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Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace    by Miroslav Volf order for
Free of Charge
by Miroslav Volf
Order:  USA  Can
Zondervan, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace is a book about faith, both in God and in people. The subtitle identifies the subject matter since the book is made up of two sections, one having to do with giving and the other forgiving. The author, Miroslav Volf, is a theologian at Yale Divinity School.

Volf explains in his Afterword that, although he wrote the book for himself as a spiritual exercise, he was trying to make it 'accessible to readers with little prior theological or philosophical knowledge.' That is an apt description of me. I remember attempting to get through a few pages of Kierkegaard years ago and finally giving up in despair. The writing just didn't make sense to me. I felt some of the same dismay as I read the first chapter of this book, which tells of God, the giver. I understood the words, but I wasn't really getting it.

As I continued reading this book, though, it began to speak to me and make sense. The second section, about forgiving, was more interesting to me than the first. I struggle more with forgiving than I do with giving. Volf gives strong examples of human forgiveness that are so amazing they mimic divine forgiveness. His explanation of all of the ramifications of forgiveness - for both the forgiven and the forgiver - helped me to understand why forgiving becomes such a difficult process.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has designated this book as his official 2006 Lent book. Though I'm not sure exactly what that implies, I think that if the book were read as a meditation, little by little over the course of the Lenten season, it would be a valuable Lenten study. I think Volf succeeded in making this theological book accessible to ordinary people. By the time I finished Free of Charge, I did get it, both the first difficult section and the second.

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