The Peaceable Kingdom - Stanley Hauerwas

Title: The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics
Author: Stanley Hauerwas
Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press
Year: 1991
Pages: 179


Stanley Hauerwas sees ethics not as a universal grouping of rules to be followed by all people in all places at all times. Nor does he see ethics as guidelines for decisions to be made in a pinch ("quandry ethics"). Instead, he sees ethics as particular ways of learning, belonging, and becoming in the midst of (and in accordance with) the narrative-shaped communities in which we live, move, and have our being.

I like what he says about the particularity of ethics (a subject that is explained at a more popular level in his book Resident Aliens, which he co-authored with William Willimon). Each communal group has its own narrative foundation and corresponding trajectory, so to eliminate the qualifying adjective before the word "ethics" (ie. "Christian" ethics) is to lose the entire substance of how that community understands and attempts to live well in the world.

In the course of the book, Hauerwas draws on the thinking of John Howard Yoder and critiques the conclusions of Reinhold Niebuhr. His own position is revealed to be one of active nonviolence in the way modeled by Jesus (he doesn't like the passive connotation of the word "pacifism"). He asks, rhetorically, "What else would be appropriate for the followers of the one who was crucified?"

The desire, energy, and ability to take on the call to live such a life as Hauerwas describes is derived from the Christian eschatological hope of resurrection. Therefore it's assumed that those who don't have this particular hope will not be inclined to practice this particular brand of ethics which are rooted in this particular hope. Hence, his rationale to maintain the qualifier in front of the word "ethics."

That makes good sense to me, but in the end, I'm not sure how well it accounts for the multi-cultural world we have. Even still, there are plenty of challenging, well-reasoned thoughts to consider in this book. It certainly succeeds as a "primer" for ethics of a Christian kind.

Note:
Samuel Wells' book, Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics (click here for my review), draws on some of the same themes as Hauerwas introduces in this book.


Related Posts:
Stanley Hauerwas: Conviction & Candor
Jesus & the 4th of July

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