I just realized that I need to pause this series for a while. Why? Because I’m reading Ellul’s The Meaning of the City and am finding it so provocative, so maddening, so profound, so bizarre, that it will clearly take me some time to process it. I mean, the guys writes things like this:
And the Christian, like everyone else, is looking for a solution in laws. What should the Christian position be regarding these problems (which we call “the problems of modern life, instead of giving them their permanent name? Arrange things somehow, make city life possible; moralize the city, its leisure time, its work, its dreams. This is how Christians plan. What to do? God has revealed to us very clearly that there is absolutely nothing to be done. God has given us no commands with regard to the city. He affords us no law. For the city is not an inner problem for man. God can say to us, “You shall not commit adultery,” but he has never said, “You shall not live in the city.” For on the one hand we have a personal attitude with a man, which he can modify according to his readiness to obey God’s commandments. And on the other, the city is a phenomenon absolutely removed from man’s power, a phenomenon which he is fundamentally incapable of affecting. For man is not responsible for making the city something other than it is, as we have already seen. There is nothing to be done. And the problem does not change. It is still what it was when, forty or fifty centuries ago, they built up those thick walls of clay whose foundations still subsist. For God has cursed, has condemned, the city instead of giving us a law for it.
What am I supposed to do with that? Such a bold (and apparently crazy?) argument requires further reflection, and the same is true of the rest of the book. Some books need to be read slowly, with much annotation, or not read at all.
Posting will continue, but for a little while it won’t be about Babylon. (And you know what? As the world’s leading advocate of reading at whim, if I happen to read something else before I get to Ellul then it might be a larger while.)