The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.
Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) was a sociologist who wrote extensively on the creation and effects of propaganda. The passion for this work came from his experiences with the French resistance to the Nazis during World War II (which earned him a commendation as Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem) and outrage at the injustices levied during the Algerian War of Independence.
As a theologian, he is most well-known for his contributions to Christian Anarchism and the assertion that allegiance to a political party or state makes one complicit in the oppression of others through violence and power.
In The Subversion of Christianity (1986), Ellul expands on this concept, writing,
The biblical teaching is clear. It always contests politicalpower. It incites to “counterpower,” to “positive” criticism, to an irreducible dialogue (like that between king and prophet in Israel), to antistatism, to a decentralizing of the relation, to an extreme relativizing of everything political, to an anti-ideology, to a questioning of all that claims either power or dominion (in other words, of all things political), and finally, if we may use a modern term, to a kind of “anarchism” (so long as we do not relate the term to the anarchist teaching of the nineteenth century). (116)
The reflection along Ellul’s theory and work continues on in the International Jacques Ellul Society, a multi-disciplinary group whose objectives are to preserve and disseminate his literary and intellectual heritage, to extend his penetrating social critique, especially concerning technology, and to extend his theological and ethical research with its special emphases on hope and freedom.
Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.