The Grace of Troublesome Questions
Vocation, Restoration, and Race
by Richard T. Hughes
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Pub Date 7 Jun 2022 | Archive Date Not set
Abilene Christian University Press & Leafwood Publishers, Abilene Christian University Press
A compelling story of how one man, in light of his Christian faith, questioned the exclusivist claims of church, nation, and race.
Richard Hughes never chose a vocation. Rather, a vocation chose him, requiring that he first make sense of two exclusivist narratives. On the one hand, the church of his youth claimed it was the one true church—the whole of Christendom, really—outside of which there was no salvation. On the other, he absorbed equally exclusivist assumptions common in his West Texas world—that the United States was God’s chosen people; a nation in sync with the way the Almighty, from the beginning of time, had meant for the world to run; a nation called to enlighten and redeem all humankind.
In The Grace of Troublesome Questions, Richard Hughes shares his life-long research and quest to address these basic tensions as well as a third exclusivist assumption that he discovered embedded within himself and within his nation later in life—the pervasive notion of White supremacy. Each of these three claims—the one true church, the one true nation, and the one true race—was rooted in a notion that Hughes knew well: the claim on the part of believers that they had restored a golden age of pure beginnings. While that vision literally defined his boyhood church, Hughes also knew that none of those exclusivist, tribal claims squared with the teachings of the Christian faith. Filled with personal stories and penetrating analysis, The Grace of Troublesome Questions offers readers a behind the scenes guided tour of Hughes’s scholarship, and the clear and compelling vocation that has fueled his life’s work.
“In this autobiographical theology, Richard Hughes offers readers a transformative collection of writing that reflects decades of scholarly and spiritual labor. No one has loved, studied, or wrestled more with the American Stone-Campbell religious tradition than Richard. And no one has expressed with more clarity its massive gifts and flaws, always with an eye to pressing it to become the ‘beloved community.’ Thank you, Richard, for your example of faith so evident in this volume.”
—Douglas A. Foster, Scholar in Residence, Graduate School of Theology, Abilene Christian University
“The Grace of Troublesome Questions is a serious reflection on the meaning of Richard Hughes’s scholarship and life. Hughes’s compelling and technically rooted memoir provides a guide for those unwilling to turn their back on their religious tradition while awakening to the lament of the oppressed. In short, Richard Hughes is one who embodies the noble principle that he and his tradition advocate—‘the importance of an unbiased and open search for truth.’”
—David Fleer, Director, Christian Scholars Conference
“This book is a genuine treasure! It collects a careers’ worth of scintillating insights and profound spiritual wisdom from one of the finest scholars associated with the Churches of Christ. Within the volume’s expansive topical scope, every chapter is filled with illuminating nuggets. Hughes is always the master of his subject and invariably manages to think outside the box. As only one example, his chapter comparing the Churches of Christ and the Mormons remains a brilliant classic a generation after its genesis. To top it off, Hughes is a superb communicator who delivers his insights in beautiful, clear prose.”
—Grant Underwood, Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding, Brigham Young University
“A veritable cornucopia of insights and challenges, this collection of essays distills a lifetime of theological reflection, historical insight, and earnest Christian discipleship, always anchored in the teachings of Jesus and the example of the Early Church. Richard Hughes never disappoints. His writing is provocative, confessional, courageous, and inspiring. You will see the world differently after reading this book!”
—John Roth, Editor, Mennonite Quarterly Review; director, Mennonite Historical Library, and professor of history, Goshen College.
“In The Grace of Troublesome Questions, Richard Hughes invites you to join him on the sacred journey that shaped his work and changed his life. Pay attention and it will change your life as well.”
—Robert M. Randolph, former Chaplain to Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“A careful reading of this collection of writings by Richard Hughes yields rich rewards. Readers see the historian’s mind at work as he reflects upon ‘the restoration vision’ and offers astute observations about our current vexed moment in history. Interspersed with retrospective personal essays about his unfolding vocational journey, readers are offered a glimpse into the heart of this loving husband, grateful student, devoted teacher, and humble scholar. There is a prophetic element, too, as we are invited to resist white supremacy and confront Christian nationalism in its more subtle forms. Finally, he urges us to consider the question, ‘where do people of faith go from here?’ For those familiar with Richard’s work, this collection will be a joyful reminder of what you already know to be true of his great mind and capacious heart. For those who are not, prepare to be elevated—inspired and challenged—in your understanding of American Christianity.”
—Hannah Schell, Editor of Vocation Matters, blog of the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE), and coauthor, Christian Thought in America: A Brief History