Friday, December 18, 2009

Thoughts on Ellul and Romans 13

I found a good paper online on the ideas of Jacques Ellul and Rene Girard, whom I will be reading soon. The paper is entitled Violence, Anarchy and Scripture: Jacques Ellul and René Girard. I have updated my post Christians and Violence, Part III with some thoughts, and here are some more from the paper by Mattew Pattillo:

Paul does not suggest that the community of faith will or should seek to overthrow secular government, or that the Kingdom of God will either suddenly or by steady advance appear as
the inevitable progression of earthly affairs. His imagery in the letter to the Romans suggests instead the Christ-believers as a remnant, a minority whose encounter with the political order will inevitably produce results in "the way of the cross." These seven verses in Romans have become the text on secular power and the conduct of Christianity toward it, in spite of the overwhelming witness of the Biblical record against political power. It is unsettling to speculate on the sociological and psychological reasons that lead exegetes to value a few verses more highly than the vast collection of contradictory passages, and allow one brief passage to neutralize the entire thrust of the Scriptures on this matter. In light of our arguments in this essay, the traditional interpretation of the passage results from internalization of the violent order of the state and a secret reflection and validation of secular power. Christian statism is correlative to the "sacrificial reading" of the Gospels. Although they never advocate a fugitive or criminal practice toward the state, both Jesus and Paul consider the state to be neither legitimate nor divinely constituted. Paul was arrested, tried, and executed by the same court system that condemned and crucified Jesus. Their witness attests that the exigencies of secular power are to be suffered rather than sanctioned.

I don't necessarily endorse this position yet, as it fundamentally opposes the primary Christian tradition. But the argument is compelling and I have not yet found a convincing counter argument.

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