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Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition

ISBN: 9781441253514
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The cross is central to any understanding of Christian theology. But what is the primary significance of the cross: God’s victory over death and hell? The moral example of a righteous sufferer? God’s Son taking the punishment for the world’s 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 to 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.

In the first section, Boersma considers the basic theological issues as well as the postmodern critique. He also addresses the question of election and proposes a biblical vision of “preferential hospitality.” In the second section, Boersma embraces the three historical views of the atonement and suggests that the “recapitulation” theory of Irenaeus is most compatible with the metaphor of divine hospitality. The third section looks at the church as the community of God’s hospitality, both in its role as the continuing presence of Christ in the world and as a proponent of public justice.

This is an important contribution to contemporary theology. In light of current criticisms, Boersma offers a new model for looking at the atonement that draws on the rich resources of the Christian tradition in its portrayal of God’s hospitality in Jesus Christ.

Essential for students, scholars, pastors, and laypeople, this informative volume brings fresh perspectives on theological matters. With the Logos Bible Software edition, searching by topic or Scripture references will further help your understanding—you’ll compare, for example, the systematic theologies of various scholars or denominations.

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Key Features

  • Proposes new ideas on atonement reflective of postmodern developments in theology
  • Discusses issues with traditional views of atonement
  • Addresses other important topics such as election and divine hospitality


  • Part 1: The Divine Face of Hospitality
    • The Possibility of Hospitality
    • Limited Hospitality: Election and Violence in Eternity
    • Preferential Hospitality: Election and Violence in History
  • Part 2: The Cruciform Face of Hospitality
    • Atonement, Metaphors, and Models
    • Modeling Hospitality: Atonement as Moral Influence
    • Atonement and Mimetic Violence
    • Hospitality, Punishment, and the Atonement
    • Atonement, Violence, and Victory
  • Part 3: The Public Face of Hospitality
    • The Church as the Community of Hospitality
    • Public Justice and the Hospitality of Liberation
  • Epilogue: The End of Violence: Eschatology and Deification

Top Highlights

“Put succinctly, getting in was a matter of grace and thus unconditional, but staying in required a human response of obedience to the precepts of the Law and was thus conditional.” (Page 79)

“they create room for enrichment and allow for a creative engagement with our surroundings” (Page 103)

“The metaphor of hospitality is, therefore, more foundational than any of the three metaphors of traditional atonement theology.” (Page 112)

“God’s revelation and teaching throughout the one economy of redemption, climaxing in Christ, requires a human response.” (Page 129)

“makes the incarnation, as well as the entire process of the recapitulation of Adamic humanity, necessary” (Page 124)

Praise for the Print Edition

This is a bold book. It takes courage in today’s academic culture to argue that divine violence is an unavoidable part of bringing the sinful world into an eschatological state of pure hospitality. Those who tend instinctively to reject any notion of violence as unworthy of God better take Boersma’s arguments seriously.

Miroslav Volf, Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology, Yale University Divinity School

Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross is an important contribution to the ongoing task of articulating orthodox Christian theology in light of contemporary thought. Boersma is a creative, constructive theologian who is not afraid to tackle some of the toughest criticisms leveled against the Christian tradition. His courage in the face of postmodern criticisms is matched by his courage to take the tradition seriously. This book is learned and erudite, engaging an impressive range of biblical, theological, and philosophical sources.

James K. A. Smith, professor of philosophy, Calvin College

Boersma combines postmodern philosophy and ancient theology to address how God’s hospitality at the cross undermines violence and supports human hospitality. Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross is a model of how scholarship and praxis are united in the work of the kingdom.

Robert Webber, William R. and Geraldyn B. Myers Professor of Ministry, Northern Seminary

Christ prayed that all may be one, and he even died to bring about that atonement. Yet Christians now find themselves, paradoxically, divided up according to models of Christ’s atonement. This is a noble and beautiful book—a labor of mind and heart to synthesize and unite all that is in the science of our salvation as it has come down to us in Christian tradition and as it is emerging in theological currents today.

Scott W. Hahn, professor of Scripture and theology, Franciscan University of Steubenville

A scholarly review and analysis of differing historical and contemporary understandings of God’s work of reconciliation in Jesus Christ, particularly with regard to hospitality and violence. . . . Well structured and readable. . . . Recommended for scholarly theological collections.

Library Journal

Product Details

Hans Boersma (PhD, University of Utrecht) is the Order of St. Benedict Servants of Christ Chair in Ascetical Theology at Nashotah House. He is the author of several books, including Seeing God: The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition, Scripture as Real Presence: Sacramental Exegesis in the Early Church, Sacramental Preaching: Sermons on the Hidden Presence of Christ, and Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry. He previously taught at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, and he is an ordained deacon in the Anglican Church in North America.


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