Interaction with Hauerwas: Initial hypothesis and issues related to Christian pacifism

I have begun to read War and the American Difference by Stanley Hauerwaus (PhD, Yale University) who is currently serving as the Gilbet T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke University. I picked this book because my mom gave it to me for Christmas (thanks mom).  I have other books on this subject, but they are by more recognizable pacifists.  They were avoided because i am reading this while in uniform at an army base while doing things like this:


In my role as a chaplain candidate.  Dr. Hauerwaus was kind enough to put dog tags on the cover of his book, so i blend right in!

Dr Hausewaus (or “Stan” as i will be referring to him for the remainder of this post) contends that War is an essential element of the American ethos and a major component of our national identity.  He also will be arguing that the Christian faith demands an approach of pacifism which (i am assuming at this point in my reading) means that Christians must abstain from the professional and societal support of the American military.

I do not (at least not yet) agree with Stan

My initial hypothesis on this subject is as follows:

The moral accountability concerning military engagement by a state belongs to all of the state’s citizens, not exclusively to its warrior class.  Furthermore, i contend that the profession of arms is a legal profession with at least as much biblical validation as a number of various secular professions which the Church (rightly, I believe) encourages its members to participate in for the construction/maintenance of society.  As such a profession,  the profession of arms must be subject to the greater narrative of Christ, the Christian Faith, and the Church for each military participant belonging to the Church.

there are many places to go from here, i will test a few of them but i must warn that the order of topics will be in no way systematic.

Edit: there are many topics that i would like to address concerning Christian pacifism vs. military participation and i understand that my hypothesis requires much more explanation.  tonight i will limit myself to one explanation and one interaction with Stan

What on earth do i mean my “biblical validation” ?

answer: not much here.  only that i find no major critique of the profession of arms in scripture.  The ancient world and the world of the New Testament was one where a warrior class existed and was present nearly everywhere.  Instead of a condemnation of this class, it is the profession from which the first gentile convert comes.   I think that the book of Daniel provides us with few archetypal examples of God’s people involvement in the state-established profession of arms and conveniently avoids the “theocracy” objection raised so often when discussing the Old Testament.

Please notice that i have not and will not attempt a biblical validation based on the uniqueness of the American experiment or the special election of the United States by God to execute His will  on earth through might. I am willing to hear an argument for the existence of such a rationale, but can not, in my present state, begin to think of how it could possibly be constructed.  I believe that my contention is both easier to defend, and deals a heavier blow to pacifism by validating the profession of arms in the same manner that other professions which contribute to the construction/maintenance of society are validated.

Semantics don’t settle an argument, they define it.

Stan writes this on page 26 “it is by no means clear that you can fight a just war against terrorism.  If one of the crucial conditions of a just war is for the war to have an end, then the war against terrorism clearly cannot be just because it is a war without end.

Here he attempts to demonstrate that the war on terror is unjust in one sentence by defining someone else’s term for him.  I have heard similar argument from amateur-level and professional  reformed theologians who believe that they have defeated someone’s  ‘heretical’ Arminianism  by procuring their assent to the fact that God is sovereign.  Such an argument has won nothing and amounts to nothing more than a sophomoric, semantic trick useful only on youth-group kids.

Stan equates “end” with a cessation of hostilities where the just-war theorist who proposes this condition meant (or at least should have meant) “end” as synonymous with goal or the Greek word telos.   a possible telos to the war on terror would be the defense of non-combatants (to include military personnel not engaged in official or de facto combative operations i.e. ‘war.’)  so long as terrorist operations remain on the offensive (i am not saying that they are, only that such a action would meet just-war criteria)  then a cessation is not necessary to meet this condition of just-war, only a fulfillment of the telos – the defense of non-combatants.

please tell me what you think–

Leave a comment

Introducing: patristoration

Welcome to patristoration it is a blog run by me:

I’m the guy standing on the table


“patristoration” is a smash up of the words “patristics” and “restoration.” It was chosen because my favorite area for study and discussion is the restoration of patristic tenor and content in modern theology.  Many of my posts will not relate directly to these areas, but they will generally concern theology, history, or ethics; all of which i hope will be thoroughly informed by the patristic ethos and writings.  At some point i will try provide a rationale for regarding patristic thought so highly

What to expect:

I am a seminary student and i go back and forth between reading things that i am profoundly interested in and things that i could not care less about.  For this reason posts may be sporadic.  I will not keep an outline of subjects and points to cover.  Instead, i will only post when i am caught up in a particular issue, writing, or social event.  This means that i will always be profoundly interested in thinking critically about each subject addressed in this blog and eagerly desire the criticism, correction, or confrontation from readers.

My Goal:

Here, i will be attempting to hammer out my thoughts on various topics of interest.  I hope to turn my own vague clouds of mental discourse into concretized first-steps in the learning process.   In doing so, i hope to attract the interaction of my 1.5 friends who may be (moderately-at-best) interested in taking the time to read the things that i write.