Hauerwas, Rolling Stone, and Mars Hill

It is probably because I’m reading Resident Aliens again, but I keep hearing Stanley Hauerwas when I’m reading other things.

For instance, this Christianity Today piece on this Rolling Stone article about the sex lives and norms of Millennials strikes me as something straight out of Hauerwas. (BTW, read the Rolling Stone piece and tell me again how polyamory is not something the church needs to be able to talk about.)

The gist of the CT piece is the author’s shock at the sexual norms of Millennials followed by the realization that advocating for conventional biblical sexual norms will either be drowned out or will drive people away from the church. Instead, the author comes to realize, all that talk about what to do with our private parts is intended not for the pagan culture outside the church but for those inside the church trying to live a new people.

From the records we have, we can deduce that Paul talked about sex with people who were already within a church community. He didn’t stand up on Mars Hill in Athens and preach about immorality. He told the story of Jesus, the one who rose from the dead. He didn’t argue about “lifestyle issues” with pagans. If he argued about anything, it was about grace and truth and love. And then he told the story of Jesus again. (See Acts 13, and Acts 17 for two examples.)

Of course Paul writes plenty about sex, but again, he does so to people in Christian communities and he almost always does so in the context of whole-life change. Sex is one moral issue amidst a host of others. Paul assumes that for these Christians to change—whether in what they eat or who they sleep with or how they talk or anything else—Paul assumes change will be radical, positive, and ongoing. He assumes it will only happen with the help of the Spirit, in the context of Christian community, and only as they grow up in the knowledge and love of Christ.

Christian speech is only intelligible inside the community called church. This sounds a lot like Hauerwas to me.

The writer concludes that she should not speak of biblical morality at all outside the church community. I’m not convinced that is the right approach.

I’m certainly not advocating getting on a soap box and screaming “fornicators!” at people on the street. But there is something to be said, I think, for the claim that Jesus Christ is Lord and he offers something that all the sexual exploits in the world cannot. When Paul stood up in Athens, he did not shy away from saying he knew something about God that all their searching and striving had missed.

We should never be smug. To be a Christian is to be humble and meek. But I don’t think we want to hide the holiness of Jesus Christ under a basket.

I could be argued out of this thought. What do you think?


6 thoughts on “Hauerwas, Rolling Stone, and Mars Hill

  1. One of the most challenging things I see is discerning between those “inside” and “outside” of the Kingdom. How does witnessing to holiness look to someone outside of xian community? I feel like we often assume the soapbox mentality.

    1. I certainly don’t want to do that, but I also don’t want to pretend that being a Christian puts no demand on our lives.

      1. Agreed. I think it’s a slow process to develop relationships with others and for them to allow us to speak into their lives (as opposed to being in the moral high seat of authority). I’m a millennial with friends who are heavily entrenched in the issues outlined by that Rolling Stone article, so your reflections on this topic means a lot to me. So far these relationships have involved a lot of listening and patience. There have been a few instances of being invited deeper into their lives (and likewise sharing my convictions about x/y/z). There has been some transformation, too. I don’t believe I’ve “watered down” anything but it can be challenging overall.

        1. It is not only those outside the church that do not understand.
          When is the last time welcoming praise came from inside the church if and when the church is reminded they must “Be Holy”.
          Leviticus 20:26
          And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.
          Something Aaron’s sons forgot.

      2. Luther known to speak his mind and clearly state his case advises:
        10…it is our duty to teach men to purge out the old leaven; we must tell them they are not Christians, but devoid of the faith, when they yield to the wantonness of the flesh and willfully persevere in sin against the warning of conscience. We should teach that such sins are so much the more vicious and damnable when practiced under the name of the Gospel, under cover of Christian liberty; for that is despising and blaspheming the name of Christ and the Gospel: and therefore such conduct must be positively renounced and purged out, as irreconcilable with faith and a good conscience.

        28. To the leaven of malice and of wickedness, Paul opposes the leaven of sincerity and truth. To be sincere is to live and act in an upright Christian way, prompted by a faithful, godly heart, a heart kindly disposed to all and meditating wrong and injury to none; and to deal as you would be dealt with. To be true is to refrain from false and crafty dealing, from deceit and roguery, and to teach and live in probity and righteousness according to the pure Word of God. Truth and sincerity must prevail and be in evidence with Christians, who have entered upon a relation and life altogether new; they should celebrate the new Easter festival by bringing faith and doctrine and life into accord with it.

        Sermon for Easter Sunday; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
        Church Postil of 1540.


  2. “He didn’t argue about “lifestyle issues” with pagans”
    True but… Paul did argue with former pagans inside the church who did not understand the difference between immorality and immoral practice in the church. Paul does explain where freedom begins and ends in the Christian Church.
    Other, who followed Paul, did argue (The Apologies) with the pagan and compare secular practice with Christian practice. Christian practice being the superior of the two.

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