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The Meaning of the City by Jacques Ellul

Jacques Ellul, a former member of a Law Faculty at the University of Bordeaux, was recognized as a brilliant and penetrating commentator on the relationship between theology and sociology. In the Meaning of the City he presents what he finds in the Bible-a sophisticated, coherent theology of the city fully applicable to today's urbanized society.

Ellul believes that the city symbolizes the supreme work of man-and, as such, represents man's ultimate rejection of God. Therefore it is the city, where lies man's rebellious heart, that must be reformed. The author stresses the fact that the Bible does not find man's fulfillment in a return to an idyllic Eden, but points rather to a life of communion with the Savior in the city transfigured.

The Meaning of the City, says John Wilkinson in his introductory essay to the book, is the "theological counterpoint" to Ellul's Technological Society, a work that analyzed the phenomenon of the autonomous and totally manipulative post-industrial world. Ellul takes issue with those who idealistically plan new urban environments for man, as though man alone can negate the inherent diabolism of the city. For Ellul, the history of the city from the times of Cain and Nimrod through to Babylon and Jerusalem reveals a tendency to destroy the human being for the sake of human works. Nevertheless, continuing the theme of the tension between two realities that characterizes all his works, Ellul sees God as electing the city as itself an instrument of grace for the believer.

William Stringfellow describes The Meaning of the City as a book of "startling significance," which "should rank beside Reinhold Niebuhr's Moral Man and Immoral Society as a work of truly momentous potential." Douglass D. McFerran adds that it is "a book worth serious consideration by anyone interested in the relationship between religious commitment and secular involvement." And John Wilkinson sums it up: "There are very few convincingly religious analyses of the sociological phenomena of the present day… Ellul's biblically based sociology is today furnishing the matter for a large and growing group of social protestants, particularly in the United States.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781606089736
Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers
Publication date: 06/28/2011
Series: Jacques Ellul Legacy Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 209
Sales rank: 1,124,707
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Jacques Ellul (1912-1994), a French sociologist and lay theologian, was Professor Emeritus of Law and of the History and Sociology of Institutions at the University of Bordeaux. He wrote more than forty books, including 'The Technological Society', 'The Humiliation of the Word', and 'Technological Bluff'.

Table of Contents

Introduction vii

Preface xvii

Chapter 1 The Builders 1

I Cain 1

II Nimrod 10

III Israel 23

IV Let Us Build 38

Chapter 2 Thunder Over the City 44

I The Curse 44

II Sodom and Nineveh 62

III But In These Cities 72

Chapter 3 Long We Wait for the Coming of the Dawn 85


Temporal Election 85

II Jerusalem 94

Chapter 4 Jesus Christ 113

I The Fulfillment 113

II Neither Hearth Nor Home 120

III The Multitude 124

IV Jesus and Jerusalem 135

Chapter 5 True Horizons 147

I The History of the City 148

II From Cain to Jerusalem 163

III From Eden to Jerusalem 173

Chapter 6 Yahweh-Shammah 183

I The New City 188

II Symbolism 196

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