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Christianity: The rediscovery of restorative justice

Allard, Pierre
June 4, 2015

Source: (2001) In The spiritual roots of restorative justice, ed. Michael L. Hadley, 119-141. With an introduction by Michael L. Hadley. SUNY series in religious studies, ed. Harold Coward. Albany, New York, USA: State University of New York Press.

Allard and Northey contend that a Christian reading of the Hebrew scriptures, the life and ministry of Jesus, and the overall witness of the New Testament point to what can be called a restorative justice model for understanding and responding to crime. The essence of this consists in God’s love for humankind, such that he came to humanity in the person of Jesus (i.e., the incarnation). Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God demonstrated his merciful and suffering love in response to our wrongdoing, thus making forgiveness and restoration fundamental to how we should respond to human wrongdoing. Allard and Northey see the background to this understanding of Jesus in the Hebrew concept of shalom (“the Bible’s word for salvation, justice, and peace”), and in the ethical and messianic insights of the Hebrew prophets. However, the authors maintain that in general the Christian Church has profoundly deviated from the truths of that good news. They discuss various elements that contributed to this deviation, including the following: the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire under the Emperor Constantine; and the development of the satisfaction theory of the atonement by Anselm, which significantly influenced theology, social thought, and popular piety. While there have been exceptions, the Church often became an apologist for and even an agent of violent, retributive responses to crime. The authors then observe that in the last generation there have been a number of initiatives from many sources promoting restorative responses to crime. Citing specific initiatives among Christians, they express hope that the Christian Church, in its engagement with criminal justice issues and practices, is beginning to reclaim its spiritual and theological foundations in God’s restoration and reconciliation in Jesus.


AbstractBurglaryLiving Restoratively
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