Anarchy and Christianity

ISBN: 0802804950
ISBN 13: 9780802804952
By: Jacques Ellul Geoffrey William Bromiley

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Reader's Thoughts


Short but solid apologetic for christian anarchism.

♥ Ibrahim ♥

[No matter what God's power may be, the first aspect of God is never that of the absolute Master, the Almighty. It is that of the God who puts himself on our human level and limits himself] Jacques Ellul


Not as detailed as I would have liked. But it's good introduction for those that might never have considered that anarchist political philosophy and Christian theology might go hand-in-hand.


Ellul sets out to reconcile anarchy and Christianity, a noble task for a society that has largely allied the "archists" (governmental empire) with it's form of Christianity, and for the communities of anarchists that have been rejecting Jesus. I appreciate Ellul for his philosophical and theological insight on the matter. What I believe he lacks is a description of what a Christian/ anarchist reconciled community looks like/ acts like in todays world. Perhaps this is where Christian communities of like-mindedness with Ellul can help fill-in. Favorite quote (paraphrased): "the best definition of anarchy is a complete rejection of violence".

Jared Schumacher

Very, Very Interesting. In many ways a way of speaking of the politics of Jesus from a slightly different angle. Mostly, this will be a good resource for interpretation of Christian's relationship to power.


This is almost persuasive of the Christian anarchist position.


I thought a lot of the ideas in this book were good and I agreed with most of what he said, but I really hate the term "Anarchy." I'm not sure where my aversion stems from but that word is really a turn off to me. I don't like government at all but don't call me an anarchist. Thanks.

Brad Belschner

I liked this book, not because it said good things, but because it talked about something important. Jacques Ellul's opinions are ridiculous, but at least they're different from the normal interpretations you've been exposed to. Ellul makes you reconsider...what does 1 Peter 2:13-25 really mean? What does obedience to Romans 13:1-7 look like? How did Jesus act towards the civil magistrates? What does "render unto Caesar" mean? Initially I rated this book 2 stars because Ellul's interpretations are so poor. (One small example: he concludes that the "king" in 1 Peter 2:13 can't be referring to the Roman Emperor, because the Emperor refused to be called a king.) But now I change my rating to 3 stars, because I have to reluctantly admit the book is helping me. Don't read this book for answers; read it for questions. And don't bother reading the first half. Commonplaces:"Marx was right to denounce religion as the opiate of the people. As it was preached by the church at this period, this is precisely what Christianity was." (pg 32)"[Engaging in politics:] is always a means of conquering others and exercising power over them." (pg 62)"Even though you are ready to rebel, instead pray for the authorities. Your only true weapon is to turn to God, for it is he alone who dispenses supreme justice." (pg 83)"The fact that we should submit means that we should not forget how wrong political calculation is as such." (pg 87)"By anarchy I mean first an absolute rejection of violence." (pg 11)"The struggle for an anarchist society is essential, but I also think that the realizing of such a society is impossible." (pg 20)"My own view is that the holy wars of Christianity were in imitation of what Islam had been doing already for a century or so. War become a means to win new territories for Christianity and to force pagan peoples to become Christian." (pg 25)"If Paul also tells us that we are to obey, not by constraint but for the sake of conscience, this means that our obedience can never be blind or resigned." (pg 89)

Zach Irvin

Very illuminating. Ellul is interested in showing that christians and anarchists are not as diametrically opposed as it might appear. Here, he makes very clear that he means non-violent anarchism. The word is broken down into its parts; an-arche (no authority/no domination). He constructs most of his argument by analyzing passages of the bible (Hebrew Bible and New Testament alike) that have traditionally been used to support state power. Ellul shows that most of these passages are, in fact, hostile to established political authority considering the context of the argument and the time period the pieces were written. It's hard to argue with him when he brings up 1 Samuel, and what God had to say about the Israelites' desire for a King. Or the fact that most of the prophets denounced the kings and rulers of their time. There are a great number of passages in which Jesus ridicules or expresses contempt for hierarchy. Ellul condemns the modern church that has become enmeshed in politics and hierarchies that only serve to oppress individuals and invoke fear. This is the church that has taken the commandment 'Thou shall not kill,' and tacked an 'unless' to the end of it. One that has oppressed the poor and sought to gain privilege and power instead of expressing the love of God. It seemed like a very personal book, and it sounded to me like he is imploring christians to consider a point of view that is not in favor of government or politics. Since this has become the norm of society, christians should be skeptical. Paul urged christians not to conform to the ideologies of the day. I think he might be right.


I was surprised at how readable this book was, and it was very interesting to hear someone expand on a lot of things I've thought about myself. Ellul doesn't go too deep, and some of his exegesis seems a bit questionable, but for the most part it was interesting reading and gave me plenty of things to think about. He discusses nonviolence and nonvoting and devotes quite a bit of time toward demonstrating that Jesus and the early Christians did not support political powers and hierarchies. His intent is not to convert anarchists to Christianity or Christians to anarchy, but just to demonstrate that the two beliefs can be held simultaneously without self-contradiction.

Kyle Luck

I had high hopes for Ellul's work, but I was not terribly impressed with this essay. It is, perhaps, a good primer to the subject matter but the discussion lacks significant nuance and depth. Moreover, the structure of Ellul's argument seemed a bit disorganized and the exegesis was inexhaustive. I appreciate the book, but I don't know that I will go back to it anytime soon.

Johnny Brooks



Kind of interesting. Not exactly light reading and certainly from a Protestant perspective. One erratum: He lists the date of Herod the Great's death as AD 4. It was 4 BC. His interpretation of the Paul's letter to the Romans passage about obeying our governmental overlords is unlikely to be correct. This is the problem of trying to harmonize the Bible. Really once you do the minimum of Christ's rendering unto Caesar, Paul's subservient position is historically interesting, but probably not prescriptive today.


I thought this book really failed to convince me, which is a shame because I'm respectively open to and practicing the two subjects of the book. Foremost, I think I disliked his attempt to reconcile anarchy and Christianity from almost legalist interpretations of Biblical passages. It's the same technique definitively-archist Christians use to justify capitalism, authority and the like. What five or ten or thirty passages *imply* seems irrelevant to me if it doesn't match the overall philosophy of religion. That's where I felt let down by Ellul... good arguments for the interpretation of passages, but too little talk of how it fits into the core principles of Christian thought.

Timothy Lindhagen-våge

Jacques Ellul started the book by saying in its introduction that Anarchy is an impossibility. My reaction was a variation of shipwrecked emotions, however, upon finalizing the book, Ellul marinated my mentality back into an inevitable conclusion of anarchistic devotion to the god that makes Law natural to humanity, including those who do not believe in Him.I was always under the impression that only Christians could live in Anarchist societies (as do the Amish, Quakers and many Mennonites, as agrees Tolstoy and Voltaire. This book only mentions Christian perspective of the theory of Anarchism under Biblical circumstances and does not speak for others.My recommendation for this book is nearly urgent for all Christians should pick it up and read it, whereas anyone else in today's society would only find room to mock it for absurdities that don't impress their stubbornness. After all, Christianity is a personal relationship with God. It is no institution nor corporation as even most Christians believe that it is.

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