Keeping Theological Ethics Theological

Product DetailsIf you do any intermediate reading in Christian ethics, Stanley Hauerwas should be on your reading list.  Though I don’t always agree with everything Hauerwas says, I’ve appreciated The Hauerwas Reader edited by John Berkman and Michael Cartwright (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001).  This book contains 600+ pages of Hauerwas’ essays on everything from discipleship to social ethics to traditions to politics to suffering.  If you’ve been reading this blog for several years, you may remember a few other quotes from this book (which you can search for using the search function – just write “Hauerwas” in the search bar).  Here’s one section from an essay called “On Keeping Theological Ethics Theological” that is worth reading.
“Christians believe that to live well, we need not only a community, but a community of a particular kind.  We need a community of people who are capable of being faithful to a way of life, even when that way of life may be in conflict with what passes as ‘morality’ in the larger society.  Christians are a people who have learned that belief in God requires that we learn to look upon ourselves as creatures rather than as creators.  This necessarily creates a division between ourselves and others who persist in the pretentious assumption that we can and should be morally autonomous.”
“Of course Christians are as prone to such pretensions as non-Christians.  What distinguishes them is their willingness to belong to a community that embodies the stories and the rituals of the faith, to belong to other people committed to worshiping God truthfully.  Such a community must challenge our prideful pretensions as well as provide the skills for the humility necessary for becoming not just good, but holy.”
“Theologians, therefore, have something significant to say about ethics, but they will not say it significantly if they try to disguise the fact that they think, write, and speak out of and to a distinctive community.  …Our task as theologians remains what it has always been: namely, to exploit the considerable resources embodied in particular Christian convictions which sustain our ability to be a community faithful to our belief that we are creatures of a graceful God.  If we do that we may well discover that we are speaking to more than just our fellow Christians, for others as a result may well find we have something interesting to say” (p. 73-74).
Stanley Hauerwas, “On Keeping Theological Ethics Theological,” in The Hauerwas Reader.
shane lems
sunnyside, wa

3 thoughts on “Keeping Theological Ethics Theological”

  1. You’re welcome, David. If you get and read this book, it’ll twist you and bend you a bit! One moment you’ll be highlighting and underlining like crazy, the next moment you’ll think Hauerwas has gone off the deep end (sometimes he does!). Anyway, it’ll be a worthwhile read for sure. The good thing is you can read an article here and and article there at your leisure.

    Thanks for the comment,


  2. Excellent! This collection has been on my wish list for a long time. This post might just push me over the edge to actually order it.


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