Monthly Archives: March 2010

Theology for Restorative Justice

I am working on a book with the tentative title, Healing Justice (and Theology): An Agenda for Restoring Wholeness.  This small book is meant to be both an introduction to the emerging practices of restorative justice that seek to provide an alternative to the spiral of violence characteristic of our current criminal justice system and an analysis of theological resources that might undergird a Christian approach to restorative justice.

I start with an summary of some of the current dynamics in North America that are placing us in an ever-deepening crisis. At the heart of this crisis, I suggest, is a problematic commitment to what I call the “logic of retribution” that rather than leading to healing of the alienation caused by crime instead mainly heightens the alienation. This logic of retribution has theological roots and hence needs to be challenged on a theological level.

The bases for an alternative approach to justice, one that focuses on restorative rather than retributive dynamics, may be found in the Bible. I look at the big storyline of the Bible and then more closely at the portrayal of justice in the book of Amos, the life and teaching of Jesus, and the early Christian writings of Romans and Revelation.

The concludes with a summary of present-day efforts to embody restorative justice practices and to provide alternatives to the spiral of vengeance.

These are links to the book’s nine chapters:

1. Introduction: An Agenda for Restoring Wholeness

2. Our Current Crisis

3. The Logic of Retribution and Its Consequences

4. Healing Theology: A Biblical Overview

5. Old Testament Justice (Amos)

6. Jesus and Justice

7. Justice in Romans and Revelation

8. Putting Restorative Justice into Practice

9. Restoring Wholeness: The Alternative to Vengeance


John Howard Yoder’s Christology

John Howard Yoder’s stature as a major American theologian continues to grow. I recently found in my files a paper, “John Howard Yoder’s Christology,” I wrote now nearly thirty years ago, summarizing my initial understanding of Yoder’s christology. I do not remember the occasion for the paper. It gives what I still think is an accurate portrayal of some of Yoder’s main thoughts.

Finding this paper makes me think that it would be worthwhile to revisit this theme. I wonder if I were to write a 2,000 word summary of Yoder’s christology now, if it would be much different from my old paper. In the meantime, I have completed two graduate degrees in theology, served nearly ten years as a pastor, and now head toward the end of my fourteenth year as a college professor. Yoder wrote a lot between 1982 and his death in 1997. But I’m not sure I would say it much differently now—maybe I’ll try and see someday soon.

God’s Greatest Power: Mercy

Does the story of Jesus speak to our need for healing in today’s world—healing our own hearts, healing our social world, the cosmic healing of the entire universe?

This morning, I presented the fifth in what will be a series of 13 sermons on why we pay attention to Jesus.  This one is called “God’s Greatest Power: Mercy.”

In this sermon, I focus on several biblical texts that speak to healing: Psalm 130 focusing on our own hearts, Isaiah 33 focusing on politics, and Revelation 21 focusing on cosmic transformation. Then I look at the story of Jesus healing the paralyzed man in Luke 5:17-26 and suggest that Jesus shows the core of how God heals: the presence of transformative mercy, God’s greatest power.

Book Reviews

Here’s a list of books I have recently reviewed, linked to the reviews.

Harry S. Stout. Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War (May 3, 2010)

Theron F. Schlabach. War, Peace, and Social Conscience: Guy F. Hershberger and Mennonite Ethics (March 15, 2010)

Joseph Kip Kosek. Acts of Conscience: Christian Nonviolence and Modern American Democracy (March 8, 2010)