This past week, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, posted an interview he did with Stanley Hauerwas. Fascinating interview it was. You can listen to the entire interview or get it in transcript form HERE.
As I saw it posted, I said to myself this should be quite interesting. I’m a very close student of one and most often a critic of the other. I see one as the answer for the problems represented int he theology of the other. I’ve been deeply affected by both. So for me, this was an interesting interview.
Mohler proved himself a good student of Hauerwas. And Hauerwas engaged Mohler generously and warmly. Hauerwas did not say anything new. Nonetheless, it was interesting to hear Mohler’s take on Hauerwas. I would say two of the big takeaways for me from the interview are:
1.) Mohler used Hauerwas positively as most evangelicals do. They hop on his critique of the consumerism of American Christianity. But they avoid (or are unable to see) what Hauerwas is criticizing – the very foundations of evangelical thought that make such a critique possible: i.e. Enlightenment individualism, reading the Bible isolated unto oneself, a critique of conversion as a moment before God where he pronounces pardon upon faith, and the alignment of evangelicalism with American values/economy/nationalism. Hauerwas takes shots at all of these in the interview. Mohler seems to avoid disagreeing with him when he does. The inter-change is interesting.
2.) Mohler doesn’t get the Anabaptist theological posture of giving up control. At the very end of the interview, Al Mohler is ‘vexed’ by the question ‘What would Hauerwas do if he was in control?” In other words, Mohler wants to know how Hauerwas would organize the church and the U.S. government from his minority posture if he were indeed the boss. As I said on FB this morning, what Mohler and many Reformed oriented evangelical friends don’t get is that Hauerwas rejects the posture of control entirely and assumes such a question is unanswerable. If Jesus is Lord and we are living under His reign, then we cannot be in control, and we therefore cannot predict what the shape of our social existence will look like down the sight line of history under Christ’s rule and our faithfulness in that Kingdom.
As someone who has learned, written on and extended Hauerwas into evangelical church world, I run into these two theological dynamics often. These are two ways most common in the mainstream evangelical reading of Hauerwas.
Enjoy the interview! And if you have any thoughts yourself, would you mind posting them in the comments?