The Narrative Theology of Stanley Hauerwas
AuthorLiles, Eric J.
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Stanley Hauerwas, noted theologian and Christian ethicist, argues throughout his writings for the importance of narrative theology in the Christian life and discourse. Exploring his understanding and use of narrative theology in conversation with other religious scholars, this thesis explores the function of his work in regards to preaching, Christian formation, and pastoral care. Human communities are formed through narrative. The story of faith provides a history in which an individual discovers who they are. A connection to this history and community help to shape an individual’s character and thus their moral identity. Narrative theology is a method for engaging the study of God and talking about God that helps to form and shape Christians in the pattern of Jesus’ life. One major critique of narrative theology is that it is too sectarian in nature. Hauerwas’s sermons and understanding of scripture show a deep concern for how the Church is presented in the narrative of faith. The goal of narrative preaching is to take an expectant, imaginative stance before the biblical text in the hopes that the sermon will be a transformative event for the hearers and the preacher. While not known as a narrative preacher per se, Hauerwas often employs the use of narrative preaching with effectiveness. Hauerwas resists what he calls “translation” of scriptural texts and the use of the historical critical method in his preaching to the limitation and effectiveness of his message. Good narrative preaching has close ties to the Eucharist where we encounter a generous and loving God and are fed and transformed. Narrative theology helps to reframe the questions about theodicy and suffering into a community effort to be present with those who suffer. Meaning can be found in the midst of suffering through participation in the narrative of faith. Hauerwas contends that we can only ask the questions of theodicy in relationship to the context in which we find ourselves: our friends, our community, and our story. He argues for a sense of shared story when contemplating ethical decisions in medicine and in pastoral care. Narrative theology, the story of God’s relationship with creation and especially in the Incarnation, places individuals within the larger story of salvation history and helps people to endure the suffering they experience. Those pastors who employ the use of narrative theology do well to connect an individual’s narrative and the narrative of the community of faith. Hauerwas locates himself within the narrative of the Christian faith; this is how he makes sense of his life. His life is about relationships; the different but connected communities of family, friends, academia, and church provide the structure needed for growth and development, to survive pain and suffering, and to celebrate joys and successes. Hauerwas also believes that our lives are not fully under our control, we cannot always anticipate and ensure the results we want. A robust understanding and incorporation of narrative theology into the pews can have a profound influence on Christianity. The narrative places us in the proper context of being part of God’s eternal, unfolding story, of which we know the end.
SubjectSchool of Theology Thesis 2015; School of Theology, Sewanee, Tennessee; School of Theology, University of the South; Narrative theology; Hauerwas, Stanley; Story-telling; Stories to form moral identity; Story of faith; Personal testimony
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