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

Exclusion & Embrace by Miroslav Volf
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Jul 27, 2011

bookshelves: theology, phd-related
Read from December 29, 2014 to January 15, 2015

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, which is a recurrent theme in his later books as well, this is understood in the light of divine judgement. There is a strict command for the Christian to nonviolence, yet God will also judge one day, and God, for Volf, has a prerogative for violence. This, as Volf predicts it will for Western theologians, is somewhat hard to swallow for me. I am not too comfortable with that type of divine violence, even if Volf makes a biblical case for it. But, it does at least challenge me to think about why I have problems with it, if, in the end, God's judgement is just.

Interstingly, Volf brings up the question of gender twice in the book. And they are, to my mind, sensitive treatments of the issue. There would be much more that I would be able to say about them, but that will have to be for something longer than a review here. It is very interesting how Volf argues, not for a complementary view of gender equality, but that humans are inescapably sexed, but that is because we are creatures, not because we are "Imago Dei". God is not sexed, and whatever it means to be the image of God it is linked with some sense of human nature (as I understand it), or, was it, perhaps, the fact that humans are persons? Well, I will certainly go back to the sections on gender, personhood and identity to see how Volf links the thoughts of a Triune God with anthropology.

Challenging, and it certainly makes me as a Christian to think about what it means to see the Other as constituting me. This Judith Butler, and, I suppose, Levinas, talk about as well, and it is equally challenging. What I wonder is, if it becomes a more consistent thought when the importance of the Other is grounded in a Trinitarian theology? That is what I need to work our in my thesis anyway.


2009 - This is a groundbreaking work and something I would recommend everyone interested in theology and/or peace and reconciliation. It is dense and scholalry written, but if one reads it slowly and diligently one gets a huge reward. Volf is very challenging though and I'm not sure I agree on everything. I'm not sure if he wavers on the nonviolence, but it is not easy for me to accept the thought of the judging God and even violent God. Having said that, I do wonder if this is not one of the most important books of the first decade of the new millennium.
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Reading Progress

12/29/2014 marked as: currently-reading
01/15/2015 marked as: read

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