Archives For Jacques Ellul

The opening sentence of Jacques Ellul’s, ‘Islam and Judeo-Christianity: A Critique of their commonality’, reads, ‘For nearly a decade, French intellectuals, generally speaking, have been seized with an excessive affection for Islam.’ (p.3)

What follows is a ninety-four page treatise on the reasons for why this excessive affection is not only dangerous, but misguided. Ellul acknowledges the existence of a disproportionate tolerance of Islam. He then compares that to the disdain of how French intellectuals have been interacting with Judeo-Christianity (Biblical Christianity), since the 1960s’.

The reason for this excessive affection is due to Islam’s[1] proximity to Marxism (“scientific” socialism). Roger Scruton, not a novice on both subjects, states: ‘like the Communist Party in its Leninist construction, Islam aims to control the state without being a subject of the state.’[2] Scruton’s own analysis of Islam, and the West, implies that excessive affection for Islam is connected to how close many academics in the West, are to Marxism.

Commonality between Islamism and Marxism includes the downgrade of Jesus Christ. Under both Marxist and Islamist rule, the Church is eradicated and the State is made god[3].

American (first wave) Feminist and Political scientist, Jean Bethke Elshtain’s work on Just War theory points in the same direction. Elshtain noted that Quranic Islam ‘condemns all who disagree’.  Quranic Islam is also a ‘militant theocracy that insists there can be no distinction between civil law and the strict, fundamentalist Shari’a law, the ancient Islamic holy law.’[4]

In other worse, even with a distinction between the interpretations of Islamic holy law, Shari’a law (infallible and unchangeable) and Fiqh (fallible and changeable), within Islam, there still is no concept of a separation of Mosque and State. Nor is there any concept of Just War – restrained violence – there is only jihad (War against the unbeliever). Quranic Islam and Marxism both look to violence as the necessary means to an end – total conversion and compliance.

Like Marxism, Islam shows no real affection for Classical Liberalism. Nor do Islamists and Marxists show any genuine acknowledgement that the precious freedoms birthed and nurtured in the West, were born from, and under the Light the Church carries. Even if Christians sometimes have carried that Light awkwardly, or have, from time to time, dropped it entirely.

Although Marxists are happy to borrow from the Bible[5], and the Quran speaks about Jesus and Mary, both the Marxist and Islamist deny the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Marxism and Quranic Islam downgrade Christ’s uniqueness to that of a righteous prophet, or a sage, proletarian rebel.

Marxism and Islam also show complete contempt for Christianity. The reasoning for this usually involves citing the Crusades (without reference to Islamist militant expansionism , or Missionaries and Imperialism, (without reference to Missionaries helping the poor, or preserving the language of many tribal groups).

Differences between Islam and Marxism do exist. Such as, the Islamic practice of female genital mutilation, and the oppression of women[6]. These differences, however don’t appear to dissuade academics from their affection for Islam. What unifies them is stronger than what distinguishes them from each other. Contempt for Jews and Christians, unjust restrictive laws[7], cruel punishment of any opposition, jihad (war against the infidel) and oppression, are the primary means of achieving the goal of each respective utopian ideal.

It’s worth noting that the great and fallible, Winston Churchill, noted similarities between Quranic Islam and Socialism. In a passing comment he made known his view that there are certain parallels to the Quran and Mein Kampf. He called Hitler’s book, the ‘new Koran of faith and war; the granite pillars of Hitler’s policy included, use of the sword, the conversion of Germans into soldiers, anti-Semitism, fanaticism and hysterical passion.’[8]

This partially meets with the observation made by Scottish Theologian, T.F. Torrance:

‘I had been in Palestine, as it was then called, in 1936 when the Grand Mufti came back to Jerusalem from visiting Hitler and spread the terrible poison of anti-Semitism all over the Middle East.’[9]

Swiss, anti-Nazi theologian, Karl Barth’s famous refutation of natural theology, unpacked in tedious detail, within his Gifford Lectures in 1937 and 1938, was in large part a refutation of Nazism. His “nein” to natural theology[10] was built on a keen awareness of man and woman’s rebellion against God, when, like Narcissus, man and woman turn to their own image and build religion on the sand of human imagination, ideas and superstition. For Barth, there is no other revelation of God outside where God has already made Himself known. This meant that the führer could never be Our Father. Hitler was not, and could never be, a second revelation of God. The State could never be God. Deus Dixit: in Jesus Christ, God has already spoken!

This is primarily why Barth saw Quranic Islam as idolatry, stating that ‘the God of Mohammed is an idol like all other idols […]’[11]

It’s with this in mind that we see how Quranic Islam and Marxism are more aligned than we are taught to think. For the Marxist and the Islamist, the command of the state is equal to that of the Supreme Being.   There can be no denying that like Islamists, the Bolsheviks, and later the Soviets, converted by the ‘sword of the revolution for arbitrary use at the regime’s demand’[12].

Simone Weil, herself once an ardent Marxist, criticized Marxism for being

‘a badly constructed religion […]   Marx was an idolater; he idolised the Proletariat and considered himself to be their natural leader’ (p.151); Marx made oppression the central notion of his writings, but never attempted to analyse it.’[13]

Furthermore, György Lukács, the father of modern Marxism stated without reservation that “you cannot just sample Marxism […] you must be converted to it.”[14]

What lies at the heart of this excessive affection from academics for Islam is deconstructionism (or revisionism). Like romanticism, revisionism is essentially built on lies. It builds its own facts out of the very thing it just deconstructed. Facts are distorted and sometimes reversed. Revisionism calls that which is good, evil and that which is evil, good.

