Truthful Testimony

When one of this nation'

When one of this nation’s most provocative theologians publishes his reading of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, those who count themselves as (lay or ordained) theologians and students of Christian faith in public life can hope for a lively experience. With Performing the Faith, Stanley Hauerwas does not disappoint. As an attorney in public service, I picked up Performing the Faith with particular delight, since I have drawn deeply on Bonhoeffer for a Christologically grounded, responsible faith lived in my own vocation. Similarly, as a Christian in public service I have had lively debates (in my own head at least) over the years with Hauerwas’ "sectarian" communities of Christian discipleship and character. These lively essays will find a welcome audience for those who think of politics in terms of how humans actually live their lives together, instead of in terms of the partisanship of political parties.

Hauerwas’ theological politics engage the world by calling the church to be the church. He contends—correctly, I believe—that Bonhoeffer is a kindred spirit in that brand of politics. Reading Bonhoeffer’s writings in light of the German theologian’s life story, Hauerwas finds a consistency rooted in ecclesiology that extends from Sanctorum Communio through Letters and Papers from Prison. Viewing Bonhoeffer as spiritual kin to John Howard Yoder, Hauerwas notes that Bonhoeffer’s resistance to the Nazis came out of a commitment to peace that could not be based on lies and injustice and so Bonhoeffer affirmed the political significance of the visible Christian community. The visible church becomes the testimony of the gospel to the world. By witnessing to the truth, Bonhoeffer performs the faith.

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Sojourners Magazine September 2004
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