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« Fundamentalism: A Formidable Enemy | Main | Signs and Wonders »

January 15, 2006


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I think most of the call for "both/and" thinking comes from those who are speaking to modern audiences that haven't been taught ton consider paradox or complexity in their faith. I don't see this so much in those comfortable in truly postmodern environments.

But what you've said is true. Virtue is rarely on the radar for too many people of my generation, myself included.

I've come to see virtue - or "character," as I prefer to call it - as not just a matter of leadership, but of eschatology.

I think that the Emerging Church movement needs to take the challenge of Ethicist Stanley Hauerwas seriously: "Where there is no Ecclesiology, there are no ethics." The Church must be seen, however uncomforatably, as an institution that imparts values to you, not a subject of your own value judgement. Our leaders will never be perfect, but that doesn't excuse the lack of preaching on virtue.

"The Church must be seen, however uncomfortably, as an institution that imparts values to you, not a subject of your own value judgment."

I think the point of what originally was observed is that the Church should not necessarily be seen as anything... but that the leaders themselves need to live the values that are seen in the bible. The youth my husband and I work with see the church as ignorant and narrow-minded (its actually made worse by the constant values pushing) and nothing will change that until Jesus changes them from the inside out. They won't even approach the church unless they meet individuals who live these values in a real way, which leads me to think...

Instead of teaching values themselves, the church needs to teach Jesus and the bits of God revealed to us. That is what is truly uncomfortable and that is the root/ basis of our values anyway. Just like with the fruits of the spirit... they are byproducts in the life of one who follows Jesus.

take the challenge of Ethicist Stanley Hauerwas seriously...

first I'd have to take Stan seriously. To Quote:

"As Christians we claim that by conforming our lives in a faithful manner to the stories of God we acquire the moral and intellectual skills, as a community and as individuals to face the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. Of course this remains a 'claim,' for there is no way within history to prove that such a story must be true." (Stanley Hauerwas A community of character pg. 96)

I don't know how he can 'preach the good news' if he doesn't believe it is anything other than just a 'claim' or a 'story'.

But, that aside... how about we live Holy because God tells us too?

Justin, you're sounding like an amillennialist! ;)

And now you've got me wondering... when we fail to live out a "realized eschatology", and at the same time lay claim to a distorted, permission-granting view of God's grace, is it any wonder that our passion for character/virtue suffers?

"They won't even approach the church unless they meet individuals who live these values in a real way"

Faith, that's exactly what I'm seeing.

Just a thought... I've not read the work by Hauerwas that you've quoted from, but I wonder if his apologetic here is one of strengthening the need for "faith."

Also, in reading your comments I'm reminded of Orthodoxy's emphasis on theosis, echoed by Wesley's teachings on sanctification. There's definitely a reason why we're hearing so much about these today.

But guys, Hauerwas' point isn't that the Church shouldn't teach Jesus Christ. His point is that values must be values held by a community. Even "bible values" are ultimately the judgement call of the community who is interpreting them.

What the community discerns to be the biblical values does matter.

Also, there is no contradiction between an ecclesiological body traditioning its truths to its members and a narrative/Christo-centric nature to those truths.

I think that divorcing ecclesiology from any conversation about ethics is dangerous in the extreme. And Seraphim, I have read a good deal of Hauwerwas - I love you brother, but I believe you're proof-texting a bit. that line doesn't represent SH's general ethical theology, which is kind of proto-Catholic in nature and certainly is based on 'living' the narrative examples of the gospel ;)

As for youths thinking the church is 'narrow-minded' - some are and some aren't. But it seems to me equally narrow-minded. Also it's a trait of post-millenials that they don't mind living contradictory identities. That makes being 'open-minded' almost contingent on having few set values.

That being said, I think that as always the virtues embodied in our lives are obviously the most important, but that doesn't mean that the values we want to embody in our lives shouldn't be the property of an ecclesiological body so that we're not back to ethical anarchy - which I believe is what Hauerwas was trying to prevent.

hmm, Ray... I don't think so. I also have a number of Stan the man's books. How do you change or unpack his statement that we cannot know that the story is true that it is only a 'claim?'

I'll give ya the bene of the doubt and do some more reading this pm...


I think he's speaking there more of empiracal proof - we cannot "prove it". At least that's how I understand it. His ethics seem to "presume" that the story of Christ's redemptive love is true, but it will only be empiracally known by all on the other side. He takes the call of Christianity so seriously and he's so consistently against nominalism within the community that I don't think he suffers from any real self-doubt (or at least doesn't make that self-doubt part and parcel of his theological ethics).

In any case, the only point I was trying to make with him was that ecclesiology and ethics are fused together. It is a community that imparts values to its members. Otherwise its anarchy - individuals picking out how the gospel individually speaks to them. That's a recipe for egocentric interpretations of virtue disconnected from any kind of tradition. I'm not a fan, no matter how much good feeling anti-Traditionalism and anti-Institutionalism might engender in postmoderns.

I think he's speaking there more of empiracal proof - we cannot "prove it". Perhaps. But I think we can without reservation make the 'claim' that the Historical Jesus is the Jesus of Faith. That there is 'proof' if you will that he lived, died and rose again.

What you do with that is where your faith grow feet.

enough of a hyjack though. Peace!


The "Historical Jesus" topic misses the point: It is spiritual knoledge and must be spiritually discerend.

I think he's speaking there more of empiracal proof - we cannot "prove it".
The proof of the resurection is found in the changed lives of former drug addicts, the healed, and the changed under God's power.

Part of this is ecclesiology. The Gospel is not a social development or a philosophy, it is divine revelation (mystery or Raza). Thats why we dont need to improve upon it with modern innovations. We just need to learn it and do it. Only then can one understand it.

The Ecclessia is not there to enslave you but to oversee your success, if they are operating according to God's word. This is why Paul tells Timothy that an overseer must not be "Overbearing" or "Lording over others". But the Overseer is responsible for the welfare of your soul. And this will stick in the craw of the hyper-egalitarians.

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