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Where Mortals Dwell: A Christian View of Place for Today

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Place is fundamental to human existence. However, we have lost the very human sense of place in today's postmodern and globalized world. Craig Bartholomew, a noted Old Testament scholar and the coauthor of two popular texts on the biblical narrative, provides a biblical, theological, and philosophical grounding for place in our rootless culture. He illuminates the importan Place is fundamental to human existence. However, we have lost the very human sense of place in today's postmodern and globalized world. Craig Bartholomew, a noted Old Testament scholar and the coauthor of two popular texts on the biblical narrative, provides a biblical, theological, and philosophical grounding for place in our rootless culture. He illuminates the importance of place throughout the biblical canon, in the Christian tradition, and in the contours of contemporary thought. Bartholomew encourages readers to recover a sense of place and articulates a hopeful Christian vision of placemaking in today's world. Anyone interested in place and related environmental themes, including readers of Wendell Berry, will enjoy this compelling book.


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Place is fundamental to human existence. However, we have lost the very human sense of place in today's postmodern and globalized world. Craig Bartholomew, a noted Old Testament scholar and the coauthor of two popular texts on the biblical narrative, provides a biblical, theological, and philosophical grounding for place in our rootless culture. He illuminates the importan Place is fundamental to human existence. However, we have lost the very human sense of place in today's postmodern and globalized world. Craig Bartholomew, a noted Old Testament scholar and the coauthor of two popular texts on the biblical narrative, provides a biblical, theological, and philosophical grounding for place in our rootless culture. He illuminates the importance of place throughout the biblical canon, in the Christian tradition, and in the contours of contemporary thought. Bartholomew encourages readers to recover a sense of place and articulates a hopeful Christian vision of placemaking in today's world. Anyone interested in place and related environmental themes, including readers of Wendell Berry, will enjoy this compelling book.

30 review for Where Mortals Dwell: A Christian View of Place for Today

  1. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    Given the rampant Neo-Platonism in the church today, I think that developing a thoughtful, Biblical view of “place” is an important task. Given this, and given the fact that I had previously read and enjoyed other books by Bartholomew, I was pretty excited to read this book. Sad to say, I was very disappointed. The book is organized into three parts – Biblical arguments; Historical arguments; and Modern Topics. Actually, “arguments” is not the correct term to use because the author almost never p Given the rampant Neo-Platonism in the church today, I think that developing a thoughtful, Biblical view of “place” is an important task. Given this, and given the fact that I had previously read and enjoyed other books by Bartholomew, I was pretty excited to read this book. Sad to say, I was very disappointed. The book is organized into three parts – Biblical arguments; Historical arguments; and Modern Topics. Actually, “arguments” is not the correct term to use because the author almost never presents an argument. He does present assertions from time to time, though he almost always neglects to defend them. The author points out in the introduction that a theology of place is notoriously difficult to define. That may be so, but it does not excuse the complete lack of coherence given to the subject in the book. The Biblical survey section is an attempt to note any place in the Bible where “place” appears to be an important idea. However, the author over-applies his theme and ends up claiming anything and everything as a proof of the centrality of the idea of “place,” and the result is a sprawling, scattered mess. With a religion like Christianity, which has a story that has played out over the course of history, it must have, out of the necessities of reality, taken place in places. The author claims as significant innumerable references in Biblical stories to the places where those stories are happening, as if a story could even exist outside of a setting. This survey touches on several important Biblical themes that are related to “place” – such as creation, sacred space, and land – yet the author doesn’t really dig into any of these themes. He seems content to simply note that this topic falls under the umbrella of “place.” And because the author posits that the theme of place is a central Biblical theme, he feels the need to walk through every book of the Bible. Yet with each successive chapter he starts to grasp at straws more and more. By the time he gets to the New Testament, he has to actively argue against portions of the text (…yes, Jesus and believers have replaced the temple, but place is still important in the New Testament….look how often it mentions Galilee in the life of Jesus!). By the end of the Biblical survey – which spans about half of the book – I found myself with no increased understanding of what the theology of place is. A survey is not the same thing as making an argument or developing a theme, and the author would have been better served to choose a small handful of places in the Bible where the theme really shines (like Eden, the Tabernacle, and the land, for example) and dwell there for a while. The historical survey is much like the Biblical survey in that it seeks to tally all of the places where any philosopher or theologian had some thoughts on any topic that could be related to “place.” This section again seems to favor breadth at the expense of depth, and the theology of place is not so much developed as it is cast wide (and made almost meaningless in the process). Because sections 1 and 2 fail to truly develop the theology of place, the assertions made in section 3 ring hollow. Note that I say “assertions” and not “conclusions,” as the author continues his frustrating approach of not defending or explaining his declarations. Instead, throughout the book, the author puts forth a punishing amount of quotes and references to other authors. But a quote from another author is not a substitute for an argument. And the end result is an exhausting, and at times almost unreadable, book. Given the breadth (and lack of depth) of the surveys in sections 1 and 2, the sheer amount of quotes from other authors, and the author’s failure to defend his assertions, I came away with the feeling that the only contribution the author made to the theology of place is a dash of legalism. Honestly, the only thing saving this book from a one-star rating is that the topic itself is interesting and important. I hope to read a book someday that develops the theology of place in a meaningful way.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Mcgregor

