“Aspirations for Leviathan” – Thomas Hobbes, Gentle Giant, and Jacques Ellul


I admit that this is an odd post  – consisting mainly of three excerpts from the minds of men: 1) an excerpt from “Leviathan” by Thomas Hobbes that expresses the nature of his idea of a commonwealth of men materialized in a social contract under a supreme ruler; 2) a song called “Aspirations” by the early 70’s English progressive rock band Gentle Giant that poignantly expresses the desires for peace that compel men to conceive of, and covenant for, such societal schemes; 3) An excerpt from “The Betrayal of the West” by Jacques Ellul that effectively demonstrates that the pattern of aspiration/degradation has plagued every social construct and aspiration of mankind in the West. Lest we drown in despair, I conclude the post with some thoughts from elsewhere…

Thomas Hobbes:

“This is more than consent, or concord; it is a real unity of them all in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man with every man, in such manner as if every man should say to every man: I authorise and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition; that thou give up, thy right to him, and authorise all his actions in like manner. This done, the multitude so united in one person is called a COMMONWEALTH; in Latin, CIVITAS. This is the generation of that great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently, of that mortal god to which we owe, under the immortal God, our peace and defense.” Leviathan, 1651, p. 108.

Gentle Giant:

As the dust settles, see our dreams,
all coming true
it depends on you,
If our times, they are troubled times,
show us the way,
tell us what to do.

As our faith, maybe aimless blind,
hope our ideals and
our thoughts are yours
And believing the promises,
please make your claims
really so sincere.

Be our guide, our light and our way of life
and let the world see the way we lead our way.
Hopes, dreams, hopes dreaming that all our
sorrows gone.

In your hands, holding everyone’s
future and fate
It is all in you,
Make us strong build our unity,
all men as one
it is all in you.

Be our guide, our light and our way of life
and let the world see the way we lead our way.
Hopes, dreams, dreaming that all our sorrows
gone forever.
Gentle Giant, 1974

Jacques Ellul:

“Man has sought freedom in the political realm, and western liberalism has achieved it. And yet political, economic, and juridicial liberalism have turned out to be the surest destroyers of freedom. Marx demonstrated this beyond a doubt. Freedom becomes circumscribed and limited to a small area in which a man can move freely, like the owner of a garden who is free to do what he wants but can’t go outside the gate. The freedom won in the political arena inevitably and in every case produces the ever more powerful, abstract and comprehensive state. How strange that the consciousness of freedom and the will to give it expression should always end in producing the opposite of what we sought! This conflict was hitherto specific to the West, but now it has become the experience of the world at large.” The Betrayal of the West, 1978; p. 21

God the destroyer; God the builder

Whether one believes it is the cause of mankind’s repeated failures to found a lasting civilization, the Bible says that the ultimate cause has been God who “judges” the constructs of mankind..

(I’ll not go into the reasons God does this here, but I would say in passing that he has his reasons and tells us what they are. He is not merely a Dawkinsian beach bully that sadistically enjoys destroying the sandcastles everyone makes. I also should qualify that God is the ultimate “cause of destruction” but the proximate cause includes some measure of self-destruction based in faulty “building codes”.)

In the first book of the Bible God dispersed the builders of the first city at “Babel,” scattering them throughout the earth. In the last book of the Bible God says the following about the symbolic city of man: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! What God was doing in regard to the cities of men between Genesis and Revelation has been more of the same. But he is not merely the God of destruction. He is the God of new creation. The book of Hebrews answers the perennial question of humankind: “what’s going on?”

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled bloodthat speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:22-29, English Standard Version)

God’s double edged promise to each and every nation

18 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord.Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I willbuild and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds. (Jeremiah 18:1-10, ESV)

Writing as an American, my question is how will I, how will America respond to God’s promise, today?

“So say we all”?

Comments, questions, critiques…(don’t be shy – we’re all in this together)

Original Content © Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity, 2013. Excerpts, links, and reblogging may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


5 thoughts on ““Aspirations for Leviathan” – Thomas Hobbes, Gentle Giant, and Jacques Ellul

  1. Scott Kistler says:

    Bryan, thanks for sharing this post with me. You raise a really interesting consideration: how America as a nation relates to God when considered through the way God deals with nations in the Bible. This just might be the question of the day, although one that the broader culture is not really interested in answering.

    One consideration is how nations themselves, not just individuals, respond to God. Here’s a discussion on my blog that you may find interesting if you have the time or interest: http://temporachristiana.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/what-makes-a-christian-nation/.

    As you can see, I don’t have a good answer myself, although the question is very interesting.

    • Bryan says:

      Thanks Scott for your comment and input. I really enjoy your blog so keep up the good work! I sadly agree that the broader culture seems complacently indifferent to what you (and I) see as “the question of the day.” I’ll check out the post you recommended. Thanks again,

  2. […] unforgettable to me. Another song that had a similar effect and history for me was the song “Aspirations” by Gentle Giant which I used for its theme in another post. I did not hear either song for a […]

  3. […] like aspirations for Leviathan and folly all over again. But look on the bright side folks, at least we can thank notorious past […]

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