Thursday, August 6, 2015

Forgiveness, Jacob and Systems Theory

So today I gave a little paper at a conference on forgiveness. It was fun.

The rough manuscript is here.

The power point is here.

Unfortunately the witty one liners and whiteboard genogram were not recorded.

This is the abstract:

“To see your face is like seeing the face of God”: Pastoral and Systemic Reflections on Forgiveness and Theosis in the Jacob Story


Esau is typically considered the bad guy in readings of the Jacob story, i.e. the one who imperils the continuation of Abraham’s line of faith through Jacob. The biblical narrative is, however, far more ambiguous. In fact, as the cycle reaches its climax Esau becomes closely and even confusingly identified with God. Jacob is returning fearfully to an uncertain welcome but Esau shows undeserved grace and favour to Jacob and so is compared to God (Gen 33:10-11). Psychotherapeutic theories of emotional systems highlight the dynamics of the Jacob/Esau conflict and demonstrate the necessity of a God-like intervention in the established reactive system of deception and violence. In rising above the reciprocal feedback of negative emotions Esau creates a new order out of the chaos of sibling rivalry. Forgiveness is thus dramatised as a participation in the nature of God, proving Alexander Pope’s famous adage: “to err is human, to forgive is divine.” This paper, after some brief remarks on methodology, will undertake a heuristic application of systemic theory to the Jacob narrative to explicate the contours of forgiveness and reconciliation in the Jacob-Esau relationship, before concluding with reflection on the pastoral outcomes of considering the narrative in this way.



If you were at the conference please leave a comment! If you weren't you are welcome to leave on too.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jonathan, I really enjoyed your presentation today and was amazed how it segued in with the one before it! Blessings, Robyn :-)

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