This week Duke Divinity School will honor Stanley Hauerwas as he moves toward retirement. In four decades, Stanley has reframed theological discourse and has had a marked impact upon the church’s life. He has also been my friend. While there will be a number of events related to the twenty-fifth anniversary of our Resident Aliens, I wanted to offer my enumeration of a few of key contributions Stanley has made to the life of the church:
- Stanley refocused our theological thoughts upon Jesus. From his mentor, John Howard Yoder, Stanley learned that Jesus is both the content and the agent of Christian theology and church life. Jesus is the most interesting thing the church has to say and show to the world and Stanley has kept our conversation arising out of and always referring back to Jesus.
- Against the misrepresentations of Niebuhr and mainline Protestantism, Stanley reclaimed pacifism as the way Christians must think and live if the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is true.
- Stanley reminded us that North American Christians must practice our faith in a peculiarly problematic environment where American, liberal democracy has a myriad of subtle, powerful ways of subverting the church and its witness.
- In this thought on ethics, Stanley made the modifier Christian really mean something.
- Contentious, combative, never backing away from an argument (just like our Lord himself!) Stanley reminded us that American Christians were engaged in a kind of war for the sake of the gospel and that the peace we had made with American culture was false.
- In making the church the content, agent, and test of his thought, Stanley recovered he dignity and power of the church as the unique, irreplaceable point of the Good News of Jesus Christ and thereby restored the adventure of Christian leadership. For many of us pastors, Stanley restored risk, hope, and joy to our ministries.
Thanks, Stanley. God has used you well.