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A Theology as Big as the City: The Case for Natural Law [Paperback]

By Raymond J. Bakke (Author)
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Item description for A Theology as Big as the City: The Case for Natural Law by Raymond J. Bakke...

"As we look at the world - class cities around our planet, we face five new urban realities: a crack cocaine epidemic, assault weapons, massive numbers of homeless children, HIV/AIDS and (in the U.S.) what Time magazine has called 'the browning of America.' The needs of the urban population are greater than ever." How does God see the city? What does Scripture have to say about urban ministry? Here is a biblical theology beginning with Genesis and continuing through to Revelation that will constantly surprise and challenge you.

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"As we look at the world-class cities around our planet, we face five new urban realities: a crack cocaine epidemic, assault weapons, massive numbers of homeless children, HIV/AIDS and (in the U.S.) what Time magazine has called the browning of America.' The needs of the urban population are greater than ever. . . . As our cities swell with immigrants, I'm reminded that Jesus was born in a borrowed barn in Asia and became an African refugee in Egypt, so the Christmas story is about an international migrant. Furthermore, a whole village full of baby boys died for Jesus before he had the opportunity to die for them on the cross. Surely this Jesus understands the pain of children who die for the sins of adults in our cities." How does God see the city? What does Scripture have to say about urban ministry? These are the questions Ray Bakke has systematically addressed, beginning with Genesis and continuing through to Revelation. Here is a biblical theology that will constantly surprise and challenge as you get a glimpse of how big God's view of the city really is.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: InterVarsity Press
Pages   240
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.27" Width: 5.52" Height: 0.64"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 7, 1997
Publisher   IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN  0830818901  
ISBN13  9780830818907  

Availability  4 units.
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1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Church Institutions & Organizations
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4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology

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Reviews - What do customers think about A Theology As Big As the City?

Great resource for the Urban Worker  Feb 24, 2007
This book is a great tool to add to the reading selection of any Urban worker. It gives time and thought to the issues of reconciling theology to inner city life. It wrestles with the American church health and wealth theology verses the realities of the inner city church. Good for missionaries as well.
A Warm-Hearted, Refreshing Book  Jun 29, 2006
Following his graduation from Moody Bible Institute, Ray Bakke found himself propelled from "rural Washington to inner-city Chicago". This book traces his journey, and combines his experience of the city -- Chicago in particular -- with his own theological reflection. The end product is an unusual mix -- yet it works. Being an inner-city minister myself, I felt that Bakke deeply understands ministry in the city.

The city, considers Bakke, is no bad place. It is not the case that "all cities are evil". Rather, a city might be described as a "magnificent ruin'". It is a ruin on account of its being "sin-scarred", yet it is magnificent for the reason that, in the city, "there have been ministries of such splendor and significance". This having been said, city ministry is not merely about human activity, as so many theologies would seem to imply. Above all, it is about "our God as One who engages in external-world activity". The city is the story of "God's surprising interventions".

"I acknowledge Scripture to be the final test", writes Bakke. With this in mind, he considers that there are two distinct "spiritualities" in the Bible -- both evangelism and social engagement. Therefore "what God has brought together, let no one put asunder". The righteous, he writes, "are called to be both salt and light . . . the twin vocations of the Christian". He broadly surveys the theology of Scripture, its example, and the example of Church history, to make what would seem to be a strong case for the Christian's twofold calling. He considers that this is, on the whole, "beneficial to the security and salvation of individual persons".

A modern city, writes Bakke, will typically contain many ethnicities. He approaches the subject from the point of view that God makes loving and providential use of ethnicity to proclaim salvation to the world. One need only think of Pentecost, or the prophets and teachers at Antioch (Acts 13:1). He suggests modern examples, and further welcomes the influx to Western cities of many who belong to "the Orthodox family of Churches". He comments: "Isn't it amazingly gracious of our God to bring our ancient Christian leaders to be side by side with us in Western cities . . . ?" We can be greatly enriched through them.

"Over 50% of people on the planet", notes Bakke, will by now live in cities. For this reason, it is crucial to develop an appropriate attitude towards ministry in the city. In this, I feel that he succeeded. This was a warm-hearted and refreshing book. My sentiment on completing it is: "Thank God for Ray Bakke." He has surely done city ministry a great service. My only question is why this book should not yet have reached a Second Edition.
A Theology for Urban Missions and Ministry  Apr 24, 2003
The church must learn to minister in an increasingly urban world. Recruitment and motivation for this task involves theologically based worldview change. Bakke renders an important contribution in contextualizing biblical theology to the urban context. His is not a literalist biblical hermeneutic; instead Bakke models theological reflection, bringing to the text questions raised by his own unique traditions and social context (Bakke 1997:29). Insofar as this context is an urban one largely abandoned by much of the Evangelical community and insufficiently explored theologically, he renders a great service. The Trinity doctrine forms the proper foundation for urban ministry: "God lives in community and works in partnership for both the creation and the redemption of the world."

Modern cities are marked by economic classism and social stratification which are the same injustices for which ancient Sodom was judged. Yet because "God's hands are in the mud" and actively involved with both redemption and re-creation even the most corrupt of cities is eminently redeemable. Bakke believes a principle from Nehemiah, the relocation of a "tithe" of godly people into the urban context would have a profound preservative and regenerative effect on cities. Even the weak, imprisoned and powerless faithful in remarkably small numbers have often transformed entire cities. The task of urban ministry must be viewed soberly yet hopefully. Bakke provides an important antidote to the predominant causes of attrition among urban workers: burnout and compassion fatigue.

