Criminology and public theology

Prof. Andrew Millie1

1Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, United Kingdom

This paper brings together perspectives from criminology and Christian public theology, two disciplines that have seldom interacted. The paper develops arguments explored in the recent publication ‘Criminology and Public Theology: On Hope, Mercy and Restoration’ (Bristol University Press, 2021). It is acknowledged that Christianity is one faith among many (and none) and that we can learn from other faith traditions as well. Yet, for good or ill, interpretations of Christian theology have had historic influence on secular criminal justice in the west. For instance, Thomas Aquinas saw ‘evil-doers’ as no longer having human dignity, a view justifying capital punishment; and the lex talionis or an eye-for-an-eye confirmed that justice meant retribution. A view of God as judgemental moral authority was influential, but there have always been other readings of scripture, doctrine and practice. It is argued in this paper that a Christian ethical position centred on hope, mercy and restoration could provide a radical challenge to contemporary criminal justice orthodoxy and an alternative to the norms of punishment, pain and retribution.


Andrew Millie is Professor of Criminology at Edge Hill University, UK. His research centres on the intersection between criminology, philosophy and theology and he is currently working on three strands of work: 1) the visual culture and architecture of policing; 2) the possibility of an aesthetic criminology; and 3) the relevance of Christian theology to criminal justice.


Dec 10 2021