Sources of Christian Restorative Justice

Early Church (1st - 4th centuries)

An old clay oil lamp from Nazareth, Israel.  Photo credit: Olivia Armstrong.


sources of christian restorative justice: early church

These resources explore God’s creation order and its meaning as God’s vision for relationships between human beings, and also between human beings and the created world.

Messages and Essays on Christian Restorative Justice and God’s Creation Order in the Early Church

White American Evangelical Political Attitudes and Behavior: Explanation and Correctives White American evangelical political attitudes can be characterized by the debate between John Winthrop and Roger Williams, and their respective attitudes towards Native Americans, slavery, fairness, and faith in the civic space.  This is a presentation also explores Scripture and church history to argue that Roger Williams was correct.  Given to the staff of Emmanuel Gospel Center, Apr 18, 2018, as a follow-up to how Christian restorative justice impacts ministry; audio file here

Slavery and Abolition in the Early Church: How the Early Church Got It Right (long ppt presentation)

Slavery and Abolition in the Early Church: How the Early Church Got It Right (short ppt presentation)

Slavery in Christianity, Part 1: Slavery in the Bible, Slavery Today (and ppt)

Slavery in Christianity, Part 2: Christianity from the 1st to 15th Centuries 

Abolitionism from the First to Fifteenth Century 

Women in the Early Church part 1 and part 2

Women in Church Leadership part 1 and part 2

The Rights of Women in the Bible part 1 and part 2

Children in the Early Church

Christian Restorative Justice: Beyond Charity - God's Restorative Justice for Children and Families

Atonement in Scripture: The Scapegoat Series (NHI blog) - The Christian Undoing of Scapegoating

Donald Trump's Scapegoating and the Myth of Retributive Justice (Feb 12, 2016) 

Donald Trump's Scapegoating and the Scapegoating of the Black Community (Feb 15, 2016)

What Lynching, Torture, and Scapegoating Have in Common: Penal Substitution (Feb 18, 2016) on retributive impulses 

Why Penal Substitution is a Gateway Drug to Right-Wing Extremism (Feb 22, 2016) on God as sorting, not uniting, creation 

Why Evangelicals Scapegoat Gays, Muslims, Etc. (Feb 29, 2016) on the sacrificial system in the Pentateuch 

Why Trump and Cruz Are the Direct, Logical Result of American Evangelical Theology (Mar 6, 2016) on Romans and the Sinai covenant

A Neuroscientific Reason for Why Retributive Justice is from the Fall, and Penal Substitution is Immature (Apr 28, 2016) on the Fall and the exile from the Garden 

Helpful Books and Articles on Christian Restorative Justice and God’s Creation Order in the Early Church

Christian Good in Society (website) an impressive list that discusses health care, education, human rights, literacy and communication, etc.; lists organizations and individuals as well, through modern history

Wikipedia, San Marino, a small democratic republic in Italy, a continuation of a Christian monastic community founded in 301 AD

Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Augustine, What Did the Early Church Say About Economic Justice? (Plough)

Alister E. McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification (Amazon book, 1986) set the standard for how righteousness (Hebrew tsedeq) in Old Testament ethics involved not just punishing and rewarding bad/good behaviors, but returning to a creation order where the poor and vulnerable were supplied, protected, included, and honored.  The implication is that God's justice is restorative, and neither fundamentally retributive, nor consistently so (Ps.103:10).  The further implication is that Paul, when using the term justification (Greek dikaioo), does not have penal satisfaction as a foundation and pre-condition for justification.  McGrath shows how the Greco-Roman pagan ethic of meritocratic-retributive justice overturned the Hebraic-Christian concept of restorative justice.  N.T. Wright, Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision (Amazon book, 2009) referred to McGrath's book as necessary reading on the topic. 

Timothy S. Miller, The Birth of the Hospital in the Byzantine Empire (Amazon book, Jun 17, 1997) is a masterpiece.  It shows one of the most positive interactions between church and government.  It is impressive how much data we have.  This also makes a good case that our science, medicine, and health system should be publicly supported in some form.  See also The Cosmological Vision of St. Basil and the First Hospital (Servant of Prayer blog, Apr 8, 2014) and Father Johannes Jacobse, St. Basil the Great and Christian Philanthropy (American Orthodox Institute USA, Dec 20, 2014) and Thomas Heyne, Reconstructing the World's First Hospital: The Basiliad (Hektoen International: A Journal of Medical Humanities, Spring 2015)

Frontline, The Great Appeal: What Did Christianity Offer Its Believers That Made It Worth Social Estrangement, Hostility From Neighbors, and Possible Persecution? (WGBH, Apr 1998)

Oliver O’Donovan and Joan Lockwood O’Donovan, From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Sourcebook in Christian Political Thought (Amazon book, 1999) and this bibliographic summary by Patristic Evangelism, Readings in Patristic Ethics  (Patristic Evangelism blog, date unknown)

Oliver O’Donovan, The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology (Amazon book, 1999) deals with the biblical presentation of the church, states, and Israel - not simply 'church and state' - and does an excellent job in biblical exposition and church history

Robert M. Frakes, Contra Potentium Iniuras: The Defensor Civitatis and Late Roman Justice (Google book, 2001)

Oliver O’Donovan, Bonds of Imperfection: Christian Politics, Past and Present (Amazon book, 2003) covers leading Christian thinkers, actors, and decisions in pre-modern and modern Western history

Peter Brown, Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire (book, 2001), and Walter Brueggemann's review, How the Early Church Practiced Charity (Religion Online, Jun 14, 2003)

O.M. Bakke, When Children Became People: The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity (Amazon book, 2005) an absolutely invaluable study of how Christian faith made an enormous and decisive impact on how children were treated as fully human, overturning Greek and Latin practices of infanticide, etc. which accorded only instrumental value to infants and children.  See Pascal Emmanuel Gobry, How Christianity Invented Children (The Week, Apr 23, 2015)

Bogdan Popescu, Human Rights in Early Christian Writings (Mozaic, 2005/1), also a pdf file

David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (Amazon book, 2010)

Kevin Knight, Influence of the Church on Civil Law (New Advent website, 2012)

Ethan Gannaway, Saint Ambrose and Toleration (The Academy for the Study of Ambrose of Milan, Apr 4, 2013) makes helpful historical remarks concerning Ambrose, given the bishop's engagement with political events

Kate Ward, Porters, Catapults, Community, and Justice: Augustine on Wealth, Poverty, and Property (New Theology Review, Sep 2013) impressive and thorough summary of Augustine of Hippo’s teachings on wealth and ownership

Peter Wehner, The Christmas Revolution (NY Times, Dec 25, 2015)

Ronald Osborn, The Scandalous Origins of Human Rights (Veritas Forum, Jan 15, 2016)

Alan Kreider, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire (Amazon book, Mar 29, 2016) an excellent historical treatment of Christian treatises on patience, in the face of persecution or difference, or mission.  The character quality of patience in politics needs to be re-taught, and re-learned.

Jack Davila-Ashcraft, The Early Church on Government (Paleo-Orthodoxy, Oct 3, 2016)

David Bentley Hart, Human Dignity Was a Rarity Before Christianity (Church Life Journal, Oct 26, 2017)

Trevor Saxby, ‘Always Enough’: Early Church Leader Basil of Caesarea and Sustainability (Making History Now blog, Dec 4, 2017)

sources of christian restorative justice

These resources explore the foundation of “Medical Substitution” as the best understanding of the Bible, and the original understanding of the church. There are also links to books, web articles, etc. from representatives of the three broad Christian traditions.