Original Research

A public theological approach to the (im)possibility of forgiveness in Matthew 18:15-35: Reading the text through the lens of integral theory

Dion A. Forster
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 51, No 3 | a2108 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v51i3.2108 | © 2017 Dion A. Forster | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 February 2016 | Published: 31 January 2017

About the author(s)

Dion A. Forster, Faculty of Theology,Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology, Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


Some 20 years after the dawn of participative democracy, there is little noticeable or substantial change in the living conditions of the average South African. The country remains divided by race, class and economics. Poverty, inequality and racial enmity remain looming challenges to human flourishing and social transformation. Some have begun to ask whether forgiveness for the sins of colonialism and apartheid are possible. This article engages with the (im)possibilityof forgiveness as it is presented in Matthew 18:15-35. In particular, it does so from the bilingual perspective of a public theological engagement with the text and its contemporary readers in South Africa. By reading the text from an integral All Quadrants All Levels (AQAL) approach this article extrapolates a textured understanding of forgiveness that ‘possibilises’ the (im)possiblity of forgiveness between racially and socially divided groups of readers.


Forgiveness; Matthew 18; South Africa; Ken Wilber; integral theory; public theology


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1. Reconstructing communities and individuals after conflict and violence: An avant-garde quest for a forgiveness process that includes koinonia and diakonia
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