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TNT: Hauerwas and the Evangelicals Johnboy Sylvest says: September 2, 2011 at 4:31 am Many times, when it comes to issues regarding governance, whether in political statecraft or church polity, it will seem to me that we are not so much dealing with theoretical differences vis a vis our essentialistic ideals but more so with practical differences in strategies regarding their existential realization. For example, classical liberalism might be reconceived as a pragmatic critique of anarchism, for “limited governance” does not compete with “no governance” as a theoretical ideal but, rather, as a practical accommodation to human finitude and sinfulness. If we were angels, we would require and could justify no governance. In the same way, when we employ distributist and redistributist strategies (e.g. antitrust laws & social safety nets or entitlements), it needn’t imply classical liberalism’s theoretical capitulation to the social democratic critique but may, instead, simply represent the creative tensions playing out in our practical application of subsidiarity principles. What has often gotten in the way, seems to me, is the introduction of distinctions that do not and therefore should not make a difference, whether grounded in the overly optimistic and rationalistic metaphysics of the (often) catholic analogical imagination or the overly pessimistic and biblically fundamentalistic anthropology of the (often) protestant dialectical imagination. To say this concretely, there is no, so to speak, “religious” epistemology or “theological” anthropology. In a radically incarnational and profusely pneumatological interpretive stance toward reality, epistemology is epistemology is epistemology and anthropology is anthropology is anthropology. And, best we can tell, thus far, they are evolutionary. We are neither angels nor demons but animals. Among the animals we are differentiated as the symbolic species (call it ensoulment if you must) and thus enjoy an unparalleled degree of freedom (call it inspirited if you like), which is love’s very horizon. And, as if that were not true enough, beautiful enough and good enough, we’ve been “interrupted” with some very Good News to which both individuals and peoples can only respond in developmentally-appropriate ways. Through our evolutionary epistemology and anthropology, it has been revealed (by the Spirit, no less?) that an emergentist perspective is indispensable and must be brought to bear on our practical responses to this Good News (ecclesiastically, evangelically, catechetically, liturgically, etc) as well as our theoretical reformulations and inculturations (theological, Christological, pneumatological, soteriological, eschatological, etc). And this will inevitably invite a plurality of expressions, a diversity of ministries and a great variety of spiritualities while, at the same time, advancing our singular unitive mission. In the Hauerwasian Spirit of offering a gratuitous provocations: 1) It may well be that, other than being an implicit rather than explicit response to the Spirit, the secular, itself, has often comprised a distinction without a difference vis a vis the religious (historically, culturally, socially, economically & politically). 2) Humankind has always fancied itself as progressing 1


theoretically from one school or system to the next when, mostly, it has bumbled and fumbled practically from one method or strategy to the next. Most of its modernist, postmodernist, liberal, orthodox, radically orthodox & other “schools� have issued forth from an unconsciously competent semiotic pragmatism that corrects our inveterate overand under-emphases (except, of course, for us consciously competent but contritely fallible Peirceans). ;) I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series.

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semiotic pragmatist theologians