skip to content

Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme


Democracy and the Politics of the Word

Dr. C.C. Pecknold
Catholic University of America

Scottish Journal of Theology 59:2 (April 2006)


Democracy and the Politics of the Word
Stout and Hauerwas on Democracy and Scripture





This article considers the recent book by Jeffrey Stout, Democracy & Tradition, as a response to the work of Stanley Hauerwas and other Christian ‘new traditionalists.’ The essay presents a brief overview of the book in order to ask questions of both Stout and Hauerwas. The author considers how ‘new traditionalists’ might respond to Stout with a theological concern for ‘participation’ in God’s triune life as a model for citizenship, recommending that the scriptures play a more central role in public, democratic discourse.

1. Democracy & Tradition

Like his Ethics after Babel (Beacon, 1988) and Flight from Authority (Notre Dame, 1982) before it, Jeffrey Stout’s latest book, Democracy & Tradition (Princeton, 2004), has become one of America’s most hotly debated books in theology and religion. This is partly due to Stout’s extraordinary talent for making every book he writes an intellectual event that galvanizes academic communities in debate around key issues. But it is also because with this installment, Stout significantly advances his own thought, and in the process makes a vital and historic contribution to debates about liberalism, democratic culture, and the role of religion in American public life. In an energetic public exchange between Stout, Richard Rorty, Cornel West, and Stanley Hauerwas at the 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Religion, hundreds and hundreds of academics crowded into a standing-room-only conference hall to hear Stout make his case for a ten-year truce between ‘liberals’ and ‘sectarians,’ a veritable cease-fire in the culture wars. You could have heard a pin drop.

Bemoaning the ‘stand-off between secular liberals and the new traditionalists,’ Stout writes Democracy & Tradition as a pragmatist seeking to repair both the problems of liberalism in Rawlsian conceptions of democracy, and the problems of sectarian withdrawal implicit in Hauerwasian theology, presenting his own distinctive understanding of liberal democracy in America as a via media. Stout appeals especially to ‘new traditionalists’ (MacIntyre, Milbank, Hauerwas), some of whom have claimed that liberal democracy is nothing other than an expression of secularism, and that ‘democracy undermines itself by destroying the traditional vehicles needed for transmitting the virtues from one generation to another.’ (12) Because new traditionalists believe that liberal democracy is bound up with secularism (a bad thing if it is a thing), Stout worries that the result will be sectarian withdrawal from democratic practices at a time when democracy needs all the help it can get. To counter this, Stout agrees with new traditionalists ‘that ethical and political reasoning are creatures of tradition and crucially depend on the acquisition of such virtues as practical wisdom and justice,’ and agrees with many of their critiques of liberalism, but disagrees with the automatic extension of these critiques to democracy. (11) Stout claims not only that democracy is not opposed to traditions, but that it ‘is a tradition,’ and more to the point, the democratic culture of this tradition is not exclusively secular, and never has been. (3)

Such a vision of democratic traditionalism is not dependent upon those thinkers such as John Rawls and Richard Rorty, who have described this tradition of liberal democracy in terms which exclude religious reasons from democratic discourse.1Like the new traditionalists, Stout disagrees with both of these proponents of liberal democracy. But rather than jettison liberal democracy, Stout makes a case for rooting this tradition in the antebellum thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson whose transcendentalist vision of American life partly inspired the classical pragmatists, and most notably for Stout, John Dewey, whose work provides the critical philosophy for the democratic tradition he envisions.

Stout’s first chapter is about recovering a sense of Emersonian ‘piety’ (which is meant to resonate as a virtue, akin to ‘faith’) while the second is about seeing that Emersonian sense of piety extended in a tradition of democracy that Stout inherits through the civil rights movement. Stout makes a very good, but nevertheless controversial case for his tradition of Emersonian democracy (Americans might expect John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton or Thomas Jefferson to play a more seminal role in the tradition of liberal democratic culture in America). His Emersonian tradition extends, with corrective pressure from Hegel, in the direction of the pragmatists, especially in the thought of John Dewey, who mediates between Emerson and Hegel. Stout shows, reminiscent of Cornel West, how this tradition is further extended and inhabited by those ‘two exemplary defenders of democratic ideals,’ both critics of ‘Black Nationalism,’ James Baldwin and Ralph Waldo Ellison. (44)

