Jonathan's Reviews > Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation

Exclusion & Embrace by Miroslav Volf
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's review
Jan 05, 2015

really liked it
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Read in August, 2011

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 issues the lines are blurred, defined differently by different parties, and tend to shift over history – but that does not mean that there is not a difference or that we cannot judge when someone is being oppressed or someone is being victimized. His frequent reminder to us of this tension is both accurate and challenging.

Even when he does not have the space to deal with every last objection, he acknowledges those objections that he chooses not to address, and takes very seriously those objections which he feels bring the greatest possible arguments against his position. This makes for a dense read, but it is worth it. His concluding chapters on Oppression/Justice, Deception/Truth, and Violence/Peace do a fantastic job of dealing with some of the modern and postmodern arguments against his position of nonviolent embrace and show how an honest philosophical position can be brought to bear on real-world events.

I got the least out of his chapter on gender relations. While I appreciated the conclusions he got to in the end (general and vague though they are), I felt that some of his argument to get there was a case of reaching for the conclusions he already wanted in advance. In general this was something that he walked the line on a number of times in the book, but only in this chapter did I feel he crossed it.

Overall, though, Volf’s use of the Bible and Biblical theology to explore and develop his argument within a broader philosophical framework is fantastic – he neglects neither current realities, historical realities, or Biblical realities. He uses its stories effectively to reflect on human nature while using its teachings to show us the way to go forward. And he keeps going back to Jesus and the cross to keep the central message of the gospels in the forefront of our answer to moving forward in human relationships with historical enemies.
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