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For and against Hauerwas against Mennonites.

Abstract: It is well known that Stanley Hauerwas occasionally refers to himself as a "high-church Mennonite." But with the exception of Gerald Schlabach, Mennonites have tended to ignore or dismiss the "high church" half of that designation. In doing so, they miss the critical edge of Hauerwas's engagement with them. This essay highlights some of Hauerwas's specific complaints about Mennonites, examines Schlabach's development of Hauerwas's critique and offers a Barthian rejoinder.


The first time I met Stanley Hauerwas was in the spring of 1997. I was visiting Duke as a prospective student and arranged to speak with him in his office. We had barely introduced ourselves when he asked gruffly, "When are you Mennonites going to give up and admit that you need a magisterium?" I would like to report that I responded with something clever about Methodists or something nasty about Ratzinger, but I have no recollection of my response (except being very worried that, whatever it was, it was wrong). I am grateful for that introduction. For it seems that Hauerwas was warning me. He was saying, "Just because I am profoundly indebted to John Howard Yoder and have a deep respect for the Mennonites, don't assume that our differences don't run deep. Don't assume that because you are studying with me and not Max Stackhouse that you are safe. (1) Don't assume that the Catholic and Mennonite parts of me are friends, or even equals. I am a high church mennonite, not a high church Mennonite."

I think Mennonites often tend to forget or ignore this. Take for example the story of Hauerwas stumbling upon Yoder's pamphlet "Karl Barth and Christian Pacifism" in the bookstore of Yale Divinity School in the late 1960s. "I took it back to my carrel," he wrote, "and began to read, and was absolutely stunned by Yoder's powerful analysis and critique of Barth. I thought, of course, that the criticisms were based on an ecclesiology that you would have to be crazy to accept." (2) We tend to hear that story in a triumphalist manner, confident that the end of the story is that Hauerwas kept reading Yoder and became a pacifist and did so in part because he was also convinced of the ecclesiology. But that is misleading. The most we can say is that Hauerwas overcame whatever Niebuhrian worries he had about "sectarianism." But that is only one piece of Yoder's eccesiology. Hauerwas still thinks much of the rest is unacceptable. It might not be crazy, but it is inadequate to the task of resisting modernity.

The one prominent exception to Mennonite neglect of the "high church" half of "high church Mennonite" is an ethicist and Mennonite-turned-Catholic, Gerald Schlabach. Schlabach has taken Hauerwas's warning so seriously that he argues in a recent book that it is time to "unlearn Protestantism." (3) The sixteenth-century virtues of dissent and rebellion, argues Schlabach, have become twentieth-century vices of individualism and hence have failed to sustain community over time. The practice of stability and the virtue of fidelity are what is now needed--things that Protestants have lost, or maybe never had, and that Catholics can teach them, beginning with dethroning "the Protestant principle" (4) from its central place in Protestant ecclesiology. The theoretical muscle for much of Schlabach's argument is the work of Hauerwas.

It is curious that very few Mennonite or otherwise Anabaptist thinkers have taken Hauerwas's high church challenge to them with anything like the seriousness of Schlabach, especially in light of how widely admired Hauerwas is in Mennonite circles. Of course it is also curious that Hauerwas, despite his deep appreciation for Anabaptist theology, has remained so invulnerable to its ecclesiology. In this essay I explore these issues. Though I am uncomfortable with Hauerwas's and Schlabach's ecclesiologies and will say why, I also worry about the way Mennonites have neglected their arguments about the sacraments and about authority. At the least, we are squandering an opportunity to clarify what we really do believe.

That clarification is long overdue. The medieval period is no longer "the dark ages"; the old liberal Protestant metanarrative upon which epithets like dark ages depended has been discredited. Protestants now read Roman Catholic theology attentively. Even Mennonites are reading the church fathers closely and respectfully instead of resorting to secondhand cliches. (5) Some Protestant theologians of note have even placed themselves under the Pope's authority. (6) The rest of us, however, would do well to see it as a providential occasion for clarification, not unlike the way Karl Barth understood the Roman Catholic Church. In 1928 Barth gave a lecture called "Roman Catholicism: A Question to the Protestant Church." (7) By this time his break with liberal Protestantism was complete such that he understood Roman Catholicism to be the truly serious conversation partner for his project. There he said that Protestantism had to listen and respond to two questions put to it by Catholicism: whether and how far it is a church? and whether and how far it is a Protestant church? One might say that Hauerwas and Schlabach are most concerned with the first question. I am more concerned with the second.

Barth's ecclesiology attempted to transcend both liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. But if forced to choose he was clear which direction he would move.
 If I today became convinced that the interpretation of the
 Reformation on the line taken by Schleiermacher-Ritschl-Troeltsch (or
 even by Seeberg or Holl) was correct; that Luther and Calvin really
 intended such an outcome of their labours; I could not indeed become
 a Catholic tomorrow, but I should have to withdraw from the
 evangelical Church. And if I were forced to make a choice between the
 two evils, I should, in fact, prefer the Catholic. (8)

As one final way to state the issue at hand, Hauerwas suspects that Mennonites are not sufficiently worried by the possibility that the trajectory of Anabaptism follows the trajectory of neo-Protestantism. That is, he fears too many Mennonites are "convinced that the interpretation of the Reformation taken by Schleiermacher-Ritschl-Troeltsch was correct." He fears what Barth understood as the transformation of theology into anthropology, a shift in focus from God's gratuitious action toward us, to human attempts to reach out to God in pious subjectivity or social action. So his question to us is, is it also a faithful consequence of Grebel and Sattler? To say that Anabaptists are "the culmination of the Reformation, the fulfillment of the original vision of Luther and Zwingli," (9) could mean something like "if the Reformation had followed the lead of the Anabaptists it would not have ended up in Schleiermacher." But Hauerwas is worried that for too many Mennonites it means something like the opposite--that Anabaptism is at the beginning of the road from Luther and Calvin to Schleiermacher-Ritschl-Troeltsch. (10) Harold Bender's celebration of the Anabaptist roots of liberal democracy worries him here, as does the reduction of theology to ethics in the work of someone like Denny Weaver. (11) The first half of this paper tries to explain this, showing why Hauerwas might plausibly come to such a conclusion. The second half will direct several questions to him in light of Schlabach's appropriation of his work.


