Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Boersma on Violence, Hospitality and the Cross

Boersma, Hans. Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004).

This is the second book I have read by a Regent College theologian lately with which I find myself in great agreement. This is refreshing, being that this was not the case while I was there. Packer was stuck in the age of the Puritans and Grenz was still quite baptistic while I was there. And they were just both quite boring and non-constructive in their theology.

Boersma is quite different though. While not opting for being theologically novel, he is generative and creative. In some ways, in his advocating of all the three historic metaphors of the atonement, he wants to have his cake and eat it too. He synthesizes them around a larger metaphor of the hospitality of God. But this is no the open, unlimited hospitality of the pacifists (Yoder, Hauerwas) or of post-modern thought (Derrida, Levinas). Nor is the "limited hospitality" of the Calvinistic tradition. Instead he opts for what he calls "preferential hospitality" seeking a way of understanding the atonement that is historical, corporate and personal in nature, as opposed to the juridicizing, individualizing and de-historicizing that has shaped the atonement tradition of the West (163). He writes of how this is tied to the election of Israel:

"Israel's election was never for its own sake. Not only was election in no way based on Israel's prior condition (whether in terms of numerical size, economic growth, or moral integrity), but also  the purpose election reached beyond Israel. God had in mind more than just he salvation of Israel." (80)

"The surrounding nations could either stand in awe of God's hospitality toward Israel and her response to God, or they could respond in astonishment to Israel's rejection of God's hospitality. The purpose of divine hospitality is ultimately not just to draw Israel into relationship with God but also to restore the intimacy of love with all humanity and with the entire created order." (87)

To summarize: Boersma argues that Jesus reconstitutes (Wright) or recapitulates (Irenaeus) humanity by being the faithful Israel. Jesus did this in his life by modeling for humanity the true way of living (moral influence model) and representing humanity on the cross as a vicarious substitution for humanities sin (penal substitution model reformulated) (see page 167) so as to attain victory over the powers of darkness. "The three models are not unrelated. Christ's victory over the powers is the telos and climax of his work of recapitulation. In other words, the victory is the result of the entire process of recapitulation." (181)

Boersma sees hospitality as coinciding as a part of this eschatological era. God chose Israel and in this particularity set boundaries by not choosing others. In this way there is a form of violence. This violence is not part of the character of God but is a necessity due to the nature of the time. In choosing one way there is a violent exclusion to what is not lining up with that way. As a result, hospitality does not mean "nice."

5 comments:

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Scott Boren said...

If you are reading this post, please enlighten me on what has driven you to it. I was surprised to learn recently that it has gotten so much traffic. I wrote this it for my own benefit. I want to learn why people have come to it on a website where theology, or at least atonement theology is not the primary focus.

Josh said...

I came across it by looking for reviews on this book. Thanks for the quotes.

Edward Aldrich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kyle L. said...

I google searched the book and your post was the second link...