The importance of the individual

Before I get round to posting the last of my main posts on Ellul’s chapter on Anarchism and Christianity, the following section seemed to have a certain topical relevance.

Ellul is discussing the teachings of the Russian religious and political philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev:

Berdyaev contends that the state’s well‑being and prosperity do not represent the well‑being and prosperity of the governed, and still less of all people. The equation of the state’s well‑being with that of its people is an abominable lie. The state’s prosperity always implies the death of innocents. Faith in the state means that to save the state, we must go so far as to sacrifice the innocent.

Ellul then quotes Berdyaev as follows:

“The death of one man, of even the most insignificant of men, is of greater importance and is more tragic than the death of states and empires. It is to be doubted whether God notices the death of the great kingdoms of the world; but He takes very great notice of the death of an individual man.

(CS Lewis makes a similar point somewhere, but the reference escapes me at present.)

Update: The CS Lewis quote I was thinking of is from The Weight of Glory:

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.

Thanks to Bill and Rick.

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16 Responses to The importance of the individual

  1. Bill R says:

    John, I think the Lewis quote you’re thinking of is in “The Weight of Glory,” but I don’t have my copy handy.

  2. Bill R says:

    John, I think the Lewis quote you’re thinking of is in “The Weight of Glory,” but I don’t have my copy handy.

  3. Bill R says:

    John, I think the Lewis quote you’re thinking of is in “The Weight of Glory,” but I don’t have my copy handy.

  4. Bill R says:

    John, I think the Lewis quote you’re thinking of is in “The Weight of Glory,” but I don’t have my copy handy.

  5. Rick Ritchie says:

    There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.
    Yes, Bill. The Weight of Glory.

  6. Rick Ritchie says:

    There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.
    Yes, Bill. The Weight of Glory.

  7. Rick Ritchie says:

    There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.
    Yes, Bill. The Weight of Glory.

  8. Rick Ritchie says:

    There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.
    Yes, Bill. The Weight of Glory.

  9. Thomas says:

    I’m quite fond of Ellul, and (surprise surprise) have considerable sympathy for his arguments here. I wouldn’t really mind a king, if we could find one who would act like a king and guarantee that the next yokel on the throne would do the same. That is, if we could find one who remembered that he’s only king for a day, to manifest the kingness of all the sons of Adam. In other words, to quote the pimply faced kid on The Simpsons, ‘we have no King but Jesus’.

  10. Thomas says:

    I’m quite fond of Ellul, and (surprise surprise) have considerable sympathy for his arguments here. I wouldn’t really mind a king, if we could find one who would act like a king and guarantee that the next yokel on the throne would do the same. That is, if we could find one who remembered that he’s only king for a day, to manifest the kingness of all the sons of Adam. In other words, to quote the pimply faced kid on The Simpsons, ‘we have no King but Jesus’.

  11. Thomas says:

    I’m quite fond of Ellul, and (surprise surprise) have considerable sympathy for his arguments here. I wouldn’t really mind a king, if we could find one who would act like a king and guarantee that the next yokel on the throne would do the same. That is, if we could find one who remembered that he’s only king for a day, to manifest the kingness of all the sons of Adam. In other words, to quote the pimply faced kid on The Simpsons, ‘we have no King but Jesus’.

  12. Thomas says:

    I’m quite fond of Ellul, and (surprise surprise) have considerable sympathy for his arguments here. I wouldn’t really mind a king, if we could find one who would act like a king and guarantee that the next yokel on the throne would do the same. That is, if we could find one who remembered that he’s only king for a day, to manifest the kingness of all the sons of Adam. In other words, to quote the pimply faced kid on The Simpsons, ‘we have no King but Jesus’.

  13. Thomas says:

    Oh, I forgot to add that necessary qualification – Ellul has a deficient understand of just who Jesus is. This leads him into some contradictory notions, such as the weird conjunction of universal salvation for all and Christianity as new work, or obedience, for those who are already saved whether they like it or not; this is then side by side with his obvious distress at Christians who compromise their confession in the face of pressure from, inter alia, Communists, Muslims, whatever. I like Ellul, but he’s a bit off at times. Still, we need a healthy dose of his sort of iconoclasm if we’re not to be sucked into the pretensions of power.

  14. Thomas says:

    Oh, I forgot to add that necessary qualification – Ellul has a deficient understand of just who Jesus is. This leads him into some contradictory notions, such as the weird conjunction of universal salvation for all and Christianity as new work, or obedience, for those who are already saved whether they like it or not; this is then side by side with his obvious distress at Christians who compromise their confession in the face of pressure from, inter alia, Communists, Muslims, whatever. I like Ellul, but he’s a bit off at times. Still, we need a healthy dose of his sort of iconoclasm if we’re not to be sucked into the pretensions of power.

  15. Thomas says:

    Oh, I forgot to add that necessary qualification – Ellul has a deficient understand of just who Jesus is. This leads him into some contradictory notions, such as the weird conjunction of universal salvation for all and Christianity as new work, or obedience, for those who are already saved whether they like it or not; this is then side by side with his obvious distress at Christians who compromise their confession in the face of pressure from, inter alia, Communists, Muslims, whatever. I like Ellul, but he’s a bit off at times. Still, we need a healthy dose of his sort of iconoclasm if we’re not to be sucked into the pretensions of power.

  16. Thomas says:

    Oh, I forgot to add that necessary qualification – Ellul has a deficient understand of just who Jesus is. This leads him into some contradictory notions, such as the weird conjunction of universal salvation for all and Christianity as new work, or obedience, for those who are already saved whether they like it or not; this is then side by side with his obvious distress at Christians who compromise their confession in the face of pressure from, inter alia, Communists, Muslims, whatever. I like Ellul, but he’s a bit off at times. Still, we need a healthy dose of his sort of iconoclasm if we’re not to be sucked into the pretensions of power.

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