Hauerwas was and is a problem for much of Mennonite theology because he sabotaged three of the most pressing concerns for late-twentieth-century Mennonites. First, he reinforced the Yoderian disdain for conventional politics just as a generation of Mennonites were trying to overcome that disdain through the vigorous promotion of a politics of peace and justice. The mid-century distinction between nonresistance and liberal pacifism (12) began to crumble before the witness of Martin Luther King Jr. and the protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s. While there may have been some agreement, at least in the academy, that it needed to crumble, there was little agreement on what might replace it. Yoder's The Politics of Jesus was less a new orthodoxy than the battlefield. On the one hand, Hauerwas seemed like an ally in the hopes that Mennonites would be taken seriously by mainstream churches and theologians. On the other, he kept saying things like "[T]he political task of Christians is to be the church rather than to transform the world. ... Big words like 'peace' and 'justice,' slogans the church adopts under the presumption that, even if people do not know what 'Jesus Christ is Lord' means, they will know what peace and justice means, are words awaiting content." (13) Such a claim seemed particularly vexing to Mennonites who were anxious to translate their "sectarian" convictions about peace into a language that could readily be intelligible in Washington.

Second, as Mennonite life became less centered in rural farming communities, they were increasingly interested in shaking off the accusation of "sectarianism." Hauerwas's call for churches to be communities of "resident aliens" sounded backward. As Scott Holland put it, urban Mennonite businesspeople, artists, social workers and others "have no interest in taking on the identity of resident aliens living in a holy colony in the midst of a hostile world. Such a public posture appears ontologically impossible, aesthetically undesirable and socially irresponsible." (14)

Third, by calling himself a "high church Mennonite" Hauerwas could not help but annoy those whose central concern has been to purify Anabaptism of any Catholic, creedal or magisterial Protestant influence. (15) High church Mennonite--whether it suggested a frictionless alliance or a call for Mennonites to become more creedally self-conscious, liturgically sophisticated and sacramentally inclined--seemed to point in the exact opposite direction. Where Weaver and others were insisting on the utter uniqueness of Anabaptism, Hauerwas countered: "Something may already have gone wrong in Anabaptist life," he wrote, "just to the extent that there is a need to discover what makes Anabaptists 'distinctive.'" (16) More galling to Hauerwas was the way so much of this, most obviously in Weaver, remains parasitic upon Harnack's Hellenization thesis: namely, that the essence of the Gospel was distorted almost beyond recognition by the influence of Greek philosophy and the growth of the medieval church (17) until the Reformation in which "religion was here brought back to itself in so far as the Gospel and the corresponding religious experience were put in the foreground and freed of all alien accretions." (18) Of the many arguments that have contributed to the discrediting of that thesis--historical, missiological, etc.--Hauerwas was always most concerned about the Kantianism of it. The liberal Protestant project in the wake of Kant was to strip the ethical kernel of the Gospel of any (Hellenistic) dogmatic husks such as the creeds. (19) But what exactly was husk and what was kernel was a matter of vigorous debate. Hauerwas is rightly worried that in their otherwise praiseworthy attempts to promote pacifism, it has been all too easy for Mennonite theologians to leave this Kantian structure undisturbed by making "peace" the ethical kernel, drawing a straight line of determination between the creeds and Constantinianism and hence reproducing their own peaceful version of liberal Protestantism. The unfortunate irony, in Hauerwas's view, is that cleansing theology of any possible fourth-century Greek (or medieval Latin) contamination resulted in the triumph of nineteenth-century German theology as represented by Kant and Harnack.

The most Hauerwasian way to sum this all up would be to say that Mennonites were and are in the process of adjusting to the wider cultural consensus on liberalism in politics and theology insofar as that meant, for Hauerwas, first, thinking Christian ethics was for everyone, not the church; second, doing theology as apology; and third, accepting the Kantian reduction of theology to ethics. Much of this comes together in Hauerwas's 1994 keynote address at a conference commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Harold Bender's "Anabaptist Vision." Despite some of its flattering rhetoric, that address contains the clearest critique of Anabaptism that Hauerwas has offered. It is crucially important because it is about Bender. It may be that the tensions I enumerated in the previous paragraphs--tensions between Hauerwas on the one hand and theologians like Denny Weaver and Scott Holland--are obvious. Still more, while they are two influential Mennonite thinkers of recent years, their work does not occupy the central, foundational place that Bender's essay does (or did). If Hauerwas disagrees with them, it does not necessarily point to basic differences with Mennonites in general. But if Hauerwas is troubled by Bender, we have reason to think that the tension goes deep. Moreover, his other criticisms, though occasionally controversial, were easily recognized in Mennonite circles. The first two especially seemed like restatements of things Yoder was saying; the third has been a perennial topic of debate. In his essay on "The Anabaptist Vision," Hauerwas was raising issues that were strange to us, less assimilable to already existing internal arguments. So it is worth highlighting the issues that concerned him most in the essay--voluntarism and Pietism--and emphasizing just how that provides background for his other complaints.

First, Hauerwas made it clear that much of his affection for Mennonites was rooted in reasons that many Mennonite theologians are unlikely to share or appreciate. That is, Hauerwas likes that Mennonites have become an ethnic group and he stresses this point because he wants to expose the tension between the Mennonite rhetoric of voluntariety--emphasized in "The Anabaptist Vision"--and the fact of ethnicity. "As I often ask my Anabaptist friends--if you guys are a voluntary church why is everyone named Epp or Bender? I realize that this is also an inside joke among Mennonites, which as I will try to suggest, is a very serious joke indeed." (20) The joke is serious because in the absence of Christendom and under the cultural hegemony of liberalism, "the call for voluntary commitment cannot help but appear as a legitimation of the secular commitment to autonomy." (21) Bender enthusiastically emphasized this connection between Anabaptist voluntarism and political liberalism. (22) But for Hauerwas, adult baptism, once an act of radical resistance to civil authority, has become an implicit legitimation of the civil authority's ideology. In that respect, infant baptism may now function the same way that adult baptism did in the sixteenth century to the extent that "everything about the rite seems to push choice to the margin." (23) Hauerwas was not asking Mennonites to start baptizing babies, but he wishes Mennonites were as encouraged as he is by the way ethnicity also pushes choice to the margin. "Anabaptists are embarrassed about their ethnicity, but it may be that 'ethnicity' is one way God provided and continues to provide for your survival as a people." (24) For Hauerwas, the voluntary church was the proper sixteenth-century response to the nadir of Christendom, but now it has been outflanked by modernity and hence finds itself pushing against an open door. Historically speaking, Bender may have been right to list it first, but it was a mistake to be so proud of it.

