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The Table Video

Stanley Hauerwas

Loving God: From Enemy to Friend

Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Divinity and Law, Duke Divinity School
June 2, 2017

As beneficiaries of the unfathomable and unrepayable gift of our own existence,  Hauerwas argues, we naturally hate God. He discusses the Christian journey of growing to love God.


How do you hold these things together? God is love, as you just said, but you’ve also pointed out from our perspective, God is the enemy we most fear. How do you experience God’s love and what is its connection to our fear of Him?

Well, we have to remember that we are to love our enemy. And the first enemy for most of us is God because we want God on our terms, only God created us on God’s terms. And it’s like if someone gives you a gift, it was a gift you hadn’t anticipated getting, but it’s such a good gift you wanna give it back. What’s the first thing you want to do in return? You want to give them something back.

Why do you want to give them something back? Because you understand gift giving and gift receiving is a power relationship and if you don’t give them something back, they may later ask you for a favor you don’t want to do, and you’ll have to do it because they gave you this great gift. Now, we are gift. It’s not like we exist and we receive a gift from God.

Our very existence is gift. Is it any wonder we hate God? I mean we fear God. And so part of what it means to undergo the discipline of being a Christian is to learn to love God with appropriate fear. So the transformation of God from enemy to God as the one we love is part of the great challenge of living a Christian life.

Evan: Absolutely.