An important third chapter, ‘Religious Reasons in Political Argument,’ carefully critiques both the so-called secular liberals, those such as John Rawls who advocate the social contract tradition (from Plato to Hobbes to Locke and Rousseau) and Richard Rorty who excludes religious reasons from political argument because he thinks of religion as a ‘conversation-stopper.’ Stout’s critique of these two figures essentially legitimates new traditionalist worries about liberalism whilst retrieving a democratic tradition that can do justice to the expressive freedom of both liberals and traditionalists alike. Stout specifically argues that the way Rawls restricts the role religious reasons can play in public is actually undemocratic, and is an ‘extremely counterintuitive’ move which ‘seems so contrary to the spirit of free expression that breathes life into democratic culture.’ (68) Stout rightly rejects the Rawlsian search for ‘a common justificatory basis of principles’ which all ‘reasonable citizens’ can accept. What he proposes instead is reframing the question about religion’s role in the terms of an ‘expressive freedom’ (the freedom to express any and every cultural-linguistic particularity in political argument) which can transform political arrangements through conversation, through a democratic exchange of reasoning across difference towards an ‘ever-evolving end.’ A ‘reasonable citizen’ for Stout counts as anyone who ‘participates responsibly in [this] process of discursive reasoning.’ (82) Stout’s criticisms and constructive solutions amount to a renewed vision of democratic culture in America in which ‘diverse coalitions and equally full expression of differences remain possible’ in a public conversation that mixes normed discourse and improvisational, ‘ad hoc immanent criticism in overcoming momentary impasses.’ (90-91)

This is followed by an over-vigilant engagement with Milbank in chapter four, citing Milbank only at his worst in order to point out the self-defeating strategies embedded in his fear and resentment of the secular. But Milbank’s work seems more instrumental to his critique of MacIntyre in chapter five, and especially Hauerwas, to whom the charge of ‘sectarian,’ despite all protest, most often sticks. In these chapters, Stout takes Hauerwas to task, for his rhetoric against ‘liberals’ and especially for his rhetoric against liberal theories of ‘justice,’ which Stout believes only encourages Christian neo-conservatives to support unjust and undemocratic political ideologies. Stout believes that Hauerwas has underestimated ‘the extent to which his heavy-handed use of the term “liberalism” as an all-purpose critical instrument continually reinforces the impression that total rejection is in fact required. This, I believe, is what keeps the charge of sectarianism alive.’ (148) Why does Hauerwas do this? Stout thinks it is Hauerwas’ unique blend of MacIntyre’s anti-liberalism with the church-world distinction of John Howard Yoder, and it is MacIntyre who doesn’t belong in the picture. ‘The main effect that MacIntyre’s traditionalism has had on Hauerwas’s thinking is to hinder the possibility of taking Yoder’s “politics of Jesus” where he had once wanted to take it. For he seems no longer to be moving in the direction of world-engaging conversation about the biblical injunction to build communities—ecclesial, familial, and national—in which justice and peace visibly embrace.’ (154) What Stout would like Hauerwas to become is the Barthian pragmatist who is able to fix this problem, and Stout finds much within Hauerwas that provides such resources, especially from his early work and in his most recent.

Throughout the twelve chapters of the book, Stout brings Hauerwas into conversation and sometimes conflict with Christian voices that are meant to put corrective pressure on him. Theologians past and present, such as Augustine, Karl Barth, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Howard Yoder, George Hunsinger, and Nicholas Wolterstorff are called upon in a case built to force Hauerwas to change his rhetoric, to come to terms with his political responsibilities, and to enter into world-engaging conversation about the wisdom of the scriptures. Though it is doubtless the case that students of Emerson, Whitman, Dewey, Rawls and Rorty have much to learn from these pages, it is difficult to read the book without getting the sense that it was primarily written to impact readers most influenced by and interested in the new traditionalists generally, and Hauerwas specifically. The implication is that there is more at stake politically in mobilizing theologians to engage in such debates than is widely assumed. Stout brings a vision of democracy that tries to be neither utopian nor minimalist, but Romantic and pragmatic. Emersonian piety extends through Dewey’s ‘common faith,’ which grounded that piety in a hard won, post-Civil War vision of democracy that is philosophically pragmatic and practical in finding responsible solutions to the urgent problems of life together.2 What makes Stout’s ‘secular-and-religious,’ postliberal vision of democracy all the more interesting is the way he believes that this Emersonian tradition can be strangely yet truly allied to an Augustinian (and Barthian) biblically- shaped political vision in a coalition that can guard against the unraveling of democracy in a post-9/11, militantly imperial, America.

