Worth a Look

I came across a recent article by theologian Stanley Hauerwas.  Here is a link to it.

Let me point out one comment he makes.  Hauerwas writes, “I believe we may be living at a time when we are watching Protestantism – at least the kind of Protestantism we have in America – come to an end. It is dying of its own success. Protestantism became identified with the republican presumption in liberty as an end reinforced by belief in the common sense of the individual. As a result, Protestant churches in America lost the ability to maintain the disciplines necessary to sustain a people capable of being an alternative to the world. Ironically, the feverish fervency of the religious right in America to sustain faith as a necessary condition for supporting democracy cannot help but be a strategy that insures the faith that is sustained is not the Christian faith.”

Hauerwas argues that the success enjoyed by Protestantism in America is the very thing that will bring it to its end.  The success enjoyed by Protestantism was choice.  Free from religious pressures in Europe and now in America, Protestants were now able to choose.

The problem I think he’s getting at is that there is no common answer to what a person chooses.  The only common moral compass is freedom to choose.  What is chosen depends on the common sense of the individual.

There is no common answer to what a person chooses because there is no common belief in what should be chosen.  We believe in an objective order for music but not for morality.  We know what notes work in harmony but we have no harmonious morality.  Why?  Because of the common sense of the individual.  As a result, the individual is sovereign and autonomous.  We own the lie that there is no eternal order, there is no natural order intrinsic in the world, especially not for morality.  We mope that the world is aimless and we are just trying to survive.

Hauerwas ends on a word of optimism: “If I am right that we are now facing the end of Protestantism, hopefully that will leave the church in America in a position with nothing to lose. When you have nothing to lose, all you have left is the truth. God may yet make the church faithful – even in America.”

Let us raise the cup and give thanks.

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