More from Prof. Pless at our church’s Good Shepherd Seminar. . . .He pointed out that it was Schleiermacher, the 19th century Romantic theologian considered the father of liberal theology, who first defined guilt as a feeling experienced by the doer of the deed. Before that, guilt was considered as a forensic judgment on both the doer and the deed. The judge says, “guilty,” and you face punishment, no matter how you feel.
We are guilty, regardless of whether we feel guilty or not, because we are under God’s judgment. But under the Gospel, whether we feel guilty or not, we are pronounced “not guilty” for Christ’s sake.
In pastoral care, if the problem is that people feel guilty, the pastor must reassure them that they are not, that they don’t need to feel that way, that they are really OK. But if the problem is that they ARE guilty because of their sin, what the pastor has to do is deliver God’s new verdict in light of the Cross and Christ’s imputation, the verdict that they are pardoned.