There’s a fun new heresy circulating on social media, and it goes a little something like this: “Bold of Christians to be mad about student debt forgiveness while professing a faith that is literally based on forgiving debts.”
This, of course, is in response to President Joe Biden’s announcement this week that he would “cancel” $10,000 to $20,000 of student loans per debtor, and variations of the debt hermeneutic have been cropping up ever since.
“I’m not Christian, but with all the teachings about giving, I’m pretty sure Jesus would be cool with President Biden’s decision on cancelling student debt,” spouted anti-Trump antagonist David Weissman on Twitter. “A whole lot of folks who supposedly pray, ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors’ don’t see debt forgiveness as an answer to prayer,” added preacher Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. And here’s the chairwoman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors:
Before even cracking the Scriptural can of worms, there’s a whole host of other issues with so-called loan forgiveness that shouldn’t need to be repeated but apparently do. For instance, the Constitution doesn’t give the president authority to wipe out debts. And there’s the whole business of Biden simply empowering universities to raise tuition costs even higher, inevitably kicking off this whole wretched cycle again.
But the biblical issues stemming from equating the leader of the free world with the Creator of the universe are even more problematic. Not only do they represent bad-faith attempts to trip up Christians in manufactured hypocrisy (or perhaps prompt them to reject their faith in favor of Marxism), but they’re also blatant rejections of Scripture wrapped in a veneer of moralism, with no regard for those who get harmed in the process.
Mischaracterization of Biblical Commands
When people liken Biden’s style of “forgiveness” to Jesus’s, they lose sight of what the former really entails. For the federal government, there’s really no such thing as debt “cancellation,” just redistribution. Loans don’t just evaporate; somebody has to pay for them. In this case, that somebody is you, and the price tag is hundreds of billions of dollars, maybe upwards of a trillion.
Thus Biden’s plan could more accurately be described as welfare for the college-educated at the expense of taxpayers who either didn’t indulge in higher education or who already paid their debts. Where exactly is the biblical justification for this?
Nowhere does Jesus say that a group of con artists, feeling sorry for somebody they have conned, should steal from an innocent bystander to subsidize the con and thus gain the favor of the conned person.
Instead Scripture says, “The wicked borrow and do not repay,” with God telling Moses, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”
There’s a word for taking someone else’s money to buy stuff for your friends, and it’s called stealing. There’s even a commandment against it.
Misunderstanding of Biblical Forgiveness
That brings us back to this argument:
Beyond the fact that student debt “forgiveness” is actually stealing in disguise, this tweet’s argument represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what Christians believe. The Gospel isn’t “literally based on forgiving debts.” On the contrary, it’s actually based on the fact that those debts have been completely paid.
Theologians call it “penal substitutionary atonement,” but it describes a simple enough message that even children can understand: Because of our sin we are debtors to holy God. The payment for that debt is eternal death, a recompense we cannot possibly satisfy in our lives. But God’s divine forgiveness does not occur at the expense of divine justice, meaning a just God cannot and will not “cancel” sin without a payment being made for it.
Jesus — and specifically his shed blood — is that divine substitutionary atonement. Thus, one of the most glorious truths of the Gospel is not that God has just chosen to ignore or “cancel” or “forgive” our debts. It’s that Jesus paid them in full for us at the cross and then rose again to defeat death. It’s only on that basis that we can stand forgiven.
Don’t let fans of student loan “forgiveness” distort the Gospel to absolve their politics of thievery. No, Jesus was pretty clear that he isn’t “cool” with stealing, and Christians shouldn’t be either.