Communities of Restoration: Ecclesial Ethics and Restorative Justice
This thesis asks the question, “How does an ecclesial context shape the theological apprehension and praxis of justice?” In particular, it will be asked how, in view of its members having been admitted into God’s restoring justice in Christ, the church might embody in the world this same justice of restoring right relationships. By surveying the history of Christian reflection on the nature of justice, we will show how different conceptions of justice emerged from and shaped in turn their surrounding social and philosophical contexts, and the sphere of corrective justice in particular. This raises the question of whether this judicial response is an adequate reflection of what it means to do justice as disclosed in the biblical story. Building on the premise that the biblical understanding of the justice of God is best understood as a saving, liberating, and restorative justice, rather than a purely retributive justice, it will be argued that an alternative conception of justice needs to emerge, one that is more anchored in the story of Scripture and lived out in the community that reads Scripture so that it might be embodied in life. I propose bringing the insights of ecclesial ethics, an approach that emphasizes the distinctive nature of the church as the community that forms its mind and character after its reading of Scripture, with the theory and practice of restorative justice, a way of conceiving justice-making that emerged from the Mennonite-Anabaptist tradition. By bringing an ecclesial approach to bear on restorative justice, this thesis will show why a theological account of the theory and practice of restorative justice is fruitful for articulating and clarifying the witness of the church, especially in the face of conflict or wrongdoing. This can help extend the church’s imagination as to how it might better become God’s community of restoration as it reflects on the ways in which the justice of God is taking shape in its own community.
Advisor: Rae, Murray; Marshall, Christopher
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Theology and Religion
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: restorative justice; church; ecclesial ethics; reconciliation; justice; reintegration
Research Type: Thesis