Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The meaning of the city


"Once settled in his country, Cain does two things to make his curse bearable: he knows his wife sexually, who then gives him a son; and he builds a city. . . . This first builder of a city . . . will satisfy his desire for eternity by producing children, and he will satisfy his desire for security by creating a place belonging to him, a city. . . . For God's Eden he substitutes his own. . . . A city is not just a collection of houses with ramparts, but also a spiritual power."

Jacques Ellul, The Meaning of the City, pages 5-9.

One of the greatest pictures of redemption in all the Bible comes from Cain's invention of the city in Genesis 4:17. At the end of the Bible, what do we find? The city, this man-made mechanism for living without God, rather than thrown down into hell, becomes heaven: "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:2). The city becomes not a way to escape God but the dwelling place of God with man.

"Behold, I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5).