Deconstructionism inflicts violence on language through redefinition. It ends up policing speech, undermining reason and civil rights. It reduces all discourse to propaganda[15].  For example, the depraved “logic” of deconstructionism reverses a claim like “the Nazis oppressed the Jews,” showing instead that the Jew cooked in a Nazi oven was really the Nazis’ oppressor…”[16]

Jacques Ellul was no debutante to Marxism or Islam. Not a lot unlike Roger Scruton, Jacques Ellul was part of the early Leftist establishment. His critique of the excessive affection from academics for Islam, is in line with Karl Barth’s rejection of Natural theology.

Such excessive affection is tantamount to believing that the best way to overcome sin is to reject the concept of sin; to ignore it, and treat sin as if it never really existed. According to this view, you can’t be a sinner if sin doesn’t exist.

However, relabelling or denying sin doesn’t make sin disappear. All this does, is allow self-justification for sin. The same goes for the academic establishment’s treatment of Islam. Calling Islam a “religion of peace”, doesn’t make it so.

Quranic Islam and Marxism view violence as a primary means to reach their respective utopian ideals. With its totalitarian: “convert, pay a tax, or die”, Islamism has proven to be much the same as Marxism. This makes them both the ultimate tool for totalitarian oppression.

What seems to explain the excessive affection from academics for Islam is the affection academics have for Marxism. As I’ve said before, those who chose to entertain Marxism, big bureaucracy or crony capitalism, ride the backs of monsters. We have to be ready and willing to ask whether or not Islamism should be added to this list.

Ideology is a good servant, but a cruel task-master. We either submit Christ to Mohammad, or Mohammad to Christ. We either submit Christ to the State or the State and Church to Christ. We cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24), and three’s a crowd.

If we give academics the benefit of the doubt we could conclude that such affection is simply just foolish romanticism.

It, however, isn’t that simple. The policing of speech, the increasing exclusion of conservatives and Christians from academia; the reckless labeling of opposing views as hate and bigotry; and the diagnosing of those who hold to scientific facts as phobic, all lead us to ask, whether such open affection isn’t just an innocent flirtation, but is in fact appeasement, or worse, a calculated naiveté and sinister wishful thinking, where Marxists use Islamists, and Islamists use Marxists for their own ends.

If the latter is true, it must be addressed. Non-critical thinking and appeasement gives Quranic Islam (and we could add the LGBT religion) the same free ride that it gave to Nazism and still does with Marxism. If we are not free to give gracious criticisms about Islamism and Marxism; if we are paralyzed by political correctness, we are dooming our children to fight a war that can still be avoided by honest intellectual engagement and open dialogue.

As David, W. Gill (retired Professor, President of the IJES, ethicist and theologian) noted,

Nothing is gained by cowardice and avoidance. All is lost by arrogance and accusation. As Paul writes, we must “speak truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) […]’  (p.vii)

Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi[17].


References:

[1] Islamism or Islamist Fundamentalism

[2] Sir Roger Scruton, 2002. The West & The Rest: Globalization & The Terrorist Threat, p.6

[3] See Alan Woods’ 2001 essay, Marxism & Religion, where Wood’s offers a dishonest account of Christian belief, but does talk about the atheism of Marxism. He also, rightly, condemns the oppression of women under in Islam. Sourced from Marxist.com 16th June 2019.

[4] Elshtain, B.J, 2003. Just War Theory: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World, (p.3) Also see Elshtain’s discussion on Islamic Supremacism and anti-Semitism.

[5] See Jesus & Marx: From Gospel to Ideology, 1988.

[6] Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 2006. Infidel. Free Press

[7] Khan, Muqtedar M.A. 2006. Islamic Democratice Discourse: Theory, Debates, and Philosophical Perspectives, Lexington Books

[8] Churchill, W. 1948. The Gathering Storm Rosetta Books

[9] Torrance, T.G. 1994. P.C.T: The Gospel and scientific thinking (p.28).

[10] Natural theology ejects the need for the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ as the starting point of faith. Barth rejected such dependence because it rejected God’s own decisive action and humanity’s only anchor of hope for salvation. Barth saw this as the main reason for the ease at which even the discerning voter was sucked in by National Socialism.

[11] Barth, K. The Knowledge of God and the Service of God According to the Teaching of the Reformation: Recalling the Scottish Confession of 1560 (Gifford Lectures 1937 & 1938) (p. 21). Wipf & Stock, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers

[12] Service, R. 1997. A History of Twentieth Century Russia. Harvard University Press, 1998 (2nd Edition) p. 74

[13] Weil, S. 1955. Oppression and Liberty. 2001. Routledge Classics (p.154)

[14] Lukacs, G.  1971. Record of a Life, The Thetford Press Ltd. 1983 (p.62)

[15] Veith, Gene Edward. 1993. Citing Ward Parks,  Modern Fascism: Threat to the Judeo-Christian Worldview . Concordia Publishing House

[16] Ibid, 1993

[17] As we pray, so we believe, so we live.

Photo by Randy Colas on Unsplash

(Originally published at The Caldron Pool, 17th June 2019)

©Rod Lampard, 2019

Bill Shorten’s poorly aimed verbal sucker punch at Scott Morrison draws from the assumption that those who voted “yes” in the LNP’s gay marriage popularity survey are a bankable vote for Labor. This political maneuvere was a bad call. It betrays a deep overconfidence in the Labor political machine and underestimates the intellectual capacity of the discerning public.

Shorten’s goal was clear. Capitalize on the fearmongering and misrepresentations, which he and Pro-SSM advocates were so keen to employ, instead of engaging in rational, respectful debate.

As a servant of that public, he seems to forget that Labor had originally refused to support the survey, and only backed it after being dragged to the table by discerning voters. His alternative was to arbitrarily make Same-sex marriage law, without Australian voters having any opportunity to debate it.

