I did my research on Jacques Ellul and although I’ve not kept up to speed with the literature on him as much as I would like since I finished I’m quite excited to discover that there is what looks like a major (392pp) new study in French which has just come out.
It’s called Jacques Ellul: Une pensée en dialogue and is written by Frédéric Rognon who is Professor in Philosophy of Religion at the Faculty of Protestant Theology in Strasbourg.
It may be that there will be a revival of interest in him in France as there was recently a single volume (of 1040 pages !!) published containing eight of his theological works.
Again I can only find all the stuff in French but there is information and an interview with a former pupil of Ellul online and the book is described. In addition to a preface by Antoine Nouis and biblical index it includes the following books - links are to online PDFs of the English translations others of which are also available online:
- Présence au monde moderne (1948) [Presence of the Kingdom]
- Le livre de Jonas (1952) [The Judgment of Jonah]
- l’Homme et l’argent (1953) [Money and Power]
- Politique de Dieu, politiques de l’homme (1966) [The Politics of God and the Politics Of Man]
- Contre les violents (1972) [Violence]
- L’impossible prière (1972) [Prayer and Modern Man]
- Un chrétien pour Israël (1986) [A Christian For Israel - untranslated]
- Si tu es le fils de Dieu (1991) [If You Are the Son of God - currently being translated]
A volume singing his praises and demonstrating his foresight about our contemporary world was published back in 2004.
I suspect I may come back and say more about him on this blog though of course what he would make of this form of communication is quite another matter....
It is reported today that Jonathan Aitken is to head a taskforce study into prison reform. It has been set up by the Centre for Social Justice that was established by former Conservative party leader, Iain Duncan Smith. This is, sadly, a much neglected issue and it is exciting to know Jonathan will be leading a serious study into this problem. He does so, of course, with experience from the inside after his conviction for perjury which he vividly recounted in his book Pride and Perjury (though sadly Peter Preston, the editor of the Guardian at the time, remains sceptical about Jonathan’s suitability for this task) .
He also does so as a committed Christian and the biographer of the leading US Christian prison reformer (and also former leading politician and ex-prisoner), Charles Colson.
It will be most interesting to see the fruit of this work which will come out of personal passion about this subject and careful Christian thinking.
This is undoubtedly an area where Christian theologians and churches need to be doing more thinking and be more active.
The Roman Catholic Church recently produced (in 2004) an important study of the topic - A Place of Redemption: A Christian Approach to Punishment and Prison.
I had some problem getting the PDF to download at first but it eventually worked. There is a cached HTML of it easily available and also a PDF study guide on it for sixth-formers from the Catholic Education Service. A guide to the CofE’s various statements on these issues - including the important subject of restorative justice - and other links is available on their website.
Today’s Guardian has an editorial which is more of an obituary for the Communion. It opens
An enthusiast who has spent years patching up a vintage car is bound to find it tough to admit that the vehicle can no longer be driven. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, now finds himself in a similarly painful position in respect of the Anglican communion. For years he has used his considerable charm to try to hold it together. But the simmering row over homosexuality has made this increasingly difficult. And two developments in the past fortnight make brutally plain that the communion is already falling apart.
Always a loose and unwieldy alliance, the communion has survived since the age of empire only because of the effective acceptance that each church was sovereign in its own land. With the initial encouragement of the religious right in America, however, conservative elements of the communion are trying to impose an infeasible doctrinal unity. Dr Williams has responded to this pressure by seeking compromises. His difficulty is that, as the head of such a loose confederation, he does not have the power to make deals stick, as the freewheeling action of the conservatives is showing. Dr Williams is a liberal who is instinctively supportive of gay people. His desire to hold the communion together, however, has already led him to support a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops and to suggest that Anglican churches should not recognise same-sex unions through public rites. These concessions have not, however, checked the communion’s unravelling. The fence on which Dr Williams has been sitting has collapsed. It is time for him to preach what he believes.
From a different perspective, but with a similarly bleak outlook, Peter Ould highlights the mounting pressures on Archbishop Rowan in his Last Chance for Rowan?
Who says we are living in a lawless age where rules don’t matter? It is reported that the Italian police have found the “Ten Commandments” of the Mafia:
The former Bishop of Oxford - Richard Harries - contributed yesterday to the Lords’ debate on the Queen’s Speech and focussed on the Bill to regulate human embryology and fertilisation.He succicnctly highlighted the massive changes in thinking and practice we have experienced over recent decades:
As well as allowing for new scientific developments, the Bill takes into account changing social attitudes. There was a time, as the old song put it, when love and marriage went together like a horse and carriage. They went also with sex, pregnancy, birth and children being brought up by that couple. In the 1960s, with the advent of reliable contraception in the form of the pill, the link between sex and pregnancy was decisively broken. Since then, advances in medical techniques and changing social mores have combined to break the nexus of marriage, sex, pregnancy, birth and upbringing at every point. I take just one example: it was reported not long ago that a single Japanese woman in her 60s, who had gone to America to have a donated embryo implanted in her womb, had given birth to a child.
I cannot help but wonder how many of these developments we should as Christians be simply saying ‘what God has joined together let no one separate’ and whether a significant part of the ethical and other challenges we now face as a society are due to disregarding a broader application of that maxim to this whole area. The problem is certainly compounded when we replace these connections simply by an appeal to human will and desire, often cloaked in the language of rights. I was therefore concerned that Bishop Richard appeared to give some weight to this (although he did note the importance of social reasons for refusing certain individual requests) and not convinced when he did so by reference to the principle of informed consent:
The one moral principle to emerge with increased force from this great social change is that of informed consent. This is a key principle in both treatment and research, and the HFEA takes it very seriously-a good number of clauses in the Bill deal with it. However, if that informed consent is in place, what grounds do others have to refuse what a woman says she most wants? The noble Lord, Lord Winston, states in his book, A Child Against All Odds, that his overriding concern as a clinician is the health of the mother and any baby who might be born; otherwise, he states, he respects, “the right of women to try to have children”.As parliamentarians, we have to ask also whether there are wider, social reasons for particular requests not being granted. If such requests are to be refused, there must be good, convincing, grave reasons; otherwise, the principle of informed consent will remain the only and the overriding consideration.
This bill is clearly going to be an important one for Christians to follow. If you want to follow it and other developments the They Work For You website is a really useful resource - you can even sign up to receive an email whenever any MP or peer (eg a Church of England bishop) speaks in Parliament or a particular word or phrase is used.
Thanks to the Corpus Paulinum group I discovered there was an audio available of the session at SBL last week on Paul and Empire with John Barclay and Tom Wright -
Pauline Epistles 11/19/2007 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Theme: Paul and Empire
Papers by John M.G. Barclay, Durham University, and Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, with a response by Robert Jewett, University of Heidelberg Alexandra Brown, Washington and Lee University, Presiding
John M.G. Barclay, Durham University
Why the Roman Empire was Insignificant to Paul (40 min)
N. Thomas Wright, Church of England
Paul’s Counter-Imperial Theology (40 min)
Robert Jewett, University of Heidelberg, Respondent
Going to the linked website I not only found a very interesting looking blog from Andy Rowell (a Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) student at Duke Divinity School whose area of concentration is "Scripture and the Practice of Leading Christian Communities and Institutions") but also that he has recorded several other events which look interesting - Tom Wright on "God in Public? The Bible and Politics in Tomorrow’s World", Richard Bauckham responding to a panel on his recent book on eyewitnesses and the gospels, an emergent church forum, Charles Taylor, John Milbank - and they are all online as MP3s
Now just need to find time to listen....