Second, Hauerwas took up an influential essay by Steve Dintaman called "The Spiritual Poverty of the Anabaptist Vision," (25) but he did so in an idiosyncratic, if not willfully mistaken, reading. Almost 20 years later it is easy to forget how Dintaman's essay landed like a meteor in the Mennonite academy. In it he critiqued not so much Bender's vision itself, but the vision as it had been inherited and developed by a later generation of Mennonite scholars; and not so much what those scholars said as what they did not say--in particular the almost total absence of any kind of moral psychology. Hauerwas's reading of Dintaman was curious in light of how deeply influenced Dintaman was by Hauerwas. Hauerwas seemed to realize that when he summarized key points of Dintaman's essay in plainly Hauerwasian language. "Bender's 'vision' resulted in generations of students and church leaders learning some of the behavioral aspects of the Christian faith without learning equally well ... who God is and what God is doing in the world." "The faith in Jesus Christ necessary for salvation is not to be confused with peace and social action." Both sentences could easily be Hauerwas himself on the social gospel. But Hauerwas went on to say, "The reasons Dintaman dislikes 'The Anabaptist Vision' are precisely the reasons why I like it." It is a startling move, but the confusion dissipates a bit once we realize that the only thing Hauerwas hates more than social gospel liberalism is Pietism. Liberal Protestantism has always had two sides. The ethical side represented by Kant and Ritschl and the social gospel and the Pietist side represented by Schleiermacher and his twentieth-century evangelical heirs. The most predictable reaction to the one has always been the other, a fact that Hauerwas, like Barth before him, finds maddening, especially when his work is being used to make it happen. That is, Hauerwas spotted both the obvious dependence upon his own writings and a couple pietist-sounding phrases in Dintaman's essay and immediately assumed that his criticism of liberalism was being exploited to bolster a pietist evangelicalism that we have forgotten is just as liberal.

For Hauerwas, Mennonites simply do not understand the dangers. Their "vision" is useless, even damaging, because they are unable to answer the first question of ethics, "What is going on?"
 That challenge is quite simply learning how to exist in a world that
 is no longer dominated by something called "Christendom." Ironically,
 the Anabaptists now live in a world which they said they wanted--that
 is, a world in which no one is forced either by the government or by
 societal expectations to be Christians--but you, as well as the
 churches of Christendom you opposed, are ill prepared for such a
 world. You have won the war, largely for reasons beyond your control
 but in winning the war you have become unintelligible to yourselves
 by making a fetish of those aspects of your lives that seemed so
 important for the last war. (26)

At this point we may be able to understand a bit more clearly what "high-church Mennonite" is supposed to mean. What Hauerwas really wants to be is a pacifist Catholic where that means Catholicism for which pacifism is a cultural norm, not just the conviction of the monastery or a long-haired fringe located in places like the Catholic Worker. Mennonites and other Anabaptist groups are so appealing to him because it is the only church where, for example, the absence of flags in their churches is taken for granted and pacifism is second nature, that is, virtue. For one who spent a career trying to convince the ethics guild that ethics was about being not doing--about character formation, not punctilinear decision-making in the face of quandaries--Mennonites were bound to be fascinating because here pacifism was Aristotelian. (27) But Hauerwas was baffled by the way Mennonites managed this without any of the things he thought were needed to maintain such cultures, like a hierarchical teaching office or a robust account of sacramentality. This was so foreign to him that instead of adjusting his theological account of authority and the sacraments to fit what he had learned from us, he chose to ignore what he found incomprehensible. Similarly, instead of adjusting his monolithic account of liberalism to account for the fact that it is tangled up with the history of the free church, he chose to imagine instead our inevitable demise.


For a clearer sense of what Hauerwas means and what it would mean to take him seriously, it is helpful to turn to Unlearning Protestantism, a new book by the Mennonite Catholic, Gerald Schlabach. Schlabach's book is important in part because he is one of the best readers of Hauerwas. Citing a summary of his work by Schlabach, Hauerwas wrote, "Schlabach's presentation of my own position says what J have been trying to say better than how I have said it." (28) It is also important because it makes it harder to assert the most plausible Mennonite rebuttals to Hauerwas--that he is projecting his anxieties about his own Methodism onto Mennonites, or, as Craig Hovey put it, that "Maybe Mennonites do not need a prophet against liberalism as badly as the rest of us do." (29) If a former Mennonite of Schlabach's stature and gifts thinks Hauerwas needs to be taken seriously on these points, then we have reason to reconsider. Alternatively, as I hope to show, Schlabach's heightening of certain themes in Hauerwas may serve to expose some instructive tensions within Hauerwas's work. (30) That is, if Schlabach's work is a faithful appropriation of Hauerwas yet is problematic, then how should that influence our understanding of Hauerwas himself?

Though its development is complex and intricate, the heart of Schlabach's argument is quite simple. What were once Protestant virtues (of dissent and critique) have become Protestant vices. As Hauerwas puts it in a quote that Schlabach cites several times, "In short, Protestantism helped to create, but even more, to legitimate, a form of social life that undermined its ability to maintain the kind of disciplined communities necessary to sustain the church's social witness." (31) The Protestant Principle has become the Protestant dilemma. That is Protestant churches are doomed to "undo" themselves unless they balance or dilute the principle of protest and dissent with "other moral imperatives, those of continuity, stability, and sustainability." (32) The concern is not only about the adequacy of the church's witness. It is about survival itself. "Sometimes we find ourselves forced to move beyond one set of cultural trends and social realities in order to sustain our lives, or even to survive." (33)

The Mennonite Church renewal movement of the 1960s known as Concern serves as a test case, an articulation of the Protestant Principle in an Anabaptist key. Influential Concern members like Yoder and Paul Peachey delivered a devastating attack on "Mennonite reality" in light of "the Anabaptist vision." They had little respect for tradition, and none at all for denomination-building; they hoped to foment a spiritual renewal that would shake off the accumulated weight of Mennonite accommodation to world in the form of institutional top-heaviness and ethnic insularity. Yet as Schlabach points out, they did all this while working within, and dependent upon, some of the very institutions they were criticizing. The flourishing, or at least the survival, of the Mennonite Church after World War II was due precisely to things that the Concern group either ignored or, more frequently, actively criticized--such as ethnicity and denominational institution building. Their great contribution to the church happened in some ways in spite of their very arguments and was only possible because they were parasitic upon those institutions of which they were dismissive. "The witness of a John Howard Yoder," writes Schlabach, "is unintelligible apart from the communal and institutional practices of continuity that he and his Concern Movement peers were dismissing as mere ethnicity and stifling traditionalism." (34)