What Shorten thought would give him the presumed “moral high ground” has made him look petty and desperate. His spiteful attempt to score political points was, as Dennis Shanahan put it, part of a “co-ordinated response  to exploit the Prime Minister’s religious beliefs; seeking to revive divisions of the same-sex marriage debate and bring “the millennials back to Labor.”[1]

Shorten’s “low blow” was a vicious attempt to push the Prime Minister down, in order for Bill Shorten to raise himself up. His not-so-subtle call to arms, in an attempt to stock the emotions of moderates who voted “yes”, fits the clinical description of agitprop (manipulative propaganda).

French philosopher and theologian Jacques Ellul noted:

‘1. Agitation propaganda unleashes an explosive movement it operates inside a crisis or actually provokes the crisis itself.

2. it’s extremely easy to launch, because it’s based on hatred of a particular enemy.

3. Agitprop succeeds because it designates someone as the source of all misery.

4. Any statement whatever, no matter how stupid, any “tall tale” will be believed once it enters into the passionate current of hatred.

5. Agitprop uses key words of magical import, which are believed without question. [2]

Ambushing Scott Morrison with a loaded question only serves to prove the point. It also shows that Shorten’s verbal sucker punch was motivated by a malicious political attempt to launch a movement of hatred against the Prime Minister in the last week of an election, that Labor are confident they cannot lose.

Shorten’s unfair, on the spot demand that Scott Morrison answer whether he “believes that homosexuals go to hell or not” lead to Morrison’s “declaration” that, “no, he doesn’t believe that homosexuals go to hell”.

Rather than the Prime Minister’s response showing a compromise of his Christian faith, his response proved his strength as a leader. Morrison identified and neutralized a manipulative attempt to undermine the Australian people, and he refused to play political games by pitting the majority Christian community against the minority LGBT community. This was a hard call, but it was the right move.

In refusing to be baited by Bill Shorten, Scott Morrison didn’t dismiss Biblical Christianity, he dismissed Shorten’s slippery attempt to provoke division and hatred within the community through ignorance of Christian theology. In doing so, Morrison showed his political prowess and eligibility to continue to serve as Prime Minster.

Labor’s agitprop aside, theologically speaking there’s also a nuance in Morrison’s response.

Technically, Morrison is right to reject the oversimplistic notion that the sinners are indiscriminately thrown into hell by a tyrannical God. This is the myth Peter Fitzsimmons may believe, but it’s not the God testified to in the Bible, who actively and descively, speaks, and makes Himself known to humanity through His Covenant with Israel and Jesus Christ. Morrison is right to reject the illiterate assumption that unrepentant sinners are recklessly thrown into eternal separation from God. For the most part, the unrepentant sinner goes their willingly.

There is a distinction between sinner and sin; the person and the action. To be transformed into the image of sin, is to willingly engage in a rejection of the image of God.  Though sin is a pervasive reality, sin does not define us unless it becomes something we take pride in, or refuse to turn away from. The consequence being that we are conformed to its dark and corrupt image, rather than God’s, who is the source and fullness of life.

C.S. Lewis stated two things that illuminate this nuance. First, hell is the outer darkness[3], chosen self-annihilation. Secondly, hell is judgement:

‘To enter heaven is to become more human than you ever succeeded in being on earth; to enter Hell is to be banished from humanity.[4]

Lewis also pointed out that:

“there are two kinds of people in the end. Those who say to God, “Thy will be done”, and those to whom God in the end says, “thy will be done. All that are in Hell choose it[5]…he has his wish – to live wholly for the self and to make the best of what he finds there. And what he finds there is Hell.[6]

As a side note, when comparing Israel Folau with Scott Morrion, it’s also important to recognize, that there’s a difference in their platforms.

One was an athlete posting on his personal social media account, the other is a sitting Prime Minister, who was ambushed by the media and the Labor opposition leader with a loaded question (logical fallacy).

I think far more than this event shining a light on Morrison (and on a level of consistency, it doesn’t look great), the event reveals a whole lot more about the hostility and preconceived bias, theological illiteracy and prejudice against Christians in the public arena from Labor, and parts of Australia’s MSM. That is what we should be focusing on, not the lack of theological depth in the Prime Minister’s quick reply.

As Shannahan said, ‘it was the only response available’, (The Australian, May 15th)

Hypocritically, Bill Shorten isolated a large section of the Australian Community, all while declaring that Australia “needed a Prime Minister for all people.”

Shorten’s dull and contemptible perception of the Australian public, and the discerning voter, is no match for the much sharper, and more relatable, Scott Morrison. Australian Labor’s co-ordinated attempt at agitprop, along with the division and hatred they tried to incite, not only alienates the 4.87 million (38.4%) who ticked “no” in the Same-Sex marriage popularity survey, it revealed that the opposition leader is willing to divide Australians for personal gain.

Shorten’s theologically illiterate polemic and his deliberate exploitation of Scott Morrison’s Christian faith, proves that Shorten is unfit to serve as the 31st Prime Minister of Australia. To the discerning voter, Christian or otherwise, this is another reason, in a list of reasons to think hard before voting Labor/Green in the upcoming election on Saturday.

As C.S. Lewis put it:

‘In all discussions of Hell we should keep steadily before our eyes the possible damnation, not of our enemies nor our friends, but of ourselves.’[7]


References:

[1] Shanahan, D. Shorten Stoops to new low on leader’s beliefs, The Australian, 15th May 2019

[2] Ellul, J. 1965. Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes Vintage Books Ed. (pp.72-74)

[3] Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain (p.130)

[4] Ibid

[5] Lewis, C.S. The Great Divorce, (p.75)

[6] Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain, (p.126)

[7] Ibid, (p.132)

(Originally published at The Caldron Pool, Does Bill Shorten’s manipulative attack on Scott Morrison’s faith prove he’s unfit to be Prime Minister? 16th May 2019)

Photo by Parker Johnson on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2019

The tally of the Sri Lankan bombings on Resurrection Sunday now stands at 290 people with around 500 more wounded (many of that number include Sri Lankan Christians).

