I am taking Stanley's Hauerwas's course "Happiness, the Life of Virtue, and Happiness" this semester. If you are curious why I would take a course like this when the name of my blog is "Church Leadership Conversations," I can sketch some of the points of connection that I see already.
- How do Christians converse with outsiders? It may be helpful to explain the goodness of the Christian life (think Mother Teresa) and then move from there to showing how the Christian faith best explains the virtuous life. Perhaps pastors are smart to do evangelism by explaining 3 ways to have a better marriage or three ways to manage your money better. I think of The Marriage Course which is offered by the Alpha course founders at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, UK or Willow Creek's Good $ense course.
- The question Aristotle is asking has to do with how people are formed. Pastors ask the same thing: how do we make better disciples of Jesus? I think of USC philosopher and evangelical Dallas Willard's three book series on spiritual formation: Spirit of the Disciplines, Divine Conspiracy and Renovation of the Heart and Willard's partnership with Richard Foster and his Celebration of Discipline book and Renovare movement. (For more about Willard, see the bottom of this post). Another way of saying it is this: Aristotle is concerned with polis (city-state) and Christians are concerned with building a strong healthy church. But this raises, "what role does human effort play in developing spiritual maturity vs. what God does?" This is the question that Christians ask when trying to use Aristotle's insights: see Hauerwas and Pinches, Herdt, Wells, Aquinas and Augustine below. It is around these questions where "political theology" and "ecclesiology" and "church leadership" and "spiritual formation" and "discipleship" and "preaching" and "Christian education" and "pastoring" intersect.
This is not surprising but I will say it anyway. I am convinced that a community of Christians trying to orient their lives by the Scriptures is absolutely central. Though there is a lot of complex discussion in these books, none of it will reverse that and that is what most of my readers are already dedicating their lives to. In a way, this philosophy, history, and theology merely help us to ask better questions about how this is done.
About the course:
We had our first class yesterday. There are 60 in the course. Hauerwas lectures for 1 to 1 1/2 hours and then we go to discussion groups ("precepts" in Duke Divinity School jargon) led by teaching assistants ("preceptors") who are Ph.D / Th.D. students not taking the course. The thirteen Ph.D. and Th.D. students in the course meet with Hauerwas himself. Of that group, 7 are Th.D. students from Duke Divinity School including me, two political science and one philosophy Ph.D students from Duke Graduate School, one theology Ph.D. from Sweden, one theology Ph.D. student from University of Leuven in the Netherlands, and one theology student from Duke University's Department of Religion. The required books are below.
Books for Stanley Hauerwas Course: Happiness, the Life of Virtue, and Friendship
This is probably the most talked about book at Duke Divinity School. We are supposed to read it for the first class. I already read this for the Th.D. seminar during the Fall of 2007. If you are confused why this would be an important book to read at seminary, you might be helped by this comment by Hauerwas, "In a way, MacIntyre is engaged in something we might in other contexts call Christian apologetics" (Christians Among the Virtues, 40).
There are a number of different translations but this one looks the best to me. The Irwin translation is the one Hauerwas uses and is in the bookstore but it is a 1999 translation and I read better things about the 2002 Sachs translation. A book like this shares many of the difficulties of translating the New Testament--textual criticism, consistency, word choice, readability vs. "accuracy", etc.
Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle (Translator: Terence Irwin)
This one only the doctoral students are supposed to read.
This is the "textbook" for the course. It is a new book and tries to reflect Christianly on the use of the virtues.
This book by blogger Nate Kerr is available at Wipf and Stock
at a 40% discount if you enter the coupon code: “KERR40”. That puts
the book at about $16.80, which is a significantly lower price.
Great theology blogger Ben Myers calls it the best theology book of 2008 though he is biased as Kerr is his friend. Hauerwas recommended it to me yesterday for my interests in ecclesiology and mission. Hauerwas's blurb reads,
Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School, Durham, NC
See also the "Symposium" on the book at the the church and postmodern culture: conversation
I have put a number of links to audio teaching by Stanley Hauerwas at my blog post here.
More about Dallas Willard:
Do Stanley Hauerwas and Dallas Willard ever cite one another? Not that I can find so far. I have looked through Willard's books except Renovation of the Heart. Here is Dallas Willard's faculty page at USC's School of Philosophy. Hauerwas and Willard are on the same page to a great degree. It is too bad that there is not more cross-polination.
Dallas Willard Trilogy
How to Be Good in a World Gone Bad by James S. Spiegel (Paperback - Feb 25, 2005)