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Atonement, violence and the restoration of hope

Boersma, Hans
June 4, 2015

Source: (2001) Paper presented at the Seminars in Christian Scholarship spring conference, held at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 24-26 May. Langley, BC: Trinity Western University

In this essay, Hans Boersma, professor at Trinity Western University, examines issues of violence (both outward and inward violence), hope, and the self in modern thought and culture. The outward expressions of violence are manifest in domestic violence, regional military conflicts, and more. There is also an inner violence in modernity. He argues that modernity’s myth of progress and its constant reconstruction of the self are unraveling and failing, thus revealing the inner violence of modernity. Hence, the sense of direction and stability of the self are threatened and undone. Is there a way to break the cycle of violence? Too often, reactions to violence are purely punitive and retributive – stricter legislation and longer prison sentences. At the same time, theological reflection about issues of repentance and forgiveness are on the increase. Amidst all of this, Boersma contends that the retrieval of a narrative of substitutionary atonement can form a theological foundation capable of breaking the cycle of violence, providing healing and restoration, and reigniting hope.


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