"The God who has a history" - Hauerwas, Jenson, and Theological Sentences

Stanley Hauerwas wrote a piece back in September entitled “How to write a theological sentence.” I skimmed it then, but more recently I sat down to read it carefully. It is very interesting for a number of reasons. But I want to highlight here part of Hauerwas’ discussion of the sentence that he takes as exemplary of theological writing, a sentence that comes from the first volume of Robert Jenson’s Systematic Theology:
I believe . . . that Robert Jenson’s sentence, “God is whoever raised Jesus from the dead, having before raised Israel from Egypt,” took a lifetime to write. I do not have the gift of exposition Stanley Fish displays, but I need at least to try to show why I think Jenson’s sentence is such an exemplary theological sentence. The crucial word is “whoever.” With that word Jenson resists the commonplace assumption that when someone says “God” they know what they are saying. I suggested above that the problem with much of modern theology is too often we confirm the familiar. “God” is a familiar name. Jenson’s use of “whoever” is grammatically necessary to make the familiar strange. “Whoever” calls into question the reader’s presumption that they know who God is prior to who God makes Himself known.

[And then a little further on...]

"Whoever," therefore, is the grammar appropriate to the God who has a history.

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Comments

You're gonna have to explain that grin, Scott...
Darren said…
Stellar. I'm going to open my next course with this.
Anonymous said…
At first I thought, "Does he not know who got is?" Then I realized I think I know who God is, instead of discovering who he really is. "Whoever" really does shift your thinking. Thanks for sharing.

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