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The Work of Theology
The Work of Theology
Stanley Hauerwas
Eerdmans, 2015
320 pp., $28.00

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Tony Jones


How to Be Hauerwas

It ain't easy.

Being named "America's Best Theologian" in 2001 was a bit like being crowned the "World's Best Zeppelin Pilot" in 1940. But that's been the burden and the mantle upon Stanley Hauerwas since Time magazine anointed him with that title. As American Christianity crashes and burns around him, Hauerwas continues to make a bold case that there is something important about being a follower of Jesus these days. The latest of his 50-some books is, like so many of the others, by turns brilliant, infuriating, self-obsessed, biting, funny, and redundant.

Hauerwas begins The Work of Theology by telling us that this is not like his other books, since it's not really a book, and it's not a collection of essays. In fact, it is a book, and it is a collection of essays—essays that only occasionally cohere with one another.

Maybe this is Hauerwas's contribution to DIY culture, for most chapters are a "How To" guide to something. There's a surprisingly unfunny chapter called "How to be Theologically Funny." (One sentence in this chapter reads, "Which finally brings me back to me," which I found to be unintentionally funny.) Other chapters in this vein include "How to Tell Time Theologically," "How to Think Theologically about Rights," and "How to Be an Agent." Some of these read like book reports, with Hauerwas going on for pages about a book he's read. During these excurses, all I wanted was more Hauerwas, but I will concede that this is how you come to know Hauerwas, by reading about what he is reading.

At the heart of the book stand the three strongest chapters—Hauerwas at his best. In "The 'How' of Theology and the Ministry," he responds to a well-meaning erstwhile DMin. student who sent him a letter along with a multi-authored book on the emerging-missional church. The student's premise? People always say that no one is implementing ...

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