Forgiveness: A theology
Cascade Books £14
IN THIS rather technical book on interpersonal forgiveness, the author, who teaches at Durham University, says that “It is time for interpersonal forgiveness to be woken from the sleep in which it has been neglectfully left and to take its rightful place in theology and practice.”
He then proceeds with an academic discussion about hermeneutics, Jesus’s part in forgiveness, the process of forgiveness, and its nature. This very well-researched and -presented book is divided into three parts.
It begins with Conceptual Questions, which I found challenging to my more casual approach to forgiveness, in which I feel that forgiving everyone, including my enemies, is the hallmark of Christianity and so must be worked at in prayer, and its lack brought to confession. Bash is much more analytical and less sentimental.
In the second part, looking at textual questions, the author examines the biblical references to forgiveness in St Paul, in the Synoptic Gospels, and the epistles. I especially appreciated the comments on the Parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18.23-35). Bash writes: “This approach to forgiveness in Matthew’s Gospel makes good sense psychologically and pastorally. It is experiencing undeserved grace and mercy that changes a person and enables them to be mediators of grace and mercy to others.”
The short third part discusses farther questions on Forgiveness and Justice, discussing the tension between these concepts. “Nothing can fully ‘put back the clock’ but wrongdoers can use their best endeavours to put thing right. This, it seems to me, is good enough justice.” Bash then discusses modern-day forgiveness. This covers, among other things, the idea of nations’ asking forgiveness for forebears’ misplaced actions.
Bash approaches the whole subject with great erudition, although not at great length, which is part of the book’s attraction. It would be useful to someone who is wondering about the whole Christian concept of forgiveness in a cerebral way, but not so suitable for someone struggling to forgive, who requires a more subjective approach.
Prebendary William Scott was until recently Sub Dean of the Chapels Royal.