Jacques Is Back!

Jacques Ellul saw this whole section of trumpets and woes as the center of Revelation. “It is there that we must situate what follows: in particular the judgment, because the judgment and the end of the world cannot be read or understood except in terms of the judgment which has fallen upon the Son of God; and those who are condemned in the final destruction are not men but the rebellious powers who are described for us in the central section, upon whom men depend and whom men represent only figuratively. It is indeed the action of these Satanic powers that in every circumstance provokes death in the Apocalypse, and not at all, never directly, the action of God upon men….

“Before studying the ‘plagues’ in the perspective that we have indicated, it is necessary to make at least two remarks. The first is that each act of God in Jesus Christ implies an aspect of catastrophe for the men enclosed in the world, in solidarity with the world, separated from God, and in conflict with him. Man is so much the prey of the powers, so closely associated with their work, enjoys himself so thoroughly to their profit, desires so much all that they offer, conceives his life to such a degree separated from God, that every approach of God, every positive work of God, appears to him as an unacceptable disturbance and finally an attack upon him. When God comes to deliver him, he does not at all perceive his liberation; he protests against the breaking of those marvelous objects, which are his chains or the doors of his prison, the adored chains….

“The second remark is that since Jesus Christ incarnates all humanity… all that which happens to him is in reality a catastrophe for the entire human race… But also, inversely, all that happens to humanity is in reality that which falls upon Jesus… Thus we must never read the plagues and judgments of the Apocalypse outside of this perspective of perfect, absolute, unbreakable association between Christ and men–all men, those of the past and of the future, those of all races and religions: man, the sole and unique Adam, come from the hands of the Father with his billions of possibilities, which are the billions of our visages.”

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2 responses

  1. A bit dense. Let me try to unpack it.Christ is tehd ivine incarnated into humanity and thus all humanity are Christ. The sufferings we suffer are God’s suffering through us. The destructions, the Lake of Fire, the plagues — these are the punishments meted out to the powers and principalities. This whole enchiladas is a purging of divinized humanity of the dross — the powers and principalities.Two questions then. Did I get Ellul, or your reading of Ellul right? Does Forrest agree with Ellul on this point (and why?)?

  2. Maybe I’ll develop some understanding of this, trying to answer your question. (I just think Jacques sounds pretty and tickles my mind, when he isn’t too full of it… Also, it seemed only right to include both of his “remarks.”)I don’t know that you can “punish” a principality, any more than you can “punish” a child’s doll. All that’s real in all our stories is what we have traditionally called “Christ”, that “image” of God in us, which is yet immature in our forms, besotted with various illusions. “Eternity is in love with the productions of time;” that’s all that’s really happening– but those productions get nightmarish when people identify too strongly with their roles.I don’t know how close Ellul’s understanding of “Christ” is to what William Stringfellow meant by that (They did meet and had a good time trading notions…) and at that I’m not sure I understood Stringfellow much better than approximately: Christ good, powers bad!It ties in with my previous question, What was God up to, “hardening Pharoah’s heart” every time Pharoah was starting to come around? Egypt was pretty okay, if one was used to living there. To get a whole nation of Jews to leave, out into the desert taking their mothers and all the kids, he couldn’t let staying in Egypt remain an option.I don’t know that the powers are a bad thing. If children find a bunch of weird old clothes in the attic and dress up for Halloween–it’s only bad if they start murdering one another with those cool old swords and what-not. Ursula LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven featured a mad psychiatrist who was fixing the world by trying to make his patient’s physically-influential dreams “rational”, and every time he eliminated a problem this way, the world got more uniform, less colorful, and more truly demented. (Hmmm. That wouldn’t be happening here, would it?) That model suggests that we may need the principalities to give us shape, a choice of characters to play. Stringfellow described the principalities as beings that God created simply for His own pleasure; Wink called them elements of God’s good Creation. (Hmmm, right next to me is this picture Anne’s grandmother drew, a faceless woman trying on a seemingly endless succession of masks…)Stringfellow said that each person comes with a principality of the same name. If one is lucky enough to become famous, the associated principality may come to overshadow and effectively obliterate the actual human being, but even without that we have a tendency to worship the person we imagine we are. God created that “person” (from a Greek word meaning a “character”, “personality”), and loves it, but it’ll eat you if you take it too seriously. “Angels” are ultimately the same type of being, same virtues and same drawbacks. Some of them, like the Accuser, are out of hand. Perhaps these are like toys that just plain have to be discarded, we might swallow them or cut ourselves… Does that answer your questions? (I’ll have to think whether it answers mine.)

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