“There can be no sanctification of individuals without a sanctified people. We need examples and masters, and if we are without either, the church cannot exist as a people who are are pledged to be different from the world…[This leads to] the status and necessity of the church as the locus for Christian ethical reflection. It is from the church that Christian ethics draws its ethical substance and it is to the church that Christian ethical reflection is first addressed. Christian ethics is not written for everyone, but for those people who have been formed by the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. Therefore Christian ethics can never be a minimalistic ethic for everyone, but must presuppose a sanctified people wanting to live more faithful to God’s story.
The fact that Christian ethics begins and ends with a story requires a corresponding community existing across time. The story of God as told through the experience of Israel and the church cannot be abstracted from those communities engaged in the telling and the hearing. As a story it cannot exist without a historic people, for it requires telling and remembering if it is to exist at all. God has entrusted his presence to a historic and contingent community which can never rest on its past success, but must be renewed generation after generation. That is why the story is not merely told but embodied in a people’s habits that form and are formed in worship, governance, and morality.
Therefore the existence of Israel and the church are not accidentally related to the story but are necessary for our knowledge of God. You cannot tell the story of God without including within it the story of Israel and the church. So it is not odd that as part of the creed we affirm that we believe in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church…It is only through such a people that the world can know that our God is one who wills nothing else than our good…
In a sense, the place of the Bible can be misleading in this respect, because it may appear that Scripture conveys the story regardless of the existence of a historic people. You do not need an intergenerational community. All you need is the story told rightly in a book. But the Bible without the community, without expounders and interpreters, and hearers is a dead book.” (Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics, pp. 97-98)