Jacques Ellul – The Presence of the Kingdom

I read this the other day and loved hearing about Jordan’s interaction with theologian Jaques Ellul. Everytime I read statements by Ellul I am challenged, excited and filled with awe. Here are some really great quotes from an excerpt written on the Burnside Writers Collective.

Jacques Ellul – The Presence of the Kingdom:

Even at a brief 132 pages, Presence of the Kingdom is packed with statements that seem both revolutionary and obvious. The copy of the book I have is underlined, highlighted, starred and noted on every page. Some pages are covered completely in fluorescent yellow ink. Rather than trying to sum up the book, I’ve decided just to flip through and let some of Ellul’s passages speak for themselves.

“…the Christian must not act in exactly the same way as everyone else. He has a part to play in this world which no one else can possibly fulfill. He is not asked to look at the various movements which men have started, choose those which seem ‘good,’ and then support them. He is not asked to give his blessing to any particular human enterprise, nor to support the decisions of man.”

“…it is essential that Christians should be very careful not to be wolves in the spiritual sense – that is, people who try to dominate others. Christians must accept domination of other people, and offer the daily sacrifice of their lives…”

“Modern man can no longer have confidence in the virtues of the individual, in his kindness, or his energy, because we are no longer confronted by individual sins but by the state of sin of humanity.”

“Another solution…consists in the desire to ‘moralize’ or ‘Christianize’ the actions of the world. ‘If the State were Christian, how agreeable it would be to depend upon it; then let us make a Christian State, etc.’ People who take this line aim at having a kind of Christian conception of things: they want to have ‘good’ institutions, ‘good’ morals; they want to know what is ‘the good’ in every situation, and thus to gloss over the actual situation of our present world, covering it up with an ethical glaze – ‘Colorwash the devil in gold, dress him up in white, and perhaps he will become an angel!'”

“…we must give up the idea that we can decrease our sin by our virtues…At the same time, if we take this situation of the Christian seriously, we must refuse to further the disintegrating tendency in the world. We must not say to ourselves, ‘We can’t do anything about it!”

“We are free, because at every moment in our lives we are both judged and pardoned, and are consequently placed in a new situation, free from fatalism, and from the bondage of sinful habits.”

“…We see that the Christian ethic is inseparable from the preaching of the Word…we must come back to this idea that the Christian ethic is not a means of resolving the Christian tension – that is it not a recipe for righteousness…”

“When we speak of the preservation of the world, immediately we envisage participation in the actions which the world thinks are best for it. The world chooses its own methods, draws up its own plan of action…and people often think that if Christians are to help to preserve the world they ought to join in these movements…Thus when everyone was shocked by the demonic character of the Nazi regime, war was presented as a crusade. The world took up arms; Christians took up the same arms, and fought in exactly the same way as the others against these demonic forces.”

All of these passages were in the first 16 pages.

Ellul stands at a unique perspective. When he finally passed on in 1994, he had experienced 82 years of the 20th century: the Great Depression, World War II, the reconstruction of Europe, the rise of the United States and Soviet Union, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Presence of the Kingdom is available from Powells Books.

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Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

4 thoughts on “Jacques Ellul – The Presence of the Kingdom”

  1. ellul was the first theologian to ever really effect me. “anarchy and xianity” was so challenging i would venture to say that i haven’t been the same since i read it.

  2. well… i think being specific in terms of chapters, quotes etc. would be impossible for me since i read it in high school. however, i can say that even the mere idea that as xians we are at odds with the govt/power was really reassuring to me. at the time my distrust of power especially in the form of the US govt seemed incompatible with xianity. i DO remember that he takes pains to deal with a few specifics about the practicality of living out an anarchistic god centered society including dealing with things like taxes, social property etc. its a good read. maybe i should treat myself to a second read!

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