A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Christian Social Ethic 1st Edition, Kindle Edition
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I would really recommend this book for any Christian to purchase and keep in his or her library. If you are in any way involved with the church, or discussions involving issues related to it, this book will help you a lot. It is a book that you will return to more than once and is well worth the money I paid for it.
Stanley Hauerwas is the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School and he holds a joint appointment with Duke Law School. Hauerwas' Methodist roots and diverse education and work experience contributes to an ecumenical theological stance that is not liberal (12). In addition to his ecumenicism, he is cross-disciplinary, as "he is in conversation with systematic theology, philosophical theology and ethics, political theory, as well as the philosophy of social science and medical ethics."
The thesis of this book is that Christian morality and ethics can only make sense and be applied to one's life when one is living within the continuing narrative of the Christian story. As a result, Hauerwas frames everything he writes about in this book around the concept of narrative because without narratives, there is a loss of community (18).
This book is essentially divided up into three parts. The first part addresses how every community needs to be rooted in a narrative. For Christians, Jesus and the Kingdom of God is the narrative that forms the church (50). Furthermore, it is the Christian's belief in the authority of Scripture and God that enables the church to be the contrast model/community to a society that does not value authority.
The second part of the book continues to emphasize the importance of narrative in understanding the church since Christians are a "storied people" worshipping a "storied God" (91). Hauerwas claims that Christians need to cultivate hope and patience in their life in order to be a contrast narrative to this world (128). For the Christian to grow in character, it is crucial that he/she learn to participate in the story of the people of God, rather than just hear about it (152).
Consequently, the first two parts set up the theoretical basis for the third part, where he applies the concepts addressed in the first two parts to discuss what kind of ethic the church should have toward the family, sex, and abortion. His discussion is framed around the fact that one cannot separate one's views on the family, sex, and abortion from the greater narrative of the church.
I love the way Hauerwas decides to address the family, sex, and abortion in the last section, since these are the pressing ethical issues that the church needs to be firm on, in order to be a contrast society.
It is fascinating to follow his discussion on the legitimacy of both singleness and marriage as a way of life to honor God. After all, within the church and in many cultures, it almost seems as though something is wrong with an individual if they do not get married. However, Hauerwas emphasizes how singleness and marriage go hand in hand in God's Kingdom. Singleness symbolizes the church's trust that God is the one who is ultimately responsible to build his church, while marriage and procreation symbolizes the church's understanding that building the church will not happen overnight (191). Furthermore, Hauerwas' insistence that narrative be the way to answer the premarital and extramarital sex questions is absolutely genius. Is it a pure or licentious lifestyle that will best prepare the Christian to live out and serve in the narrative of the church? (194). Reframing the sex questions in that light will help me as I counsel singles and marrieds in the area of sexuality. Furthermore, since I oversee the groups ministry in my church, my newfound understanding of the complementary nature of both singleness and marriage in the Kingdom of God will profoundly affect the way I counsel and lead both singles and marrieds.
Although I agree with Hauerwas' approach on the family and sex, I disagree with his view on abortion. I believe that abortion is never "morally permissible" (197), even in the direst circumstances, like conception resulting from rape. God is sovereign, even over the most tragic circumstances, and I believe that nothing is out of God's ability to restore and redeem. Although Hauerwas makes that statement, the rest of his discussion on abortion is actually enlightening. I love the way he suggests that the woman carrying a child resulting from rape should view the child as another human being in distress, rather than as a parent to a child (205). He also suggests that one should concentrate on providing a reason why one "should hope it is a child," instead of trying to figure out if "the fetus is or is not a `person'" (229). When one reframes these situations, I believe that more of a rational decision can be made in regards to the life of the child. Knowing that I will face situations where individuals will be contemplating abortion, I will definitely be making use of Hauerwas' suggestions to reframe these situations.
So all in all, I give this book a four out five.