- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Abingdon Press; 1st edition (October 1, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780687316786
- ISBN-13: 978-0687316786
- ASIN: 0687316782
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,180,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America Paperback – October 1, 1993
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From the Back Cover
In this challenging, controversial volume, Stanley Hauerwas asserts that both liberal (historical-critical) and fundamentalist (literal) approaches to biblical scholarship have corrupted our use of the Bible--especially in preaching--in the American church.
About the Author
Stanley Hauerwas is the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law at the Divinity School at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He has written a voluminous number of articles, authored and edited many books, and has been the subject of other theologians' writing and interest. He has been a board member of the Society of Christian Ethics, Associate Editor of a number of Christian journals and periodicals, and a frequent lecturer at campuses across the country.
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He wrote in the Foreword to this 1993 book, “Because this book resists the higher-critical method as the method for study of Scripture, it will earn … easy dismissals… I certainly have learned from historical-critics, whose work I often think better than their theory... Yet one of the purposes of this book is to free those who preach and those who hear from thinking that we must rely on the latest biblical study if we are to proclaim the gospel.” (Pg. 7) He continues, “I know it will come as a shock to most readers that our fundamental problem with hearing the Bible can be attributed to our having accommodated our lives to the presuppositions of liberal democracies… I do not apologize for that kind of shock. Thus the primary contention of this book: The Bible is not and should not be accessible to merely anyone, but rather it should only be made available to those who have undergone the hard discipline of existing as part of God’s people.” (Pg. 9)
He observes, “The reformation doctrine of ‘sola scriptura,’ joined to the invention of the printing press and underwritten by the democratic trust in the intelligence of the ‘common person,’ has created the situation that now makes people believe that they can read the Bible ‘on their own.’ The presumption must be challenged, and that is why the Scripture should be taken away from Christians in North America. I am aware that this suggestion cannot help appearing authoritarian and elitist… From the perspective of liberal political practice, any authority appears ‘authoritarian.’ By offering a different account of how Scripture resides within a different practice of authority, I hope to avoid the unhappy alternative assumption that all exercises of power are ‘authoritarian.’” (Pg. 17-18)
He notes, “Therefore the rest of this book consists of sermons… They are perhaps best thought of as biblical lectures or readings, presupposing as they do a people who still care about the use of the Bible for their lives together… The practice of preaching is just that---disciplined practice. I make no claims to be interpreting the Scripture in order to get at the ‘real meaning.’ The ‘meaning’ is that use to which I put these texts for the upbuilding of the church. The common theme running through these sermons is that Scripture only makes sense as the book of the Church. Thus… I argue that discipleship is required for the right reading of Scripture.” (Pg. 41-42)
He states, “I maintain that the Sermon on the Mount presupposes the existence of a community constituted by the practice of nonviolence, and it is unintelligible divorced from such a community… you cannot rightly read the Sermon on the Mount unless you are a pacifist. I know that sounds threatening to many of you who think of yourselves as generally nonviolent but with exceptions---defense of family, nation, and so on.” (Pg. 64) He adds, “The Christians who remembered the Sermon did not know they were pacifists. Rather, they knew as a community they were part of a new way of resolving disputes---through confrontation, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Peacemaking is not an abstract principle but rather the practice of a community made possible by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.” (Pg. 71)
He points out, “we cannot try to be saints. God produces the saints, and they are reproduced through us… we thus are surprised to discover that we, the rememberers, have been made into the Church. Through remembering the saints we have become part of the cosmic conflict, but we can rejoice because we know the hope to which we have been called through the glorious inheritance of the saints. Saints… are people like us who have been made more than we are by being engrafted into God’s kingdom that is rules by the power of forgiveness and love.” (Pg. 103)
He acknowledges, “Yet I do not wish to seek the humility to which Jesus calls us, for it requires that I acknowledge a far too horrible truth. The cause of war---the cause of the brutal killing of thousands of women and children, the cause of the devastation of the country that is almost worse than the killing itself---is nothing less than my desire and my covetousness. Surely this is wrong. I desire not war. But the uncompromising, simple answer comes back: ‘Of course you do not desire war, but what you desire makes war inevitable.’” (Pg. 115)
He says, “our loves rightly build Christ’s kingdom, which is the only alternative to this world’s kingdom of war. This is the gospel. This is what makes it possible for us to be at peace, to be a peaceable people, in a world at war. For we Christians do not believe that we should be peaceable because our peace is a political strategy for freeing the world from war. Rather we Christians know that we must be peaceable, not because our peaceableness will free the world from war, but because our peace is the only way that we can live in a world at war.” (Pg. 122)
This book will be of great interest to those studying contemporary theology (e.g., “Neoliberal”).
The opening essay is worth reading. The sermons that make up the last half of the book, however, are a mixed assortment of engaging gospel proclamations and weak, disembodied mumbo-jumbo. It is difficult to see how Hauerwas' intends (or does he even expect?)his sermonic form to fashion an alternative community that is living the life of virtue he rightly pleads for in church. But then perhaps this weakness is one reason why Hauerwas is behind a seminary desk, not a church pulpit. One hopes that Hauerwas will continue calling the church to remain true to God's kingdom.
As to the critical reviews posted here to date, virtually all of the complaints stem from either misunderstandings as to what Stanley is variously up to and why or from simple theological/philosophical/methodological disagreement. At any rate, "The Hauerwas Reader", eds. John Berkman and Michael Cartwright (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001) and/or Hauerwas' "The Peaceable Kingdom", (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983) are nice supplemental texts to the one listed here.