CNN reported that ‘two (now revealed to be 8) suicide bombers perpetrated the attacks hitting three churches and four luxury hotels.’  The Wall Street Journal noted official statements from the Sri Lankan government, who said that the attacks were perpetrated by an Islamist group known as National Thoweeth Jamath.

Apart from some formal condemnations from countries such as Indonesia, the Muslim world remains largely silent. While there are live updates from news organizations, including CNN, there’s no outrage about Islamism, or widespread sympathy from Muslims.

In addition, as was done to right-wing groups after the Mosque attack in New Zealand, there are no extensive editorials, and little to no panels filled by Leftist academics, sitting down to examine the issues and dangers pertaining to Islamism, and how the Islamic faith is interwoven with political ideology, or how events like the mass murder of Sri Lankans in church celebrating Easter, proves that the political dogma which permeates Islam is a tyrannical antitheses to Biblical Christianity (Judeo-Christianity), it’s progeny Classical Liberalism and Western Civilization[1].

With over 500 wounded and 290 dead, the outpouring of support, outrage and sympathy has been well short of that which was seen after a lone wolf, “eco-fascist”, attacked the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, killing 50 and wounding another 50.

One of the few examples of unprecedented support for Christians, came from Antonio Tajani, the European Parliament President, who hours after the Islamist terror attacks in Sri Lanka, issued a message of condolence, and solidarity. Tajani stated that the “attacks on Sri Lankan churches testify to a real genocide perpetrated against Christians.”

Tajani called a spade a spade, arguing for a renewal of the pursuit for religious freedom. Part of this was an implied condemnation of violent attempts to eradicate Christians from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Tajani’s response is a direct contrast to the begrudging sympathy issued forth by leading Democrats in the United States. Democrats fell in line with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, falsely referring the victims of the Church attacks as “Easter worshippers”.

Certainly not every victim was a Christian, but this deliberate ambiguity is antagonistic, if not snarky, and manipulative. It’s how the Democratic Left does politics and it’s abhorrent.

Not calling a spade a spade, or politicking with half-truths is why the American Democrats are viewed with suspicion in the eyes of many voters. What voters see and observe, doesn’t match what their politicians are selling them.

That leading Democrats are still continuing to play around with words, and blur distinctions, in order to suit their own narrative, shows that these leading Democrats have learnt nothing from Hillary Clinton’s bitter election loss in 2016.

Calling the Christian victims “Easter worshippers” doesn’t just insult the victims of the Islamist attack on three Sri Lankan churches, it rubs salt into a wound felt by Christians all around the world.

Adding insult to injury, some Leftists and at least one Australian Union mocked Scott Morrison, Australia’s Christian Prime Minister, after video emerged of him attending Church. Inferring that Christians were “Nazi worshippers”. Twitter users falsely equated Christians raising their hands in a sign of surrender and openness to God (and as such an act of humility and worship), with the Hitler salute.

One Twitter user referencing an article in The Age stated: “[A] nazi salute. Have a look at the photo – only two men doing it so it can’t be a religious thing.”

Another: “The only difference to this and a Nazi rally from the 30s are the players and the date… except Murdoch is Hitler and Morrison is Goebbels!”

Then another asserted that: “Scott Morrison is not a Christian.”By their works ye shall know them”. Looks like a Nazi salute to me.”

While all of these users were anonymous, that fact doesn’t delegitimize the severity of the act, the accusation, and the negative pattern of behavior attached to it.

Turning Christians into “Easter worshippers” and Christians worshipping in Church, into “Nazi worshippers”, shows the contrast between reactions to N.Z and Sri Lanka.

It’s another example of how the narrative surrounding “white guilt” is built up to force Westerners to remain silent, where there should be outrage, critique and criticism.

The West is told that Islamophobia is racism. Any challenge to Islamic ideology is to be punished. All moral opposition to Islamism is treated as treason. (It’s now much the same with critiques of homosexuality).

For fear of being accused of white supremacism, many in the West become unable to see how terms like Islamophobia are used to slowly bring the World into submission to what could be rightfully be called Islamist supremacism.

For example, British Philosopher, Sir Roger Scruton lost his U.K Government role as Housing Adviser, after criticizing George Soros and asserting that

“Islamophobia was an attempt to control conversation by making any and all criticism of Islam or Muslims a social pathology. (The same is true with all these absurd, politicized -phobias.)”[2]

There have also been calls for Scruton’s knighthood to be revoked.

As Scruton and Muslim writer, Ismail Royer point out.

“[In the minds of the Muslim Brotherhood it’s] impossible for anyone to write critically about Islam, or the deeds of Muslims, in good faith. The only acceptable angle was flattery” (Scruton)
“The Scruton affair illustrates a mindset afflicting many modern Muslims. As @ScholarsInk points out, this is a man who has engaged in substantive dialogue with Islamic scholars. It’s a problem that many Muslims find anything other than flattery to be absolutely intolerable.” (Royer)

Through the Left’s sycophantic political correctness imposed on Western societies, far too many are having their hands tied and mouths gagged, by falsehoods and lies such as the myth that Islam is an oppressed “race”, and that “all white people are racist.”

Add “Easter worshippers” and “Nazi worshippers” to these falsehoods and you’d have to be blind not to see the negative pattern of behavior and the agenda behind it.

Persecution of Christians isn’t subsiding. Terror Attacks on Christians and churches in Nigeria, the Philippines, Syria, Iran, China, India, Egypt and France, are now common place. Every year another country is added to the list.

Although different and a lot less blatant in The West, intolerance and discrimination against Christians is surfacing, e.g.: Roger Scruton, Israel Folau, Margaret Court.

