Jacques Ellul’s Anarchy and Christianity

8 July 2008

Chris, a good friend of the ‘blog, gave me Jacques Ellul‘s Anarchy and Christianity, which he had found at Half Price Books.

I don’t know much about Ellul, but so far so good.  Ellul’s tone has a certain stridency and terse allusiveness (e.g., examples or explanations are often reduced to an opaque “One has only to think of [insert some oblique reference that only someone truly familiar with the subject would know]”) typical of much mid- and late-20th Century Continental academic writing.

In his Introduction, Ellul evidences some of his anti-Catholic sentiments (he was a Protestant) and makes clear his position that he finds the four Orders of the Church (lay, deaconal, presbyteral, and episcopal) non-biblical and, since hierarchical, anti-anarchistic.

I’m not sure I entirely agree.  Historical interpretations and understandings of the Orders certainly are hierarchical and non-anarchistic, but I don’t think they are necessarily anti-anarchistic.

The fundamental source of ministry is baptism; further ordination —placement in orders— is to make a distinction in ministry.  The late James Kelsey was an excellent example of a bishop working toward just such an ecclesiology.

Ellul also argues that Anabaptism, presumably his creed, is true anarchy.  Somehow, I doubt it.  I don’t know if any church, except maybe the Quakers, have achieved anarchism in their polity.

More to come.

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One Response to “Jacques Ellul’s Anarchy and Christianity”

  1. Lee Says:

    Actually, Ellul was that rare bird – French Reformed.

    Be sure to read some of his other work – The Technological Society, Christianity and Violence – if you want a more complete picture of his thought.

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