This marks the end of our time together with Miroslav Volf’s The End of Memory, and it ends on a breath-taking note. Let me give the big picture, ask our question(s), and then summarize his final chapter. (Next week we begin D. Tippens, Pilgrim Heart.)
Volf’s The End of Memory is about the role memory plays in the Christian perception of forgiveness and reconciliation. His contention is that Eternity will see the end of remembering unjust suffering and wrongs. The final judgment will establish that justice and this will lead to an eternal embrace in God and of others.
In the Postscript Volf deals with Captain G as he imagines reconciliation with him. Here’s the question: Is this a pastorally-effective and personally-effective way of dealing with forgiveness and reconciliation? Why or why not?
Here’s what he does: he goes through imaginary scenes of encountering Captain G — the man who abused him psychologically when he was in the military in the Balkans. He imagines these as they grow closer and closer to final justice, final forgiveness and final reconciliation. What is necessary for these things to occur?
1. He appears before a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in which Captain G. defends his actions as part of the system. Partial truth and partial acknowledgement don’t work, Volf learns.
2. They converse at a pub. Volf is angry and expresses his anger to Captain G. Volf walks away from him. He realizes with God, he can’t go far enough. This imagined scene allows Volf to express his anger at the injustice; Captain G does not deal adequately with his own guilt.
3. Again, at a pub: this time Volf asks for an “Imaginary Guest” to be present, God, even though Captain G is an atheist. Without God for both, reconciliation through justice can’t occur. It doesn’t work because Captain G won’t acknowledge God, and Volf learns even more what is really necessary.
4. Again, the next time Captain G apologizes; Volf forgives. Volf explains that it is God’s forgiveness that is at work. But this is not enough because Captain G deserves death; Volf realizes through a friend that he has not established justice adequately.
5. In scene 5 Volf summons Captain G to die in Christ as final and ultimate justice. Imagine, Volf tells Captain G as he fastforwards to Eternity, what an eternity of perfect love is like. A world in which not only wrongdoing but the conditions for wrongdoing would be eliminated by a final, actual acquittal. Captain G says “I hope you are right.”
I’ve only been able to sketch this. My question is this: Is this what we need to go through in our imaginations with those who have wronged us? Do we need to ponder sitting at table with them? Ponder their repentance and our forgiveness? And our reconciliation? Our mutual death in Christ and our mutual life in God?