Hauerwas & Baptists

The latest edition of the (Baptist) journal Review & Expositor (February 2015) contains a set of essays by Baptists on Hauerwas with a reply by Hauerwas. Contributors include Curtis Freeman, Barry Harvey, Elizabeth Newman, Ralph Wood, Mark Medley, Jonathan Tran and Kyle Childress.

Freeman writes about Hauerwas' Baptist project, seeking to encourage Baptists to move beyond the confines of their often narrow theology. This has been taken up by several Baptists, Freeman being the best example - see his Contesting Catholicity.


Hauerwas to Aberdeen

News released today is that Stanley Hauerwas has been appointed to a Chair in theological ethics at Aberdeen. Part-time, but then the guy has just retired from Duke and is 74. It's a great appointment. Having lost Bernd Wannenwetsch last year with a criminal conviction, Hauerwas is not a bad replacement! Hopefully it might mean he will travel across the UK a bit as well.


Jonathan Tran on the theology of Stanley Hauerwas

At the beginning of November there was a day to celebrate the life and work of Stanley Hauerwas on his retirement at Duke Divinity School. At the beginning of one paper offered on the day, former student Jonathan Tran attempted to describe the Hauerwas theological project through the many many titles of Hauerwas' work:

In (this) Good Company of people who know about Performing the Faith, regarding the deep and wide influence of Stanley Hauerwas, one need only say Working with Words within The State of the University, and now Approaching the End, Stanley Hauerwas, a.k.a, Hannah's Child has been a Suffering Presence for A Better Hope, as he Without Apology, calls Resident Aliens back to A Community of Character, he understands as the Cross-Shattered Church.

For ask any Hauerwas Reader, including my good friend Matthew, a Companion to Christian Ethics, Stanley hasn't exactly been Naming the Silences as he has written on every conceivable topic from Christianity, Democracy and the Radical Ordinary to Wilderness Wanderings. Hauerwas now Growing Old, With the Grain of the UniverseDispatches from the Front those who claim War and the American Difference, often driving them to God, Medicine and Suffering.

Preaching the Wisdom of the Cross in Dissent from the Homeland, Prof Hauerwas heralds Character and the Christian Life as the seat of the Vision and Virtue necessary to ask questions like Should War Be Eliminated?, praying with Prayers Plainly Spoken that God would Sanctify them in Truth(fulness) and Tragedy, because he believes that Schooling Christians on The Truth About God, entails After ChristendomChristian Existence TodayUnleashing the ScripturesAgainst the Nations, indeed Where Resident Aliens Live, Gently in a Violent World as The Peaceable Kingdom.

You can see a video of the whole paper here.


Book Review: Learning To Speak Christian | War and the American Difference

Stanley Hauerwas, Learning To Speak Christian (SCM, 2011 published in the United States as Working With Words, Cascade, 2011)

Stanley Hauerwas, War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity (Brazos, 2011 / SPCK, 2012)

At nearly 72, Stanley Hauerwas is still writing and writing a lot. There are thirty-three essays in these two latest books.

9780334044093Hauerwas suggests Learning To Speak Christian is a 'kitchen sink' type book, meaning it is a collection of essays, sermons and other bits, rather than a sustained chapter by chapter argument developing (so in that regard like lots of his books!). Hauerwas sees the connections between the essays to be around seeing 'theology as work and work with words'. The book is divided into three sections Learning Christian: To See and To Speak; The Language of Love: From Death to Life; and Habits of Speech Exemplified: Some Teachers. As with every Hauerwas book there is much to enjoy and much to be challenged by. Two chapters stand out for me: the address 'Speaking Christian' is wonderful exploration of the task of ministry as teaching people to speak Christian. The chapter 'Why did Jesus have to die?' originated as a lecture to young people on the gospel and makes helpful (and challenging) reading for those engaged in youth ministry of some kind or another.

9780801039294War and the American Difference is a book, which offers some of Hauerwas' most developed discussion of war and violence, especially in the context of America. The first section demonstrates how closely war is embedded in American history, experience and identity. The second section includes his appeal (co-written with Enda McDonagh) and reflections to abolish war, a discussion of sacrifice in the context of war, and essays on C. S. Lewis and Martin Luther King. The final section explores the role of the church in terms of justice (comparing Daniel Bell and Nicholas Wolterstoff), Pentecost as a language of peace (engaging with Jonathan Sacks and Herbert McCabe - I heard Hauerwas deliver this Amensty International 2008 lecture in Oxford - much easier to follow on paper than at the time!), the common good, the future of parish ministry (be interesting to offer some Baptist reflections on this) and mission (this paper includes a response to Nathan Kerr's criticisms of Hauerwas' ecclesiology).  

The book hangs together much better than Learning to Speak Christian, which makes it an easier and more satisfying read - like Hauerwas' collections of essays on The State of the University. He takes the reader on a journey around a common theme approaching it from different angles. I think this may well become one of Hauerwas' important books. Hauerwas certainly seems to be moving towards an ecclesiology more in engagement than in separation, that is, I wonder if he is now exploring more, as Yoder did, what it means for the church to be for the nations and not just against the nations (the title of his 1985 book). The oft-made claim of sectarianism just won't stick now (not that I think it ever really did).  Hauerwas' friends and students I think ground his work in the everyday life of being church (Sam Wells is the exemplar of this) in ways that answer the question of what does this look like.