Proclamation remains at the center of urban evangelism but the gospel's social implications must be fulfilled. Bakke gently and insightfully exposes the inconsistency of a well-meaning suburbanite's criticism of a "social gospel" on the basis that primarily social criteria had been the grounds upon which the suburbs were chosen as his neighborhood. The city's urbanizing influence cannot be avoided by living extramurally. Moreover, the physical presence of godly people within a city is essential for confronting its strongholds.

Bakke demonstrates that mission has been brought near to us through urbanization but urges readers to take the final incarnational step of engaging urban contexts theologically and diaconally. In response, missiology must increasingly support cross-cultural ministries in the pluralistic urban context. The church must increasingly adapt its forms in response to 24/7 urban pluralism. Our hermeneutic historically has reflected a rural, agrarian or even anti-urban bias (Bakke 1997:14) but now theology must grapple with an increasingly urban world context. An urban theology should take into account God's concern for places as well as people. Bakke will motivate many suburbanite and rural Christian readers to emulate the Christ of Philippians 2, by practicing "downward social mobility" (Bakke 1997:46) as they establish a righteous witness in an often corrupt urban community. If urban ministry is better caught than taught, reading this book makes one susceptible to a virulent strain!

Cities througout Scripture  Apr 23, 2003
As part of an Urban Missions course at a university, I read Bakke's A Theology as Big as the City. In this book, Bakke offers his interpretations of biblical pictures of the city in combination with personal experiences, church life, and history/tradition. Claiming that the primary challenge for urban ministry is theological, Bakke hopes to lay a solid biblical foundation for urban ministry. Throughout the book, he supports his claim that God cares about the cities, and He has called Christian men and women to give their lives to the service of ministry in these places. While his approach is a bit scattered, Bakke does look at many biblical pictures of the city and God's relationship to it. He finds a considerable amount of references in the Old Testament concerning the city. He is even able to show that one can go to the Old Testament for examples of confronting street gangs, distributing public welfare, directing religious education, and the power of multiple gifts in holistic urban ministry. He finds that cities are a major theme in the prophets, that Jesus spent much of his time in the city, and that Paul's ministry spread through cities. While all of the proofs are clearly recorded in scripture, the reader senses that Bakke is working through a list of every time "city" appears in scripture to show a running theme of God's interaction with it. He tends to stretch scriptural references to show how every mention of the city is ultimately calling for urban ministry. Yet, he does convincingly demonstrate that urban settings are important in scripture and should be important to Christians today. His experience offers great credibility, wisdom, and insight, and he offers new lenses through which a Christian can view the city. Ultimately, I simply found the title to be misleading. I was expecting a study on God, and how he interacts with humanity, especially the condensed humanity of the city. Rather, I found a study on the city and how it is important in the Bible. If this were a theology book, it should have begun with God as a missionary God, but the book begins and ends with the city. A more appropriate title might have been God and Cities through Scripture. Under this title, I could say that this is a worthwhile read.
A misleading title, but good content  Apr 22, 2003
The biggest downfall of Bakkeýs book is the title. When I read Bakkeýs book for an urban ministry and missions course, I expected a systematic approach in which traditional theology was reinterpreted into the urban context. Instead, Bakke used his urban paradigm to exegete a sampling of biblical texts. Better titles for his book would have been ýMinistry in Urban Chicago Changed How I Read the Bibleý or ýA Hermeneutic as Big as the City.ý Unfortunately, ýhermeneuticý is a scary word for most people, nearly devoid of the romance of ýtheology.ý
Aside from the misleading title, the book is a great starting point for anyone wondering how God views the city or what scripture says about urban settings. Bakke allows the reader to follow him as he reads through the Bible and to see how a veteran inner-city worker reads scripture and applies it to the urban context. Bakkeýs commentary reminded me about Godýs love for the city and Godýs plan for the city. Too often, Christians have the mindset that the city is inherently dangerous and evil, while suburban and rural settings are inherently good. Bakke unmasks this myth and reminds us of Godýs love for the city. When Christians flee the city, the world hears that God does not love the city and it is irredeemable. Bakke proclaims Godýs love for the city and especially for the forsaken urban poor. He launches a direct attack on comfortable suburban Christians as they flee the shockingly broken and sinful cities for the suburbs with their hidden brokenness and culturally acceptable sin.
I would recommend this book to anyone contemplating urban ministry or engaged in urban ministry, but I really wish that suburban Christians would read this book. I think that suburban Christians would be confronted by two important ideas, which are easily overlooked. First, they would confront the evidence that ýthe evangelical church seems to be retreating further from seeing our God as One who engages external-world reality to seeing only One who meets our personal needs and solves our personal problems (14).ý Second, I think that encountering Bakkeýs urban inspired reading of the Bible would challenge the myth that we can just read the Bible and do what it says without seriously examining the eyes with which we read. Most affluent Christians desperately need to see the Bible through someone elseýs eyes, and Bakkeýs eyes, attuned to urban poverty and hopelessness, are a great place to start.

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