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Anarchy and Christianity Paperback – January 1, 1988


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 109 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (January 1, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802804950
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802804952
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

Customer Reviews

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Anarchy and Christianity is one of his most penetrating criticisms of institutional Christianity.
Kerry Walters
There are some places, particularly in his exegesis of 1 Peter and of Paul, that he must perform interesting verbal gymnastics to reconcile his thesis with Scripture.
Kevin L. Nenstiel
Jacques Ellul's book is a thoughtful and serious account of the intersection of Christianity and anti-statism.
dh

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on February 19, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jacques Ellul was the bad boy of western Christianity during his lifetime, continuously gadflying rigid hierarchies, smug or tepid Christians, and orthodox theologians with book after book that challenged conventional wisdom. (In this regard, he reminds one of Kierkegaard in the 19th century.) Anarchy and Christianity is one of his most penetrating criticisms of institutional Christianity. But like most of his theological works, it's not entirely (or even primarily) critical in tone. It also offers a vision of what Christian faith might be.

Ellul argues that both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures are wary of political (worldly) authority. The transition from judges to kings in ancient Israel was viewed as a decline by Hebrew Bible authors, and Jesus' entire public ministry is a challenge to both political and religious authority. The subsequent institutionalization of the Church, and the transformation of the living presence of Christ into "religion," break faith with the teachings and meaning of the Christ.

Ellul intends his audience to be not just Christians, but also the anarchist community, which has generally been militantly anti-Christian. In one of the more interesting sections of his book, Ellul tries to demonstrate that in fact genuine Christianity (as opposed to the institutionalization of it that both he and atheistic anarchists dislike) is deeply anarchistic. Through a series of masterful scriptural interpretations (pp. 32-44), Ellul argues that God is not omnipotent, providence doesn't rule out human freedom, and God is a liberator. This re-envisioning of God, which Ellul argues is more loyal to the scriptural model than subsequent theological analyses, is instructive.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Alan W. Green on March 31, 2009
Format: Paperback
In what might well be the last book he ever wrote,Jacques Ellul, the great French resistance fighter, politician, sociologist, political analyst, biblical scholar, radical Christian, has summed up his life and thought in this brief and trenchant little book. Don't be fooled by its size. Like everything I have read of his, there is not one wasted word; every one needs to be carefully chewed on, but beware if you swallow it. You might become the kind of follower Jesus was looking for.
Ellul makes it clear at the outset that he is not trying to convince anarchists to be Christians, nor is he attempting to make Christians become anarchists. He's just writng what he thinks the Hebrew Bible, Jesus, Paul and the rest of the New Testament authors, are saying, namely that no one [but God] has the right to rule anyone else. (That's what "an-archos" means in Greek). Love God, Love others, be responsible, and let the chips fall where they may.
Though he sides with political anarchists in their rejection of those who claim the right to rule others, Ellul hastens to add that he does not share their utopian belief that once statist or authoritarian domination is eliminated, people (being naturally good and kind) will achieve peace, security, happiness, and community. He rejects that assumption, he writes, because he is a Christian and accepts the Christian view of the radicality of evil in human beings. Consequently, anarchists reject him because he's a Christian and Christians reject him because he's an anarchist. So be it. This is the way he has chosen to live, and leaves it up to us the readers to choose as well.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kevin L. Nenstiel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 29, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This brief manifesto condenses the theses of Jacques Ellul's philosophic life into a concise format that provides a good overview and a primer for possible future reading. It provides a handy summary of the logic by which he believes close reading of Scripture reveals an anti-statist bent at odds with the tendency of formal Christianity to make common cause with the powers of the earth.

Throughout this volume Ellul insists he is not trying to proselytize anyone for a point of view. The repetition makes me suspect he protests too much, but this book is too short and introductory to change many minds. What it is likely to do is start lively, productive discussions that may allow two camps, often regarded as incompatible, to find commonalities and stop the feud that divides them both.

Ellul calls himself a Protestant, but expresses disdain for anyone exercising dominion over others. He insists we must be cautious and selective in reading Calvin and Luther. There are some places, particularly in his exegesis of 1 Peter and of Paul, that he must perform interesting verbal gymnastics to reconcile his thesis with Scripture. He might have been better served here to take a bold approach and admit there are some things he just doesn't know.

Ellul doesn't write for dabblers or dilettantes. His prose is ponderous and allusive. He makes references to prior writings by himself and others. This book is meant to engage true believers, activists, and thinkers. Be willing to set aside a healthy measure of time before reading this book.

But if you set that time aside and use it wisely, this book opens up a new way of regarding our Christian mission on earth. Highly recommended for Christians, for conscientious resisters, and for intellectuals on both sides of the theological divide.
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