Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hope in Time of Abandonment

In that tritest of trite movie cliches, Anthony Hopkins tells Zorro that when the pupil is ready, the master will appear. Part of what this means (but only part) is that you may only be able to understand some teaching when you've arrived at a point where that teaching is meaningful to you or has some point of application or interest.

Earlier today I happened to pick up Jacques Ellul's Hope in Time of Abandonment. Ellul's works have been meaningful to me at various times, but I had poked around in this one (or tried to) several times without really getting anywhere. Yet this time the introduction seemed to jump off the page at me.

Here are a couple of quotes:

I have arrived at hope by an altogether different route. My purely sociological and historical intellectual approach had led me into a blind alley. There was nothing to say to a person of my society beyond a stoic exhortation to keep going in God's abandonment. I was up against a wall, against a finality, against the insoluble, against the inescapable. After that--nothing.

And after that--everything was given me, but by a different route. No intellectual step prompted this conviction, apart from that by which I took note of the concrete situation. (vii)

Another quote:

I knew all too well, in true orthodoxy, that it is very wrong to look to the biblical revelation for an answer to the question one is asking or with which one is faced. I knew, in true orthodoxy, that it is God who questions us and who awaits a response from us, not the other way around. No consoling formula or solution was to be sought in the Bible. That was simply the way things were. When the response is called for, one has to make up one's mind. (viii)


We must learn to hear what the question is which is really being asked by the person of this age. It is not being asked in the public square, nor in speeches and parades. It is not being asked by the actor facing his audience. It is being asked offstage, in the secret places of the heart. It shapes the architecture of the other questions. Unseen, it is gnawing and killing. (ix-x).

Ellul says that he was given a gift, that we all have been. That we do have the answer to the question.

If I know one thing about Ellul from previous readings, it is that he doesn't trade in platitudinous hot air, so I look forward to reading more.

Oddly, I haven't been reading too much Bible recently. But I do find myself drawn to those who can and have drawn from the Bible and can help me to do so as well rather than those who simply point me to it as a spiritual chore to engage in that will help me but they know not how.

I've also been listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen:

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