Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

Archive for the ‘Jacques Ellul’ Category

Toward a healthier humanity, pt. 1

Christianity and anarchism must inevitably stand opposed to non-Christianity and statism. It is true that most Christians are unexamined statists, but what we here speak of is the Christianity that takes seriously the whole of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. It should also be noted that an ideology that is unexamined is not one that people have committed to or necessarily are likely to commit to.

Much of Christianity is not of this strong type, however; as Ellul notes,

Christians and the church have wanted an alliance with everything that represents power in the world. In reality, this rests upon the conviction that thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit the powers of this world have been vanquished and set in the service of the gospel, the church, and mission. We must use their forces in the interests of evangelism. Wealth and various authorities receive recognition in this way and are put in the church’s service.

But what happens is the exact opposite. The church and mission are penetrated by the power and completely turned aside from their truth by the corruption of power. When Jesus says that his kingdom is not of this world, he says clearly what he intends to say. He does not validate any worldly kingdom (even if the ruler be a Christian). He puts us on guard against seeking any authority other than that of the Holy Spirit” (Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity, pp. 20, 21).


The acceptance of one power or authority, alliance with one secular power, leads inevitably to a combination with every social force. (Ibid., p. 31).

People in the church think that God has neutralized the power of the world and that they are clever enough to turn the world’s own features against itself and thus to advance the work of God. They fail to understand the depth of the biblical warnings concerning the world and the urgency of Heaven’s warnings against trusting in human intellect. Their endeavors to convert the world are largely crash-and-burn, and the world enters the church. The agency (the church) God intends to be His chief agent of healing in the world, is enrolled as an agent of the state. The state, of course, is a self-preserving coercive machine, thoroughly destructive of humanity, tending rather to dehumanize and impress a culture of helplessness upon its citizens and to teach itself as solution and necessity.

Those who wish to move toward a healthier humanity need to develop the character traits which make for such an outcome. Namely, faith in God, self-control, self-sufficiency in non-faith matters, the exercise of free will, and the exercise of thought unconstrained by all the poisons of statism.

We will further explore these ideas in posts that shall be forthcoming.


Reality distortion field failure pt. 2

Will there be a just ordering of the world? And is “representative democracy” the way to do it?

Yes, there will be a just ordering of the world—when Jesus returns and after the thousand years Satan will be destroyed (Revelation 20). And before that? Probably not. But as Jacques Ellul says,

I believe that the anarchist fight, the struggle for an anarchist society, is essential, but I also think that the realizing of such a society is impossible (Jacques Ellul, Anarchy and Christianity, p. 19).

He further elaborates,

The more the power of the state and bureaucracy grows, the more the affirmation of anarchy is necessary as the sole and last defense of the individual, that is, of humanity (Ibid., p. 23).

Ellul sees anarchy as the only serious challenge to the abuse of power.

We can denounce not merely the abuses of power but power itself. But only anarchy says this and wants it (Ibid.).

Any other solution involves the power of some people over others. And no basis for elevating some into power over others exists. Now Rothbard:

Suppose, for example, that there are many competing cantaloupe stores in a particular neighborhood. One of the cantaloupe dealers, Smith, then uses violence to drive all of his competitors out of the neighborhood; he has thereby employed violence to establish a coerced monopoly over the sale of cantaloupes in a given territorial area. Does that mean that Smith’s use of violence to establish and maintain his monopoly was essential to the provision of cantaloupes in the neighborhood? Certainy not, for there were existing competitors as well as potential rivals should Smith ever relax his and threat of violence; moreover, economics demonstrates that Smith, as a coercive monopolist will tend to perform his service badly and inefficiently. protected from competition by the use of force, Smith can afford to provide his service in a costly and inefficient manner, since the consumers are deprived of any possible range of alternative choice. Furthermore, should a group arise to call for the abolition of Smith’s coercive monopoly, there would be very few protestors with the temerity to accuse these “abolitionists” of wishing to deprive the consumers of their much desired cantaloupes.

And yet, the State is only our hypothetical Smith on a gigantic and all-encompassing scale (Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty, p. 161).

The state, of course, arrogates to itself a monopoly over a variety of services, including police and military services, law, money, and more. The state is, therefore, as a starting-point, a most inefficient arrangement, for competition between providers is prevented.

Because resources are limited, inefficiency itself serves as a tax upon those most in need. To pay for a state is to impose inefficiency and scarcity upon society. A current example of the insanity of government is the “cash for clunkers” program. This sounds more like a plot off of a science fiction television series where starship Explorer comes upon a planet that produces and immediately destroys goods. There would surely be an hour or so of story line that could be wrung out of such an absurd imaginary culture. But we needn’t find a screenwriter to provide the story; it is current in the United State today. My children and grandchildren are paying for the intentional destruction of wealth in order to “reduce pollution” and to “stimulate” the economy. My children will be poor tomorrow so that your children can live off of their blood today. The state is vampiric and parasitical.

