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					TNT: Hauerwas and the Evangelicals

Johnboy Sylvest says:

September 2, 2011 at 4:31 am

Many times, when it comes to issues regarding governance, whether in political statecraft
or church polity, it will seem to me that we are not so much dealing with theoretical
differences vis a vis our essentialistic ideals but more so with practical differences in
strategies regarding their existential realization. For example, classical liberalism might be
reconceived as a pragmatic critique of anarchism, for “limited governance” does not
compete with “no governance” as a theoretical ideal but, rather, as a practical
accommodation to human finitude and sinfulness. If we were angels, we would require and
could justify no governance. In the same way, when we employ distributist and redistributist
strategies (e.g. antitrust laws & social safety nets or entitlements), it needn’t imply classical
liberalism’s theoretical capitulation to the social democratic critique but may, instead,
simply represent the creative tensions playing out in our practical application of subsidiarity
principles.

What has often gotten in the way, seems to me, is the introduction of distinctions that do
not and therefore should not make a difference, whether grounded in the overly optimistic
and rationalistic metaphysics of the (often) catholic analogical imagination or the overly
pessimistic and biblically fundamentalistic anthropology of the (often) protestant dialectical
imagination. To say this concretely, there is no, so to speak, “religious” epistemology or
“theological” anthropology. In a radically incarnational and profusely pneumatological
interpretive stance toward reality, epistemology is epistemology is epistemology and
anthropology is anthropology is anthropology. And, best we can tell, thus far, they are
evolutionary. We are neither angels nor demons but animals.

Among the animals we are differentiated as the symbolic species (call it ensoulment if you
must) and thus enjoy an unparalleled degree of freedom (call it inspirited if you like), which
is love’s very horizon. And, as if that were not true enough, beautiful enough and good
enough, we’ve been “interrupted” with some very Good News to which both individuals and
peoples can only respond in developmentally-appropriate ways. Through our evolutionary
epistemology and anthropology, it has been revealed (by the Spirit, no less?) that an
emergentist perspective is indispensable and must be brought to bear on our practical
responses to this Good News (ecclesiastically, evangelically, catechetically, liturgically, etc)
as well as our theoretical reformulations and inculturations (theological, Christological,
pneumatological, soteriological, eschatological, etc). And this will inevitably invite a plurality
of expressions, a diversity of ministries and a great variety of spiritualities while, at the same
time, advancing our singular unitive mission.

In the Hauerwasian Spirit of offering a gratuitous provocations: 1) It may well be that, other
than being an implicit rather than explicit response to the Spirit, the secular, itself, has often
comprised a distinction without a difference vis a vis the religious (historically, culturally,
socially, economically & politically). 2) Humankind has always fancied itself as progressing
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theoretically from one school or system to the next when, mostly, it has bumbled and
fumbled practically from one method or strategy to the next. Most of its modernist,
postmodernist, liberal, orthodox, radically orthodox & other “schools” have issued forth
from an unconsciously competent semiotic pragmatism that corrects our inveterate over-
and under-emphases (except, of course, for us consciously competent but contritely fallible
Peirceans). ;)

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series.




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