Meet Miroslav Volf: Croatian Protestant Theologian
Miroslav Volf currently serves as the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture at Yale University.
Volf has served as an advisor for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and for several years co-taught a course at Yale with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on globalization. He is a frequent commentator on religious and cultural issues in popular media outlets such as CNN and NPR and ABC News.
Volf is a Croatian Protestant theologian and intellectual. Born in Osijek, Croatia, he is a from the former Yugoslavia, which is a country that has seen much conflict over the years. He was reared in the holiness Pentecostal tradition as an ethnic Croat. Other traditions are quite familiar to his home context, as he grew up surrounded by Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians.
I first discovered Volf’s work in reading his most powerful book entitled Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (1996). It won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for religion in 2002, and Christianity Today included it among its 100 most influential religious books of the 20th Century. The book grew out of a lecture Volf delivered in Berlin in 1993, in which his task was to reflect theologically about the Yugoslav War, marked by ethnic cleansing, that was raging in his home country at the time.
This is not a pie-in-the-sky book but one rooted in the tragedy of genocide, yet it still gives hope. There is an urgency to it not only because of recent genocides but also because we are all trying to understand what exclusion and embrace, otherness and reconciliation, truly mean.
Volf provides not just a theological anthropology but also a systematic and Trinitarian theology of the political in the face of war, violence, injustice and oppression. It is a treatise on God and God’s people that is reparative, reconciling and redemptive – one that is hopeful but not naive.
I am interested in teaching a study of this book next year if anyone is interested in examining it with me.
Rev. Brent Barry is the lead pastor of NorthPark Presbyterian Church. Brent and NorthPark have a deep commitment to working with the poor and hungry in Dallas, helping those with Alzheimer’s disease, and reaching across religious and cultural lines to do their part to bring Dallas together as one.