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Over nut en nadeel van theologie voor vergiffenis

van den Auweele, D., 2018, In : Tijdschrift voor Theologie. 58, 4, p. 381-396

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  • Dennis van den Auweele
Do we need a more or less robust theology to be able to understand forgiveness? Philosophers usually speak of forgiveness as an extension of understanding: that which I understand, I can forgive. In this article I will examine this attitude, first, by reading the work of Jankélévitch and Derrida. They believe that only the really unforgivable can be forgiven. This implies that we can only forgive what we cannot understand. To Jankélévitch this means that, on the one hand, the guilty party faces the victim with a pure sense of guilt (and no excuses) and that, on the other, the victim forgives without any further agenda of intentions. Derrida takes this idea of Jankélévitch one step further by pointing out that a sense of guilt cannot be a condition for forgiveness: it would taint the purity of forgiveness. Derrida poses the provocative question: Can someone who feels no remorse be forgiven? His answer is even more provocative: pure forgiveness will forgive the sinner without remorse. Next, this paper shows that both Jankélévitch and Derrida avoid any theological interpretation of forgiveness. They believe that theology will taint the sincere bond between people by simply interposing certain theological ideas between sinner and individual: I forgive because of God, not because of the other person. I will argue that their reservation about theology is unfortunate. A proper theological understanding of interpersonal relations – which unfortunately, I cannot discuss in more detail here – could offer us an understanding of human dignity that would make forgiveness really effective. The relation between ideas of forgiveness and human dignity is problematic in the works of Jankélévitch and Derrida, because the sinner is not allowed to be accountable, and because the victim is supposed to relinquish any claim to justice. However, when forgiveness takes place in a theological context that guarantees human dignity which fortifies forgiveness with the right concepts, this might just guarantee dignity.
Original languageDutch
Pages (from-to)381-396
JournalTijdschrift voor Theologie
Volume58
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018

ID: 78927195