We need to be clear about what Schlabach is not saying. He is not saying that there is anything wrong with the Protestant principle itself; after all, post-Vatican II Catholicism acknowledges the need for continual reformation. The problem arises when the principle becomes central. Or as he also puts it, when it became a principle instead of a virtue. Schlabach is also not saying that Protestants should become Catholics. His claim is that Catholics can help Protestants balance dissent with fidelity and thereby make possible more vigorous and sustained dissent by strengthening the traditions required to sustain dissent. Moreover, Catholics can also help Protestants name the ways they are already balancing dissent with fidelity. (35)


As careful and compelling as Schlabach's argument is, I remain ambivalent at best. This may have something to do with the unfortunate timing of its publication. Only a few weeks after Unlearning Protestantism appeared, the latest Roman Catholic sexual abuse scandal hit the news and stayed there for a month. It was not a good time to be reading a book about how much Protestants can learn from Catholics. It may also have something to do with the fact that I was trained to be a Barthian, where that means less a set of positions than a set of theological instincts. (Schlabach never addresses Barth but it is clear that he would find the ecclesiological sections of volume IV of the Church Dogmatics to be a particularly culpable example of the Protestant principle.) That means that I think Schlabach's account of Yoder and Concern sounds pretty good--not just unobjectionable but praiseworthy. (36) It also may have something to do with why I find the proliferation of quirky Protestant churches in the U.S. to be fascinating, often encouraging and rarely worrying. (37)

But I confess that I too have felt what Schlabach calls "the tug of Catholicism." I worshipped for two and a half years with the Chaldean Catholics. I am disheartened by the attempts, in much Mennonite worship, at a kind of ad hoc "creativity." The text I most love to teach is that extraordinary piece of medieval natural theology, Dante's Divine Comedy. Like Barth, I worry that the only serious theology is being done by Catholics (I am unable to think theologically without the voices of Catholics such as Herbert McCabe, Nicholas Lash and James Alison (38)) or by Protestants deeply influenced by Catholic theology (Hauerwas, Rowan Williams, Kathryn Tanner and J. Kameron Carter, to name just a few). The recent interest in Anabaptist engagement with the writings of the church fathers strikes me as a very important development in Radical Reformation studies. (39) I think the most important work in sixteenth-century studies is the work that emphasizes the continuity between the Reformation and the medieval period, that understands the Reformation as the end of the Middle Ages, not the beginning of modernity. (40) I worry that the sixteenth-century Anabaptist attack on the sacraments entailed the evasion of a theology of creation, thereby leaving us without important resources for creation care. (41) And I have spent enough time in Mennonite institutions to be keenly interested in Catholic advice about "subsidiarity" and "participatory hierarchy." (42)

For all these reasons, I am sympathetic to the idea of Unlearning Protestantism, even though not many of these considerations form part of its argument. Nonetheless, I am unable to muster sympathy for the particular reason that Schlabach recommends Catholicism to Protestants. The central animating force behind the ecclesiology in Schlabach's book is a deep-seated anxiety, even fear, about the future of the church. Moreover, the background is a particular communitarian diagnosis of modernity, without which the anxiety dissipates. That is, the argument depends almost entirely on Schlabach (actually, Alasdair MacIntyre) being right about our cultural condition and upon our sharing his anxiety in light of that condition. (43) In what follows I do not necessarily question Schlabach's anxiety and fear or his diagnosis. I do, however, question their role and status in Schlabach's book, particularly in relation to theology, of which there is disturbingly little in the book. The concern here is not that theology gets collapsed into ecclesiology. It is that ecclesiology itself gets evacuated of theological content. Schlabach does make some attempts to reinforce the argument theologically, but they are so brief and infrequent that they seem ornamental. (44) Hence the book invites pointed questions like: should we let survival become the central and dominating criterion for an account of Christian community? Should the church of the one who went to the cross rather than defend himself be so concerned with survival? Should the church of the one who triumphed over sin and death be so anxiety-ridden?

Is it strange that someone so influenced by Hauerwas would be so neglectful of theology? Does Unlearning Protestantism tell us something about Hauerwas, or just about what happens when one aspect of Hauerwas gets stripped of its theological context and overemphasized? On the one hand, Schlabach's anxiety is rooted in, and fueled by, Hauerwas's own considerable anxieties. They share the same cultural diagnosis and take it from the same place--MacIntyre, a gloomily misanthropic communitarian philosopher. Moreover, it is very difficult to imagine a Hauerwasian theology without that anxiety and without the backdrop of liberalism.

On the other hand, Hauerwas is a Barthian, and as such is constantly warning us of the catastrophic dangers of allowing "anthropology" to crowd out theology, a problem that Hauerwas spots repeatedly in Reinhold Niebuhr. As with Hauerwas, an ominous political backdrop was always close to the surface of Barth's texts. Not only is he arguably more aware and afraid of the dangers, but his dangers are also greater. Barth, writes Edward Oakes, "seemed to be saying in the heat of battle that Schleiermacher had caused National Socialism--or at least if Protestant thought had not taken the Schleiermachian turn, the churches would never have been enticed by the vicious pseudo-Aryanism of the 'Deutsche Christen.'" (45) But this is precisely what makes Barth's own ecclesiology so striking. Hauerwas would affirm with Barth that "the communion of saints needs defence, protection and preservation because it is in danger. It was always in danger. As long as time endures, it will be in danger." (46) Yet Barth's response is invariably something like this:
 Everything would seem to suggest that a phenomenon like this pilgrim
 people ... ought long since to have shown itself to be genuinely
 transitory. The truth of the matter is that in both its Israelite and
 its Christian forms the people of God has in its own way shown itself
 to be enduring, not, as has often happened, by partial or more
 thoroughgoing attempts to secure and maintain itself by adaptation to
 the world, but in strange proportion to the way in which, with
 relative unconcern as to its fidelity or infidelity, it has actually
 accepted ... its weakness. Its witness has often been muffled, or
 confused by loud but false notes, but it has always persisted. ...
 Its voice has often been almost completely submerged by the clamour
 on every hand, but it has always been able to rise again and to sound
 out with some degree of purity. In the light of its visible history
 and present reality, it can hardly be denied that in the Christian
 community there dwells a hidden but uniquely effective power which
 enables it to persist in spite of all expectation. But what kind of
 power or strength is it which is effective in its total weakness?

