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Conversations on “Just War”

For those who haven’t seen it yet, our own R.O. Flyer has a great review up at The Other Journal of Dan Bell’s recent book, Just War as Christian Discipleship. Here’s a quote to whet the ole appetite:

As Christians, our allegiance is first of all to Christ, not to the just war tradition. If the concern of Christian discipleship is ultimately faithfulness to Jesus of Nazareth, then neither the church community nor its many traditions are free from critique. In times of great moral uncertainty like ours, plumbing the depths of the wisdom of the theological tradition in a fresh manner can often open up fruitful paths of inquiry to help guide us in our contemporary context. Such plumbing, however, if it remains open to the voice of the Spirit, may lead us to call into question and even challenge the wisdom and faithfulness of our inherited moral and theological tradition. Although it is imperative that contemporary Christians listen with a spirit of generosity to our mothers and fathers in the faith, there may be times when, precisely because of our boundedness to Christ and with respect for the faith of our predecessors, we will be led to reject rather than retrieve a particular trajectory of thought taken in the past.

Interestingly Dan Bell has responded extensively in the comments, leading to further response from Ry and myself. Check out the conversation.


  1. kd wrote:

    Halden, in your comments over at TOJ, you write:

    “It is precisely this imagination of of the church’s capacity to school and produce certain types of selves that is problematic. I guess I have just ceased to be convinced — precisely because of my ongoing commitment to intentional ecclesial life, mind you — that the church is to be construed as a site of identity production, the job of which is to produce virtuous selves. I certainly don’t see Paul or the other authors of Scripture as viewing the church as this sort of site of production. Rather they seem to consistently “define” the church in terms of mission, proclamation of the gospel, and the praxis of agape.”

    I find this extremely interesting. Have you written more on this critique of Hauerwas’s ecclesiology? Have others?

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    Check out this post, where I do a little more work along those lines.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  3. Brad A. wrote:

    Halden, is there a dfference for you between the church as a site of identity production and the church as identity? It seems to me that while I’m no so concerned about the church “producing” identity as an ongoing task – although it would seem in the daily life of the church, such would be an inevitable result – I am deeply concerned about ecclesial identity as a function of worshiping God and acknowledging in theo-political, -economic, -cultural (et al) ways the lordship of Christ. That’s why I’ve never really resonated with your critique on this score, unless you’re simply concerned about the emphasis on institutionalization. I may be missing a semantic turn on your part.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Permalink
  4. kd wrote:

    It seems to me that whether or not the faithfulness of the church is constitutive of the gospel is a different issue than whether or not the church is a place of identity-production. Perhaps it is true that even if the church fails to produce persons of decidedly Christian identity it may nevertheless proclaim the gospel. But I am having a hard time understanding how the church can carry out its “praxis of agape” if it is not also a site of identity production. What am I missing?

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  5. Halden wrote:

    Kd, I’d definitely recommend Nate Kerr’s book, Christ, History and Apocalyptic for more on this. In brief, I’d say that the church’s praxis is not something “produced” from itself, but rather is the event of it being given over, by the Spirit to Christ’s own singular love which was poured out in the cross and resurrection.

    So the church’s praxis of agape is not something it produces or even something that is a function of its common life (indeed, it is sometimes precisely in spite of the church’s common life that the agape of Jesus irrupts within the contingencies of history). Rather it is the ongoing in-breaking of the Spirit into the world, which we cannot control, form, produce, etc.

    I hope that helps some.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  6. Halden wrote:

    Brad, I’m not sure I see the difference between “the church as a site of identity production” and “ecclesial identity as a function of worshiping God.” I resist any such “functional” account of worship as something instrumental, something which is there to “form” Christian character, habits, desires, or what have you.

    To me that is construing the church as a site of production, the aim of which is to provide one with a sort of conceptual leverage point over against “modernity” or “liberalism.” And, precisely as part of an intensely communal church life which is utterly centered in common worship, I’ve really come to believe that that’s not what worship is all about.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink
  7. Brad A. wrote:

    I don’t believe I said it was, Halden. I deliberately avoided the absolute characterizations you seem to attribute to me here. I very carefully stated that such identity was an outworking of common worship, which is why I attempted to posit a distinction between the two. Identity as such does not reduce worship to being merely functional, but rather as having the effect – one among others – of building a particular people in light of the reality of Christ. I think that’s a pretty biblical picture, too, one I’d just as soon not yet jettison.

    Just because such identity isn’t the primary – or even a “purpose” of the church doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. That is my point. I just don’t see the purpose of eschewing that process altogether like I read you and Nate to do; if this is an unfair reading on my part, I’m certainly open to correction.

    Incidentally, given your second sentence here, what did you think of Jamie Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom?

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink
  8. Halden wrote:

    Well, I don’t think I attributed such an “absolute characterization” to you or others here. Certainly I don’t think that you, or Hauerwas, or whoever who tend to talk about liturgy as formation think that worship is “only” for identity production, which is why I didn’t say “only” (=absolute characterization).

    But, that being said, I do think it needs to be faced that, when worship is discussed among these sorts of thinkers, its payoff as a tool of identity formation which creates a “habitable world” is basically the overriding point of emphasis.

    In other words, if “liturgy as identity production” is really only “secondary”, why is it the only aspect of worship that ever gets talked about by such thinkers? There seems to be little, if any interest in anything besides worship’s ability to form and shape a community. If that’s really secondary, why does it seem so primary in this stream of thought?

    And its also not that I don’t think liturgical practices “form” people, though I don’t think its nearly as straightforward as much of the contemporary discourse on this issue seems to assume. Rather I’d say that “formation”, even liturgical formation is not necessarily good, or something that prepares for or extends the the Gospel. I think Israel’s history particularly bears this out. Their rich tradition of liturgical practices is almost universally portrayed negatively throughout the Hebrew Bible. It didn’t have the ability to “form” the children of Israel into the way of Yahweh. Rather it was precisely the context of those practices that was constantly interrupted by the word of the Prophets. Any “formation” that happened through the liturgy of Israel seems to have been largely formation in the wrong direction, away from the true call of Yahweh, which is to live in shalom and service to the poor and the stranger.

    So yeah, I don’t really think that worship is — even secondarily — about “building a particular people.” It is Christ who builds a particular people through Word and Spirit, in a radically new and sui generis way. I think its instructive that neither Christ (nor any of the NT writers) handed down any catechetical or liturgical practices for the purpose of producing proper Christian identity. They did however have plenty to say about prayer, praising God, loving one another, and serving the outsider. That’s part of the reason why, more and more, I’m coming to believe that the quest to reify Christian identity through liturgy, practices, etc, and thus to provide a suitable alternative to modernity is placing our hope in the wrong place.

