Acclaimed “Bridge-Building” Theologian Miroslav Volf Looks at World Religions

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Fuller Seminary's Theology Week kicked off with Yale Divinity School's Miroslav Volf tackling a topic wherein his voice has become a major influence across the globe.

"What is the relationship between world religions and Christian faith in the context of globalization and an interconnected world where people live under one roof? It's a rather large problem," Dr. Volf commented with a grin, "and not one that anyone should undertake that has any wits about them."

Volf came to Fuller April 30 and May 1 to present the Payton Lectures, an annual event sponsored by the School of Theology that features leading voices in Christian theology.

According to Volf, all world religions, including Christianity, wrestle with the interplay between the transcendent and the everyday, and also call people to be part of a reality that goes beyond the local.

Globalization, Volf argues, has helped all of the world religions return to their ideal of "relating to all people as human beings whether they are political insiders or outsiders."

It has also though, he claims, hurt those same religions by pushing them to put the every-day above the transcendent.

The answer, Volf says, is to avoid "the mother of all temptations: to believe and act as if human beings lived by bread alone."

Fuller President Mark Labberton, who shared that he was deeply impacted by Volf's book The End of Memory, offered a formal response to Volf’s lectures as did several other faculty members.

Student Gillian Grannum, who is about to complete her MDiv and is also in her third year of Fuller's clinical psychology PhD program, was one of the audience members.

"I appreciated Dr. Volf's emphasis on the need to be aware that we all speak from a particular context," shared Grannum, "and that as human beings we meet together at a 'common table,' a potluck where foods share certain ingredients. I think we need to talk more, though, about how world faiths have relegated women to a secondary role."

Before Volf flew back east he dialogued publicly with President Mark Labberton and N.T. Wright who was coming in to captain the second half of Theology Week. When asked to name one critical question or issue facing the church today, Volf replied, "What it means to be human," and Dr. Wright answered, "Christian unity and holiness."

Check back Monday, May 19, at for information on accessing videos, audio recordings, and curriculum resources from the lectures.

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