I think everyone should read Hauerwas and both these new books give examples of why.


Book Review: Unsettling Arguments

412jGClFNEL._SL500_AA300_ Charles R. Pinches, Kelly S. Johnson and Charles M. Collier (eds.), Unsettling Arguments: A Festschrift on the Occasion of Stanley Hauerwas's 70th Birthday (Cascade, 2010), 356pp

There are few (if any?) theologians who are honoured with three festschrifts in their lifetime, but then Hauerwas is no ordinary theologian. In 2000, a group of British theologians (Forrester, Gunton, Milbank, Biggar, Loades, Woodhead, Wells, Nation) contributed to Faithfulness and Fortitude (T & T Clark, 2000). Five years later Hauerwas was honoured again with a collection edited by L. Gregory Jones and others, God, Truth and Witness (Brazos, 2005), with essays from the likes of Jenson, Bellah, Lindebeck, Burrell and Wannenwetsch. This latest collection on Hauerwas' 70th birthday are a group of essays from his graduate students, some of which are already established theological voices - Cavanaugh, Long, Cartwright, Shuman, Bader-Saye, McCarthy, and Bell, while others are newer voices emerging - J. Alexander Sider, Peter Dula, Jonathan Tran, Chris K. Huebner and Kelly S. Johnson.

While previous festschrifts have included both essays which directly engaged with Hauerwas and others less so, every chapter of Unsettling Arguments is a conversation between Hauerwas' theology and the criticisms made of him. This makes for a fantastic book as Hauerwas' own theology is dissected on issues such as race, bioethics, war, friendship, democracy, Judaism, family, feminism, higher education, discipleship, worship, reading, as well as the influences of Wittgenstein, Aquinas, Scotus and Yoder. Immediately one recognises the breath of topics that Hauerwas has addressed over his long career.       

The person new to Hauerwas would do well to start elsewhere (e.g. The Hauerwas Reader, The Peaceable Kingdom, A Community of Character or After Christendom?), but those who have some knowledge of the shape and content of Hauerwas' many writings, are in for a treat with this book, as his former students open up his theology in ways that both challenge it and push it to new places.  In many of the essays we get glimpses of the way Hauerwas teaches and helps produce such interesting dissertations from his students - in this way the book perhaps works well as a companion to Hauerwas' memoir Hannah's Child, especially the emphasis in that book on friendship. These are students turned friends, but friends who are happy to question and pick away at the positions and the arguments of their teacher. I come away from this book feeling their is much to learn not only from Hauerwas' theology, but also his way of doing theology in community. As Sam Wells puts it on the back cover:

Stanley Hauerwas is a public provocateur, a ravenous reader, a restless wrestler with the truth, and an eccentric devotee of baseball, murder mysteries, and liturgically-shaped discipleship. But most of all is he is a devoted, demanding, and dogged academic father to dozens of doctoral students. The breadth of his character takes a community to display. Here, more than ever before, that community of character does in public what Hauerwas and his students do best: tussle, and refine, and introduce new interlocutors, and dismiss out of hand, and rephrase more charitably, and rediscover ancient wisdom, and go back to Aquinas, and quote Barth, and dismantle platitudes, and unsentimentally face the gift and demands of Christ for church, academy, and politics today. This is a work of love turned into a call to renewal, a family reunion transformed into a symposium, a tribute in the guise of a challenge. Admirers and critics of Hauerwas will be enriched by these compelling essays, an ordered array of disagreements in love.


Hauerwas responds to Nate Kerr

Hauerwas' response to Nathan Kerr's criticisms in Christ, History And Apocalyptic (SCM, 2008) can be found in his contribution 'Beyond the Boundaries: The Church as Mission' in Viggo Mortensen and Andreas Osterund Nielsen (eds.), Walk Humbly with the Lord: Church and Mission Engaging Plurality (Eerdmans, 2010), which I found I was able to read via google books.

On another note, the ongoing, and seeming endless, battle between Paul Molnar and Bruce McCormack on how to read Barth, has a close encounter in Molnar's (article length) book review of Orthodox and Modern and McCormack's repsonse found in the April 2010 edition of Theology Today. This is the first time McCormack has directly responded to Molnar.


Hauerwas on the Essential Task of Ministry: Speaking Christian

This week I accepted a call to be the minister of Belle Vue Baptist Church, Southend. After three years of ministerial formation at Regent's Park College (and another four years of theological education at King's College London before that), I will be ordained in September as a Baptist minister. We are in the process of packing up and saying goodbyes as we prepare to leave Oxford, where we've lived for the last two years.

I've been reading some words from Stanley Hauerwas in a recent address given to those about to enter ministry in the Mennonite church. He begins with wondering why on earth anyone would want to be a minister today because:

The lack of clarity about what makes Christians Christian, what makes the church the church, and continuing ambiguity in our diverse denominations about ordination itself should surely make anyone think twice about becoming a minister. Moreover the lack of consensus about what it might mean for anyone to act with authority in our society and the church cannot help but make those of us who are not ministers wonder about the psychological health of those who tell us they are called to the ministry.  