    And in my experience of church life, I’ve also got to say that I’ve never seen worship work the way in which Hauerwas, et al seem to claim it does as far as a tool of ethical formation. And I go to a church that has a deeply intentional communal life and a well-developed participatory practice of worship centered in the Christian year. But in my experience when you get all that stuff “right” you find out that it isn’t doing anything like what some of the literature is claiming. The hard work of discipleship, faithfulness, hospitality, etc., these things flow, in my experience at least, not from liturgy, practices, or even ourselves as the church. Rather they flow from the interruption of the proclaimed Word, the coming in of outsiders, and so on. Indeed, it is only through these sorts of interruptive encounters that our common worship comes to take its deepest significance, precisely as a sort of mission-shaped liturgy in which all our focus is not on ourselves, let alone on cultivating the right habits and virtues, but on Jesus of Nazareth who continually calls us to be moving, kenotically out from ourselves in life-giving service to others.

    Having not finished reading Jamie’s book, I’m really not prepared to comment on it at the moment. Sorry, that’ll have to wait.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Permalink
  9. Brad A. wrote:

    My bad if I misunderstood you, but in responding to my points, you characterized my take as “something instrumental, something which is there to “form” Christian character, habits” or as “what worship is all about.” I did not reduce worship in that fashion. Even here, you say “liturgical practices for the purpose of producing proper Christian identity” – something I did not posit.

    I wouldn’t entirely argue with your point on their emphasis, though I wonder to what degree something like Laytham’s “implicitly political negations” (God Is Not…) prompts that emphasis. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s the only thing “these thinkers” ever talk about (e.g., Hauerwas emphasizes ethical mentorship, for crying out loud – the daily grind of friendship – and you can’t accuse Cavanaugh, Long, Bell, etc. of not living those everyday practices of hospitality), but it may be predominant in the literature because that’s how they’re called into theology – it’s what prompted their entrance into the field and what animates their interests. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, and I don’t see it precluding other aspects of worship. But that’s just me.

    Anyway, once again, I think our disparate approaches to the OT stand out. As I read the narrative, liturgy itself is not portrayed negatively; it is prescribed by Yahweh. However, what occurs – and what the prophets are called to witness against – is either its corruption (via straight idolatry on the popular level or, more often than not, the state cult) or the failure to live communal life in continuity with their worship (politics, economics, etc.). Even where Yahweh says in Amos, “I hate your festivals,” true liturgy itself is not dismissed; rather, the renewal of justice is demanded. By the time of the NT, the liturgical system has become absolutized, resulting in Jesus’ condemnation and replacement of it. So it was in fact distorted practices that were interrupted by the prophets, not liturgy qua liturgy.

    So let me get this straight: you don’t think Christ’s institution of the Eucharist/communion or Paul’s discussion of procedure in worship (1 Cor 11, 14) had anything to do with liturgical practice? It’s interesting that the options as you present them are only either “practices for the purpose of producing proper Christian identity” or “prayer, praising God, loving one another, and serving the outsider.” The possibility that the latter actually accomplishes identity formation (without being reduced to mere production) seems to be precluded in your portrayal. And again, that is precisely what I’ve been getting at.

    Frankly, I don’t really understand the sharp dichotomy you’ve constructed here, pitting liturgy against “the interruption of the proclaimed Word,” etc. Is not proclamation part of worship? Does that not in turn make claims upon people’s identities? I really don’t see these things to be as problematic as you make them to be.

    (And by way of clarification, using Schlabach’s article discussing Yoder vs. Hauerwas on sacrament as an example, I tend to be more comfortable with Yoder than with Hauerwas. So please don’t take me as necessarily defending some sort of high church liturgical formula or such. I’m not opposed to that, but I don’t actually participate in one myself, and I’m much more open to the Spirit’s action in the ordinary life of the community. I just don’t think this “apocalyptic” mode – completely free of structure and communal mediation – is quite all it’s cracked up to be.)

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Permalink
  10. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Brad A.:

    I think what Halden is calling for is a more singularly Christic and precisely thereby a more open and catholic understanding of liturgy. It seems to me that your response to him betrays the kind of reduction that Halden is working against (i.e., the assumption that “liturgy” “is” and has to “do” something vis-a-vis other ecclesial activities, etc.). Another way to say what Halden is say, perhaps, is to say that Christian life is all about a kind of liturgy — a work — that by definition is not about the production or formation of any “identity” at all. And this because our liturgy just is the work of Jesus Christ.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Permalink
  11. Halden wrote:

    Well, we’ve been round most of this before, Brad. But, as to the OT liturgy, temple, etc., your view that “true liturgy” is somehow behind the scenes of the actual practice of worship in Israel, and that it functions as an identity-production vehicle is still to my mind unfounded and problematic. Moreover, just because certain cultic activities are prescribed in the Torah does not mean that they are willed by Yahweh. On this point see Ezek 20:25 where God says explicitly that laws were given to Israel that were “evil” and by which they could not live.

    After all, if we take the gospels (especially John) and Paul seriously, Israel’s liturgy was done away with in Christ. Indeed, Paul seems to regard its practice (even the Sabbath!) as down right slavery to the powers (Col 2:16-17, 20;Gal 4:10). That being said, a discussion of the OT on the nature of liturgy is probably beyond the scope of this combox, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

    As to the institution of the Lord’s Supper, obviously Christ doesn’t hand on any specific liturgical practices. Sure he tells his disciples to eat together in memory of him, but he doesn’t tell them anything about how, or what that entails, or what it all means, let alone hwo its supposed to be this tool of forming their desires. And as for Paul’s word’s in 1 Corinthians, I think we’d do well to attend to those in connection with these debates. Paul is certainly not interested there in setting up structures and practices to form habits, produce virtues, etc. Rather he is concerned about the praxis of agape in sharing food with one another. That’s why his main exhortation there is one I’ve never heard in any of my readings about liturgical formation: “wait for one another.” To my reading Paul is concerned, not with positing the Lord’s Supper as a tool of formation, but rather with bringing the gospel to bear on how the Corinthians are relating to one another within it.

