Forgiveness: An Alternative Account (Hardcover)
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A deeply researched and poignant reflection on the practice of forgiveness in an unforgiving world
Matthew Ichihashi Potts explores the complex moral terrain of forgiveness, which he claims has too often served as a salve to the conscience of power rather than as an instrument of healing or justice. Though forgiveness is often linked with reconciliation or the abatement of anger, Potts resists these associations, asserting instead that forgiveness is simply the refusal of retaliatory violence through practices of penitence and grief. It is an act of mourning irrevocable wrong, of refusing the false promises of violent redemption, and of living in and with the losses we cannot recover.
Drawing on novels by Kazuo Ishiguro, Marilynne Robinson, Louise Erdrich, and Toni Morrison, and on texts from the early Christian to the postmodern, Potts diagnoses the real dangers of forgiveness yet insists upon its enduring promise. Sensitive to the twenty-first-century realities of economic inequality, colonial devastation, and racial strife, and considering the role of forgiveness in the New Testament, the Christian tradition, philosophy, and contemporary literature, this book heralds the arrival of a new and creative theological voice.
About the Author
Matthew Ichihashi Potts is the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard Divinity School and the Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard University. He lives with his family in Cambridge, MA.
“Broad in its philosophical sweep and fine in its literary analysis, this work redefines forgiveness as the modest yet heroic ability to hold pain and anger together with hope and nonviolence.”—Joie Szu-Chiao Chen, Lion’s Roar
“Potts diagnoses the real dangers of forgiveness yet insists upon its enduring promise. . . . This book heralds the arrival of a new and creative theological voice.”—Englewood Review of Books, “Ten Theology Books to Watch For—November 2022”
“Forgiveness is situated in that sweet spot where applied theology and scholarly thinking meet. . . . [It] is a surprisingly accessible work that’s readily applicable to pastors and others who want to offer a helpful Christian approach to forgiveness, whether from the pulpit or in pastoral counseling and care.”—Presbyterian Outlook
“The way in which Matthew Ichihashi Potts approaches forgiveness is not to treat it as a miraculous change of heart so much as a paradigmatic ethical question to which the whole of the Christian gospel is an answer. Forgiveness is a rich and rewarding text, which argues that forgiveness is both a habit of grief and a practice of mourning.”—Stephen Cherry, Church Times
“This book is brilliant and generative and learned. A compelling apologia for forgiveness, it takes seriously and yet disarms many current-day critiques of forgiveness.”—Lauren Winner, Duke University
“Both the impossibility and the power of forgiveness are illuminated in this important and necessary work. Theologically potent, a complex vista of the schisms of our traumatized, violent reality is painted with lucid colors. Forgiveness is an invaluable guide for our fractured world.”—Makoto Fujimura, artist and author of Art and Faith: A Theology of Making
“Our world needs authentic approaches to the wounds we have suffered and inflicted. Matthew Ichihashi Potts brilliantly navigates this in Forgiveness, a book that moves beyond the performance and into the profound challenge to embody compassion and to repair and transform our mutual humanity on the pathway toward healing.”—John Paul Lederach, author of The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace
“Matthew Ichihashi Potts meets our moment honestly with an account of forgiveness as a practice rooted in grief. Grounding his argument in life, literature, theology, and philosophy, Potts challenges us to regard forgiveness not as a change in how we feel but a decision about how we respond. Essential reading.”—Stephanie Paulsell, author of Religion Around Virginia Woolf
“In this profound and moving book, Potts convincingly demonstrates that contemporary novelists understand what Christian theology too often forgets: forgiveness is more tragic than triumphant.”—Constance M. Furey, coauthor of Devotion: Three Inquiries in Religion, Literature, and Political Imagination