Ellul PDF Print E-mail
Written by Toby Sumpter   
Thursday, 19 November 2009 11:22

This would have been a book review except that I haven’t finished the book. I got a little over half way, and somehow I fell off the handle bars and got wrapped in the spokes. So consider this thoughts-inspired-by-having-read-half-of-The-Subversion-of-Christianity-by­-Jacques-Ellul.

Ellul in his finer moments is that boy in the back of the class who keeps raising his hand with an annoying, off the wall question. His favorite question is “why?” And he has a question or a comment about everything. He (the boy in the class) doesn’t like anything you like, mostly on principle. Just because. He sees connections that are impossible and believes things that are outlandish.

I would boil my complaints down to two things: Ellul is a perfectionist and a Baptist.

Now ordinarily, I have no qualms with Baptists. I love Baptists. John Piper is my homeboy. But here I go.

First, Ellul is a perfectionist. I don’t know if this is characteristic of anarchists (he calls himself a Christian anarachist), but it’s clear from the outset that he’s something of a whiner. I know the body of Christ needs all sorts of players, and I’m fully aware that those of the more melancholy persuasion have their gifts to use. But Ellul sees the history of the Church as apparently one downer followed by another, a long, tired hangover interrupted by periodic dry heaves, mostly having to do with that raw Constantine we had last night for dinner. (And yes, the prophets weren’t exactly known for their cheery optimism.)

Here let me gladly acknowledge that Ellul has some prophetic insight into lapses in the history of Christendom. And he raises intriguing questions. Have we taken careful stock of just how much Islam has influenced the Church over the last eight or nine centuries? Have we thought through how perversions in doctrine such as the Cult of the Virgin may have played some role in the oppression of women down through the ages?

But back to my complaints: I object to Ellul’s perfectionism because it means that he objects to children in the Church. And I don’t just mean baptizing babies of believers. He doesn’t want anyone without a high school education and a thorough catechetical whipping admitted to membership in the body of Christ. He objects to large numbers coming into the church. Too many people, too many hypocrites, too many messes, too many children. Not enough straight lines and right angles. He wants a Church that can be shown on HGTV, all tidy and homosexual.

But the Kingdom of Heaven is for little children. It’s for little children and their messes. God likes spilled milk and crumbs on the floor. He’s ok with markers on the carpet and running in the hallway. God isn’t a perfectionist, and He proves it by calling children into His Kingdom. And from one angle, Ellul’s outlandish questioning of everything is a very fine specimen of this sort of childishness. He just needs to stop crying when he accidentally colors outside the lines.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 26 November 2009 08:54