Reflections on Reading every book by Hauerwas

Last fall I hade a period of less teaching and I felt I had to get some serious work done. I’ve been wanting to study Hauerwas properly and also write an article on how I think Christian asceticism relates to his thinking. Since he does not speak much about asceticism as such, I realized I would in part have to argue from what he does not discuss, which of course meant I had to read everything he’s written. Well, I decided to limit myself to the about 30 books he has published. I am sure a missed som crucial article published in some obscure festschrift somewhere.

The article is not finished, I ran out of time, but I did manage to finish all his books (I had read a handful before). What did I learn?

Well, first I have to say: I am a believer. I think that Stanley Hauerwas is the most important theologian in our time. Not the smartest or even the most well read. But his concerns are exactly right. And I have to add: especially in a Nordic context, though I will return to that question in another article.

Hauerwas’s writings span four decades, yet he is extremely consistant. That is, apart from his first few books, that use some langauge that is subsequently abandoned (typically protestant language, like the polarity of justification and sanctification is rarely found from the late 70’s onwards), you can place an essay from 2005 beside one form 1983 without much problems. That is, Jeffrey Stout is dead wrong.By the early 80’s all the key elements are in place, and even before that you don’t feel there are major changes, it is just that he does not get around to writing about everything at once.

You can notice a growing confidence in the sense that the earlier writings are clearly written from an outsider perspective attacking the mainstream, wheras in his last few books, he almost has to accept that he now is the mainstrem. Or differently understood, he does become less and less polemical towards other theologians, and instead emphasizes his agreement with other prominent voices. Of course he never gets tired of bashing liberal culture, inside or outside the Church.

However, there is one interesting development. From the mid-ninetees onwards his writings get more and more ”religious” (from want of a better word). He starts to include more and more sermons and even prayers. He notes this himself in Hannah’s Child, someone pointed out to him that ”God” is largely absent from his theology. I think this is unfair, but it seems to have struck something in Hauerwas. I also think his second marrige has some effect here – the Church becomes more and more of a reality for him, rather than an idea.

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