Jonas on power and ethics


Hans Jonas on the inverse relationship between our powers and our ethics:

Now we shiver in the nakedness of a nihilism in which near-omnipotence is paired with near-emptiness, greatest capacity with knowing least for what ends to use it.

The Imperative of Responsibility (University of Chicago Press, 1984), 23

Ellul on the 20th century decline of the church


The decline of the western Church seems fortunate to me in the sense that those who drift away from the church never really belonged to it. There was a crisis in this church. But it was a crisis dating back to the eighteenth century whose results appeared only in the nineteen-fifties. And it had to happen to purify the situation: now the truth of God can again be proclaimed, free from political and social compromises, from class distinctions, and above all, from the illegitimate use of the Christianity. By God’s grace, it is no longer useful to be a Christian or to make reference to the church and the Bible.

FROM: Jacques Ellul, In Season Out of Season: An Introduction to the Thought of Jacques Ellul (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982), 210–211.

My Recent Writing on Climate Change in the South Pacific


I have recently published or given three papers on climate change in the Pacific. They are collected here for your convenience:

  • “The Rainbow Covenant, Climate Change, and Noah’s Exile,” The Pacific Journal of Theology Series II, 54 (2015): 37–44. [read PDF]
  • “The Commons: A Pacific and Theological Perspective on Managing Common Resources”. Presented to ECREA’s ‘Seminar and Deliberative Forum on Climate Justice in Rethinking and Reclaiming our Common Home’, at the Novotel. Lami, 13 April 2016. [read PDF]
  • The Politics of the City and the Sea—Revelation 21:1-6” Political Theology Today. 18 April 2016.


Ellul on forgiving and forgetting

“there is more mercy in the heart of the individual than in the memories of society or its information systems.”

SOURCE: Jacques Ellul, Living Faith: Belief and Doubt in a Perilous World (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983), 73.

Ellul’s comment is true in an era like ours where the state captures and stores our data and records in massive databases. But this was a comment before the internet, and social media where we store things ourselves and often emails and posts which we would rather people forgot.


Ellul’s defense of the Occupy Movement



In 1968 when student demonstrations broke out everywhere in France, the great cry of condemnation of the participants was: “They don’t even know what they want. When you ask them what kind of society they’re looking for, all you get is confused stuttering or useless general ideas. They’re wholly negative and destructive. They have no plan; they propose no solutions.” We hear this same speech periodically today, sometimes aimed at young people when they happen to challenge the adult world (a rare event these days) or else at the leftists: “Look at them, they’re assassins. They want to destroy society, but what for? They have no idea. They have no solution for the difficulties we’re in now. Same thing with the ecologists. “They don’t want to have anything to do with nuclear power. They talk about alternate energy sources, but everybody knows they would barely provide ten percent of what we need. They’ve got no solution to the energy crisis, but they don’t want any more pollution. They’re just idealists.”

What an odd reversal. It’s the young, the leftists, the ecologists who seem to be dangerous idealists, devotees of irrational ideas, whereas their accusers are the realists, whose feet are firmly planted on the ground and who are not swept away by passionate belief. Well, in my view it’s just the other way around. It’s the leftists, ecologists, Third-World residents, and feminists who are the realists, who see reality as it is, who detect the dangers menacing us and bring them to light, who call our attention to new features of age-old questions. Their accusers are dangerous idealists and fantasts, because they believe (but that’s all it is, an idle belief) they have solutions – which are nothing of the sort.

Before accusing those sometimes vacillating movements of lacking a program, we ought to begin by asking whether we, the adults, the old-timers, have had real solutions over the last half century to the problematic situations that have sprung up. Did we come up with answers? Evidently not, which is just what the young are accusing us of. Well, that being the case, how could we have the gall to demand that such movements, now groping their way forward, have ready at hand something that we ourselves couldn’t find after a thousand studies and every kind of scientific, philosophical, and humanistic research?


