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Atonement

Edited by Daniel von Wachter (International Academy of Philosophy)
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Summary Christianity claims that through Jesus Christ's death on the cross a man can receive forgiveness and thus ‘eternal life’. This is expressed by saying that Christ ‘atoned’ for man's sin. The texts in this category discuss whether and how this is possible. Different views of the atonement are for example the penal substitution theory and the reparation view.
Key works Davis et al 2006 is a collection of new articles about the atonement. Swinburne 1989 is a detailed theory of the atonement, arguing that Christ enabled man to pay the debt. Porter 2004 defends penal substitution. Anselm's Cur deus homo? is the most thorough early treaties about the atonement.
Introductions Porter 2004
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  1. Marilyn McCord Adams (2008). Plantinga on “Felix Culpa”. Faith and Philosophy 25 (2):123-140.
    In “Supralapsarianism, or ‘O Felix Culpa,’” Alvin Plantinga turns from defensive apologetics to the project of Christian explanation and offers a supralapsarian theodicy: the reason God made us in a world like this is that God wanted to create a world including the towering goods of Incarnation and atonement—goods which are appropriate only in worlds containing a sufficient amount of sin, suffering, and evil as well. Plantinga’s approach makes human agents and their sin, suffering and evil, instrumental means to the (...)
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  2. Tim Bayne & Greg Restall (2009). A Participatory Model of the Atonement. In Yujin Nagasawa & Erik J. Wielenberg (eds.), New Waves in Philosophy of Religion. Palgrave Macmillan. 150.
    In this paper we develop a participatory model of the Christian doctrine of the atonement, according to which the atonement involves participating in the death and resurrection of Christ. In part one we argue that current models of the atonement—exemplary, penal, substitutionary and merit models—are unsatisfactory. The central problem with these models is that they assume a purely deontic conception of sin and, as a result, they fail to address sin as a relational and ontological problem. In part two we (...)
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  3. Christopher Bennett (2003). Personal and Redemptive Forgiveness. European Journal of Philosophy 11 (2):127–144.
    Some philosophers think that forgiveness should only be granted in response to the wrongdoer’s repentance, while others think that forgiveness can properly be given unconditionally. In this paper I show that both of these positions are partially correct. In redemptive forgiveness we wipe the wrong from the offender’s moral record. It is wrong to forgive redemptively in the absence of some atonement. Personal forgiveness, on the other hand, is granted when the victim overcomes inappropriate though humanly understandable feelings of hate (...)
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  4. Christopher Bennett (2002). The Varieties of Retributive Experience. Philosophical Quarterly 52 (207):145-163.
    Retribution is often dismissed as augmenting the initial harm done, rather than ameliorating it. This criticism rests on a crude view of retribution. In our actual practice in informal situations and in the workings of the reactive (properly called 'retributive') sentiments, retribution is true to the gravity of wrongdoing, but does aim to ameliorate it. Through wrongdoing, offenders become alienated from the moral community: their actions place their commitment to its core values in doubt. We recognize this status in blaming, (...)
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  5. David Brown (2004). Anselm on Atonement. In Brian Leftow (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Anselm. Cambridge Univ Pr.
    A detailed analysis of the argument of ’Cur Deus Homo’ is offered. Particular attention is paid to where the argument might now be thought to be at its weakest, in two unargued assumptions: the relevance of aesthetic considerations, and the presumed connection between the actions of one man and all humanity. The reasons for these assumptions are explored, as also the meaning of the key term ’satisfaction.’ It is argued that for Anselm only Christ’s death constituted a debt not owed, (...)
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  6. Richard Cross (2001). Atonement Without Satisfaction. Religious Studies 37 (4):397-416.
    According to Swinburne, one way of dealing with the guilt that attaches to a morally bad action is satisfaction, consisting of repentance, apology, reparation, and penance. Thus, Christ's life and death make atonement for human sin by providing a reparation which human beings would otherwise be unable to pay. I argue that the nature of God's creative activity entails that human beings can by themselves make reparation for their sins, merely by apology. So there is no need for additional reparation, (...)
