I was privilege to read Stanley Hauerwas, (2010), Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans) and Geoffrey Wainwright, (2000), Leslie Newbigin: A Theological Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press) concurrently in the last few days. It is an interesting experience reading about these two men and how the development of their theological thinking came to be. Hauerwas’ is more personal as he is the author while Newbigin’s was distilled from his works by biographer Wainwright.
Stanley Hauerwas is an academic theologian who is Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke University, Dunhma, North Carolina. Coming from a family of bricklayers, Hauerwas overcomes a life of poverty to be named the “best theologian in America” by Time magazine in 2001. He studied at Yale and taught in both Norte Dame and Duke University respectively. A prolific writer and speaker, Hauerwas is influential in the ongoing dialogue about theology especially ethics which Hauerwas understands to be theology being lived out especially in communities. It is interesting to note that for that for all his writing on the church, Hauerwas did not take an active role in the church or on the mission field. His was a top down theological development even though he himself believes that his theology is developed from the grassroots upwards. His oft quoted statement is the enigmatic “The first task of the church is not to make the world more just but to make the world the world.”
Newbigin was a pastor-missionary-theologian. He was one of the first bishops of the United Church of India, and had also served as pastor, evangelist, missionary strategist, ecumenist and bible teacher. He served mainly in India and later for the Council of Churches which gave him a wider scope of ministry. Newbigin’s theology is also a theology of the church. Like Hauerwas, Newbigin argues that Christianity is to be lived in obedience to Jesus Christ. The ‘how’ and ‘what’ of the faith as lived out in community come before the ‘why.’
Both faces challenges in their respective vocation. Hauerwas faces the conflicts and infighting of the academia while Newbigin, the scorns and distrust of his fellow clergy. What is interesting is that both are helped and supported by many faithful friends. I believe this bond of fellowship of like minded believers forms the foundation of their theological impetus.
The two books are good reading, even for a non-theologian. I loved the mentions of names of people and of books which was mentioned that influenced them. This give me a quest to seek out these authors. I however have two complaints about these books. One is that there is no bibliographies of books mentioned though the Wainwright’s book is extensively footnoted. The second is that there is no author’s bibliography. Since these are theological memoirs, I believed that a chronological bibliography of an author will allow the readers to get a sense of the development of their theological constructs.