Jacques Ellul
Jacques Ellul was a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 philosopher, law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

, sociologist
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

, lay theologian
Lay theologian
A lay theologian is a theologian who is not an ordained clergyman.Among lay theologians are the following:* George Abbot * Thomas J. J. Altizer* Joseph T. Bayly* Edward Musgrave Blaiklock* Nicholas Cabasilas* Chung Hyun Kyung...

, and Christian anarchist
Christian anarchism
Christian anarchism is a movement in political theology that combines anarchism and Christianity. It is the belief that there is only one source of authority to which Christians are ultimately answerable, the authority of God as embodied in the teachings of Jesus...

. He wrote several books about the "technological society" and the interaction between Christianity and politics
Christianity and politics
The relationship between Christianity and politics is a historically complex subject and a frequent source of disagreement throughout Church history, and in modern politics between the Christian right and Christian left.-Foundations:...


A philosopher who approached technology
Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

 from a deterministic
Technological determinism
Technological determinism is a reductionist theory that presumes that a society's technology drives the development of its social structure and cultural values. The term is believed to have been coined by Thorstein Veblen , an American sociologist...

 viewpoint, Ellul, professor at the University of Bordeaux
University of Bordeaux
University of Bordeaux is an association of higher education institutions in and around Bordeaux, France. Its current incarnation was established 21 March 2007. The group is the largest system of higher education schools in southwestern France. It is part of the Academy of Bordeaux.There are seven...

, authored 58 books and more than a thousand articles over his lifetime, the dominant theme of which has been the threat to human freedom and Christian faith created by modern technology. His constant concern has been the emergence of a "technological tyranny" over humanity. As a philosopher and lay
In religious organizations, the laity comprises all people who are not in the clergy. A person who is a member of a religious order who is not ordained legitimate clergy is considered as a member of the laity, even though they are members of a religious order .In the past in Christian cultures, the...

 theologian, he further explored the religiosity of the technological society.

Life and influences

Ellul was born in Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...

, France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 on 6 January 1912 to Marthe Mendes (Protestant; French-Portuguese) and Joseph Ellul (initially Greek Orthodox, but then Voltarian by conviction; born in Malta of an Italo-Maltese father and Serb mother). As a teenager he wanted to be a naval officer but his father made him read law. He was married to Yvette Lensvelt in 1937.

Jacques was educated at the universities of Bordeaux
University of Bordeaux
University of Bordeaux is an association of higher education institutions in and around Bordeaux, France. Its current incarnation was established 21 March 2007. The group is the largest system of higher education schools in southwestern France. It is part of the Academy of Bordeaux.There are seven...

 and Paris
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

. In World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, he was a leader in the French resistance
French Resistance
The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

. For his efforts to save Jews he was awarded the title Righteous among the Nations
Righteous Among the Nations
Righteous among the Nations of the world's nations"), also translated as Righteous Gentiles is an honorific used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis....

by Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem is Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, established in 1953 through the Yad Vashem Law passed by the Knesset, Israel's parliament....

 in 2001.

Ellul was best friends with Bernard Charbonneau, who wrote on similar themes. They met through the Protestant Student Federation during the academic school year of 1929–1930.

Jacques Ellul had three primary sources of inspiration by the early 1930s who would influence his works henceforth: Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

, Soren Kierkegaard, and Karl Barth
Karl Barth
Karl Barth was a Swiss Reformed theologian whom critics hold to be among the most important Christian thinkers of the 20th century; Pope Pius XII described him as the most important theologian since Thomas Aquinas...

. Ellul was first introduced to the ideas of Karl Marx during an economics lecture course taught by Joseph Benzacar in 1929––1930; Ellul studied Marx and became a prolific exegete of his theories. During this same period, he also came across Kierkegaard. And, he considered Karl Barth, who was a leader of the resistance
Confessing Church
The Confessing Church was a Protestant schismatic church in Nazi Germany that arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to nazify the German Protestant church.-Demographics:...

 against the German state church in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 , the greatest theologian of the 20th century. He also said that his father played a great role in his life and considered him his role model.

The influence of these ideologies
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

 has alternately earned him devoted followers and vicious enemies. In large measure and especially in those of his books concerned with theological matters, Ellul restates the viewpoints held by Barth, whose polar dialectic of the Word of God
' is an important term in philosophy, psychology, rhetoric and religion. Originally a word meaning "a ground", "a plea", "an opinion", "an expectation", "word," "speech," "account," "reason," it became a technical term in philosophy, beginning with Heraclitus ' is an important term in...

