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Where Mortals Dwell

A Christian View of Place for Today

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Word Guild 2012 Canadian Christian Writing Award
Named a 2011 Book of the Year,'s Academic Blog

"There is large value in viewing the Scripture through one of its major themes. Bartholomew has done that wonderfully well. His book, which grows out of teaching on the subject 'place' would be a strong candidate as a text for this sort of course in college or seminary."--Elmer A. Martens, Bulletin for Biblical Research

Place is fundamental to human existence. However, we have lost the very human sense of place amid the time-space compression characteristic of postmodernity and globalization. Craig Bartholomew provides a biblical, theological, and philosophical grounding for place in our rootless culture and articulates a hopeful Christian vision of placemaking for today's world. He illuminates the importance of place throughout the biblical canon, in the Christian tradition, and in the contours of contemporary thought. Where Mortals Dwell will be of interest to professors and students in Bible, culture, environment, and practical theology courses as well as thoughtful laity and pastors interested in place and related environmental themes, including readers of Wendell Berry.
Part I: Place in the Bible
1. The Theology of Place in Genesis 1-3
2. Outside Eden: Building Cities
3. The Nations, Abraham, and Journeying to the Land
4. Place, Law, and Ritual
5. Place in the Historical Books, the Prophets, and the Wisdom Literature
6. Place in the Gospels
7. Place in Paul
8. Place in the General Epistles
Part II: Place in the Western Philosophical and Christian Traditions
9. Place in the Western Philosophical Tradition
10. Place in the Christian Tradition: Introduction
11. Early Church Fathers
12. The Middle Ages, the Reformers, and the Protestant Tradition
13. The Modern Period
14. Contemporary Theologies of Place
Part III: A Christian View of Place for Today
15. Contours of a Christian View of Place
16. Placemaking and the City
17. Placemaking in Garden and Home
18. Placemaking and Various Facets of Life
Epilogue: Spirituality and/of Place


"This is, I think, a unique book. It takes the deeply biblical identification with place and maps it onto our homogenized world to see what possibilities we have for new depth, new beauty, new meaning. I found it unrelentingly fascinating."--Bill McKibben, author, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

"This study in theology that builds from a biblical base and moves to discussions of urban planning, biotic community, and pilgrimage--and even includes maps--may well be unprecedented. The very fact that this assemblage of concerns comes as a surprise to the reader points to the need for this study of what it means to come before God in our places."--Ellen F. Davis, Amos Ragan Kearns Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, Duke Divinity School

"Craig Bartholomew's Where Mortals Dwell: A Christian View of Place for Today is a stunning achievement. The book masterfully surveys the role of place in the Bible, helpfully looks at the role place has played in the Western philosophical tradition, and concludes with satisfying advice, both theoretical and practical, as to how contemporary Christians should think about place as they engage in the crucial work of placemaking. It is rare to find an author with such command of biblical, theological, and philosophical issues, who provides original, powerful ideas delivered in clear, sparkling prose."--C. Stephen Evans, University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Baylor University

"In this ambitious new book Craig Bartholomew has assembled a remarkable range of ideas and resources for the work of making our world a place that glorifies God. Drawing on scholarship in biblical studies, theology, philosophy, and cultural studies, Bartholomew advances distinctly Christian thinking about place in a significant way."--Norman Wirzba, research professor of theology, ecology, and rural life, Duke Divinity School

"Place affects us all, but reflections about its significance are scarce--especially thoroughly Christian reflections. This outstanding book therefore deserves your attention. The entire teaching of the Bible about place is represented here in one fascinating overview followed by an intriguing confrontation with Western philosophical thought on matters of place. Where Mortals Dwell is a brilliant survey of the liberating Christian concept of placemaking."--Bob Goudzwaard, professor emeritus of economics and social philosophy, Free University of Amsterdam

"Ever since Walter Brueggemann's groundbreaking study The Land in 1977 we have been waiting for a comprehensive Christian theology of place. Where Mortals Dwell represents a significant step in that direction. In it, Bartholomew sets the agenda for Christians to think about both place and placemaking, shaping this long-overdue conversation for years to come."--Eric O. Jacobsen, senior pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Tacoma, Washington; author, Sidewalks in the Kingdom and Three Pieces of Glass