This dialectical alliance, between the Emersonian and Augustinian democrat is intended to put political pressure on new traditionalists. It is actually a form of high praise for new traditionalist theologians because implicit in Stout’s book is the hope that theology is integral to solving the problems that America currently faces. The book is provocative not only because Stout calls intellectuals to take responsibility for the public realm (‘wherever two or more are gathered’), but because he holds theologians publicly responsible for solving the most urgent problems facing American democratic culture today.

2. Questions for Stout on Democracy & Tradition

The book is eloquently written, embodying the best rhetorical habits of his tradition. It is clear, frequently inspiring, and makes a great deal of sense. He effectively sets himself, and a few select theologians, as the middle way through the Scylla and Charybdis of ‘Liberals and Sectarians.’ I am genuinely enthused about the potential of this book to generate urgently needed conversation about democracy and religion today. I am still, however, left with questions about his argument, several of which are worth recounting here.

2.1 Rawlsian Residue?

Stout wins the award for being the Church’s best secular ally in America. He argues for a religious-and-secular alliance that leads to heightened respect for particularity and difference rather than the kind of Rawlsian liberalism that insisted on a neutral public space. But there is a residual Rawls deep within Stout’s argument that new traditionalists will quickly identify.3 For example, disruptive tensions can be seen when he simultaneously claims that democracy does not necessarily exclude theological voices and that it will be ‘imprudent’ in ‘most contexts’ to make this reasoning explicit. (98) Stout says that it’s practically unwise to use theological presuppositions ‘in an argument intended to persuade a religiously diverse population.’ (99) But elsewhere he says ‘I would encourage religiously committed citizens...[to express] their premises in as much depth and detail as they see fit when trading reasons with the rest of us on issues of concern to the body politic. If they are discouraged from speaking up this way, we will remain ignorant of the real reasons that many of our fellow citizens have for reaching some of the ethical and political conclusions they do...’ (64) Exactly so. Then why will it be ‘imprudent’ in ‘most contexts’? Though Stout gives many very encouraging signs to the contrary, I suspect that he has not entirely overcome those dangers of Rawlsian liberalism that make ‘liberalism’ a pejorative term for theologians like Hauerwas.

2.2 A Living Tradition?

Tradition can be theoretically constructed by cultural elites, and can be used in the public exchange of reasons that Stout hopes for without having much basis in the lives of non- elites. Stout is aware of this, and is careful to show how the Emersonian tradition touches down in critiques of Black Nationalism, and in the Civil Rights Movement. Though Emersonian democracy is clearly a ‘conversation extended through time,’4 I have my doubts as to the strength of this tradition as it is lived. I suppose that Stout may have these doubts too, and that doubt wouldn’t take a thing away from the case he makes for it. He is on the right road, but there is much more to say about the tradition he inhabits, if he inhabits it. For example, Stout may need to reach for a philosophically richer diet than Emerson and Dewey. Behind Emerson there are British influences like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose work is barely mentioned in his account of the Emersonian tradition (Emerson democratizes ‘the Burkean Romanticism of Coleridge and Wordsworth,’ 107), and I wonder how much more complicated Stout’s tradition would become had it not cut itself off from other significant foreign voices like the French observer of American democratic culture, Alexis de Tocqueville, who defended the role of religion in democracy. But my philosophical worries about Stout’s account of this democratic tradition are offset by ethnographic worries. I would like to know: Who inhabits this Emersonian tradition today? What sort of lives do they lead? Meeting the challenge that his tradition may only be inhabited by a particular elite would require Stout to point to more actual (and non-elite) social practices in order to strengthen and maybe also complicate his case.