Just as physical attacks on Churches are coordinated and deliberate, so are the intellectual and verbal assaults against Westerners and Christians in general.

There is an obvious discrepancy between the response to Christians after the Sri Lankan Church bombings and the global embrace that was afforded to Muslims, not just in New Zealand, but around the world.

One such example is when leading American Democrats deliberately refuse to call the victims of the church bombings Christians, and instead refer to them as “Easter Worshippers”; an insult that dehumanizes Christians and waters down the threat. This was exhibited by vile diatribes from Leftists, who also inferred that Christians were “Nazi worshippers”.

There is, however, hope. There are those like Tajani (in this case anyway), Scruton, and Royer who see the gathering storm, and instead of cowering in appeasement before it, choose to do everything in their power to respond to it, by educating people in the truth about Islam’s violent historical path and the deceptive nature that hides the destructive all-consuming agenda of Islamists.

If the Hillary Clinton losing the 2016 election, Brexit, Lexit, Blexit, #walkaway, Yellow Jackets, Fraser Anning and the list goes on, say anything, it’s that the age of manipulating the truth, of not calling a spade a spade, of sugar coating, and softening truth to fit into people’s lives in order to win votes, instead of speaking truthfully and allowing the truth to correct people’s lives, is nearing an end.

Therefore the work of the church today is to understand and posit an effective resistance within the context of this new and universal Church struggle, not be defined by it. Resisting the storm comes by standing on the truth. The church speaking God’s agenda for the culture, instead of submitting to any culture that seeks to make itself a god and determine the agenda of the Church. Therefore, ‘[our] reaction should be one of a spiritual and psychological nature, and on a scholarly level.’ (Jacques Ellul, 2015)[3]

For Christians, even those who stand before direct hostility, and who face the possibility of annihilation[4], this means continuing to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, not the spirit of the age.

It’s by this Light that Christians can ‘stand and proceed even when they and their neighbours expect to see themselves fall into the abyss. It’s by this Light that Christians can be courageous and patient and cheerful even where not just appearances, but the massive whole of reality forbids them to be so.’[5]

This means following Jesus Christ, the One who despite the world’s violent opposition, and despite falsehood from without and within, guides us by God’s grace, through God’s providence, and fatherly good will, into all Truth (John 14:6, ESV).


References:

[1] See Roger Scruton’s ‘The West & all the Rest’ 2002; and Jacques Ellul’s, ‘Islam & Judeo-Christianity: a Critique of their Commonality’, 2015.

[2] Rod Dreher, The ‘Islamophobia’ Smear Against Scruton April 12th 2019, The American Conservative

[3] Islam & Judeo-Christianity: A Critique of Their Commonality (p.67)

[4] Such as the Egyptians Coptic Christians and Assyrian Christians in Northern Iraq and Southern Turkey; for more see the excellent Documentary ‘The Last Christians’.

[5] Barth, K., Bromiley, G. W., & Torrance, T. F. (2004). Church dogmatics: The doctrine of creation, Part 3 (3rd ed., Vol. 3, p. 250). London; New York: T&T Clark.

(Originally posted on Caldron Pool, 23rd April 2019)

©Rod Lampard, 2019

While most of us are fans of ‘The Hobbit‘ and ‘Lord of the Rings‘ novels, some of us probably aren’t as up to date on the rest of J.R.R.Tolkien’s work and thought. The majority would know that he was friends with C.S. Lewis, and was part of the Inklings. An Oxford circle of writers, who would meet on an informal basis in order to compare and critique each others’ writing.

The group informally (and unconventionally) included the straight talking, Dorothy Sayers, and is said to have centred around the groups’ shared Christian faith and Christian values [i]. Though Sayers apparently never attended the Inking meetings, she was a close friend of C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams (British Poet and Theologian); it’s for this reason that Sayers is considered a satellite member of the group.

When it comes to Tolkien, in particular, most would know that he was a professor with a passion for Nordic history. What few would know is where Tolkien stood politically.

In a somewhat convoluted letter to his son, Christopher, in 1943, some of Tolkien’s political views come to light. Tolkien appears to give his support to what Jacques Ellul later called, Christian Anarchism [ii].

According to Ellul, Christian Anarchism is a paradoxical, ‘anti-political political position’, which,

a) acknowledges that ‘the presence of God in His revelation in Jesus Christ is the necessary condition for human liberation.’ (‘Jesus & Marx’, p.162)

b) understands that ‘power is dangerous and devouring; participating in political action and reflection on behalf of the [big G] government is an undertaking that inevitably  puts  true faith in danger. For example, Jesus was perfectly acquainted with the resistance party, but refused to join it.’ (Ibid, pp.164-167)

c) promotes the fact that ‘political power only becomes acceptable when it remains on a humble level, when it is weak [read: small g, government], serves the good (although rarely) and genuinely transforms itself into a servant.’ (Ibid, p.171)

Ellul argues that even though Anarchism has been hijacked by Leftism, anarchism belongs to the Right. This is because ‘anarchism’s central imperative is freedom’ (Ibid,p.156)

‘Christians can take their place only besides anarchists; they can never join the Marxists, for whom the state is unacceptable only to the extent that it is bourgeois [and deemed to be the oppressor]. No constitution or ethic can prevent power from becoming totalitarian.
It must discover outside itself a radical negation – [such as the revelation of God in Jesus Christ] who is no gentle dreamer looking from the sky, but is instead a challenge to the validity of [all] earthly kingdoms’ (Ibid, p.173)

Whether Ellul is reaching too far for an alternative to a Conservative or Liberal-Progressive platform, is a fair question to ask. Is Christian anarchy a legitimate third alternative?

