Stanley Hauerwas Reflects on End Times, End of Life


As his hair grays and thins, Stanley Hauerwas thinks a lot more about the end. Not just the end of his life—though he ponders that, too—but also the end times. Once named by TIME Magazine as “America’s Best Theologian,” Stanley Hauerwas is now an accomplished 74-year-old whose words grow increasingly prophetic in tone. His book “Approaching the End: Eschatological Reflections on Church, Politics, and Life” teases out some of the ideas on which he’s been ruminating. Thinking about last things, he argues, is essential helping the church negotiate the contemporary world.

Here, we discuss his views on the end times, what he thinks of “Left Behind” theology, and how he hopes to be remembered after he dies.

RNS: The end times prophecy craze has many Christians thinking of "eschatology" as the chronological end. You affirm the time aspect, but "end" has another meaning for you, doesn't it?

SH: Other than indicating chronology, “end” names the purpose of God’s creation found in Jesus Christ. So eschatology names a Christian presumption that there is a beginning and an end, and we have seen that end in Jesus.

RNS: The "Left Behind" books series has sold more than 60 million copies. What do you think when you hear that so many have been influenced by that brand of eschatological thought?