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Anarchy and Christianity Paperback – January 1, 1988
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Top Customer Reviews
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. Is rejection of the monarchical understanding of God anticipates much of what liberation theologians had to say.
Also of interest is Ellul's exegesis of five texts from the Christian scriptures which he sees as central to the anarchic message of Christ (pp. 59-85), especially his reading of the Book of Revelation as an anti-governmental authority document (pp. 71-74). Much of what he has to say is reminiscent of the American Christian iconoclast William Stringfellow.
An instructive, disturbing, but ultimately inspiring read. Highly recommended.
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.