Articles on Nations:
Alcohol Prayer Initiative 2009, New York
CAN EUROPE BE SAVED?
CHURCH SUPPORTING POLITICS
CONGO-KINSHASA, A REMARKABLE CONFERENCE
CORPORATE IDENTITY OF AFRICA
CORPORATE IDENTITY OF AMSTERDAM
CORPORATE IDENTITY OF AUSTRALIA
CORPORATE IDENTITY OF BELGIUM
CORPORATE IDENTITY OF BRAZIL
CORPORATE IDENTITY OF FRANCE
CORPORATE IDENTITY OF HUNGARY
CORPORATE IDENTITY OF KOREA
CORPORATE IDENTITY OF SOUTH AFRICA
CORPORATE IDENTITY of SWEDEN
CORPORATE IDENTITY OF THE USA
COVERING AN AREA WITH PRAYER
Dialogue with Jacques Ellul
DURBAN II ≈ EVIAN III; NEW ANTISEMITISM
EUROPA – AFRIKA; Indrukwekkende Conferentie
EUROPA – AFRIKA; verzoeningsconferentie dvd
EUROPE - AFRICA; Berlin Congo I: Hist. Overview
EUROPE - AFRICA; Berlin Congo II: Report
EUROPE - AFRICA; Neo-Imperialism
Gebed voor de koning
GEBEDSBEDEKKING VAN EEN GEBIED
GOD'S COVENANT WITH ALL NATIONS
HOW TO DEFEND WHICH BORDERS OF ISRAEL?
ISRAEL’s RESPONSIBILITY 1
ISRAEL’s RESPONSIBILITY 2
ISRAEL’s RESPONSIBILITY 3
ISRAEL’s RESPONSIBILITY 4
Landbelofte of staatbelofte?
LOVING THE CITY GOD'S WAY
MIRACLES AT CITY SCALE
NATIVE AMERICANS, THREE DRAMA'S
NESTOR AFRICAN PRESIDENTS FORGIVES EUROPE
SLAVERY AND HEALING
SPIRITUAL ASPECTS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
THE CITY AS BEAUTIFUL AS SHE COULD BE
THE CITY, AND WHY CITY PRAYER?
TRANSFORMATIONS IN THE PACIFIC
TWO CITIES DEDICATED TO KING JESUS
ÜBERSETZUNG THE NATIONS CALLED
VERZOENING MET NATIVE AMERICANS
WHY IS AFRICA SO POOR?
ZES LANDEN RIJNPROJECT
ZONDER VERZOENING GEEN TOEKOMST
Articles on Society:
A REVEALING UN-MEETING
A strategic assault on this generation of children
BOEK BOS ANTIDEMOCRATISCH?
CHILDREN OF THE WORLD TARGETED
COPENHAGEN – Five questions
COPENHAGEN - No bread from stones
Copenhagen, where do we go from here?
DE ANDERE AGENDA VAN DE DALAI LAMA
DE OLYMPISCHE SPELEN
EU: HUMANISME VERSUS “GOD”
EUROPA, WAAROM DIE NAAM?
EUROPE, WHAT'S IN THE NAME?
EVROPA - CO SKRÝVÁ TO JMÉNO?
EYPΩΠH, TI KPYBETAI ΣTO ONOMA
HER-MYTHOLOGISERING INTERNATIONALE POLITIEK?
Informed intercession for the UN
Jezus dienaar van Moeder Aarde?
KERK-STAAT VERHOUDING 1
KERK-STAAT VERHOUDING 2
KERK-STAAT VERHOUDING 3 (EU-Referendum)
KERK-STAAT VERHOUDING 4
Massa op Malieveld; nee toch?
MICRO FINANCING AND GRACE
MONDIALE SCHUDDINGEN I
MONDIALE SCHUDDINGEN II
Obama 1: Obama en het leven
Obama 2: Door Obama een les voor de kerk
PRAYING FOR THE G8
PULLING DOWN STRONGHOLDS
RE-MYTHOLOGISATION 0 OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS?
RE-MYTHOLOGISATION 1: CHURCH-STATE/GOD-STATE
RE-MYTHOLOGISATION 2: GOD-STATE LINK IN OUR TIME
RE-MYTHOLOGISATION 3: EU AND UN “COVENANTS”
RE-MYTHOLOGISATION 4:GOD-STATE IN NEAR FUTURE
RE-MYTHOLOGISATION 5: WHAT ABOUT GOD’S MASTER PLAN
THINKING AND BELIEVING IN THE CHURCH
THINKING, BELIEVING AND SCIENCE
UN-DUURZAAMHEIDS TOP IN JOHANNESBURG
WHAT HAPPENS AT UN CONFERENCES?
WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
A NATION AS A TREE?
Belijden van de zonden van je land?
