David L. Stubbs
If you think back to the latest newspaper article you read that dealt with an ethical issue, or to that undergraduate ethics class you took in college, I would doubt that that class or article even mentioned liturgy. And conversely, when Christian people think about Sunday worship, I would also doubt that many consider it a highly charged ethical activity. However, I am convinced that our corporate worship life as Christians has great potential to shape and inform our ethical thinking, and in fact does so, whether or not we are aware of it. I also think that linking ethical dialogue and instruction to the liturgy is a quite helpful and beneficial way of “doing ethics,” whether that ethical reflection goes on in the parish or the classroom.1
To show why this is the case, we first need to define our terms. What is “ethics”? Karl Barth in his Church Dogmatics says that ethics most generally is an attempt to define the standard or law or value by which we can judge human action good or evil. Pursuing that question is the first task of ethics.
Barth quite insightfully links the very asking of this question with the fall. He writes:
For man is not content simply to be the answer to [the ethical] question by the grace of God. He wants to be like God. He wants to know of himself (as God does) what is good and evil. He therefore wants to give this answer himself and of himself. So, then, as a result and in prolongation of the fall, we have “ethics,” or, rather the multifarious ethical systems, the attempted human answers to the ethical question.2
Instead of asking this question, Barth claims that the first task of Christian ethics is to simply point to the covenant that God has established with humankind. Obedience to that covenant, that “Command,” is the human good. Thus Christian ethics is a description of sanctified human life. Put equivalently, the task of Christian ethics is to describe the shape of the kingdom of God.
How then do we know that shape? Does the kingdom of God function according to certain laws like most human kingdoms? Where is this Command found and what is its content? As those who have read Barth will know, the answer is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Command of God. What Barth means by this is that Jesus Christ is the image of God, and this image is the standard to which we are called. Being conformed to the image of God is the goal of sanctification, and so Jesus Christ is the Command to which human life is called to obey.
For Barth, the image of God is not some faculty, some “thing” that God possesses that God had also gifted humans with, but rather a triune pattern of activity. Barth writes:
And this obedience of Jesus is the clear reflection of the unity of the Father and the Son by the bond of the Spirit in the being of the eternal God Himself, who is the fullness of all freedom.3
This eternal obedience of the Son to the Father in the Spirit is incarnated in Jesus Christ; therefore, this pattern of activity is not a principle, or a rule, but rather a Way. Christian ethics, in being a description of the Command of God for human life, is confronted not with a rule or set of rules, but, as Barth says, by “the reality fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. This person as such is not only the ground and content but also the form of the divine command.”4
So far so good. Barth’s description of a proper Christian ethics has much in common with the historical Christian tradition, for the Greek fathers had a saying that Jesus was the autobasilea, the kingdom in himself. Christian ethics must be theologically informed, meaning that insofar as ethics is a description of the good human life, the only way for us to “do ethics” is to reflect on the patterns of activity that God has planned for us humans in his kingdom.
My first point is that Christian ethics must describe the kingdom of God, which is itself seen most clearly in the patterns of activity of Jesus Christ. My next point is that liturgy does the same thing. Because of this, ethical reflection might profitably be done in a liturgical context. But to make this move we must take a closer look at liturgy itself.
I imagine that some people, in talking about going to church on Sundays, would say that their “worship experience” gives them a nice break from their busy week. After their pleasant experience, in which they might have learned something about God and been energized in some way, they are now ready to get back to their “regular” activities in “the real world.” But by using this phrase, “the real world,” to speak of that portion of their life outside of worship, they are of course implying that what happens on Sunday mornings is either “un-real” or else that it has a different sort of “spiritual reality” with little connection to their “public reality.”
The origins of the word liturgy point us in precisely the opposite direction. The term was originally rooted in the context of ancient Greek life, where it meant “the work of the people” and originally referred to “public works” such as the building of a bridge or the sponsorship of a public entertainment.5 Thus the word seems to indicate that the liturgy of the Christian worship service is the actions and work of the people. We, of course, use it most commonly to refer to the blueprints for that work rather than the work itself. The Eastern Orthodox have a phrase, “the liturgy after the Liturgy,” which retains the earlier meaning of the word. “The liturgy after the Liturgy” refers to the weeklong liturgy of our daily work done after the weekly liturgy of our corporate worship. This phrase also implies that the work we do on Sundays in corporate worship is not somehow “unreal,” but rather the “most real” work that we do.
