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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 ·  2,099 ratings  ·  138 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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Jun 03, 2008 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 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.
Nov 17, 2011 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
Apr 05, 2015 marked it as to-read
Shelves: non-fiction, religion
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 pas
Nov 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: theology
I think Miroslav Volf and I probably disagree on a good number of things. There were parts I found Pelagian and there appeared a James Martin-esque faux pas that included an embarrassingly bad reading of Jesus’ encounter with the Syrophoenician woman (see p. 214).
However, it is important to read outside our echo chambers. On top of that, Volf is thoughtful and writes beautifully with concern for the problems facing us in our ever-divided, increasingly partisan world.
Porter Sprigg
This book is so important. I have wrestled a lot with how to love my "enemy" whether that be the family member I'm angry at or the fellow citizen who is my political opposite. This book provides a powerful challenge to those who so quickly write off "the other." Volf compellingly argues that justice goes hand in hand with a desire to embrace our enemy, no matter how despicable their actions. We must also truly strive to see the justice and truth in their positions, even if from our position it s ...more
Joshua  Butler
Jan 28, 2008 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
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: physical-owned
4.5 stars - I particularly love the use of metaphor as metaphysics in this book. Not perfect, but a resonant book I think, and one was very meaningful for me at the time I read it
Peter Kerry Powers
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some years ago my wife, Shannon, occasionally wrote reviews of classic books for a publication for gifted high school students. Although I don't think there is an official genre know as the re-review, I think there probably ought to be. In a day and age when most people fail to read even one book a year, much less a relatively challenging and completely serious and comprehensive work of theology, perhaps we readers ought to take it as part of our role to reintroduce books from decades past to re ...more
Alan Rathbun
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not for the faint of heart. It’s message is clear and good, but it is academic through and through. I’m thankful I read it on my Kindle because I had to look up the meaning of a word every 4 or 5 pages. I had previously read “Free of Charge” and “A Public Faith” and loved them. A friend and I decided to tackle this book and it was a long and slow read.
Having said that, it’s message is clearly articulated. The only way for us to overcome violence in this world is through trusting i
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent book. Slow-going & theologically packed, but worth it. Appreciated the idea that in conflict, forgiveness is not the final end goal; embrace should follow. ...more
Mike Blyth
Mar 23, 2012 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
Daunavan Buyer
Jan 18, 2015 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
Nov 16, 2008 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
Roland Clark
Mar 13, 2015 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
Rod White
Mar 08, 2009 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
Oct 09, 2011 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.
Jan 29, 2016 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.
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Theologian Miroslav Volf's is also a Croatian whose theology and faith differed from that of the predominant religion of his culture. He thus writes from biblical text, strong rational argument, and experience.
The beginning chapters of Exclusion and Embrace are deep, but worth wading through as the remainder of the book clarifies and expands on the premises outlined at the beginning. Ultimately this book is about redeeming memory without removing boundary. Even so living out truth with integrit
Tanya Marlow
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a dense and academic read, but a rewarding one. Volf explores what the cross means for his home country of Croatia, having emerged from the bitterness of the 90s civil war with Sarajevo. To oversimplify, Volf focuses on sin as ‘exclusion’ and reconciliation as ‘embrace’. His thesis is that the cross has a dual element for both victims and perpetrators of evil.

For victims of crime and suffering, the cross is a embrace - a message from God of solidarity. Christ identifies with victims of i
Joel Wentz
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Easily one of the most important and challenging theological texts I've read. Volf writes with passion and clarity, and a steadfast refusal to offer simple or cliche responses to the problems of identity, conflict, justice, oppression, forgiveness and reconciliation. The careful way he parses the difference between "exclusion" and "judgement," the ways exclusion feeds our refusal to forgive the "other," and the powerful meditation on the act of embrace (an act which must be done with complete op ...more
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A truly brilliant book on the psychology, theology and practice of exclusion of others and the redemptive and restorative practice of inclusion. This incredibly dense and theologically deep treatise is riveting and inspiring. Page after page of illuminating presentations make it incredibly enjoyable to read, despite it's density. In fact, it was only in the last eleven pages i found myself remotely disappointed. Volf's final analysis that we are to trust in God's violent justice, and therefore e ...more
Austin Mathews
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Though written over 20 years ago now, Volf’s critique of liberal postmodernism and its relativizing of truth, justice, and violence is as poignant as ever. On the cross Jesus embraced us, and it is the same Christ who will return to expel those who stubbornly refuse the gift of grace and reconciliation offered by that profound and inviting embrace. We have a God who suffered violence, and who alone is permitted to deal it at the end of time. Therefore, with “double vision” and the primacy of lov ...more
Andrew Kooman
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
No other book have I dog-eared the corners of pages than Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. Volf has a rare ability to make plain very complex concepts.

He pulls from, engages, challenges, and often undresses major schools of thought and the brightest thinkers among them. His passage examining the parable of the prodigal so engaged and impacted me, I had to pick myself up off the floor.

Published in the mid 90s, the publisher describes the book as follows: "Life at the end of the twentieth century presents u
An Te
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A political theological treatise from the theologian, Miroslav Volf, does not fail to compel and challenge a few modern conceptions of self, liberalism, gender and violence to name a few concepts... His central thesis revolves around the otherness of individuals and how Jesus's coming has shown us the way to 'embrace' individuals back into themselves. It is beautifully argued and carefully-crafted to address some of the common concerns are with the conservative Christian response, which predomin ...more
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Exclusion and Embrace was one of the most challenging books I've read because it was so dense. Not a huge fan of philosophy and inexperienced with systematic theology, so this was a stretch for "fun reading." I agree with those who have listed this book as one of the most important theological works of the 20th century.

A stab at summarizing the book - Volf discusses exclusion primarily as the way in which humanity defines its sense of self. By declaring I am not like you, we define ourselves by
Maria Copeland
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf examines, in essentials, what sets people apart and what brings them together, with reconciliation as the objective of and the force which negotiates the transition. On the whole, I felt that Volf’s conclusions remained largely abstract and academic, though valuable; so deeply rooted in history that they are hard to adjust to contemporary trials, though the concepts are timeless. However, h ...more
William Baker
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Five stars for deftly introducing the recent century and its major thought-currents (modernism, postmodernism, liberalism, socialism, etc.) to the reader. Great handling of issues, wonderful insights! The last 20 pages or so were a huge disappointment, though, on the Apocalypse and the wrath/violence of God: the unmentioned psychological factor was a gaping hole (e.g. as to the "self-immunization of evildoers" who resist redemption; also disregarding the universal and individual evolution of hum ...more
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the classic book on Christian identity formation. I found it a challenging read but well worth it. In the first half, Volf sets out his theory about how as humans, we identify ourselves by who we exclude. But he encourages Christians to truly embrace others. He then applies his ideas to several complex issues such as gender roles, oppression and justice, deception and truth, violence and peace. The book was published in 1996 but the issues still feel very current.
Jack Ippel
May 09, 2018 rated it liked it
It was difficult for me to get through this book. What Volf has to say is well thought out, and the subject matter is such good stuff! But my mind is not the type of mind that can process such deep philosophical and theological debate. (Plus consider the seven- and eight-letter words used throughout!) The book is very thought provoking, to say the least.
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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, and ...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” 3 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.” 2 likes
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