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  7. Amir Dastmalchian (2012). Swinburne on the Atonement: Reflections on Philosophical Theology and Religious Dialogue. Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue (10):49-60.
    This study examines an important part of Richard Swinburne’s case for the plausibility of Christianity, namely his Atonement theory. My examination begins by presenting Swinburne’s theory before alluding to the many criticisms it has attracted. I conclude with some lessons which can be learnt about philosophical theology and its use in interreligious dialogue. My main contention is that if philosophical theology is going to be used for inter-religious dialogue, then it should not be used with the expectation that disagreements will (...)
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  8. Stephen T. Davis, Daniel Kendall & Gerald O'Collins (eds.) (2006). The Redemption. Oxford Up.
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  9. Peter S. Dillard (2009). A Minor Matter? The Franciscan Thesis and Philosophical Theology. Heythrop Journal 50 (5):890-900.
    The Franciscan thesis maintains that the primary motive of the Incarnation is to glorify the triune God in the person of Jesus Christ: though Christ atones for human sins, his coming isn’t relative to our need for redemption but rather has an absolute primacy. The Franciscan thesis is sometimes associated with the counterfactual claim that Christ would have come even if humans hadn’t sinned. In recent work on the Franciscan thesis, an attempt is made to prove the counterfactual claim on (...)
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  10. S. F. (2000). Tommi Lehtonen Punishment, Atonement and Merit in Modern Philosophy of Religion. (Schriften der Luther–Agricola Gesellschaft, 44). (Helsinki: Luther–Agricola Society, 1999). Pp. 292. £15.00 Pbk. [REVIEW] Religious Studies 36 (1):123-125.
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  11. John E. Hare (2010). Atonement, Justification, and Sanctification. In A Companion to Philosophy of Religion (Second Edition). Wiley Blackwell.
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  12. David B. Hershenov (1999). Restitution and Revenge. Journal of Philosophy 96 (2):79-94.
    The aim of this paper is to provide a broad sketch of the advantages of the debt/atonement approach to punishment. Such an approach is appealing for it can benefit both the victim and the remorseful victimizer. Compared to other theories, it gives a fuller and more unified account of our intuitions about paying debts, doing penance, alleviating guilt, granting forgiveness, and offsetting privileges, pleasures and burdens. The theory also allows us to avoid justifying punishment on the basis of using some (...)
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  13. Haig Khatchadourian (1982). Just Ethical Punishment. Journal of Value Inquiry 16 (1):3 - 20.
    THE PAPER ANALYZES THE NATURE, FORMS AND PURPOSE OF JUST ETHICAL PUNISHMENT, LAYING DOWN THE NECESSARY CONDITIONS FOR IT. THEY INCLUDE: (1) SELF-ADMINISTRATION OF PUNISHMENT; (2) PROPORTIONALITY OF PUNISHMENT (DEPRIVATION OF VALUES, MENTAL PAIN, ETC.) TO THE VICTIM’S DEPRIVATION OF VALUES AND HIS PAIN; (3) NON-INFLICTION OF PHYSICAL PAIN OR MENTAL CRUELTY; AND (4) THE PUNISHER’S MORAL ENTITLEMENT (AND PROPER EXERCISE OF THE RIGHT) TO PUNISH THE OFFENDER. THE CONCLUDING SECTION CONSIDERS WITTGENSTEIN’S VIEW THAT ETHICAL PUNISHMENT "MUST RESIDE IN THE (...)
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  14. Aurel Kolnai (1973). Forgiveness. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 74:91 - 106.
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  15. John Kronen & Eric Reitan (2004). Talbott's Universalism, Divine Justice, and the Atonement. Religious Studies 40 (3):249-268.
    Thomas Talbott has argued that the following propositions are inconsistent: (1) it is God's redemptive purpose for the world (and therefore His will) to reconcile all sinners to Himself; (2) it is within God's power to achieve His redemptive purpose for the world; (3) some sinners will never be reconciled to God, and God will therefore either consign them to a place of eternal punishment, from which there will be no hope of escape, or put them out of existence altogether. (...)