But there is the goodness that is the Constitution. Only one problem: The state interprets the rules that govern itself. In the end there is no way that an objective, just source of coercive fallen human over fallen human lordship is obtainable. Put simply, we may place overlords over ourselves who are as fallen as we are, or we may live in a society so ordered that the distortions of arbitrary rules and schemes like “cash for clunkers” have been discontinued, and men relate to each other on the basis of their own direct action. In the end, we “reap what we sow” (Galatians 6:7). And the world will be a more just place if in the present also we “reap what we sow.”

Our real options are (A) variations on totalitarianism, or (B) anarchism. That is all. Either some lording it over others, or no one lording it over others. The minarchist (minimum state) Constitutional route, as in the USA, is shown to be a mirage. The USA has become the most vast and invasive force for distortion, imposition, and expropriation that the earth has yet seen.

To return to the theme of the collapse of reality distortion, it is good to see that there is an enormous increase in skepticism about the state. But unless at least some people begin to understand the root cause of distortion (choosing option A), any relief, perhaps after a wrenching period of turmoil, will be short-lived, and will be replaced again, with another statist world regime. Time will tell.

In the meantime, an opportunity could be placed before us that has not been seen for hundreds of years: the opportunity for a newly relevant Christianity. If Christians can see through, and realize that “the state is the permanent enemy of mankind” (Rothbard, Ethics, p. 262), something different is possible. The alternative could be one of the greatest setbacks Christianity would ever face: To align itself with the nation-state just as the domination of the nation-state has run its course and it is in rapid decline. The state is not of Christianity, is not even “just” in potential.

May the distortion field continue to come off!

C&S summer hiatus

As last year, so this year. Christian and State will not be updated during our summer hiatus. From July 20 – August 9 there will be no updates here, although from time to time blog comments will doubtless be posted. Do yourself a favor, and while we are on hiatus, get yourself a copy of Jacques Ellul’s short book Anarchy and Christianity and read it. You’ll be glad you did.

Liberty and pharaoh’s heart

Process these thought-seeds from Ellul:

The biblical view is not just apolitical but antipolitical in the sense that it refuses to confer any value on political power, or in the sense that it regards political power as idolatrous, inevitably entailing idolatry. Christianity offers no justification for political power; on the contrary, it radically questions it (Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity, pp. 113, 114).

Ellul holds that the world of the political is inevitably subverting. As soon as we identify with one power block because we are fighting another power block, we are engaging in a battle that is not our battle. Vernard Eller also gets it:

The battle of the arkys—whether it be the “good” ones or the “bad” ones who seem to be carrying the day—has absolutely nothing to do with the coming of the kingdom of God and his redemption of the world (Vernard Eller, Christian Anaarchy, p. 196).

The Christian is free to ignore the arkys that spread across his horizon. He is free to be non-political, to recognize that all these horizontal arkys are in the process of either coming or going, springing onto the scene or departing from it. Jesus neither affirmed the Roman occupiers nor offered His influence to the zealots who fought Rome. He refused to choose arky A or arky B, because He was the true ARKY, God Himself come to live among men. He set up His tabernacle on planet earth and ate with us, sweated with us, hungered with us, and died with us. He identified Himself totally with us—not with our feeble arkys.

The Christian is free to recognize that he is to follow Christ and that the state is of little more substance than a dandelion. The arky that he subscribes to is THE ARKY. It is God who is so ultimately powerful that He need not flaunt it, and rarely does. He is not threatened by us and offers us liberty. He makes men free.

Someone might say, but what about Pharaoh? In the Bible God says that He hardened pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 7:3). The showdown between God and pharaoh was one of those rare situations where God does intervene, ARKY versus arky, and puts the human in its place. The outcome is always the same.

In the case of pharaoh, God did harden his heart, but pharaoh was a man. Pharaoh had free choice. Pharaoh was committed to posing his arky against God’s ARKY. Instead of granting freedom to the Hebrews as God insisted (Exodus 5:1), pharaoh was determined to remain slave-master. God would not have it. Because God insisted on freedom, and pharaoh insisted on bondage, God did harden pharaoh’s heart. He hardened it by insisting on freedom for men, and pharaoh was committed to enslaving them.

That is, God hardened pharaoh’s heart by God refusing to bend. He was relentlessly good, and pharaoh was bent on fighting against that. Pharaoh had free will and he used it to rebel against the ARKY of freedom.

Eller quoting Barth (with Eller in brackets):

There is not a second kingdom of God [namely, one God has appointed to Caesar] outside and alongside the first. There is a human kingdom which is authoritative and can demand obedience only as such [i.e. only as a human arky]. And this kingdom is sharply delimited by the one kingdom of God (Eller, p. 154).

That is, human governments are just that—human governments. The task of the Christian is not to oppose them as much as to ignore them, not to legitimize them but to transcend them. It is most interesting to see the rising interest in the U.S. Constitution, secession, and nullification. But the business of the Christian is to be a living example of THE ARKY, of a government that is maximally moral, and maximally free. Just as God’s commitment to liberty inevitably raised pharaoh’s ire, as His goodness hardened him, so your commitment and mine to the kingdom of God will stir the wrath of others. Because, deep down inside, they are living on the plan of bondage and in subtle justification of self, must make themselves its advocates.

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