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this is a book that i randomly picked up after anna brought it home from the library. looked pretty interesting and was the archbishop of canterbury's official lent 2006 book - who could resist?...
miroslav volf is apparently a fairly well-known theologian who teaches at yale. this book covers the twin themes of giving and forgiving. the thing that struck me most in the book was volf's description of the common ways that people view God. with regard to giving, people often see God as either a negotiator or santa claus. ie, they either see God as someone you can strike a deal with in order to get what you want, or they see him as someone who just gives stuff willy-nilly. with regard to forgiving, people tend to see God as either an implacable judge, or as a doting grandparent.
that's a pretty good observation i think, and volf goes on to explain what the true God is really like. bearing in mind that this is a book by a theologian, it is quite long-winded and volf likes to answer any question that might arise. but apart from the rigor of that for the casual reader, there is a lot of stuff to pick up on, and it is nicely carried by examples and illustrations, so is not too difficult to read.
here's a good quote summing up the point of book, and the argument that volf makes for a God that defies most people's perception of him:
"You can sum up where we've landed in four simple sentences. The world is sinful. That's why God doesn't affirm it indiscriminately [like santa claus or a doting grandparent]. God loves the world. That's why God doesn't punish it in justice [like a negotiator or implacable judge]. What does God do with this double bind? God forgives."