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  16. Brent G. Kyle (2013). Punishing and Atoning: A New Critique of Penal Substitution. [REVIEW] International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 74 (2):201-218.
    The doctrine of penal substitution claims that it was good (or required) for God to punish in response to human sin, and that Christ received this punishment in our stead. I argue that this doctrine’s central factual claim—that Christ was punished by God—is mistaken. In order to punish someone, one must at least believe the recipient is responsible for an offense. But God surely did not believe the innocent Christ was responsible for an offense, let alone the offense of human (...)
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  17. Brian Leftow (1997). Anselm on the Cost of Salvation. Medieval Philosophy and Theology 6 (1):73 - 92.
    This paper examines Anselm’s reply to this argument in order to shed light on a number of issues in philosophical theology, including the metaphysics of the Incarnation, the relation between perfect being theology and the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Atonement, the senses in which the Christian God might be impassible, and the nature of God’s perfect rationality and wisdom. (edited).
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  18. David Lewis (1997). Do We Believe in Penal Substitution? Philosophical Papers 26 (3):203 - 209.
    If a guilty offender is justly sentenced to be punished and an innocent volunteer agrees to be punished instead, is that any reason to leave the offender unpunished? In the context of mundane criminal justice, we mostly think not. But in a religious context, some Christians do believe in penal substitution as a theory of the atonement. However, it is not just these Christians, but most of us, who are of two minds. If the punishment is an imprisonment or death, (...)
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  19. Patrick Madigan (2006). Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition by Hans Boersma. Heythrop Journal 47 (4):655–657.
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  20. David Mcnaughton (1992). Reparation and Atonement. Religious Studies 28 (2):129 - 144.
    Richard Swinburne (in his "Responsibility and Atonement") argues for a sacrificial version of the Atonement, in which the individual penitent offers the life of Christ to God in (partial) reparation for his sins. I argue that any version of this account is both conceptually incoherent and morally unsatisfying and offer in its place a version of the exemplary theory of the Atonement which, I claim, meets the conditions he lays down for any satisfactory account.
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  21. James Montmarquet (2007). Planned Forgiveness. American Philosophical Quarterly 44 (3):285 - 296.
    My argument is that, strictly, forgiveness cannot be planned in advance in part because ’to plan to forgive when X happens’ is already to forgive (as long as one foresees X happening). I go on to argue that if one foresees that X would involve great moral harm to an innocent, it is clearly better to prevent X (if possible) and forgive without it. The main interest of these arguments is their bearing on certain Christian accounts of the atonement for (...)
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  22. Steven L. Porter (2004). Swinburnian Atonement and the Doctrine of Penal Substitution. Faith and Philosophy 21 (2):228-241.
    This paper is a philosophical defense of the doctrine of penal substitution. I begin with a delineation of Richard Swinburne’s satisfaction-type theory of the atonement, exposing a weakness of it which motivates a renewed look at the theory of penal substitution. In explicating a theory of penal substitution, I contend that: (i) the execution of retributive punishment is morally justified in certain cases of deliberate wrongdoing; (ii) deliberate human sin against God constitutes such a case; and (iii) the transfer of (...)
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  23. R. Dennis Potter (1999). Did Christ Pay for Our Sins? Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 32 (4).
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  24. Richard L. Purtill (1990). Justice, Mercy, Supererogation, and Atonement. In Thomas P. Flint (ed.), Christian Philosophy. Univ Notre Dame Pr.
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  25. Philip Quinn (1993). Abelard on Atonement: Nothing Unintelligible, Arbitrary, Illogical, or Immoral About It'. In E. Stump (ed.), Reasoned Faith. Cornell Univ Pr.
    This paper is devoted to discussion of Abelard’s account of the Christian doctrine of the Atonement. It defends his account against charges of Exemplarism and Pelagianism. It also argues that his account contains material that ought to be incorporated into Christian thinking about the Atonement. Abelard’s constructive contribution to such thinking is the idea that divine love, made manifest in the life and death of Jesus, has the power to transform human sinners, if they cooperate, in ways that fit them (...)
