Publication: Theological Studies
Author: Doak, Mary
Date published: June 1, 2012

THE POLITICS OF REDEMPTION: THE SOCIAL LOGIC OF SALVATION. By Adam Kotsko. New York: T. & T. Clark International, 2010. Pp. vii + 216. $34.95.

While much contemporary theology dismisses patristic and medieval atonement theologies, Kotsko cogently argues that these theologies have a great deal to offer current attempts of rethinking the sociopolitical character of sin and redemption. Drawing on a wealth of research in theology as well as in philosophy and social thought, K. defends a social-relational ontology that situates his theological work as a cultural-political critique in dialogue with such diverse thinkers as Giorgio Agamben, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, G. W. F. Hegel, and especially Jean-Luc Nancy. Although K. does not here engage the social-relational aspects of Catholic thought or of trinitarian theologies, his relational soteriology complements these and other contemporary theological efforts to counter the individualism that has crept into Christian faith and practice.

K. underscores the importance of rethinking soteriology with his critical review of recent theological discussions of Jesus' death: his sympathetic attention to feminist critiques of atonement and his acute critique of Boersma's attempt to retrieve divine violence are especially noteworthy. The body of K.'s argument is an extended analysis of the atonement theologies of Irenaeus, Gregory of Nyssa, Anselm, and Abelard as predicated on a social-relational ontology. While defending his intriguing claim that these atonement theories go astray largely to the extent that they do not remain faithful to their own social-relational presuppositions, K. also provides illuminating presentations that correct simplistic versions of these formative thinkers (especially Abelard). K.'s concluding construction of a relational soteriology is a creative, compelling, and yet deeply biblical retelling of sin and salvation in profoundly relational terms.

The book is rare in its combination of solid historical research, well-argued and mature constructive thought, and clarity of writing. The nuanced thought evident throughout this text has much to contribute to any project in relational theology. K.'s work should definitely be a major conversation partner in any graduate class or theological work in soteriology or political theology. Despite the richness of thought, the writing is so clear that this book (or parts of it) could profitably be used in advanced undergraduate classes.

Author affiliation:


University of San Diego

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