Christianity in Jewish Terms

By Tikva Frymer-Kensky; David Novak et al. | Go to book overview

Christian Ethics in Jewish Terms:
A Response to David Novak

STANLEY HAUERWAS


Beyond Christian Society

That Jews now think it important to understand Christians in Jewish terms may indicate that some extremely important changes have occurred or are occurring in Christianity itself. It is my impression that until very recently Jews have rightly regarded Christians primarily as a "problem." What Christians might mean when they say God is "Trinity" has not seemed important, given the challenge of Jewish survival in a world dominated by Christians. For Jews to engage in a Jewish theological assessment of Christian theological convictions may indicate that the world is no longer a Christian world.

Of course, many Christians, particularly in America, continue to think they live in a "Christian society" or, if society is becoming less Christian, that they should do all they can to stem the perverse tide of secularism. Though I have reason to regret developments such as abortion that may be the result of "secularization," I represent that part of the Christian tradition that has thought the attempt by Christians to rule through state agency (what has been called Constantinianism) to be a mistake. But representative theologians of "mainstream Protestant Christianity" regard my call for Christians to recover our status as "resident aliens" as a sectarian retreat from the Christian responsibility to "serve" the world. 1

But why should Jews be interested in what seems to be an internal Christian debate? Moreover, what does such a debate have to do with understanding how Christians think about ethics? The short answer to the second question is "everything." And that answer, I hope to show, makes clear why Jews should care about how Christians understand the relation between church and world. For example, the con

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