He goes on to say that the essential task of a ministry is

is to be a teacher. In particular, you are called to be a teacher of language ... I think the characterization of the challenges facing those going into the ministry is the result of the loss of the ability of Christians to speak the language of our faith. The accommodated character of the church is at least partly due to the failure of the clergy to help those they serve know how to speak Christian. To learn to be a Christian, to learn the discipline of the faith, is not just similar to learning another language. It is learning another language.   

This is not a new thought from Hauerwas, but it is a good reminder of what ministry is all about.


New festschrift for Hauerwas on 70th birthday

A third festschrift for Hauerwas is just out ... the first was on his 60th birthday - Faithfulness and Fortitude edited by Sam Wells and Mark Thissen Nation (T & T Clark, 2000) and was made of mainly UK contributors (including Colin Gunton, John Milbank, Nigel Biggar and Duncan Forrester); the second was on his 65th birthday - God, Truth and Witness edited by Greg Jones, Reinhard Hutter and C. Rosalee Velloso Ewell (Brazos, 2005) and contributors included Robert Jenson, George Linbeck, Robert Bellah, David Burrell and Bernd Wannenwetsch.

Unsettling Arguments: A Festschrift on the Occasion of Stanley Hauerwas's 70th Birthday
Edited by Charles R. Pinches, Kelly S. Johnson, Charles M. Collier (Cascade, 2010)

Contributers are all former Hauerwas students:

Scott Bader-Saye
Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt
Michael Baxter
Daniel M. Bell Jr.
Jana Marguerite Bennett
Michael G. Cartwright
William T. Cavanaugh
Peter Dula
Chris K. Huebner
Kelly S. Johnson
D. Stephen Long
M. Therese Lysaught
David Matzko McCarthy
Joel James Shuman
J. Alexander Sider
Jonathan Tran
Paul J. Wadell
Theodore Walker Jr.

"Stanley Hauerwas is a public provocateur, a ravenous reader, a restless wrestler with the truth, and an eccentric devotee of baseball, murder mysteries, and liturgically-shaped discipleship. But most of all is he is a devoted, demanding, and dogged academic father to dozens of doctoral students. The breadth of his character takes a community to display. Here, more than ever before, that community of character does in public what Hauerwas and his students do best: tussle, and refine, and introduce new interlocutors, and dismiss out of hand, and rephrase more charitably, and rediscover ancient wisdom, and go back to Aquinas, and quote Barth, and dismantle platitudes, and unsentimentally face the gift and demands of Christ for church, academy, and politics today. This is a work of love turned into a call to renewal, a family reunion transformed into a symposium, a tribute in the guise of a challenge. Admirers and critics of Hauerwas will be enriched by these compelling essays, an ordered array of disagreements in love."
—Sam Wells


Hauerwas, Milbank and Bretherton in London on 18th October

51bAx86x5xL Don't miss out on Stanley Hauerwas in Conversation with John Milbank & Luke Bretherton to mark the publication of: Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir
BY STANLEY HAUERWAS

on Monday 18th October 2010 from 5.30-7.00pm at the Great Hall, Strand Campus, King's College London

Demand is sure to be high and spaces are limited. Please ensure you RSVP before the 8th October 2010 to be added to the guest list.
Email anita@hymnsam.co.uk or telephone: 020 7776 7550.


A Theologian's Memoir

9780334043683s I spent most of yesterday reading Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir by Stanley Hauerwas (SCM, 2010). Hauerwas is 70 yrs old this year and offers here a theological reading of his life (I think his friend James McClendon would have approved). I'm sure I don't need to say much to encourage you to get a copy and read it. The book includes the difficult moments, of which by far the longest was his marriage to his first wife who became mentally ill.

It is simply a fantastic book. Highly readable. Difficult to put down. I wish more theologians would write this kind of book, it would help us see them as more human! Hauerwas shows that he became a theologian because he could not get saved. If Sam Well's Transforming Fate into Destiny gives us the story of how Hauerwas' theology develops, Hauerwas provides here the biographical story of what was going on. I was struck by his difficulty at various times to find a church that was home - the shape and content of the church's worship is important to him. He has no time for church growth strategies and leaves one church when a new minister arrives. I was struck that he was able to write what he wrote when his home life for many years was so difficult. I was struck by how much Hauerwas' is dependent on his friendships - a theology and practice of beings friends is central to his theology. For a theologian so famous and so influential, its good to see that they are just as ordinary as the rest of us, that is not to play down what an fascinating journey this son of bricklayer has been - you could not think Stanley Hauerwas up (which is something he says about Susan Allred at her funeral).

Don't just take my word but of the fifteen names who praise it - Rowan Williams, John Milbank, Giles Fraser, Graham Ward, Alan Torrance, Jane Williams, Luke Bretherton, Alister McGrath, Sarah Coakley, Enda Mc Donagh, Nicholas Lash, Fergus Kerr, Linda Hogan, Ann Loades and Conor Cunningham. Theologians don't write enough biography.