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Resident Aliens: A Provocative Christian Assessment of Culture and Ministry for People Who Know that Something is Wrong Paperback – September 1, 1989

4.3 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Stanley Hauerwas is the Gilbert Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics in the Divinity School at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. He has written a voluminous number of articles, authored and edited many books, and has been the subject of other theologians' writing and interest. He has been a board member of the Society of Christian Ethics, Associate Editor of a number of Christian journals and periodicals, and frequent lecturer at campuses across the country.

Feeling most at home behind a pulpit, Bishop William H. Willimon’s deepest calling is to be a preacher and truth-teller of Jesus Christ. Willimon is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke University Divinity School and retired Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church, after serving for 20 years as faculty member and Dean of the Chapel at Duke University. He continues to give lectures and teach at universities around the world. Willimon earned a doctoral degree from Emory University and has been honored with 13 additional doctorates.

A study by the Pulpit and Pew Research Center found that Willimon is one of the most widely read authors among mainline Protestant pastors. An international survey conducted by Baylor University named him one of the "Twelve Most Effective Preachers" in the English-speaking world. With over a million copies of more than 60 books sold, his popularity is undeniable.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 175 pages
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press; 1 edition (September 1, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0687361591
  • ISBN-13: 978-0687361595
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #370,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on March 22, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"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." (p. 138) So say Hauerwas and Willimon in this profoundly disturbing, profoundly liberating book. Their general thesis is that the church has lost its bearings because it's forgotten its Jesus-centered tradition. Rather than dwelling within that tradition, realizing that the church's mission is to build community that exemplifies the Kingdom and the Kingdom's values, Christians too frequently accommodate to the world in order to make their beliefs acceptable. In doing whatever they can to ameliorate the "scandal" of the gospel so as not to offend anyone, they betray the Kingdom and their tradition--and God.
This is a disconcerting challenge to those of us who try to be Christians. Even if one doesn't completely agree with Hauerwas and Willimon--in fact, even if one outright disagrees with them--their message deserves serious consideration. In grappling with the thorny question of how to live in the world without being of the world--that is, how to be "resident aliens"--they force us to reconsider our commitment to the good news.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book is a theme that Hauerwas has discussed in several of his other books: ethics is primarily a way of seeing the world rather than an objective, rational enterprise. All ethical systems presuppose a view of reality (even the ones that claim to be rational), and this means that in order to get to the heart of a particular ethics, one must examine the tradition from which it comes.
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Format: Paperback
This book has me hooked on Stanley Hauerwas. I have heard of him and his unusual approach to theological ethics and I thought I'd read this book as my professor recommended it to me.
I was startled to find that he had a whole new way of looking at things that I never really quite thought of as lucidly as he and Willimon have. Not only does he highly criticize the church for continually buying in to a Constantinian view of the church, he even critiques such great Theologians as Neibuhr! When someone does that, they either are supremely misinformed or have something very thoughtful to say, and, indeed this book does the latter.
Resident Aliens will make you see the church in a whole new light. Members of congregations and pastors alike must read this book as I think it would impact you ministry for God more than any other "seeker friendly" or "purpose-driven" book could possibly do. It particularly is a book that both uplifts and criticized the role of a pastor in a church.
While often bleak, Hauerwas and Willimon are brutally honest in the church impotence in BEING the church and instead has often simply become little different than a club where people come to get their "needs" met. The colony image, while not perfect, is challenging as it highlights our need to care for one another, to be, as Rodney Clapp says, "A Peculiar People", and to have our ethics driven by a biblical community, not a national idea of "rights" and "liberties".
If I could suggest a book to read for Christians this year, this would be it! Unfortunately, this book has been out for years and I do not see that it has had the impact that it should have. When the full weight of the reality of the post-Christian society we live in in the West hits us, books like this will be our saving grace. Either that, or we compromise until we become indistinguishable from the people around us.
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I found myself personally resonating with several of Hauerwas and Willimon's concerns in "Resident Aliens" about how American Christians tend to think. Hauerwas and Willimon rightly point out that it is absurd to expect a world no longer saturated with Christian language and assumptions to act like Christians. And it is insufficient to rest our hope in the restoration of Christendom, as they perceive that this longstanding era of church-state partnership (whether explicit or implicit) is seriously waning (now much more so than when they wrote RA in 1989).

They suggest that it is insufficient for the church to merely be an institution that tries to make the world a better place. And they find it to be equally unsatisfying for the church to simply try to minimize the discomfort that church-goers and would-be Christians experience in this individualistically-driven and materialistically-obsessed culture. They propose that the way for the church to be a Christian colony in a world that does not know God is to simply "be the church."

It is in this solution phase that Hauerwas and Willimon left me seriously wanting more. They are quite adept at picking apart a host of operating systems and philosophical constructs that many of us use to envision the church, ultimately to the detriment of the work of the church. But when they move into their proposed alternative (which they seemed to attempt at multiple points throughout the book), I was left in a world of abstraction. They kept returning to the idea that the church needs to be the church (without expecting the non-church world to function like the church). And as much as I embrace this general concept, they did very little to help me understand or picture what that means from their vantage point.
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