BIDDEN VOOR HOOGGEPLAATSTEN
BLOED SCHREEUWT VAN DE AARDE
GODEN DER VOLKEN
'GODS OF THE NATIONS'
HERSTEL VAN HET ALTAAR
HET KRUIS VAN JEZUS
JEZUS KOMT - drie voordrachten
NBV, COMMENTAAR OP ÉÉN ASPECT
OOK TOPCONFERENTIES IN DE BIJBEL GAAN OVER VOLKEN
THE CROSS OF JESUS
THE GLORY OF HIERARCHY
TITHING AND ETERNITY
Dialogue with Jacques Ellul
by: Pieter Bos
In his book "The Nations Called"(out of which this article is a pre-publication) Pieter Bos makes a considerable effort to compare his understanding on cities with those of well read authors. One of them is Jaques Ellul.
This author is widely “quoted”, suggesting that he is very pessimistic about cities. This article will prove otherwise.
Unlike Webber and Friedman on the one hand, and Giedion and Huntington on the other, who basically stand for two widely recognizable streams of thought, the French sociologist and theologian Ellul is a loner. Since his book, bearing the challenging title, "The Meaning of the City”, has been immensely influential in Christian circles, I shall give extensive attention to his contribution. noot 1
The first two chapters centre on Cain and the consequences of the murder he committed.
"[Cain] will satisfy his desire for eternity by producing children, and he will satisfy his desire for security by creating a place belonging to him, a city…The direct relationship between the two acts is revealed in the identity of the name given to the city and to the child" p. 5.
Ellul states that Cain's "Own Beginning" is, from Cain's point of view, the beginning of the city (p. 6).
Ellul is very consistent in his conviction concerning death as a motivator of civilization. He points out the parallel between Cain and Nimrod, that both begin city building after a curse, the first on Cain himself and the other on Canaan. In the pronouncement at Babel, "Come, let us build ourselves a city" (Gen 11:4), Ellul sees another step in humanity's advance against God.
"And again the city's double role becomes apparent: it is both the place where man's conquest is affirmed and the memorial to that conquest… It is because the city is such a place that man's triumphant march without God can take place, and it is because of this triumphant march that the city is a necessity" p. 16.
Israel emerges as a people in the very context of building granary cities, as slaves! This again adds two attributes to the nature of cities: the city as economic power, and as enslaving the people of God. Ellul not only tries to make clear how basically evil the city is, but he also stresses that the urban reality of the Bible is our reality, valid for today.
"The city arraigned before God. The immediate result is a curse, a curse on the city itself, rather than on its inhabitants" p. 44. "It is the curse expressed from one end of the Scriptures to the other by: "I will destroy, says the Lord" p. 48. "Thus the city's undertakings have already received their stamp, and man's technical undertakings are no different. This is the explanation (and the only one) for the prodigious problem evident in the lag between man's projects and cares for the city, and their realization" p. 60. "We are the subjects of the city and involved in its condemnation, and yet we are the possible artisans of her adoption by God..” . p. 71.
This is the first word of consolation from Ellul! That ‘s what he tries. He quotes Jeremiah:
"'Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf' (Jer 29:7). In this city we are captives. This is the first thing we must understand. As Israel is in her Babel, the church is in captivity" pp. 72-73.
Ellul warns us not to leave the city, because we would be enticed to build our own city (safety, denomination, organization, p. 74). He warns us not to initiate a city, but to live in and pray for her with
"the solidarity of the captive with the jail keeper.... Who knows if in this cursed environment, man's work cannot also sing to the glory of the living God? This question is now possible since Nineveh repented..” . p. 74.
That is a second glimmer of hope. A third comes concerning the "temporal election”, when a city is used by the Lord to carry out some of His work (p. 85), e.g. the cities of refuge, p. 90.
The fourth glimmer of hope is seen in the fact that the city of Jerusalem is "chosen”, pagan as her ancestry may be, bloody as her foundations may be (reported in detail by Ellul), and yet chosen. This means that God starts to identify with man:
"Her adoption shows us God's true and final decision towards this work of man.... God decided on the adoption of the city and he made his decision manifest in Jerusalem. He makes no retractions: the curse on the city is truly the next to the last act, followed by the adoption.... It comes at the end of history.... And in his adoption of Jerusalem in history, God goes just as far as he must, to make of it a real adoption: he becomes a builder" p. 103.
Though Ellul refers here extensively to the "woes" on the cities (Luke 10:13-15), he adds that Jesus does something more. He attracts multitudes, he attracts them outside the city and her domination, he has compassion over the multitudes, which enables the individuals to be individual and to meet Jesus individually, and then he sends them back into the city, as changed people. Only as such, as changed persons through meeting Jesus, can they truly and effectively "pray and seek the welfare of the city" pp. 130-133. noot 2
Most comments on Ellul’s famous study were accepting but brief. As a theologian who endeavoured a theology of the city put it: "Through Ellul we know that there is no hope for the city, but I have a glimmer of it, because of the perspective of the New Jerusalem”.
