A reply: Resident Aliens at 25

In 1989, Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon sparked a lively debate about church, ministry, and Christian identity with their book Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony. Twenty-five years later, we asked several pastors and theologians to offer their perspective on the book and its impact. (Read all responses.)

Probably it’s a good thing that we didn’t try to write a book designed to have lasting value. Everyone knows how dull academics can be when we try to qualify every statement, engage all possible objections, and show off our latest reading. (And every preacher knows that the most interesting homiletics is, in one way or another, polemics.)

Still, it would be disingenuous to act as if we were unhappy about the attention given to Resident Aliens by an amazing array of churches and Christians. Because of this book we have made new friends in faraway places and discovered the richness and diversity of the church.

Some critics, upon first reading of our book, asked, “Where in the world is the church you want?” Where is the church that lives as if it really is God’s unexpected answer to what’s wrong with the world? The church that, in the end, wins through suffering witness and love? The church that shares an open table and tries breathlessly to keep up with the movements of the risen Christ? The church that dares to be incomprehensible to the world because it believes Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are true? That church is more ubiquitous than we knew.