    Sorry to say I could not get through this book. It lost me very shortly after I started reading it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    This is an excellent and thoughtful book on the subject of "place", that is to say, the fact that we are creatures bounded by location in space and time. The book opens with a survey of scripture; followed by a section on philosophy and Christian thought from the Greeks to Bonhoeffer ; concluding with a very practical section applying these principles to city, home, church, memorial and pilgrimage. Bartholomew is a thoughtful and measured writer with a thorough knowledge of scripture, philosophy This is an excellent and thoughtful book on the subject of "place", that is to say, the fact that we are creatures bounded by location in space and time. The book opens with a survey of scripture; followed by a section on philosophy and Christian thought from the Greeks to Bonhoeffer ; concluding with a very practical section applying these principles to city, home, church, memorial and pilgrimage. Bartholomew is a thoughtful and measured writer with a thorough knowledge of scripture, philosophy and culture. He writes in the neoCalvinistic tradition .

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jared

    This is the first book I've read on a "theology of place." That is both a good and a bad thing. It is good in that it helped to coalesce many concepts that had been floating around in mind in new and helpful ways. It is a bad thing in that I have no real point of comparison to other "theologies of place," and therefore no real sense of scale other than my own enjoyment. But I DID enjoy it. Bartholomew's surveys of the biblical text, philosophy, and theology are breath-taking in their sweep and co This is the first book I've read on a "theology of place." That is both a good and a bad thing. It is good in that it helped to coalesce many concepts that had been floating around in mind in new and helpful ways. It is a bad thing in that I have no real point of comparison to other "theologies of place," and therefore no real sense of scale other than my own enjoyment. But I DID enjoy it. Bartholomew's surveys of the biblical text, philosophy, and theology are breath-taking in their sweep and command, though it seemed apparent to me that Bartholomew is most at home in the biblical text. There were also a few points where I felt his introductions of key thinkers were a bit too abbreviated...but, again, I was reading this as my introductory text; someone well-read in the "theology of place" would no doubt recognize many names and ideas that were mysterious to me. I found this book valuable as an important piece of contextualization for many other current theological discussions. In particular, after reading Bartholomew, I would argue that the key "missing ingredient" in current Christian theology is NOT a "theology of creation-care," but this "theology of place." To say it plainly: if we can achieve a coherent "theology of place," the issues related to Christian responsibility for creation-care, urban life, political economy, globalization, digital culture, and about a half-dozen other "hot topics" would simply fall into place. This is a tremendous book. But I will warn you that, in places, I found Bartholomew hard to follow. The overall structure of the book was clear, but sometimes he really got "into the weeds" on some theologian or philosophical idea.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Walter

