Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime, and Punishment

(Paperback - Jun 2001)
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Recently a growing number of Christians have actively promoted the concept of "restorative justice" and attempted to develop programs for dealing with crime based on restorative principles. But is this approach truly consistent with the teaching of Scripture? To date, very little has been done to test this claim. Beyond Retribution fills a gap by plumbing the New Testament on the topics of crime, justice, and punishment. Christopher Marshall first explores the problems involved in applying ethical teachings from the New Testament to mainstream society. He then surveys the extent to which the New Testament addresses criminal justice issues, looking in particular at the concept of the justice of God in the teachings of Paul and Jesus. He also examines the topic of punishment, reviewing the debate in social thinking over the ethics and purpose of punishment -- including capital punishment -- and he advocates a new concept of "restorative punishment." The result of this engaging work is a biblically based challenge to imitate the way of Christ in dealing with both victims and offenders.


  • SKU: 9780802847973
  • SKU10: 0802847978
  • Title: Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime, and Punishment
  • Series: Studies in Peace and Scripture
  • Qty Remaining Online: 135
  • Publisher: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
  • Date Published: Jun 2001
  • Pages: 362
  • Weight lbs: 1.08
  • Dimensions: 9.02" L x 5.98" W x 0.78" H
  • Features: Table of Contents, Index, Bibliography
  • Themes: Theometrics | Academic;
  • Awards: 2002 Book of the Year (Winner - Top 10)
  • Subject: Christian Life - Social Issues


"Splendid Marshall tackles a controversial topic with vigor and admirable sensitivity." — Graham N. Stanton


INTRODUCTION Gaining a Perspective

Few issues evoke such powerful emotional responses today as crime and its consequences. For many people, fear of crime is second only to fear of death. Like death, crime can enter a person's life at any time, destroy forever a sense of safety and security, and leave a legacy of anxiety and mistrust. This legacy is bequeathed not only to the immediate victims of crime and their loved ones but also to the wider society. Where serious criminal offending is perceived to be increasing and to be largely random in its occurrence, even those who have never been directly victimized can feel their freedom restricted and their lives diminished by a constant worry that they may be next to suffer. Crime is also one of the most difficult areas of human behavior to deal with from a Christian perspective. When we are confronted with rape, murder, home invasions, and child abuse, familiar platitudes about hating the sin yet loving the sinner seem pitifully inadequate. Anger, resentment, and loathing rise up, and, whatever we may believe about love and forgiveness, what we really want is swift retribution. It is important to admit to these common human reactions and to resist giving them a premature Christian baptism. For, if Michael Ignatieff is correct, "the great moral weakness of our not, as some people think, a general lack of moral principles, but on the contrary, indignant moral posturing by people too lazy to think through the consequences of strong emotions." And for Christians, it is not just the human consequences that make it imperative to think beyond immediate emotional reactions to crime, though these are considerable, but also the consequences for our witness to the gospel of redemption through Jesus Christ.

In this chapter I consider what is entailed in thinking through a Christian position on crime and punishment, and I raise some initial questions about the extent to which the New Testament speaks to such issues. This is preparatory to my larger aim in this book of exploring whether and in what ways the teaching of the New Testament is compatible with, or may contribute to, the vision of "restorative justice." Several criminal-justice experts advocate restorative justice as a viable alternative to the increasingly dysfunctional Western system of criminal justice, which is based largely on the concept of retribution. Unlike retributive justice, which centers on the notions of law-breaking, guilt, and punishment, restorative justice focuses on relationships, reconciliation, and reparation of harm done. It understands crime less as a matter of law-breaking than as the infliction of injury or loss on another human being. "Restorative justice is a peacemaking response to crime, and a critique of criminology as a military science," suggests Wayne Northey. "It does not counter a harm done by a new harm, but with a healing response to victim, offender and the wider community. If restorative justice practice has educational and rehabilitative spinoffs, these are good but secondary goals to restoring the brokenness arising from the criminal act." Such "peace-making justice," David Cayley explains, "insists on accountability, reparation and reform — but tries to avoid ostracization, stigmatization, and the compounding of old violence with new violence."

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