|A Brief Review of
By Miroslav Volf.
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Reviewed by Stephen Lawson.
Since the publication of Exclusion and Embrace in 1996, Miroslav Volf has been one of the most influential theologians in America. Originally from Croatia, Volf is now professor of theology at Yale. His influence can be seen in both the academy (where After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity was hailed as one of the most rigorous theological defenses of “free church ecclesiology” to date) and the church (where his more accessible books such as The End of Memory and Free of Charge have received a wide readership). Despite the undeniable distinction between his work for the academy and his work for the wider church, there is a remarkable consistency in the themes he explores. He is committed to a theology that both speaks the truth and calls for total reconciliation between enemies.
His most recent book, Against the Tide: Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities, is a collection of short articles that he has penned over the last fifteen years (the majority of which appeared in the Christian Century). Volf ranges from discussing politics and the difficulties of being a public Christian in a violent age to frankly discussing the issues involved in becoming an adoptive parent. The book is self-disclosing in that way. Not only is the reader permitted to read Volf’s wisdom on politics and culture, the reader also learns of Volf’s own struggles and victories. And, while the articles cover dozens of different topics (they are ordered around loose themes), Volf’s underlining commitment to reconciliation and forgiveness is apparent throughout the book. Even when the occasion of the article (for example, the 9/11 attacks) is long since past, Volf’s articles prove to be insightful, even prophetic.
Each article is only two to three pages in length and pursues only one simple point. While most of these articles are able to cut to the point in that brief allotment, several articles leave the reader wanting a few more pages. The brevity of the articles means that this book best lends itself to a slow read, only one or two articles at a time, but the book is extremely accessible, recommended for both laity and clergy.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com