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  26. Philip L. Quinn (1986). Christian Atonement and Kantian Justification. Faith and Philosophy 3 (4):440-462.
    THIS PAPER IS A STUDY OF KANT’S ATTEMPT TO RECONSTRUCT THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF ATONEMENT WITHIN THE LIMITS OF REASON. IT BEGINS WITH A BRIEF SKETCH OF ANSELM’S SATISFACTION-THEORETIC ACCOUNT OF ATONEMENT AND THEN PRESENTS THE MAIN OBJECTIONS TO THAT ACCOUNT. NEXT KANT’S ACCOUNT OF ATONEMENT IS GIVEN A DETAILED EXPOSITION, AND IT IS SHOWN THAT IT AVOIDS THE DIFFICULTIES THAT PLAGUE ANSELM’S ACCOUNT. KANT’S ACCOUNT IS THEN SUBJECTED TO CRITICISM.
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  27. Linda Radzik (2009). Making Amends: Atonement in Morality, Law, and Politics. Oxford University Press.
    An ethic for wrongdoers -- Repaying moral debts : self-punishment and restitution -- Changing one's heart, changing the past : repentance and moral transformation -- Reforming relationships : the reconciliation theory of atonement -- Forgiveness, self-forgiveness, and redemption -- Making amends for crime : an evaluation of restorative justice -- Collective atonement : making amends to the Magdalen penitents.
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  28. Paul Reasoner & Charles Taliaferro (2009). The Double-Movement Model of Forgiveness in Buddhist and Christian Rituals. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 1 (1):27 - 39.
    We offer a model of moral reform and regeneration that involves a wrong-doer making two movements: on the one hand, he identifies with himself as the one who did the act, while he also intentionally moves away from that self (or set of desires and intentions) and moves toward a transformed identity. We see this model at work in the formal practice of contrition and reform in Christian and Buddhist rites. This paper is part of a broader project we are (...)
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  29. Bruce R. Reichenbach (2004). Dances of Death: Self-Sacrifice and Atonement. In Mel Gibson’s ’Passion’ and Philosophy: The Cross, the Questions, the Controversy. Open Court.
    Heidegger affirms that we find authenticity in resolutely affirming our own death; but how might the death of another provide meaning for one’s life? We explore how Mel Gibson portrays the meaning of Jesus’ death for others in his movie, ’The Passion of the Christ’, by considering the movie’s diverse views of atonement. The movie contains clear statements of the ancient ’Christus victor’ and moral transformation themes, though Gibson misses that moral transformation requires more than a resilient death. Although he (...)
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  30. Bruce R. Reichenbach (1999). Inclusivism and the Atonement. Faith and Philosophy 16 (1):43-54.
    Richard Swinburne claims that Christ’s death has no efficacy unless people appropriate it. According to religious inclusivists, God can be encountered and his grace manifested in various ways through diverse religions. Salvation is available for everyone, regardless of whether they have heard about Christ’s sacrifice. This poses the question whether Swinburne’s view of atonement is available to the inclusivist. I develop an inclusivist interpretation of the atonement that incorporates his four features of atonement, along with a subjective dimension that need (...)
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  31. Robert C. Roberts (2002). Virtues and the Atonement of Christ. Faith and Philosophy 19 (3):275-290.
    What is the relation between the perfection that Christians have in Christ, by dint of his substitutionary Atonement for sinners, and the virtues to which we are called as believers? How does the Atonement affect the moral life of Christians and how are we to understand our virtues in the light of what God has done for us in Christ? This paper identifies three interactions between the Atonement and our virtues: the generative aspect, the dual attitude aspect, and the pervasion (...)
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  32. J. L. Schellenberg (2002). Christianity Saved? Comments on Swinburne's Apologetic Strategies in the Tetralogy. Religious Studies 38 (3):283-300.
    This paper begins by surveying some of the problems facing Swinburne's general approach, finding unfortunate the absence from his tetralogy of a strategy (suggested at the end of the previous trilogy) that might have helped to alleviate them, namely an attempt to show that a traditional Christian creed is more probable than the creed of any other religion. It then discusses certain particular arguments of the tetralogy – arguments offered in defence of the traditional Christian doctrine of the Atonement (...)
