Untamed Hospitality

Welcoming God and Other Strangers

series: Christian Practice of Everyday Life, The

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"Newman here invites us into the classical liturgy of the household of God, where people learn to embody true hospitality. A book to savor and enjoy!"--Geoffrey Wainwright, Duke University

Today's society has reduced hospitality to hosting elaborate dinner parties and exchanging niceties in conversation with friends. In Untamed Hospitality, Elizabeth Newman seeks to reclaim the true meaning of Christian hospitality as an extension of the abundant and extravagant generosity of God. She argues that Christian hospitality calls for welcoming not only friends but also strangers who will challenge us and enhance our lives in unexpected ways. In doing so, we are prepared to embrace the ultimate stranger: God.

In this theological and cultural analysis, Newman argues that worship itself is participation in divine hospitality--a hospitality that affects our economic, political, and private lives. Her message that hospitality calls us to live in the true marks of the church--one, holy, catholic, and apostolic--is vital in a world separated by national, racial, and ecclesial divisions. It will challenge Christians to move beyond coffee fellowship hours to live out God's radical hospitality.

Untamed Hospitality offers a fresh approach and will appeal to theologians, biblical scholars, and ethicists, as well as those seeking to redefine Christian hospitality in churches today.

About the series: The Christian Practice of Everyday Life series presents specifically Christian perspectives on some of the most prevalent contemporary practices of everyday life. The books in this series are motivated by the conviction that, in the contemporary context, Christians must actively demonstrate that their allegiance to the God of Jesus Christ always takes priority over secular structures that compete for our loyalty--including the state, the market, race, class, gender, and other functional idolatries.


"In this splendid little book, Elizabeth Newman offers a thick theological account of Christian hospitality. Over against our culture's impoverishing reliance on thin notions of tolerance and diversity and inclusiveness, she demonstrates how Christians might yet show the world its true Host by providing it a true home in the household of God."--Ralph C. Wood, Baylor University

"In an extraordinary first book, Elizabeth Newman recovers a theologically rich vision of God's hospitality that is the gift that makes Christian hospitality possible. In beautifully written prose that takes no prisoners, Newman not only challenges safe, domesticated, and comfortable distortions of this central Christian practice, but she also demonstrates step by step how cultural assumptions about religion, politics, economics, and science undercut the faithful practice of the hospitality of God. Equally, she reconstructs the strange, vigilant, and unifying practice of ecclesial hospitality rooted in Christian participation in the divine life--worship. A wonderful book for undergraduate courses and for those concerned about Christian higher education and faithful Christian living, and a powerful contribution to the conversation on theological ethics."--M. Therese Lysaught, University of Dayton

"If we open our hearts to the stranger, we will open our hearts to what is strange within us. This precious book shows a way to peace and to unity inside us and around us, for the church and for the world."--Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche

"In Untamed Hospitality Elizabeth Newman has rescued us from flabby and incoherent notions of tolerance that sanctify the status quo, and provided us with a theologically astute understanding of the role that the practice of hospitality should play in the life of the Christian community and of the individual believer. She does a masterful job of showing how this practice ties together politics, economics, sacraments, and the basic doctrinal and moral convictions of the church to constitute our lives as faithful disciples who can speak meaningfully in and to this time and place. A theological work of the first order!"--Barry Harvey, Baylor University

"This is a lovely book, so well researched and eminently readable. Newman draws us in as a gracious host and opens doors that both welcome and astound. The author embodies her message by allowing us into her own life and, in the process, challenges us by unmasking many of the things that we thought made us feel comfortably at home in our own lives. Indeed, hospitality is untamed because it is rendered as something other than squishy sentimentality and individual manners, but rather as constitutive of a people called church whose worship is participation in a Triune God's own hospitality. By accepting God's gifts, we become God's guests, and we learn to interact in graced ways befitting that station. This form of hospitality confers a sense of place (yearning for the home of the beckoning kingdom) that, ironically, may make Christians strangers in a land of markets and 'boutique multiculturalism.'"--Joseph M. Incandela, Saint Mary's College

