Hauerwas’s Writings on the Church

In honor of Miika Tolonen who is defending his thesis Witness Is Presence. Reading Stanley Hauerwas in a Nordic Setting (yes, it is available online for free) today, here is a guide to Hauerwas’s writings on ecclesiology.

Many would say that all of Hauerwas’s work is about the church, and in a way that is half right. One may well say that for his later work, particularly if one excludes his work on medicine. His first three books contain very little on the church. But this is a list of texts that deal explicitly with the church, and these are all ”academic” texts. An alternative route would be to explore his sermons they often deal with what the church is.

From Vision and Virtue (1974):

  • ”The Nonresistant Church: The Theological Ethics of John Howard Yoder”. This is what it says it is, a presentation of the then largely unknown Yoder (by the then largely unknown Hauerwas). It is significant mainly for the fact that it contains some interesting critique of Yoder, that I’d be interested in hearing Hauerwas’s thoughts on today, and for the fact that this is the first time the phrase ”The first duty of the church for society is to be the church” occurs.

From A Community of Character (1981):

  • ”A Story-Formed Community: Reflections on Watership Down”. One of Hauerwas’s best essays ever, on how stories create communities. Not explicitly about the church but probaly the best source for the connection between narrative and church in Hauerwas’s writings.
  • ”The Church and Liberal Democracy: The Moral Limits of a Secular Polity”. On the church as a counter-community and a good early source of Hauerwas criticism of liberalism. A very Yoderian account of how the church is (and should be) political.
  • ”The Church in a Divided World: The Interpretative Power of the Christian Story”. Not much about the church here, but some important remarks on how theologians need to relate to the church.

From The Peaceable Kingdom (1983)

  • Chapter six: ”The Servant Sommunity: Christian Social Ethics”. This is probably the right place to start for an overall view of Hauerwas’s ecclesiology. It contains a discussion of the church as social ethic, the church as a community of virtues, discusses the sacraments and preaching briefly.

From Against the Nations (1985)

  • ”The Reality of the Kingdom: An Ecclesial Space for Peace”. Mainly a discussion on the eschatological understanding of the Kingdom of God, using mostly Pannenberg and Rauschenbush, but ends on an important discussion on how the church and the kingdom is related, fundamental to anyone who wants to understand Hauerwas at all.
  • The Reality of the Church: Even a Democratic State is not the Kingdom”. Here Hauerwas argues that the church must resist the temptation to supply theological support for liberal democracies. This of course is central to Hauerwas and he discusses it elsewhere, but this is a fairly early example. Bold also considering the time, to point out the similraties between liberal states and totalitarian one’s. Today it is almost a cliché. Then, not so much.

From Christian Existence Today (1988)

  • ”The Church as God’s New Language”. Hauerwas in his most ”post-liberal” mood. The bible needs to be read within the context of the church
  • ”Peacemaking: The Virtue of the Church”. An attempt to show have ”christological pacifism” differs, by showing how the church as a community practices peace based on truth. A very good essay this one.

From After Christendom? (1991):

  • ”Why There Is No Salvation Outside the Church”. Hauerwas interprets this notion not by discussing what ”outside” is (other religions, non-christians etc.) but as a way to establish what salvation is about. That is, he criticises the idea that ”belief” without commitment to a community could meaningfully have some value, not to mention be called ”salvation”.
  • ”How We lay bricks and Make Disciples”. About the difficulty for the church to be a disciplined commuity in a liberal society. This is where Hauerwas explains why he tries to teach his students to think like him, instead of trying to ”make up their own minds”.

From In Good Company (1995):

  • ”What Could It Mean for the Church to Be Christ’s Body? A Question without a Clear Answer”. An Essay without a clear conclusion, unsurprisingly, but Hauerwas rejects a numer of views of the church as body of Christ as too simple. His pointing towards what he later will prefer to call an ”apocalyptic” view of this.
  • ”Whose Church? Which Future? Whither the Anabaptist Vision?” Originally a speach held in an anabaptist setting, and thus illuminating since Hauerwas talks about what he feels is problematic in the anabaptist view of the church as opposed to trying to get the world to read mor Yoder.
  • Many of the other texts (including the Introduction) in some sense deal with the church, but the above two are the one’s I feel deliver the most.

From Sanctify them in the Truth (1998):

  • ”The Sanctified Body: Why Perfection Does not Require a ’Self'”. Hauerwas discusses with Dale Martin and Arthur Frank, about how to understand the ”body” in Christian theology. ”The Christian body has no meaning apart from its participation in the body of Christ”.
  • ”In Defense of Cultural Christianity: Reflections on Going to Church”. Here Hauerwas writes in detail about his relationsship to the church he worshipped in at the time, and about how the church could break away from the notion of religion as an independent choice and become a formative community.

Form War and the American Difference (2011):

  • ”A Worldly Church: Politics, Theology, and the Common Good”. Hauerwas discusses ”global christianity” using the concept of diaspora, as used by Rahner, rather than Yoder, and MacIntyre.
  • ”Beyond the Boundaries: The Church Is Mission”. Hauerwas responds to the criticism of Nathan Kerr, an develops the way he understads the church always to be in mission.

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