What I am proposing about ethics assumes liturgy is precisely this: Our liturgy in corporate worship is the “most real” part of our weeks. By that I mean that in the liturgy we are in touch in an intense and powerful way with the patterns of the kingdom of God. The actions we perform and the way our minds, language, and emotions are formed in our performance of the liturgy is at the heart of our lives as Christians. In the liturgy, in our worship, we are not simply presented with information, much less are we simply being entertained, but rather we are being made into Christians—our actions and lives are being linked to the Life of the world, our hearts to the heart of God, our minds to the Truth. The liturgy is the embodiment of the patterns of the kingdom of God in summary fashion.6 Or put slightly differently, we might say that in the liturgy our actions become transparent to the patterns of the kingdom. Liturgy thus might be described as a “window” of the kingdom.7
This way of describing liturgy raises two important questions. First, we must ask precisely which liturgical actions are being claimed to embody the patterns of the kingdom. Second, we must also answer the deeper question of how God is involved. In other words, in what way or ways are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit present in those actions?
To begin to answer these important questions, I will gesture to the answers given by three quite different theologians: Karl Barth, from the Reformed tradition; John Howard Yoder, an Anabaptist theologian; and Alexander Schmemann, an Eastern Orthodox theologian.
As for Karl Barth, let me simply point out something about the structure of his ethics. While Barth has been accused of many things, I do not think anyone has ever claimed that Barth is too sacramental. Yet it is instructive to note that Barth’s ethics of reconciliation, when completed, was to have revolved around three central pieces of liturgy, Baptism, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Lord’s Supper. John Webster, a trustworthy interpreter of Barth, writes that Barth’s entire dogmatics is “an extended inquiry into the moral field—into the space within which moral agents act, and into the shape of their action, a shape given above all by the fact that their acts take place in the history of encounter between God as prime agent and themselves as those called to act in correspondence to the grace of God.”8 Given that ethics revolves around this idea of human correspondence to and in the context of the grace of God, where does Barth think this grace is most clearly encountered? It is in the liturgical actions of baptism, prayer, and the Lord’s Supper. Barth calls these liturgical actions of human response “kingdom-like”—a high compliment for Barth. For example, Barth says that all of human life is to be the “dynamic actualization” of the Lord’s Prayer: “He wills that their whole life become invocation of this kind.”9 Sanctified human activity is “summarized” in these liturgical actions, actions that also serve to frame the “moral field.”
John Howard Yoder in his intriguing book entitled, Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching World, discusses what he calls five “liturgical” practices; he adds two to Barth’s total of three. These five practices are baptism, Eucharist, mutual correction, the diversification of gifts and ministry, and open dialogue under the direction of the Holy Spirit.10 He claims these practices both form the “real world” for Christians and function as “paradigms” for all our action.11 He gets these practices from his study of the New Testament, shows that Jesus commanded them, and traces their precedents back into the liturgical life of Israel.12 Using sacramental language to describe them, he further writes, “They are actions of God, in and with, through and under what men and women do. Where they are happening, the people of God is real in the world.”13 He ends his book with these suggestive comments: “It should not be surprising if there were such a deep structure that, once discerned in the five places where we have touched it, would then illuminate more broadly the shape of all of God’s saving purposes.”14 These practices might be part of the grain of the universe.
Turning eastward, we find quite similar directions in the work of Alexander Schmemann, an important Eastern Orthodox theologian. Schmemann prefaces his book, The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom, with comments about the ethical state of the world. He writes, “It can be said without exaggeration that we live in a frightening and spiritually dangerous age. It is frightening not just because of its hatred, division and bloodshed. It is frightening above all because it is characterized by a mounting rebellion against God and his kingdom.”15 Schmemann believes ethical answers to this terrible state of the world are found within the structure and actions of the Eucharistic liturgy. While he admits the entire Orthodox liturgy has in practice been misunderstood as a pious personal encounter with God, he argues this understanding is in contrast to the very words and actions of that liturgy. The liturgy is about the formation of the church into the body of Christ. To help correct this, he outlines no less than twelve crucial moments in the liturgy in which the patterns of human activity are united to that of God’s and calls all of these twelve moments “sacraments.” Included in these twelve are the sacrament of the assembly, the sacrament of the offering, the
sacrament of the Word, and the sacrament of Communion. He understands that in each of these acts or practices the activity of the church is “gathered up” into the kingdom of Christ; the patterns of activity of all the people and elements involved are “sanctified” or reshaped to their proper ends. In this way we are given a foretaste of the coming kingdom, not only in the elements of bread and wine, but in all the central actions, relationships, and patterns of activity of the liturgy.
