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on 3 August 2010
Christoyannopoulos simply and clearly chronicles the theology of Christian anarchism by drawing on notable advocates over the last two millennia. He affirms that the foundation of Christian anarchism is a rejection of violence. In following Jesus' nonviolent message these adherents withdrew their support for civil government, as all states retain power by using, or threatening to use, force.

Christoyannopoulos explains that even though "Christian anarchism" is a relatively modern term, the early church (such as the Church Fathers) had anarchist ideals by following Jesus' pacifist teachings rather than the militaristic empire of the day. However after Christianity became the official state religion in the 4th century, the church transgressed from a humble bottom-up sect to an authoritarian top-down organisation. Christoyannopoulos notes that Christian pacifism and anarchism were then submerged for nearly a millennium until the Middle Ages. He then cites the emergence of various pacifist/anarchist Christians such as Francis of Assisi, Peter Chelcicky and Leo Tolstoy.

A few minor criticisms. Firstly the conclusion is titled "The Prophetic Role of Christian Anarchism" and includes the section "Christian anarchists as prophets". The term "prophet" does not sit comfortably with me. I much prefer the preceding chapter "Examples of Christian Anarchist Witness". I would call myself a witness, not a prophet, due to Revelations and a belief that humanity has been blessed with all the prophets it needs.

Secondly, the book currently retails for £40. Fortunately I was kindly given this book as a gift, but I do not know how many people (especially impoverished Christian anarchists like myself!) are put off by the cost. My local library even turned down my purchase suggestion as it was outside their budget! I realize this is an academic piece of literature and the publisher has forecast a low printing volume, but if it were a quarter/half the price it would be far more accessible. However even with these criticisms, it is still amongst the best books I've ever read (what price do you put on truth and enlightenment?) and in my opinion on a par with Gandhi's autobiography. If need be beg, borrow (but don't steal) a copy!

UPDATE: I now own a copy of both the hardcover and paperback. The much cheaper paperback version has the same main text as the hardcover and is "abridged" solely because it has lighter footnotes. Any long key footnotes from the hardcover are incorporated in the main text of the paperback within square brackets, so you are not losing out. I actually prefer the paperback as the binding is better quality.
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on 15 April 2010
In this well researched and thoughtful book, Dr Christoyannopoulos spells out the basis of a profoundly Christian form of anarchism, explains how it can be applied in practical terms, and then introduces the reader to a number of key individuals and communities which have tried to do just that.

The depth of research into the writings of key thinkers such as Tolstoy, Ellul, Yoder, Andrew and others brings alive a subject which has provided, and will yet provide plenty of fuel for many contentious discussions.

One of the key principles of Christian anarchism is pacifism, and the author spends a good deal of time outlining the reasoning and theology behind this concept and other important ideas. He looks in depth at the Sermon on the Mount, which he describes as a manifesto for a `Christian anarchist society'.

But rather than base his discussion solely upon the Sermon on the Mount, Dr Christoyannopoulos doesn't shrink from other parts of the Bible - including considering the Old Testament, particularly in the light of 1 Samuel 8, and proffering the Mosaic system as `a form of anarchy'.

The thrust of the whole of the first part of the book, is to present Christianity as an alternative way of thinking/living to the way of the state, which `derives its power and authority from Satan'. It presents Jesus as a critic of the state, and understands aspects of his life such as the `Clearing of the Temple', as forms of direct action against the state.

Throughout the author draws heavily on the writings of Tolstoy, who is certainly the most influential of the avowedly Christian anarchist writers, and is in some ways the spiritual father of many of its later advocates. Much of the book is spent outlining Tolstoy's thinking, including his incisive and witty critique of democracy.

The second part of the book moves on from the principles which under gird the Christian anarchist philosophy, and goes on to consider ways in which we can live as Christian anarchists, particularly given that we are obliged to live in a world governed by earthly authorities. We are asked to reconsider Romans 13, often thought of as a bar to anarchism, as an application of the Sermon on the Mount, rather than a reproof. And we're reminded in practical ways of the necessity of love as the demonstration of Christian spirituality.

In its final chapters the book summarises a number of examples of people who have made Christian anarchism into a way of life, rather than a philosophy. From the Early Christians, to the Anabaptists, Monastics (or more accurately Religious) and more contemporary Christian groups including the incredibly important, if unusual, example of the Catholic Workers.

The book, the author suggests can provide a basis for a dialogue between Christian and secular anarchists. I would suggest it can be much more than that.

This book details with great clarity the concepts which make anarchism a crucial part of the Christian story. For those considering their own participation in the forthcoming election, it presents a strong argument for a reasoned and loving rejection of democracy.

It also presents many challenging ideas in an attitude of loving humility, suggesting for instance the seemingly contradictory idea of voluntary poverty as the way to eradicate poverty, as well as rehearsing in great depth the arguments against the use of, or passive condoning of, any form of violence.

It's a good read, inspiring and inspired. What little it lacks in terms of a broader range of contemporary examples of groups living according to Christian anarchist principles can easily be forgiven in the light of the scholarly research which has gone into the presentation of the basis of Christian anarchism.

