Book Review: A Shared Mercy
Author: Jon Coutts
Publisher: IVP Academic
Reading Level: High-Moderate
Note: A series of in depth interaction with A Shared Mercy can be found here
Is there such a thing as a uniquely Christian forgiveness? Or is it possible the church's rendition of forgiveness merely replicates the world's forgiveness in a more holy way? To the later of these two questions, Jon Coutts answers a sharp Barthian "nein." In A Shared Mercy: Karl Barth on Forgiveness and the Church, Coutts provides a distinct evaluation of forgiveness through the eyes of Karl Barth and Scripture.
To lay this foundation, Coutts provides an overview of forgiveness and the church from Barth's Church Dogmatics IV. These early pages (chapter 2 and 3) are the most technical portion of A Shared Mercy. Readers unfamiliar with Barth should be thankful for Coutts breakdown and systematic presentation despite its density. On the shoulders of Barth, Coutts proceeds to revive forgiveness from any non-Christological evaluation. Because of the church's shared confession of forgiveness found in Jesus Christ, it must confess that Christian forgiveness is distinct from worldly forgiveness — and it is the only true forgiveness. Crucial to Coutts's (via Barth) evaluation is that this forgiveness is a shared forgiveness.
A Shared Mercy then provides a detailed understanding of this application the meaning of forgiveness in the church (Chapter 4 entitled "Forgive Us") and the church's ministry of reconciliation (Chapter 5 entitled "As We Forgive"). Along the way, topics like unconditional love, unmerited forgiveness, private forgiveness, and reconciliation receive breaths of fresh air from Scripture and Barth.
In conclusion, Jon Coutts has provided the church with a new platform to conceive of forgiveness and reconciliation. A Shared Mercy does not answer every question that church ministry will ask, but it provides the church a theology to repeal efforts of sins to disrupt Christ's body.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.