This is the kind of remark Hauerwas frequently makes in contexts other than ecclesiology. Take for example, one of his boldest essays, an article on Jonathan Schell's The Fate of the Earth. There he clearly argued that Christians should be actively involved in the movement for nuclear disarmament, but the bulk of the essay argued that Christians would do so for reasons very different than Schell's. That is, the survival of the human species was not a sufficient reason. Indeed, Hauerwas argued that "the moral presuppositions that give the movement its greatest political clout are those that are most problematic from a theological point of view." (48) He went on to say, "The peace to which Christians witness cannot be equated with any peace that derives from our desire for survival, whether that be personal, national, or species survival. A peace based on survival cannot help but be idolatrous and unjust." (49) The argument here is not that the concern for survival should not drive us to the extremes of nuclear weapons. The argument is that survival is not a legitimate concern at all.

This makes it all the more striking that Hauerwas never writes in a similar way with regard to ecclesiology. Here is where Hauerwas's relationship to Barth becomes rather more complicated. It is hard to imagine anything more directly counter to Hauerwas's own ecclesiology than the Barth lines quoted above, especially when combined with Barth's dismissive remarks about apostolic succession. (50) Moreover, it is here that an increasing number of voices are finding Hauerwas guilty of something like Schlabach's problem. (51) That is, they worry that Hauerwas's ecclesiology is far more determined by his cultural critique than by theology. That is, where Niebuhr allowed his account of "the human condition" to overdetermine his theology, recent commentators worry that Hauerwas allows his account of our cultural condition to overdetermine his. (52) Yoder claimed, in a very Barthian fashion, that Hauerwas was "overawed by the notion of community dependency and underawed by the objective reality of salvation history." (53) He might have added that Hauerwas is overawed by community because he is overawed by liberalism. Barth was, if anything, the opposite. He was so overwhelmed by the objective reality of salvation history that he was free from anxiety about the survival of the church.

Hauerwas does not like Barth's ecclesiology because it is not "sufficient to sustain the witness that he thought was intrinsic to Christianity." (54) Here Hauerwas borrows a pneumatological argument from Nicholas Healy, Reinhard Hutter and Joseph Mangina. (55) As Hauerwas puts it, "Barth never quite brings himself to explain how our human agency is involved in the Spirit's work." (56) Therefore, as Healy, Hutter and Mangina have all said, in their different ways, Barth ends up with a bifurcated ecclesiology, split between the "true church" and "the ordinary, empirical practices of the Christian community across time." (57) By applying his christological principles to ecclesiology "Barth avoids the error of a one-sided sociological description of the church's identity"--what I have argued is Schlabach's error. But he does so "by making the opposite error, presenting us with a one-sided doctrinal description." (58) He ends up with a strangely abstract church that is alien to Scripture, which "locates the spiritual and theological not apart from, but as identifiable with and through the material." (59)

Even as Hutter and Mangina were picking up and expanding on Healy's claims, Healy himself was reconsidering. Most interesting for my purposes is that he was doing so in reaction to how Hauerwas had appropriated his writing in Hauerwas's own critique of Barth. (60) Healy suspected that for Hauerwas and Hutter, the pneumatology was a smokescreen. Their "focus on Barth's perceived pneumatological inadequacies masks, in my view, a more fundamental and perhaps more significant disagreement over the doctrine of the church." (61) Healy spots a "relative lack of attention to God's action in our midst" in Hauerwas's ecclesiology. While Barth may have appreciated Hauerwas's appropriation of Wittgenstein and MacIntyre, "he would say that the difference God makes to the church needs to be made clearer." (62) Hauerwas is never lacking for theological content, but it is not always clear just how that theology links up with his communitarianism. Healy again makes the point, writing not just of Hauerwas but of some of his students: "Accounts of the concrete church and the activities of its members developed in varying degrees of independence from well-rounded accounts of more central doctrines seem in recent years have come to be more the rule than the exception." (63) Moreover, those accounts of the church and its activity are "largely theologically neutral"--that is, undertaken without reference to divine action (64)--Healy reads Barth not so much as staking out a position than as providing a kind of therapy for Hauerwasian anxiety. What we learn from Barth is "to turn cheerfully away from ourselves, away from earnest and anxious attempts at self-preservation, towards the God who alone preserves us." (65)

It may then turn out that "in strange proportion to the way in which, with relative unconcern as to its fidelity or infidelity, it has actually accepted ... its weakness" the church actually becomes the kind of witness Hauerwas demands. The alternative may be the sort of irrelevance and even disappearance Hauerwas and Schlabach most fear. That is, if what we want most of all is to resist the corrosive forces of modernity and promote stability and community, we will have other options aside from the church. In fact, like Wendell Berry, our single greatest prophet of such things, we may quite reasonably choose to find stability in fidelity to place and then may find that, like Berry, this puts us at odds with fidelity to what he likes to call "organized religion." Church can be for something else. (66)


I do not intend these remarks to be a defense of the Protestant principle. My questions are not meant as an argument against Hauerwas's ecclesiology or even as encouragement for Mennonites to take his criticisms with a grain of salt and to continue reading him as he reads Yoder and Barth--cherry-picking from Hauerwas everything but the ecclesiology. More importantly, my questions are not an argument because they have mostly neglected the point that it is not (just) that Hauerwas thinks Mennonites are wrong, but that we misunderstand ourselves. The crucial point of "Whose Church? Which Future?" was not that "once Christendom is gone the call for voluntary commitment cannot help but appear as a legitimation of the secular commitment to autonomy." (67) The crucial, if more subtle, point was that Mennonites are not a voluntarist church but we do not know how, or are unwilling, to think theologically about the ways in which we are not. "The habits of Christendom churches may now become a resource for their members and for Anabaptists ...," he argues. "For example ... it may be that 'ethnicity' is one way God provided and continues to provide for your survival as a people." (68) The crucial point was not simply that Anabaptist theologians are Zwinglian rationalists, but that the "lingering Zwinglian rationalism is incompatible with your other practices." (69) Schlabach's argument was identical:
 The ecclesiology that was in so many ways the [Concern] movement's
 strength was strong in part because it was parasitic: drawing
 strength from traditions, intergenerational practices, and church
 institutions whose very legitimacy the Concern Group tended to deny.
 Participants were influential not just because they offered a cogent
 dissent. ... They were also influential because they stuck with their
 tradition even as they delegitimated traditions, stayed rooted in
 their church even though they disallowed ethnic means of continuity,
 and worked within its institutions even though their theology and
 ecclesiology discredited institutional forms of continuity. (70)

