catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 22 :: 2007.11.30 — 2007.12.14


Anarchism and hope

The prophetic imagination

The Gospel and the Coming Kingdom

N.T. Wright has argued that even the term “Gospel” itself has two major resonances in the early church: the time of the fulfillment of God's promises in his return to save his people and manifest is reign to the world, and the language of Caesar's empire that proclaimed Caesar's “salvation” in the language of gospel. From the very beginning the church's proclamation of Christ as Lord deconstructed Caesar's pretensions to lordship and the empire's claims of supremacy.

Just as Proudhon said that “property is theft” and so undermined the foundations of capitalist industrialism, the early Christians said that “Jesus is Lord” and so undermined the foundations of Roman politics and society. Brueggemann has argued that there is no doxology that does not also deny—to say “God is king” is to deny someone else's claim to kingship. It is not just that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not and we have to find the right way to apply that truth today, but rather that Jesus is Lord, and that proclamation invokes a counter-cultural existence by its very nature: the Word of the Gospel, that Jesus is Lord and in him we, the church, embody the kingdom of God, living it out in anticipation of the day when God finally and fully demonstrates its truth and power to all creation, by its very nature entails the rejection of oppressive systems that do not empower us to live faithfully to the Biblical story, to the rejection of accumulating power and living in harmony with creation, with God, with ourselves, and living with others as if they are fully human, created in the image of God.

The church is therefore called to be a counter-cultural community anticipating the coming fullness of the Kingdom of God, and living as much as is possible according to the way of Jesus, who embodies the kingdom. That calling, I believe, requires us to live in such a way that expresses many of the same values of anarchism, and the anarchist critiques of modern society provide us with potent material to utilize in deconstructing the pretensions of the world in which we live. Then we can participate in the New Creation by speaking, alongside Word and Spirit, that Jesus is Lord and, in the words of Wendell Berry, “Practice resurrection.”



  • Colossians Remixed by Sylvia Keesmaat and Brian Walsh (Intervarsity, 2004)
  • The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggeman (Fortress, 1999)
  • Anarchy and Christianity by Jacques Ellul (Eerdmans, 1991)
  • Jesus and Empire by Richard Horsley (Fortress, 2002)
  • Audio recording of “Anarchism, Christianity, and the Prophetic Imagination” presentation.
  • For a fuller discussion of the material, including a discussion of Biblical, historical, and theological topics not covered in this article or the presentation, go to The Jesus Manifesto and see the series of the same name.

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