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Approaching The End
Eschatalogical Reflections On Church, Politics And Life
by Stanley Hauerwas
Publisher:SCM imprint of Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd
If you’ve never read any of Stanley Hauerwas’ work, then this volume – his ‘retirement book’ – might be an excellent place to start. As Hauerwas’ career draws to a close, he has turned his attention to eschatology – the study of the end times. How might reflection on the end times, he asks, help the contemporary church negotiate the contemporary world?
A key question is ‘what is ending?’ Depending on where you are in the world, the answer to that question might be Christendom or even the church. Yet the term ‘end’ means fulfilment as well as cessation. In which case the end of the church could signify that its work is done. In the UK the demise of the church is part of the demise of Christendom rather than an indication of the flourishing of the Kingdom of God. Hauerwas’ hope is that this dual demise will enable the gospel to flourish, freed of its cultural and political constraints. Time will tell.
Approaching the End is in three parts. The first deals with theological issues relating to eschatology, the second to the relationship between church and politics and the third to issues relating to life and death. Any individual chapter could be read alone as each is a separate essay although for a rounded view of Hauerwas’ approach it makes sense to at least read each section as standalone works.
There is no single theme to this volume of essays but that by no means reduces its value. Hauerwas is one of the most impressive (and readable) theologians of his generation who – like Walter Brueggemann – has spent much of his academic life calling the church back to be and to live the gospel it purports to proclaim. His work is frequently prophetic and uncomfortable. At its centre – with a consistency we could all emulate - is the radical and transforming character of Christ.
Hauerwas deserves to be heard. He might question your faith in the church, but he is more than likely to bring your faith in the gospel alive.
Reviewer: David Ford (09/08/14)