If by Christian anarchism we mean that the allegiance of the Christian remains with Jesus Christ (who is King of Kings & Lord of Lords), and not with an ideological preference,  the answer would have to include a cautious, but affirmative, yes.

Tolkien leans in the same direction:

“My political opinions lead more to Anarchy (understood as meaning, abolition of control and not whiskered men with bombs) – or to ‘unconstitutional monarchy’. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, nor mind); and after a chance at recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate!” [iii]

And Tolkien’s words would seem a little too totalitarian, if they weren’t followed up by the gob-smacking brilliance which qualifies them:

“If we could get back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so as to refer to people. If people were in the habit of referring to King George’s council, Winston & his gang, it would go a long way to clearing thought, and reducing the frightful landslide into theocracy.” [iv]

Tolkien is taking aim at an impersonal collective; or as Soren Kierkegaard called it, the “untruth of the crowd“. In other words, Irving Janus’ critique of ‘group-think'[v] – The ‘desperate drive for consensus at any cost, that suppresses honest discussion; and where general agreement  becomes so important that it tends to override the realistic appraisal of alternatives’ (Menninger, 1976) [vi].

Ellul, Tolkien, Kierkegaard, Janus and Menninger all acknowledge the limits of politics, and the faceless tyranny of big government;  the dishevelled horde identified by Simone Weil as the bureaucratic caste.

By Christian Anarchism, we can take Tolkien and Ellul to mean people taking individual responsibility seriously, and living that out in freedom under the grace of God, in Jesus Christ (John 8:36; Romans 6:14; Galatians 5:1)

This means moving past the collective identity, towards an individual one. It means on longer being dehumanized and subsumed into a faceless mass, by the faceless would-be lords and kings of big bureaucracy. It means getting “woke” to the manipulative propaganda that herds people into collectives in order to control them and maintain their vote.

As Tolkien so aptly wrote,

“I imagine the fish out of water is the only fish to have an inkling of water.” (1943)

So it is with freedom; not just in knowing what true freedom is, but where our liberation comes from. The Western world has taken freedom for granted. We’re failing to pay attention to the lessons of the gathering storm that our Great-grandparents and Grandparents were forced to live out from 1939 to 1945. What exists with relative ease one day, may have to be hard fought for the next.

Whether it’s Christian Anarchy, or something else, the first step to recovery begins with acknowledging that ‘the presence of God in His revelation in Jesus Christ is the necessary condition for human liberation.’ (Ellul, 1988); that Jesus Christ is the radical negation who challenges the legitimacy of ALL kingdoms. Freedom comes from God, not the [big G] government.

Any political party, or politician who dismisses this, deserves dismissing. Chances are, they view their position, not as a servant of the people, for the people, but as a Lordless power, who would rather take for themselves, than leave anything of value behind for anyone else.


References (not otherwise linked):

[i] As presented by Humphrey Carpenter 1978. The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams & Their Friends George Allen and Unwin Publishers

[ii] Ellul, J. 1988. Jesus & Marx: From Gospel to Ideology Wipf & Stock Publishers

[iii] The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien #52, 29 Nov. 1943.

[iv] Ibid, 1943

[v] Irving Janus, 1971

[vi] Menninger, K. 1976 Whatever Became of Sin? Bantam Books, (p.112)

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2019

 

Jacques Ellul’s books have moved up on my ladder of reading priorities with an ever increasing pace. My acquaintance with his work began last year when, after reading Roger Scruton’s, ‘The West & The Rest’, I was prompted to dig further into the relationship between Islam and Judeo-Christianity. From there, I’ve continued to casually seek out Ellul’s work and study it. Since I voluntarily publish a lot of discoveries, and discuss their impact on my own theological study here, I thought it appropriate to introduce Jacques Ellul and explain my interest in his work.

Ellul was a student of Karl Barth[1]. This discovery was a bonus and it’s padded the desire to explore Ellul’s work. Out of particular interest is finding the point of contact between Ellul and Barth. (Political theology is ground zero, but the topic is large and best left for an essay solely dedicated to the subject.)

Ellul was a French theologian. He majored in philosophy and made a career out of lecturing on Marxism.

He was once involved in the French resistance, but unlike the equally fantastic breakaways from the Left, such as Simone Weil and Albert Camus, Ellul never appears to have been granted the same status (read: given the same time of day) by the predominantly Leftist French and Western academy.

I gather that the reasons for this dismissal come down to the fact that Ellul was a critic of Islam and wasn’t a Marxist[i]. In addition to this, he took orthodox Christian theology seriously.  Ellul wasn’t without his own criticisms of the institutional church or Christendom, but he never abandoned Jesus Christ for Karl Marx. The content and response to his works ‘Islam and Judeo-Christianity: A Critique of their Commonality’ and ‘Jesus & Marx: from theology to ideology’, present evidence of this.

Ellul worked with the understanding that every human, even if that man or woman wasn’t aware of it, has a theological viewpoint. Whether a person is agnostic or atheist, both hold to theological conclusions about the world around us, within us and beyond us.

For many, those conclusions are usually arrived at via loose information and deliberate misinformation. They have some basic knowledge of Christian theology, but this knowledge is limited, and often built on fragments, gossip or whatever ideological lens they’ve been taught is superior to all the rest.

Elluls work, so far as I’ve deciphered, sought to engage that inherent theological knowledge in conversation with relevant topics. So much so, that under the microscope placed over contemporary Western politics, it’s tempting to look at a good portion of his subject matter and consider it prophetic.  However, like Karl Barth, Ellul, was no prophet and so it’s a temptation that proves to be an unhelpful trivial speculative distraction.

Whilst Ellul took orthodox Christianity seriously, he wasn’t someone who was absorbed by any particular Protestant denomination. He wasn’t a puppet of the Left, nor a product of conservatives or sectarian dogma. He lived out his faith, and applied the science of dogmatics to his own theological viewpoints. Living out what he termed, Christian anarchism[ii], Ellul came to his own conclusions based on the bible and a working dogmatics.

