A Biblical Theology of the City

Tim Keller posted a theology of the city on the website RESURGANCE.  Here is a couple of takeaways he included at the end.



  • A. Models of life in the city
  • In every earthly city, there are two ‘kingdoms’ present, two ‘cities’ vying for control. They are the City of Baal (or Satan or the god of this world) and the City of God.
  • * The city of Satan deifies power and wealth and human culture itself (making art, technology, business an end in itself instead of a way of glorifying God).
  • * The city of God is marked by God shalom (Jeru-shalom) – his peace. His peace is a place where stewardship of God, creation, justice, compassion and righteousness lead to harmony and family building and cultural development under God.
  • * Christians are to see the earthly city as something to love and win. They are to win it by seeking its shalom (Jeremiah 29) and seeking to spread the city of God within it, and to battle the city of Satan within it.
  • * We are to see that, though the fight between these two kingdoms happens everywhere in the world, earthly cities are the flashpoints on the battlelines, the places where the fighting is most intense, where the war can be won.
  • Models of urban ministry are then:
    We despise the city. Church as fortress. (Forgetting the city as Jerusalem).
    We are the city. Church as mirror. (Forgetting the city as Babylon).
    We use the city. Church as space capsule. (Forgetting the city as battleground).
  • We love the city. Church as leaven. Jeremiah 29.
  • Any theological model of the city will fail if one or more of these three biblical themes of the city is neglected, omitted, or over-emphasised.
  • B. Basic methods/ministries
  • * WORD (Ezra). Ezra recovered the Word for the people. Preaching, discipling, teaching. evangelising in a way contextualised to the concerns and capacities of the people of the city.
  • * DEED (Nehemiah). Nehemiah made the city safe and functional. Mercy and Justice! Holistic ministry. Safe streets, good jobs, decent housing, good schools.
  • * WORK (Esther). Esther rose high in a pagan society but then used her position at great risk to work for justice in society and for her people. A key part of city ministry is to equip Christians to work distinctively as Christians in their vocation.
  • * COMMUNITY (Jeremiah). Jeremiah’s letter (chapter 29) told the exiles to neither assimilate nor separate but live out their lives as a community ‘seeking the peace of the city’. So we are not only to be ‘witnesses’ by our individual lives, but by the beauty of our communal life. a) Generosity with money and simplicity of life, b) races and classes loving together over barriers, c) sexual purity and respect shown by men/women to one another in relationships.


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