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. personally edifying. provides some insight to the "placelessness" that I often feel. the biblical theology of place in part 1 clarified the canonical developement of place, presenting a compelling case for place in the NT as being materialistic and not strictly spritual as some have argued. helped me understand that the former conclusion can only be arrived at if NT read within its jewish apocalyptic context rather than a later platonic, material depreicating context. the history of place within personally edifying. provides some insight to the "placelessness" that I often feel. the biblical theology of place in part 1 clarified the canonical developement of place, presenting a compelling case for place in the NT as being materialistic and not strictly spritual as some have argued. helped me understand that the former conclusion can only be arrived at if NT read within its jewish apocalyptic context rather than a later platonic, material depreicating context. the history of place within western philosophy appears to platonic in its trajectory, increasingly so, until kant and heidegger. need to read this part again. skimmed through the church history portion for lack of time. practical ramifications of a theology of place were fresh and grounded in a Trinitarian gospel... particular emphasis on the incarnation and resurrection. potential implications abounded and includ, gardening, community developemnt, artwork, homemaking... essentially becoming intimately invovled and agents within every place we inhabit and are embedded in. must read again

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    I bought this book with conscious ignorance of the topic that the author set out to establish. I have never once sat and thought about a Christian view of "place" in my life. All in all, I'm really glad I did. Bartholomew sets out to explore the contours of implacement both in the Scriptures and how that effects practice, specifically for Christians. In setting out to prove his point, the reader gets all sorts of peripheral nuggets along the way - you can find characters like NT Wright & Wendell I bought this book with conscious ignorance of the topic that the author set out to establish. I have never once sat and thought about a Christian view of "place" in my life. All in all, I'm really glad I did. Bartholomew sets out to explore the contours of implacement both in the Scriptures and how that effects practice, specifically for Christians. In setting out to prove his point, the reader gets all sorts of peripheral nuggets along the way - you can find characters like NT Wright & Wendell Berry quoted extensively from cover-to-cover with figures like Calvin, Bavinck, and Kuyper coming out to play here and there. All in all, I enjoyed much of Bartholomew's biblical-theological view of place in part 1, found the philosophical and historical understanding of place in part 2 a bit dry, and his own practical application of a Christian view of place in part 3 to be incredibly fun and enriching. Part 3 gave me paradigms for which to think that opened up lots of thoughts that didn't particularly know how to express. Great book!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Walsh

    I probably should go back and reread Parts I and II, especially Part II, to try to understand them better. This has to be one of the most challenging books I've read in many years. Challenging to follow and comprehend, but also challenging in what it asks of us in Part III. There are many, many quotable passages, and many references to other books and articles. As often happens, reading this one book has added several more books to the list of books that I think I should read. It is well worth th I probably should go back and reread Parts I and II, especially Part II, to try to understand them better. This has to be one of the most challenging books I've read in many years. Challenging to follow and comprehend, but also challenging in what it asks of us in Part III. There are many, many quotable passages, and many references to other books and articles. As often happens, reading this one book has added several more books to the list of books that I think I should read. It is well worth the effort to work one's way through this book slowly and deliberately and to try and understand the concepts that are being explored.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Lots of work here, very ambitious in its scope. I appreciate the thorough biblical reflection on the theme of place. The overview of thought on place (section 2) was ambitious but a bit too surface level to be truly helpful. The third section, focused on faithful implacement was idealistic, yet quite helpful. In fact, the more I reflect, the more I'm convicted that it's seeming idealism is a direct correlation to how thoroughly displaced we are in so many of our current realities. If you're inte Lots of work here, very ambitious in its scope. I appreciate the thorough biblical reflection on the theme of place. The overview of thought on place (section 2) was ambitious but a bit too surface level to be truly helpful. The third section, focused on faithful implacement was idealistic, yet quite helpful. In fact, the more I reflect, the more I'm convicted that it's seeming idealism is a direct correlation to how thoroughly displaced we are in so many of our current realities. If you're interested in a Christian theology and reflection on place, this is a great overview of the topic.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Paul Sparks

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jim Belcher

  11. 5 out of 5

    Geoff Maddock

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kevin McClain

  13. 4 out of 5

    Al Doyle

  14. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  15. 4 out of 5

    Len Hjalmarson

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anna

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jack

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cameron

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ross Jensen

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kenny

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jack

  22. 5 out of 5

    Megan Haworth

  23. 4 out of 5

    Doug

  24. 5 out of 5

    Thiago

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ashton Tassin

  26. 5 out of 5

    Steve Farson

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Stokes

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Redden

  30. 4 out of 5

    Fernando Pasquini Santos

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