Miroslav Volf is a theologian whose work has built into an impressive corpus of reflection on the nature of the church and its mission. He has consitently explored the relation between Trinitarian theology and the life of the Church, and the theology and practices of forgiveness, reconciliation, peace and graced living with which the followers of Jesus Christ are called to address the disturbingly compelling realities of human conflict, historic hatreds and the resort to violence.
Reflecting on the nature of forgiveness and reconciliation, and the consequent practices of peacemaking, conciliation and openness to the other, Volf offers at times a profound and demanding challenge to the contemporary Christian and the contemporary Church, whatever the Christian tradition. His Exclusion and Embrace is a seminal work whose relevance and argument go beyond any narrow theological concerns. It grew out of his experience of violence fuelled by historic hatred, depersonalising mythology and these expressed in barbaric behavious in the Balkans in the 1990's.
It is a hard book to read - rigorous and determined theological reflection on the darkest and hardest human experiences, arguing towards a conclusion that those who follow Jesus ought to be able to forgive. But recognising that the human reality, emotionally, spiritually and therefore practically, is all but impossible for those who have witnessed such brutality or been the victims of such violence. This paradox, of categorical imperative and human incapacity lie at the heart of the dilemma - how can Christians love their enemies in obedience to Jesus' command when the person they are to embrace and welcome is guilty of atrocity against them or their family? What are the resources of the Gospel of reconciliation that would make such a miracle of embrace possible? Volf's book grew out of precisely that question, asked at a seminar where Volf was teaching and Jurgen Moltmann was present, and asked the question. Volf's account of it is better told by himself: