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Living Out Loud: Conversations About Virtue, Ethics and Evangelicalism

May 24, 2011

From Scot McKnight’s review of Living Out Loud by Russell Rook:

What would a conversation be like between Stanley Hauerwas, Sam Wells, Luke Bretherton, Steve Chalke, Jo Bailey Wells, and Shane Claiborne? Rather than imagine such a conversation, Living Out Loud allows us to listen in as these Christian leaders and scholars discuss a range of topics, including virtues ethics, evangelicalism, money, marriage, social justice, dying, capital punishment, and war. Sandwiched between two chapters transcribing this varied conversation are previously published essays by Hauerwas and Wells, ending with a newly published sermon by Wells on “How to Die.”

In the first “Roundtable on Evangelicalism and Virtue Ethics,” Luke Bretherton suggests that a common evangelical approach to theology and ethics is positional: individuals, churches, and denominations define themselves by what they believe and what positions they take on various issues. For example, the Evangelical Theological Society defines their boundaries by belief in the Trinity and biblical inerrancy. Denominations often define themselves by subscription to a particular Reformation confession or a statement of beliefs. And although many younger evangelicals may question confessional identity, they increasingly identify themselves according to various ethical positions related to issues of social justice.

But in all of these examples, identity is about beliefs and positions rather than behaviors and practices. The unfortunate result of the priority of positions is that Christianity becomes a matter of beliefs plus behaviors, or positions that may or may not actually be practiced. Hauerwas laments this feature of contemporary Christianity in several of his essays, insisting that communities that practice rather than just proclaim the truth are demonstrating true Christianity. Christians are those who embody a particular vision of reality through particular virtues. The point is not just believing the gospel, but “living the gospel out loud.”

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