, in which the Gospel
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

 both judges and renews the world, shaped Ellul's theological perspective. In Jacques Ellul: A Systemic Exposition Darrell J. Fasching claimed Ellul believed "That which desacralizes a given reality, itself in turn becomes the new sacred reality".

In 1932, after what he describes as "a very brutal and very sudden conversion", Ellul professed himself a Christian. Ellul believes he was about 17 (1929–1930) and spending the summer with some friends in Blanquefort
Blanquefort, Gironde
Blanquefort or Blancafòrt is a commune in the Gironde department in Aquitaine in southwestern France. Blanquefort is an outlying commune of the Bordeaux metropolitan area....

, France. While translating Faust
Goethe's Faust
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust is a tragic play in two parts: and . Although written as a closet drama, it is the play with the largest audience numbers on German-language stages...

 alone in the house, Ellul knew (without seeing or hearing anything) he was in the presence of a something so astounding, so overwhelming, which entered the very center of his being. He jumped on a bike and fled, concluding eventually that he had been in the presence of God. This experience started the conversion process which Ellul said then continued over a period of years thereafter.

He was also prominent in the worldwide ecumenical movement, although he later became sharply critical of the movement for what he felt were indiscriminate endorsements of political establishments, primarily of the Left
Left-wing politics
In politics, Left, left-wing and leftist generally refer to support for social change to create a more egalitarian society...

. However, he was no friendlier in his assessment of those of the Right
Right-wing politics
In politics, Right, right-wing and rightist generally refer to support for a hierarchical society justified on the basis of an appeal to natural law or tradition. To varying degrees, the Right rejects the egalitarian objectives of left-wing politics, claiming that the imposition of equality is...

; he fashioned an explicitly anti-political stance as an alternative to both (see below).

Ellul has been credited with coining the phrase, "Think globally, act locally." He often said that he was born in Bordeaux by chance, but that it was by choice that he spent almost all his academic career there.

On 19 May 1994, after a long illness, he died in his house in Pessac
Pessac is a commune in the Gironde department in Aquitaine in southwestern France.It is the second-largest suburb of the city of Bordeaux and is adjacent to it on the southwest. It is a member of the metropolitan Urban Community of Bordeaux...

, just a mile or two from the University of Bordeaux
University of Bordeaux
University of Bordeaux is an association of higher education institutions in and around Bordeaux, France. Its current incarnation was established 21 March 2007. The group is the largest system of higher education schools in southwestern France. It is part of the Academy of Bordeaux.There are seven...

 campus and surrounded by those closest to him. His wife had died a few years prior, on 16 April 1991.


While Ellul is perhaps most noted for his sociological work, especially his discussions of technology, he saw his theological work as an essential aspect of his career, and began publishing theological discussions early, with such books as The Presence of the Kingdom (1948).

Although a son of the minority French Reformed
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

 tradition and thus a spiritual heir of thinkers like John Calvin
John Calvin
John Calvin was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530...

 and Ulrich Zwingli, Ellul departed substantially from Reformed doctrinal traditions, but unlike other European Protestant thinkers, utterly rejected the influence of philosophical idealism or romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 upon his beliefs about God and human faith. In articulating his theological ideas, he mainly drew upon the corpus of works by the Swiss-German theologian Karl Barth
Karl Barth
Karl Barth was a Swiss Reformed theologian whom critics hold to be among the most important Christian thinkers of the 20th century; Pope Pius XII described him as the most important theologian since Thomas Aquinas...

 and the critiques of European state Christianity made by Dane Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel...

. Thus, some have considered him one of the more ardent expositors of neo-orthodoxy
Neo-orthodoxy, in Europe also known as theology of crisis and dialectical theology,is an approach to theology in Protestantism that was developed in the aftermath of the First World War...

, which was in decline elsewhere in the Western theological scene during Ellul's heyday. Much like Barth, Ellul had no use for either liberal theology (to him dominated by Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 notions about the goodness of humanity and thus rendered puerile by its naïveté) or orthodox Protestantism (e.g., fundamentalism
Fundamentalism is strict adherence to specific theological doctrines usually understood as a reaction against Modernist theology. The term "fundamentalism" was originally coined by its supporters to describe a specific package of theological beliefs that developed into a movement within the...

 or scholastic
Scholasticism is a method of critical thought which dominated teaching by the academics of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100–1500, and a program of employing that method in articulating and defending orthodoxy in an increasingly pluralistic context...

Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

, both of which to him refuse to acknowledge the radical freedom of God and humanity) and maintained a roughly un-Catholic view of the Bible, theology, and the churches.

One particular theological movement that aroused his ire was that of secular theology
Secular theology
The field of secular theology, a subfield of liberal theology advocated by Anglican bishop John A. T. Robinson somewhat paradoxically combines secularism and theology. Recognized in the 1960s, it was influenced both by neo-orthodoxy, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Harvey Cox, and the existentialism of Søren...

, based on notions that traditional Christian conceptions of God and humanity are based upon a primitive consciousness, one that most civilized people have quite overcome. This line of thought affirmed the ethical teachings of Jesus but rejected the idea that he represented anything more than a highly accomplished human being. Ellul attacked this school, and practitioners of it such as Harvey Cox
Harvey Cox
Harvey Gallagher Cox, Jr. is one of the preeminent theologians in the United States and served as Hollis Research Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School, until his retirement in October 2009...

, as out of accord not with Christian doctrinal traditions, but reality itself, namely what he perceived as the irreducible religiosity of the human race, a devotion that has worshiped idols such as rulers, nations, and in more recent times, materialism, scientism, technology and economics. To Ellul, people use such fallen images, or powers, as a substitute for God, and are, in turn, used by them, with no possible appeal to innocence or neutrality, which, although possible theoretically, does not in fact exist. Ellul thus renovates in a non-legalistic manner the traditional Christian understanding of original sin
Original sin
Original sin is, according to a Christian theological doctrine, humanity's state of sin resulting from the Fall of Man. This condition has been characterized in many ways, ranging from something as insignificant as a slight deficiency, or a tendency toward sin yet without collective guilt, referred...

 and espouses a thoroughgoing pessimism about human capabilities, a view most sharply evidenced in his Meaning of the City (see bibliography below). Ellul stated that one of the problems with these "new theologies" was the following:
Ellul espouses views on salvation
Within religion salvation is the phenomenon of being saved from the undesirable condition of bondage or suffering experienced by the psyche or soul that has arisen as a result of unskillful or immoral actions generically referred to as sins. Salvation may also be called "deliverance" or...

, the sovereignty of God, and ethical action that appear to take a deliberately contrarian stance toward established, "mainstream" opinion. For instance, in the book What I Believe, he declared himself to be a Christian Universalist
Christian Universalism
Christian Universalism is a school of Christian theology which includes the belief in the doctrine of universal reconciliation, the view that all human beings or all fallen creatures will ultimately be restored to right relationship with God....

, writing "that all people from the beginning of time are saved by God in Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

, that they have all been recipients of His grace
Divine grace
In Christian theology, grace is God’s gift of God’s self to humankind. It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man - "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" - that takes the form of divine favour, love and clemency. It is an attribute of God that is most...

 no matter what they have done." Ellul formulated this stance not from any liberal or humanistic
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

 sympathies, but in the main from an extremely high view of God's transcendence
Transcendence (religion)
In religion transcendence refers to the aspect of God's nature which is wholly independent of the physical universe. This is contrasted with immanence where God is fully present in the physical world and thus accessible to creatures in various ways...

, that God is totally free to do what God pleases. Any attempts to modify that freedom from merely human standards of righteousness and justice amount to sin
In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

, to putting oneself in God's place, which is precisely what Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

 sought to do in the creation stories in Genesis. This highly unusual juxtaposition of original sin and universal salvation
Universal reconciliation
In Christian theology, universal reconciliation is the doctrine that all sinful and alienated human souls—because of divine love and mercy—will ultimately be reconciled to God.Universal salvation may be related to the perception of a problem of Hell, standing opposed to ideas...

 has repelled liberal and conservative critics and commentators alike, who charge that such views amount to antinomianism
Antinomianism is defined as holding that, under the gospel dispensation of grace, moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation....

, denying that God's laws are binding upon human beings. In most of his theologically-oriented writings, Ellul effectively dismisses those charges as stemming from a radical confusion between religions as human phenomena and the unique claims of the Christian faith, which are not predicated upon human achievement or moral integrity whatsoever.

On technique

The Ellulian concept of technique is briefly defined within the "Notes to Reader" section of The Technological Society (1964). It is "the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity." He states here as well that the term technique is not solely machines, technology, or a procedure used to attain an end.