Schmemann’s description of the “sacrament of the offering” is a case in point. In my experience, I have heard people jokingly refer to their offering as “the price of admission.” That description of what is happening redefines the logic of this liturgical act in terms of our capitalist economy. Instead, Schmemann describes the offering as a central representative act of our total offering of ourselves to Christ and to each other:
…the meaning of this consists in the fact that the offering of each, included in the offering of all, is now being realized as the Church’s offering of her very self, and this means Christ, for the Church is his body, and he is the head of the Church…. Our sacrifice is the sacrifice of the Church, which is the sacrifice of Christ. Thus, in this triumphant and royal entrance, in this movement of the gifts, is revealed the truly universal significance of the offering, the unification of heaven and earth, the raising up of our life to the kingdom of God.16
The offering thus becomes the economic paradigm, which I might add is in marked contrast to the foundational principle of Econ 101, namely that individuals are insatiable units of consumption. Instead, this liturgical action may help form our thoughts, hearts, and actions in such a way that we might be enabled to protest against the economic patterns outside of the liturgy in the so- called real world.
There are at least two features common to all three of these figures. First, they all see certain actions within our liturgy as summary actions for the Christian life as a whole. The liturgy summarizes the kingdom of God. Second, these actions are not simply empty symbolic actions which refer to some real activity elsewhere, but rather are actions in which God is present in such a way that our lives, hearts, and minds have the possibility of being shaped into the patterns of the kingdom of Christ.
So, if ethics is understood as speaking about a pattern of human life that fulfills the designs for humanity which God intended, then there is no better place to start this discussion than with the liturgy. For in the liturgy, kingdom patterns are described and embodied. It is in this way that liturgy is ethics.
As we begin to do so, the first thing to notice is that the shape of our questions changes. Rather than asking, “What is the good thing for a human individual to do given such and such an issue,” in a liturgical context, this ethical question becomes, “What must our actions be like, both individually and corporately, so as not to make a mockery of our worship of God?” We must ask about the fittingness of all our actions in light of our liturgical action.
Let use marriage as an example. Thinking about marriage from the perspective of the pseudo-liturgy of Hollywood film, we of course know that marriage is about finding that special person who will be our all-in-all, that person who fulfills all our needs and desires. Like Jerry McGuire, we must find that person to whom we can say, “You complete me.” Looking at marriage from the perspective of baptism, however, we are pulled in a different direction. Rather than looking for someone to complete our bodies, in baptism we immediately recognize that we are called to help complete the body of the church—that the church is our primary family. In fact, baptism tells us that we don’t need to get married at all to live a full Christian life. Christian baptism creates singleness as a second equal option. Of course whether our baptismal communities are currently sufficient to sustain the practice of Christian singleness is another question. But the ethics of baptism at least alerts us that we are called to do so as a church. To fill out our understanding of marriage itself, however, we would need to look at it more carefully from the perspective of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or perhaps the practice of footwashing.
Or what about our current American practice of war? Can Christians fight for America, and if so, in what circumstances? How do we decide? Looking at the practice of war in light of our practice of the Eucharist raises interesting questions. At the banquet feast of the Lamb, we gain the eyes to see that Christ has paid the price for our violence and calls us into his kingdom of peace in which all peoples are bound together. It becomes more difficult to justify our violence when viewed from this perspective than, say, from the perspective of the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number. For example, Stanley Hauerwas asks us “to consider whether Christians can get up from the meal in which Jesus has been the host and begin to kill one another in the name of national loyalties.”17 If indeed in the Eucharist we are in touch with the “really real,” perhaps the phrase, “political realism,” takes on new meaning.18 At least the burden of proof has shifted.
