Forgiveness and Christian character: reconciliation, exemplarism and the shape of moral theology

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Acts of Christian forgiveness that run counter to natural inclinations and ethical intuitions raise questions about the nature of human identity and the basis of moral theology. An assessment of the biblical and theological warrant for Christian forgiveness challenges the ethical misappropriation of the language of covenant, torah and righteousness to that of contract, law and justice. The argument is made that forgiveness should be seen as normative - indeed, obligatory rather than supererogatory. A theological account is then provided of the conditions under which our natural inclinations are transformed so as to facilitate an orientation of forgiveness. It is argued that the doctrines of the incarnation and human participation in the mind of Christ (where transformation is conceived as both 'evangelical' and 'ecclesial') are axiomatic for interpreting the Christian life and thus moral theology. This leads to the conclusion that a combination of 'reconciled exemplarism' and 'semantic externalism' is key to the exposition of Christian ethics - the language of which tracks God's historical engagement with humanity rather than denoting immanent, ethical categories.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-313
Number of pages21
JournalStudies in Christian Ethics
Issue number3
Early online date17 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • Forgiveness
  • Transformation
  • Covenant
  • Law
  • Reconciliation
  • Exemplarism
  • Semantic externalism


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