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Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis Paperback – August 31, 1995

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Editorial Reviews


Anglican Theological Reivew
"Lucidly written, catholic in its sensibilities, capacious in its sources, it offers a considerable advance for theological-ethical reflection. . . It is difficult to know where to begin to praise this book."

Calvin Theological Journal
"This volume is both a thought-provoking challenge to the church's current cultural captivity to what Bonhoeffer called 'cheap grace,' and a rich source of biblically sensitive material for preaching. Heartily recommended for pastors and other interested cultural theologians."

Christianity Today
"Thoughtful and wide-ranging book. . . Altogether, this is a highly intelligent, theologically instructive, and deeply reflective piece of work."

"This book offers theology that is reflective as well as practical and writing that is clear, sometimes even stirring, despite the complexity of the author's thought."

"This is an imaginative and provocative essay. Jones's argument moves between theological claims which are relatively abstract and narratives of particular incidents which are compellingly concrete."

First Things
"A bracing polemic against and constructive alternative to 'the therapeutic society.' . . . In this analysis, there is nothing weak or sentimental about forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard work -- Jones calls it a craft -- to which all Christians are called and from which our society has much to learn."

"This book is more theologically sophisticated and pastorally sensitive than any other book on forgiveness of which I am aware. It is must reading for any pastor, preacher, or spiritual director."

Librarians World
"Libraries in churches that have thoughtful, intellectual members may want to consider this excellent work."

Modern Theology
"In this pioneering and creative book, Gregory Jones explores a central Christian doctrine as a public truth, as something to be practised by Christians and embodied in the Church. . . This is doctrinal theology at its relevant best. Jones develops his argument imaginatively with much effective use of narrative, which also serves to earth the discussion in real situations. . . immensely readable and often profound, this book suggests a fresh and challenging way of doing Christian theology. It should be widely read."

New Theology Review
"Any doubts that L. Gregory Jones is a significant voice in Christian theology today are dispelled by his most recent book, Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis. The core thesis of this remarkable work is that for Christians forgiveness involves much more than a single gesture or even a repentant spirit. . . Jones has written a masterpiece that is compelling and challenging, but also full of hope because his aim is to remind us that with a God who 'makes all things new,' no situation, however destructive, and no past, however painful, need ever control us. There is no better book than this on a subject that strikes at the heart of life. Beautifully written, carefully argued, and refreshingly substantive, Embodying Forgiveness is destined to be a classic."

Pro Ecclesia
"A bold but careful analysis of forgiveness and its centrality within the contexts of Christian theology and practice. . . Jones offers a powerful challenge as much to the practices as to the understandings of today's church. . . A must read for every Christian theologian and pastor, though many others will find it richly rewarding as well."

Religious Studies Review
"This important book seeks to restore forgiveness as a central category for Christian theology and ethics. . . Though primarily a scholarly work, the numerous allusions to scripture and contemporary biography and literature enrich the argument and enhance its accessibility to non-specialists, including upper level college students."