While Tolstoy features heavily, there are no shortage or references to and quotes from other philosophers and activists, from the likes of Peter Maurin and GK Chesterton, to the numerous contributors to the hugely influential `A Pinch of Salt'.

I would recommend this as a very good read for anyone seriously interested in Christianity and/or anarchism, indeed for any Christian who takes politics seriously, this is a book which has a great deal to offer.
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on 21 February 2015
Whilst I’ve long been a Christian, I’ve never considered myself an anarchist. My thinking is that anarchy is something you’re more likely to see on the news than on ‘’Songs of Praise’’. However, there is a school of thought that suggests that Jesus’ teachings were so counter-cultural and so against Roman law that it constitutes anarchism.

Alexandre Christoyannopoulos provides an introduction to this school of thought. He outlines the theories behind it and how the major thinkers have formed them from their understanding of scripture. He looks at the main proponents of the theory and how they view the state and the church. Much of the book is drawn together from the writings of Christian anarchists over several hundred years and he presents many different lines of thought; where they match as well as where they differ.

It appears the book was written as part of Christoyannopoulos’ doctoral thesis and this shows in the presentation. It’s laid out incredibly clearly, with the introduction showing where the book will go and each chapter outlining the theories contained within. The whole book is thought out well enough that the sections flow naturally one to another and the writing is clear and surprisingly readable given the potential dryness of the subject. The footnotes and the index are also well laid out, making further study very simple, should the reader be interested in doing so.

As a Christian, I found that the ideas were presented in an easily digestible form and it was easy to follow the lines of thinking that led these writers into their theories of Christian anarchism. Whilst I didn’t find myself agreeing with many of the ideas, it’s testament to the amount of research that has gone into the book that I could understand them well enough to disagree with them, as I had little knowledge of the subject before reading. I did find it a shame that the scope of the book didn’t allow for more discussion in terms of rebuttal to the ideas, but what is within scope of the book is presented well.

The minor disadvantages I found were largely due to the age of the ideas presented and were more stylistic than subjective. The bible quotes were from the King James Version, which would have been the version in common use when the ideas were formed, but it’s written in slightly more difficult language for the modern reader and is no longer the commonly used translation. The references to the church also refer to the more traditional churches rather than modern evangelical churches, although again this is understandable within the scope of the book and only seemed slightly distracting to me as I attend one of the more modern churches.

I would also have liked to see a little more discussion on the subject, although that was never the point of this book. I accept that this wasn’t the place to find that and it’s a credit to what is here that it whetted my appetite enough to want to hear the counter arguments. It does leave the book with a slightly unbalanced view, but still leaves it as more than adequate in terms of an introduction to the subject and points the reader well towards further reading.

These minor quibbles aside, this is an excellent introductory book for Christian anarchism. The ideas and concepts are very clearly presented and whilst the audience appeal may be narrow, that is often the case with what is essentially a textbook, albeit a well written and quite readable one. In terms of the ideas, it’s more aimed at Christians than non-Christian anarchists, but it’s an excellent study into the basic ideas behind Christian anarchism.

This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
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on 3 November 2015
The original disseration on which that work is based is "Theorising Christian Anarchism A Political Commentary on the Gospel" (2008).

Through all the ramifications of its detailed problems and differences of opinion or approach by different authors, this book gives a clear exposition of what is meant by and ultimately to be understood as christian anarchism.

Readers should heed the authors' warning that "even democracy crowns a collective human agent - the demos - as "king." As Giovanni Papini wrote in his book "Storia di Cristo" (1921; Eng. tr., "The Story of' Christ," 1923) : masses "prefer a troop of petty tyrants who are inefficient and grasping and by whom they are squeezed and mulcted in the name of the law. They prefer these tyrants because an atmosphere of licence surrounds their tyranny."

Of particular interest are the insights developed by theologians Paul Tillich and Paul Ricoeur. The same idea, i.e., that without love, justice tends to be defined by cold calculations based on rigid rules on equivalence and reciprocity, was in fact also developed by Giovanni Papini in a chapter of his book "Santi e poeti" (1948)

His claim that "Christian anarchists want to see Jesus' teaching taken up by all - they want the whole society to convert to true Christianity," sounds well.
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on 9 November 2013
This is an excellent exposition of Tolstoyan Chritianity and non- violence, but I was surprised to find the exploration of the gospel only extends to the Canonical, i.e. the scriptures the orthodox church foisted on its 'followers' as a mechanism of social and political control in the Middle Ages. There is no reference to the Nag Hammadi find, the contents of which have been available to scholars and the general public since the 1970's. This is a shame, because exploration of the Nag Hammadi scriptures (or even only the Gospel of Thomas) would yield a fascinating insight into early Christian Gnostic practice, which in my opinion is essentially anarchistic in nature (for example, the Thomasonian saying "The Kingdom is within you" is a gnostic call to eschew intercessors, bishops, priests and overseers, and find God within yourself). Otherwise, well worth a read.
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on 12 October 2015
An incredible work. I highly recommend it.
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on 14 May 2015
Fantastic book.
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