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Anarchy and Christianity Paperback – May 18, 2011
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.
Anyway, Mr. Ellul understood that followers of the Way are the salt of the Earth and it shouldn't be expected for the church to be large. He understood we need to live in small communities, like Acts, and, yes, even in our modern age. He also understood that secular anarchists are largely deceived and prejudiced like so many others, although they are perceptive of much of reality. It is interesting how ahead of his times he was, even though he advocated a primitive simple lifestyle, like in the past. For, recently, many modern secular and anarchistic activists are recognizing the value of Jesus's teachings, and how much of an anarchist He really was. Also, many Christians are realizing how important justice is and how Jesus and the early church was apolitical.
Christian community may be entering a revival. For anyone interested, look up New Monasticism and communities like Koinonia Farm, the 12 tribes of Israel, and Rutba House. If more Christians lived as Jesus and the early church did, freely and compassionately and if more activists types realized the reality of soul and Spirit and lived as Jesus did real positive change could happen and the world would be a better place. I don't expect it to be perfect, though, and understand this world is not my home.
That said, it's probably true that more anarchists live true to Jesus's teaching than those who profess being Christian. To paraphrase a chapter of Romans(??3:12??) The gentiles who don't know God but follow their conscience will not be condemned.
Highly recommended for anyone not satisfied with contemporary Christianity esp. as practiced in the U.S.