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A theology of forgiveness: Terminology, rhetoric, & the dialectic of interfaith relationships

Petersen, Rodney L.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2001) In Forgiveness and reconciliation: Religion, public policy, & conflict transformation, ed. Raymond G. Helmick, S.J., and Rodney L. Petersen, 3-25. With a foreword by Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu. Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press.

Petersen concentrates in this chapter on the ontological foundation for forgiveness in Christian theology. Historically in the church forgiveness has generally been connected with individual practice, while the significance of forgiveness in the public arena has largely been eclipsed by emphases on more retributive understandings of justice. Yet interest in forgiveness is increasing in a number of spheres, encompassing both the personal and the public. In this context, Petersen investigates terms related to forgiveness, such as justification, reconciliation, and divine mediation. This leads to consideration of the rhetoric of forgiveness – the relation between the content of forgiveness and the ways in which we speak about it. Petersen concludes by exploring a dialectic of forgiveness. If a Christian theology of forgiveness roots in and stems from the nature and activity of God, dialectic leads to questions about conceptions and practices of forgiveness in relation to people of other or no religious beliefs.


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