    Now, your other question, which if I may paraphrase, seems to be “Why can’t we see praise, prayer, mutual love, etc. as producing Christian virtues/habits/character?” If that’s not a fair summary, let me know. As I see it the reason is simple. Because God, not worship transforms, renews, and recreates. God, not worship sanctifies us. God, not worship deifies us and transfigures us into the image of Christ. Now I’m sure you will ask, “But can’t God do that in and through worship?” To that I would certainly say “Yes!” The God of Jesus Christ does indeed meet us in our gathering and our prayers, in our supper and in the fount. But God still does so always in utter freedom, as a presence that can only disruptively dwell amongst us. Never as something we can presume to possess and thus mediate. That is why I resist positing worship as a formative power. Our practices, in and of themselves, are mere religion in the Bonhoefferian sense. God does come to us in them, even hallow them, but it is only in the free and independent movement of the Spirit of Christ that this happens. Which is why invocation, lament, and the cry of “Maranatha!” is so central to faithful worship. In worship we cry out for God’s presence in hope, but we do not simply have God’s presence in worship. For “hope that is seen is not hope.”

    Now, just a bit more, I know this is getting long but some of the stuff you said in your last paragraph has irked me a bit. Please understand that I mean all of this with all good will, but I am about to get a little ranty here. Please know that I mean all this in a spirit of brotherly earnestness about the Gospel we both seek to serve.

    Ok, that said, why do you always run to stuff like accusing me propounding something “completely free of structure and communal mediation”? I have never ever said anything like that but you regularly put those sorts of statements in my mouth. I live every day of my life in intentional ecclesial community, for goodness sake. I have devoted my life to this for nearly a decade. I’ve made no secret of this on the blog. I seriously get befuddled when so many people accuse me of not having a community or seeing its importance. I live in the realities that so many readers of Hauerwas are content to idealize (not impugning this to you, just saying). But whenever I try to talk honestly about the limits of ecclesial community — which is not theory or speculation for me, but a lived reality — everyone starts getting uncomfortable and suspicious. Why is that? Do people really think that I, a friggin, “New Monastic” am out to gut the church?

    What I have said, however is that our structures are open to critique under the gospel and that our communal life is likewise open to such critique. I don’t see what that is so scary.

    I think this really bears out the difference between us. You (and I realize you are picking this up from many other thinkers so I don’t mean it as some sort of personal/psychoanalyical thing, I really don’t) are fixated on being able to articulate an unproblematic account of the church as a source of identity which then gives you an Archimedian point of leverage vis a vis the world (this seems born out by your thesis work on how ecclesial practices give the church the resources it needs to resist nationalism, if I’m not mistaken). All I’m saying is that the church is not supposed to provide that kind of security. When Israel sought to establish itself, to find within itself all that it needed to secure it existence in the world, they were scattered into exile. And how did Israel remain Israel while scattered among the nations? Not through the cult of the temple, but through the creation of communities centered around the reading and study of the Torah, the Word of Yahweh. I think that, too should be instructive to us. Israel’s diaspora “identity” is not sustained and rendered unproblematic by the cultus of the OT, they simply leave that behind and devote themselves to hearing the Torah, and abiding in that space where there is genuine unintelligibility, where things genuinely don’t make total sense, where they aren’t in control. Here Yoder’s work on Judaism as/and the Free Church is very helpful.

    So yeah, I believe that this sort of diasporic reality is the calling of the church. The church exists by losing its life and only so finding it. What you are seeking to do though, by positing the church as a haven of stability and identity-production is to avoid the vulnerability of exile. The discomfit that any talk of God’s free action, independent of us seems to bring out in our discussion really goes to this point. You want the church to be able to do things that, in the biblical story, God and Jesus are said to do. That is the collapsing of Christology into ecclesiology, and I really just don’t feel we can go there without violating the essence of the Gospel. As Paul says, “we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.” But in your responses you keep wanting to find a way for the church to be able in some sense to “proclaim itself”, to point to itself, to find in itself the resources it needs to deal with nationalism, capitalism or whatever. And that’s ultimately the difference, I think. I just refuse to try to find a roundabout way for us to proclaim ourselves. I think the Gospel requires that of me.

    All that being said, I do, very genuinely appreciate our discussions and look forward to them continuing. For me this isn’t an abstract or academic issue in any way. Rather all of this is born out of my life in the church and my striving to submit my living to the call of the Gospel. Its certainly not about any sort of desire to just be “apocalyptic” for no reason.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink
  12. Halden wrote:

    Yes. And the other reason that liturgy is not about the formation of any identity is because our identities are not something internal to ourselves. We have died and our lives are hidden with Christ in God. To seek to name an identity and then go about “forming” it is precisely to forget the shape of our salvation in Christ. We have no identity in ourselves. Rather all is found in Christ who lives to God and is utterly free. And that is why we have hope, that the freedom that is Christ’s life will be the end of us and all creation.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Permalink
  13. roger flyer wrote:


    You said:
    “…To seek to name an identity and then go about “forming” it is precisely to forget the shape of our salvation in Christ. We have no identity in ourselves. Rather all is found in Christ who lives to God and is utterly free. And that is why we have hope, that the freedom that is Christ’s life will be the end of us and all creation…”

    Thanks for this last little ‘manifesto’ of a remark

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 9:01 pm | Permalink
  14. Just a few dozen pages into “Does God Need the Church?” by Gerhard Lohfink, and he presents some pretty strong arguments along those same lines.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 11:28 pm | Permalink
  15. Gene McCarraher wrote:

    Halden — You’ve expressed yourself with great clarity and power, and I’m convinced. As you know, I’ve been moving away from the Milbank/Hauerwas axis for some time now, and I’m glad to see others going in a similar direction. Some of your remarks are real gems of insight. Are you going to collect some of this into a book or collection of essays? You should.

    McCabe wrote something that lines up well with what you’ve written. “The unity sacramentally symbolized and realized in the Eucharist is not the unity of the Church, as such, but of humankind, and it is a unity manifestyly not yet achieved, though to love in charity is to have a foretaste or glimpse of it. . .It is not the unity of the Church, for this is simply the sacramental sign of human unity. What the sacramental life of the Church is about is the future unity of humankind (and our foretaste of that), not the unity of this or that human society at any point in history.” (God Still Matters, p. 89) A lot of ecclesial fetishism (which I take to be the object of your critique) could be avoided if McCabe’s words are taken to heart.

    By the way, I’m been reading a lot of Yoder lately. I’d never really taken up and read, and I’m wondering how I could have been such an idiot as to not peruse him. He’s growing on me.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 5:22 am | Permalink
  16. Gene McCarraher wrote:

    Perhaps I should add that most of us Romanists have never really expected much in the way of “identity production” from liturgy. We’ve always understood that the sacraments are tokens of God’s presence, not ways for us to “form” ourselves. Jeez, I’ve been going to church regularly for two decades now, and I can attest that I’m still very much the wretch that the Baptists sing about. If liturgical life is supposed to be a kind of “identity production,” then I’m clearly a defective item.

