Monday, 27 July 2009

The things that make for peace

I’ll be in Canberra tonight, launching a new book on justice and peacemaking: Heather Thomson, The Things That Make for Peace (Barton Books 2009). Here’s a brief excerpt from the talk I'll be giving about the book:

The book’s whole argument is grounded in an analogy between divine justice and transitional justice – where an unstable and turbulent political order mobilises new instruments, such as judicial mechanisms, amnesties and truth commissions, in order to move into the peace and justice of a new regime. God’s own justice is like this, Thomson argues. Divine justice establishes a new constitution and a new political order, and issues amnesties so that we may enter into the new regime with a clean slate. In this way, we are enabled to make the transition from the regimes that govern this world into the reign of God.

This vision of divine justice, Thomson observes, is something we see in Jesus, the one whose entire life was an argument – to the death – about ‘what God is like, what God requires of us, what God’s justice is like’. The atonement is not about satisfying divine justice, but about establishing a new reign that differs fundamentally from ‘the authoritarian, violent and repressive rule that belongs to this world’. The atonement ‘mediates a regime change’, so that we are led out ‘from the power and kingdoms of this world’ into the kingdom of God. As part of this transition, God forgives our sins – just as a new regime may issue amnesties so that citizens can leave behind their former political allegiances and enter guiltless into the collective project of a new common life. The death of Jesus thus opens up a space of metanoia, a change of mind in which we renounce our former allegiance to the violent powers of this world, and enter into the new reign of the Prince of Peace.


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