“The church does not have a social ethic; the church is a social ethic”- Hauerwas

Martin Luther nailed 99 theses that sparked the Reformation movement in 16th century Stanley Hauerwas has proposed ten theses that must not be ignored. I posted them below.

1. The social significance of the Gospel requires the recognition of the narrative structure of Christian convictions for the life of the church.

-The church is founded on the premise that God the creator decisively called and formed a people to serve him through Israel and through the work of Jesus Christ to bring about the redemption of the creation.

2. Every social ethic involves a narrative, whether it is concerned with the formulation of basic principles of social organization and/or with concrete policy alternatives.

-The form and substance of the Christian community is story formed.

3. The ability to provide an adequate account of our existence is the primary test of the truthfulness of a social ethic.

-The first task of the church is to help Christians form a community that looks like their story. The story of God showing up in unlikely places to bring about transformation and restoration.

4. Communities formed by a truthful narrative must provide the skills to transform fate into destiny so that the unexpected, especially as it comes in the form of strangers, can be welcomed as a gift.

-From our story, we learn that we own nothing and whatever we have is a gift. This understanding allows us be less attached to our stuff.

5. The primary social task of the church is to be itself- that is, a people who have been formed by a story that provides them with the skills for negotiating the danger of this existence, trusting in God’s promise of redemption.

-The church is a people on a journey who insist on living lives that are consistent with their conviction that God is the lord of history. They thus refuse to resort to violence in order to secure their survival.

6. Christian social ethics can only be done from the perspective of those who do not seek to control national or world history but who are content to live “out of control”

-This means that Christians must find the means to make clear to both the oppressed and the oppressors that the cross determines the meaning of history. They should thus provide imaginative alternatives for social policy as they are released from the “necessities” of those that would control the world in the name of security. To be out of control means Christians can risk trusting in gifts and not on what we can achieve and hence must protect at all costs.

7. Christian social ethics depends on the development of leadership in the church that can trust and depend on the diversity of gifts in the community.

-The authority necessary for leadership in the church should derive from the willingness of Christians to risk speaking the truth to and hearing the truth from those in charge. This is he kind of community that can afford to have their leader’s mistakes acknowledged without their ceasing to exercise authority.

8. For the church to be, rather than have, a social ethic means we must recapture the social significance of common behavior, such as kindness, friendship, and the formation of families.

Trust is impossible in communities that always regard the other as a challenge and threat to their existence. One of the most profound commitments of a community, therefore, is providing a context that encourages us to trust and depend on one another.

9. In our attempt to control our society American Christians have readily accepted liberalism as a social strategy appropriate to the Christian story (story-less living).

We must constantly remember that we are a story formed community and that story is what defines our existence.

10. The church does not exist to provide an ethos for democracy or any other form of social organization, but stands as a political alternative to every nation, witnessing to the kind of social life possible for those that have been formed by the story of Christ.

The church’s first task is to help us gain a critical perspective on the stories that have captivated our vision and lives. By doing so, the church may well help provide a paradigm of social relations otherwise thought impossible.


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