As David W. Gill’s, (President of the I.J.E.S[2]), recent lecture pointed out,

‘Ellul was of the view that “we must come to Scripture asking “what does God wish to say to us through these texts? He insisted [as did Karl Barth] that the Bible should be read with Jesus [the revelation of God] at the Center. Any separation of a text from the totality of God’s revelation will inevitably cause us to distort the Bible.” (Gill, 2018. Words parenthesis are mine)

According to Gill,

‘the grounding of Ellul’s conversion was in reading Scripture. One day at the age of twenty-two, Ellul was reading the Bible, and “it happened-with a certain brutality.” Not a sermon in a church, not a celebration of the sacraments, not a mystical vision, bu the private reading of the Bible was decisive in Ellul’s decision to become a Christian.’ (Ibid, 2018)

Ellul wasn’t a blind follower of high-minded Biblical Criticism. Gill reports that Ellul ‘took biblical scholarship including historical criticism seriously, but was feisty in challenging its excesses’[3]:

  “I fail to see the justification for accepting as legitimate all the questions about the revelation while at the same time refusing to question those systems, methods, and conclusions from the point of view of Revelation.” (Jacques Ellul, Hope in the Time of Abandonment).

Gill concludes his lecture with two main areas of consideration for those being introduced to Ellul. First, not everyone will agree with Elull’s theology. Second, one area we will agree on is ‘one of Ellul’s most powerful points about the Bible: let it put us in question rather than for us to constantly put it in question.’ (Gill, 2018)

It’s here that Jacques Elull first finds some shared ground with Karl Barth. As a result, I’m keen to read more.

I think that Jacques Ellul picks up where Barth stopped (had to stop]). I wouldn’t go as far to say that Ellul finished what Barth started, only that, from what I’ve read so far, Ellul gives Thomas Torrance some serious competition for the top spot as Barth’s successor.


Notes & References:

[1] ‘After his conversion, Ellul was drawn to the Reformed Church and to the theology of Karl Barth.’ (David.W Gill, Scripture & Word In Ellul’s Writings, 2018)

[2] International Jacques Ellul Society

[3] Ibid, 2018

[i] This is a tentative conclusion I base squarely on Roger Scruton’s tenacious and meticulous research about the French and Western Academy in, ‘Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left, 2015’.

[ii] At this point, Christian Anarchism is where I depart from Ellul. I need to read more about what he thinks Christian Anarchism is. His chapter in ‘Jesus & Marx’, whilst it explains some of his ideas about Christian Anarchism, I’m yet to be convinced that it’s a good thing.

Gill, D.W. 2018 Scripture & Word in Ellul’s Writings, IJES Conference, Vancouver BC Canada (Sourced 3rd July 2018 from http://ellul.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Scripture-and-Word-in-Ellul%E2%80%99s-Writings.pdf)

Capitalism may be plagued by greed, as it hinders the free market through hoarding and monopolies, but ultimately capitalism creates room for compassion. Laws exist to fortify the free market, so as to protect the free market from the death blows of a greed-is-good culture.

Through the referee of small government the free market is nurtured. Through capitalism, doors are opened for freedom; for people to be free to be compassionate; free to give out of the abundance of what they have earned. Free to give out of the abundance of what they are free to own and earn.

Socialism, on the other hand, has no checks and balances against greed. The assumption is that it doesn’t need it. Socialism is viewed as the highest form of equality. Therefore it doesn’t need to encourage people to be compassionate. It doesn’t allow room for compassionate giving because, by definition, under a socialist system, there shouldn’t be any need for anyone to give compassionately.

Socialism blames capitalism through the presumption that the poor worker will never get rich, or rise above, his or her poverty. The socialist never sees that he or she has to keep people poor in order to justify its hatred of capitalism and in order to give meaning to its own existence. There can be no proletariat, no cause for perpetual class war, without keeping the working poor where they are. [i]

Socialism strips the individual of their right to own private property. The individual is left with no amount of abundance to give from. Anything given outside what the absolute rule of the socialist regime takes is suspect. In this way the socialist stands opposed to any form of compassion that they cannot take credit for.

It’s fair to conclude then that the individual who practices compassionate giving is viewed as having committed a crime against the socialist. To give freely is treasonous because, in theory, someone has something others don’t, from which they can give.

For the socialist there is no need for individuals to be compassionate. According to the propaganda, the socialist state provides for the equal needs of everyone.

Every want and need is fulfilled by the powers of the all-powerful central government. Efforts to achieve the collectivist dream, reflects that of Sisyphus. Those under socialism are condemned to the repetition of pushing a boulder up a hill, only to see it roll back down, time and time again. The socialist may see this likeness, nevertheless he or she will hold fast to their faith in Karl Marx’s paradoxical dream of a workless society, and they’ll force others to do the same, regardless of the cost.

Unlike compassionate capitalism, compassionate socialism cannot exist. It’s an oxymoron, because socialism as absolute economic law, only has what it’s taken from the people; it has no capital outside what the socialist takes for the collective; often brutally; often without compassion; always under a superimposed ethos of equality, oppression, justice and “compassion”.

People are to believe in the strict equality of socialist goals, but not in equity. By controversial concessions, such as the Lenin’s Bolshevik return to capitalism under the N.E.P, the individual may have the freedom to earn and choose how they earn, but they don’t have the freedom to be compassionate with what they earn.

They couldn’t, even if they wanted to, because there is no abundance in socialism unless it is awarded to them by the state. The people have what the socialist government gives and nothing more. The disallowance of private property, and a profit margin, means that there is no abundance from which individuals can choose to give compassionately. Therefore, in their giving towards one another, the individual isn’t free to be compassionate.