It is quite plausible that, on one hand, Unlearning Protestantism is the logically consistent outworking of Hauerwas's project. For Schlabach, Hauerwas's "seeming inconsistencies ... all snap into coherence" once we understand that Protestant virtues have become vices and so we need to unlearn them. (71) On the other, it is equally plausible to argue that it is a mistake to try to tidy up Hauerwas's oeuvre. Hauerwas is a deeply conflicted, tension-ridden thinker who resists all attempts to snap him into coherence. He just cannot have both Yoder and nostalgia for the papacy. Nor can he coherently make Barth the hero of his Gifford lectures, but then dismiss Barth's ecclesiology as if that is a detachable side issue. And yet he does. Immune to all criticism for decades, he continues asserting these inconsistencies. (72) Like Emerson, his writing proclaims,
 A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of simple minds, adored by
 little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a
 great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself
 with his shadow on a wall. Speak what you think now in hard words,
 and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though
 it contradict everything you said to-day. (73)

For Emerson inconsistency is an achievement. Even greater is the willingness to expose that inconsistency in public. To do so, according to Emerson, is too have achieved self-reliance, to expose in writing what most selves hope to conceal--namely, their messiness. For this reason "Self-Reliance" is in many ways an essay on confession. But at the same time, such writing attempts to shift the blame for the inconsistency from the author to the world, and hence registers a protest against a world in which two truths cannot live together. So when Hauerwas calls himself a "high-church Mennonite" he is describing an internal conflict, not a coherent position. But the incoherence is not the fault of the position; it is the result of a particular cultural circumstance against which such inconsistency becomes rebellion. This is why Hauerwas is such a compulsively productive and stimulating mind. It is the inhabiting of the broken middle between high church and Mennonite that has allowed him to breathe so much fresh air into so many stale theological caves, including the Mennonite one. Schlabach may choose to relax that tension in the high-church direction, but he is careful not to resolve it. The last thing I want to do is attempt a resolution in the other direction. 1 do not share much of Hauerwas's or Schlabach's anxiety about the future of the Mennonite Church. That may just be my own not very interesting personal problem. Or it may be because I teach at a Mennonite college. I worry about my students for all the usual reasons that one worries about young adults, but I do not worry about the future of the church in their hands. When I look out across a chapel or the dining hall, I am overwhelmed with confidence about the prospects for the Mennonite Church. But perhaps that just makes Hauerwas and Schlabach's point. That confidence is possible because of a range of quasi-sacramental practices that remain underacknowledged in our theology, (74) and because of a range of institutions, not the least of which is Eastern Mennonite University itself, which have nurtured many of those students all their lives. But even greater than my confidence in the future of the Mennonite Church is my confidence in the future of Anabaptism, of radical free church communities committed to lives of discipleship together. Many of my best and most interesting students have little regard for what they call "the institutional church." They are drawn to corners of that vast, amorphous movement lumped together as "emergent church," often to its "New Monastic" forms. They worship in basements and living rooms and homeless shelters with other castaways from numerous Protestant and Catholic churches. Their lives have been changed by reading Donald Miller and Rob Bell and then Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and by visits to Jubilee Partners, Simple Way or Rutba House. They represent, I suppose, the opposite fringe of turn-of-the-century Protestantism from Schlabach, Hutter and other theologians overwhelmed by the anxiety of late modernity. Both are dependent upon Hauerwas's work. Both are hard to imagine without his influence. Both are among the multitudes Hauerwas contains. (75)

(1.) Later, when Hauerwas was helping me sort through whether to go to Duke or another university he said, "If you end up at__, they will turn you into a good liberal ironist." Thinking that didn't sound so bad, I asked him, "What will you turn me into?" He looked me in the eye and growled, "A mean son-of-a-bitch." While I venture some criticisms of Hauerwas in this essay, I hope he does not take that as confirmation that he succeeded.

(2.) "When the Politics of Jesus Makes a Difference," Christian Century, Oct. 13, 1993, 982-987.

(3.) Gerald Schlabach, Unlearning Protestantism: Sustaining Christian Community in an Unstable Age (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press, 2010).

(4.) Schlabach summarizes the Protestant Principle as: "because all human institutions fall short of God's standard, they are always subject to 'prophetic' critique and reform."--Ibid., 24.

(5.) Yoder was sometimes guilty of this. But even James Reimer, who appreciated what he called "classical" theology, rarely bothered with explication of it. See J. Alexander Sider's review of Mennonites and Classical Theology: Dogmatic Foundations for Christian Ethics (Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press, 2001), in MQR 74 (Jan. 2002), 137-139.

(6.) See Jason Byassee, "Going Catholic: Six Journeys to Rome," Christian Century, Aug. 22, 2006, 18-23. Byassee's story discusses the recent conversions of Protestant theologians: Rusty Reno, Bruce Marshall, Mickey Mattox, Reinhard Hutter, Douglas Farrow and Schlabach.

(7.) In Karl Barth, Theology and Church, trans. Louise Pettibone Smith (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), 307-333.

(8.) "Roman Catholicism: A Question to the Catholic Church," in Theology and Church, 314 n1. Thirty years later, the part about dropping out of the church altogether is gone. Instead he writes, "And if we were compelled to choose between the Neo-Protestant and the Roman Catholic solutions, in this as in so many other questions we should have no option but to prefer the latter."--Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2, 529. For a discussion of Barth's relationship to Catholicism, see Reinhard Hutter, "Karl Barth's 'Dialectical Catholicity': Sic et Non," Modern Theology 16, no. 2 (2000), 137-157.

(9.) Harold Bender, "The Anabaptist Vision," in The Recovery of the Anabaptist Vision, ed. Guy F. Hershberger (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1957), 37.

(10.) Keep in mind that for Hauerwas, the pietism of conservative evangelicalism is thoroughly neo-Protestant as is the politics of conservative evangelicalism. He likes to say that the Christian right is where liberal Protestantism went to die.

(11.) Paradigmatically, The Nonviolent Atonement (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2001) where "nonviolence" becomes a principle reigning over all dogmatic assertions or scriptural exegesis.

(12.) See Yoder's discussion in Christian Attitudes to War, Peace, and Revolution, ed. Theodore J. Koontz and Andy Alexis-Baker (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos, 2009), 299-308.

(13.) Hauerwas and William Willimon, Resident Aliens (Nashville: Abingdon, 1989), 38.

(14.) "Mennonites on Hauerwas: Hauerwas on Mennonites," Conrad Grebel Review 13 (Spring 1995), 146-147.

(15.) Such a purgation has been the consistent agenda of J. Denny Weaver in articles and books too numerous to mention. In his preface to Anabaptist Theology in the Face of Postmodernity, Weaver wrote of "my enduring pursuit of the following questions: whether the peace churches (or Anabaptists and Mennonites as a peace church) have or ought to have a specific perspective on theology, and whether a stance shaped by peace church assumptions might produce a different view of classic questions from that of the majority Christian tradition. My work assumes that the answer to both is yes. In one way or another these questions have been central to my theologizing since the first theology course I taught as a newly minted Ph.D. some twenty-five years ago" (13).

