Just after I arrived in Chicago in 1965 to study and to minister, the Community Renewal Society published an article suggesting that theological conservatives can’t make it in the city because they take their Bibles too literally. They said that when you take the Bible literally, you swallow an essentially rural milieu: “God builds gardens; men make cities. God prefers shepherds to vine growers and certainly to city dwellers.”

I began then in 1966 to look at the biblical data. That became extremely important for me because in my tradition and in my own experience, biblical materials were normative for deciding whether I had a mission in the city at all or whether I would have to abandon Scripture and stay in Chicago for other than biblical and theological reasons.

So I began a study of some 1,400 scriptural references to cities, including case studies of biblical cities, philosophy, the theology of corporate solidarity, and other kinds of biblical data. I suggest that we have biblical and theological resources for urban ministry. Let me use a simplistic outline and talk about principles, places, and persons.

A Theology Of Principles

Under biblical principles, let’s return to the principle of materialism. The Bible begins with creation; it centers on resurrection; it anticipates re-creation.

In Exodus 31 there is a little post-Red Sea vignette about two of my favorite fellows, Bezalel and Oholiab, who are given a special ministry by the Spirit to design and build a tabernacle. God is suggesting that this first-generation migrant group cannot exist worshiping only an invisible God, even with the benefit of fire, cloud, and pillars; even with such people as Moses, and with such institutions as worship, Sabbath, and codes. Some visible ...

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