A Book Review of Scott Aniol’s Citizens and Exiles

“Whether or not one is convinced of the two kingdoms theology versus a one kingdom framework, this book rightfully guards against an over-realized eschatology that underlies the cultural compromise and mission drift so common in the church.” - P&D


I appreciate Aniol's approach on this topic. The reviewer captures it best in this comment:

"Our mission is not cultural or social transformation. The church’s mission is spiritual—how to live regardless of the social situation you find yourself in."

It does sound like a good read. I don’t know what Aniol’s analysis/arguments are, but it sounds like he’s done his homework.

Certainly agree with the big idea that the church is not in the world to transform society… with certain caveats. I would say “the church as the church is not in the world to transform society as society. The church in the sense of ‘individual believers’ is not the same thing as the church as an entity. Similarly, society in the sense of ‘human beings’ is not the same thing as society as a thing.

In conversations, I find that people have some difficulty seeing what I mean. There are no perfect analogies, but suppose a local independent indoor soccer team. The team is made up of people with jobs, families, hobbies, etc. They meet for a specific purpose. What they do when they meet as a team affects all of their individual lives with their families, jobs, etc. (mostly health/stress management benefits).

But nobody thinks that when Jack mows his grass, it’s the Smallville Strikers mowing the grass.

The church has very specific, God-given purposes for gathering. What it does, gathered, affects the lives of all the participants when they are not gathered. … in super-important ways. There can even be things they do “as a church” when not gathered. But there’s a difference between “as a church” and “as a result of the church.”

Smallville Baptist Church could meet on a Saturday and pick up trash all over Smallville. I think that’s a great way to be visible as the church. But leaders would need provide context to help the members understand where that fits into the actual mission of the church… which is not to make towns better places to live.

So the church as the church has among its purposes to make its members better human beings (we usually use biblical terms like ‘disciples’ and ‘sanctification,’ etc.)—which should then result in them helping make ‘society’ better for everyone in a variety of ways. The church has a purpose to help its people love God and love neighbor better. That has both direct and indirect benefits to individuals outside the church. It has only indirect benefits for ‘society.’

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.