God’s New Language

Here are a few thought provoking words for the day from Stanley Hauerwas.

“At Pentecost God created a new language, but it was a language that is more than words.  It is instead a community whose memory of its savior creates the miracle of being a people whose very differences contribute to their unity.  We call this new creation church.  It is constituted by word and sacrament, as the story we tell, the story we embody, must not only be told but enacted.  In the telling we are challenged to be a people capable of hearing God’s good news such that we can be a witness to others.”

“The creation of such a people is indeed dangerous, as we know from Babel.  For the very strength that comes from our unity has too often led the church to believe that it can build the tower of unity through our own efforts.  Not content to wait, we try to make God’s unity a reality for all people through coercion rather than witness….  Such a history of unfaithfulness has led many to downplay the peculiar mission of the church to witness to the world the reconstitution of humankind through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.”

“To be a disciple of Jesus is not enough to know the basic ‘facts’ of life.  It is not enough to know his story.  Rather, to be a disciple of Jesus means that our lives must literally be taken up into the drama of God’s redemption of this creation.   That is the work of the Spirit as we are made part of God’s new time through the life and work of this man, Jesus of Nazareth.”

Taken from The Hauerwas Reader (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 148-9.  The article originally appeared in the festscrhift for Hans Frei that Garrett Green edited in 1987.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

2 Replies to “God’s New Language”

  1. Thought provoking words? Yes. Dangerous words? Much more so. These statements reflect postmodernism’s love affair with the deconstruction of language. A love affair that has been harmful for the Church and its theological task.


  2. Thanks for the comment, Steven. A few words in response:

    1) I enjoy Hauerwas, but I disagree with him on many significant points. Yet he is worth the read on many other points. I feel interacting with guys like Hauerwas is not only helpful, but necessary as we move forward into what some call ‘post-postmodernity.’

    2) I don’t think we can draw a line from Hauerwas to Derrida, or vice-versa. Not that you said it, but you seemed to hint it. Hauerwas learned his narrative “stuff” from H. R. Niebuhr and Hans Frei, with a bit of Barth and others tossed in there. Only secondarily was he influenced by secular literary criticism. Also, I’m pretty sure that he never “wavered from declaring that Christian convictions are true,” (in the words of one of Hauerwas’ students). In his “thought provoking” commentary on Matthew, one place he writes, “…one of the essential tasks of the church is the ‘care’ of words…the church cannot live without the poetry of careful speech…”

    Hope this helps; again, thanks for the comment. I put them out there for guys like you to wrestle over. Happy wrestling!



Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: