Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
“Such ‘answers’ cannot help but turn Christianity into an explanation. For me, learning to be a Christian has meant learning to live without answers. Indeed, to learn to live in this way is what makes being a Christian so wonderful. Faith is but a name for learning how to go on without knowing the answers. That is to put the matter too simply, but at least such a claim might suggest why I find being a Christian makes life so damned interesting” (207).
The more I've studied theology, the less answers I feel like I have. Instead, I have more questions. This for me, as for Hauerwas, makes "being a Christian . . . so damned interesting." We don't always have answers. We don't know why people go through times of suffering and knowing why is not the point. Instead, we are to live our lives in faith knowing that we serve a God who is faithful.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
“What many people usually find hard to understand, or at least what strikes them as unusual, is how I combine what I hope is a profound commitment to fundamental Christian convictions with a socially radical ethic. At bottom, the convictions involve the claim that Jesus is both fully God and fully human. If he is not fully both, then we Christians are clearly idolaters. A socially radical ethic follows from this theological conviction because our worship of Jesus is itself a politics through which a world is created that would not exist if Jesus were not raised from the dead. Basic to such politics is the refusal of a violence that many assume is a ‘given’ for any responsible account of the world” (136).
“I have come to think that the challenge confronting Christians is not that we do not believe what we say, though that can be a problem, but that what we say we believe does not seem to make any difference for either the church or the world” (159).
I find the desire of some to dichotomize orthodoxy and a commitment to social action extremely problematic. This split that occurred within protestantism at the turn of the twentieth century as the fundamentalist/modernist controversy was in full swing between evangelism and social gospel is completely bunk and has harmed the church and her mission. That's one of the reasons I find Hauerwas' work so appealing. He takes the radical implications of the gospel seriously without dropping an emphasis on Christian orthodoxy and the church as worshiping community. We need to also make sure that what we say we believe makes a difference in our lives, rather than acting as though what we say on Sunday mornings has absolutely nothing to do with our lives the rest of the week.
Monday, May 3, 2010
“Too many people, I fear, become ‘ethicists’ because they do not like theology. I have always been a strong supporter of the Society of Christian Ethics, but the very existence of such a society can be a temptation to separate theology from ethics. I suspect that one of the reasons some of my colleagues in ethics find me hard to take is due to my unrelenting claim that God matters. Not just any God, moreover, but the God that has shown up in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ” (115).
“Stanley Fish reports that when he teaches
“Yoder forced me to recognize that nonviolence is not a recommendation, an ideal, that Jesus suggested we might try to live up to. Rather, nonviolence is constitutive of God’s refusal to redeem coercively. The crucifixion is ‘the politics of Jesus’” (118).
Another aspect I appreciate in Hauerwas' work, which is also present in the work of Karl Barth, is the refusal to compartmentalize theology and ethics. For Christians, all theology has ethical implications and all ethics stems from the God's revelation in Jesus Christ. Christians should not just give intellectual assent, only acknowledging that God exists or that Jesus is Lord. Christians should instead understand that faith involves loyalty to God, which also means that Christians are called to obey, even when that obedience involves principles, such as nonviolence, which the world calls foolishness.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
“One of the most valuable things I gained from Mr. Holmer was an understanding of intellectual work as investigation. It is so tempting to think you need to have a ‘position’ if you are to be a ‘thinker.’ Positions are also useful if you are to make it as an academic. Theology in modernity, moreover, has been position driven. Thus you are a Tillichian, a Bultmannian, a liberal, a conservative, a Barthian (if you can ever understand what that might entail), a process theologian, and so on. That many theologians think they need to have a position is, I suspect, the result of the loss of ecclesial identities. But reading Wittgenstein with Mr. Holmer helped me see that positions far too easily get in the way of thought.
“I realize that it may seem quite odd for me to speak of not having a ‘position,’ given the fact that many of my theological and ethical colleagues would characterize me as someone with a strong position. This characterization is not entirely unfair; nonetheless, it is wrong. It is true that I am a pacifist, but that does not mean my pacifism is a ‘position.’ Positions too easily tempt us to think we Christians need a theory. I am not a pacifist because of a theory. I am a pacifist because John Howard Yoder convinced me that nonviolence and Christianity are inseparable” (60).
“‘Positions’ can give the impression that our task is to present something ‘new.’ I believe that through the cross and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth we live in a new age, but that is why theologians do not have a position. Rather, our task is to help the church know what it has been given” (134).
I find Hauerwas' comments about positions particularly helpful, because the further along I go in my studies, the less positions I have. I have learned from diverse figures, from Irenaeus to Thomas Merton and Augustine to Karl Barth. I appreciate their differences and strengths. While I find myself agreeing with people associated within different theological circles and denominational backgrounds, I hope I can find a way to defy those limitations and make room for thought.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
This is probably my favorite section of the book so far:
“The presumption of many scholars at the time was that the task of theology was to make the language of faith amenable to standards set by the world. This could be done by subtraction: ‘Of course you do not have to believe X or Y’; or by translation, ‘When we say X or Y we really mean . . .’ I was simply not interested in that project. From my perspective, if the language was not true, then you ought to give it up. I thought the crucial question was not whether Christianity could be made amenable to the world, but could the world be made amenable to what Christians believe? I had not come to the study of theology to play around.
“I am not sure why I thought like this, but I suspect it had something to do with being a bricklayer. I simply did not believe in ‘cutting corners.’ I was attracted to Barth because he never cut any of the corners. He never tried to ‘explain.’ Rather, he tried to show how the language works by showing how the language works. There is a ‘no bullshit’ quality to Barth’s thought that appealed to a bricklayer from Texas and that seemed to me the kind of straightforwardness Christian claims require.
“Listening to Hartt, I had come to appreciate the complexity of the simple beliefs we have as Christians. Reading Barth with Hartt had forced me to realize that a claim such as ‘Jesus is Lord’ requires constant variations to be said rightly. Every volume of his Church Dogmatics is an exercise to show the connections necessary to say one thing well. From Barth’s perspective, therefore, the task of theology can never come to an end. Paul Tillich had to finish his Systematic Theology. Barth could not finish Church Dogmatics, because if he had finished he would have had to start over” (59).
I appreciate the ways in which Hauerwas critiques certain forms of accomodationism. Hauerwas also, effectively I might add, shows that theology is not a task that a person ever finishes. It is an ongoing process of "faith seeking understanding."