What many consider to be Ellul's most important work, The Technological Society (1964) was originally titled: La Technique: L'enjeu du siècle (literally, "The Stake of the Century"). In it, Ellul set forth seven characteristics of modern technology that make efficiency a necessity: rationality
Rationalization (sociology)
Rationalization is a term used in sociology to refer to a process in which an increasing number of social actions become based on considerations of teleological efficiency or calculation rather than on motivations derived from morality, emotion, custom, or tradition...

, artificiality, automatism of technical choice, self-augmentation, monism
Monism is any philosophical view which holds that there is unity in a given field of inquiry. Accordingly, some philosophers may hold that the universe is one rather than dualistic or pluralistic...

, universalism
Universalism in its primary meaning refers to religious, theological, and philosophical concepts with universal application or applicability...

, and autonomy
Autonomy is a concept found in moral, political and bioethical philosophy. Within these contexts, it is the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision...

. The rationality of technique enforces logical and mechanical organization through division of labor, the setting of production standard, etc. And it creates an artificial system which "eliminates or subordinates the natural world."

Regarding technology, instead of it being subservient to humanity, "human beings have to adapt to it, and accept total change." As an example, Ellul offered the diminished value of the humanities
The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences....

 to a technological society. As people begin to question the value of learning ancient languages and history, they question those things which, on the surface, do little to advance their financial and technical state. According to Ellul, this misplaced emphasis is one of the problems with modern education, as it produces a situation in which immense stress is placed on information in our schools. The focus in those schools is to prepare young people to enter the world of information, to be able to work with computers but knowing only their reasoning, their language, their combinations, and the connections between them. This movement is invading the whole intellectual domain and also that of conscience.

Ellul's commitment to scrutinize technological development is expressed as such:
The sacred then, as classically defined, is the object of both hope and fear, both fascination and dread. Once, nature was the all-encompassing environment and power upon which human beings were dependent in life and death, and so was experienced as sacred. The Reformation
Magisterial Reformation
The Magisterial Reformation is a phrase that "draws attention to the manner in which the Lutheran and Calvinist reformers related to secular authorities, such as princes, magistrates, or city councils", i.e. "the magistracy"...

 desacralized the church in the name of the Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, and the Bible became the sacred book. But since then, science (through Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

's theory of evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

) and reason (higher criticism and liberal theology
Liberal Christianity
Liberal Christianity, sometimes called liberal theology, is an umbrella term covering diverse, philosophically and biblically informed religious movements and ideas within Christianity from the late 18th century and onward...

) have desacralized the scriptures, and the sciences, particularly those applied sciences that are amenable to the aims of collective economic production (be it capitalist
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

, socialist
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

, or communist
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

), have been elevated to the position of sacred in Western culture. Today, he argues, the technological society is generally held sacred. Since he defines technique as "the totality of methods rationally arrived at, and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity", it is clear that his sociological analysis focuses not on the society of machines as such, but on the society of "efficient techniques":
It is useless, he argues, to think that a distinction can be made between technique and its use, for techniques have specific social and psychological consequences independent of human desires. There can be no room for moral considerations in their use:

On anarchy and violence

Ellul identified himself as a "Christian Anarchist." For him, this meant that nation-state
The nation state is a state that self-identifies as deriving its political legitimacy from serving as a sovereign entity for a nation as a sovereign territorial unit. The state is a political and geopolitical entity; the nation is a cultural and/or ethnic entity...

s should neither be praised nor feared, but merely ignored. To him, human government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 is irrelevant in that the law contained in Scripture is sufficient and exclusive. That is, being a Christian means pledging absolute allegiance to Christ, which makes other laws redundant at best or counter to the Law of God. Despite the initial attraction of some evangelicals
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

 to his thinking because of his high view of Biblical texts (i.e., generally eschewing the historical-critical method), this position alienated some conservative Protestants. Later, he would attract a following among adherents of more ethically-compatible traditions such as the Anabaptists and the house church movement. Similar political ideas to Ellul's appear in the writings of a corresponding friend of his, the American William Stringfellow
William Stringfellow
Frank William Stringfellow was an American lay theologian during the 1960s and 1970s.-Life and career:...

, and long-time admirer Vernard Eller, author of Christian Anarchy. Alexandre Christoyannopoulos said that Ellul identified the State
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 and political power
Political power
Political power is a type of power held by a group in a society which allows administration of some or all of public resources, including labour, and wealth. There are many ways to obtain possession of such power. At the nation-state level political legitimacy for political power is held by the...

 as the Beast
The Beast (Bible)
The Beast of Revelation, may refer to two beasts in the apocalyptic visions by John of Patmos, as written in the Book of Revelation. The first beast comes from "out of the sea". The second beast comes from "out of the earth" and directs all peoples of the earth to worship the first. This first...

 in the Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...


