‘We believe in the forgiveness of sins’

Whatever it means for the Church to confess ‘We believe in the forgiveness of sins’ at the same time as it professes belief in ‘life in the world to come’ can mean no less that that the life of the world to come is the life of restored relationships. One implication is, as Volf observes in his essay ‘The Final Reconciliation: Reflections on a Social Dimension of the Eschatological Transition’ (Modern Theology 16/1 (2000)), that ‘the not-loved-ones will have to be transformed into the loved ones and those who do not love will have to begin to do so; enemies will have to become friends … Without such transformation the world to come would not be a world of perfect love but just a repetition of a world in which, at best, the purest of loves falter and, at worst, cold indifference reigns and deadly hatreds easily flare up’ (pp. 91, 92). The weight of this cannot conceivably be carried by traditional notions of the last judgement alone, Volf notes, and would seem to require an ‘ontological novum that a comprehensive transformatio mundi represents’ (p. 92), reconciliation occurring as part of a broader eschatological transition.

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