From these two examples, we see that the liturgy cannot be used as an ethics machine into which we put in an ethical question and out of which pops the Christian answer. Instead, the liturgy provides a guiding horizon that both reframes our questions and guides our thinking in certain directions. It is not our only norm; however, it does provide a normative context in which to do our ethical work.
This kind of ethical reasoning is thus not an “unbiased” weighing of the “neutral” description of either an outcome or an action against a universal rule. Rather, the liturgy first gives us a “language” to describe situations and, related to this, provides a normative horizon against which to judge the fittingness of actions in those situations. But if indeed ethical reasoning is a judgment about the “fittingness” of an activity, it requires aesthetic judgment, skill, and wisdom. In this kind of ethical activity and reflection, we are more like Olympic gymnastic judges than Olympic track-meet timekeepers. Because of this, this kind of ethics is also open to criticisms often leveled against the Olympic gymnastic judges: it is imprecise, totally subjective, and unscientific.
Most modern ethical theories have in fact attempted to achieve a kind of “scientific” precision that emulates strict logic or the hard sciences. However, just as Christian ethicists seemed to be getting used to doing ethics that way, the supposed strict objectivity of the sciences has fairly convincingly been shown to be a chimera.19 Alasdair MacIntyre in his groundbreaking works, After Virtue and Whose Justice? Which Rationality? has argued that the only viable alternative to total ethical relativity is what he calls “tradition-based rationality.” In brief, this involves the acknowledgment that ethical terms such as “justice” and “love” can only be defined adequately within a coherent tradition built around concrete practices. Those concrete practices provide the horizon within which our terms achieve precision. He argues that the people in our culture argue past one another in the name of, for example, “justice,” because their different uses of the word are either unclear even to themselves or else stem from conflicting visions of communal life. In his words, “A moral philosophy [. . .] characteristically presupposes a sociology.”20 What this means is something students have always known, namely, that examples are more determinative than the abstract concepts we use to describe them. Thus an ethical system needs to be grounded in a vision of communal life rather than in universal concepts. One need only think of Jesus telling the parable of the good Samaritan instead of wrangling about definitions of “love” and “neighbor” to at least feel the force of this claim—or, to ponder the fact that God sent his Son rather than an ethical textbook to show us the Way.
If Macintyre is right, Christian ethics cannot do without this kind of tradition- based rationality. Christian ethics thus must prepare us for skillful Christian living. This ethical skill is similar to the kind of rationality that a master craftsman uses, or that a doctor uses when she diagnoses an illness, or that a painter uses in selecting just the right brushstroke or bit of color in the midst of creating a work of art. Certainly craftsmen, doctors, and painters use reason in their work. Yet their judgments are not easily reduced to universal principles, nor does their actual practice often involve using strict syllogistic logic.
And, quite similar to a painter, we as individual Christians as part of a community seek to make our lives look beautiful to God. Trusting that the Holy Spirit is at work in us, we wish to glorify our creator through our lives. But unlike contemporary art, this beauty is not strictly in the eye of the beholder. Rather, starting from a picture of the kingdom of God that we gain in part from our liturgy, we seek to conform our lives and decisions to the patterns of the kingdom.
One unattractive feature of this mode of rationality is that it admits that not everyone is equally qualified to make the right choices—one chooses better as one becomes wiser or more skilled at living the Christian life. This rubs against our desire to think that everyone is equally qualified or perhaps equally disqualified. So, out of a desire to gain a more sure and egalitarian footing for ethics, perhaps one might say, “Who needs the liturgy for ethics, I have the Bible.”
Taking this proper Protestant response quite seriously, let us consider the Bible in relation to liturgical ethics. However, instead of looking to the Bible only as a resource for locating the answers that biblical authors gave to ethical questions, perhaps we should also look to the Bible for the way the inspired biblical authors themselves thought about ethical issues. Using Paul as an example, we see that he certainly used the scriptures as he thought through ethical issues; however, he did not usually cite general ethical principles or laws. Rather, he often argued in a “liturgico-ethico” fashion. Paul’s mind and life had been formed through his participation in the services and festivals of the Jewish faith, even before he encountered Christ and was formed through his life in Christian community. These Jewish practices, ways of thinking, and forms of worship formed part of the context of his reflection upon scripture.