(16.) Hauerwas, In Good Company: The Church as Polis (Notre Dame, Ind: University of Notre Dame Press, 1995), 70.

(17.) Adolf Harnack, What is Christianity? trans. Thomas Bailey Saunders (New York: Harper and Row, 1957), 190-267. Harnack thought that the essence of Christianity remained present in medieval Catholicism but that it was "buried in a heap of rubbish" (272).

(18.) Ibid., 269.

(19.) We may take the following lines from Kant as foundational: "In the end religion will be gradually freed of all empirical grounds of determination, of all statutes that rest on history and unite human beings provisionally for the promotion of the good through the intermediary of an ecclesiastical faith. Thus at last the pure faith of religion will rule over all. ... The leading-string of holy tradition, with its appendages, its statutes and observances, which in its time did good service, become bit by bit dispensable, yea, finally, when a human being enters upon his adolescence, turn into a fetter. So long as he (the human species) 'was a child, he was clever as a child.' ... But when he becomes a man, he puts away childish things."--Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, trans, and ed. Allen Wood and George Di Giovanni (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 127.

(20.) In Good Company, 65.

(21.) Ibid., 73.

(22.) Bender, "The Anabaptist Vision," 29-30.

(23.) Rowan Williams, On Christian Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 211.

(24.) Hauerwas, In Good Company, 73.

(25.) Conrad Grebel Review (Spring 1992), 205-208.

(26.) Hauerwas, In Good Company, 73.

(27.) The difference between the Aristotelian account of ethics Hauerwas has spent his career promoting, and the Kantian account that he has spent his career attacking, comes together in a famous passage in Kant: "When the firm resolve to comply with one's duty has become habit, it is called virtue. ... Virtue here has the abiding maxim of lawful actions, no matter whence one draws the incentives that the power of choice needs for such actions. Virtue, in this sense is acquired little by little, and to some it means a long habituation." Allowing for some semantic differences ("duty" is not a word Aristotle uses very often) that is a plausible brief account of Aristotelian virtue. But Kant describes it only to show how misguided it is: "But not the slightest change of heart is necessary for this; only a change of mores. ... However, that a human being should become not merely legally good, but morally good (pleasing to God), i.e., virtuous according to the intelligible character [of virtue] (virtus noumenon) and thus in need of no other incentive to recognize a duty except the representation of duty itself--that so long as the foundation of the maxims of the human being remains impure, cannot be effected through gradual reform but must rather be effected through a revolution in the disposition of the human being. ... And so a new man can come about only through a kind of rebirth, as it were a new creation ... and a change of heart."--Kant, Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, 67-68. To say that Hauerwas understands Mennonite pacifism to be Aristotelian is to say that he understands it to be the product of "a long habituation" and not of a Pietist "change of heart." Perhaps one of the damaging aspects of the Kantian legacy is not just the dismissal of virtue as "impure" but the wedge driven between virtue and change of heart.

(28.) Stanley Hauerwas, A Better Hope (Grand Rapids, Mich: Brazos, 2000), 44.

(29.) "The Public Ethics of John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas: Difference or Disagreement," in Ben Ollenburger and Gayle Gerber Koontz, eds., A Mind Patient and Untamed (Telford, Pa.: Cascadia, 2004), 217.

(30.) Further, to say that Schlabach's work is thoroughly Hauerwasian is also to introduce a note of caution before assuming that his work is representative of Catholicism. Unlearning Protestantism represents a peculiar turn-of-the-century Protestant anxiety. Cradle-Catholics don't write like this. Protestants who remain inveterately suspicious of Catholicism should not take this book as confirmation of that suspicion.

(31.) Schlabach, Unlearning Protestantism, 21.

(32.) Ibid., 71

(33.) Ibid., 22.

(34.) Ibid., 80. It would be worth exploring the question of whether or not much of what Schlabach says of the Concern group could also be said of Hauerwas. While he might theorize some things Schlabach thinks contribute to stability and continuity, as far as I can tell, Hauerwas, unlike Yoder and Schlabach, has never written anything on structure and polity. Moreover, back before he switched denominations he was just as contemptuous of Methodist leadership and institutions as Concern ever was of Mennonite versions and therefore similarly "parasitic." The relevant analogy to Hauerwas's affection for others' institutions and dismissal of his own might be Yoder's writings on Judaism. That is, The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited (London: SCM, 2003) reads to me like a celebration of what he would call "corpusculum christianum" when he saw it in Mennonites.

(35.) This all depends upon the assertion that the Protestant principle actually is central to a significant majority of American Protestantism; that Protestants do worse at fidelity than Catholics; and that the former leads to the latter. Every step in that assertion (it never becomes an argument so much as the assertion upon which the larger argument is based) seems to me to deserve scrutiny. Moreover, of his five examples of loyal Catholic dissidents two are archbishops, one is a Dominican monk and one a Benedictine nun. They are people for whom leaving would mean leaving their jobs, their salaries, their homes and their communities. For the loyal dissident chapter to help the argument, Schlabach would have to have compelling lay examples. As it stands he has only one, Dorothy Day. But I also worry about using converts instead of cradle Catholics to make the point.

(36.) "[The later Yoder] continued to deny that institutions ever had any ecclesial status except as ad hoc tools in the service of local congregations, which were the only sure place in which to identify the presence of the church universal (68). "The punctuousity of Congregationalism is Yoder's answer at every point."--Schlabach, Unlearning Protestantism, 69.

(37.) Donald Dayton, a fine reader of Barth, is a crucial figure here. See for example, "Yet Another Layer of the Onion: Or, Opening the Ecumenical Door to Let the Riffraff In," in From the Margins: A Celebration of the Theological Work of Donald W. Dayton, ed. Christian T. Collins Winn (Eugene, Ore.: Pickwick, 2007), 291-322. The "riffraff" are those groups that Hauerwas and Schlabach cannot help but find disturbing.

(38.) In his remarkable "Letter to a Young Gay Catholic," James Alison offers a very different, powerful, version of the argument for fidelity. See (accessed on March 1, 2010).

(39.) See Andrew P. Klager, "Balthasar Hubmaier's Use of the Church Fathers: Availability, Access and Interaction," MQR 84 (Jan. 2010), 5-65.

(40.) With regard to the Anabaptists, see for example, Lewis Hyde, The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World (New York: Random House, 1979), chap. 7.

