The Work of Theology

By Brubaker, Sarah Morice | The Christian Century, October 14, 2015 | Go to article overview

The Work of Theology


Brubaker, Sarah Morice, The Christian Century


The Work of Theology

By Stanley Hauerwas

Eerdmans, 305 pp., $28.00 paperback

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Longtime readers of Hauerwas will not be surprised to hear that this book is maddening. Nor will they be surprised to hear that some of the most maddening aspects are also the most rewarding. (Others are simply maddening, but more on that later.)

Let us begin with the invigorating frustrations. One's brow starts to furrow early in the first essay, titled "How I Learned to Think Theologically," which introduces what the book is about. At first it seems straightforward. It is about practical reasoning, the intellectual virtue that allows particular people in concrete situations to act in ways that make for a good life. After grabbing one's copy of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, one feels prepared to proceed.

Not so fast. Within a few sentences one finds that actually the subject of the book is Hauerwas himself. He aims to consider his own practical reasoning over the course of his career. Well, which is it? A book about practical reasoning? Or a Stanley Hauerwas retrospective, emceed by Stanley Hauerwas? We ought to know by now that when Hauerwas makes a seemingly clear question go blurry, he is in fact making his point. The book aims to show us how practical reasoning always follows the contours of a particular life. Often, Hauerwas points out, we will not recognize its operation while it is happening. We see it only when we reflect later.

So The Work of Theology is Hauerwas discussing Hauerwas, but in a very different register from that of his memoir Hannah's Child. Each chapter treats a domain within Hauerwas's theology--humor, writing, irony, being Protestant, and so forth--and considers how practical reasoning has worked in those domains. We are meant to understand practical reasoning not as an abstract topic, but as a Christian virtue honed in a particular person's life, in conversation with many others--in many cases people who are Hauerwas's friends. Friendship has long been a central theme in Hauerwas's thought: through friendship virtues are formed and people are transformed. "How one reasons cannot be abstracted from who is doing the reasoning."

I am glad that he said that, because I must bring a criticism. It has to do with who is doing the reasoning. While reading The Work of Theology, I kept a running tally of whose work got referenced. I counted 20 white women. I also counted two references to women whose racial identity I could not guess at. (One of these was an unnamed Duke colleague, of whom Hauerwas wrote that he "wanted to kill her on the spot" for saying something vapid in a sermon. I counted that as a theological engagement.) As for male thinkers of color, I counted nine, including--rather anachronistically, I realize--Augustine of Hippo.

And then there were the white men. By my count, 163.

What is going on? H. Richard Niebuhr named this the most important moral question, more important than What should I do? In The Work of Theology and elsewhere, Hauerwas urges us to heed Niebuhr's insight. So I mean only to take Hauerwas seriously by asking: What is going on? A white man is not a bad thing to be, of course. But is it not curious that the conversation convened in The Work of Theology belongs overwhelmingly to white men? Particularly when American Christianity is becoming less white, and most American Christians are women? What are we looking at here?

Might the discrepancy reflect the world of academic theology more broadly? Not entirely. Female scholars make up around 29 percent of religion and theology faculty, according to recent figures from the American Academy of Religion. Compare that to the 11 percent of female interlocutors in The Work of Theology. But Hauerwas is a broad thinker, engaging scholarship from across the humanities. Perhaps the gender discrepancy is simply a function of the imbalance in other humanities disciplines? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Work of Theology
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.