SOURCE: Jacques Ellul, Living Faith: Belief and Doubt in a Perilous World (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983), 37–38.

Books on Christian Anarchism


If you are looking for books on Christian Anarchism there are several places to start online. Here are just some of them:

What would you add to these lists? Do you have a favourite text in Christian Anarchism?

Anarchism and the Catholic Worker


There is a handy online archive of “The Common Good”, the magazine of the Christchurch Catholic Worker in New Zealand.

The archive includes this article: “Anarchism and the Catholic Worker” by Jim Consedine.

One of the principle guiding influences within the development of Catholic Worker philosophy has been the principle of anarchism. The three most influential figures of the Catholic Worker- Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day and Ammon Hennacy – all professed to being anarchists at some time in their lives. Since any discussion of anarchism usually produces huge negativity, it is useful to reflect on its influence within the history of the CW.


Kropotkin on Human Nature in Politics


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We do not advocate Communism and Anarchy because we imagine men to be better than they really are; if we had angels among us we might be tempted to entrust to them the task of organising us, though doubtless even they would show the cloven foot very soon. But it is just because we take men as they are that we say: “Do not entrust them with the governing of you. This or that despicable minister might have been an excellent man if power had not been given to him. The only way of arriving at harmony of interests is by a society without exploiters and without rulers.” It is precisely because men are not angels that we say, “Let us arrange matters so that each man may see his interest bound up with the interests of others, then you will no longer have to fear his evil passions.”

Source: The Place of Anarchism in Socialistic Evolution

“We Have Abandoned War” by Kagawa


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from The Christian Century, December 3, 1947 (who took it from the “Kagawa Calendar” of 1948).

We Have Abandoned War

By Toyohiko Kagawa

A typical modern state, cumbered with its heavy armament but well-nigh bereft of other values, reminds one of nothing so much as a naked savage, lugging around his javelin and poisoned arrows. States today seem nearer to the stage of barbarism than do many individuals.

By the abandonment of war, we in Japan have emerged from the era of barbarism. Thus we have been accorded a chance to make ourselves the most progressive and civilized of all the nations.

If only we had done this willingly ten years ago, history would have taken another course. But it is not too late for us.

Our new constitution will become a milestone in the realization of world peace. For the first time in human history, by our abandonment of war, the warning of Christ has been accepted by a national government: “All they that take the sword shall perish by the sword.”

We are going to alter the definition of a “great” state. A truly great state is not necessarily big, nor rich, nor quarrelsome with its neighbors. The great state is the one which is wise, moral and God-fearing. The ideal we pursue is that of making Japan a state with which God can be pleased. Thus may we arrive at the summit of civilization and set an example of a peace-loving state. Though not large, nor rich, nor strong, we may thus become truly great.

Chesterton explains the robbery of poor Greece by the rich…


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To-day the rich man knows in his heart that he is a cancer and not an organ of the State. He differs from all other thieves or parasites for this reason: that the brigand who takes by force wishes his victims to be rich. But he who wins by a one-sided contract actually wishes them to be poor. Rob Roy in a cavern, hearing a company approaching, will hope (or if in a pious mood, pray) that they may come laden with gold or goods. But Mr. Rockefeller, in his factory, knows that if those who pass are laden with goods they will pass on. He will therefore (if in a pious mood) pray that they may be destitute, and so be forced to work his factory for him for a starvation wage. It is said (and also, I believe, disputed) that Blücher riding through the richer parts of London exclaimed, “What a city to sack!” But Blücher was a soldier if he was a bandit. The true sweater feels quite otherwise. It is when he drives through the poorest parts of London that he finds the streets paved with gold, being paved with prostrate servants; it is when he sees the grey lean leagues of Bow and Poplar that his soul is uplifted and he knows he is secure. This is not rhetoric, but economics.

G. K. Chesterton, Eugenics and Other Evils (1922) [link to source on]