Subscribe via RSS Feed

Stanley Hauerwas, Working with Words: On Learning to Speak Christian

From Pneuma Review Spring 2013

Working with WordsStanley Hauerwas, Working with Words: On Learning to Speak Christian (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2011), 322 pages, ISBN 9781608999682.

I recommend this book to all Christians, and especially to those in pastoral and the theological vocations. Like his other publications, the Duke Divinity School professor of ethics and theology asks poignant hermeneutical and theological questions pertaining to Christian discipleship and witness. In Working With Words, Hauerwas shares his vision, approach, and experience as a pastor-theologian writing for the Christian public. His goal is to paint a vision of God with discipleship and witness in mind. And because he addresses life’s puzzling complexities honestly, this volume will be a good companion to his Hannah’s Child, a memoir of his theological autobiography.

The book has three parts, and Hauerwas writes seven essays for each section. Most of the essays are either public lectures or church sermons that he had shared in recent years. A few other essays fill the gaps for this compilation. Part 1 addresses disciplines for those learning to speak about God. These disciplines include reading, hearing, seeing and naming God amidst evil. Part 2 explains the Christian language of love for a) dealing with greed, b) discerning the Christian body, c) engaging the reality of “finite care[s] in a world of infinite need” (154) and d) explaining what it means for the church to be on a mission. In Part 3, Hauerwas co-writes (with a few theologians) on the lessons he had learned from some of his teachers. These teachers are political philosopher Charles Taylor, political activist-theologian Richard Niebuhr, and philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre. He also include a chapter examining the friendship between political pastor-theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Eberhard Bethge, and a few chapters explaining some of the virtues that underwrites medieval thinker Thomas Aquinas’s writing of Summa Theologicae, contemporary Catholic Social Teaching, and contemporary Methodist theological ethics.

Love is often slow, painful and difficult.

What can we learn from Working With Words? Hauerwas provides an exemplar model for those who desire to live faithfully to the gospel. He proclaims that “naming God matters”. The gospel should not be expressed in ways that exclude society nor should it be presented so inclusively that it fails to witness to message of the cross before a watching world. The gospel should show hospitality to strangers in the name of Christ (185-186). However, and ultimately, “only God can name God”; no Christian has and knows God as we think we are able to (80-81). Friendship with God is not a relation between co-equals; we are always the poorer partner ever in need of God and his goodness (74-77). The discipline of seeing the splendors of God often require that seers set aside or at least subjugate conventional ways of seeing, so as to embrace “a totally reconfigured kingdom” perspective (58-59). For instance, Hauerwas recommends silence as a valid response to genocides, like Rwanda and the Holocaust; he explains that one can only know sin (including the sins of society) in light of divine grace, even though evil is often expressed in idealistic and utopian terms (21, 32).

Pin It
Page 1 of 3123

Tags: , , , , , ,

Category: Living the Faith, Pneuma Review, Spring 2013

About the Author: Timothy Lim Teck Ngern, M.Div., Ph.D. (Regent University), is an adjunct lecturer at Regent University School of Divinity (Virginia Beach, Virginia). He is also honorary tutor for King’s Evangelical Divinity School (London), and Book Review Editor for Evangelical Review of Society & Politics. Winner of the 2011 North American Academy of Ecumenists annual student essay contest, he has served as the assistant pastor of a Baptist church in Singapore and projects manager for Transworld Radio International (Northeast Asia Office).

  • Connect with PneumaReview.com

    Subscribe via Twitter 1179 Followers   Subscribe via Facebook Fans
  • Recent Comments

  • Featured Authors

    Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degree...

    Jelle Creemers: Theological Dialogue with Classical Pentecostals

    Antipas L. Harris, D.Min. (Boston University), S.T.M. (Yale University Divinity School), M.Div. (Emory University), was appointed as the founding dean of the Urban Renewal Center

    Exploring the African Seedbed in Biblical History, Christian Theology and Spirituality

    Charles Carrin has served the body of Christ for over 60 years. Today his ministry centers upon the visible demonstration of the Spirit and imparting of His gifts. Read his biography at Captivity Of The Mind: Spiritually Understanding Abnormal Human Behavior

    Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books<...

    Listening for God’s Voice and Heart in Scripture: A conversation with Craig S. Keener