"In this comprehensive and detailed overview of scriptural, philosophical, and theological traditions, Craig Bartholomew offers a superb exploration and affirmation of the centrality of place in Christian thought and life. This book will be an important interdisciplinary resource wherever academic consideration is given to the art of human dwelling or implacement. Where Mortals Dwell is set to become the standard work in this emerging field."--Peter Manley Scott, senior lecturer in Christian social thought and director of the Lincoln Theological Institute, University of Manchester, UK

"This is a major work of theological rediscovery in which Craig Bartholomew imaginatively reconstructs a Christian view of human implacement. Bringing biblical, philosophical, and theological perspectives to bear, he explores unexpected aspects of implacement with ventures into ornithology, building, gardening, and the home. Where Mortals Dwell is an erudite, readable, original, and fascinating invitation to a theology and spirituality of place."--Gordon McConville, professor of Old Testament theology, University of Gloucestershire

The Author

  1. Craig G. Bartholomew

    Craig G. Bartholomew

    Craig G. Bartholomew (PhD, University of Bristol) is director of the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology in Cambridge, England. He was formerly senior research fellow at the University of Gloucestershire and the H. Evan Runner Professor of...

    Continue reading about Craig G. Bartholomew


Word Guild 2012 Canadian Christian Writing Award
Named a 2011 Book of the Year,'s Academic Blog

"[Bartholomew] has written what ought to become the introductory book for evangelicals interested in issues of place-making. While other evangelicals have written well on issues of land use and conservation . . . Bartholomew's book engages more comprehensively with what the Bible has to say about place. For that reason alone, it is likely to appeal to a broad swath of readers, including many evangelicals. . . . Where Mortals Dwell forces evangelical readers to reevaluate their assumptions about the nature of life and Christian ministry. . . . Any value system that excludes the role of place cannot help being badly inadequate. It is, after all, in particular places that we grow up, go to school, find jobs, marry, raise children, and enjoy friendships. If nothing else, Bartholomew reminds us of a truth we're inclined to forget: that only within this matrix of particular loves and loyalties can we encounter and follow the risen Christ."--Jake Meador, Christianity Today 5-Star Review

"Christian citizens should care about their locale, and this book's first half gives us a systematic study of how place is portrayed throughout the biblical narrative. In the brilliant, demanding second half Bartholomew shows how a contemporary view of place has been forged by philosophers and theologians--for better or worse. No one has yet done such a sustained study of place, and while the topic is not specifically about politics, the implications are many, making this an important resource for citizenship development."--Byron Borger, Capital Commentary (Center for Public Justice)

"Bartholomew has touched on something crucially important and sadly neglected in our day. . . . Places . . . transmit the wisdom of the ages, teaching us what it means to live in harmony with one another and within the means of God's good creation."--Collin Hansen, The Gospel Coalition

"The first part of the book, which comprises over half the book's content, is an excellent survey of the deep significance of place throughout the biblical narrative. Throughout this part, [Bartholomew] examines the work of key biblical interpreters and assesses and critiques facet[s] of their work, and in conversation with these interpreters, he develops a robust biblical theology of place, which by itself is likely worth the purchase price of the book. . . . The chapter on placemaking and the city is one of the best in the book, and one to which urban churches and urban theology should pay very close attention. . . . Where Mortals Dwell is a good book on an important subject. . . . The book's first part is especially good . . . and worthy of being read in churches, universities, and seminaries."--Chris Smith, Englewood Review of Books

"Bartholomew sets forth the whole world as God's home, and it's fair to say that he explores nearly every nook and cranny, bringing forth from this storehouse treasures new and old. The exploration involves rigorous biblical-theological work, discourse with the history of philosophy, as well as theories of and challenges to contemporary placemaking. The discovery is a blueprint for the rehabilitation of God's house, and the surprise that even the desk in front of you is a newfound treasure. . . . I commend to you Where Mortals Dwell as an inspiring and capable guide should you wish to discover that every place has meaning and desire to make each place mean more."--Jamison Galt, Comment

"In the last twenty years a growing number of books in philosophy and theology have studied place. Bartholomew's work is a welcome contribution and undoubtedly the most ambitious. . . . Bartholomew sets a trajectory of study that merits careful consideration. . . . Bartholomew should be commended for the vast amount of research and his concern in his final section for the Church to return to a holistic relationship with place. Bartholomew offers a great introduction to a theology of place for those wanting to learn about this important subject."--Jason Stanghelle, Themelios

