on 4 October 2006
"COME OUT OF BABYLON (Rome), MY PEOPLE". Revelation 18, Daniel 2
This book is so beautiful. It's the first book I've read by Jacques Ellul. If all of his other books are similarly written, I'm totally sold on them. This book is the best book I've ever read by a christian author. It's very substantive, and you can tell throughout each and every page, that the author is steeped in biblical understanding and wisdom. Babylon doesn't exist anymore, though within 100 miles from Baghdad, Babylon is a symbol for all that is wrong with human civilization. So what does Babylon symbolize? What is it about this type of city that G-d despises, and how can the city please G-d? The leaving of the city is also symbolic; getting out of the mob is no easy matter, though physically still in the city, one's previously good mob friends will more than likely kill you when you get out (my thoughts). So the leaving I believe, though Ellul does not directly say it is spiritual, symbolic.
My favorite chapter is the first, "The Builders", where Ellul speaks mostly about the first half dozen chapters of Genesis and how the first city was built by the first murderer, Cain, who killed his brother Abel. G-d told Cain that his brother's cries were heard by Him. Once Cain realizes his grave wrongdoing, G-d offers him protection by 'setting a mark' on him. Yet Cain seemingly takes no stock of this act of grace by G-d, and determined to secure eternity for himself, builds a city, and begets children. The city without G-d's presence and without citizens who acknowledge His sovereignty has a spiritual power of its own which draws people into everything the city has to offer, all of which is destructive and becomes a place, as Nahum, the Hebrew prophet cries, 'a bloody city, full of lies and distortions, no end of victims'. Yet G-d sanctified Jerusalem, an ordinary pagan city, by His presence, when King David captured the city for the jews. And this was the place where G-d redeemed mankind for all of our sins, potentially, if one truly gets out of these evil networks found among people who inhabit cities. The last chapters deal with the New Jerusalem described in books like Revelation and Ezekiel. This book, I believe, sounds the warning found in Ezekiel 33 from the watchman who sees the enemy coming and must alert the cities' inhabitants of G-d's coming judgment because it is clear from scripture that He will punish those (maybe not in this lifetime, but surely in the life to come) who twist the truth, who exalt themselves, who trample upon the livelihood of people, and those who foster all manner of deceivableness. This is a book that I got from the library, and is long overdue. One day I will buy this book to have on hand, its contents very valuable.
Jacques Ellul is a French protestant lawyer and sociologist by profession, protestant christian by faith. His life, I'm discovering, unique. He was involved with the French underground during WWII and after the war defended in court people who would have killed him because they were treated so mercilessly afterwards in breach of law. He's written many books in his lifetime. He died in 1994 at the age of 82, his life spanning both world wars in France. Once he became a christian in his twenties, he became enamored with Karl Barth's writings/theology and became a member of the Reformed Church. I'd love to read a biography about him. This book, I absolutely adore. He dedicated this book to his son Simon who died while he was writing it.