The Faces of Forgiveness

Searching for Wholeness and Salvation

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Christian Association for Psychological Studies Narramore Award Winner


"This is a serious and, at times, moving treatment of both the psychological and theological dynamics of the complex process of forgiveness. . . . A weighty book on a perennial topic of concern in our churches and in contemporary society."--Charles Brown, Interpretation


Throughout the years, discussions of forgiveness have occurred almost exclusively in religious circles. In the past few decades, however, forgiveness has become a popular topic in contemporary psychology. Unfortunately, there has been relatively little effort to effectively combine theological conceptions of forgiveness with contemporary psychological research. The Faces of Forgiveness, winner of the Narramore Award from the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, steps in to fill this void.


The image of the face is the motif that integrates the two disciplines of theology and psychology. At a basic level the actual human face has elicited a great deal of research on emotions related to forgiveness. At a deeper level the face can serve as a metaphor for the integration of existential and spiritual longings for forgiveness, wholeness, and salvation. And while theological studies of salvation politely acknowledge forgiveness, the authors argue that forgiveness should take a central role, not only because it is warranted by biblical tradition but also because it more adequately engages our postmodern context.


Shults and Sandage offer here a model for understanding and practicing forgiveness that integrates psychology and theology, focuses on the importance of relationality, contemplates the hermeneutics of the face, and delineates the ways in which the term "forgiveness" is most commonly used.


The Faces of Forgiveness is a substantive text appropriate for use in both theology and psychology classes. Pastors, psychologists, family counselors, and laity interested in theology, psychology, and spirituality will find it a helpful resource.



"Shults and Sandage have produced a remarkable synthesis of the very best social scientific work on forgiveness, which has emerged so powerfully since the mid-1990s, and the very finest contemporary theological reflection. Insofar as we are asked to love God with our 'whole minds,' this convergence of science and theology is not only deeply insightful but also utterly true to the Lord's command. This work will move the discussion of forgiveness forward by light years."--Stephen G. Post, professor of bioethics, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University

"The Faces of Forgiveness is an impressive synthesis of the best of theology and the best of modern psychology on the nature of forgiveness. Shults and Sandage use these sources to replace static and forensic views of forgiveness with a view of forgiveness as dynamic and intersubjective. The book is a remarkable achievement."--Donald S. Browning, Alexander Campbell Professor Emeritus of Ethics and the Social Sciences, the University of Chicago Divinity School

"Shults and Sandage offer an alternative to shallow legal and therapeutic treatments of the dynamics of forgiveness. Theirs is a redemptive model of forgiveness that integrates psychological and theological dimensions using a 'hermeneutics of face.' Christians seeking a more satisfying approach to the subject cannot do better than begin with The Faces of Forgiveness."--Roger E. Olson, professor of theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

"We have long needed a terrific book such as this that draws on theological insights and psychological insights about forgiveness with equal seriousness and significance. The authors offer a distinctively Christian account of forgiveness that is as rich in analysis as it is helpful in practical significance. I commend it highly to anyone concerned about faithful Christian living."--L. Gregory Jones, dean of the divinity school and professor of theology, Duke University, author of Embodying Forgiveness

"This is an important book that will influence not only how we think about forgiveness in this century but also how we do interdisciplinary work as theologians and psychologists. Drawing on the 'hermeneutics of the face,' biblical texts, doctrine, psychological theory, and case studies, it offers a complex multidimensional analysis of forgiveness. What is most appealing, however, is the way it combines theoretical insight with a palpable witness to the transforming reality of Christ's forgiveness in the power of the Spirit."--Lois Malcolm, associate professor of systematic theology, Luther Seminary

The Authors

  1. F. LeRon Shults

    F. LeRon Shults

    F. LeRon Shults (PhD, Princeton University; PhD, Walden University) is professor of theology at Agder University in Kristiansand, Norway, and the author of several books, including Reforming the Doctrine of God and Reforming Theological...

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  2. Steven J. Sandage

    Steven J. Sandage

    Steven J. Sandage (PhD, Virginia Commonwealth University), a licensed psychologist, is the Albert and Jessie Danielsen Professor of Pastoral Psychology and Theology at Boston University and director of the Danielsen Research Center at the Danielsen Institute....

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Christian Association for Psychological Studies Narramore Award Winner

"Both authors, one a psychologist and the other a practical theologian, demonstrate a profound empathy for the victims of evil. With authentic compassion, both validate the emotional and spiritual pain of victims. From the case studies offered at the end of the book, it is clear that Shults and Sandage practice the virtues they espouse, virtues of empathy and ego-humility. At the same time, the authors also value the biblical tests and the Christian tradition in which forgiveness and salvation are inextricably intertwined. This is a serious and, at times, moving treatment of both the psychological and theological dynamics of the complex process of forgiveness. . . . A weighty book on a perennial topic of concern in our churches and in contemporary society."-Charles Brown, Interpretation