Jacques Ellul on the Real Nature of Christianity


I’m just about finished with Ellul’s The Subversion of Christianity. I was prepared a couple of times to put the book away and be done with it and then I would read the next sentence and it would make sense all over again. Here’s how he begins chapter 8:

If we grant that what the New Testament means by Christianity and being a Christian merely conforms to human ideas and pleases and flatters us as though it were all our own invention and teaching springing up from within ourselves, then there is no problem. There is, however, a ‘but,’ a difficulty, for what the New Testament really means by being a Christian is the very opposite of what is natural to us. It is thus a scandal. We have either to revolt against it or at all costs to find cunning ways of avoiding the problem, such as by the trickery of calling Christianity what is in fact its exact antithesis, and then giving thanks to God for the great favor of being Christians. As Kierkegaard says, nothing displeases or revolts us more than New Testament Christianity when it is properly proclaimed. It can neither win millions of Christians nor bring revenues and earthly profits. Confusion results. If people are to agree, what is proclaimed to them them must be to their taste and must seduce them. Here is the difficulty: it is not at all that of showing that official Christianity is not the Christianity of the New Testament, but that of showing that New Testament Christianity and what it implies to be a Christian are profoundly disagreeable to us (“Instant,” p. 167). Never–no more today than in the year 30–can Christian revelation please us: in the depths of our hearts Christianity has always been a mortal enemy. History bears witness that in generation after generation there has been a highly respected social class (that of priests) whose task it is to make of Christianity the very opposite of what it really is (p. 240).



  1. Amazing. I’ve always loved Ellul, but have not gotten around to reading this one. Hope you don’t mind, I’m gonna repost this quote on my blog 🙂

  2. Amos,

    I am glad I could help. Enjoy the quote and thanks for the ping.


  1. 1 Ellul, From The Subversion Of Christianity « movement, movement

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