Jacob L. Goodson
Southwestern College

Special Issue Honoring Stanley Hauerwas

Stanley Hauerwas—now emeritus professor of theological ethics at Duke University—has spent his career defending Christian pacifism, identifying the idolatries that continue to capture the imagination of Christian laypersons, and reminding his readers of the significance of the virtues. He has directed several dissertations, and some of these students contribute a great amount to the Society of Scriptural Reasoning. He calls himself the “friend” of Peter Ochs. Hauerwas is the kind of scholar who agrees to write about what is requested of him by his friends.

For this reason, Hauerwas has contributed to the Society of Scriptural Reasoning on a few occasions. In 2002, Hauerwas presented and published “Pharaoh’s Hardened Heart: Some Christian Readings” in scriptural settings.[1] After the death of Daniel Hardy in 2007, Hauerwas presented on the importance of remembering Hardy’s theology—in particular, his work with Peter Ochs, David Ford, and the Society of Scriptural Reasoning. In the first issue that I edited, Hauerwas agreed to an interview with me on the topic of scripture and warfare.[2] In this conversation, Hauerwas gave the following warning about Scriptural Reasoning:

I think there is a danger in interpreting the work of Scriptural Reasoning in large “good guy terms” that doesn’t do justice to the significance of the practice itself. By “good guy terms,” I mean that we celebrate what wonderful people we are because we respect one another sufficiently to be reading scripture together in the same room. Such a perception is to give a humanistic and cosmopolitan narrative to the activity that I think betrays anyone who has been shaped by Peter [Ochs]’s understanding of scriptural reasoning.

Since this interview took place in my first volume to edit, I have treated Hauerwas’s words as a reminder that the electronic pages of the Journal of Scriptural Reasoning ought to be a place where we ensure that we do not fall into the temptations identified by Hauerwas for understanding Scriptural Reasoning. As a way to honor how Hauerwas’s words have guided me in my role as the general editor of this journal—and as a way to celebrate a career full of friendship, reading, and writing—I elected to dedicate this issue to Hauerwas’s work.

To dedicate and honor Hauerwas, I can hear him say, also requires recognizing his friends. While Peter Ochs brought Hauerwas into the world of Scriptural Reasoning, Hauerwas informs his readers over and over again that John Howard Yoder is the friend that taught Hauerwas how to read scripture. One instance of this is found in the interview he did for the Journal of Scriptural Reasoning: “[T]he role scripture plays in my own moral reasoning is really a question about the role of the work of Yoder in how I think…. I know [some say] I’m not appropriately ‘scriptural,’ but I often think that John did the basic exegetical work.” For these reasons, this volume extends the attention given to Hauerwas’s work and includes additional essays on his friends Ochs and Yoder.

In this volume, we offer readers four essays honoring the work of Stanley Hauerwas and two essays reflecting upon the Jewish-Christian schism through the lens of the engagement between Peter Ochs and John Howard Yoder. Daniel Reffner explores the impact of Aristotle’s philosophy on Hauerwas’s understanding of moral perfectionism, and Claire Partlowe investigates the relationship between Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lutheran theology and Hauerwas’s account of the significance of the liturgy for moral formation. Both of these essays are quite relevant in 2017: Reffner demonstrates the importance of moral communities in relation to one’s own quest for perfection, and Partlowe begins her essay by reflecting upon how Bonhoeffer’s and Hauerwas’s writings provide much wisdom for countering the anti-Semitism and racism defended and proclaimed in Charlottesville in 2017.

My essay makes explicit Hauerwas’s views on the discipline of philosophy. I started researching and writing this essay after I was hired at a United Methodist institution of higher education to serve as the lone philosophy professor. I wanted to know what the most famous United Methodist theologian thought my job was as a professor of philosophy at a United Methodist institution of higher education. The one part that surprised me the most, while writing the essay, is how Hauerwas connects the demands of philosophy with convincing people to be present with the poor and to help us see the poor “as beautiful.” The final essay honoring the work of Hauerwas is by Myles Werntz. Werntz’s essay provides a reply to Nicholas Healy’s “critical introduction” to Hauerwas’s work. Werntz helps reframe the discussion between Hauerwas and Healy in ways that will prove to be quite helpful for scriptural reasoners entering into this debate.

