The Peaceable Kingdom

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: The Narrative Character Of Christian Convictions, Part 2 by Stanley Hauerwas

November 11, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom Just as narrative is a crucial category for the knowledge of the self, so it is for our knowledge of God.  “God,” we must remember, is a common name, to which we can ascribe attributions only as we learn of God through a history.  This, of course, follows from the basic theological claim that knowledge of God and knowledge of the self are interdependent.  But once the formal nature of this claim is fleshed out in terms of narrative, we see its implications for the Christian life.  Not only is knowledge of self tied to knowledge of God, but we know ourselves truthfully only when we know ourselves in relation to God.  We know who we are only when we can place ourselves – locate our stories – within [...]

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: The Narrative Character Of Christian Convictions, Part 1 by Stanley Hauerwas

November 4, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom The nature of Christian ethics is determined by the fact that Christian convictions take the form of a story, or perhaps better, a set of stories that constitutes a tradition, which in turn creates and forms a community.  Christian ethics does not begin by emphasizing rules or principles, but by calling our attention to a narrative that tells of God’s dealing with creation.  To be sure, it is a complex story with many different subplots and digressions, but it is crucial for us at this point in the book to see that it is not accidentally a narrative. Too often we assume the narrative character of Christian convictions is incidental to those convictions.  Both believer and unbeliever are under the impression [...]

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: The Travail Of Christian Ethics As An Unqualified Ethic by Stanley Hauerwas

October 6, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom As we shall see, some Christian ethicists have characteristically claimed universality very similar to that of recent philosophical ethics.  They tend to presume that we have a theological stake in an adequate philosophical defense of an unqualified ethic.  Yet, oddly enough, this assumption makes positive theological convictions ethically secondary.  For if we know what we ought to do on grounds separate from our religious beliefs, then what are we to make morally of those theological convictions?  Usually these ethicists relegate such convictions to a “higher morality” or to the “motivational” aspects of the moral life.  Both alternatives entail a moral psychology which artificially severs agents [...]

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: Rules And Obligations by Stanley Hauerwas

September 29, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom Of course it can be pointed out that there is nothing odd about the emphasis on the centrality of rules for morality.  Most moralities are characterized by a stress on the importance of rules, even though they may disagree about content or the scale or priority.  For example, consider the process of moral education which begins by schooling the young in rules so that they may later learn to nuance and qualify them. It is certainly not my intention to deny the significance of rules.  Yet I wish to distinguish between the general existence of rules in a society and the marked emphasis upon them in modern morality and theory.  Not all societies emphasize rules to the extent ours does.  Aristotle seldom mentions [...]

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: A Qualified Ethic—The Narrative Character Of Christian Ethics by Stanley Hauerwas

September 8, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom The Abstractness of an Unqualified Ethic The first chapter suggested that there is no such thing as universal “ethics” but that every ethic requires a qualifier.  Such a suggestion is deeply at odds with the main direction of modern ethical theory, which seeks a foundation for morality that will free moral judgements from their dependence on historically contingent communities.  I have already identified problems in this project; here I will explore them further, focusing primarily on that project’s neglect of essential aspects of our moral experience such as narrative and virtue.  More importantly, I will begin to show why Christian ethics must insist on the significance of the qualifier, [...]

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: The Truthfulness Of Christian Convictions by Stanley Hauerwas

August 11, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom The modern moral and religious situation I have reviewed makes the task of Christian ethics precarious at best.  The temptations and pitfalls are innumerable.  At a time when we are no longer sure our religious beliefs are true, perhaps the most destructive of these temptations is to salvage some significance for religion by claiming it can hold back the moral anarchy that threatens us.  Calling on religion to supply those absolute values we think necessary to support the leaking breakwater of our civilization, we train “religious ethicists” to teach courses in business ethics, medical ethics, and value clarification. But this strategy avoids the most essential question.  We should not want to know if [...]

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: The Privatization Of Religion by Stanley Hauerwas

August 4, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom Many of the same processes that have shaped our modern understanding of morality have had an equally strong and corrosive effect on our religious convictions and institutions.  If religion is no longer considered a matter of truth, it cannot and should not command our attention as something worthy in and of itself.  Rather religion’s significance is reduced, at best, to the functional.  Thus religious belief may be a source of strength in a personal crisis and/or an aid in interpersonal relations.  Accordingly, the church has become but one among many voluntary associations of like-minded people from similar economic strata. The functional character of contemporary religious convictions is perhaps nowhere [...]

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: Fragile Foundations by Stanley Hauerwas

July 14, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom Equally pervasive as the stress on freedom in modern ethical theory has been the concern to find a foundation for ethics.  Indeed the attempt to provide a foundation for ethics is interrelated with the attempt to establish freedom as a prerequisite characteristic of human agents.  As MacIntyre suggests, modern philosophers, both analytic and existentialist, have taken the essence of moral agency to be the capacity of the self to evade identification with any particular contingent state of affairs. To be a moral agent is, on this view, precisely to be able to stand back from any and every situation in which one is involved, from any and every characteristic that one may possess, and to pass judgment on it from a [...]

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: Freedom As Fate by Stanley Hauerwas

June 23, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom Our sense that we live in a morally chaotic, fragmented world accounts for two of the dominant characteristics of recent ethical theory: (1) the stress on freedom, autonomy, and choice as the essence of the moral life; and (2) the attempt to secure a foundation for the moral life unfettered by the contingencies of our histories and communities.  As we will see, these are closely related insofar as it is assumed that freedom depends on finding the means to disentangle ourselves from our own engagements. Caught between the competing interests, we increasingly feel compelled to create or choose our morality.  This is variously reflected by moral theories such as emotivism, existentialism, and situationalism, which [...]

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: Christian Ethics In A Fragmented And Violent World—2 by Stanley Hauerwas

June 16, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom Living Amid Fragments: The Insufficiency of Ethics One of the ironies of the current situation is that the attempt to deny that ethics responds to the peculiarity of our current social and historic situation only makes us more subject to that situation.  We are told we live in a morally bankrupt age.  People think what was at one time unthinkable; indeed they do what was once unthinkable.  We experience our world as so morally chaotic that we now feel our only alternative is for each person “to choose,” if not create, the standards by which they will live. As pervasive as this feeling is, it is unclear exactly why we feel we are morally at sea.  No time or society has ever been free of moral ambiguity.  [...]

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: Christian Ethics In A Fragmented And Violent World—1 by Stanley Hauerwas

June 9, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom Ethics and the Demand for Absolutes All ethical reflection occurs relative to a particular time and place.  Not only do ethical problems change from one time to the next, but the very nature and structure of ethics is determined by the particularities of a community’s history and convictions.  From this perspective the notion of “ethics” is misleading, since it seems to suggest that “ethics” is an identifiable discipline that is constant across history.  In fact, much of the burden of this book will be to suggest that ethics always requires an adjective or qualifier – such as, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, existentialist, pragmatic, utilitarian, humanist, medieval, modern – in order to denote the [...]

CHRISTIAN ETHICS: Introduction—Introducing An “Introduction” by Stanley Hauerwas

May 24, 2018

From The Peaceable Kingdom While this book is meant to be a primer or introduction to Christian ethics which I hope can be used both in introductory courses in college and by adult study groups, I am not providing a survey of what various ethicists think on current issues in the field.  Nor will I offer any extensive analysis of past and current figures in Christian ethics.  Instead this book is an introduction in the sense that it attempts to present one straightforward account of a Christian ethic. Alternative accounts are mentioned only as a means of clarifying my own position.  As a result the book may be said to be decidedly “one-sided” for an introduction.  My only defense is that I know no other way it can be done.  As I [...]