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A Theology as Big as the City Paperback – July 7, 1997

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Editorial Reviews


More than anything else, A Theology as Big as the City is the story of how one evangelical Christian, Ray Bakke, came to have an urban theology. The questions that Bakke raises and the answers he comes up with are crucial for all Christians, no matter their label, to consider. Bakke has systematically worked his way through the scriptures from beginning to end to see what the bible has to say about the city. (Frank A. Mills, Urban Paradoxes, February 10, 2008)

About the Author

Raymond J. Bakke is senior associate of Ray Bakke Associates, a nonprofit organization that partners with those who are passionate about empowering the church to be creatively missional in an urban world. He is the former chancellor and professor of global urban studies at Bakke Graduate University and former executive director of International Urban Associates in Chicago, Illinois.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 221 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (July 7, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830818901
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830818907
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By tdott on April 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
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.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Scott T. Arnold on December 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
Ray Bakke is a biblical theologian whose passion for history makes a wonderful combination for those serving or studying urban ministry. Having been a student of Dr. Bakke while in Chicago I can tell you that his sage advice and insights will stick with you and give you the kind of vision that is trans formative. This book is full of wonderful true stories and a theology that is both biblical and born of blood and sweat. God is working out a grand salvation story, and cities and their people are loved by God. In my estimate, Dr. Bakke offers great hope for those battling in the trenches of urban ministry, his vision is Christ-centered.
- Dr. Scott Arnold (Flint School of Urban Ministry)
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Luke Tallon on April 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
The biggest downfall of Bakke�s book is the title. When I read Bakke�s 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 �Ministry in Urban Chicago Changed How I Read the Bible� or �A Hermeneutic as Big as the City.� Unfortunately, �hermeneutic� is a scary word for most people, nearly devoid of the romance of �theology.�
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. Bakke�s commentary reminded me about God�s love for the city and God�s 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 God�s 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 God�s 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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Seale on January 3, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bakke’s overall message is not explicitly stated in his book, but it is that the Bible is a more urban book than we realize, talking about and referencing cities very frequently. He argues that the Bible is full of useful theological tidbits about cities, and although at times he appears to be stretching, and at times he takes a more radical stance than is seemingly necessary, at the core I believe he is right. The Bible is not, as some have argued, a rural book written for rural people. I do not believe that the Bible makes urban out to be evil. I like how Bakke tries to allow the Scripture to speak and draw nuggets of theological wisdom out of it, but some might argue that he is not practicing the best exegesis – he tends to draw conclusions from single passages and make conclusions that require eisogesis (laying preconceived notions on top of the text). For example, his conclusion that churches are not teaching Biblical tithing if they are not calling for a tenth of their members to return to urban areas is troubling. His reference, Nehemiah, was going throughout the land seeking people to emigrate to God’s holy city. Today, we have no “holy” city as they did, and Bakke is calling for something different.
This book is very radical at places and may be over-the-top in some of its conclusions, but its basic argument and many of the principles contained within are excellent. I particularly like the author’s assertion that we need the “whole gospel for the whole city.” Additionally, Bakke led me to some interesting realizations about Scripture passages or stories that I had never realized before. One that will stick with me was that Ninevah’s repentance in Jonah had completely disappeared within 100 years. I had never heard that before.
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