Integrating restorative justice language, theory and experience into biblical and theological studies, and also letting the Bible speak into today’s peacemaking practices.
Every theology, in the end, should be measured by its practical outcomes. – Ted Lewis
The convergence of restorative justice and restorative theology is multi-faceted. Sometimes it involves the use of terminology to illuminate a perspective; sometimes it involves a thematic engagement, such as exploring the theme of forgiveness or punishment. Thirdly, lived experience can also be a rich narrative source in the nexus of restorative themes and theological matters.
Various Christian traditions and authors each bring a distinct offering to this rich convergence. When viewed together, one sees the wideness and depth of this field of study, ranging from trauma studies to atonement theories.
The following list provides a limited review of theologians and traditions featured on this website. In hopes of being both inclusive and comprehensive, suggestions for new content are welcomed.
Christopher Marshall. God’s restorative justice is non-punitive, and is fully expressed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus who overcame violence and death through non-violence, non-retaliation and non-resistance.
N. T. Wright. God’s restorative justice is central to Paul’s view of justification and God’s righteousness, fulfilling older Hebrew visions of covenantal justice as rendering life and peace, putting all things to rights.
Michael Gorman. God’s restorative justice draws God’s followers into a participatory formation process which is patterned after the dying and rising movements of Christ in whom all things are transformed and reconciled.
Older Christian Traditions:
Anabaptist Theologies. God’s restorative justice corresponds to the simplest and most profound teachings of Jesus which serve to identify God’s faithful people through lifestyles of nonviolent peacemaking. Jesus walked his own peace-talk when he forgave others and laid down his life, entrusting all outcomes to God.
Liberatory Theologies. God’s restorative justice attunes us to the realities of institutional evil, injustice, oppression, violence, racism, sexism, etc. God’s solidarity with all who are vulnerable, victimized and traumatized serves to empower relational healing as well as transformational building of the “beloved community” and “peaceable kingdom.”
Evangelical Theologies. God’s restorative justice attunes us to the dignity of offending human beings who are loved and respected by God while still in need of deep conversion and repentance, which starts in the heart and works outwardly toward right relationships. The adage “love the sinner but hate the sin” represents God’s solidarity with the offender.
Catholic (Social) Theologies. God’s restorative justice is rooted in God’s own virtues and prescribed by God’s created “natural order,” thus sourcing all human virtues that sustain the common good in communities or societies. All people, made in God’s image, can participate in these “first principles” (Aquinas) to address matters of harm and conflict.
Narrative Theologies. God’s restorative justice is illuminated by the medium of story, both in the content of God’s revelatory communication within human histories of harm and conflict, and in the forms of revelation passed down through the ages. Communication dynamics of dialogue, listening, responding, and being heard are thereby illuminated.
Note: In due time, each of these theological traditions will have their own webpage with fuller content and references. Would you like to assist in this effort? Contact us.
Read an article by Ted Lewis: “Theological Reflections from an RJ Practitioner”
View these blog series by Ted Lewis on biblical narratives and restorative themes:
Each series has 5 parts, however, Part 1 will be at the bottom of page.
Bridge-Building Conversations: Common Elements in Relational Peacemaking and Francis Schaeffer’s Apologetic Ministry (go to bottom of page for a PDF)
Artwork on this page by Michael Carroll, Celtic Design