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Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation
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Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation

4.28  ·  Rating Details ·  1,563 Ratings  ·  108 Reviews
Life at the end of the twentieth century presents us with a disturbing reality. Otherness, the simple fact of being different in some way, has come to be defined as in and of itself evil. Miroslav Volf contends that if the healing word of the gospel is to be heard today, Christian theology must find ways of speaking that address the hatred of the other. Reaching back to th ...more
Paperback, 306 pages
Published December 1st 1996 by Abingdon Press (first published 1996)
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Nov 17, 2011 Bob rated it it was amazing
Exclusion of the "other" who is different and the violence which can often arise from this has been part of the human story ever since Cain and Abel. This is especially troubling when the other who is different has perpetrated injustice against us or when peoples with radically differing perspectives live side by side. Is there any alternative to estrangement, discord, revenge and violence? Miroslav Volf thinks so.

How is this possible? The answer is in embrace, which Volf ultimately founds in th
Jun 03, 2008 David rated it it was amazing
Volf's book needs to be read slowly for it is both profound and challenging. This book is a theology of reconciliation. Volf puts forth exclusion of the other as the problem (ch. 2). When we exclude others, keeping them at a distance, we are able to view ourselves as right and just and the other as evil and unjust. This often then leads to violence. The solution to this is to embrace, which does not pretend evil does not exist but seeks to model God's embrace of hostile humanity by embracing the ...more
Jul 14, 2016 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Absolutely incredible. One of the best books I've ever read. Brilliantly researched, beautifully articulated, and deeply biblical, Volf's book addresses issues of identity, gender, justice, truth, and violence in an Orthodox but never cloying lens. Highly highly recommended.
Mike Blyth
Mar 23, 2012 Mike Blyth rated it it was amazing
I love this book and include it in the top 10 books that have influenced my life. Living in the fault zone between Muslim and Christian civilizations, and having gone through religious riots and killings in our town, the book's message is especially relevant. Reconciliation is something still being worked on.

The book is loaded with insights and nuances that cannot be boiled down to a simple message. However, it is definitely not for everyone. Much of it is extremely academic and as a doctor I co
Brian Pannell
Dec 29, 2016 Brian Pannell rated it really liked it
life changing
Daunavan Buyer
Jan 18, 2015 Daunavan Buyer rated it really liked it
Exclusion and Embrace is not a book that should be approached lightly. This work is extremely thought provoking and, at times, challenging. Not for the faint of heart, Volf presents a thesis that is radically different from popular thinking, in either liberal or conservative circles: that at the heart of the cross, Jesus is modelling is a radical inclusion and opening of Himself to the other, and this is what followers of Christ are called to emulate. At the level of gender, truth, and peace: em ...more
Roland Clark
Mar 13, 2015 Roland Clark rated it it was amazing
The idea of embrace is central to Volf’s theology of reconciliation. “Reconciliation with the other will succeed only if the self, guided by the narrative of the triune God, is ready to receive the other into itself and undertake a readjustment of its identity in light of the other’s alterity,” Volf says. This requires a sort of “double vision,” where instead of trying to see things from nowhere, which is clearly impossible, we approach truth both from our perspective and, stepping out of oursel ...more
Nov 16, 2008 Eric rated it liked it
A very deep and theological book, this explore how Christians can forgive in the face of great evil. Volf is Croation and the book flows out of his experiences as a Christian in the Balkans in the mid and late nineties. Basically the embrace of forgiveness is only made possible at times by appropriate exclusion. This book gave me a new perspective on my parents divorce when it was happening because I could see how divorce as exclusion (in order to put a stop to unhealthy relationships) can make ...more
Rod White
Mar 08, 2009 Rod White rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books ever. I want to start reading it again right now. It is very thick, full of theological intricacies. But underneath it all is a deep understanding of God and a very practical desire to breed reconciliation back into the world. If you would like to understand how to work with the modern and post-modern philosophies that dominate us in this era as a Christian, read this book. If you want to be a wise peacemaker and a better lover-of-enemies, rad this book. If you dare ...more
Jan 29, 2016 Donna rated it it was amazing
Miroslav Volf is a very thought provoking theologian. His works are not a quick read, but full of wisdom and information for reflection. This is my favorite of his books, and, although I rarely re-read books, this one is also on my read again list. I am sure I will get even more from it on the second go around.
Josh Meares
Oct 09, 2011 Josh Meares rated it liked it
I like the big idea of the book, namely that sin can be pictured by exclusion and the proper response of Christians is the embrace. That being said, much of this book is so speculative, so derivative, so far removed from the text of the Bible that I am unsure of its truth or usefulness. Worth reading, but keep your thinking hat on.
Joshua  Butler
Jan 28, 2008 Joshua Butler rated it it was amazing
this book rocks, seriously loved it. while the book is filled with great insights, here's a few that stood out to me:

how do we reconcile the tension between God's identification with the oppressed and its ensuing demand for justice with God's embrace of the oppressor and call for forgiveness? Volf, personally coming from a context of genocide, is very vulnerable about the dramatic tension in attempting to reconcile himself with both the God who identifies with the suffering, exploited, abused an
Andrew Fox
Jul 23, 2012 Andrew Fox rated it really liked it
Volf has accomplished an exploration of making space for other people outside the Christian faith. The foundation of his work is theological and not cultural. Therefore, people of other cultures can be included that were once excluded, without moving from Biblical boundaries. Firstly, Volf brings a series of definitions to Distance and Belonging through the life of Abraham. Exclusion is shown through elimination, assimilation, domination and abandonment, embrace through the Biblical story of the ...more
John Henry
Nov 19, 2015 John Henry rated it liked it
Shelves: my-library
I have often pondered how we are to disciple nations. Some say it is done by winning a majority of souls in a nation, but the African nation of Malawi with 90% Christians is a dismal failure in terms justice, economic development, and overall of quality of life. Some say discipling a nation is all about quality of life and institutional reform, particularly reforms consistent with modern democracies.

What is Exlusion?
Exclusion is when we set ourselves apart from others for the purpose of defining
Jan 12, 2017 Daniel rated it really liked it
I liked it and recommend it. It's sort of a "theology of reconciliation." Topics addressed include exclusion (hostility and enmity), forgiveness, sacrifice, truth, perspectives, justice, peace/violence I didn't agree with every detail or application but it made me me think hard about the world we're in and my own life
Feb 24, 2013 Jasonlylescampbell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of the most impacting books I have read. I keep thinking over his two biblical approaches to Exclusion (Cain and Able) and Embrace (Prodigal Sons).

Here is a taste of it:

His original illustration (he is from Serbia/Croatia) was a Muslim mother who had been brutally humiliated by Serbs and so had named her son Jihad "so he would not forget the testament of his mother--revenge." This sets up the section "Politics of a Pure Heart"

He is saying that we all have heard that Jesus' main followers w
Joseph Sverker
2015- I am equally impressed the second time around. This is a very well written and relevant theological treatment of issue of reconciliation, identity and violence. Golf argues against many post-...-thinkers, yet is not afraid to also bring in some of the insights that, for example, Foucault has brought us.

Volf talks about the importance of embracing the Other, and self-giving love and argues convincingly that that is the only proper response for any follower of the crucified Messiah. Yet, whi
David Campton
Aug 26, 2011 David Campton rated it really liked it
I first read this book, at a gallop, about 15 years ago shortly after hearing Volf speak on the subject, and it has strongly influenced my thinking and practice from that point on. I was prompted to re-read it following a critique of some of its positions by Derek Flood in "Disarming Scripture: Cherry-Picking Liberals, Violence-Loving Conservatives, and Why We All Need to Learn to Read the Bible Like Jesus Did" which I read last year... This has been a slower, more fragmented reading, and I thin ...more
Imcha Yanger
Dec 16, 2016 Imcha Yanger rated it it was amazing
This book has helped me understand and consider continuing to follow through the two greatest commandments, esp. the "fecund story of the prodigal son." Forgiveness is at the heart of the father, he embraces the change of both his sons. He forgives both of them.

It's not so much the ideology of equality as the world understands equality - both sons given the same response/same opportunities i.e. being invited into the house - it is unity. It is embrace. And a question arises, by whom? By someone
Jul 11, 2011 Jonathan rated it really liked it
Shelves: all
This is a great book on what it looks like to love our enemies the way Jesus intended. Volf had thought long and hard about this topic. He embodies his own challenge of “embrace” throughout the narrative as he shows a remarkable willingness to deal with both sides of many arguments. For example, Volf maintains the tension between the non-innocence of all human parties in extended periods of conflict with the need to hold onto the real categories of victim and oppressor. He shows that in many iss ...more
Monte Lee
Apr 19, 2012 Monte Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Chapter III develops the basic argument, best summarized in the Apostle Paul's injunction to the Romans: 'Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ welcomed you' (15:7). To describe the process of 'welcoming,' I employed the metaphor of 'embrace.' The metaphor seems well suited to bring together the three interrelated themes that are central to my proposal: (1) the mutuality of self-giving love in the Trinity (the doctrine of God), (2) the outstretched arms of Christ on the cross fo
May 29, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
After immensely enjoying the works of Jurgen Moltmann, it was very natural for me to move on to reading Miroslav Volf, "one of the most celebrated theologians of our day" who received two advanced theological degrees under Moltmann. What makes Exclusion and Embrace so engaging is that it is an outpouring of Volf's own intense spiritual journey through the problem of human conflict. For those who are in the habit of skipping prefaces and introductions (I'm one of them), do not do so when reading ...more
Sep 04, 2013 Darryl rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most challenging books I have ever read. Years ago I read Martin Buber's I and Thou and walked away feeling like an idiot. I don't think I understood one word of what I read (of course that was nearly 30 years ago, I'd like to think I've progressed some since then!).

