Acton Institute Powerblog

The New Urban Christians

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“Should I not be concerned about that great city?” asks God of the prophet Jonah about Nineveh, which “has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well.”

God is rebuking the recalcitrant prophet, who only carried out his assigned proclamation in Nineveh after a rather harrowing adventure on the high seas. After Jonah delivered his message, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned,” the Bible tells us that “Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.”

If Jonah embodies the spirit of withdrawal and the desire for God’s wrathful judgment on sinful human society, think of Tim Keller as the anti-Jonah. As he’s introduced in a piece he wrote for a recent issue of Christianity Today, “For 17 years, he has been preaching at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, distilling biblical teaching into arrestingly simple phrases that convey the radical surprise and gracious truth of Christian faith.”

Photo Credit: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Keller’s ministry is vital and engaged: “Keller’s vision of a church keenly committed to the welfare of its city attracts 5,000 worshipers each week to Redeemer’s four rented locations, sends them out into many forms of charitable service through the church’s ministry Hope for New York, and fuels a church-planting effort that embraces Baptists and Pentecostals as well as Presbyterians, immigrant neighborhoods as well as Manhattan.”

Keller writes in the piece, “A New Kind of Urban Christian,” that for the Christian church to properly and effectively engage culture, “We need Christian tradition, Christians in politics, and effective evangelism.” But these alone or combined are not enough. Keller believes that “as the city goes, so goes the culture. Cultural trends tend to be generated in the city and flow outward to the rest of society.” Large cities tend to attract young and vibrant people, who influence the course of the broader culture.

The sad fact is that the Jonah phenomenon has had an impact on evangelical Christianity in America. “Do I mean that all Christians must live in cities? No. We need Christians and churches everywhere there are people! But I have taken up the call of the late James Montgomery Boice, an urban pastor (at Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church) who knew that evangelical Christians have been particularly unwilling to live in cities,” he says.
With respect to the particlar social and cultural issues faced in today’s large cities, Keller exercises an impressive sense of spiritual discernment. He argues that “we must neither just denounce the culture nor adopt it. We must sacrificially serve the common good, expecting to be constantly misunderstood and sometimes attacked.” Every city culture is going to have some points of moral commendability, which must be appreciated and built upon.

In New York City, for example, “the Christian teaching on forgiveness and reconciliation is welcome, but our sexual ethics seem horribly regressive. Every non-Christian culture has enough common grace to recognize some of the work of God in the world and to be attracted to it, even while Christianity in other ways will offend the prevailing culture.”

Keller concludes by discussing the concept of the Christian vocation, or the calling to work, as an expression of faith. The failure of the broader evangelical world to adequately address this concept is in part a result of the Jonah phenomenon. “We do not know very well how to persuade people of Christianity’s answers by showing them the faith-based, worldview roots of everyone’s work. We do not know how to equip our people to think out the implications of the gospel for art, business, government, journalism, entertainment, and scholarship,” writes Keller.

Regaining the spiritual depth of vocation is a key part of Keller’s mission: “Developing humane, creative, and excellent business environments out of our understanding of the gospel can be part of this work. The embodiment of joy, hope, and truth in the arts is also part of this work.”

A part of Keller’s plan, as alluded to above, is the planting of churches throughout New York City. Stephen Wolma, former editor of Acton’s Religion & Liberty, recently graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary and was one of the few candidates accepted as a fellow into Keller’s church planting program. Wolma says, “Four years ago, God began laying the people of this great city on our hearts. My wife and I prayed that if we were to minister there, God would open the doors to make it possible.”

Wolma plans to move to New York with his wife Dana and two children to complete the Redeemer fellows program, in the hopes of planting a Christian Reformed Church congregation in the city. In an informational letter about this ministry opportunity, Wolma writes, “Highly motivated, educated professionals are the key movers and shakers in these global city centers. Less than .05 percent of them know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. What a difference they could make for the peace and prosperity of these global city centers and the world if they embraced the life-changing power of the Gospel!”

The financial costs for such a move are enormous, as one might imagine. “The cost of living in New York City is almost double that of Grand Rapids, and we’ll need $8,400 a month to cover the cost of ministry and living expenses for the first year. Please pray about and consider financially supporting this work,” writes Wolma. You can find out more information, including ways to assist the Wolmas, by contacting them by mail at: 7734 Eastern Avenue, Grand Rapids, MI 49508 or calling 616.698.7884.

The Acton Institute shares the commitment to the spiritual and material health and vitality of today’s cities. The Instititute’s first “Toward a Free and Virtuous City” conference is being planned for September 14-16, 2006 in Chicago. The conference will apply “traditional truths to complex problems facing the modern city, such as the regulatory policy and the role of independant charities and non-profits in combating poverty.”

Speakers include the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute; Anthony B. Bradley, an Acton research fellow and professor at Covenant Theological Seminary; Rudy Carrasco, executive director of the Harambee Christian Family Center; and the Rev. John Nunes, professor at Concordia University, River Forest. Carrasco also wrote a feature article for Christianity Today earlier this year worth checking out, “Habits of Highly Effective Justice Workers.”


