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Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  607 ratings  ·  82 reviews
We are at our human best when we give and forgive. But we live in a world in which it makes little sense to do either one. In our increasingly graceless culture, where can we find the motivation to give? And how do we learn to forgive when forgiving seems counterintuitive or even futile? A deeply personal yet profoundly thoughtful book, Free of Charge explores these questi ...more
Paperback, 247 pages
Published January 19th 2006 by Zondervan
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4.16  · 
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 ·  607 ratings  ·  82 reviews

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Jul 06, 2007 rated it liked it
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this is a book that i randomly picked up after anna brought it home from the library. looked pretty interesting and was the archbishop of canterbury's official lent 2006 book - who could resist?...

miroslav volf is apparently a fairly well-known theologian who teaches at yale. this book covers the twin themes of giving and forgiving. the thing that struck me most in the book was volf's description of the common ways that people view Go
Miroslav Volf is one of my favorite writers. His book Exclusion and Embrace might be in my top ten reads of all time, and his work comparing Christian and Muslim understandings of God (Allah: A Christian Response) is fantastic. So I came to this book expecting a lot and I won't say it disappointed, but it was different then what I expected.

Exclusion and Embrace was a heavy theological work that cut to the heart of Christian faith, with brilliant insights into Jesus' death and how we ought to liv
Jul 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
I'm confused by my own response to this one. For stretches, I found it quite dull. Then I'd be really into it for a bit. In both cases, I was highlighting more than the typical number of passages. When it was insightful, it was really so, but it wasn't an exciting read, despite being smart and often challenging.

The first half of the book, on giving, is a nice bit of Christian philosophy on giving and the gift. It both swats away the work of thinkers like Derrida and Caputo with a quick stroke an
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology, favorites
Simply put: this is an amazing work. While I may still consider Exclusion and Embrace his most important work, Volf's writing on forgiveness and giving is his most accessible and, from a pastoral perspective, critical. One will find much here that is helpful and that will provoke deep thought--and perhaps some life-change. I have referred the book to many and think it will be one of those books I have a hard time keeping on my shelf as I have already replaced it once!

So if you are wrestling with
Adam Shields
Dec 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Short Review: Best books I have read on forgiveness and a very good look at what giving is all about. In someways it felt like two short books tacked together. I know that in Volf's mind they are very intimately connected, but I don't think he quite showed the connection well enough.

Regardless, Volf starts with a look at who God and and what God gives to us. The first chapter really sets the stage for the sections on both giving and forgiveness. The giving sections were good, giving is a respon
Apr 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone who believes in God
I do love to read, and I love to pass along my love of books, but there are very few books that I whole-heartedly recommend. Miraslov Volf’s Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace is one I would not only recommend, I would encourage every person who believes in God to read.

Volf is a professor of theology at Yale Divinity School, but this is not an intimidating read. Each of the two sections, giving and forgiving, begins with discussing how God does each. He reminds u
Feb 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
His approach to the subject is very personal. He argues that in giving and forgiving we have to follow God's lead. We forgive because God forgives, we forgive without preconditions, because God does. Many of his ideas are personally challenging, and require a lot more introspection and study. A stunning book in my opinion.
Jeff Borgman
Feb 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Theological yet accessible, Volf enters into the life and response of the Christian life in light of God's giving and forgiving character. This book is rich with context, content, and story to illustrate a life that can be beautifully lived. Volf describes the book as a spiritual journey that exercises his theology. I would agree and highly recommend.
Apr 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Volf's Exclusion and Embrace is one of the best books on forgiveness. But it is a deeply theological and philosophical book (with a section on Hegel, for instance) meaning it is unlikely to be read by the average lay person.

This volume is accessible and not an academic book at all. While also updating Volf's deep thinking about the topic.

Volf is from the Balkans and so his ideas have been refined in the crucible of political oppression, civil war, and genocide. And yet he takes seriously the Ch
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When thinking about grace and forgiveness of others, Volf really focuses on the forgiver, not the person to be forgiven. This book is engaging, and it includes many relevant stories from Volf's life to illustrate how forgiveness can be found, even if the worst of circumstances. He also includes a postlude that answers some of the more significant arguments against the claims made in his book, as a true apologist would. His writing is accessible to all, not just philosophers or those in the world ...more
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Is everyone really better than our worst act? —taken from Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy”

I cannot force people’s apologies to lead to changed behavior.

What I do get to determine is how long I allow someone or something that has hurt me, to [continue to] haunt me.

This is forgiveness. And more importantly this is what is meant when often people say you must forgive for yourself and not for those who have offended you.
Dan Wolgemuth
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It took me a while to get a good rhythm through this book, but it was well worth the effort. This is not just a good read, it’s an important book. Deeply convicting, especially about forgiveness. I needed these words.
Emily Isbell
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book- theology applied to giving and forgiving, thoughtful, spiritual, and real, and written from the voice of Eastern influenced Christianity.
Rocky Woolery
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very honest appraisal of the human character as well as the practices of giving and forgiving. Very good thoughts on the reasons to give and forgive, mainly as a reflection of God as a giver.
Gavin McGrath
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a book I will need to read again (and again). There are gems here. There are sharp edges too: edges that cut the normal ways of thinking about giving and forgiving.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Amazing insight, stories, and richness but got long winded and found myself skimming some.
Adam Gossman
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read - deeply thought out and told in a personal voice all at once.
Tricia Culp
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian-life
The description of this book is apt. He gets a little long-winded at times, but I loved the content. It enriched my understanding of giving and forgiving, and I know I will think about it and go back to it in the future.
Phil Whittall
Dec 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Miroslav Volf's Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace is an excellent book.

