Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

Volume 82, 2008


Bernardo Cantens, Ph.D.
Pages 217-228

Why Forgive? A Christian Response

This paper constructs a theory of Christian forgiveness and argues that contemporary philosophical analyses of forgiveness have failed to capture its essential character. First, I provide a summary of the general view of forgiveness developed by contemporary philosophers (e.g., Jeffrie Murphy, Jean Hampton, Patrick Boleyn-Fitzgerald, Paul Hughes, Margaret Holmgren, Trudy Govier, Joanna North, Robert Roberts, and Charles Griswold). Second, I highlight the central differences between these general contemporary views and a genuine Christian conception of forgiveness. Finally, I argue that two reasons for these irreconcilable differences are the following: first, contemporary philosophical analyses have evered the virtue of forgivingness from central Christian virtues, particularly the moral virtue of temperance and the theological virtue of charity; and second, contemporary philosophical analyses’ paradigmatic case does not (and cannot) take into account the proper tri-personal Christian context (i.e., God, victim, and offender) within which Christian forgiveness must be understood.

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