"Craig Bartholomew has made a timely and powerful contribution to a theological gap. . . . At 372 pages, including the subject index, hardly a page is wasted. The work is comprehensive and rich. . . . I easily and heartily recommend this book, a welcome and timely contribution to the broader missional conversation!"--NextReformation blog

"A refreshing plunge into a theology of place for the sake of the church. I commend the fruit of the work for serious theological reflection. . . . Bartholomew's rhetoric in toto is compelling, leaving the reader inspired and without excuse to reconsider everything in light of emplacement. . . . The book as a whole is a tour de force, spanning from biblical exegesis to planning the church's architecture. . . . What is methodologically commendable here is that Bartholomew moves from biblical theology to philosophical implications and then looks for comrades in history from which he can impel the readership to think about place. Even more, he pushes the reader to consider the practice of emplacement as an activity of the individual and community. . . . Bartholomew makes a compelling argument as to why thinking ontologically about 'substance without position' does not give us an adequate basis for theology."--Dru Johnson, The Church and Postmodern Culture blog

"[This book] is very interesting, well written and is delightfully interdisciplinary which should give it a wide appeal. . . . It may well be unprecedented. . . . This is one of the most important books of the decade and will only increase in urgency."--Byron Borger,

"Bartholomew offers a gift to the Church by demonstrating how the particulars of place are wedded to the biblical narrative and to Christian life."--Winn Collier, Religious Herald

"Addresses mostly uncharted territory in Christian thought. . . . Bartholomew's book provides a strong footing on which we can begin to explore anew what it means to dwell and live in God's creation."--Matthew Miller,'s Academic Blog

"Here is a book that deals expansively with a neglected subject. . . . One might assess Bartholomew's book as a biblical theology of place. . . . To his credit, Bartholomew invokes the insights of systematic theologians. His book, so sweeping in its coverage, offers major theological underpinnings for Christians' involvement in environmental issues. . . . The section on philosophy, somewhat of a welcome surprise, widens the conversation beyond exegesis and theology. Bartholomew's work is a major contribution in that he moves beyond exposition and theology to the practice of place making. . . . There is large value in viewing the Scripture through one of its major themes. Bartholomew has done that wonderfully well. His book, which grows out of teaching on the subject 'place' would be a strong candidate as a text for this sort of course in college or seminary."--Elmer A. Martens, Bulletin for Biblical Research

"Where Mortals Dwell is remarkable in the sense that it gives a comprehensive answer to a question that many are just beginning to ask: Does place--where we are and what we do with it--matter to our spiritual formation? Barely has the question been uttered when Bartholomew answers with a resounding 'Yes!'. . . Whether or not one agrees with the specific suggestions proposed by Bartholomew, we should be able to agree that our relationship with place is reciprocal: place shapes us and we, in turn, shape it."--Halee Gray Scott, Books & Culture

"This is a marvelous book: creative, thoughtful, original, provocative. . . . Bartholomew reviews biblical tradition for its wisdom about the importance of place and homeland and the responsibilities that go with those roots. From that biblical and theological foundation the author offers intriguing and constructive reflections on regaining a proper Christian sense of place today as part of a well-grounded spirituality."--Donald Senior, CP, The Bible Today

"A valuable overview of the place of place, so to speak, in the Bible and in the Christian tradition."--Jeremy Beer, First Things

"This book is as grand and expansive as its title. The numerous effusive reviews on its back cover all ring true of the contents within. It is an affordable yet substantial piece of progressive Christian scholarship, reassembling a complete reading of the Bible, traditional Christian and Jewish texts, and current reflections on community and sacred spaces, into a conceptual rubric of 'place' that resonates with contemporary philosophical and ecological perspectives. . . . Essential in any theologically inclined bookshelf."--Geoffrey Sykes, Insights

"While Bartholomew's book certainly has a populist appeal that makes it available and enjoyable to a wide audience, I believe that it also offers a more substantive contribution to theological studies. Specific to the theological community, Bartholomew has shown how central spatiality is to a whole host of exegetical and theological loci. . . . Even if specialists may be able to critique aspects of his various arguments, the cumulative force is undeniable: place (and space) matters and must not be marginalized in our theological reasoning."--Geoffrey H. Fulkerson, Trinity Journal