“God Making His Appeal through Us”: The Theology of Reconciliation in the Church’s Practice
Dr. Mark Husbands
As both a political concept and a tenet of Christian theology, reconciliation bears upon the here and now. Politically, the Truth and Reconciliation Committees of South Africa engaged in public acts of reconciliation in their effort to redress the wrongs of apartheid. In the effort to address the concerns of the political sphere, talk of reconciliation has grown amongst theologians as well. With concern arising from unrest in his native Croatia, Episcopalian theologian Miroslav Volf has articulated a theology of reconciliation in his book Exclusion and Embrace. He claims that God’s reconciling act on the cross should serve as a model for humans to imitate in their interaction with one another. Does this accurately depict human relationships and how they can be made peaceful? Can humans imitate divine action in this way? In my paper, I give an equitable summary of Volf’s theology of reconciliation before politely disagreeing. In my analysis, Volf’s Christology and soteriology are insufficient for the unity spoken of in Ephesians 2 and 2 Corinthians 5:11ff. These passages depict reconciliation as springing from God’s creation of reconciled human relationship in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and the human reception thereof. The basic tenets of this theology of reconciliation are then shown to be already present in the Word and sacraments regularly received by the Church. Ultimately, this study seeks to give the Church a better understanding of its role in God’s reconciling work in a way that can be seen in its weekly worship and realized in its everyday practice.
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