Monday, May 3, 2010

Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir, Part 6

“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 Milton there comes a moment when an undergraduate expresses admiration for Milton’s poetry, giving Stanley the opportunity to observe, ‘Milton does not want your admiration. He wants your soul.’ Yoder did not want my soul, but he made it clear that Jesus did. This was not going to be easy” (117).

“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.

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