The entire material world can be divided between the natural environment and the built environment. Over the past 40 years, the natural environment has received the greater share of attention of the two, but that is beginning to change. With a renewed interest in “place” within various academic disciplines and the practical issues of rising fuel costs and scarcity of land, the built environment has emerged as a coherent and engaging subject for academic and popular consideration.
While there is a growing body of work on the built environment, very little of it approaches the built environment from a distinctly Christian perspective. This major new work by Eric Jacobsen, author of the well-received Sidewalks in the Kingdom, represents a comprehensive and grounded approach. Jacobsen develops a framework for understanding the built environment and addresses timely and controversial topics such as gentrification, urban sprawl, and energy consumption. Employing tools from the field of theology and culture, he demonstrates how looking at the built environment through a theological lens provides a unique perspective on questions of beauty, justice, and human flourishing.
The Space Between is embellished with plentiful photographs, illustrations, charts, and exercises and will be of interest to students in cultural hermeneutics, theology and culture, urban ministry, or new urbanism/built environment courses at the college and seminary level. Pastors, missionaries, church planters, and Christian professionals will also find it of interest.
In The Space Between, Eric O. Jacobsen sets himself two goals: to get us to attend to urban space—the space between the buildings in a city or village—and to explain why Christians in particular should care about the quality of urban space. He succeeds admirably on both counts; cities will look different to you once you have read this book. Along the way he also introduces us to some of the most recent writings on urban space, and he offers a compelling explanation of why the urban space of our present-day American cities came to be as it is and why we should be dissatisfied with it. It’s a fine contribution to an extremely important topic that has been neglected for too long by too many.
—Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Emeritus Professor of Philosophical Theology, Yale University
Jacobsen’s book awakens us from our Gnostic slumbers. It reminds us that as embodied beings, we not only move through space but inhabit particular places. And it asks us how we ought to make and dwell in the built environment to the glory of God. The Space Between takes us on an eye-opening tour of the places that both shape and reflect us. Readers may never look at their homes, neighborhoods, towns, and churches in the same way again. This is an important first step in reclaiming the locality of the local church.
—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Jesus urges us to love our neighbor, but in many modern cities we have destroyed our neighborhoods, making it much more difficult to know who our neighbors are let alone love them. In this compelling and beautifully written book Eric Jacobsen tells us how that has happened, why it matters, and what we should be doing about it. This book calls us to think again, and more theologically, about the way our built environment shapes our life together. It invites us to consider how, through the shaping of our neighborhoods, we may participate more faithfully in the coming kingdom of God.
—Murray Rae, head of the department of theology, University of Otago
Eric O. Jacobsen is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, Washington. He is the author of Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith and numerous articles exploring connections between the Christian community, the church, and traditional neighborhoods. He is also the coeditor of Traditions in Leadership and The Three Tasks of Leadership.