ABSTRACT

Stanley Hauerwas’s approach to Scripture has met repeated resistance and charges of inconsistency, most recently from Nicholas Healy, who argues that Hauerwas’s interpretive practice contradicts his claim that right scriptural interpretation requires submission to Church authority. This article responds to Healy’s objection in order to clarify an ambiguous point in Hauerwas’s theology—how individual scriptural interpretation relates to the authority of Hauerwas’s Church—and to consider what it might offer Protestant hermeneutics that embrace a similar ecclesial turn. After briefly reviewing Hauerwas’s hermeneutic and Healy’s objection, I argue that Hauerwas’s practice is in fact consistent with his theory by virtue of a concept of authority based in conversation more than institution. In this understanding, interpretive authority becomes a matter of practical reasoning or phronesis, a vital shift I think Healy either misses or refuses. I then argue that this sense of authority effectively describes what Protestant hermeneutical appeals to interpretive authority must entail in a way that remains true to several core Protestant principles. For this reason, Protestants should embrace the shift. At the same time, however, they must provide what Hauerwas omits—greater specificity about beliefs and practices that aid such practical reasoning—lest Protestant hermeneutics further multiply ecclesial division.

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