(41.) Dennis Miller, "Creation," The Mennonite Encyclopedia, 5:210.

(42.) See Schlabach, Unlearning Protestantism, chap. 4.

(43.) For many the anxiety would seem to follow automatically. But I am not so sure about that.

(44.) To the extent that there is an explicitly theological argument in Unlearning Protestantism, it is that we should remain faithful to our churches because God remains faithful to his people (11). He also sometimes says that Protestant ecclesiologies "limit God's grace" (29, 40), but he never really develops the point.

(45.) Edward T. Oakes, Pattern of Redemption: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (New York: Continuum, 1994), 54.

(46.) Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV/2, trans. G. W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1958), 661.

(47.) Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV/3, trans. G. W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1962), 744-745.

(48.) "An Eschatological Perspective on Nuclear Disarmament," in Against the Nations: War and Survival in a Liberal Society (Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1985), 160.

(49.) Ibid., 166.

(50.) Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV/1, trans. G. W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1956), 673-674, 714-718.

(51.) Nicholas Healy, "Karl Barth's Ecclesiology Reconsidered," Scottish Journal of Theology 57, no. 3 (2004), 287-299; Nathan Kerr, Christ, History and Apocalyptic: The Politics of Christian Mission (Eugene, Ore.: Cascade, 2009). See also the numerous conversations at Halden Doerge's wonderful blog, "Inhabitatio Dei," e.g., on April 5, 2010).

(52.) Kerr, Christ, History and Apocalyptic, 118-119.

(53.) Quoted in ibid., 114.

(54.) See Stanley Hauerwas, With the Grain of the Universe (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos, 2001), 39. The phrasing here is curious. Ecclesiologies don't sustain witness. They might encourage it or promote it. Perhaps polities sustain witness but that is problematic as well because presumably the polity is the witness.

(55.) Nicholas Healy, "The Logic of Karl Barth's Ecclesiology: Analysis, Assessment and Proposed Modifications," Modern Theology 10, no. 3 (1994), 253-270; Reinhard Hutter, "Karl Barth's 'Dialectical Catholicity': Sic et Non"; Joseph Mangina, "Bearing the Marks of Jesus: The Church in the Economy of Salvation in Barth and Hauerwas," Scottish Journal of Theology 52, no. 3 (1999), 269-305.

(56.) Hauerwas, With the Grain of the Universe, 145.

(57.) Mangina, quoted in ibid., 144.

(58.) Healy, "The Logic of Karl Barth's Ecclesiology," 263.

(59.) Ibid., 264.

(60.) My own view is that Barth was asking very different questions than (the early) Healy, Hutter, Mangina and Hauerwas. Being immune to their anxieties, he could hardly shape an ecclesiology around such anxiety. That they can't find answers to their questions in his work says more about their questions than Barth's answers. In IV/1, for example, the ecclesiology section is governed by credo ecclesiam. Barth wants to know how it is that we believe in one holy apostolic church in light of the church's consistent failures. How do we say, for example, that the Spirit animates the life of the Roman Catholic Church in the midst of the pervasive cover up of sexual abuse without saying something like Barth: "The glory of the community gathered together by Him within humanity ... can only be an object of faith. What it is, its mystery, its spiritual character, is not without manifestations and analogies in its generally visible form. But it not unequivocally represented in any such generally visible manifestations and analogies."--Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/1, 656-657. For those who think Barth was not "sufficiently Catholic" such lines are an example of Barth's ecclesiological abstraction and of the lack of concreteness because of the way it bifurcates the church into "true church" visible to faith and "apparent church."--See Healy, "The Logic of Karl Barth's Ecclesiology," 258-259. There may be something to this or it may be that what Healy reads as a bifurcation is simply two ways of looking at the same thing, Barth's ecclesiological duck-rabbit. In any case, the more they emphasize the Spirit's presence in "concrete practices," the more pressing Barth's own question becomes: what do we do with the way "the modesty [of the churches'] external existence often seems to stand in strange relationship to the notorious arrogance of their claims"?--Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/l, 658. The point of Barth's bifurcation is not to deny embodiment in distinct and concrete practices. It is to flag the great difficulty in seeing or understanding just how this church is Christ's body.

(61.) Nicholas Healy, "Karl Barth's Ecclesiology Reconsidered," Scottish Journal of Theology 57, no. 3 (2004), 290 n7.

(62.) Ibid., 295.

(63.) Ibid., 296.

(64.) Ibid.

(65.) Ibid., 299.

(66.) Hauerwas worries about this, declaring that he is not a communitarian. He writes, "No one should want community as an end in and of itself, but one should want to be part of communities because the forms of cooperation offered by them provide for the achievement of goods otherwise unavailable--such as the worship of God."--Stanley Hauerwas, Dispatches from the Front (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1994), 158.

(67.) Hauerwas, In Good Company, 73.

(68.) Ibid.

(69.) Ibid., 76. By "Zwinglian rationalism" Hauerwas means the notion that the sacrament is merely an external symbol of an interior reality. Baptism, for example, doesn't do anything. It is a symbol that something has already been done.

(70.) Schlabach, Unlearning Protestantism, 86.

(71.) Ibid., 41.

(72.) Richard Hays has been most blunt about this: "The logic of Hauerwas's hermeneutical position should require him to become a Roman Catholic." But "he refuses to have his mind and character formed by that tradition and chooses instead to live, anomalously, as a Protestant with no clear theological rationale for his ecclesial practice and no empirical community to exemplify his vision of ecclesial politics. There is no tradition of high-church Mennonites; the idealized tradition to which Hauerwas appeals is an idiosyncratic fiction. ... He cannot appeal to the authority of the New Testament, because his theoretical program insists that the authority of the New Testament is mediated only through a traditioned community to whose traditions he chooses not to submit."--Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1996), 265.

(73.) Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance," in Essays mid Lectures, ed. Joel Porte (New York: Library of America, 1983), 265.

(74.) In the fall of 1999, 1 stopped by Hauerwas's office before traveling to Lancaster to preach the sermon at the dedication of my niece, Maya Dula. "A baby dedication!" he cackled. "That's a baptism, Peter, even if you are afraid to call it that." Or the continued existence of the bishop board in Mennonite conferences like Lancaster. When 1 was a child, we would have communion twice a year and the bishop was always there on those Sundays, assisting the pastor in presiding.

(75.) I am grateful to Isaac Villegas and Alex Sider for helpful comments on an earlier version of this essay.

* Peter Dula is an assistant professor of religion and culture at Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va.

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Date:Jul 1, 2010
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