Sidebar: Exclusion and Embrace

Luke Timothy Johnson

Exclusion and Embrace, by Miroslav Volf

Life at the beginning of the twenty-first 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 heard today, Christian theology must find ways of speaking that address that hatred of the other. Reaching back to the New Testament metaphor of salvation as reconciliation, Volf proposes the idea 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.

“This book is a major contribution to political theology today. born out of the suffering of his people in the Balkans, biblically-grounded and future-oriented to a new human community, it is a great witness to the God who forgives and does not remember forever, creating a new community out of enemies. There is no better theology of the present-day context of life and death.”—Jurgen Moltmann, University of Tübingen

“Combining personal witness, moral passion, and theological erudition with a refreshingly clear style, Volf draws the reader through the complexities of life in a fractured world, demonstrating the multiple ways in which the exclusion of the “other” perpetuates a desperate cycle of violence. He finds hope, not in the answers offered either by modernism or postmodernism, but in the challenge revealed at the heart of the gospel: the wounded yet healing embrace of the suffering servant of Jesus. I recommend it enthusiastically.” —Luke Timothy Johnson, Candler School of Theology