By David Ramos
From February 6th—8th members of the Latino Leadership Circle, Jose Humphreys, Luis Alvarez and I attended the Emergent Conference at Yale Divinity School. The featured guest was Dr. Miroslav Volf who openly shared with the attendees and answered our questions. Volf used his textbooks, Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation, as well as his, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, as points of departure for his discussion.
Miroslav Volf is the son of a Pentecostal minister. His work, personal struggle and passion for war torn Yugoslaviawas described by one of his former students who visited him in Croatia during the war. Volf contends that the hermeneutical circle is informed by life not merely thought and argues for a “theology for a way of life.” He reiterated Jurgen Moltmann’s claim that “theology has been marginalized because theologians are afraid to pick up issues that move people in daily life.” As opposed to a staid, rigid monolithic theology, Volf says that, “Theology is not a system, it is imaginative, fluid, and progresses toward something; it is a constructive effort towards a way of life that is consistent.”
Volf lamented the practice of many churches that seemed to shy away or even feel embarrassed for some of the claims of the gospel and attempted to assist it. He said that in many churches he attended he felt, “psychologized, and socialized.” People attempt to “help” the gospel with their language and categories instead of trusting the story, “The heart of our faith is about what someone else did for us and not what we do; I am not a Christian because I hold but because I am held.” Volf went on to say that “we are so obsessed with ourselves” and that “many in the church are drugged by the consumerist culture, petty pleasures and are divorced from the great struggles of the world.”
Volf’s breath of knowledge and active engagement with Barth, Moltmann, Luther, Nietzche, Foucault, and Said (to name of few) keeps one oscillating in a nexus of past and present, church and culture, history and vision, theory and praxis. With regards to Nietzche, Volf says, “I think of Nietzsche who is so engaged with God—he is angry at God; the indifference of many Christians troubles me—to be angry with God is much closer.”
During these few days I sensed a spiritual restlessness of many, keen desire of participating in crafting a new vision for the church and ministry, along with a great sense of hope for the future of the organic, deliberate and conscientious communities we are called to create.
To the ubiquitous, man-in-demand, cyber-guru and visionary Rudy Carrasco—it was great hanging out with you man. Let’s keep dreaming and weaving.
To my man Anthony Smith, a.k.a. “Post-modern Negro,” who was droppin’ science during our whole time there; I truly enjoyed our fellowship—you are a blessed brother, please, let’s stay in touch.
To Tony Peterson, thanks for the laughs, the honesty and the fellowship.
To Jay Voorhies for your engagement and openness.
To Brian D. McLaren, whose great spirit, humility and life epitomizes someone who not only thinks grace filled thoughts but does grace filled deeds; thank you for taking the time to embrace us.