2.3 To the Left, or the Right?

New traditionalists receive much of their inspiration for their critique of liberalism from the Left; in fact, from the Marxists. If new traditionalist critiques of liberalism are already critiques from the Left, how are these to be understood as doing favours for the Right? Is there any basis for believing that a correction of Hauerwas will actually have any impact on “the Religious Right” in America? Though I wish it were true, I wonder if Stout has overestimated the influence Hauerwas has in this regard.5 The very fact that Hauerwas can no longer serve on the editorial board of the neo-conservative journal of religion and public life, First Things, indicates that Hauerwas’ pacifist politics are not, in any case, acceptable to the Right precisely because they appear too much towards the Left (though, it might be said that it doesn’t take much to move to the Left of those Straussian neo-conservatives who, despite attempts to appear centrist, are anything but).6 That both Stout and Hauerwas were both raised on radical sixties politics, and most likely vote the same way, makes the Left-Right discussions all the more puzzling.

2.4 A Raft of Hope?

The tradition of liberal democracy does have resources for the critique of power; Stout ably shows this. But does this tradition, on Stout’s account, offer citizens the grounds for real hope? Stout talks about a ‘raft of hope,’ which is meant to mitigate the utopian tendencies of his tradition with a modest pragmatism. But is this ‘raft of hope,’ bound together in an ad hoc way, with rope and twine, the basis for the kind of hope that, as Saint Paul puts it, will not disappoint? It is tempting to suggest, at least for this writer, that Stout himself charitably believes that real hope will come from the theologians.

3. Questions for Hauerwas on Democracy & Tradition

Stout does not so much critique Hauerwas as ask him to be more consistent, more explicit about his politics, and more careful with his rhetoric. On the whole I believe Hauerwas is a force for good in the world, and Stout does too, which is why he seems to address the book primarily to his readers. Nevertheless, Stout’s book intends to raise questions for readers of Hauerwas. Here are mine:

3.1 Yoder, Barth, or the Return to Scripture?

Stout’s book seems to ask Hauerwas to make some theological choices beyond the anomaly of Hauerwas’ MacIntyre-Yoder amalgam. For example, Stout seems to suggest that much turns upon Hauerwas’ ambivalence, fear, and complacency towards the State, which appears to become a theological choice between Yoder and Barth.7 Yoder was a student of Barth, and had a unique Anabaptist interpretation of his work that Barth never personally objected to (nor publicly affirmed). The question that remains for me is one that Stout raises but doesn’t answer, because I think only Hauerwas can: must Hauerwas choose between Barth and Yoder? Stout wants Hauerwas to look more Reformed, more like Hunsinger, more like Augustinians and Barthians, but I am not sure that this is the question I would want to ask Hauerwas. I would rather ask Hauerwas questions about Scripture than to force him to make choices between theologians. All of these theologians are, of course, important, but they are important because they were deeply biblical in their reasoning. I suspect that rather than pressing hard against the limits of these thinkers in relation to each other, Hauerwas might do better by doing more of the kind of biblical reasoning that they did. Could thinking out-loud, in conversation with others, about Amos, or Job, or Isaiah, or the Gospels or St Paul in relation to the problems of civil society (sin, injustice, violence, terror) contribute new dimensions to Hauerwas’ already distinctive voice?

3.2 Which Pragmatist?

Stout’s book also seems to ask Hauerwas to make some philosophical choices. Stout would be very pleased if his account encouraged a more critical stance toward MacIntyre, and a more appreciatively pragmatic approach. Here the choice seems to be between MacIntyre and some sort of pragmatism. Stout prefers Dewey, and Hauerwas has recently stated sympathies with William James; but is this sufficient? Doesn’t Hauerwas need a pragmatist who can grant him the MacIntyrean points about community and tradition-constituted reasoning, and enable him to ground his pragmatism in theological and biblical reasoning? Do the philosophical arguments of Peter Ochs concerning the theo-semiotic and scriptural roots of Charles Peirce’s thought offer Hauerwas a way forward, taking up but moving beyond Stout’s philosophical solutions? How different would Hauerwas’ work look if MacIntyre were supplemented with Peirce, and if the scripturally pragmatic dimension took a more central role in his work? Hauerwas needs a pragmatism that is theologically grounded in revelation, that is, a pragmatism that neither James nor Dewey can fully provide. It may be that none of the classical pragmatists will be sufficient, but Peirce offers better tools for dealing with communities of interpretation than do the others.8

