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The Anarchic Kingdom of God

“Anarchism as a principle stands in line with God’s kingdom because the theocracy of God’s kingdom means none other than an anarchist order. The anarchism of God’s kingdom does not mean disorder or chaos but quite the reverse. Here every human being stands in a direct relation to God and in freely ordered and equally based community to each other. The kingdom of God does not run counter to anarchism, but anarchism comes out of the kingdom of God. Where anarchism stands under the rule of God, there is no master-slave relation in the interpersonal realm. The primary rule of God does not tolerate a secondary dominating form of human over human. Where there is the Spirit of the living God, there occurs a voluntary and dominion-free personal community.”

–Paul S. Chung, Karl Barth: God’s Word in Action (Eugene, Or: Cascade Books, Forthcoming)

12 Comments

  1. Thom wrote:

    Sweet quote.

    Monday, July 21, 2008 at 2:08 pm | Permalink
  2. Ben George wrote:

    Scripture uses “kingdom” as a nearest-equivalent word to describe the structure of heaven. “Lord” is used to describe our relation to Christ.

    Given that “anarchy” means “no rule” and the term “dominion” means the property of a Lord, I don’t see how Chung can say that heaven is a dominion-free anarchy. Free of false dominion, yes, and free of domination, yes, but not anarchic in any analogous sense.

    “The primary rule of God does not tolerate a secondary dominating form of human over human. ”

    Again, perhaps not in a domineering form, but is Christ not human? And is Christ not Lord?

    And what of the structure of the Church? And what of marriage? Paul has things to say about those structures, and while he insists that these structures be charitable, he doesn’t seem to construe them as anarchic.

    Monday, July 21, 2008 at 2:17 pm | Permalink
  3. Richard H wrote:

    This sounds a lot like modern atomism to me. Am I missing something here – or would you say modernity, in its desire to do away with hierarchy, was on the gospel track?

    Monday, July 21, 2008 at 3:02 pm | Permalink
  4. Hill wrote:

    I share some of these concerns. I’m rereading The Beauty of the Infinite, and find myself even more taken with this language of the beatific vision not as the removal of all mediation between us and God, but rather hyper-mediated-ness. Not as a leveling and flattening of the variegated surface of being, but it’s infinite intensification and supplementation.

    Monday, July 21, 2008 at 4:15 pm | Permalink
  5. Yay for Christian anarchism and the kingdom, which aren’t actually opposed. This book looks quite interesting. I look forward to it.

    Monday, July 21, 2008 at 6:00 pm | Permalink
  6. wait, are you telling me that we won’t have slaves in heaven?

    Monday, July 21, 2008 at 9:24 pm | Permalink
  7. Nope. Just the continuation of headship. ‘Cause thats not hierarchical at all.

    Monday, July 21, 2008 at 9:35 pm | Permalink
  8. Steve wrote:

    Wow! Snap!

    I just took part in a synchroblog on “God’s politics” and my contribution pointed out that we belong to anarchic kingdom or a royal anarchy, and here I find you’re blogging about the same thing. Perhaps it should be an honorary contribution to the synchroblog! See Notes from underground: God’s politics – synchroblog

    Monday, July 21, 2008 at 10:48 pm | Permalink
  9. Ed Gentry wrote:

    Wow very interesting. I’ve been thinking very much the same things for quite a while now. Now that the very monotheistic (as opposed to trinitarian) motivated hierarchical (and perhaps patriarchal) views of the world have been very helpfully deconstructed.

    Anarchist does not mean that there is no differentiation but that we all stand on the same ground and defer to each other but never over the other.

    How could things be otherwise. Since the very Ground of reality has exegeted Himself by self sacrifice. Reality so defined leaves no room for domination, coercion, or hierarchies.

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 8:28 am | Permalink
  10. Ed Gentry wrote:

    Ben,

    The bible does use the term kingdom. But this kingdom and indeed the entire Godhead must be understood interms of the self giving sacrifice of the Son, domination and heirarchy have not room here.

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 8:30 am | Permalink
  11. Evan wrote:

    “Anarchism as a principle stands in line with God’s kingdom because the theocracy of God’s kingdom means none other than an anarchist order.”

    As a principle? I dunno, perhaps. I’m willing to accept that as a statement of eschatology, so long as Ben’s qualifiers are recognized. And I think Chung can allow for that if we take “interpersonal realm” to refer simply to us rather than God and us, but I don’t see how this is at all a helpful reference to the kingdom of God. If we must bracket out divine authority to explain the divine kingdom in terms of anarchy, then we aren’t really talking about the kingdom of God anymore, are we? We aren’t really talking about eschatology.

    But outside of the eschaton, I think that anarchy is a dangerous thing to play with. Before God’s kingdom comes, it’s not as if anarchy allows “space” (to draw from Ben’s post on Bonhoeffer) for the reign of God… I’m reminded much more of the Book of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”

    This isn’t meant to be a defense of any other political organization “as a principle”, but simply to deflate any zeal for anarchy that fails to realize its disorderly… and therefore sinful… commitments “as a principle”. For an “anarchist order” to be anything but a contradiction, the idea of “arche” needs to be separated from “ordo” such that a lack of the former doesn’t signal a lack of the latter. And good luck with that, I just don’t personally see how to square it.

    Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 8:00 am | Permalink
  12. Evan wrote:

    I realized that “Ben George” wrote the above comment I referred to rather than Ben Meyers. So to clarify, “Ben’s qualifiers” are Ben George’s, stated above. “Ben’s post on Bonhoeffer” can be found at Faith&Theology. Sorry for the confusion!

    Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 8:09 am | Permalink

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