The compassionate giver is a threat to the power of the socialist, therefore the socialist in his or her outlawing of the free market, also outlaws the freedom to be compassionate. By default the state becomes total provider. It becomes god, employer, mother and father. Under these conditions a Führer or Supreme Leader can be raised up as savior, because it is believed that he, and only he, can lead the socialist system to its utopian goal. He knows what’s best for the people, and what’s best for the fatherland. For the socialist, salvation is only found in living out the ideals of the Socialist State. Redemption is attained by allegiance to its leader.

Contrary to popular sentiment, the Bible doesn’t preach or foster socialism as an absolute economic law or ethos. Jesus wasn’t a socialist. He wasn’t a khaki wearing Marxist hiding in Latin American jungles, or a communist waiting for revolution in the deserts of Afghanistan.

As French theologian and philosopher remarked in his book, ‘Jesus & Marx: From Gospel to Ideology’:

‘Jesus questions all economic activity, including what is exercised in a socialist world.’ (p.115)

What the Bible teaches is that greed is a sin, that God loves a fair weight; fair trade.

The words of Jesus remind us to:

“Take care, and be on our guard against all greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

What the Bible testifies to is the God who is a compassionate judge, who wills to govern for His people, but does not govern at the whim and will of His people. God cannot be manipulated.

The biblical witness, as a whole, holds fast to fairness and justice within the bounds of a life lived in freedom, under grace, in Jesus Christ. (Galatians 5:1, 2 Corinthians 3:17, Romans 8:1-4 etc.)

It is Father God, not führer-as-father who should rule out hearts and guide our minds.

As Paul noted to the Church in 2 Corinthians 8:8-24, let your love be genuine. Give earnestly. Give from abundance.

“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness  your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15, ESV)

In other words: give what you can, when you can, where you can. Trade in fairness, do acts of grace, and do so freely. Do so with joy, for this will encourage reciprocal giving. Provide out of abundance in order to bring relief for those experiencing affliction.

Without compassion, capitalism fails. Compassion keeps the capitalist system from gorging itself to death with greed and gluttony.

Socialism, however, has no room and sees no need for compassion once it holds power. The socialist only sees the capitalist as his or her enemy, and upholds a fanatical and religious opposition. Socialism is seen as true compassion and therefore the only compassion anyone truly needs. Since socialism is conflated with compassion by its advocates, all who disagree or refuse to fall in line with socialism are labeled, without compassion, as an enemy of compassion.

It’s true that the socialist and capitalist can both operate under an “I will take from you to benefit me” rule. However, the necessary function of compassion that capitalism not only allows, but empowers, means that capitalism is set apart from socialism. From his or her empowerment under capitalism, the individual can and is empowered to say, “What can I give to you, in order to benefit you”, as opposed to “what can I take from you to benefit me”.

This is what the Bible teaches.

Jacques Ellul also noted:

‘No constitution or ethic can prevent power from becoming totalitarian. It must discover outside itself, a radical negation. [Such as grace; the Divine compassion exhibited in, through and by Jesus Christ].’ (Jacques Ellul, Jesus & Marx. 1988 p.174)

Compassionate capitalism empowers compassion because it generally provides an abundance from which people can to choose to give. Socialism doesn’t allow this kind of freedom because it ultimately denies individuals the freedom to give.

This kind of compassionate capitalism is what led Margaret Thatcher to assert:

“Any set of social and economic arrangements which is not founded on the acceptance of individual responsibility will do nothing but harm.”[ii]

Greed is the enemy of capitalism. Even for its own sake, if capitalism is to succeed it must eventually give a firm “no” to it. If not the free market falls victim to the same kind of totalitarian rule, as that advocated by the socialist. The difference being that it’s a corporation, not a government left sitting on the throne, wielding an unchecked, undemocratic power, without opposition.


References:

[i] ‘In Marxist dialectic, the oppressed must become the oppressor – the poor person becomes the absolute, a kind of priest – only through him can we meet Jesus and God; through serving him we are sanctified – this horizontal theology [or version of natural theology] returns quite simply to the project of excluding God’ (Jacques Ellul. Jesus & Marx, 1988. pp.42 & 48 parenthesis mine)

[ii] Thatcher, M. 1988. Speech to General Assembly of the Church of Scotland,

 

Photo credit: Milada Vigerova  ‘Hand, closeup, prayer’ on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

.

The appearances of tended wounds and mended hearts,
offer little room for understanding how tender they still are.

The former dances with the latter.
Perception is distorted by this intoxicated waltz.

Complimented by self-medication
and a patient’s self-prescribed dose.
Complicated by
Its dark promise, its false solace, its temporary pulse.

But by all means salute;
stand in wonder.

Give up your “like”, your “share”, your applause
Gather the wounds, see the marks.

Be sucked in to the pit;
watch the walls fall apart,
as the veil lifts and reveals the devil behind the self-righteous mask.

Time gasps in horror.
Suspense grips the scene from right to left.
From clock to clock,
beat to beat.
From silence to infuriating,

Tick.

Tock.

Don’t be fooled.
Leap beyond the crevices created by human haste;
Cut through the noise of a fool’s embrace

For encased within both God’s command and claim,
is seared into human history and human hearts,
through living Word, and touchable scars.

The witness, not written by any movement of stars,
His “remember me!, whispered,
carried, through epochs and delivered thus far.

God breathed humanity into His name
And from the breath of angels,
their baritone awe is the same,

of wonder,
at grace,
of hooded silhouettes
and impossible handshakes.


(©RL2017)

‘Nothing is worse in times of danger than to live in a dream world. To warn a [democratic] political system of the menace hanging over it does not imply an attack against it, but is the greatest service one can render that system.’

(Jaques Ellul, Propaganda, xvi:1965)