    Of course, given the discrediting of so many of our shepherds recently, many in the RCC may find your diasporic understanding attractive. I certainly do.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 5:43 am | Permalink
  17. kd wrote:

    Thanks. I’ll check out the book by Kerr.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 6:35 am | Permalink
  18. Brad A. wrote:

    That book has been highly influential for me.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 6:45 am | Permalink
  19. kd wrote:

    I agree with Gene. I am reading your comments with great interest, Halden, because you are expressing very clearly a dissonance that I have long felt between my Hauerwas-informed thinking about the church and my experience of the church. I haven’t read Kerr’s book, yet, but I hope to. You should consider writing a book about this, though, as one who is involved in the “New Monastic” movement, because that whole movement is often understood to be both underwritten by and the positive evidence for the MacIntyre/Hauerwas model of the church as community of identity production.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 7:03 am | Permalink
  20. Brad A. wrote:

    Halden, I’m going to start the comment thread over again so the text field doesn’t get too narrow to read. Thanks for your last response; I appreciate the care with which it was crafted and the spirit in which it was expressed. Please forgive me for generalizing about you (and Nate) in ways that I had already complained had been inflicted on myself. Let’s just agree to take each other’s comments on their own terms from here on out. Forgive also the sequential treatment to follow, but it helps me keep my thoughts organized.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on OT worship and liturgy, as usual. To be candid, but without intending rudeness, I continue to find your exegesis overly selective and problematic You’ve read Ezek 20:25 to pertain to all of Israel’s worship, while I read the pericope that contextualizes that verse to be referring to distorted practices subsequent to what is prescribed in the original Torah. That verse is specifically in contrast to vv. 12-13 and 16, which allude to the statutes and ordinances by which Israel would live; if “statutes and ordinaces” refer to liturgy as you suggest they do, then these verses constitute a positive account. Verse 25 clearly has to do with distorted worship, not with liturgical practices altogether.

    I do not necessarily disagree with your NT remarks – I said as much in my previous comment – but I was addressing your portrayal of OT Israel specifically. As to the NT instances we’ve mentioned, I certainly agree that particular liturgical formulations were not handed down, but I’m not convinced that most of the Christian tradition has somehow erred in seeing the Lord’s Table as central to worship (and with Paul I was also referring to his instructions on prophecy and tongues within the context of the gathered community). What I like about Yoder, so far as I’ve read him, is that he resists a sharp distinction between these extraordinary moments and the ordinary life of the community. Where I think he misses the mark a bit is in not seeming to allow for extraordinary moments to exist. In my mind, that simply isn’t biblical.

    And since we’re on the subject, I think Cartwright is correct to point to how Yoder has read Israel through his own free church tradition, which tends to reduce Israel to diaspora. This reading seems, as I understand it, to forget that exile was judgment, not original intent. While I do think that an exilic perspective is helpful, even crucial, there is no proper understanding of OT Israel without attention to its election and covenant (which I think Doug Harink is right to suggest gets obstructed in Yoder). Even where 1 Peter addresses the diaspora, the specific scripture referred to in that ever-critical passage of 2:9-10 is not from Israel’s narrative of exile, but from its election and covenant. This is precisely what is appropriated for the church, and cannot be dismissed in favor of a “diasporic calling.” (Btw, I haven’t yet read Harink’s treatment of 1 and 2 Peter, but I intend to ASAP.) Election and covenant were so significant because, according to the narrative, they began the embodiment of Yahweh’s free irruption into the ancient Near East world and its systems, and particularly Yahweh’s interruption of Egyptian empire, for the sake of the world’s salvation (Lohfink again.) Like Brueggemann and Cavanaugh, I think this is why liturgy was so important – to repeatedly reenact this story, a story that – while pointing to God’s utterly free act – also very much shaped Israelite identity. God uses liturgy in this fashion to demonstrate the new life to which God calls God’s people, and through them, the whole world. This is not to take away from the danger of perversion and/or absolutization of liturgy, which would be a subsequent distortion of worship as prescribed in Torah (which, again, I think is actually being used as a standard of evaluation in the Ezekiel passage we’ve mentioned).

    Your next paragraph (“Now, your other question…”) points to the crux of the issue, and to where I’m not sure we’re as far apart as you might think. I’m not at all in disagreement that it is God alone who does these things – I never suggested otherwise. In fact, as I’ve indicated, where liturgy comes in for my thinking is precisely as a reenactment and remembrance of God’s free interruption. That is why I think it’s so important. Of course, when I say “liturgy,” I’m not referring necessarily to any set formula, nor do I believe that liturgical forms are beyond correction. I’d never suggest that they are self-sufficient or even that particular forms are necessary mediations (I’m still working through this in my own thinking), except insofar as the community itself is a form of mediation (over against purely individualistic understandings of the proclaimed word, for instance). But it is also a reenactment that shapes people, and that’s what I read to be eschewed in your argument.

    I just don’t see liturgy as a zero-sum-game, where whatever is done by human persons necessarily takes away from God’s freedom. That’s the dichotomy that seems to be at work in your argument, and I’m not convinced it actually exists. Now, please don’t read this to suggest that I think we get it right and that the church is pristine, etc., etc. – my own work is rooted in the fact that it isn’t. The church is not ultimate. But I don’t think these facts impugn liturgy and worship or even the church as such, but rather distortions thereof.

    If you want to discuss my dissertation, I’d invite you to do so via email, as I requested. As to being “fixated on being able to articulate an unproblematic account of the church as a source of identity which then gives you an Archimedian point of leverage vis a vis the world,” I don’t think my work actually bears that out. You’d have to read the whole thing. You write:

    What you are seeking to do though, by positing the church as a haven of stability and identity-production is to avoid the vulnerability of exile. The discomfit that any talk of God’s free action, independent of us seems to bring out in our discussion really goes to this point. You want the church to be able to do things that, in the biblical story, God and Jesus are said to do. That is the collapsing of Christology into ecclesiology, and I really just don’t feel we can go there without violating the essence of the Gospel.

    I honestly don’t see my thinking in your portrayal there, Halden; you may be reading me through Hauerwas or something, but I wouldn’t argue this. My work doesn’t attempt to avoid vulnerability; quite the opposite. What it does is point to the ways in which God’s own free action makes claims on our social self-understanding that contradicts the claims of other entities around us. This is not new, of course, by I take up a particular problem in what seems to be a different approach than what has gone before. In my work, the church never does what God and Jesus do; rather, the church undertakes celebration, remembrance, and embodiment (politically, economically, socially, culturally) of what God and Jesus do. Ecclesiology can only operate from Christology, which itself is partially dependent upon an accurate reading of the OT (which it reciprocally conditions). Again, I don’t think a robust understanding of how such an ecclesiology gets worked out in terms of Christian communal identity takes away from God’s free action in Christ.

