Stanley Hauerwas on Jesus and “Bullshit”

6a00d8341c0c3a53ef011168c2070d970c-800wiTwo years ago, in an interview with Reform Magazine, Stanely Hauerwas of Duke Divinity was asked the following question:  “What for you is the center of Christianity?”  Hauerwas replied:

“Jesus is Lord and everything else is bullshit!”

When the interviewer hemmed and hawed, wondering aloud if his editor would allow him to print the famed theologian’s response, Hauerwas clarified:

“Its’ true though. Jesus is Lord – but there’s a lot of other claimants for that title – most importantly, me.”

So what do you think?  Do you think most modern Evangelicals agree that the claim of Jesus as Lord necessarily reduces everything else to “bullshit?”

And what about his claim that we – you and I – are the one’s that compete with his Lordship?  Do 21st century American Christians see their own quest for personal autonomy as a counter-claim to Jesus’  rightful claim to be the king of creation?

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11 Responses to Stanley Hauerwas on Jesus and “Bullshit”

  1. Don A says:

    I personally would have said the Cross is the center of Christianity. For the cross essentially encompasses Jesus as not only fully God and fully man, but also as Lord, Savior, and Redeemer. The cross also brings into the equation the Father and Holy Spirit and the themes of love, hope, faith, grace, and repentance for the forgiveness of sin.

  2. GS says:

    Mr. Hauerwas’ theology aside, his choice of words is regrettable. If this is what the ‘famous’ + ‘theologians’ within our Christian culture deem as edifying to the church we are in trouble. Did he seriously think, within the context of this opportunity, that such a comparative was one that ministered to the One that he professes as LORD?

    In Matthew 5:22, Jesus warns us not to call others “fools” or use the term “roca”. “Fool”, in this verse, is equivalent to saying “worthless”. Jesus doesn’t want us to demean others with words like “fool” because it is saying that they are worthless and not deserving of His free gift of salvation through His death and resurrection. The principle applied here says that, in Hauerwas’s opinion, the God ordained struggle (Romans 7:15-16) in our journey of fully trusting Christ, that we become less (John 3:30), which renders Him glory, is but dung.

    Though I may have entered in a discussion based on how your last question, which is a good one and deserves attention, your choice of this particular quote, sidelined the issue for me. Not a choice I would have made.

  3. GS … I hear what you’re saying, but I actually think that Hauerwas’ choice of words was very intentional on his part. “Bullshit” is generally considered to be a crass, vulgar word in our culture, where as “dung” is not. And I think he was trying to remind people that the gap between God and man is far greater than we generally tend to think in the 21st century.

    Having said that, I would encourage you to come back tomorrow when I run a post under the title “The Apostle Paul on Jesus and ‘Shit.'” I think you’ll see some interesting thematic and linguistic ties between Paula and Hauerwas.

    Thanks for leaving a comment.

  4. GS says:

    Scott… I never doubted his intentionality and I am aware of the meaning and cultural use of the word. I would not have used dung either. That his (Hauerwas’) flesh vies to dethrone the true King as LORD is not a comparative view being made between Jesus’ Lordship and everything else. The comparison and the crassness of the term renders that sentence dismissive of a God ordained process DESIGNED to bring Him glory; which was my point in bringing Matthew 5 to bear. His follow up sentence seems oddly false as a statement of humility.

    I appreciate (to a degree) Hauerwas’ intellectualism, however the need, nay the requirement, that we be seen as set apart, cannot be superseded by the desire to ‘shock’ by using language that neither edifies nor delivers grace. To one who is unfamiliar with Hauerwas, he would simply be seen as demonstrating a personal paucity of appropriate descriptors.

    It seems you are piggy backing on this. Not sure how cultural vulgarities serve the conversation you apparently wanted to have.

  5. Rich Bennema says:

    I have no problem with his point, only how he said it. He essentially paraphrased Philippians 3:8 into a shocking sound bite. I would prefer he simply quote the Bible. But then we wouldn’t be discussing this, would we? And maybe that is fine. Completely contrary to what he said, because of the way he said it, the one getting the focus, the attention, the glory is not Jesus, but Hauerwas. If Jesus is truly to be the center, let Jesus be the offense, not your other words.

    I suppose what bothers me most is the quote “profanity is the attempt of a lazy and feeble mind to express itself forcefully.” It saddens me for our time that someone who might be looked upon as a leading Christian thinker has revealed himself to be lazy and feeble of mind. He had the right answer, it’s a shame he couldn’t express it well to match.

    • Morning Rich … Two thoughts. If you have a problem with how Hauerwas “said it,” why would you not have a problem with the way that the Apostle Paul “said it.” in Philippians 3:8. If anything, the Pauline use should be even more troubling for evangelicals, because it calls into question the use of language in a way that many evangelicals would restrict. Secondly, would you also label Paul’s use of profanity as an “attempt of a lazy and feeble mind to express itself forcefully.”

      This is must my thinking, but perhaps when Christians occasionally use language in this manner, it draws attention to the gravity of the assertion. Thoughts?

      • Rich Bennema says:

        For a blog that consistently holds the church fathers and church history above trends of the last century, it seemed to me that your latest post threw all that under the bus in favor of a handful of current scholars. Is skybalon the exact 1st century swear word equivalent to those in the 21st century? I don’t know.

        I’m not so easily ready to go that far not because it calls the evangelical use of language into question. But rather because it calls into question church history and 500 years of English Bible translation. More than that, it calls into question the teachings of Paul as this could be seen as contrary, or at worst contradictory, to other passages concerning words.

        • Morning Rich … Appreciate you coming back to continue the conversation. I also appreciate the fact that you recognize my instinct to try to root theology in the historic confession of the church. While I don’t think it comes out in every post, you are absolutely correct in noting that instinct.

          Having said that, I’m actually not trying to lay out an argument for a pervasive use of vulgar language. As I noted in a comment to Rebecca under “The Apostle Paul on Jesus and ‘Shit,'” skybalon is an hapax legomenon, which means it only appears once in the biblical text. On that ground alone, I think we ought to consider the very real possibility that Paul is engaging in a very specific act of rhetorical force.

          As for these scholars breaking with tradition, I’m not sure that they are necessarily doing so. Consider the 1611 Authorized King James translation of 2 Kings 18:27:

          “But Rabshakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? [hath he] not [sent me] to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung , and drink their own piss with you?”

          Or what about Luther who also translated skybalon as “shit” in his German rendition of the Greek text?

          Again, I’m not pushing for a wholesale adoption of cussing Christians (ala Driscoll). But I do want to recognize the text for what it is saying; and more significantly, I want to introduce a subject that I think matters to the church. I think Paul (and Hauerwas) are rightly pointing out something that has been lost in contemporary Christianity. We tend to have an Enlightened view of humanity as essentially good with a few minor flaws that might need a “fire insurance policy” as opposed to seeing humanity as fatally flawed and deserving of judgment. Both Paul and Hauerwas are pointing to this reality and that’s why I used their material.

          Have a great morning. And thanks for reading and commenting.

  6. Tim Thompson says:

    Ephesians 5:4: “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

    I agree that Jesus is Lord, and no one else, but the use of crude language to make that point is not the proper way to do so.

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