Its hard for me to overestimate the importance Stanley Hauerwas’s works to my theological development. He did two things for me especially, the first was making me take the church with absolute seriousness as the primary community in which Christian life is lived. The second was to introduce me to John Howard Yoder, who, I am happy to say has supplanted Hauerwas in terms of my own theological influences. And sensibilities. I’m sure Stanley would be quite glad for this as well.
One of the early quotations I remember reading from Hauerwas that had an impact on me was the following:
“Thus to say that the church must pursue societal justice is certainly right, but it is not very informative. For justice needs to displayed and imaginatively construed by a people who have been formed to know that genuine justice derived from our receiving what is not due us. Such people serve the cause of justice best by exemplifying in their own lives how to help one another.” (Peaceable Kingdom, 113-14)
This is a further specification of what is arguably Hauwerwas’s central theological claim, namely that “the political task of Christians is to be the church rather than to transform the world” (Resident Aliens, 38). Now, while I think Hauerwas is largely right in all of this, let me offer what I take to be a somewhat Yoderian gloss on Hauerwas’s quote above:
To say that the church must be the church is certainly right, but it is not very informative. For the meaning of ‘being church’ needs to prayerfully discerned and vulnerably discovered by a people who strive to be nothing other than witnesses to the inexhaustible event of Christ’s death and resurrection. Such people rightly serve the cause ‘being church’ best by submitting all forms of thought and life to the never-assimilable reality of Christ’s lordship, under the guidance of Scripture, in the midst of their ongoing missional existence in the world.