While Volf did not leave me feeling uneducated as did Buber, I still found myself having to go back and re-read passages to make certain I was grasping his arguments. Even so, I know I will have to return to this b
Sep 20, 2012 Kipi rated it really liked it
An excellent book, but not an easy read. Much more academic and theological than Free of Charge , which I think is one of the best books on grace and forgiveness ever written. Perhaps it is because the concepts here are so much deeper and more apt to make us uncomfortable. My copy of this book is now littered with notes and underlining. Two points that I found particularly intriguing. The first was his idea of self-giving love and "making space" within our inner selves for the other. This is hi ...more
Apr 05, 2015 Jeremy marked it as to-read
Shelves: religion, non-fiction
Tim Keller on this book:

Miroslav Volf wrote a book called Exclusion & Embrace, and he makes a case there that Christianity gives you the most non-oppressive basis for self-image and identity. In traditional cultures, you feel good about yourself if you are doing what your parents want. In Western cultures, you feel good about yourself if you are achieving and you went to Harvard and you got an M.B.A. and now you’re at Goldman Sachs and you're doing well.

But I can tell you this, I'll say as a
Chris Waddle
Jan 25, 2014 Chris Waddle rated it it was amazing
Volf talks about what is the Christian Experience to be in our world of violence. The love of God in Christ comes to both the perpetrator of violence and the victims – innocent and otherwise. His sustained dialogue with post-modern thinkers is a very fertile tool to bring out what the Christian experience is and what the Christian vocation is in a world of evil and violence. The Christian should never give sanction as a Christian to any use of violence under any circumstance. God in Christ (1) i ...more
Jul 07, 2008 Liz rated it really liked it
This was a tough one. It is very theological (if that's a word) and very deep. I did find, however, some great insight into forgivness. One of the items that Volf wrote of is: the need to understand the other point of view. We can't judge based only on our own point of view because we are biased towards our own opinion (of course) but if we try to look at both sides, ours and the side of the person with whom we are arguing, we will most likely find some sort of understanding and/or common ground ...more
David Holford
Dec 15, 2012 David Holford rated it liked it
There are moments of brilliance and moments of muddle in this book. There is a lot of time and ink spent engaging with big names in modern and post-modern philosophy. I know this is Volf's academic style, but some of it is just hard slogging to get through, even for someone who has taught a bit of A-level philosophy and theology. (The engagement with theologians was less of a slog.)

The part with which I was least impressed was on gender identity. In this he relies heavily on the work, perhaps i
Oct 02, 2015 William rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology, ethics
A very good book in general. The first half offers a deep study of the issues of sin, forgiveness, and restoration under the headings of "exclusion" and "embrace". Volf is, I think, at his best here and offers provocative and moving exegesis with theological and philosophical reflection. The first half of the book ends with a brief study on the implications of these reflections on gender identity. While Volf's examination of the trinity, focused on Barth, Moltmann, and Ratzinger, is engaging and ...more
Sooho Lee
Miroslav Volf has done a tremendous service by exposing his own wounds as means for theological panacea. Historically, the human race has mastered the art of absolute exclusion of "the other," "the subhuman," or "the nonbeing." Unrestricted exclusion, or abandonment, is what morphs suffering into agony (26). Why? Because all humans are inescapably and intrinsically intertwined: we are, at the same time, both in distance and in belonging to another (ch. 1). To completely exclude is to mar oneself ...more
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Miroslav Volf is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and the founding director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. “One of the most celebrated theologians of our time,” (Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury), Volf is a leading expert on religion and conflict. His recent books include Against the Tide: Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities, ...more
More about Miroslav Volf...

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“The sufferings of Christ on the cross are not just his sufferings; they are “the sufferings of the poor and weak, which Jesus shares in his own body and in his own soul, in solidarity with them” (Moltmann 1992, 130). And since God was in Christ, “through his passion Christ brings into the passion history of this world the eternal fellowship of God and divine justice and righteousness that creates life” (131). On the cross, Christ both “identifies God with the victims of violence” and identifies “the victims with God, so that they are put under God's protection and with him are given the rights of which they have been deprived” 2 likes
“Sin is here the kind of purity that wants the world cleansed of the other rather than the heart cleansed of the evil that drives people out by calling those who are clean “unclean” and refusing to help make clean those who are unclean. Put” 1 likes
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