Forgiveness is such a tough issue to both understand and more importantly to practice. There are so many emotional barriers that we struggle with and as a pastor I see people still bound to the hurt that they have received, still trapped by their offender because forgiveness hasn't yet been found.

Volf does not shirk the difficult issues, his examples are as heart rending as any - a father for
Dec 03, 2009 rated it liked it
I skipped through the first big section as I was most interested in reading about forgiveness. It was good and helpful, though as he said, he wrote it for himself. It is very logical with basic ideas set forth and then a number of questions that seem to upset those ideas with Volf answering each one.

Basic ideas I thought most helpful were:

1. Forgiveness contains both blame/condemnation as well as release/forgiving the debt. You can't forgive without justly condemning.

2. Forgiveness from a huma
Joseph Sverker
2016: I am still gripped by this book and in many ways Volf is still as engaging and though provoking. I am a little more skeptical against the insistent references to Luther though. I actually have nothing (or not much at least) against Luther, but there are more theologians than him. Golf labours his points fairly much and the first half is a little more repetitive than the second. And it is when it comes to the second half, that of forgiving that I really get gripped. Volf manages to weave hi ...more
Feb 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: stewardship
Overview of Chapters Four to Six -- Forgiving

The first three chapters are on Giving. They are very helpful and are worth a careful study.

The same threads run through the chapters on forgiving. In the chapters on giving, Volf challenges the false gods of God as the "Negotiator" or as "Santa Claus." The corollary in the chapters on forgiving is a dismissal of the false gods as "Judge" or the "Doting Grandparent." Volf moves us to a proclamation of the biblical God who gives and forgives.

The God w
May 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Thought-provoking, lovely, and altogether too much smoke.

Miroslav Volf is a wonderful writer and a grand thinker. There were several times in this book when he pushed a profound idea across that had me in tears. Divided into two parts, the book deals with giving and forgiving. The two things that will stick with me are the pictures he painted of God the giver and forgiving as condemning sin. He clearly knows his material, but this ends up being a weakness.

There is too much going on under the sur
Nov 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Volf's book is simply written, but dense with ideas and content and so does not make for a quick read. As a theologian he does not resort to the general Christian book tendency to illustrate every point from life. There are examples here, from his own family history and from literary sources and from Luther's writings, but there is also much deep reflection about giving and forgiving and their basis in the grace God gives us in Christ. Volf offers a challenging, even impossible, road for the ind ...more
May 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've worked my way through this book in fits and starts over the past several months which hinders the task of "reviewing" a work. For those who want a brief synopsis of the text, Volf's afterword gives a great 4-point summation of the book's intentions:
> To present a "case for Christianity"
> To present a particular reading of the Apostle Paul
> To present a particular reading (in the Finnish tradition) of Martin Luther
> To do so in a way that bends and blends the categories of "theol
Five years after the Archbishop of Canterbury recommended this as his choice of books for Lent, I finally read Volf's book. This is a strong and wise book, deeply influenced by Luther, and daring us to think of giving and forgiving in profound and radical ways. Volf describes the Atonement clearly and sensibly. Throughout the book, he illustrates his arguments with examples from a broad range of writers. When Volf says that 'An individual's forgiveness and the state's punishment are compatible'( ...more
Sep 18, 2010 rated it liked it
I took away three important thoughts from this book:

1) EVERYTHING is a gift from God. Everybody gets everything from God, so I need to stop thinking that everyone else is somehow better - more special - than I am.

2) Telling someone you forgive them is also an accusation. So, it's likely I'm going to anger the person I want to forgive - in order to restore our relationship - in the process.

3) Forgiveness takes place in community. It takes a community to encourage and exemplify forgiveness; for
Apr 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Christians & those curious about it, those searching, those interested in forgiveness/forgiving
Recommended to Amanda by: Questions of Faith class
First two chapters are great. I have to say that this is an even better "description" of Christianity than Mere Christianity, or at least easier to relate to. Maybe since it's written within my lifetime.

The concepts are good, well founded and repeated enough to be remembered. It's a hard read at times, though, too and several places I had to reread multiple times and then just move on because I was caught up in a difficult section. Rereading quickly the second time has been helpful.

I think there
Sep 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book is on both my "read" and "to-read" shelves. It's one of those slender existential mind-reads like Tillich's "Courage to Be" -- it starts with some simple head nods and leads inexorably to a re-evaluation of the way we lead our lives. What would life be like if we considered everything a gift?
The second half deals with forgiveness. We are so far from his model, I'm not sure that we even properly confront people with their wrong acts -- so we have nothing to forgive them for.
To sum up,
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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
“Faith is the way we as receivers relate appropriately to God as the giver. It is empty hands held open for God to fill.” 4 likes
“the true God gives so we can become joyful givers and not just self-absorbed receivers.” 4 likes
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