    I’ll stop for now. Thanks again for the discussion.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 8:05 am | Permalink
  21. d. stephen long wrote:

    Halden and Nate, Unlike Gene I’m not (yet) persuaded by your argument. I hear “Derrida” in this missional, apocalyptic doctrine of the church much more than Holy Scripture. I don’t see how this apocalyptic reading differs much from his account of justice, and I worry that it comes close to the “gnostic’ version of Protestantism that is an alternative to liberal Protestantism that Cyril O’Regan has demonstrated. I think Halden’s response to Brad A that divides so thoroughly Christology from ecclesiology is an example of the gnostic return in modernity. Nor do I think you can play Yoder and Hauerwas against each other in the way you do on the question of ecclesiology. Clearly there are differences between them as Schlabach has convincingly argued, but not I think to the extent you see. If you do think we must choose between them, then you have to argue Hauerwas misread Yoder since he claimed to get the ecclesiology from him. I would not use the language of “identity production,” but how can you deny Scripture argues that the church — the gathered people of God — is to draw us into the holiness that Christ is and the Spirit ‘produces’ or ‘makes’ or ‘deifies’ or invites us to participate in? Here seem to me to be some obvious passages: Mt. 5-7, Acts 2 Peter chapter 1, Philippians 2:1Colossians, 2: 6-7. So I remain sceptical that you have asked us to do much more than trade the difficult work of embodying the Gospel for a trendy apocalypticism. I could be wrong — so I will continue to read and listen to y’all. Perhaps I’m too blind to see what you want us to see. But what I hear is a call to stop the naive assumption that the church is the ‘site’ of a Christian politics and begin the work of . . . .? And here I’m at a loss. I’m not sure what to do next if you are right.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 10:53 am | Permalink
  22. Nate Kerr wrote:


    Could you please explain to me how it is that you hear “Derrida” and his account of justice, as well as exactly what kind of “gnosticism” you see at work in what we’re saying? This charge has been levelled on occasion, especially as regards my own book, but it is a charge that I have yet seen specified or substantiated in any way. Until such charges are specified and borne out with regards the content of my book, I remain convinced that they are charges meant to evade having to deal with the force of the critique. At best, such charges are a mode of retrenchment, which needs to locate an argument that one is not quite sure what to do with, for the sake of maintaining one’s own position vis-a-vis what one has always been against. And such retrenchment betrays the obsessive need for the kind of binary thinking that always has first to identify the enemy if it is at all to articulate its own position. It makes its own “embodying of the Gospel” reactive. At worst, your curt dismissal of whatever is being said as part of a “trendy apocalypticism” shows your refusal to listen, your ignorance of the whole trajectory of apocalyptic thinking within the past 150 years of Protestant theology (and of tradition of Protestant liberalism in light of which such thinking arose), as well as a fundamental distrust of the work of fellow theologians. It betrays your inability to read theological work that does not reinforce your own moralist ecclesiocentrism with anything other than a hermeneutics of suspicion. And therein lies the distrust. And that distrust is much more fatal to the work of truthful theological conversation than any half-baked conversation starter about the most “overrated” theological works of any given century ever will be. So I welcome a real, sustained engagement that takes seriously what is being said and listens trustfully for the ways in which it seeks to articulate faithfulness to the Gospel in what it is saying, as well as an engagement that substantiates its criticisms. Until then, I will continue to take your unsubstantiated comments as a curt dismissal of what you perceive to be “trendy,” as an expression of your own desire to rest safe within the security of your own nostalgia. A dogmatic slumber from which we need to be awakened indeed!

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink
  23. I’ve always kind of wondered if anyone has ever said, “We live in a time of great moral certainty.”

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 11:51 am | Permalink
  24. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    It should be noted that Nate actually underplays the difference between Yoder and Hauerwas on this score, at least in his book. Nate criticizes both Hauerwas and Yoder for their political ontologization of the church and instrumentalization of worship. It is true that he sees the resources for a way out of this in Yoder’s work, but he doesn’t simply “play Hauerwas and Yoder against each other.”

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink
  25. Halden wrote:

    Thanks, Kent. I appreciate the questions and the openness. I do plan to write more on this stuff, especially in light of my own ecclesial location, which has literally everything to do with my turn in this direction. Sadly most people seem not to get or acknowledge that and just want to brush it all off with accusations that I’m eviscerating the church or becoming gnostic.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  26. Halden wrote:

    I agree entirely, Gene.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink
  27. Halden wrote:

    And thanks for the McCabe quote, Gene. That is very helpful.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink
  28. Halden wrote:

    I’m also at a loss over this comment, frankly. Honestly, Steve I don’t know how you could say in good faith that you think what I’m about is “[trading] the difficult work of embodying the Gospel for a trendy apocalypticism.” First of all you know my ecclesial location and commitments better than many who comment here. I would think that would at least give you pause to stop and think that maybe whatever turn you perceive in my thought is not about being cool, but actually has something to do with the life I’m trying to live in service to the Gospel. I would hope for that kind of extension of good faith.

    Secondly, I just want to point out that in response to several of your questions about the meaning of the church as apocalyptic event, I engaged in a lengthy, multi-part blog series that sought to take up your questions in good faith. You never engaged me on any of those, which is fine, but I would have hoped that you might at least have read them for what they are: an attempt to take the important questions seriously. However we keep finding ourselves in a situation where this is only a one-way street. All we ever get in reply to efforts such as those I have made seem to be backhanded dismissals. I find that regrettable and hope that this may change.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Permalink
  29. You seem to have a new argumentative trick up your sleeve, Halden, that hinges on your “ecclesial location” (several times in this thread). It seems to go something like this: “I’m part of an intentional ecclesial community, ergo my ecclesiological claims must be true.”

    Is there an enthymeme I’m missing there?

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink
  30. Brad A. wrote:

    Nate, Steve was the one who told me I needed to read your book, an endeavor I began some months ago, but was sidetracked from completing. I hope to complete it this summer. I’d be careful of characterizing him in this manner, though – he is easily the best read scholar I know, and one who rather easily defies just about every characterization you make here. He certainly doesn’t need me to defend him, but I thought it worth pointing out.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Permalink
  31. Halden wrote:

    I’ve always been forthright on the blog about the way in which my theological work, whatever it is, is deeply connected to my ecclesial commitments and designed to serve the church. Seems like folks like you and Steve should want theology to be done that way, right?