Reviews in Religion & Theology (U.K.)
"Extremely readable and tightly argued. . . One of the greatest successes of the book is its use of the resources of core Christian themes in arguing about the everyday practice of Christian life. . . Extremely readable and suggestive . . . an extremely important contribution to current theological writing."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 333 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (August 31, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802808611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802808615
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #728,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book explores the idea of and difficulty surrounding forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard. Jones uses illustrations from works such as Simon Wiesenthal's 'The Sunflower', Flannery O'Connor's short stories, Toni Morrison's 'Beloved', and others as integral elements of the theological arguments behind the significance, embodiment and practice of forgiveness.
The cost of forgiveness is high, often too high for most to manage. A lip-service to forgiveness can be stated; a conciliatory tone can be managed in one's mind and practice, but then, often, the deeper emotion of anger, betrayal, hurt, etc., whatever is at the root of the need for forgiveness, can unexpectedly become present once more.
Starting with a discussion of Bonhoeffer, who decried the ideas of cheap grace and cookie-cutter forgiveness models of the church of his time, Jones explores the thorny theological issues which surround what happens in forgiveness.
'For Bonhoeffer, there is no real grace without judgment. Sin cannot be overlooked or forgotten; it must be confronted and judged in the context of forgiveness.'
True forgiveness must confront the hurt and evil face on; it cannot mask it, it cannot overlook it, and of course it cannot truly forget it. Forgiveness as an active process must work through the hurt, and will have a cost, primarily, the cost of letting go of the pain, which often is a sustaining force that helps carry the injured or abused through life.
While forgiveness can work in community, in many cases, such as Wiesenthal's experience with the SS officer or Bonhoeffer's work against the Nazis, forgiveness has to be a personal act, and cannot truly become the act of community. Forgiveness in such cases takes place in relative isolation from the community ('the Body of Christ', in Jones' theology).
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Tedd Steele on October 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
Jones' book is a wonderful example of Christian thinking about forgiveness. The book opens with a criticism of two views of forgiveness Jones' wants to counter. The first is "therapeutic forgiveness" which is almost purely psychological, making it a version of cheap grace. The other problematic view is the "eclipse of forgiveness" which supposes that our world is so violent that forgiveness is largely futile and meaninless. In the second part of the book, Jones presents his own views of forgiveness. It begins with the Triune God who reveals himself in the costly forgivenss brought about in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit makes this costly gift known to humans through the church. People can then respond to God's forgiveness. For Jones, forgiveness comes first and repentance is a response to forgiveness. Christians are then to live in response to their own forgiven-ness. In the final section of the book, Jones discusses where the church meets the world and forgiveness is required. He says that Christians must respond to God's forgiveness by hoping that all will one day be forgiven. This forgiveness requires great patience, especially when it comes to enemies. This is a wonderful book. It is highly recommended to Christians who want to understand what it means to live as the forgiven people of God.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is an important work into the theology of forgiveness that presents serious pastoral and ethical concerns for the discerning reader. The method employed by the author, L. Gregory Jones, a United Methodist and associate professor of theology at Loyola Maryland, Baltimore, takes under consideration the grounding theology of Karl Barth and the thomistic emphasis on the learned craft of a living practice of forgiveness.
As a Catholic (trained in a United Methodist seminary at St. Paul School of Theology, Kansas City, Missouri), the subjects treatment raises issues for me of the sacramental rite of penance and its mediation of reconciliation. Although not specifically addressed in this context, Jones questions the efficacy of forgiveness by others without the approbation of victims. Again, the discerning reader may want to consider the pastoral implication this raises.
A well researched and stylized presentation, "Embodying Forgiveness" offers its readers an excellent resource for preaching in a culture which avoids the costly reality of authentic forgiveness. For those who appreciate the model discipleship of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jones develops a compatible theological approach of reconciliation by virtue of the costliness and hard word required of a life which `embodies forgiveness.'
And lastly, forgiveness is presented in the framework of the triune God whose self giving love is established in communion with us who have been created for that unique purpose. Truly, we have here a worthy pursuit of the reader's time for those willing to grapple with its unsettling message.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Erin J on July 14, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
L. Gregory Jones gives us a serious, meaningful, and deep study and dialogue with the Christian call and struggle to forgive. This is no simple forgive and forget just because you know you should type of writing. Instead, Jones wrestles with the idea that pain and evil are realities that cannot be simply glossed over with a cliche' of Christian words and piety. Anyone who is interested in the battle against evil and the answers that the cross of Jesus offers over against this struggle against evil, need to read this book.

Jones engages many dialogue partners in his writings and in so doing tells the stories, biographically, of people who have had profound stuggles with forgiveness in the face of extreme brutallity, violence and pain. For example Jones shares with us the life and struggles of Bonhoeffer against the evil's of Hitler and the Nazi's. This and many other stories are taken up and examined.

Jones maintains that forgiveness is not easy, but what we as Christians are called to embody in practice. One story which he quotes that illustrates this is the story of the Turks who oppressed the Armenian's. This powerful story illustrates the position that Jones essentially takes.

"A Turkish officer raided and looted the Armenian home. He

killed the aged parents and gave the daughters to the

soldiers, keeping the eldest daughter for himself. Some

time later she escaped and trained as a nurse. As time

passed, she found herself nursing in a ward of Turkish

officers. One night, by the light of a lantern, she saw

the face of this officer. He was so gravely ill that

without exceptional nursing he would die. The days passed,

and he recovered.
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