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  33. Patrick Sherry (1998). Redeeming the Past. Religious Studies 34 (2):165-175.
    I take up Richard Swinburne's point, in his "Responsibility and Atonement," Ch. 5, that although the past cannot be changed, wrongdoers may change its significance by 'disowning' their actions through atonement, just as their victims may do so through forgiveness. I argue that the point can and should be pressed much more strongly than it is by Swinburne within the terms of his own discussion; and that it has a much wider significance, transcending that discussion, for there is a constant (...)
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  34. John Smith, Oppenheim E., M. Frank & Josiah Royce (2001). The Problem of Christianity. Cath Univ Amer Pr.
    Josiah Royce’s late masterpiece, ’The Problem of Christianity’, is based on a series of lectures he delivered at Manchester College, Oxford, in 1913. It presents his philosophical interpretation of Christianity’s fundamental ideas--community, sin, atonement, and saving grace; shows their relevance to the current confluence of world religions; and grounds his position upon a personal transformation into genuine loyalty toward the community of the entire human family. (publisher, edited).
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  35. Eleonore Stump (2007). Justifying Faith, Free Will, and the Atonement. In Richard Velkley (ed.), Freedom and the Human Person. Catholic Univ of America Pr.
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  36. Eleonore Stump (1988). Atonement According to Aquinas. In Philosophy and the Christian Faith. Univ Notre Dame Pr.
    THE DOCTRINE OF THE ATONEMENT IS THE CENTRAL DOCTRINE OF CHRISTIANITY, BUT IT HAS NOT RECEIVED MUCH ATTENTION IN CONTEMPORARY PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION, IN PART BECAUSE IT TENDS TO BE KNOWN ONLY IN AN UNREFLECTIVE VERSION FULL OF PHILOSOPHICAL AND THEOLOGICAL PROBLEMS. I PRESENT AN ALTERNATIVE VERSION OF THE DOCTRINE, TAKEN FROM AQUINAS, ARGUE THAT IT IS A COGENT AND CONSISTENT ACCOUNT, AND SHOW THAT IT DOES NOT SUFFER FROM THE PROBLEMS OF THE UNREFLECTIVE VERSION.
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  37. Richard Swinburne (2002). Response to My Commentators. Religious Studies 38 (3):301-315.
    This is my response to the critical commentaries by Hasker, McNaughton and Schellenberg on my tetralogy on Christian doctrine. I dispute the moral principles invoked by McNaughton and Schellenberg in criticism of my theodicy and theory of atonement. I claim, contrary to Hasker, that I have taken proper account of the ‘existential dimension' of Christianity. I agree that whether it is rational to pursue the Christian way depends not only on how probable it is that the Christian creed is true (...)
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  38. Richard Swinburne (1988). The Christian Scheme of Salvation. In Thomas V. Morris (ed.), Philosophy and the Christian Faith. Univ. Of Notre Dame Press. 13-30.
    FAILURE TO OBSERVE OBLIGATIONS PRODUCES OBJECTIVE GUILT; FAILURE TO OBSERVE BELIEVED OBLIGATIONS PRODUCES SUBJECTIVE GUILT. A GUILTY PERSON MUST MAKE ATONEMENT. ATONEMENT CONSISTS OF REPENTANCE, APOLOGY, REPARATION AND PENANCE. THE PROCESS OF UNDOING THE WRONG IS COMPLETED WHEN THE WRONGED PERSON FORGIVES. NO ONE CAN MAKE THE GUILTY ONE’S REPENTANCE AND APOLOGY FOR HIM, BUT ANOTHER CAN PROVIDE THE MEANS OF REPARATION AND PENANCE. WHEN HUMANS SIN AGAINST GOD THEY NEED TO APOLOGISE WITH REPENTANCE, AND PLEAD THE ATONING SACRIFICE WHICH (...)
