Previous | Next

Spring 2000 · Vol. 29 No. 1 · pp. 80–81 

Book Review

The Journey Toward Reconciliation

John Paul Lederach. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1999. 206 pages.

Reviewed by Gary L. Welton

John Paul Lederach is a professor of sociology at Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he founded the Conflict Transformation Program. He is a former director of the Mennonite Conciliation Service and the International Conciliation Service of the Mennonite Central Committee. He has written numerous books on related topics, such as peace education and mediation training. He has provided conflict management consultation for governmental officials in many war-torn settings throughout the world over the last several decades. He is uniquely qualified to author a book on reconciliation and peacemaking.

Because of his rich, varied, and often dangerous international involvement, Lederach narrates many intriguing stories. In spite of frequent advice from his family, friends, and peers, however, he resists the temptation to “just tell the stories.” He uses the stories throughout as a means of explaining and developing what he calls a “theology of conflict.”

In some instances he uses the classic portions of Scripture, such as Matthew 18. In this particular analysis, he points out that the Scripture is extremely clear and direct. There are few issues of difficulty in understanding what God requires of us when we need to restore and reconcile with our brethren. Yet, in spite of this fact, we often fail to follow the teaching. He offers a modern paraphrase of the passage that summarizes how we usually behave in these situations.

His attempt to develop, or begin to develop, a “theology of conflict” is very helpful and well done. I found myself hoping that he would discuss several of the more difficult passages, however. He could have done even more to develop a “theology of conflict” by discussing those passages which might challenge our thinking. He began to do this early {81} in the book by referring to the imprecatory Psalms. After briefly mentioning such difficult passages, however, he went on to other subjects without adequately wrestling with their perspective. How do we understand passages such as Matthew 10:34 given our views on peace and conflict?

I found myself wishing for more emphasis on repentance. He implied in one early story that he was assuming repentance had occurred. He wrote of the need for a balance between the principles of truth, mercy, justice, and peace. I think his “theology of conflict” would have been strengthened by even more focus in this area.

On the other hand, he does deal to some extent with the difficult issue of two-kingdom theology and our usual understanding of the phrase that we are “in the world, but not of the world.” He proposes that our traditional views of this verse might need some rethinking. In this section and throughout the book, he challenges our assumptions. From my perspective, he could have done even more of this.

The book is very much worth reading. Lederach has provided a very intriguing analysis of a most crucial topic. The book provides provocative perspectives that will challenge even the experienced mediator. He has also written in such a way that will interest college students, adult Sunday school classes, and Bible study groups.

Gary L. Welton
Associate Professor of Psychology
Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania

Previous | Next