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J. Denny Weaver – The Non-Violent Atonement

J. Denny Weaver,

The Non-Violent Atonement (2nd ed)

ISBN: 9780 8028 6437 6

Eerdmans, Michigan, 2011, 325 pp, £16.99 (Also available for Kindle)

This is a tremendous book in more senses than one: quite apart from its length it is intense and concentrated.  Though not a book for the faint-hearted, it is more than worthy of its second edition and expansion; offering, as it does, an alternative to St Anselm’s Satisfaction Theory and stating a totally new and much needed understanding of atonement – seen here from a standpoint quite different from his.  No-one with an interest in and desire to understand atonement theory should be put off.

The author, J. Denny Weaver, calls it ‘a relatively small book’, but it contains, as he says, more than twenty-five years of thought and dialogue; and as such presents a substantial and readable offering of distilled scholarship.

Criminal justice systems in the developed world have as their basic premise the substitution theory predicated by St. Anselm – having the aim of making the severity of punishment balance the heinousness of the crime.  Thus, until recent times, in the western world hanging or the electric chair were considered appropriate punishment for murder.

We are used, in our day, to the understanding that events, expectations, even our own ideas and thoughts arise in their particular context; generalisations often do not fit, so what was judged right in the time of Anselm of Canterbury is not necessarily right for us ten centuries later.  In his book, Weaver shows how black, feminist and womanist theologies have contributed to fresh perspectives on the atonement; making a substantial contribution to any relevant debate.

Elizabeth CSF