Thursday, July 24, 2008

Opening Thoughts on Exclusion and Embrace

Having gratefully put Ellul aside, at least for the moment, I've picked up Miroslav Volf's Exclusion and Embrace. Although the book was written not long after Work in the Spirit, and at first blush seems to follow a similar method, it feels very different to me. I'm only just getting started, but it already seems to situate its topic (how to think about reconciliation with your enemy) within a larger framework of theological reflection than Work in the Spirit. Among other things, it felt to me like Work in the Spirit didn't deal enough with the cross: Volf spent a great deal of time commenting on what work should be like, but didn't give much guidance on what to do when it wasn't that way. But in Exclusion and Embrace, Volf quite appropriately places the cross first and foremost as he works out what it means for a Christian to belong to a specific human culture.

In addition, the book is an admirable demonstration of how a well-informed, subtle and creative theological mind works with Scripture in the context of contemporary social and philosophical problems. I'm only just getting started, but I'm already learning from his placement of Paul's "body of Christ" metaphor within recent debates on the nature of community and self. It's an enlightening and refreshing reprieve after Ellul's dour prognostications.

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