Book Review of Resident Aliens
Hauerwas, S., & Willimon, W. H. (1989). Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony. Nashville: Abingdon Press. $19.99
Resident Aliens is a book that will both enlighten and disturb you. In recent years, this is one of the books I have read that is most engaging. It’s in rare times that I have come across a book that is altogether upsetting and enjoyable. aim of the sparkling verbal fireworks of the authors is illumining the issues of the society and the church which calls for attention urgently. The reflections of Hauerwas and Willimon on the growing confusion over social ethics cannot be ignored, and their emphasis calls for applause. Like an earthquake, this book has the effect of shaking things up and leaving the reader with a new landscape after the dust settles. The book answers the question that the calling of the church is not to in making the world better. The
Hauerwas and Willimon state that Christendom has fallen and its fall is a positive thing for real Christianity. They continue to explain that Christendom has provided us with an unique opportunity of being the church that embodies an alternative for the society that, “the world cannot on its terms know” (18). The two authors seek to dismantle the entire contemporary theology network from enlightenment time. According to the belief of Hauerwas and Willimon, the church has been asking the wrong questions. “The theological task is not merely the interpretative matter of translating Jesus into modern categories but rather to translate the world to him. The theologian’s job is not to make the gospel credible to the modern world, but to make the world credible to the gospel.” (24) The author uses the Sermon on the Mount to transform the vision of the reader on the role of the church in the world. This is by continued insist that the calling of the church is not for the “betterment” of the world, “What we call ‘church’ is too often a gathering of strangers who see the church as yet another ‘helping institution’ to gratify further their individual desires” (138). As an alternative, Christians should give the world an entirely different perspective on everything from service to power, sexuality to religiosity, from finances to politics.
On the positive side, his rediscovery on the emphasis of evangelical which views the church as the new society lived in today’s world as a gathering of heaven obedient to the living and crucified Lord. The book rejects as ill-conceived both the new foundational New Christian Right which rechristianzes USA and modernist social gospel that christiniaze the society. The work explains that the mission of the church is not remedying existing social structures that improve the society. The church holds no mandate that guarantees culture durability which skews the significance of God for the society or refuses the acknowledgment of Him as a public model. The obedience of Christianity as the authors see it requires squaring all our noble deeds and decisions using the Sermon on the Mount. This means breaking any responsibility to re-shape non-Christian society while doing ethics for the world. The nonviolence teachings in Christians are crucial in the Christian belief’s status of nature.
In the Residents Aliens, the authors zealously differentiate the church from the present world, the community that believes from the secular environment. However, they fail to distinguish between the true church and the apostate church or pseudo-church. The authors reject the idea that the USA is a Christian nation, and instead, Christians should view themselves as “residents aliens” in a foreign land. The book maintains that Christians should not continue the attempts of transforming the government, but to living lives which model that of Christ. Instead of convincing others on changing their ethics, the authors state that Christians should model new values sets that are ideal with life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Sometimes, the vision of the book on Christian colony overflows with new discipleship opportunities. The current church-state bleakness is combined with a new hope in the kingdom extension through small, unassuming disciples. Frequently, the authors are putting forth a rather Anabaptist, almost separate outlook. Their separatism is combined with a strongly non-combative orientation that may trouble some readers. At times, the authors overstate their case, which may lead to false choices between “church authority” versus “biblical authority,” or “right living” versus “right thinking.”
It’s hard not to like the authors with their facetious style of Christendom facts. Overall, I can term Resident Aliens as one of the best books I have read this year. To be sure, there are some weaknesses in the book. The authors, for example, are putting almost a separate outlook in their discussion. Also, while they are answering some questions, they are inviting for even more questions. Nevertheless, this book gives a valuable absorbing window that the calling of the church is not to make the world better. I highly recommend that you may order, ponder and discuss it with friends and classmates. It has provoked my thoughts while increasing my passion for the local church and the unusual nature of living an ordinary Christian life.
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