For example, in 1 Cor 5: 1-8, Paul is calling the Corinthian church to distance itself from a sexually immoral member. But notice how he argues for this:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you?
For though absent in the body, I am present in the spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Paul appeals to the Jewish liturgical practice of destroying all the yeast, which is also called leaven or hametz, in one’s house in preparation for the Passover meal. But why would Paul think removing and destroying yeast would have anything to do with sexual immorality and with prideful boasting in it? Why doesn’t Paul simply appeal to some universal principle or scriptural law? Consider this discussion of the destruction of hametz or yeast in a modern Jewish commentary on the Passover:
The most difficult Passover ritual to explain is hametz. Why should a food we happily consume fifty-one weeks a year become something that we diligently search out and destroy before the one week of Passover?…According to the rabbinic view mentioned earlier, there is something wrong with hametz. Hametz is seen as symbolic of the yetzer ha-ra—evil inclination—in particular, the prompting of pride. Therefore the search for hametz must be extensive and intensive, for even the smallest particle of hametz in no matter how large a food mixture will corrupt. Similarly, no matter how small or deeply hidden the evil inclination is within us it will fester and grow and eventually poison everything else.21
This understanding of the liturgical practice of the destruction of hametz helps explain why Paul saw an analogy between the situation in Corinth and this “liturgical” practice. As a result of his formation by this practice, he saw that more was at stake than simply the behavior and attitudes of two individuals. The welfare of the church community was at stake. He wanted the Corinthians’ whole life together to be an extension of their liturgical practice.22
Thus we can see that an emphasis on liturgy should not be construed as an alternative to sensitive biblical scholarship on ethical matters. Rather the two are mutually reinforcing. Yoder himself engages in such scholarship, and his arguments for his central practices are biblically based. Another example of how they might reinforce each other can be seen in Richard Hays’s biblical ethics entitled, The Moral Vision of the New Testament. While Hays does not focus his work on liturgy per se, he does understand the necessity of larger images or stories to guide one’s ethical thinking and scriptural interpretation. The interpretive images Hays himself uses, namely “Community, Cross and New Creation,” function in a similar way to the liturgical practices mentioned by Barth, Yoder, and Schmemann.23 Such biblical images can help us interpret the liturgy, just as the liturgy in its place helps fill out the meaning of those images. Hays’s proposal reminds us that both those images and our liturgies are formed and reformed through the results of careful biblical scholarship. Such scholarship also reminds us that the Bible itself was formed in the context of the worship life of Israel and the Christian communities.
Jesus did not only give us a community and central practices. He also left for us his words and examples recorded in the scripture. Finally, he also gave us the Holy Spirit. The three cannot be separated. Any of the three of these taken by themselves have the potential to become as rigid and lifeless as so many “universal principles.” Rather, we must remember that our goal as Christians is that through scripture and through the liturgy and in the Spirit we want to be formed into the life and mind of Christ to the glory of the Father. Our liturgy, our Bibles, and our experience of the Spirit are all true yet limited foretastes of that day when the entire universe will become transparent to the patterns of God in one united activity of doxology.
That being said, I do think a quite simple yet compelling argument can be made for grounding ethical discussions in the liturgy. It is this: more people go to church on Sundays than engage in in-depth biblical scholarship or will ever read Yoder or Hays. For pastors and other teachers of the church, it is much more practical and I think more empowering to point to the liturgy than to hand out copies of Yoder or Hays. It is through the liturgy that most Christian people will or will not learn the skills, virtues, and ways of thinking that will allow them and the church to be a light to the world.
Finally, all that has been said points out that the actual shape and content of our liturgy has the potential for both great good and great ill. Not all worship is good worship; not all liturgy is “orthodox,” right worship. By saying this I am not taking a position on debates about “high” or “low” liturgy, or “traditional” versus “contemporary” worship. By citing both Yoder, a Mennonite, and Schmemann, an Eastern Orthodox, I hope to have shown that these are not necessarily the right categories to be thinking in. At either end of the spectrum, we must guard against letting our desire to appeal either to contemporary culture or “high culture” distort our liturgy so that it mirrors them more that the life of Christ and the kingdom of God. Both contemporary and traditional styles of worship are capable of leading us into those patterns or of falling short.