3.3 Whither Divine Justice?

Hauerwas is not against the practice of justice but famously writes, quite misleadingly but with considerable rhetorical force, that ‘justice is a bad idea for Christians.’9 In the ancient church, with theologians such as Augustine, there was a strong critique of rhetoric. Augustine believed that rhetoric was a ‘chair of lies,’ that it misleads, and threatens to do violence to the truth. But he also believed in such a thing as rhetorical wisdom. Confessions would not have attracted generations of readers across the centuries had it not been both rhetorically powerful and wise. The aim of such rhetorical wisdom is, of course, to instruct, to persuade, and above all, to tell the truth about Jesus Christ. There is no doubt that Hauerwas’ most provocative statements about justice have been rhetorically powerful (though if he’s not in it ‘to win,’ then why should powerful rhetoric matter?); but has Hauerwas been wise to take a stand against justice? Has this rhetorical strategy, even with qualification, been a truthful one? I would have preferred Hauerwas to have said with the prophet Isaiah, ‘justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us...truth stumbles in the public square, and uprightness cannot enter.’ (Is. 59.9,14) Surely Rawls’ theory of justice (and possibly Stout’s) sits uneasily with theological accounts of justice. But once this critique of such theories of justice is made, do not Christians have a responsibility to repair such broken ways of reasoning about justice? Is it not wiser to provide for the world ‘thicker’ descriptions of the justice that Christians know in Jesus Christ? Do not the Scriptures overflow with the language of justice? Could Stout’s book be an occasion for Hauerwas to become the prophet who sees that justice is not a bad idea, but that it is far from us, and that this displeases God?

3.4 Might Hauerwas Surprise Us Yet Again?

Stout recognizes what Hauerwas has long claimed, that the church has its own politics. Hauerwas has made this argument in myriad and surprising ways, and there is always the sense that this most unsystematic of theologians could surprise us again, without contradicting himself. Without assuming that the church can ‘fix everything,’ or in Hauerwas words, without ‘being in it to win,’ could it be that part of the politics of the enduring church is to take its responsibility for the ‘religious-and-secular’ public seriously? Is it possible for Hauerwas to develop a non-sectarian, postliberal, pacifist vision of the theological good that serves the neighbor in ways that are not only prophetic, but also pragmatic, and priestly, and even kingly?

4. Democracy and the Politics of the Word

Stout makes much of the 1934 Barmen Declaration which was mostly written by Karl Barth, and was, coincidentally, published the same year as John Dewey’s A Common Faith. Stout is clearly right to turn to Barth for inspiration in solving present problems. Each of Barmen’s six articles are headed by a New Testament text. The declaration begins with the confession that ‘Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear, and which we have to trust and obey in life and death,’ and has at it’s heart a scriptural reasoning about the divine responsibility of the State for ‘maintaining justice and peace.’ Barth rejects that ‘the State should and could become the sole and total order of human life and so fulfil the vocation of the Church as well,’ and he rejects that ‘the Church should and could take on the nature, tasks and dignity which belong to the State and thus become an organ of the State.’10

If Stout really wants Hauerwas to chose this Barth over Yoder, then Scripture should become much more central to this debate. For what is really at stake in Stout’s desire to ‘correct’ Hauerwas is an implicit debate over the interpretation of Scripture, and its place in the conversation. Most striking to me, however, is the juxtaposition of Stout’s ambiguous account of the demise of Scripture in public discourse (93-97), and his paean to Barth’s 1934 Barmen Declaration, which is nothing if not the making public of the logic of scripture for a listening public (a church public to be sure, but a church public that is for other publics).11