"In the face of church trivialized as 'inclusivity,' and of worship reduced to 'entertainment,' Elizabeth Newman here invites us into the classical liturgy of the household of God, where people learn to embody true hospitality. She shows how participation in the life of the Triune God--as both reception and gift--then shapes and calls for parabolic and transformative enactment in the social worlds of the sciences, medicine, economics, politics, and education. The author's criticisms of contemporary culture and her display of a Christian alternative are equally grounded in wide scholarship and enlivened by engaging examples. A book to savor and enjoy!"--Geoffrey Wainwright, Duke University

"This is a brilliant book. Elizabeth Newman translates complex theological and philosophical issues into the flesh and blood reality of lived-out Christian discipleship. She seamlessly weaves the practice of Christian worship into a critical analysis of economic, political, and educational practices--not attempting to create a grandiose vision of radical social reconstruction, but instead articulating how the daily practice of Christian hospitality can slowly build a new world. Essential reading for anyone looking for a positive alternative to our disintegrating bourgeois culture."--Murray Jardine, author of The Making and Unmaking of Technological Society

"In Untamed Hospitality: Welcoming God and Other Strangers Newman provides a much-needed critique of sentimentalized, privatized, economized, and liberalized accounts of hospitality. By arguing that Christian hospitality is graced participation in the triune life of God, this book offers a rich theological description that creates the space to rediscover the extraordinariness of this practice for ecclesial and public life. In a world of growing polarization, this first-rate book deserves to be read and discussed widely."--Robert Vosloo, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

The Author

  1. Elizabeth Newman

    Elizabeth Newman

    Elizabeth Newman (PhD, Duke University) is professor of theology and ethics at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. She is the coeditor for Studies in Baptist History and Thought and has published numerous articles in theology and ethics,...

    Continue reading about Elizabeth Newman


"This scholarly study of how North American culture understands, and has marginalized, true hospitality will be of interest primarily to academics, clergy, and students."--Publishers Weekly

"An intriguing approach to Christian spirituality. [Newman] understands the contemporary diminutions and distortions of hospitality in dinner parties and the slighter manifestations of charity or politeness; her pioneering work moves toward recognizing and cherishing the 'stranger,' whose receipt of hospitality will change us and bring us closer to the heart of the mystery of the Eucharist and of Christianity itself. Her gently persuasive and deeply spiritual work is far-reaching in both its scholarship and its implications. Highly recommended."--Graham Christian, Library Journal

"Perhaps the finest recent book to be published on hospitality is Elizabeth Newman's Untamed Hospitality. . . . [Newman] weaves together exegesis, exposition, and argument into a persuasive tapestry of reflection and contemplation on hospitality. . . . Her examination of the relation of hospitality to worship is one of the most refreshing and inspiring sections of the entire volume. . . . [She] integrates thoughtful theological reflection with a clear-eyed analysis of the socio-political world. . . . Untamed Hospitality is an exceptional volume that deserves a wide readership. . . . [Newman has] made [an] extraordinary contribution to our understanding of hospitality and, by extension, to the Christian faith that requires its practice."--Scott H. Moore, Christian Reflection

"Newman compellingly surveys how a consumer society deforms our sensibilities so that we end up offering a superficial and false hospitality to others. . . . Newman's provocative, erudite book is a welcome rescue."--Tim Otto, Prism

"This book offers a fresh look at Christian hospitality as a 'practice' that shapes and defines our participation in the life of God."--Interpretation

"One of the most striking elements of the book is the thoughtful and provocative way Newman critiques modern liberal assumptions and the manifestation of these within public life and the life of the church. Over and against the falsity of market-driven hospitality Newman draws us to a deeper reflection on the character of true hospitality that grows out of God's overflowing abundance. Her argument is compelling. . . . Newman elegantly leads us toward a renewed vision of the Christian life inspired by the constant overflowing abundance of the divine reality. She reflects deeply on the Church as God's dwelling place in the world and invites us to hear the call to be the household of God. . . . Newman's philosophical insight moves profoundly while being meaningfully rooted in the lived experience of Christ's followers today. Indeed, her final discussion of both the L'Arche communities and the Church of the Saviour punctuate her book with a groundedness and vitality that is most welcome in scholarly discussions of the Church and conceptions of hospitality. Newman skillfully draws on many thinkers and offers detailed references throughout. . . . An excellent book that raises great questions and nicely integrates theology and practice."--Pam McCarroll, Toronto Journal of Theology