The Virtue of Justice

From an excellent paper Symposium where Hauerwas responds to two accusations of being “sectarian” , and squarely confronts the issue of how justice-qua-justice differs from justice as located in the church:

the fact that I have doubts about the existence of any universal theory of justice does not mean that I think the church should avoid attempts to articulate concretely how this or that society should respond to the widow, the orphan, and the ill. What is needed, however, is not a theory of justice to secure that, but a people with the virtue of justice developed through the training of being part of a good community.

Yet another truth that is exemplified for me by The Church of the Saviour,  and their Journey Inward/Journey Outward emphasis and structure.  Their missions and outreach and “justice-making” is directly derived from their formation , and so becomes a part of the “justice” seeking for them.  It is not in the ‘taking up’ of some ’cause’ that has been predefined for them by the political discussions of the day,  but comes about as the needs of the world and the Kingdom of God contrast creates a calling ,  which results in specific missions driven by a band of called persons devoted to one another’s journeys that call them to such a mission and sustain and shape that mission. 


Theology Today – Vol 44, No.1 – April 1987 – SYMPOSIUM – Will the Real Sectarian Stand Up?

Some of the other highlights, for me:

what I refuse to do is underwrite an autonomous natural theology or natural morality in the name of a doctrine of creation or of the incarnation. In short, what I have not done is use those theological affirmations to underwrite autonomous norms that are articulated apart from Jesus.

This is also a distinguishing mark that contrasts The Church of the Saviour  from most other “mission”, “activist” type churches.  Their articulation of their mission is articulated Christocentric-ally;  which causes some to observe “they sound conservative” (mistakenly equating “Biblical language” with a conservative political agenda, since most “liberal” church agendas tend to avoid Biblical language and invoke political categories and “universal language” (what THEY call “universal”)

This refusal to develop a natural theology or natural morality does not in and of itself in any way mean that I believe the church is devoid of resources for developing strategic ethics for the particular societies in which they find themselves. Rather, what I have suggested is that if the church takes seriously its own integrity, it may well help the societies in which it lives to have alternatives that are not part of the current social and political agenda.

Exactly. And Church of the Saviour does just that.  Just take a listen or read Gordon Cosby (the now 90 year old founding pastor of the “Church of the Saviour Tradition”).  The kinds of things I am addressing in this post are characteristic of their “tradition”,  which is more directly “Biblical” than 99.9999% of what I see elsewhere,  because they live it, and speak of it in those terms. 

So while I am not opposed to our trying to harness the resources of state power to alleviate the needs of people, I think it is unfortunate when we think only in those terms.

COS just quietly goes about its business,  enabling the evoking of gifts, leading to call to particular missions,  which permeate the immediate neighborhood and extend out to be resources to the church in America as a whole (as in “The Ministry of Money”,  which confronts capitalism and the issues of money in ways that most churches fear to tread,  even if they think about such things).

Miscamble (one of the critics)  simply seems to ignore entirely my constant emphasis on how the church serves society through the training of virtuous people.

I suspect that underneath Miscamble’s critique is his dislike of anyone who has argued as I have for nonviolence as central to the Christian social witness. Contrary to his suspicions, however, such a stance is not antipolitical but profoundly political. Once one disavows the use of violence, it means one has a high stake in developing political processes through which agreement is reached without the necessity of coercion. As Christians, we, of course, want to make our societies as open as possible to the voice of dissent, exactly because we believe so profoundly in the necessity of politics-politics understood as the discussion of peoples necessary to discover the goods they have in common. So Christians will certainly vote as long as our societies will let us. Certainly, it would be a sign of a less good society that it would withdraw the right to vote from those who disavow the use of violence in the name of societal good.

About Theoblogical

I am a Web developer with a background in theology, sociology and communications. I love to read, watch movies, sports, and am looking for authentic church.

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