Agape Love: Reading Nicholas Wolterstorff

I can remember learning many a song as a child at our evangelical church. One in particular started with “Welcome to agape-love”. If I’m remembering correctly, this song tried to instill a sense of God’s love for us as children, and how we were supposed to love others as God loved us. Simple and didactic enough, right? We were learning to inhabit the world of evangelicalism. We didn’t really question love; it was a given.

In Justice in Love (2011), a follow-up to Justice: Rights and Wrongs (2008), Nicholas Wolterstorff depicts a clash between the Greco-Roman concept of justice, and the Judeo-Christian concept of love. In contrast to my childhood sing-a-long, love has to be justified today. Justice can be unloving; love can be unjust. To take one instance Wolterstorff acknowledges a…

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Witness Exemplified: Reading Stanley Hauerwas

In Approaching the End: Eschatological Reflections on the Church, Politics, and Life (2013), Stanley Hauerwas again envisions the church as an alternative politics. The church’s alternative politics is rooted in a redemption story, one which encompasses both the ultimate beginning and end. He reasons that if God’s creation is a good and determinative act of peace, so too must be its end, particularly as that end is also a new creation. Moreover, if the church is a community whose witness embodies the redemption story, Hauerwas insists that this has implications for some of the more pressing concerns of our day. As we’ve seen in the previous two posts, this includes medicine.

Hauerwas contends that we live in a world that shares no goods in common. Modern medicine is simply an institutio…

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War Has Been Abolished: Reading Stanley Hauerwas

Stanley Hauerwas, one of America’s preeminent theologians and ethicists, thinks the combination of a “liberal narrative” and modern medicine has led to an inability to deal with death and sickness in a healthy, communal way.

For a set of related reasons Hauerwas claims that the liberal narrative is the story by which the American nation-state lives and dies. In War and the American Difference (2011) he argues, in his understated yet bold way, that war constitutes a rival church in possession of a counter-liturgy. He insists that war has unified America, from the Civil War to the major conflicts of the twentieth century, and he argues that these wars constitute a sacrificial system which upholds the nation-state in such a way as to give American lives meaning. One of his most central cla…

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Putting Death in its Place: Reading Stanley Hauerwas

I haven’t had much direct experience with death. Only now, in my mid-thirties, have I gained a sense of anything remotely like permanent loss. Nearly two years ago a friend my age passed away from lung cancer. At the time we were both part of a reading group which had just finished a book entitled God, Medicine, and Suffering, written by one of America’s foremost theologians and ethicists, Stanley Hauerwas.

One of the distinct memories I have from when I learned of my friend’s death was a peculiar emptiness, a sense of loss that couldn’t quite be put into words – a certain breathlessness. In retrospect this is both understandable and rather predictable. Like members of the church I attended, and our mutual friends, I was in a state of shock. In spite of a quite negative prognosis, we ha…

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Affirmation, Joy, Hope: On Stephen Colbert's Faith

Perhaps you’ve watched the interview in which Stephen Colbert talks about his faith? A couple of things said in the interview got me thinking about my own faith and the fine balance between hope and despair. This is partly due to the fact that at the moment I’m trying to make sense of the general themes of Paul Ricoeur’s philosophy. Stephen Colbert and Paul Ricoeur? Stay with me.

In the interview Colbert talks about the importance of affirmation, joy, and hope. He says his Catholic faith is rooted in saying “yes” to life, to others, and to God. Colbert also refers to the biblical injunction “do not be afraid” as indicative of what it means to belong to the church, to live a life in community oriented by joyful hope. If you’re familiar with the New Testament, it’s not hard to think of in…

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