Guilt and Grace

This painting by Pier Francesco Mola is titled “St. Peter Freed from Prison.” It came to mind this evening as I read a section from Paul Tournier’s classic book Guilt and Grace, a section that underscores the liberating effect of God’s redemptive love. A man whom William Barclay called “…skilled in medicine and wise toward God,” Tournier worked for many years as a physician in Geneva, Switzerland in the early-mid part of the 20th Century. His insights into the relationship of guilt and grace are powerful.

Religion may liberate or suppress; it may increase guilt or remove guilt. A moralistic religion, a deformation of religion saturated with the idea of taboos and picturing God as a threatening being, awakens fear, and sets in motion the sinister mechanism of obduracy, revolt, and wickedness. A religion of grace breaks to this vicious cycle, and leads to repentance and thus to freedom from guilt.


Paul Tournier. Guilt and Grace: A Doctor’s Casebook in the Light of he Bible. Trans. Arthur W. Heathcoat. (New York: Harper and Row 1962), 152.

About the author

Chris Castaldo (PhD, London School of Theology) is the lead pastor at New Covenant Church in Naperville, Illinois. He is the author of Talking with Catholics about the Gospel and coauthor of The Unfinished Reformation.