So why does Stout seem laudatory about Augustine and Barth, yet ambiguous about the place of Scripture? As I noted above, Stout is occasionally guilty of residual Rawlsian tendencies and I suspect that his account of the demise of Scripture as a public discursive authority is ambiguous because he is unsure as to whether it will be prudent to bring Scripture into the discussion. Stout usually argues as a postliberal thinker who insists upon bringing the deepest internal reasons of a particular tradition to the public exchange of reasoning. If he were consistent, then Scripture would need to come much more to the fore of his account. Emerson and the pragmatists all derived intellectual inspiration from Scripture, and Stout himself does too. At the AAR Stout invoked the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘that we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,’ a public proclamation of Amos 5.24 that has had enormous pragmatic and political impact.12

Stout’s praise of Barth’s Barmen Declaration means that the demise of Scripture in public discourse is not a good thing. Clearly, Scripture will not provide common discursive authority (by Scripture I mean those scriptures that are authoritative for practicing religious communities, such as the Tanakh, the Bible, and the Quran). But Stout’s argument actually justifies a return to Scripture in public debate on the grounds of the ‘expressive freedom’ that he argues for. His argument calls religious traditionalists to return to their deepest reasons, which implicitly means to their scriptures and the interpretive traditions generated by them. Stout’s real service to religious traditionalists may be to call for a revival in communal scriptural reasoning about public life, not as the discursive authority, but as a normed and improvisational discourse which ‘makes public’ the deepest reasons internal to the great religions.

The communal reading of Scripture itself generates traditions, whole cultures, and even, nations which act politically. The importance of sacred texts in the exchange of public reasoning is neglected by Stout as a source that is capable of interrogating and intervening in the transformation of politics as usual. Could it be that democracy has gone badly in recent years precisely because we have excluded just such sources of wisdom from public debate? Could it be that democracy is not as healthy today because some theorists have cut it off from those sources that genuinely have not only the authority and capacity for the critique of power, but also the grounds for real political hope? Stout’s book helps us to think carefully about the church’s responsibility for the world, and for the frameworks which enable it to flourish. I will continue to maintain a residual worry that ‘Liberalism,’ as a tradition, may not be as liberating and progressive as it hopes if it does not return to those biblical axioms which it defined itself against.13 But Stout does much to alleviate such worries, and does even more to generate much needed conversation about Christian participation in liberal democracy. Theologians— new traditionalist or otherwise—owe him a great debt of gratitude.


[1] Christopher Eberle critiques this as ‘justificatory liberalism’ in Religious Conviction in Liberal Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). Eberle’s book has the advantage of touching down on concrete issues; and he explores why the epistemological work of Nicholas Wolterstorff (a theologian that Stout also commends) matters to these debates.

[2] Stout improves upon Dewey, e.g., by supplementing his notion of ‘warranted assertability’ with a ‘non- relativist account of moral truth,’ combined with ‘a contextualist account of justification.’ (see 240ff) Though it still displaces metaphysics from such discussion, this is a genuine advance on Dewey which would need to be addressed by readers tempted to dismiss Stout as relativistic or naively Deweyan.

[3] This comes through particularly in his use of Robert Brandom, a kinder, gentler version of John Rawls, for whom “deontic scorekeeping” can somehow determine the imprudence of certain religious pronouncements in the public sphere.

[4] This is one of MacIntyre’s definitions of tradition in Whose Justice, Which Rationality? (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989), 12.

[5] Though the attention of Time magazine, dubbing Hauerwas “America’s Best Theologian,” makes such a view tempting, Stout overestimates the influence that Hauerwas has. Theological pluralism being what it has always been, it is not the case that Hauerwas is the most influential voice in American seminaries and divinity schools, the theological plumbline for the next generation of church leaders. Would that it were true: America might become a nobler embodiment of itself, restrained in its use of violence, gaining valuable political wisdom from its churchly citizens. Unfortunately, Hauerwas probably has no influence upon the neo-conservative wing of ‘the Republican Party and the Fox News Network’ that Stout hopes might be impacted if Hauerwas changed his tune on justice and liberal democracy. (296)

[6] See Hauerwas’ rebuttal to the First Things editorial ‘In a Time of War’ (December 2001) in which he comes ‘Out of the Silence’ to part ways with the journal over their response to the American war on terror.