    Certainly I’ve never “used” this in the way you describe as if it makes my claims “true.” I would just hope that my commitments, being worn on my sleeve as they are might at least make people stop and think before curtly accusing me of trying to denigrate the church or keep people from embodying the Gospel. You know, like maybe consider the thought that, since I’ve devoted my life to the church in a very concrete way that maybe I’m not out to destroy it but serve it? Is that sort of simple good faith too much to ask from people?

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Permalink
  32. We’d like to “listen trustfully,” Nate, but we don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. I mean that quite honestly: the way you and Halden are talking here, I just don’t understand what it means. And given past exchanges around your book, I’m not too sanguine about ever understanding.

    When Halden says, “It is Christ who builds a particular people through Word and Spirit, in a radically new and sui generis way”–I find myself immediately asking: “And how does Christ do this? Is it magic?

    So, too, when Nate says things like: “Christian life is all about a kind of liturgy — a work — that by definition is not about the production or formation of any “identity” at all. And this because our liturgy just is the work of Jesus Christ,” I either don’t understand the claim at all, or again find myself asking, “And how does Christ do this? A mystical, magical event?

    So please move on without us. Our dogmatic slumber and nostalgia has made us stupid, too.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink
  33. Also, just out of curiosity, I wonder how this apocalyptic/event-ish account squares with Yoder, “Sacraments as Social Process,” in Royal Priesthood? There, for instance, Yoder claims that the church “tells the world what is the world’s own calling and destiny, [...] by pioneering a paradigmatic demonstration of both the power and the practices that define the shape of restored humanity. The confessing people of God is the new world on the way.” He then goes on to emphasize the role of the sacraments in constituting the church as a people who are visibly distinct (i.e., holy).

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
  34. Brad A. wrote:

    Except, Gene, that you’ve been going to church for two decades. If your identity has not been in some way shaped by ecclesial participation, then how is it you’re still there? I admit, we all may be operating with different understandings of “identity,” but I just don’t see how identity formation can be so easily dismissed.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink
  35. Brad A. wrote:

    This is the way I took you, Halden. I did not perceive it as a rhetorical maneuver, but as testimony. Yet it seems there’s a disconnect between that testimony and the ecclesiology you’ve argued here, since you are testifying to a life defined in great part by the needs of the church. That has directly to do with identity in my understanding.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Permalink
  36. Halden wrote:

    Brad, I appreciate that you took it in the way it was actually offered. And that helps motivate me to explicate in further posts how what’s going on is in fact not a disconnect, but an organic outworking. So thanks.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink
  37. Nate Kerr wrote:


    I have written briefly on this in my essay in The New Yoder, entitled “Communio Mission: Certeau, Yoder, and the Missionary Space of the Church.”

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink
  38. Studiosus Sorenus wrote:

    Dear Alasdair MacLaig:

    It should not surprise me at all, that this ecclesiogical fetishism of yours, this ecclesiocentrism, should arise concomitantly with a new lust for understanding. The problem with Christian theologians these days is that they in fact remain as obsessed with moving beyond mere faith as the greatest Hegelian ever was. What is this disease of our day, whereby we will not remain with the vulnerability and risk of faithfully believing the one, holy, catholic, and aspotolic church, and so cease living by the assurance of the Spirit by which we trust the promise of Christ that he will never be present to us apart from the appearance of the church, his living body? Why, no, now we need to make this faith representative of a world-historical entity by means of which the world can come genuinely to understand! If ever there are signs that Christian theology today has lost that passion by which one yearns to think that which cannot be thought or understood, this is it! Or perhaps we are just simply afraid of the martyrdom of unintelligibility? Of course, such fear is good for fighting New Atheists: it drives us to articulate a counter-narrative more imminently intelligible. But precisely thereby it submits this faith we presume to confess to the game of intelligibility that the world every day plays. And precisely thereby such fear betrays our unfaithfulness.

    Studiosus Sorenus

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Permalink
  39. Nate Kerr wrote:


    Indeed, Steve has been nothing but supportive of my book, even though I know he disagrees with some of the moves I make therein. He graciously welcomed it into and supported its inclusion within the series he edits with Cascade. And Steve has indeed proven himself to be a well-read and charitable scholar.

    All of which are why I was surprised to see Steve rather uncharitably dismissing the trajectory of Christian apocalyptic thinking as “trendy,” and making critiques without substantiating them whatsoever with regards to the text he purports to be reading.

    It is one thing to say that one does not and has not understood one’s position or argument, as well as to say that what has been said in response to one’s questions thus far does not help in furthering understanding. It is another thing to accept such lack of understanding as ipso facto reaffirming one’s own ingrained suspicions and suppositions about one’s own and another’s work.

    I trust that Steve wants to go forward in conversation that seeks mutual understanding. I’ve always worked with that assumption. But there are any number of ways of foreclosing on such conversation — no matter how well-read or difficult to characterize a scholar one is.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Permalink
  40. You’re right, Halden. I didn’t get that quite right. You haven’t invoked your ecclesial location to endorse your own position. But you have invoked your “ecclesial location” in an interesting way in this thread.

    I certainly have never suggested that you don’t care about the church. But you tend to invoke this whenever you want to point out how naive and benighted Hauerwasians are. So when you make claims that liturgy/church does not “form” us, it’s like each statement is followed with “…and I should know!” Otherwise, I’m not sure what “work” the invocation of ecclesial location is doing. It just struck me that you appeal to this in this thread in ways I’ve never seen you do before.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink
  41. Shucks. Has my lame (and only) attempt at blog humor just been outed?

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Permalink
  42. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    But you see, Jamie, we don’t know know what the hell you’re talking about with this ‘desire forming’ church of yours, because it remains within the realm of ideas. Is it by our liturgies, our acts of worship, that we are shaped into a community capable of resisting late modernity? How does this work exactly, Jamie? Are liturgical rites a form of exchange-with-the-gods for you? Or is it magic? Obviously it is something that you feel desperate to protect.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink
  43. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Humor? No man, it’s passive-aggressive bullshit.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Permalink
  44. I’ll check that out, Nate. Our library doesn’t have it yet.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Permalink
  45. Well, yeah: that, too.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Permalink
  46. Well, you’ll now be waiting with bated breath for volume 2 of “Cultural Liturgies.” The working title is How Worship Works. Problem solved!

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink
  47. myles wrote:

    Halden, thanks all for fueling this conversation.

    Nate, I’m giving a paper at NABPR this week on Yoder-as-apocalyptic, critiquing the readings beginning with David Toole and culminating with yours. I’d love to have your comments on it. Basically, (SPOILER ALERT), I think Yoder doesn’t work apocalyptically because of how he sees the ‘powers’-v-church dynamic working. More later.

    Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 2:51 am | Permalink
  48. Nate Kerr wrote:


    I’d love to read the paper and engage you on it. Just send it to me when you have it finished. I look forward to the conversation.

    Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 7:42 am | Permalink
  49. roger flyer wrote:

    As an interested bystander, I’m wondering if some of these heated comments might be better served in some face to face conversations. I may be mistaken, but aren’t you guys all on the same sliver of the good side? And is there a generational thing appearing here, too?

    I think Nate, Halden and R.O. are putting forth some very interesting ideas worth considering deeply. I do not dismiss them for their youthful enthusiasm, which I sense as an undercurrent (perhaps wrongly) from their critics.

    Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Permalink
  50. roger flyer wrote:

    Having said that, I sense some bristling from the young colleagues–who might be looking for some respect and street cred from their esteemed elders.

    I could be wrong on both counts, but the underlying tones and muscle flexing pot-shots
    ‘trendy’, ‘lame’, ‘passive aggressive’, ‘magical’, etc. don’t serve the church or Christology very well.

    I hope this is received by all as a bridge. I, for one, highly value and esteem all of the thoughtful theology (and theologians) here…

    Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Permalink
  51. Nate Kerr wrote:


    Thank you. I appreciate your pastoral intervention and your words are well taken. I am grateful.

    Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink
  52. Brad A. wrote:

    Nate, I’m re-reading the first part of your book so that I can finish reading the rest of it, and I find I already have clarification questions. I wish there was some way to ask as I go, since I was late to the party when the book first came out.

    Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Permalink
  53. Nate Kerr wrote:


    You’re welcome to email me. I can’t promise extensive responses right now, as I am in the middle of trying to meet not a few summer deadlines. But I will gladly converse as you go along and clarify as I am able. My email is:

    Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink
  54. Matt Elia wrote:


    You said:
    “I do think it needs to be faced that, when worship is discussed among these sorts of thinkers, its payoff as a tool of identity formation which creates a ‘habitable world’ is basically the overriding point of emphasis.”

    I stumbled upon a somewhat obscure Hauerwas interview from a while back in which he says the following:

    “The Catholics [specifically, the Catholic Liturgical Society] had asked me to speak about liturgy as moral formation, but I thought that very way of putting the matter was a mistake. Liturgy is not something done to provide moral motivation. The liturgy is how the church worships God and how from such worship we become a people capable of being an alternative to the world.”

    I know a few lines from an interview don’t alter the main thrust of his arguments as put forth in publications over the years, but he seems to get the order right (at least here), that the liturgy is about (1) how the church worships God, and (2) how FROM such worship we become a people capable of being an alternative to the world.

    I’m honestly asking here, Halden, is this something close to what you mentioned earlier, the placing of secondary emphasis on “liturgy as identity production” and the primary upon the act of worshiping God?

    As always, thanks for prompting and sustaining robust, earnest dialogue on things that matter.

    Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Permalink
  55. Nate Kerr wrote:


    If I may, speaking for myself, what I’d like to see from Hauerwas is a more nuanced understanding of the Kingdom-world-church relation. For me, what I find as primary in Scripture is not not first of all an understanding of the church as an “alternative”… whatever — society, polis, etc…. to the world, but rather the Kingdom of God as transformative and transfigurative of the world, and the church as sign and sacrament of that world’s transformation. As such, the church lives doxologically without reserve. There is no “from such worship” because I don’t take there to be a “to which” that the church moves onto beyond the doxological event itself.

    It is the “from such” that I’m afraid opens Hauerwas to the charge that worship serves an instrumental purpose with regards to forming the church as an “alternative” to the world. And this leads to what I perceive as a misdirected, self-reflexive focus upon the church itself as “productive” of an alternatively “habitable world” (the language here, of “production” and of the church as its own “habitable world” is that of Hauerwas, from With the Grain of the Universe). I actually take this development to work against the theology of witness that I think Hauerwas is rightly seeking primarily to articulate in that text, as well as a misdirection from what it means for the church to live by way of the precariousness of its martyria in the world.

    So, as for me, what I think needs articulating is a construal of the church’s witness conceived primarily in terms of the Kingdom-world relation as presented in Scripture, which I think Hauerwas’ church-world binary obscures.

    Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Permalink
  56. Brad A. wrote:

    I guess I’m still having trouble seeing these conceptions as mutually exclusive. Perhaps he doesn’t talk about it in the way you prefer, but I’m not sure there’s really a substantive difference in practice, or even in theory. Somewhat different emphases (as the Elder Flyer said, we’re all on the same sliver of the same “side”), but I’m struggling to see the difference in consequence.

    With Israel and the church as the signs in their respective epochs of the Kingdom of God, they were by definition and according to their calling/mission alternative bodies to those surrounding them. They couldn’t help but be. If you’re bothered by the emphasis on being alternative as opposed to an emphasis on simply receiving and worshiping, I’m not sure that’s a new concern. As Matt points out, and as I’ve read many times in multiple sources myself, they are concerned about that, too. I think the discussion has focused so much on this “alternative” because the main ways in which the church in the West (esp. America) gets things wrong is in these political, economic, cultural, social ways. I’m not saying that in and of itself is sufficient, but then, I don’t think they are, either.

    Perhaps as I read more of your book, I’ll discover what I’m yet failing to see.

    Monday, May 24, 2010 at 5:38 am | Permalink
  57. Nate Kerr wrote:


    I’ll let you read on in the book. But for now, I should say it is not my concern simply and straightforwardly to just distinguish how I am different from Hauerwas. I don’t actually don’t think that is what is needed at all. I actually think that what is needed is a radical departure from the whole “postliberal” way thinking dogmatically and about doctrine that underlies Hauerwas’ ecclesiology.

    That being said, let me say simply that the point of departure with respect to ecclesiology is at the point of mission, and of what I mean when I say “mission makes the Church.” It is my conviction that a theology of mision is only as good as its Christology, and that my problem with the way Hauerwas construes mission is a problem with his Christology, and the way in which he relates Christology to ecclesiology in such a way as to theologically elevate the the latter over the former and to effect an improper privileging of ecclesiology over Christology. It is effectively a contemporary version of the error by which Ignatius’ dictum, “Wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church,” is improperly reversed (there is no vice versa, in other words).

    Now the problem with this whole inversion is that it cannot but construe mission except as a work of replicating and propagating its own “habitable world,” of extending its own internal “story” in such a way as to outnarrate and to renarrate the givens of the external world and so thereby to “absorb” that world.

