Archive for the ‘Theology of Place’ Category

I just read a great piece by Carl Trueman on the virtue of self-restraint when engaging in theological controversy.  He essentially argues that we ought to be much more modest about our usefulness beyond the sphere God has placed us.  Most of us ought simply to retire our capes, roll up our sleeves, and channel our energies our own small, local plot.  While Trueman’s piece is by no means a formal endorsement of parochialism, my parochial mind can’t help thinking about Chalmers’ celebration of the “power of littles” and his famous dictum, “Locality, in truth, is the secret principle wherein our great strength lieth.”  Chalmers also repeatedly burst the bubbles of the pretentious who thought they could and should assume larger fields of work.  They ought rather be “sober minded” about their gifts and celebrate the giftings of others.  And work.  Locally.


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This blog is largely devoted to the theory and applicability of the ‘locality principle’ in missions.  Thomas Chalmers advocated the principle as a practical means of Christianizing cities.  But while I agree that locality should factor prominently in mission strategy, what place does place itself hold in Scripture?

So in recent days, I’ve been reading through the passages of the Old Testament (for starters) that contain the Hebrew word for ‘place,’ maqom. I realize that this is not a study in the heavy-weights of biblical concepts.  Place cannot be set next to propitiation, atonement, justification, etc.  And yet, as I read through these passages, it strikes me that the idea is rich with meaning.  Genesis 22, the great narrative of Abraham’s call to sacrifice Isaac, illustrates this.

In four instances, ‘place’ (maqom) is mentioned, vv. 3, 4, 9, & 14.  As Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriahone reads these verses in their context, not only is attention called to place, but place is given special significance.

Place in this passage is the destination of Abraham.  He is called from a place of blessing, rejoicing in Issac, to a place of trial.  There and not elsewhere, he will be put to the test.

Place then passes from the agonies of the trial to the triumph of faith.  Instead of being a site of tragedy with the promise going up in flame, it becomes the place of renewed celebration.  Faith overcomes.

But faith rests on a higher plane.  It reaches out for God.  Yet, it reaches out to God at the very place where He gracious comes down.  There, at Mount Moriah, they converge.  There, God gloriously reveals that His promise stands.  There, in the thicket, God has provided a substitute.

On that spot, the sacrifice assumes the place of Isaac.  And so the ground receives a name. “And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen” (v. 14).

Someday, that place would be hallowed with a greater Sacrifice.  There, He would suffer in our place that we might be released.  From that place all the families of the earth would be blessed.

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