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Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation [Paperback]

By Miroslav Volf (Author)
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Item description for Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf...

)"One of a mere handful of genuinely significant books in systematic theology from the last decade. Into the midst of riot and conflict, God on the cross, with outstretched hands, points us to a theology of embrace. Has implications for all Christian social ethics,"---Princeton Seminary Bulletin.

Publishers Description

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 the New Testament metaphor of salvation as reconciliation, Volf proposes the idea of embrace as a theological response to the problem of exclusion.

Increasingly we see that exclusion has become the primary sin, skewing our perceptions of reality and causing us to react out of fear and anger to all those who are not within our (ever-narrowing) circle. In light of this, Christians must learn that salvation comes, not only as we are reconciled to God, and not only as we "learn to live with one another," but as we take the dangerous and costly step of opening ourselves to the other, of enfolding him or her in the same embrace with which we have been enfolded by God.

Is there any hope of embracing our enemies? Of opening the door to reconciliation? Miroslav Volf, a Yale University theologian, has won the 2002 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his book, Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Abingdon, 1996). Volf argues that exclusion of people who are alien or different is among the most intractable problems in the world today. He writes, It may not be too much to claim that the future of our world will depend on how we deal with identity and difference. The issue is urgent. The ghettos and battlefields throughout the world in the living rooms, in inner cities, or on the mountain ranges testify indisputably to its importance. A Croatian by birth, Volf takes as a starting point for his analysis the recent civil war and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, but he readily finds other examples of cultural, ethnic, and racial conflict to illustrate his points. And, since September 11, one can scarcely help but plug the new world players into his incisive descriptions of the dynamics of interethnic and international strife.

Exclusion happens, Volf argues, wherever impenetrable barriers are set up that prevent a creative encounter with the other. It is easy to assume that exclusion is the problem or practice of barbarians who live over there, but Volf persuades us that exclusion is all too often our practice here as well. Modern western societies, including American society, typically recite their histories as narratives of inclusion, and Volf celebrates the truth in these narratives. But he points out that these narratives conveniently omit certain groups who disturb the integrity of their happy ending plots. Therefore such narratives of inclusion invite long and gruesome counter-narratives of exclusion the brutal histories of slavery and of the decimation of Native American populations come readily to mind, but more current examples could also be found.

Most proposed solutions to the problem of exclusion have focused on social arrangements what kind of society ought we to create in order to accommodate individual or communal difference? Volf focuses, rather, on what kind of selves we need to be in order to live in harmony with others. In addressing the topic, Volf stresses the social implications of divine self-giving. The Christian scriptures attest that God does not abandon the godless to their evil, but gives of Godself to bring them into communion. We are called to do likewise whoever our enemies and whoever we may be. The divine mandate to embrace as God has embraced is summarized in Paul s injunction to the Romans: Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you (Romans 15:7).

Susan R. Garrett, Coordinator of the Religion Award, said that the Grawemeyer selection committee praised Volf s book on many counts. These included its profound interpretation of certain pivotal passages of Scripture and its brilliant engagement with contemporary theology, philosophy, critical theory, and feminist theory. Volf s focus is not on social strategies or programs but, rather, on showing us new ways to understand ourselves and our relation to our enemies. He helps us to imagine new possibilities for living against violence, injustice, and deception. Garrett added that, although addressed primarily to Christians, Volf's theological statement opens itself to religious pluralism by upholding the importance of different religious and cultural traditions for the formation of personal and group identity. The call to embrace the other is never a call to remake the other into one s own image. Volf who had just delivered a lecture on the topic of Exclusion and Embrace at a prayer breakfast for the United Nations when the first hijacked plane hit the World Trade Center will present a lecture and receive his award in Louisville during the first week of April, 2002.

The annual Religion Award, which includes a cash prize of $200,000, is given jointly by Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville to the authors or originators of creative works that contribute significantly to an understanding of the relationship between human beings and the divine, and ways in which this relationship may inspire or empower human beings to attain wholeness, integrity, or meaning, either individually or in community. The Grawemeyer awards given also by the University of Louisville in the fields of musical composition, education, psychology, and world order honor the virtue of accessibility: works chosen for the awards must be comprehensible to thinking persons who are not specialists in the various fields. "

Awards and Recognitions
Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf has received the following awards and recognitions -

  • Christianity Today Book Award - 1997 Winner - Top 25 category

Citations And Professional Reviews
Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Christian Century - 10/19/2010 page 31

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Abingdon Press
Pages   336
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.99" Width: 6.04" Height: 0.82"
Weight:   1 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 1996
Publisher   Abingdon Church Supplies
ISBN  0687002826  
ISBN13  9780687002825  

Availability  101 units.
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More About Miroslav Volf

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Miroslav Volf is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale University and the author of several books, including Exclusion and Embrace, winner of the Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

Miroslav Volf currently resides in the state of California. Miroslav Volf has an academic affiliation as follows - Biblijsko-Teoloski Institut, Zagreb.

Miroslav Volf has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Best Christian Writing
  2. Sacra Doctrina: Christian Theology for a Postmodern Age

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General

Christian Product Categories
Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation?

