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A Theology As Big As Austin (Part 1)

November 23, 2007

I have recently been working my way through a wonderful book by Ray Bakke, entitled A Theology As Big As The City. The book seeks to show the reader how God views the city, as revealed through the scriptures, beginning with Genesis and continuing through Revelation. While the scriptures are the backbone that reveals God’s heart for the city, Bakke brings it home while sharing stories from his experience as a pastor in inner city Chicago. At the end of the book, Bakke shares his reflections after many years in ministering to the city. What I want to do here is to interact with Bakke’s reflections and share my own heart for the city of Austin. Remember, these are reflections, not theological papers, so consider them first drafts.  Here goes…

Bakke’s Reflections on Creation and Redemption
“We work to balance the Celtic creation theology with Augustine’s salvation by grace and the faith of the Reformers. Ecologists and evangelists need not be enemies if we find a way to affirm both. When we were creating the organization I now direct, International Urban Associates, we included in the value statement: “We… commit IUA to an ecological theology that is both creative and redemptive for persons and places. And so we seek both the spiritual transformation of persons and the social transformation of places until our Lord comes or calls for us.”

Reflections on Creation and Redemption for Austin
Since mankind was created in the image of God we all share his desire creative desires. Which one of us doesn’t in some way contain this attribute of God. From Pablo Picasso and Michelangelo to young boys and girls drawing in the sand at the beach and making sand castles we all have this creative drive within us. For some that creativity gets nurtured, while for others it gets squashed or put aside for ‘maturity’s’ sake. But whether we be architects or plumbers it is there. Both of them in their work likely see new or better ways to achieve a result. We are creative people!!

And the church should be at the forefront of creativity!! As my pastor, Matt Chandler, has said, “We worship the God who created blue.” This means that Christians, who have been reconciled with God, have direct and intimate access to the Creator of all things! When we see the color blue, we can thank God for it’s creation and we are motivated and freed to use that color in remarkable ways. And that is just the color blue.  God has called us and gifted us to perform all types of work.

Exodus 35:30-35

Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer

Did you catch that?  Bezalel is the first person recorded in the scriptures as being ‘filled with the Spirit’.  And he is filled with the Spirit of God to be creative, to do excellent, creative work for the glory of God and to be a witness for all those who see it that God is worthy of worship.  The tabernacle/sanctuary that Bezalel was working on was to be a place where men could be reconciled with God.

As Christians, because we have been reconciled to God and the Spirit of God now dwells within us, we are continually being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. As such, we increasingly see the world as God sees it and we enter into the lives of those who are in pain, sorrow, grief, brokenness and oppression and we seek to be healing agents.

So how does this play itself out for us in Austin?

It means that as believers in Christ we are to be woven into the community and contributing as the most creative people in the city. ‘Christian art’ should not be a cheesy joke. It also shouldn’t be a subculture. Our posture is incarnational, not monastic. We should embrace creativity in the arts, in education, in technology, etc. We should be advancing creative solutions to problems in our city. We should always be asking, “What is God’s heart for the city in this area?” And how do we creatively engage every sphere of the city with restoration/redemption in view?

The good old story of the gospel of Jesus Christ demands that we be creative in faithfully declaring and demonstrating it while engaged where people live, eat, work and play.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2008 9:55 pm

    Jacob, I love the idea of “non-cheesy” Chrsitian art. Nice post! dt


  1. A Theology As Big As Austin (part 2) « Under Grace In Austin
  2. A Theology As Big As Austin (part 3) « Under Grace In Austin

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