Jacques Ellul discusses anarchy on a few pages in The Ethics of Freedom and in more detail within his later work, Anarchy & Christianity. Although he does admit that anarchy does not seem to be a direct expression of Christian freedom, he concludes that the absolute power he sees within the current (as of 1991) nation-state can only be responded to with an absolute negative position (i.e. anarchy). He states that his intention is not to establish an anarchist society or the total destruction of the state. His initial point in Anarchy & Christianity is that he is led toward anarchy by his commitment to an absolute rejection of violence. However, Ellul does not entertain the idea that all Christians in all places and all times will refrain from violence. Rather, he insisted that violence could not be reconciled with the God of Love, and thus, true freedom. A Christian that chooses the path of violence must admit that they are abandoning the path of freedom and committing to the way of necessity.

During the Spanish Civil War Spanish anarchist friends of Ellul's soon-to-be wife came to France in search of weapons. He tried to get some for them through an old school friend of his and claimed that this was probably the one time in his life when he was sufficiently motivated to commit an act of violence. He did not go with the anarchists primarily because he had only recently met the woman that would become his wife and did not wish to leave her.

On justice

Ellul believed that social justice and freedom were incompatible. He rejected any attempt to reconcile them. He believed that a Christian could choose to join a movement for justice, but in doing so, must admit that this fight for justice is necessarily, and at the same time, a fight against all forms of freedom. While social justice provides a guarantee against the risk of bondage, it simultaneously subjects a life to necessities. Ellul believed that when a Christian decides to act it must be in a way that is specifically Christian. "Christians must never identify themselves with this or that political or economic movement. Rather, they must bring to social movements what they alone can provide. Only so can they signalize the kingdom. So far as they act like the others – even to forward social justice, equality, etc. – I say that there is no sense and nothing specifically Christian in acting like the others. In fact the political and revolutionary attitude proper to the Christian is radically different than the attitude of others; it is specifically Christian or else it is nothing.

In Violence Ellul states his belief that only God is able to establish justice and God alone who will institute the kingdom at the end of time. He acknowledges that some have used this as an excuse to do nothing, but also points out how death-of-God advocates use this to claim that "we ourselves must undertake to establish social justice". Ellul said that without a belief in a God Father, love and the pursuit for justice becomes selective for the only relation left is the horizontal one. Ellul asks how we are to define justice and claims that followers of death-of-God theology and/or philosophy clung to Matthew 25 stating that justice requires them to feed the poor. Ellul says that many European Christians rushed into socialist circles (and with this began to accept the movement's tactics of violence, propaganda, etc.) mistakenly thinking socialism would assure justice when in fact it only pursues justice for the chosen and/or interesting poor whose condition (as a victim of capitalism or some other socialist enemy) is consistent with the socialist ideology.

On media, propaganda, and information

Ellul discusses these topics in detail in his landmark work,Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes
Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes
Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes is a landmark work on the subject of propaganda by French philosopher,theologian, and sociologist Jacques Ellul. This book appears to be the first attempt to study propaganda from a sociological approach as well as a psychological one...

. He viewed the power of the media as another example of technology exerting control over human destiny. As a mechanism of change, the media are almost invariably manipulated by special interests, whether of the market or the state.

Also within Propaganda Ellul claims that "it is a fact that excessive data do not enlighten the reader or the listener; they drown him. He cannot remember them all, or coordinate them, or understand them; if he does not want to risk losing his mind, he will merely draw a general picture from them. And the more facts supplied, the more simplistic the image". In addition, people become "caught in a web of facts they have been given. They cannot even form a choice or a judgment in other areas or on other subjects. Thus the mechanisms of modern information induce a sort of hypnosis in the individual, who cannot get out of the field that has been laid out for him by the information". "It is not true that he can choose freely with regard to what is presented to him as the truth. And because rational propaganda thus creates an irrational situation, it remains, above all, propaganda – that is, an inner control over the individual by a social force, which means that it deprives him of himself".

Ellul agreed with Jules Monnerot who stated that "All individual passion leads to the suppression of all critical judgment with regard to the object of that passion".
In response to an invitation from Protestant associations, Ellul visited Germany two times (1934 and 1935). On the second visit he attended a Nazi meeting out of curiosity which influenced his later work on propaganda and its ability to unify a group.

