“The Politics of Translation”

Christians’ attitudes toward modernity have primarily been characterized by a sense of inferiority. As John Milbank observes, “The pathos of modern theology is its false humility.” Our preaching and theology has been one ceaseless effort to conform to the canons of intelligibility produced by the economic and intellectual formations characteristic of modern and, in particular, liberal societies.

Christians in modernity thought their task was to make the Gospel intelligible to the world rather than to help the world understand why it could not be intelligible without the Gospel. Desiring to become part of the modernist project, preachers and theologians accepted the presumption that Christianity is a set of beliefs, a worldview designed to give meaning to our lives. As a result, the politics of Christian discourse was relegated to the private in the name of being politically responsible in, to, and for liberal social orders. We accepted the politics of translation believing that neither we nor our non-Christian or half-Christian neighbors could be expected to submit to the discipline of Christian speech. (Stanley Hauerwas, Sanctify Them in the Truth, pp. 192-193)


2 thoughts on ““The Politics of Translation”

  1. Nice post. Before getting into the debate around it, a quick question for you, Tim: how come that a social and theological conservative like you quotes Hauerwas so often?

  2. I don’t know, but it seems like Hauerwas can be so, so right on many things and so, so wrong on many others. But I’m finding it’s more the former than the latter.


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