  • Does the belief in Jesus, peace be upon him, as a ‘son of God’ really make sense?
    What exactly does ‘son of God’ mean? Can true salvation from God, be the punishment of someone else who is innocent from any of these crimes, to be punished as though he were guilty? Does God need someone to suffer severe punishment, even though they are trying, day after day.

    Did Jesus, peace be upon him, tell the people to take him as a god, or to worship him?
    Let us find the answer to these and other important questions about the nature of Jesus of Christianity and Islam.

    “Look to the Books”

    To begin, let us do a sample comparison of the teachings of the Holy Books of Almighty God.


    Surah 39:53 “Say: ‘Oh my servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins, for he is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful’.”

    Also: Surah 4:110″If anyone does evil or wrongs his own soul but afterwards seeks Allah’s forgiveness, he will find Allah Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

    Surah 2:21″O you people! Adore your Guardian lord, who created you and those who came before you that you may become righteous.”

    Surah 58:22″You will not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, loving those who resist Allah and His Messenger, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred. For such He has written faith in their hearts and strengthened them with a spirit from Himself. And He will admit them to Gardens beneath which rivers flow, to well therein (forever). Allah will be well pleased with them, and they with Him. They are the Party of Allah. Truly it is the Party of Allah that will achieve Felicity.”

    New Testament of BIBLE:

    Mark 6:10″Why do you call me good?” answered Jesus, “No-one is good but God alone!”

    Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but rather to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until Heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of the pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until all things are accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever keeps the commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

    Matthew 7:21″Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the Will of the Father who is in Heaven. Many will say to me on the day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

    Some leaders claimed, “This probably refers to the Mormons or somebody else. Don’t worry about it.”

    Mark 1:35 Gabriel says Jesus will be “called the son of God” and he would be “given the Throne of David” to “rule the House of Jacob forever.”

    Luke 3:36″Enos was the son of Seth, and Seth was the son of Adam, and Adam was the son of God.”

    Note: Adam, not Jesus, is listed in this genealogy of Jesus as the son of God, not Jesus.
    Later on, the priests are asking Jesus, peace be upon him, if he claims to be the son of God. He tells them in fact, it is they who are making this claim.

    “You say that I am.”

    Gospel of John contains the greatest number of references to “son of God.”Jesus, speaking in the third person talked about the “Son of God” in John 3:17

    John 5:24
    John 11:4
    John 11:27

    Martha, one of the followers, calls Jesus, peace be upon him, “The Messiah, the Son of God”John 20:31 he is called “The Messiah, the Son of God.”

    But no verse makes the exact statement “Jesus is the Son of God and as such he is divine or God.”

    QUR’AN4:171 “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah anything but the truth. Christ Jesus, the son of Mary was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not “Trinity”: desist: It will be better for you: For Allah is One God: Glory be to Him: (Far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.”

    Notice in the Bible, the frequent link between the position of Jesus, peace be upon him, as the Messiah and the ‘son-ship.’

    The term ‘son of god’ can not, in itself, be considered enough to declare anything unique about Jesus, peace be upon him, as this term is used for many people throughout the Old and the New Testament. See above: Luke 3:38

    Also, in Isaiah 62:8 refers to the entire house of Israel as being, ‘Sons of God’.
    Romans 8:14 Paul tells us about those who are led by the spirit:”because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

    The word “Messiah” is one that more particularly seems to represent the station of the person predicted to appear and lead the people to the victory over this world.

    Oxford Companion of the Bible states Jews prior to Jesus, peace be upon him, hoped for a prophesied ruler, reigning with everlasting justice, peace and security for the “Sons of Israel.”

    BIBLE, Isaiah 11:1-5 “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The spirit of the Lord will be on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of Knowledge and of the fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.”

    Jeremiah 33:14-20 “The days are coming, declares the Lord, ‘When I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.” For this is what the Lord says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, nor will the priests, who are Levites, ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offering and to present sacrifices.”

    Ezekiel 37:24-28: “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. The will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them, it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.”

    Genesis 49:10 “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the rules staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.”

    Numbers 24:17 “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth. Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will conquered, but Israel will grow strong. A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city.”

    God Incarnate? NOT HERE

    BIBLE2 Samuel 7:12-15 Nathan the prophet (son of Solomon) “The Lord declares to you that the Lord Himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father and he will be my son. (New Testament book of Hebrews stops here)Samuel continues:”When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.”

    Hebrews 1:5 “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.”

    Does this support the case the doctrine that Jesus, peace be upon him, is the ‘begotten Son of God?”

    Old Testament BIBLE, Psalms 2:7 David is stating what God has proclaimed regarding David’s relationship to God”I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: he said to me, ‘you are my Son; this day have I begotten you.”

    Note: the New International Version says the verse could be translated either as “become your Father” or as “begotten you” into English or Greek.

    To read the rest of it, please visit my blog [ ]

  • Here’s one you missed, 1 John 2:20-24 NIV:

    “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

    See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.”

  • I wil enjoy getting in contact with you