To throw this wager or secular faith into the boldest possible relief, Ellul places it in dialectical contrast with Biblical faith. As a dialectical contrast to "La Technique," for instance, Ellul writes Sans feu ni lieu (published in 1975, although written much earlier.) Whereas technology is the attempt of human beings to create their home in this world, the Bible denies that people, the children of a Creator God, can ever be truly at home here.

On Humanism

In explaining the significance of freedom and the purpose for resisting the enslavement of man via acculturation (or sociological bondage), Ellul rejects the notion that this is due to some supposed supreme importance linked to humanity. He states that enslavement expresses how authority, signification, and value are attached to humanity and the beliefs and institutions it creates leading to an exaltation of the nation or state, money, technology, art, morality, the party, etc. The work of humanity is glorified.


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      Olive Wyon
      Dr. Olive Wyon was a British author and translator of books of the Christian faith.She was born in Hampstead, London, into a cultured Victorian family....

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      Robert K. Merton
      Robert King Merton was a distinguished American sociologist. He spent most of his career teaching at Columbia University, where he attained the rank of University Professor...

       (professor of sociology, Columbia University
      Columbia University
      Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

      ). This may be his best-known work; Aldous Huxley
      Aldous Huxley
      Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. Best known for his novels including Brave New World and a wide-ranging output of essays, Huxley also edited the magazine Oxford Poetry, and published short stories, poetry, travel...

       brought the French edition to the attention of an English publisher, and thus brought it to English readers. Theodore Kaczynski
      Theodore Kaczynski
      Theodore John "Ted" Kaczynski , also known as the "Unabomber" , is an American mathematician, social critic, anarcho-primitivist, and Neo-Luddite who engaged in a mail bombing campaign that spanned nearly 20 years, killing three people and injuring 23 others.Kaczynski was born in Chicago, Illinois,...

       had a copy in his cabin and said he read it five times—his "manifesto" addresses similar themes.
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      Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes
      Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes is a landmark work on the subject of propaganda by French philosopher,theologian, and sociologist Jacques Ellul. This book appears to be the first attempt to study propaganda from a sociological approach as well as a psychological one...

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  • "A temps et à contretemps: Entretiens avec Madeleine Garrigou-Lagrange". Paris: Centurion, 1981.
  • "In Season, Out of Season: An Introduction to the Thought of Jacques Ellul: Interviews by Madeleine Garrigou-Lagrange." Trans. Lani K. Niles. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1982.
  • "Perspectives on Our Age: Jacques Ellul Speaks on His Life and Work". Ed. Willem H. Vanderburg. Trans. Joachim Neugroschel
    Joachim Neugroschel
    Joachim Neugroschel was a well known literary translator from French, German, Italian, Russian, and Yiddish, and also to German. He also published poetry and was a poetry magazine founder.- Biography :...

    . Toronto: CBC, 1981. New York: Seabury, 1981. Concord, Ontario: House of Anansi, 1997.
  • "". Avec Didier Nordon. Paris: Félin, 1992.
  • "Entretiens avec Jacques Ellul". Patrick Chastenet. Paris: Table Ronde, 1994.
  • "Jacques Ellul on Religion, Technology, and Politics: Conversations with Patrick Troude-Chastenet". Trans. Joan Mendès France. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1998.
  • "Jacques Ellul on Politics, Technology, and Christianity: Conversations with Patrick Troude-Chastenet". Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2005.

See also

  • Christian anarchism
    Christian anarchism
    Christian anarchism is a movement in political theology that combines anarchism and Christianity. It is the belief that there is only one source of authority to which Christians are ultimately answerable, the authority of God as embodied in the teachings of Jesus...

  • Indoctrination
    Indoctrination is the process of inculcating ideas, attitudes, cognitive strategies or a professional methodology . It is often distinguished from education by the fact that the indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrine they have learned...

  • Koyaanisqatsi
    Koyaanisqatsi also known as Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, is a 1982 film directed by Godfrey Reggio with music composed by Philip Glass and cinematography by Ron Fricke....

  • Propaganda
    Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

  • Randal Marlin
    Randal Marlin
    Randal Marlin, , is a Canadian philosophy professor at Carleton University in Ottawa who specializes in the study of propaganda. He was educated at Princeton University, McGill University, the University of Oxford, and the University of Toronto...

  • Non-conformists of the 1930s
    Non-conformists of the 1930s
    The Non-Conformists of the 1930s refers to a nebula of groups and individuals during the inter-war period in France which was looking for new solutions to face the political, economical and social crisis. The name was coined in 1969 by the historian Jean-Louis Loubet del Bayle to describe a...

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