Radical Preaching

Can preaching again have something to say?
This blog marks the attempt to bring the theological vision of Radical Orthodoxy into the worship and preaching of the local church.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

an amazing book

Very few books hold me attentive as this one has in these days. It really is an amazing work. In this one work, he deals with not only non-violence in a positive way (what we are for not just against), but also the meaning of narrative, beauty, virtue & friendship.

This is a book within a book when one considers the footnotes alone. He not only references, but talks about more than 20 of his own books, in addition to 25+ other authors. For most of those authors, he references at least a couple of their books, but for some like Bonhoeffer and Yoder he references 10+ books of each, which is not surprising concerning the topic of the book. For someone to synthesize their own thought, let alone others (Bonhoeffer, Milbank, Yoder, Stout, etc.) in this manner is simply amazing. The man is brilliant and a real gift to all of us.

This book will challenge anyone who reads it. It is a conversion process to do so.

Crossposted on la nouvelle theologie


Blogger isaac said...

I agree, I think the book has some great essays. But don't overlook George Hunsinger's interesting (almost sarcastic?) endorsemnt on the back cover: "Hauerwas offers us a provocative reading of Bonhoeffer that, not suprisingly, assimilates him closely to John Howard Yoder." I laugh every time I read that endorsement. Yeah, I think I'm with Hunsinger on that one. But where Hunsinger probably wants a Bonhoeffer without Yoder, I'd opt for a Yoder without Bonhoeffer. But the interesting thing about the book, I think, is that paying attention to the assimilation taking place reveals the originality of Hauerwas. He's always too modest to claim originality, so he says "I learned it all from Yoder." But a lot of times, it seems to me, his Yoder isn't necessarily Yoder... but that's where Hauerwas emerges undercover. Just some thoughts.

January 05, 2006 8:11 AM  
Blogger David said...

One could argue that this book is much more about Yoder than Bonhoeffer. In fact, he really deserves to be in the sub-title in lieu of Bonhoeffer. Sure, Bonhoeffer has the first two chapters, but after that Yoder dominants the discussion, either in the actual text or in the footnotes. Or as Isaac says above, it's a Bonhoeffer interpretation through the lenses of Yoder disciple.

Who had a greater impact in the thinking of Hauerwas? With no doubts, it's Yoder.

I'm not a "Yoderian" per se, but it's hard not to be after reading much of Hauerwas.

January 05, 2006 11:30 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Just as an aside, after taking Hauerwas's course on Bonhoeffer / Yoder this fall, I think his reading of Bonhoeffer has some real merit; perhaps even some that isn't reducible to Yoder.

Of course it is a Yoderian-cum-Hauerwasian reading of Bonhoeffer, but Hauerwas's reading I think offers us some insights about Bonhoeffer's implicit ecclesial-political convictions that other Bonhoeffer readers don't bring out. I think the problem with some readings of Bonhoeffer is that people focus on a few works that aren't Bonhoeffer at his best or at least aren't fully appreciated without having read works like Sanctorum Communio (his revised dissertation).

Several people in the class were left feeling like Bonhoeffer isn't as important for the kind of theology Yoder tries to make you do - and Hauerwas said he probably wouldn't teach the course again, but I'm not sure this has been a wasted project. As Hauerwas said, if Bonhoeffer and Yoder can be seen as both making radical Christological claims that recover the visibility of the church, then perhaps people who aren't ready to dismiss Bonhoeffer as a "sectarian fideistic tribalist" will not get off so easily dismissing Yoder as such either.

One interesting question (and my pet project) is, how significant is it that both Yoder and Bonhoeffer were deeply influenced by Barth?

Just some thoughts / questions.

January 09, 2006 8:10 AM  
Blogger isaac said...

Yeah, Scott. You know I'll bite on that last bit about Barth. Since we never find time to talk about this sort of thing, why not here?

I have to admit, I am not that well read in Bonhoeffer. He usually strikes me as just so bourgeois. But enough of that nonsence.

Barth and Yoder. I would love to hear more about the whole "visibility of the church" in Barth. I want to say that it's there; I want to read him toward Yoder; but there's the Hunsinger verson of Barth that goes for the "The world would be lost without Jesus Christ, but the world would not necessarily be lost without the church" line. And that's the Barth Rom Coles and Cornel West will preach in the name of radical democracy--so we see "parables of the kingdom" outside the church that evangelize the church, or something like that. And that fits quite nicely, it seems, with Coles' version of Yoder (see Coles' awesome book, Beyond Gated Politics). But all that, it seems to me, messes with conceptions of ecclesial "visiblity" and our anxiety about it. Do you dig that Barth? and that Yoder? And what does that mean for Hauerwas' concern about "visibility" in the midst of liberalism's malaise?

January 12, 2006 4:10 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Isaac -

I simply don't (yet) see a contradiction between Barth's "parables of the kingdom" outside the church, which people like Coles and West (and even Stout - see his surprisingly affirmative section on Hunsinger's "political" Barth in Democracy and Tradition) will preach, and Hauerwas's Barth-read-through-Yoder. I guess I see the tension, but I think you can read Barth's "the world would be lost without Jesus Christ, but the world would not necessarily be lost without the church" in a way that resonates with Yoder's (and derivatively, Hauerwas') eschatology.

I think Hauerwas would only want to dismiss that Barthian claim if it's being read in a way that says..."so, given God's freedom to work outside the church, the church is not the (normative) mediator of salvation." I don't think Barth means that. And I think Hauerwas is right to want to say we can't read that to mean that Barth thinks salvation is possible - in history, in this world - outside of the community where God's Word is proclaimed and confessed.

I think Hauerwas / Yoder are both subtle enough to distinguish between the visible church in-its-sin, which it shares with the world, and the church-as-faithful-witness to the kingdom, in which the eschatological presence of Christ is made known. And I don't see either of them restricting God to the (visibile, historical) church and its practices - or claiming that these practices can't be picked up and embodied to some degree in the world. They simply have confidence that there are certain practices, practices of the Holy Spirit (the politics of Jesus), that mark the church in its distinctiveness, in whose absence the incarnate Word is not being proclaimed, and thus without which there is no salvation.

I don't think Bonhoeffer helps as much in these matters as Yoder, but does what I'm saying at least help make sense of how I think the Barth comment you quoted can be eschatologically clarified, in a way that still requires the ecclesial practices of salvation that the "visible church" makes manifest?

January 14, 2006 2:27 PM  

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