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.