Basically, Ellul overlooks the creative mandate and suggests that the city was Cain’s idea to maturity. Bust just as conceiving a child was Cain's act, but not his idea, so building the first ever city was Cain's act, but not his idea. Name giving, both to the child and to the city, was also Cain's act, but not his idea; it was a pre-Fall concept, and so was gardening, which set the scene for city building.
I shall now respond to Ellul with the help of two well-qualified commentators on Ellul, the philosopher Schuurman and the sociologist Kristensen.
Kristensen observes two characteristics in Ellul's writings:
"Being human means for Ellul 'the capacity to make a stand against something that otherwise would determine man.'" "Basically Ellul rejects the idea of 'cultural mandate;' man should just conceive children and earn bread and for the rest 'live before the Lord in joy, love and song.'" noot 3
These two characteristics are consistent in themselves; Kristensen and I disagree with Ellul. Schuurman discerns that Ellul describes the facts as a positivist, whereas he defends freedom in an existentialist way. > noot 4 This indeed has confused many readers.
Another point of discussion is his view on “powers”. Ellul:
"I am not saying [the city] is a being. But like an angel, it is a power...Terror and Vigilance" p. 9.
"Sociologists know that every city has its own personality, and that a man's mental make-up changes when he goes from the country to the city and again from one city to another" p. 22.
In less than one page Ellul thinks to have made clear the fact that the city is "more than" buildings and people, that it is a "power”. The second quotation stands alone in the flow of an argument. It is therefore not a surprise to me that Ellul's whole point is completely overlooked by many readers. Ellul, and I, are saying: THE CITY is a POWER, a spiritual entity; I add: even a PERSON. Ellul and I say: TECHNIQUE, in the sense of technocracy, IS A POWER; I add: not a person but a spiritual tool, namely a “stronghold”.
These are life changing discoveries. Kristensen does not grasp that idea. He summarizes Ellul's thinking, but does not show empathy. Schuurman argues against it, stating that technique should not be perceived as an absolute, as an entity with its own dynamic, but should be under control of man. noot 5 But we must understand that the city by her nature is a spiritual entity; technique we have allowed to become one, in the shape of technocracy; whether we like it or not.
I sense that Ellul has become isolated from his readers because of this viewpoint (and I am running the same risk). This has deceived him to emphasize, even overemphasize, the danger of technocracy and of city, and to stress that these are “powers” under which we are. And Ellul argues, that if the city and technique are not neutral, but spiritually contagious entities in the heavenlies, then the whole creative mandate is paralysed; we can do nothing good, contribute nothing to the Kingdom of Heaven. However, it is through meeting Jesus (“individually meeting him, being freed from that power at the Cross and being changed”) that our works can truly begin to contribute something. noot 6 Because it seems too extreme to give up technique, Ellul has come across as pessimistic and unrealistic. But he is right: in the city and in technique and without cooperating with God there is no hope for mankind.
The main contribution of Ellul is his well argued discernment of the spiritual nature of the city and of technocracy, and of the concept of “cooperating of man with God” in the city and in technology.
noot 1 Jacgues Ellul The Meaning of the City (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1970).
In the preface, p. xvii, Ellul makes it clear that he is acquainted with various types of modern approach by theologians to the Bible, but that he deliberately takes "the biblical text...in its entirety”. Terug
noot 2Ellul then points out two lines. The line "from Cain to Jerusalem”, asking, "Would the Christian let God work His works through him or her?"… "By Jesus Christ, God is snatching man's work from Satan's grasp and, as it were, giving it back to man " p. 167. And the "line from Eden to Jerusalem”, that started with a garden, but which God gave up in order to incorporate the work of man, through the redemptive work of Jesus (pp. 180-182). Terug
noot 3 Brede Kristensen, Het Verraad van de Techniek; over the sociologie van Jacques Ellul (The Betrayal of Technique), dissertation, VU 1986, pp. 228-229; translation p.b. Terug
noot 4 Kristensen, op.cit., p. 274. Terug
noot 5 Schuurman, op.cit., pp. 158-161. I discussed this in § 4.1.4. Kristensen reports that in later publications Schuurman "shows more sympathy" to the idea; Kristensen, op.cit., p. 239 n15. Terug
noot 6 In the light of the above it is interesting to refer back to Giedion: "What we must do, is something common to all great civilizations: this is to establish our relationship with the unknown forces...which we have to conquer”. This heart cry from a true-to-type transcendentalist seems to be written for Ellul: all great civilizations were under the curse, built their cities against the curse, and failed to conquer. Only through Jesus is there hope. Terug