September 25, 2013

Stanley Hauerwas on "Retirement"

"I am often asked what I am planning to do in retirement?

I can only respond: I do not have any plans for my retirement.

Why should I have plans for my life in retirement when I have never had any plans for my life?  I have done what people have asked me to do and, as far as I am concerned, that way of living has worked out well enough."

I think it is quite fascinating that there is nothing in the New Testament about retiring.  For example, it surely never occurred to Paul to think, "I've done the best I can but I am never going to get those Christians in Corinth to straighten out. I am tired of traveling and controversy, I think it is time for me to retire."  Nowhere in the New Testament is there a hint that the early Christians think there is a time when they might retire as a Christian or from being a Christian.


When asked what I plan to do in retirement I usually say, "I will do what I have always done."   I will get up, read a book and write. Reading a book and writing is my way of saying I will continue to think about what I have always thought about, which is the difference God makes for the living of our lives. The exploration of that difference is never finished which means the theologian always has something to do. I take that to be a great gift.
That the work is never finished, however, does not mean that the theologian's ... relation to that work does not change.  In a wonderful sermon ... Sam Wells begins by reporting on an account of four stages of work identified by management theory:

  • The first stage is called "Unconscious Incompetence" in which, as the description implies, the one beginning the work does not know what they do not know.
  • "Conscious Incompetence" is the next stage, in which you begin to know what you do not know.
  • The next stage is when you know what you know, making you a person of "Conscious Competence" who thrives in all you do.
  • The final stage, however, is when you have forgotten what you know but remain competent. You are described as one who is "Unconsciously Competent," indicating you have reached the stage you probably need to find something else to do.