[7] In his first written response to Stout, his postscript to Performing the Faith, Hauerwas cites approvingly a letter from Rusty Reno who claims that Hauerwas’ biggest problem is his inordinate fear of America. Painfully aware of the dangers of Christian idolatry towards the State he is always at risk of turning anxieties about the idolatrous love of nation into an unhealthy fear of nation (itself a kind of negative idolatry). Hauerwas thinks this might well be a critique that hits closer to home.

[8] See Peter Ochs’ ‘On Hauerwas’ With the Grain of the Universe’ and Hauerwas’ response to Ochs in Modern Theology 19:1 (January 2003) pp 77-101 which begs for more from Hauerwas on the fruitfulness of Peirce for his work; also, on the side of commending Peirce to Stout as well, see Robert Brandom, Making it Explicit: Reasoning, Representing and Discursive Commitment (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 289, where Peirce figures prominently in his reading of the Frege-Wittgenstein-Sellars tradition.

[9] See After Christendom? (Nashville: Abingdon, 1991), 45, where Hauerwas writes ‘justice is a bad idea for Christians.’ Stout’s entire book can be read a productive engagement with this single claim, and its implications.

[10] Citations of the Barmen Declaration from Douglas S. Bax, ‘The Barmen Theological Declaration: A New Translation,’ Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 47, 1984; idem. The Practice of Theology: A Reader, (Eds). Colin E. Gunton, Stephen R. Holmes and Murray A Rae (London: SCM, 2001) pp. 133-135.

[11] Stout comes to this high view of Barmen through George Hunsinger, for whom Barth is not anti-secular, but committed ‘to a definite program of progressive politics consistent with orthodox Christian doctrine. Hunsinger argues that a similarly bold progressive politics is required of Christians today if they wish to avoid the idolatry of American power he believes to be at work in Neuhaus’s writings,’ Democracy & Tradition, 108. What Stout misses, but neither Barth nor Hunsinger do, is the extent to which the politics proceeds from their reading of Scripture.

[12] Stout notes the influence of Augustine and Aquinas on King, and the personalist philosophy he learned in Boston (see 241); but he neglects the impact of Scripture, indeed of Amos, an Israelite prophet, on King’s most rhetorically powerful and politically effective speech. The practice-transforming performance of Scripture in public is what makes figures such as Augustine, Barth, and Martin Luther King, Jr. so politically powerful. There may well be a direct relationship between the place of Scripture in public debate and the power to transform political practices. Cf. Paul Babitts, Knowing That One Day We Will Be Free: Reading Karl Barth's Theology in America, Unpublished PhD Dissertation, University of Virginia (2001) and David Chappel, A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow (University of North Carolina Press, 2003).

[13] See Pierre Manent’s provocative call for a return to theological politics in An Intellectual History of Liberalism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994); also see The City of Man (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998).

Latest news

New Publication: Theologies of Reading (Special Issue of CounterText)

28 April 2021

Theologies of Reading: Positions and Responses , the new issue of CounterText , edited by Laura McCormick Kilbride, Simone Kotva and Ruth Jackson Ravenscroft, has been published.

Evans-Pritchard Lectures 2021 to be given by Dr Marlene Schäfers

28 April 2021

Dr Marlene Schäfers will be giving the prestigious Evans-Pritchard Lectures at the University of Oxford this year. The lecture series is titled ‘Voices that Matter: Kurdish Women and the Dilemmas of Representation in Contemporary Turkey’ and will take place at 5.00 pm, via the Teams platform, on 13 May, 20 May and 27 May and 3 June 2021.

International Symposium 'The Khidr Dialogues: Leaps of Faith, Religious Encounters and Shared Sacred Landscapes' & Photo Exhibition on Sacred Landscapes

21 April 2021

CIP is delighted to invite you to the international symposium 'The Khiḍr Dialogues: Leaps of Faith, Religious Encounters & Shared Sacred Landscapes ' on 6 May 2021...