Religion Booknotes

Against the Tide
Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities
Miroslav Volf
Eerdmans, $18, 222 pp.

Anyone, a friend of mine once observed, can write a long book, but it requires a real mastery of one’s material and a decent prose style to write a good short essay. The British writer Cyril Connolly described this challenge as the “tyranny of eight hundred words.” Miroslav Volf, a Free Church theologian who teaches at Yale, proves equal to the challenge in Against the Tide, a new collection of essays first published separately in the Christian Century. Volf has a knack for bringing theological light to everyday issues, and whatever the occasion of these essays, few of them read as if they were written just to meet a deadline.

The range of topics is broad. He writes about big political and social issues, but also about what it’s like to adopt children, or to be a member of a minority religious community in Croatia, a country acrimoniously divided between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. (Volf’s father was a Pentecostal minister.) What I found most interesting is how Volf’s Free Church theology rubs up against doctrines and practices that belong to other Christian traditions. He muses over the function of pilgrimages and sacred places. He talks about how sacraments speak to Christians independently of...

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About the Author

Lawrence Cunningham is John O'Brien professor of Theology (Emeritus) at the University of Notre Dame.