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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

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  1,211 ratings  ·  88 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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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
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
Daunavan Buyer
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
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
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
Mike Blyth
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
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
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
Chris Waddle
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
Josh Meares
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.
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
Andrew Fox
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
Monte Lee
“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
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
Joshua  Butler
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
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
David Holford
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
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
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
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
I was listening to a sermon by Timothy Keller. He quoted Volf in "Exclusion," saying, 'I look at this book almost every year.' I thought, 'Come on! You go back to this book every year?' I see why. Volf brilliantly expounds on what seems like some pretty basic ideas (peace, violence, love, etc). Volf shows just exactly how complicated these ideas are. I love Volf's way with scripture. He unveils the Bible in a sophisticated but also accessible way.
Phil Aud
This is one of the best books that I have ever read. It is not an easy read (as it is laden with philosophical and theological language and reference) and may not be for everyone, but if you are up for a challenge it is well worth the effort.

There is a lot of talk about truth (epistemology), justice, and non-violence these days. Volf has the right to speak on these topics both intellectually and practically (as a Croatian). He brings important questions to the table that many, at a popular level
Steve Penner
This was a very popular book in the'90's. I finally cracked it open and got about half way through it before putting it away. It was not because it was a bad book in terms of content. Acutally it has very good content. It was just very difficult to read because it was very heavy theologically and the vocabulary and writing style made it a struggle. Volf is from Serbia and was there during the wars that followed the break up of the old Yugoslavia. Some of the stories he shares are heartwrenching ...more
A needed and helpful book. I really wish there was a simplified version for the average lay reader.

Only weak point (IMO)is the choice of 'gender' as topic for illustrating the application of his message. One because it doesn't fit completely with the focus of the rest of the book (he doesn't mention gender difference as an example of 'otherness' much). Amd two because I felt that he had to argue from yet another angle to make his point (Trinity), rather than simply applying the thoughts he devel
Interacting with a broad spectrum of theologians and philosophers, Volf expounds on the concepts of exclusion and embrace as theological metaphors befitting both the biblical tradition and the contemporary mood. As theological categories – inspired by Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son – exclusion and embrace, respectively, demonstrate the violence of sin and the radical healing power of redemption. In addition to rooting these concepts in the biblical narrative and exploring them in light of co ...more
This was a great book. I would have given it 5 stars if Volf had made a couple changes. I would have liked for him to tie each chapter together a little more. Adding summaries to the end of the chapters, or at least at the end of the book would be a great help.

Other than that this is a great book on identity and how to love our fellow man. I found myself highlighting many sections of this book. His research and thinking on the topic is very deep. He goes through and examine a variety of theories
Milan Homola
This book is not for everyone. I had very high hopes for it...and I have to say it didn't really hold up in the end. There are some great points...but ultimately the book's subtitle was misleading "A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation." I was really hoping for some good work on identity as it relates to embrace...but there was very little. The first half of the book took a very interesting look at "embrace" and "exclusion" The second half of the book was a choppy ...more
Tim Otto
Such a rich book. Great guide to thinking through the stance we assume towards people with whom we are not reconciled. Helped me think about God's wrath in surprisingly orthodox ways. Some interesting critiques of Girard's scapegoating theory.
Dale Nolan
I love the book, although you may want to read it twice, or as another reviewer said, "Read it very slowly." Thought provoking and sobering in places. It's not an easy read, but worth the time.

By the way, I deducted 1 star because the Kindle edition is terrible. I've never seen a kindle book with so many errors in it! Unless they re-edit it, stick to a paper edition for this read!
Thomas Christianson
A powerful book exploring the realizations of truth, violence, love, justice, freedom, grace, blame, etc in our world.

In our violent, war torn world, this examination was valuable and challenging.

It's a slow read, requiring a great deal of thought and attention.

I took more notes in this book than any book since grad school...and probably took more notes than several course texts.

I expect to revisit several areas of this book in the future as a refresher.

A high amount of philosophical thinking, V
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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
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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” 1 likes
“In the final analysis, the only available options are either to reject the cross and with it the core of the Christian faith or to take up one's cross, follow the Crucified-and be scandalized ever anew by the challenge.” 0 likes
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