Habits, practices, friendship, craft. L. Gregory Jones employs these words to provide us with a theological analysis of forgiveness but contends this is not, primarily, a book for theologians. He wishes to de-compartmentalize the ''discipline'' of theology by restoring those first four words to their original transformative strength. The formation of habits and practices requires the difficult virtues of discipline, patience and skill if we are to experience friendship with God, and Jones makes it clear that friendship is not a pious or sentimental declaration but a labor of character building through practice and time. In this paradigm forgiveness is a learned craft, a life-emptying and filling endeavor that makes deep communion possible. Jones seeks to reconcile the tendency of modernity to polarize the world as either lighter than it is (trivializing forgiveness by making it therapeutically easy) or darker (believing that forgiveness is impossible or ineffective because violence is ultimately the master of us all). He then provides explication of his analysis using Flannery O'Connor's short stories, Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven,
, Toni Morison's Beloved,
, and Simon Wiesenthal's The Sunflower
as integral pieces of his argument. Jones is a little defensive in his insistence that these examples not be seen as a ploy to broaden his audience, but whatever his motivation, his literary and cinematic choices contribute to his conclusion that ''forgiveness serves not primarily to absolve guilt but as a reminder, a gracious irritant, of what communion with God and with one another can and should be.''
An Eighth Day View:
A topic unjustly neglected in contemporary theology, forgiveness is often taken to be either too easy or too difficult. On the one hand is the conception of forgiveness that views it mainly as a move made for the well-being of the forgiver. On the other hand, forgiveness is sometimes made too difficult by suggestions that violence is the only effective force for responding to injustice.In this exciting and innovative book, L. Gregory Jones argues that neither of these extreme views is appropriate and shows how practices of Christian forgiveness are richer and more comprehensive than often thought. Forgiveness, says Jones, is a way of life that carries with it distinctive concepts of love, community, confession, power, repentance, justice, punishment, remembrance, and forgetfulness.In Part 1 of "Embodying Forgiveness" Jones first recounts Dietrich Bonhoeffer's own struggle against the temptation to make forgiveness either too easy or too difficult in his thought and, even more, in his life and death at the hands of the Nazis. Jones then considers each of these temptations, focusing on the problem of "therapeutic" forgiveness and then forgiveness's "eclipse" by violence. Part 2 shows why a trinitarian identification of God is crucial for an adequate account of forgiveness. In Part 3 Jones describes forgiveness as a craft and analyzes the difficulty of loving enemies. He deals particularly with problems of disparities in power, impenitent offenders, and the relations between forgiveness, accountability, and punishment. The book concludes with a discussion of the possibility of certain "unforgiveable" situations.Developing a strong "theological" perspective on forgiveness throughout, Jones draws on films and a wide variety of literature as well as on Scripture and theological texts. In so doing, he develops a rich and comprehensive exploration of what it truly means to embody Christian forgiveness.