Stanley Hauerwas on ‘Public’ vs ‘Private’

Stanley Hauerwas has become one of my favorite theologians and ethicists. He has a way of seeing possibility in seemingly disparate theological sources that most would think could never go together (who else could bring Karl Barth and Yoder together in a way that really does work). Hauerwas also displays a consistent knack for questioning the categories, concepts, and conditions of modernism which many others unquestionably accept as being ‘obviously’ true.

Below is a short video in which Hauerwas gives some food for thought on matters which seem especially important in today’s political and cultural landscape:

  • He touches on the issues of pluralism and secularism and our posture as Christians within a pluralistic milieu.
  • He calls Christians in particular to be a people who care about truth telling (especially pertinent during an election year in which many Christians are as willing as anyone else to tolerate lies as long as their guy wins).
  • He issues a call for the need of “eloquent and disciplined speech for the formation of a people who love the right things rightly” (with a little tweaking, a great statement on the task of theology and the church in my opinion).
  • And in the process he questions the very assumptions of modernity behind the notions of both ‘public’ and ‘private’ (and the attendant splitting or dichotomizing of public and private in modernity) which a great many seem to simply take for granted.

Should Faith Be Private? from CPX on Vimeo.

(HT: Allan Bevere & John Byron)

Miroslav Volf on ‘Multiple Faiths, Common World’

That we are living in a time of increasing globalization and pluralization should not surprise anyone. Christians in the West increasingly have to learn how to exist in a world that is increasingly post-Christendom in orientation. I am one that would agree with those who claim the increasing pluralization does not mean we are necessarily becoming more secular. It seems to me at least, that many Christians witness the loss of Christian influence in the wider culture and politics in particular and simply call it ‘secularism’. But the loss of Christian influence in a pluralistic culture does not mean we are becoming more ‘secular’. What pluralization does mean is that our world (and North America included) is more and more religiously and ideologically diverse (having even more non-Christian faiths and ideologies represented) and that these religious expressions and ideologies are increasingly bumping up against each other.

And many Christians, to be honest, are not making the transition well. It saddens and grieves me that so many turn to the wider ‘culture wars’ to ‘fight’ things out and maintain Christian influence. But not only are the culture wars bad, I believe, for democracy (in that they ruin our ability to converse effectively, only increase polarization on both sides, and simply feed into a political system that upholds the already rich and powerful), but I believe fervently the culture wars are also bad for the gospel (in that they have the tendency to make a the gospel a bludgeon, to name just one reason) and hinder the missional faithfulness of a gospel shaped people in our context.

There is a way to contend for the gospel of the kingdom of God in our context, but I do not believe it to be the ‘power over’ way of the culture wars (especially the variety of culture wars that are entangled in American politics). It is so hard to truly love like Jesus when we are all busy ‘warring’ with each other. I would much rather see Christians live out our faith as peacemakers in the line of Jesus and as cruciform agents of self-sacrificial reconciliation – to be those that live the gospel and Jesus story as our core identity among our neighbors (be they Muslim, Buddhist, straight, LGBTQ, Hindu, Black, White, or however else people may self-identify). In order to do this well we have to take account of what it means to live in a common world with multiple faiths.

Miroslav Volf (who grew up in a totalitarian state) has written a very good book called A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good in which he discusses how to live the gospel well in the midst of post-Christendom pluralization. The video below provides a good introduction to the theme of ‘Multiple Faiths, Common World‘.

(HT: Allan Bevere)

May the peace of our liberating King Jesus be with you.

Karl Barth on the Task of Evangelical Theology

Below is a video of Karl Barth’s lecture on evangelical theology given April 23, 1962 in Chicago and April 29, 1962 in Princeton.

A Reformed theologian to be sure, his theology is still of a much different flavor from much (most?) of contemporary (and popular) North American Calvinism. In my opinion, while not perfect (who is), Barth is a virtuoso theologian even in his imperfections. Those who would aspire to be ‘evangel’-ical theologians and speak well of the ‘the God of the gospel’ known in Jesus would do well to listen closely to Barth.

(HT: — of Paper, Pints, and Tweed)

BTW: You can get all 14 volumes of Barth’s Church Dogmatics at a terrific value here (I got these for my birthday May 2011 because my wife loves me!). You can also join Daniel Kirk as he reads and discusses Barth’s Dogmatic’s from the perspective of narrative or ‘storied’ theology here.