Challenging  May 15, 2007
It is very challenging to explore what forgiveness means in the light of the deep realities faced so honestly here.
Jamie  Feb 26, 2007
This book is a bunch of intellectual garbage. The author uses many big words and quotes prestigious thinkers, and yet doesn't actually say anything new or provacative. This book is definitely not worth reading.
Exclusion and Embrace  Dec 4, 2006
What a fantastic book Miroslav Volf wrote. This comes from his struggle to deal the effects of the war in his native land of Croatia. Prof Volf is right on when he makes the move to deal with ones willingness to embrace ones enemy just as God, in Christ, moved towards sinful humanity to embrace us. It can be somewhat of a difficult read, but it is worth it. I would recommend that every minister, theologian, and ministrial student read this book.
The Cross, the Self, and the Other  Jun 3, 2006
Miroslav Volf has written a somewhat complex piece that in the end advocates non-violence in a world of violence. He writes as one who has been in the war zone of the Balkans and come out the other side. This book is important for what it has to say about justice, but more importantly love. Volf has had to deal personally with Serbian fighters who raped, pillaged, put in concentration camps, and murdered his fellow Croatians and he comes down in the end on the side of taking up your cross and following Jesus. Lest one think that he is a weak pacifist, he does come down theologically on the side of a God who judges, if even by violent means, and he calls on us, who wish to appeal to the Christ of the cross for our actions, to trust in the wrath of the Lamb and the one who sits upon the throne.
He discusses what it means to set boundaries and yet embrace the other. Every chapter is important in this book. Vof comes down on the side of love even over justice and he sincerely believes that love is right and that violence is wrong.
This book has already had a major impact on many and hopefully this will continue. In a time when preachers on television are advocating war and violence it is important that somehow the real message of Christianity would come out. Volf, Desmond Tutu, Walter Wink, L. Gregory Jones, Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder, N. T. Wright and others are showing the real way for Christians to be in the world and so this work is greatly appreciated.

This is not an easy read, as some other reviewers have pointed out. Volf engages many dialogue partners and the issues are at times technical and deeply philosophical, but as the spotlight reviewer put it, it is worth working through this book.
Volf does give high priority to all of scripture and some of the best sections in the book are when he works through such the Cain and Abel story, the prodigal son, and the book of Revelation.

I recommend this book for all theologians, preachers, and very serious bible students. Those outside the discipline of theology will have a harder time with the technicalities of the book, but it is worth the struggle. I recommend this book along with Desmond Tutu's book "No Future Without Forgiveness" to all of those Christian Zionist preachers out there who are misguided by the god of War and need to return to the Jesus of the cross.

Questions or Comments Contact me at
Creative Differentiation vs. Sinful Exclusion  May 6, 2006
As I read this book I was challenged to understand theological foundations and keys to understanding deeply rooted conflict among peoples around the world. That is why I recommend this book to you.

I have often pondered how we, the Christian Church, are to disciple nations. Some say it is done by winning a majority of souls in a nation, but the African nation of Malawi with 90% Christians is a dismal failure in terms justice, economic development, and overall of quality of life. Some say discipling a nation is all about quality of life and institutional reform, particularly reforms consistent with modern democracies.

What is Exlusion?

Exclusion is when we set ourselves apart from others for the purpose of defining our selves and justifying ourselves; we hope to purify ourselves. The difference between us has been healed when Jesus broke the wall of enmity. However, he did not erase the difference (p. 47). The need to restore "Identity" in individuals and whole cultures is a key message of this book. As Christians, we are called to depart from our culture and step into another. It is impossible to cross-cultures effectively if you do not know who you are. Volf encourages unity in diversity, "One body, many members" (p. 48), not a universal human identity. The bible says we are distinct in our diverse individualities and cultures. The cross of Christ is central. In the scandal of the cross, we find the promise of fellowship with the Crucified Christ. He explains that the core theme of the Gospels is "come and die". Our identity is "in His image".
However, this identity is not the end; it is a means to the end. Once crucified, we are called to engage the world that is broken. Therefore every social issue must be processed through reflection on the cross. (p. 25). Volf calls us to give up on modern hopes in order to see the only hope in self-giving love (p. 28). Volf defines "exclusion" as a powerful, contagious, and destructive evil.

What is Embrace?

"Embrace", he writes, is distancing ourselves from our own cultures to create space for the other (p. 30). We must both cultivate a distance from culture and at the same time belong to our culture (p. 37). "Solitarity", Volf writes, rightly underlines God's partiality to the `helpless'. However solidarity must include self-donation, self-giving. The story of the Good Samaritan illustrates the evil of exclusion in overt acts of violence as well as the non-actions of the disinterested. Truth and justice, Volf argues, are unavailable if we do not choose to embrace (p. 29). What is needed is "space" in our hearts to embrace our neighbors (p. 51). Other cultures are not a threat, but a potential source of enrichment. As we make some distance from our own culture, we actually express judgment against evil in every culture (p. 52).
Modernity will emphasize social arrangements, not social agents. Modernity shifts the "moral responsibility away from us individually and toward society. (p. 21). In ministering to the modernist and the postmodernist, we must insist upon trans-national, trans-ethnic, transcendental communities (p. 39). We must set our hearts on pilgrimage, from our own cultures and to the kingdom of God. Modern Christians tend to seek freedom, without the accompanied "binding" responsibility to a community (p. 42). We must depart our culture with a goal. To depart without a goal, like a nomad always leaving is post-modern. (p. 40) Postmodernity creates a climate in which evasion of moral responsibility is a way of life. Relationships have become "fragmentary" and "discontinuous". Our modern culture fosters "disengagement and commitment avoidance". (p. 21)

If what Volf says is true, then `calling' must remain the focus in my ministry. My ministry focus should, as Volf exhorts, "concentrate less on social arrangements and more on fostering the kind of social agents capable of envisioning and creating just, truthful, and peaceful societies, and on shaping a cultural climate in which such agents will thrive." (p. 21) What Volf makes clear is that exclusion is a sinful activity that ultimately reconfigures the creation in order to distinguish it from the creative activity of differentiation.

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