The Ethics of Freedom was one of the most challenging books I’ve ever read. It is difficult to summarize a book so full of ideas, particularly ideas that are not discussed widely within the church.
Ellul argues that man is not free in his natural state. Freedom is illusion, and though man seeks to attain it, he is unable to bear it and instinctively turns back to enslavement. Man may only be free through Christ—but even this is difficult, as it pits man and Christ against the natural order.
This idea is not necessarily a novel one in Christian theology, but the implications of the argument as expressed by Ellul are novel and compelling.
Ellul does not view Christian faith as the personal devotional faith so rampant through American evangelicalism, but instead it is a challenge to live in freedom and to boldly evangelize and to reject the power structures inherent in the fallen order—what he calls the ‘order of necessity.’
I've quoted Ellul several times on this blog already, and it is clear that his ethics are unique and either ignored, or rejected by the modern church. Ellul is radically opposed to the power of the nation state and believes the only meaningful restraint is through Anarchism. He also rejects the use of violence for the Christian. Ellul's perspective on work, too, is unique, as he does not believe the Bible stresses the importance of work, outside of the necessity of it. This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of his ethics for me to agree upon.
The book, as I said is difficult, but certainly worthwhile, as it will challenge your understanding of the Christian faith in ways that you may never otherwise encounter. That being said, I recommend starting with some of his shorter works first.
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