The Jewish philosopher and historian, Alan Levenson, and the early church historian, Carl Roemer throw their thoughts into the ring concerning the question of the Jewish-Christian schism. Because of the level of depth and the intensity of provocation found in the engagement between Ochs and Yoder on the Jewish-Christian schism, I am grateful to Levenson and Roemer for continuing this scholarly conversation.

Of course, extending honor from Hauerwas to Yoder does not come without complications. As we are in the midst of finding out about the horrible behavior of powerful men and their misconduct toward the boys, girls, and women over whom they have power, we must remember that Yoder remains on the list of American men who committed acts of sexual abuse. With candor and insight, Hauerwas has written about his friend and the women he (Yoder) abused.[3] In my judgment, the Christian ethicist and feminist theorist Karen V. Guth has written with the most wisdom on how to think of Yoder’s moral reasoning in light of his sexual behavior.[4] In a previous volume published by the Journal of Scriptural Reasoning, Guth also wrote on Yoder’s arguments concerning the Jewish-Christian schism and their relation to feminist theology.[5] In this issue, we extend “honor” to Yoder’s work because of his friendship with Hauerwas and Ochs’s deep and provocative engagement with Yoder on the Jewish-Christian schism. The reason for the quotation marks is that, in Yoder’s case, we cannot turn a blind-eye to his sexual misconduct as we continue to engage with his work.

The issue concludes with two book reviews. The first review is about a book published in the series co-edited by Hauerwas and Ochs: “Encountering Traditions.” The book is Francis X. Clooney’s His Hiding Place is Darkness: A Hindu-Catholic Theopoetics of Divine Absence, and Kenneth Valpey reviews it for our readers. The second review, by Sara Williams, concerns the most recent scholarly publication on forgiveness: Anthony Bash’s Forgiveness: A Theology.

We ask readers to join us in honoring the work of Stanley Hauerwas, and we hope that this issue serves as an invitation to turn or to return to the writings of Hauerwas in order to find the wisdom he offers in relation to the multiple difficulties we face in 2017.

A Word on Future Issues

In light of the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017, and now the visible and voluminous presence of neo-Nazism in the United States, we invite papers on philosophical and theological responses to Nazism. We are interested, especially, in the role that scripture plays in reflecting upon and thinking through the connections between Nazism and supersessionist Christianity. Also of interest are papers on key thinkers during the rise of Nazism in Germany and their relevance to us today. There is much scholarly debate concerning Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s response to Nazism, and we welcome papers explaining and making judgments on Bonhoeffer’s views concerning the proper response to Nazis and Nazism. Martin Buber is another key thinker during the rise of Nazism in Germany, and we welcome papers on what wisdom Buber offers us during our own time. Claire Partlowe’s essay in the present issue provides one possible model for what we want.

We also wish to dedicate a future issue to questions pertaining to the relationship between legal reasoning and Scriptural Reasoning. Quire recently, Gary S. Slater published an essay entitled “Scriptural Reasoning and the Ethics of Public Discourse,” which concludes with reflections on how Peter Ochs’s Peircean logic provides a framework for making sense of and moving beyond the binaries that plague the American legal system and public discourse about the law.[6] As a way to continue the conversation started by Slater, we welcome three types of submissions: (a) critical responses to Slater’s argument, (b) general reflections on the relationship between legal reasoning and Scriptural Reasoning, or (c) technical essays further exploring Peircean logic and its relation to legal reasoning.

Please write to me if you have submissions relating to the previous topics or if you have an essay or review relating to Scriptural Reasoning.


[1] Journal of Scriptural Reasoning 2, no. 2, (September 2002).
[2] See “A Conversation on War and Peace after Scriptural Reasoning,” Journal of Scriptural Reasoning 8, no. 1, (January 2009).
[3] See Hauerwas, “In Defence of ‘Our Respectable Culture’: Trying to Make Sense of John Howard Yoder’s Sexual Abuse,” [October 18, 2017]:
[4] See Guth, “Doing Justice to the Complex Legacy of John Howard Yoder: Restorative Justice Resources in Witness and Feminist Ethics,” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 35, no. 2, (2015): 119-139.
[5] See Guth, “The Feminist-Christian Schism Revisited,”  Journal of Scriptural Reasoning 13, no. 2, (November 2014).
[6] See Gary S. Slater, “Scriptural Reasoning and the Ethics of Public Discourse,” American Journal of Theology and Philosophy 38, nos. 2 & 3, (2017): 123-137.