"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Then Cometh the End

One of the high points of my tenure as editor of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies was when Stanley Hauerwas sent me an article to publish, which we happily did in 2006. It was an essay treating the thought of St. Gregory the Theologian on poverty and learning. Hauerwas used Gregory to ask the question of whether a Christian university that really cares for the poor can continue to operate as its secular counterparts do, or whether it needs to be structured differently.

Back in the mid-1990s, Hauerwas and I became, as he insisted, friends--even if it was an epistolary friendship, with our not actually meeting until 2004 when we both gave papers at a conference in Prince Edward Island. He was very helpful in getting my MA thesis defended, and providing much counsel along the way. He, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Cardinal Newman (the "three wise men") laid the intellectual groundwork for my becoming Catholic.

But never mind this tedious autobiography. Hauerwas's significance and importance stretches far beyond my little world. He has been, for more than twenty years now, widely thought of as one of the most important Protestant theologians in North America. Indeed, in 2001, Time magazine (back when it was something of an institution and people actually read it--does anybody bother with it today?) put him on its cover as theologian of the year in the aftermath of Hauerwas's controversial comments on the 9/11 attacks.

Hauerwas recently retired from Duke, but continues to publish. As he moves through his 70s now, the title of his most recent book seems doubly fitting: Approaching the End: Eschatological Reflections on Church, Politics, and Life (Eerdmans, 2013), xvii+251pp. About this book we are told:

In this book Stanley Hauerwas explores the significance of eschatological reflection for helping the church negotiate the contemporary world.

In Part One, "Theological Matters," Hauerwas directly addresses his understanding of the eschatological character of the Christian faith. In Part Two, "Church and Politics," he deals with the political reality of the church in light of the end, addressing such issues as the divided character of the church, the imperative of Christian unity, and the necessary practice of sacrifice. End, for Hauerwas, has a double meaning -- both chronological end and end in the sense of "aim" or "goal."

In Part Three, "Life and Death," Hauerwas moves from theology and the church as a whole to focusing on how individual Christians should live in light of eschatology. What does an eschatological approach to life tell us about how to understand suffering, how to form habits of virtue, and how to die?

1 comment:

  1. Your intellectual genealogy was hardly boring. The three wise men, I like it.


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