Friday, April 30, 2010

Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir, Part 3

“Before Yale, in college, I had become convinced that one of the decisive challenges concerning the truthfulness of Christianity was the failure of Christians to stand against the Shoah. I do not remember how I came to that conclusion, but I think reading Nietzshce had convinced me that how Christians lived surely must be crucial for understanding how, if at all, what Christians say they believe might be considered true. That Christians not only had prepared the ground for the Shoah through centuries of persecution, but also had conspired in the murder of the Jews, I took as a decisive indicator that Christianity did not meet the demands for truthfulness.

“It therefore came as quite a shock to me to discover in Julian Hartt’s systematic theology course at Yale that Barth had seen more clearly than most the perversion of National Socialism. I was not prepared for the idea that Christianity itself might harbor such a critical lens about affairs in the world” (51).

“I read as much Kierkegaard as I could get my hands on. I was sure Kierkegaard was right to put the stress on the ‘how’ of faith as necessary for understanding the ‘what.’ Put differently, I was learning from Holmer’s account of Kierkegaard (as well as from Hartt) that theology is best understood as a form of practical reason. Moreover, I learned from Kierkegaard that the truth of practical reason is Christ, and thus practical reason cannot be constrained by the accommodated form of the church identified with Christendom” (53).

“I suspect that learning the limits of pluralist politics may have prepared me to read John Howard Yoder” (57).

Speaking of his relationship with James Gustafson, Hauerwas says, “Our theologies differ, of course, but that our theologies differ, and that we each care about the difference, reflects our common commitment to the difference theology should make” (58).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir, Part 2

“Intellectually, my greatest strength is that there is nothing in which I am not interested. Intellectually, my greatest weakness is that there is nothing in which I am not interested” (12).

“My criticism of liberal political presumptions is based in my presumption that politics, like laying brick, is a wisdom-determined activity” (36).

“I think of theology as a craft requiring years of training. Like stonecutters and bricklayers, theologians must come to terms with the material upon which they work. In particular, they must learn to respect the simple complexity of the language of the faith, so that they might reflect the radical character of orthodoxy. I think one of the reasons I was never drawn to liberal Protestant theology was that it felt too much like an attempt to avoid the training required of apprentices. In contrast, Karl Barth’s work represented for me an uncompromising demand to submit to a master bricklayer, with the hope that in the process one might learn some of the ‘tricks of the trade’” (37).

“I hope I am a Christian because what we believe as Christians forces an unrelenting engagement with reality. That my parents let me go is a testimony to the truthfulness of their lives. Without lives like theirs, the life I have led, a life shaped by books, is threatened by unreality. I try to remember where I came from” (45).

“I am an academic because to be an academic has given me time to think about matters that should matter. What I hope and pray is that the way I have tried to think and write may in some small way help sustain lives as good as my parents. My father was a better bricklayer than I am a theologian. I am still in too much of a hurry. But if the work I have done in theology is of any use, it is because of what I learned on the job, that is, you can lay only one brick at a time” (46).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir, Part 1

I had to set aside the Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology book to put the finishing touches on my thesis and was hoping to get back to blogging through it, but I received in the mail today my long awaited copy of Stanley Hauerwas' new book, Hannah's Child: A Theologians's Memoir. So, I'm putting Barth aside and I will instead include in my blog some interesting quotations or reflections from Hannah's Child.

Here's the first few quotations I found quite enjoyable:

"I believe what I write, or rather, by writing I learn to believe. But then I do not put much stock in 'believing in God.' The grammar of 'belief' invites a far too rationalistic account of what it means to be a Christian. 'Belief' implies propositions about which you get to make up your mind before you know the work they are meant to do. Does this mean I do not believe in God? Of course not, but I am far more interested in what a declaration of belief entails for how I live my life" (x).

"'How' is the heart of the matter for me. When I first read Kierkegaard, I was quite taken with his suggestion of the 'what' of Christianity is not the problem. It is the 'how.' I have spent many years trying to say that we cannot understand the 'what' of Christianity without knowing 'how' to be a Christian. Yet then I worry about the how of my own life.
"I have written this memoir in an attempt to understand myself, something that would be impossible without my friends. I have had a wonderful life because I have had wonderful friends. So this attempt to understand myself is not just about 'me' but about the friends who have made me who I am. It is also about God -- the God who has forced me to be who I am. Indeed, trying to figure out how I ended up being Stanley Hauerwas requires that I say how God figures into the story, and this is a frightening prospect" (xi).