Good liturgy is liturgy that allows our activity of worship to become transparent to the patterns of the kingdom. It is this kind of good liturgy that can provide us with a helpful context for Christian ethical reflection. And it is this kind of good liturgy that can equip and empower the people of God to lead skillful Christian lives.
* Parts of this essay are included in a chapter and the afterword of a collected work in progress, A More Profound Alleluia: Theology and Worship in Harmony, ed. Leanne Van Dyk, to be published by Eerdmans.
1 The contents, as well as the title, of this paper owe much to the work of both Geoffrey Wainwright and Stanley Hauerwas.
2 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II.2 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1957), 517.
3 Barth, CD II.2, 605.
4 Barth, CD II.2, 606.
5 John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 28. Charles P. Price and Louis Weil, Liturgy for Living (New York: Seabury, 1979), 21. Both are cited in Rodney Clapp, A Peculiar People: The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1996), 80.
6 Stanley Hauerwas uses the idea of liturgy as "summary" in "The Liturgical Shape of the Christian Life: Teaching Christian Ethics as Worship," unpublished paper, 14-15, and parallels this to Irenaeus's concept of "recapitulation." The danger with such imagery as well as Reinhard Hütter's suggestion of "narrative unfolding" is that these terms do not necessarily connote the activity of the Holy Spirit. That is why I opt for the iconographically resonate term, "window."
7 This description is linked to the theology of icons. See Leonid Ouspensky and Vladimir Lossky, The Meaning of Icons (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1989). While I like the iconographic implications, I am wary of the static nature of the imagery. "Iconic pattern of activity" is what I am after.
8 John Webster, Barth's Ethics of Reconciliation, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 4.
9 Karl Barth, The Christian Life: Church Dogmatics IV.4 Lecture Fragments (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), 85.
10 Interesting comparisons might be made to Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Ordinances, especially the practices of mutual discipline and dialogue among clergy and elders. Yoder himself mentions the Regel Christi found in Bucer, Luther, and Calvin's writings as well as those of the Anabaptists. John Howard Yoder, Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching World (Nashville, TN: Discipleship Resources, 1994), 7.
11 Yoder, Body Politics, 77. Like Lindbeck, Yoder claims that "the modern world is a subset of the world vision of the gospel, not the other way around" (Yoder, Body Politics, 74).
12 Yoder, Body Politics, esp. 79.
13 Yoder, Body Politics, 72-73.
14 Yoder, Body Politics, 80. And his final sentence: “Why should it not be the case that God's purpose for the world would pursue an organic logic through history and across the agenda of the pilgrim people's social existence with such a reliable rhythm as we have here observed?” (Yoder, Body Politics, 80).
15 Alexander Schmemann, The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1988), 9-10.
16 Schmemann, 122-23.
17 Hauerwas, 16.
18 This is a veiled criticism of the Christian Realism of Reinhold Niebuhr. R. Niebuhr might be said to separate “the Eucharist” from politics. For example, Niebuhr writes, “A realistic analysis of the problems of human society reveals a constant and seemingly irreconcilable conflict between the needs of society and the imperatives of a sensitive conscience. This conflict, which could be most briefly defined as the conflict between ethics and politics, is made inevitable by the double focus of the moral life. One focus is in the inner life of the individual, and the other in the necessities of man’s social life” [Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1960), 257].
19 Michael Polanyi and Richard Bernstein are prime examples of those who argue for a "hermeneutical" understanding of scientific activity. Polanyi terms this kind of understanding "personal knowledge," which involves both "tacit" and "focal" awareness. Bernstein, hearkening back to Aristotle, calls it "practical knowing." Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post- Critical Philosophy (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962) and The Tacit Dimension (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1967). Richard Bernstein, Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1983).
20 Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 2nd ed. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 23.
21 Michael Strassfeld, The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary (NY: Harper & Row, 1985), 40-41.
22 For a discussion of other such passages in 1 Corinthians, see Brian Rosner, Paul, Scripture and Ethics: A Study of 1 Corinthians 5-7 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994).
23 Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics (NY: HarperCollins, 1996). That his first image is in fact "community" is instructive.