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  39. Charles Taliaferro (2004). The Focus of The Passion Puts the Person of Jesus Out of Focus. In Mel Gibson’s ’Passion’ and Philosophy: The Cross, the Questions, the Controversy. Open Court.
    We argue that glory, while seductive, should not be sought for its own sake. We employ some Greek ethics, personalism, and the superhero figures "The Fantastic Four".
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  40. Jerry L. Walls (2004). Christ's Atonement: Washing Away Human Sin. In Mel Gibson’s ’Passion’ and Philosophy: The Cross, the Questions, the Controversy. Open Court.
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  41. Jeremy Watkins (2005). Forgiveness and its Place in Ethics. Theoria 71 (1):59-77.
    A number of philosophers have suggested that acts of forgiveness are pointless if the wrongdoer has atoned for his offence (since there is nothing to be forgiven) and unjustified if no atonement has been forthcoming (since there are no grounds for forgiveness). My aim in this paper is twofold. First, I try to remove this dilemma and show that forgiveness has a proper place in ethics by providing an account of its nature and justification. Second, I argue that the dilemma (...)
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  42. David L. Wheeler (1989). Toward a Process-Relational Christian Soteriology. Process Studies 18 (2):102-113.
    How might humanity experience ultimate reality as intimately related to us, as liberating us individually and corporately from disorder, and as empowering our personal self-integration? With this question in mind, this work reexamines the images and concepts of Christian doctrinal tradition which--under the rubric of the "doctrine of the atonement"--have historically promoted this experience. The extended constructive essay which concludes the book makes extensive and foundational--though not uncritical--use of Whiteheadian process-relational thought to provide new ontological grounding to Christian images and (...)
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  43. Patricia A. Williams (1998). Evolution, Sociobiology, and the Atonement. Zygon 33 (4):557-570.
    This essay views Christian doctrines of the atonement in the light of evolution and sociobiology. It argues that most of the doctrines are false because they use a false premise, the historicity of Adam and the Fall. However, two doctrines are not false on those grounds: Abelard’s idea that Jesus’ life is an example and Athanasius’s concept that the atonement changes human nature. Employing evolution’s and sociobiology’s concepts of the egocentric and ethnocentric nature of humanity and the synergy between genes (...)
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  44. Thomas Williams, Sin, Grace, and Redemption in Abelard.
    "From time to time some of my friends startle me by referring to the Atonement itself as a revolting heresy," wrote Austin Farrer, "invented by the twelfth century and exploded by the twentieth. Yet the word is in the Bible." (1) Farrer is referring to Romans 5:11 in the Authorized Version: "we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." Here the word 'atonement'--literally, the state of being "at one"--translates the Greek (...)
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  45. Byron Williston (2012). The Importance of Self-Forgiveness. American Philosophical Quarterly 49 (1):67 - 80.
    To self-forgive is to foreswear specific self-directed negative attitudes, attitudes that result from an agent’s recognition of his own moral failing. What does this foreswearing process involve? When is it justified? And what is the relation between self-forgiveness and interpersonal forgiveness? I will make two arguments in an attempt to answer these questions. First, self-forgiveness essentially involves a process of shaming whose ultimate goal is restoration of the wrongdoer’s goodness. Second, if a wrongdoer is to merit the forgiveness of his (...)
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  46. Nicholas Wolterstorff (2005). Does Forgiveness Undermine Justice? In Andrew Dole & Andrew Chignell (eds.), God and the Ethics of Belief: New Essays in Philosophy of Religion. Cambridge University Press.
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  47. Edith Wyschogrod (2006). Repentance and Forgiveness: The Undoing of Time. [REVIEW] International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 60 (1/3):157 - 168.
    Mass death resulting from war, starvation, and disease as well as the vicissitudes of extreme poverty and enforced sexual servitude are recognizably pandemic ills of the contemporary world. In light of their magnitude, are repentance, regret for the harms inflicted upon others or oneself, and forgiveness, proferring the erasure of the guilt of those who have inflicted these harms, rendered nugatory? Jacques Derrida claims that forgiveness is intrinsically rather than circumstantially or historically impossible. Forgiveness, trapped in a paradox, is possible (...)
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