Stanley 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.