When looking over my bookshelf the other day, I noticed that many of my Hauerwas books had become a little dusty.  I wondered about this.  Was I tempted by what many theologians today have called the post post -liberalism era we’ve entered? Had I unconsciously decided that Hauerwas has said all that he can say?  After all, isn’t he kind of easy to understand; simply being on about pacifism, discipleship, the church, learning to speak Christian and so on, and so on? We’ve all heard this before, haven’t we?

So it was with great joy that I read t his recent piece from the ABC Religion & Ethics page regarding Christian language.  I might even say that I was awakened from my dogmatic slumber regarding all things Hauerwas:

“a prominent figure in my church was asked how she understood the Christian faith in Jesus in relation to other religious traditions. She responded by saying that Christians believe that Jesus is our way to God, but other traditions have their way to God.

It seems to have never occurred to her that Jesus is not our way to God because he is the Son of God. A generous interpretation of what she said might think she was trying to indicate how, given the essential union of Christ’s humanity and divinity, a union necessary for our salvation, Christ as the Incarnate Word is our way to God.

But, unfortunately, she made no mention of the Incarnation. Her response was, of course, the response required by the speech regimes of a liberal culture that before all else demands that we be tolerant.

The acknowledgement that others have other ways to God – even though it is not at all clear who the god to whom they have a way to is – is a speech act necessarily learned by Christians to ensure we are not identified as political reactionaries.

Many Christians think being a Christian gives them all the problems they want. In particular they fear being associated with the Christian Right. Now, I am sympathetic with their desire not to be identified with the Christian Right, not because the Christian Right is intolerant, but because the Christian Right has lost the ability to speak Christian just to the extent they identify Christian speech with what Americans call “freedom.”

But the fact that a prominent member of the clergy would seem not to know how to speak Christian raises profound questions about the kind of theological training she received. That she could say that Jesus is but one way to God suggests somehow she must have missed the class on “the Trinity.”

How can the second person of the Trinity be the way to God if Jesus is the second person of the Trinity? We not only follow Jesus. We worship Jesus. You can only worship God. So if Jesus is the way God he is so only because he is the second person of the Trinity.

It does not get more basic than this. But somehow one of the leaders of my church seems to have missed it. Or she may have heard the lectures, but somehow thinks the lectures to be information about “doctrine” that has little to do with answering the question about other faiths.

But if that is the case, then I fear she was not adequately taught the politics of speech, which is crucial to understand if we are to speak Christian. In particular I suspect she was seduced by the word “god” and how that word can be used to legitimate social formation that ironically tempt Christians to abandon the Christian vocabulary.”

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