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The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment (Cultural Exegesis) Paperback – August 1, 2012
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From the Back Cover
Thinking Theologically about the Built Environment
"Eric Jacobsen sets himself two goals: to get us to attend to urban space--the space between the buildings in a city or village--and to explain why Christians in particular should care about the quality of urban space. He succeeds admirably on both counts. A fine contribution to an extremely important topic that has been neglected for too long by too many."
--Nicholas Wolterstorff, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia
"The Space Between is a seasoned Presbyterian pastor's account of the reciprocal relationship between urban form and communal life. Jacobsen, working from a Christ-centered perspective emphasizing both justice and generosity, articulates what religious communities have to gain from traditional towns and neighborhoods, and what they have to give. Highly recommended."
--Philip Bess, University of Notre Dame School of Architecture; author, Till We Have Built Jerusalem
"The Space Between takes us on an eye-opening tour of the places that both shape and reflect us. Readers may never look at their homes, neighborhoods, towns, and churches in the same way again. An important first step in reclaiming the locality of the local church."
--Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
"Jacobsen demonstrates that the church's intellectuals are bringing to bear on the world of ideas the insights of Christian theology and their own intuitive experiences of the places they inhabit. Given the scale of what we have built--from the sprawling exurbs to the troubled cities--there is much to say and do. The Space Between opens our imaginations to see that the places we make can and should be sustainable realizations of beauty and places of justice."
--Christopher C. Miller, department of architecture, Judson University
"Jesus urges us to love our neighbor, but in many modern cities we have destroyed our neighborhoods, making it much more difficult to know who our neighbors are let alone love them. In this compelling and beautifully written book Jacobsen tells us how that has happened, why it matters, and what we should be doing about it. This book calls us to think again, and more theologically, about the way our built environment shapes our life together."
--Murray Rae, University of Otago
About the Author
Eric O. Jacobsen (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, Washington. He is the author of Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith and numerous articles exploring connections between
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Top Customer Reviews
So if you are interested in either topic but aren't steeped in them both - you'll most likely find this book to be wonderful. On the other hand if you are well versed in both topics you may find this to be too elementary for your liking.
I, as a pastor, found myself slogging through the theological points. In fact, it often felt that the theological points were loosely tossed in at the end of the chapter in order to keep the integrity of the book's description in tact. Though there were enough good connections and thoughts to at least get me to read through, even if hurriedly.
That being said, I enjoyed this book and am grateful that I was introduced to it. I learned so much about how and why cities are the way they are and the effect culture has upon this design and the effect the design has on culture.
Jacobsen sets out in this book to introduce the built environment to the Christian community, and to make the case that Christians ought to care about creating built environments that lead to human thriving. The book comes in three parts: The first part is Orientation, in which Jacobsen asks readers to think about who they are, and how they are situated in space and time. His primary audience is North American, and he gives a lot of history on how and why North America has been built in the way it has. The second part is Participation, in which Jacobsen asks readers to think about the different agents who enact community life in a particular place: families, political groups, and churches. The final part is Engagement, in which Jacobsen challenges his readers to ask hard questions about how their Christian faith ought to interact with the built environment, creating places that are sustainable and loved.
This is a book both for those who already know and care about the built environment, and for those who have not thought about it much, but are curious. I fall into the latter camp, and over and over again I found that Jacobsen gave me language to name things that I already felt. I knew that certain built environments made me comfortable or uncomfortable, and now I know more why that is. It could be a challenging read at times, since a lot of the vocabulary was new, but it was worth the effort. Jacobsen's chapter on sustainability was challenging in a different way; some of what he writes about human thriving, environmental stewardship, and justice will challenge assumptions held by some of his fellow Christians. That, in my opinion, is a good thing.
For people in my generation, "The Space Between" is, first and foremost, a Dave Matthews Band song. But it is now also a welcome invitation for Christians to form convictions about how their faith should affect the built environment, and begin to act on those convictions. Not everyone will have the time or the ability to make large-scale changes in the places where they live--after all, the built environments we live in now have taken shape over generations, and sin is present with us even as we seek to build better places to live. But everyone can begin to make small changes that help to "seek the peace of the city" where God has placed them (Jer 29:7), as we ultimately look forward to the city "whose architect and builder is God" (Heb 11:10).
Note: Thanks to Baker Academic for a review copy of this book. I was not asked to give a positive review.
These questions and many more are considered in-depth in this book. Written with the Christian in mind, Jacobsen makes some reflections on the physical buildings in our neighbourhoods of work and home, offline and online interactions, and what the built environment is and is not. The key thesis is that an "enacted space" we are living or are designing is a place for a particular purpose and time. We are urged to see built environments as places in which God's salvation plan is being played out, and then Christians have a vital role to play.
This is a very special book that talks about something we normally take for granted: Our built spaces. There is a lot of wisdom in Jacobsen's book as he takes on the uphill task of helping readers see meaning of the design of cities and neighbourhood spaces. With brilliant cultural analysis and theological engagement, Jacobsen gives us a piece of work that is not only very original but very practical too. The perceptive reader will be able to see that there is a sense of movement in and out of both time and space in the book. While there is ample description of the physical space, there are many references to the age of time and timelessness, especially in the segment of Sabbath rest.
Jacobsen helps us trace the biblical narrative as well. By beginning with the garden to the city, from the city to the built initiatives, and finally to Sabbath rest, Jacobsen is essentially telling the biblical story from Genesis to Revelation through the lens of "The Space Between." Space is important. People do not simply need space. We need to make space for one another. This is an essential component of neighbourliness, toward the Christian duty of loving one's neighbour. The lesson on the Sabbath rest indicates to us a hope of profound rest in the future, what Christians call the eschatological moment. Having the availability of hospitality and the care for common shared spaces, and to design structures to be more personal, living will become more beautiful. Relationships will be more bountiful. We can all be more restful. That is the goal, even as we live in the space between the corridors of Genesis and Revelation.
Ratin: 4.75 stars of 5.
This book is provided to me free by Baker Academic, a member of the Baker Publishing Group and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.