Monday, May 14, 2007

reflecting on the politics of God & the politics of man.

I just wrapped up this book by the late Jacques Ellul(whom I have blogged on before), and I thought I'd offer a few responses to it on here.

Ellul is doing here a quick survey of what he considers one of the most political books in the Bible: Second Kings. Perhaps the main over-arching theme of this book is the relation of man's free will to the "sovereign liberty of God", as he calls it. While God does not concern Himself with the liberty of nations, the liberty of man is paramount. He establishes this from the Introduction:

God does not mechanize man. He gives him free play.


and maintains this throughout the book, also emphasizing however, that freedom is only found in God through Christ; everything else constricts man: his body, society, situation, psychology, etc. You see Ellul's belief well in this statement:

Man is certainly not free in any degree. He is the slave of everything save God.


Ellul uses this idea of freedom being found exclusively through Christ throughout the book, later describing the church as the only vehicle of this freedom to the world. The exposition of the interplay between God's freedom and man's liberty often leads to a discussion of the problem of evil, specifically evil done in the Lord's name; the explorations therein are worth reading.
There is a great deal else said about the role of the church in the world today, especially as regarding the assaults that the church and the faith undergo. One statement concerning all of this stuck out to me and is particularly relevant in today's world:
When criticized by the world, the church does not have to agree that the world is right and that it must take part in social and political action as the world advises. What it must see is that it has not been able to show with sufficient intransigence, rigor, absoluteness, holiness, and seperateness how different God is.
As God does not fit into the molds that He would be expected to, the church is called to, being the person of Christ on earth now, enact this difference.

Another interesting theme is that of human intent in accomplishing God's will, which, he asserts, we are constantly accomplishing, whether we are aware of it or not, and whether we intend to or not. He explores the account of Jehu in Second Kings 9-10 to examine this theme, and it was one of the most interesting chapters of the book to me. The theme is expanded in subsequent chapters as he examines the infamous "sin of Jeroboam" and what exactly he feels that this sin entails, both in the Old Testament accounts and today.

So much more could be said about the book; this was really just a shoddy preview for any curious about Ellul. I'm still chewing on much that he says, and there's much, particularly concerning the relation of God's will to man's, that I whole-heartedly agree with. I'd certainly encourage anyone to pick this, or another of his works, up, not just for exposure to one of the last century's most influencial Christian thinkers, but because many of his ideas, if correct, have very weighty consequences on our life in Christ and in society.
For more on Jacques Ellul, you can probably just check out Wikipedia. That's never really a bad idea.

-N

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