    And so I don’t think it will do simply to look at the respective ecclesiologies (I don’t even claim to have an “ecclesiology” as such, distinct from my Christology — that is, as distinct from the promise of the ecclesia as given by Christ in the Spirit, and the conviction that we must live by the nature of that promise) and suggest that there’s not really that much difference in practice, etc. The distinction lies not so clearly in what one does as in how it is done (to put it in a Kierkegaardian terms). And this is a dogmatic difference, for me. Of course, this requires more than just the critique I’ve proffered. It requires a reworking of the how we understand the Kingdom-World-Church relation as articulated in light of an entirely different Christological framework, with distinct dogmatic emphases. I’ve tried to begin that work in my book, and I continue to work it out in my current work. Hopefully my next book on the church will help to clarify some of these questions. While this comment box doesn’t allow me to articulate that ongoing constructive work as clearly and as fully as is needed to get the force of my critique of Hauerwas, and because I think the force of my critique will be seen even more strongly in light of ongoing and further work, there are a number of limitations to what I can articulate here in addition to what I’ve said in my book. But perhaps I’ll at least muster up a brief guest post or something (if Halden allows) that will give some hints as to where I’m going with this stuff, and perhaps open a line of dialogue that is not strictly concerned with how this is different from Hauerwas. Though that does not negate the heuristic significance of that question.

    I should also add, in the meantime, that I am not the only one who is publishing work on these points. John Flett’s article “Communion as Propaganda” in the November 2009 issue of Scottish Journal of Theology is superb, and lays out a similar line of critique in relation to Reinhard Hutter’s work. And Peter Kline has an article forthcoming in the same journal (I believe) that articulates a critique of Robert Jenson’s ecclesiology from the same perspective of apocalyptic mission. Also, as regards the central importance of the question of mission as a neglected dogmatic question, I highly recommend Flett’s just-released book, The Witness of God: The Trinity, Missio Dei, Karl Barth, and the Nature of Christian Community.

    Monday, May 24, 2010 at 7:29 am | Permalink
  58. Halden wrote:

    I will definitely “allow” such a guest post, Nate. That’d be great.

    Monday, May 24, 2010 at 7:45 am | Permalink
  59. So, a Lutheran chaplain, a Methodist minister, a Catholic priest, a Ojibwa Shaman, several fundamentalist evangelicals and a messianic Jew all go to visit someone in the hospital…no joke, really. My wife and I have been spending a lot of time at Providence hospital. There were some difficult days and nights, times when the life of my dear wife of 39 years was in serious jeopardy (she is doing better now, thank you, but still needs open-heart surgery, I would appreciate all of your prayers, in between getten this Christo/ecclessio-apocolyptica/praxodoxy–liturgicism thing all worked out). The Ojibwa Shaman (my wife is part Ojibwa, as well as Jewish, but is a follower of Jesus, but don’t ‘go to church,’ so to speak) had to curtail his ‘liturgy?’ which included smudging sage, cedar, sweet-grass and I don’t know what-all, because the nurses wouldn’t allow the smoke. The Shaman and the Priest (I am a Roman Catholic, btw, but mostly study Talmud/Torah) seemed to hit it off really well, go figure. Our Evangelical friends threw in with the Lutheran while all this was going on and I think both have renewed doubts about our election/salvation. Popish faldera is one thing (at least the RC’s are against abortion) but magical spells smacked too much of ‘Avatar,’ paganism for them. The indeterminate Methodist slipped away, to return the next day and offered some great protestant prayers too, thanks. I got to know the priest pretty well because Mass was offered in the mornings. I was worn and stressed out, filled with much angst and usually didn’t have the words to pray. I would just ‘go through the motions,’ so to speak, mumbling and weeping on my rosary, but the wizzend priest had been at this awhile and knew what he was doing. Where was God in all this, just ‘going thru the motions’ too? Well, I think there is an old Ojibwa saying that synthesizes what Nate, Halden, Roger, Gene, and others are saying. It comes from a plaque on the wall in Tony Soprano’s hospital room. Tony awoke from his coma after he had been shot by Uncle Junior and he read it over and over, I think it marked a real turning point in his life, it goes: “Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while, a great wind carries me across the sky.” amen.

    Monday, May 24, 2010 at 10:13 pm | Permalink
  60. roger flyer wrote:

    i’m so sorry to hear of your wife’s illness. I will pray for God’s peace for you in this very difficult time. ((And I will pray–God–please help!) Thank you for sharing more of your story with your virtual church.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink
  61. Thanks so much roger, we need and appreciate any prayers folks wish to offer. Providence hospital in Everett is a really great hospital. They even pray over the intercom! And all 3 chaplains were very much appreciated. I also want to add my support to the suggestion that Halden write a book, especialy if it includes something of the life and experiences of his community. I find more and more that theology/philosophy that resonates and contends with the actual struggles of life is more usefull to me than hyfalooten theories without footnotes to the Greek (not that theres anything wrong with that). And Halden could offer a pre-order option and start getting the money rolling in now–until hollywood makes a movie out of it (I see Timothy Spall playing Halden, but then I have never met him). Again, thanks and blessings, Daniel.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Permalink
  62. Matt Elia wrote:


    Thank you for your reply here and the discussion throughout.

    I have your book on my Amazon wishlist and hope to get to it soon. If I’m understanding the thrust of the project at all, I think it resonates with (among many other things) my hesitations about the tendency of Radical Orthodoxy and Hauerwasians to frame the church’s witness as “deploying counter-narratives” and “articulating alternative account to modernity/liberalism/capitalism” and thereby mistake the ultimately doxological character of the church’s Jesus story for something more like what Halden described well a while ago as a “civilizational project.”

    I have more questions, but I’ll (mercifully) save them until I’ve read the book. Again, thanks.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Permalink
  63. Billy Daniel wrote:

    Interesting exchange taking place here. Having just entered the blogosphere, this is just what I’ve attempted to bring into conversation at The Other Journal blog “Novare Aeternum”. I speak about this in the May 10 and 25 posts. I humbly offer them for your reading here: ( ) . Briefly, if our identity, as I think everyone would agree, rests in the work of God in Christ at creation, made manifest on the cross of our redemption, and continually made manifest in the sacrament of Holy Eucharist, then, following the early fathers, “liturgy” specifically refers to Christ, whose singular work is for the benefit of the many. “Liturgy” is the work of the One for the sake of the many, which is redefined after the Reformation as “the work of the people” or “people’s work.” Understanding with the early Christians, however, we understand our identity to rest in the liturgical participation of making eucharist, which is the whole meaning of the offertory rite, which the church understood to be its via crucis. Obviously this is hard to find today, but we still say that our identity is found in the products of our labor, and the problem is not whether ourd identity rests Christ through liturgical participation, but does our current liturgical forms gather us into the liturgy Christ himself is?

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 7:27 am | Permalink

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