Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace

Article excerpt

Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace. By Miroslav Volf. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2005. 247 pp. $12.99 (paper).

This accessible work by the acclaimed author of Exclusion and Embrace offers a profound exposition of generosity and forgiveness as fundamental practices grounded in the divine economy of grace. Written for a general audience, Free of Charge melds theology, spirituality and autobiography within an exploration of God's character as mirrored (albeit dimly) in Christian faith and life. This hook was honored justly as the Archbishop of Canterbury's Lenten Study Book for 2006.

Free of Charge offers a theological interpretation and application of Paul's epistles, especially as read by Martin Luther: The God who needs nothing freely showers humanity with gifts of creation and personally redeems us by bearing away sin and evil through the death of Jesus Christ. Believers appropriate the divine beneficence in grateful faith and become instruments of the divine gift-giving to others in works of compassion and mercy. Volf, a professor of theology at Yale Divinity School, concedes that his traditional Protestant reading of Luther and Paul is contested by many scholars today, but he sidesteps academic debates and attempts a straightforward reading of these classic thinkers. The author avoids technical language and culls a wealth of illustrations from sources ranging from Dostoevsky and Aristotle to Sex and the City.

Volf offers a cri tique of two common misconceptions of God; on the one hand, as the supreme negotiator (illustrated in the film Amadeus by Salieri's fruitless attempt to bargain with God for musical glory) and, on the other hand, as a cosmic Santa Claus (the projection of a eonsnmerist culture) who showers gilts indiscriminately without expecting any alteration in the recipient's character. In contrast, "The true God gives so we can become joyful givers and not just self-absorbed receivers" (p. …

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