Exclusion and Embrace


Got my copy of Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf delivered for free from Book Depository in the UK. This paragraph in chapter 1 caught my attention:

What are the implications of the Pauline kind of universalism? Each culture can retain its own cultural specificity; Christians need not “loose their cultural identity as Jew or Gentile and become one new humanity which is neither” (Campbell 1991, vi). At the same time, no culture can retain its own tribal deities; religion must be de-ethnicized so that ethnicity can be de-sacralized. Paul deprived each culture of ultimacy in order to give them all legitimacy in the wider family of cultures. Through faith one must “depart” from one’s culture because the ultimate allegiance is given to God and God’s Messiah who transcend every culture. And yet precisely because of the ultimate allegiance to God of all cultures and to Christ who offers his “body” as a home for all people Christian children of Abraham can “depart” from their culture without having to leave it […] Departure is no longer a spatial category; it can take place within the cultural space one inhabits. And it involves neither a typically modern attempt to build a new heaven out of the worldly hell nor a typically postmodern restless movement that fears to arrive home. Never simply distance, a genuinely Christian departure is always also presence; never simply work and struggle, it is always already rest and joy. (p. 49)

For those of us like me doing ethnic-specific ministry, it’s a challenge on the one hand to allow the gospel to critique one’s culture and yet on the other hand not to dismiss or obliterate cultural distinctives. The gospel is meant to be like salt: it seasons many dishes and yet does not make every dish taste the same. Rather, the gospel brings out and enhances the glory of each culture’s distinctiveness, all to the praise of the God who created unity in diversity and diversity in unity.

That’s the easy part. The difficult part is figuring how all of this works out in practice, especially in ethnic or cultural specific churches. Thoughts?


About Pete

I am a child of God, a husband, a father of four children, a pastor, and a church planter. I live in Sydney Australia and live to see Jesus made famous in this city and be the only God people worship.

Posted on November 2, 2009, in Books, Church, Theology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. no thoughts but I’d like to hear more of yours on this book. I bought it a little while back but haven’t delved in yet – you might save me the time!

  2. Might be one pointer for why ethnic-specific ministry isn’t the best demonstration of the gospel 😛

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