Theological Argument in Law: Engaging with Stanley Hauerwas

From our friend John Inazu, we get news of the publication of the latest issue of Law and Contemporary Problems, a symposium on the work of Stanley Hauerwas and theological argument in law which John put together.  Congratulations to him and to all of the contributors for their pieces.  Here is a portion of John’s foreword to the symposium (footnotes omitted):

Some of Hauerwas’s critics may be right to argue that he “reacts against a type of liberalism that exists mostly on the pages of books by Rawls, Rorty, and their followers, and not in actual practice.” But that description is at least true of the academy.  Much teaching and scholarship relies upon unacknowledged constraints on argumentative practices from professors who embrace the ideals of Rawlsian public reason or, more strikingly, whose epistemic commitments welcome a spectacular diversity of viewpoints and worldviews—except for theological ones. As a result, a great deal of scholarship ignores or too easily dismisses theological argument. If public reason and epistemic bias have succeeded anywhere in squelching theological argument, it is in the academy.

Contrary to the academy’s dominant orthodoxies, Hauerwas insists that Christian theology properly belongs in contemporary discourse: “[A]t the very least Christianity names an ongoing argument across centuries of a tradition which has established why some texts must be read and read in relation to other texts.” As a result, “Christians for all their shortcomings still represent an ongoing educated public that means they must . . . have agreements that make their disagreements intelligible.” It is for this reason that

[Christians] should not avoid exploring what differences their convictions might make for why they do what they do. That difference will, of course, vary from subject to subject but surely such an investigation is the kind of work a university should sponsor. I obviously think that would be true of those working in other religious and nonreligious traditions. Of course, such work would make the university more conflictual but I see no reason why that is a disadvantage.  (Stanley Hauerwas, The State of the University: Academic Knowledges and the Knowledge of God 91 n.19 (2007)).

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