Jacques Ellul was a French philosopher, law professor, sociologist, lay theologian, and Christian anarchist. He was the Professor of History and the Sociology of Institutions on the Faculty of Law and Economic Sciences at the University of Bordeaux.
A prolific writer, he authored 58 books and more than a thousand articles over his lifetime, many of which discussed the impact of technology on society, and the interaction between religion and politics.
The dominant theme of his work proved to be the threat to human freedom and religion created by modern technology. His major concern was the emergence of a technological tyranny over humanity. As a philosopher and theologian, he further explored the religiosity of the technological society.
In the book ‘The Presence of the Kingdom’, Ellul wrote that “the Christian should neither withdraw from the world, nor be lost in the midst of the world. Instead, the Christian should bring the reign of God and the world into collision.” Contrary to advocating withdrawal from the world, Ellul challenges us to embrace the world. This resolute engagement requires a style of life which remains very much in the world even as it rejects worldliness. To be in the world also requires us to understand it in both its material and spiritual aspects, a task Ellul undertook in his sociological and theological works and which he challenges us to better.
This is my pilgrimage. By rejecting the twin perils of spiritualization (which neglect material realities) and capitulation (which simply adopts one of the world’s many different options that appears to harmonize with Christianity), we can play a truly creative role and gives meaning and direction to history and context, which otherwise has no logic or certainty.
Previously published 24/6/14