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Posted December 13, 2004

Book: Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition
Author: Hans Boersma
Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp. 288

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

The Cross is central to any understanding of Christian theology. But what is the primary significance of the cross: Godís victory over death and hell? The moral example of a righteous sufferer? Godís Son taking the punishment for the worldís sin? Or is it possible that in our postmodern setting these traditional views of the atonement are irrelevant and outmoded? In this important study, Hans Boersma proposes an understanding of the atonement that is sensitive to both the Christian tradition and postmodern critiques of that tradition.

Throughout his work, Boersma takes seriously the critics of traditional atonement theology. He also acknowledges a certain paradoxical tension between violence and hospitality that will remain a mystery. Nevertheless, he offers a substantial response in the form of an alternative account of violence that also reenvisions the atonement as divine hospitality.

An Excerpt from the Book:

God ďstetched out His hands on the Cross, that He might embrace the ends of the world; for this Golgotha is the very center of the earth,Ē wrote Cyril of Jerusalem around A.D.347. His comment illustrates the fact that it is at the foot of the cross that we learn from God how hospitality is to function. The human practice of hospitality is, in the words of Reinhard Hutter, ďboth a reflection and an extension of Godís own hospitality ó Godís sharing of the love of the triune lifewith those who are dust. At the very center of this hospitality stands both a death and a resurrection, the most fundamental enactment of truth from Godís side and precisely therefore also the threshold of Godís abundant hospitality.Ē According to the Christian understanding of history, Christís death and resurrection constitute the ultimate experience of Godís hospitality and form the matrix for an understanding of all Godís actions and as such also the normative paradigm for human actions.

In Cyril and Hutterís understanding, God has embodied his hospitality n the cross. The well-known parable of the prodigal son functions as an icon of this embodied hospitality. The parable, often accused of lacking in Christology, in reality presents us with our crucified Lord. It depicts Godís embracing welcome of sinners into his eternal home. Throughout the history of the Church, this parable has rightly functioned as a narrative description of Godís grace of forgiveness and renewal. The story captures for us the amazing interplay between divine grace and human freedom. Divine grace enters the picture in a number of ways: a father who unceremoniously runs up to his lost son to receive him back and who ignores his dignity as the paterfamilias must have a very special place for his son in his heart. A father who restores his prodigal sonís position as a member in the community (offering him the best robe), who grants him authority (giving him a ring to wear), and who gives him freedom (putting sandals on his feet) is someone who manifestly revels in the celebration of fellowship between father and child. The parable of the prodigal son is, therefore, equally the parable of the hospitable father.

At the same time, Godís hospitality does not nullify human freedom. The fatherís embrace does not force itself in tyrannical fashion on a son who has no choice but to endure the fatherís imposition of his love. Hospitality rejects the violence of a totalizing imposition of oneself on the other, the violence that forces the other to be shaped into oneís own image. The fatherís love, says Henri Nouwen in his commentary on Rembrandtís painting of the prodigal son, ďcannot force, constrain, push, or pull. It offers the freedom to reject that love or to love in return.Ē A forced embrace would mean the loss of hospitality through the violence of the imposition of the host on the stranger. Even when we have lost our way and when our lives have come to an end, Godís hospitable grace requires that we enter voluntarily into his loving embrace.

Table of Contents:

Part 1 The Divine Face of Hospitality

1. The Possibility of hospitality
2. Limited Hospitality: Election and Violence in Eternity
3. Preferential Hospitality: Election and Violence in History

Part 2 The Cruciform Face of Hospitality

4. Atonement, Metaphors, and Models
5. Modeling Hospitality: Atonement as Moral Influence
6. Atonement and Mimetic Violence
7. Hospitality, Punishment, and the Atonement
8. Atonement, Violence and Victory

Part 3 The Public Face of Hospitality

9. The Church as the Community of Hospitality
10. Public Justice and the Hospitality of Liberation
Epilogue: The End of Violence: Eschatology and Deification