on. Sometimes we even feel guilty about feeling guilty! Since it’s such a “live” phenomenon in Christian life, I thought I’d throw out a few excerpts on a Frank Lake’s masterful, must-read/-have book Clinical Theology, a Theological And Psychiatric Basis to Clinical Pastoral Care:

“What is recommended in clinical theology is not an indiscriminate relief of guilt feelings. It proclaims true guilt and the forgiveness of guilt.”
(p. 224)

“The Christian is not interested in condemning persons for unrighteousness, whether it be law-breaking or raging at real or imaginary injustice. He does not condemn this coming short of the law’s demand, because the inference would be that he was prepared to approve of its opposite, that is, the ability to justify oneself by having performed the works of the law, or by having ceased to rage, either by displacing it or repressing it.” (p. 224)

“There is no danger whatever that any man exposed to the clinical theological approach is going to go away with the feeling that, since his neurotic guilt has been lifted, he is thereby freed of guilt, of all guilt. His actual guilt, as over against the goodness of God, is established, in order that by the further goodness of God in Christ it too may be dissolved.” (p. 225)

“Morality created an impasse, for it laid the onus of maintaining the good relationship between ourselves and God on our own moral effort. It laid the onus of restoring the relationship, broken by our evil, on our own reparative toil. The more seriously we took this task in hand, the more self-directed activity resulted. The goal that motivated our good works was our own good, rather than the good of others. The very success of this moralistic way of ‘keeping in’ with God and conscience tended to self-sufficiency, self-congratulation, and pride in some subtle form. At every stage of this law-centered way of working out our own merited relationship with God, we were faced either with the impasse of failure or the paradoxical impasses of ‘success’.” (p. 227)