Already 21 years old, “Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony” is a little book by the Duke duo Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon that purports to offer “a provocative Christian assessment of culture and ministry for people who know that something is wrong.” Two decades later, something is still wrong. This book speaks powerfully and prophetically to the challenge facing the 21st century church and deserves a place beside all the other newer books being written on what has come to be known as the “missional church” movement.
Let me share some highlights from each chapter in the following series of posts.
“In Jesus we meet not a presentation of basic ideas about God, world, and humanity, but an invitation to join up, to become part of a movement, a people” (21).
“In the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, all human history must be reviewed. The coming of Christ has cosmic implications. He has changed the course of things. So the theological task is not merely the interpretive 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).
“Christianity is more than a matter of a new understanding. Christianity is an invitation to be part of an alien people who make a difference because they see something that cannot otherwise be seen without Christ. Right living is more the challenge than right thinking. The challenge is not the intellectual one but the political one — the creation of a new people who have aligned themselves with the seismic shift that has occurred in the world since Christ” (24).
“That which makes the church “radical” and forever “new” is not the church tends to lean toward the left on most social issues, but rather that the church knows Jesus whereas the world does not. In the church’s view, the political left is not noticeably more interesting than the political right; both sides tend toward solutions that act as if the world has not ended and begun in Jesus. These “solutions” are only mirror images of the status quo” (28).