John Bowlin (Princeton Theological Seminary) gives Hauerwas a « harsh » critique that turns out to be a favorable review of this festschrift, which is far from a blind devotion and praise by the students and friends of this 70-year-old man, whose
…dependence on Yoder runs afoul of his devotion to Aristotle. He domesticates Wittgenstein’s skepticism in order to discount his own individualism. He misconstrues the church as polis, makes a mess of practical reason, and gives metaphysics short shrift. He bungles the relationship between disability and grace, misunderstands how liturgy affects the moral life, and runs rough shod over the just war tradition. He is not yet a pacifist! He is an heir of the liberalism he despises!
…what we find is appreciation mixed with complaint, confidence leavened with doubt, and loyalty expressed in conversation. That we might all have such students, such friends! (read more)
And then here is a good review that engages with the book content by Chris Enstad:
The festschrift is divided into four sections: Influences, Politics, Bodies and Practices. Anyone who has come across Hauerwas’ influence on the academy and the church has most likely done so through one of these pathways. Perhaps the reader was a fan of Wittgenstein and discovered Hauerwas’ attempts to rescue the church from the liberal attempt to make it a “community.” Maybe a Catholic theology student, in attempting to find some leaven amongst the loaves of Catholic thought, found Dr. Hauerwas’ brilliant interactions with Thomas Aquinas. Most likely some emerging church folks tripped upon Hauerwas through a discovery of John Howard Yoder.
More recently Hauerwas’ name became associated with the debates over Just War theory. It is interesting to read criticisms of Hauerwas’ membership in the Methodist Church while he pushes his claim that the true church can only be pacifist. One can feel his admirers pushing this polemicist to become even MORE polemical or, at the least, to reconcile his actions and beliefs on this topic. Hauerwas’ life is a living example of the God-created human being seeking, making, and teaching meaning even as he admits to never quite having a grasp on perfection.
In the “Bodies” section of the book we come across some of the more pointed criticisms of Hauerwas. It is here that we interact with him around topics such as the question of Judaism, feminism, family and racism. All of these are timely topics and all are written from the perspective of critical love for the man and his mind. Both conservative and liberal church theologians would do well to check into these sections as they work to bring their own particular theologies into contact with the real world!
Finally we come across the idea of “practices”. For Hauerwas, the life well-lived is one lived as a liturgy of discipleship. It is in this section that we begin exploring the areas of friendship, worship, discipleship, and how Hauerwas has contributed to the question of moral formation at schools of higher education.
It is the last point that is the most telling, for me, in this entire collection. Michael Cartwright seeks to engage our thinking around the the idea of Hauerwas taking up the Middle Age position of “Verger” of the Church-related University. The Verger was the one appointed to walk in ahead of the bishop or president in any formal procession to clear their way. In their life and in their work, polemical lovers of Christ and his Church, like Stanley Hauerwas, have always used their ideas to “clear the way” for new ideas and visions.