Throughout his work Ellul spoke out against the “idols and myths” of the modern age, including technology, politics, materialism, and violence. His prophetic critique of modern civilization won an appreciative audience far beyond Christian circles. Yet this was only one half of a project that drew deeply on his Christian faith.
For nearly every sociological book he wrote, Ellul would write a theological or spiritual counterpart. And yet this other half of his work has received relatively little attention. This volume corrects the balance, highlighting spiritual gems on prayer, hope, and universal salvation. His call to reject the worship of the state and to embrace nonviolent activism has an abiding relevance and urgency, particularly in these times of protracted war and violence, gaping economic inequality, and enormous suffering.
Jacob E. Van Vleet is an assistant professor of philosophy in humanities and philosophy at Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, CA, and serves on the Board of Directors of the International Jacques Ellul Society. He is author of Dialectical Theology and Jacques Ellul (Fortress Press, 2014).
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“Today the moral question above all others is how to be truly awake and fully equal to the technological world. Jacques Ellul as a young man saw the question and began to outline the answer in Presence in the Modern World.”
–Albert Borgmann, author of Power Failure: Christianity in the Culture of Technology
“Read Presence in the Modern World. Not only is it the introduction to Ellul’s entire body of work, but its emphasis on Christians’ revolutionary situation in the world has never been more relevant.”
–Patrick Chastenet, University of Bordeaux; President, the Association Internationale Jacques Ellul
The last few decades seem to have ushered in new levels of violence, challenging the notion that our globalized, interconnected world offers increased prospects for cooperation and peace. Many philosophers and theologians have offered various reasons for why this might be so, but none has come so close as the French philosopher Jacques Ellul to providing a comprehensive explanation for many of the pitfalls inherent in increasing levels of technological advance. The chapters in this book explore the phenomena of violence, terrorism, and war through the lens of Ellul’s thought. Readers unfamiliar with Ellul will find as much to consider in these chapters as those who have studied Ellul extensively, and for both the novice and the expert, this book offers an opportunity to both evaluate and reevaluate Ellul’s extensive thought on matters of importance to contemporary society.
“Jacques Ellul on Violence, Resistance, and War brings together insightful essays by leading scholars on Ellul’s relevance and foresight. In these times we owe it to ourselves to consider Ellul’s wisdom. This is a thoughtful collection that will help us interpret, understand, and apply his profound ideas.”
–Jacob E. Van Vleet, Diablo Valley College
“Jacques Ellul was one of the twentieth century’s most prolific and influential public intellectuals. That his work inspired both pacifism and violent protest is a sign of its power and complexity. In this volume, Jeffrey Shaw and other thoughtful contributors explore the implications of Ellul’s work as it relates to our contemporary world, awash as it is in violence. Anyone who wants to understand Ellul–or wants Ellul to help them understand the world–should read it.”
–Noah Toly, Wheaton College
“This book is a literary gem, with its readability index a number 10. The history is deep and the theoretical work crystal clear, the sociology is impeccable and the news events live. Relevance may be overvalued in publishing, but here it is pure gold: terrorism, police atrocities, cybersecurity, economic brutality, high-tech weapons of war, ruthless dictators–readers are absorbed and ideas emerge to help provide context to the violence. Ellul’s writing and reflections on violence and war give the book cohesion, and an all-star cast of Ellul scholars examines contemporary events through the lens of his thought, providing a new book that is stunning in its inclusiveness.”
–Clifford Christians, University of Illinois-Urbana
From the Foreword by David Gill:
“Ellul’s writings on Islam display his usual passion and intensity. He is taking an unpopular position in a French intellectual milieu….In my view Yale Professor Miroslav Volf’s Allah: A Christian Response, is an essential companion to Jacques Ellul’s Islam et judeo-christianisme. Ellul provides a challenge to rethink Islam (and Judaism and Christianity), to cast off political correctness and comforting myths we may hold, to face the truth with courage, to speak with candor, and then to move forward toward a genuine peace and understanding. Volf demonstrates how such an encounter might proceed in peace.”
The theme of Islam and Judeo-Christianity is the relationship between these three faiths under three headings that are often promoted as a basis for commonality between them (sons of Abraham, monotheism, and religions of the book). Ellul incisively critiques these expressions, finding less common ground than is generally accepted and a pattern of conformism.
The English edition of Islam and Judeo-Christianity includes a foreword by David Gill and Dominique North-Ellul, and Alain Besancon’s extensive foreword to the French edition of Islam and Judeo-Christianity (relocated to the appendices in this edition). The book also includes other writings on this theme by Ellul: Firstly, chapter 5 from Ellul’s Subversion of Christianity where “Islam is portrayed as a non-progressive, totalitarian religion, founded on the concept of divine right, and credited with having introduced into Christianity the idea of holy war.” Secondly, Ellul’s foreword to The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam written by Bat Ye’or (1985), which documents the conditions of Jews and Christians in Muslim society. Thirdly, Ellul’s foreword to The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, also by Bat Ye’or (1996), which further explores the history of Jews and Christians under Islam.
“Bruce MacKay has done the English-speaking world a great service in providing a flowing and eminently readable translation of Ellul’s critique of Islam and, indeed, of any facile eirenicism held toward it. Although having died over twenty years ago, his work should not be dismissed as dated. His critical reflections resonate even more loudly in an age of rising Islamist extremism. Whether controversial or conventional, Ellul’s critical analysis and reflection requires careful consideration by all.”
–Douglas Pratt, Professor, Religious Studies, University of Waikato, New Zealand
“The arrival of a new work by Jacques Ellul so long after his death is worth celebrating. . . . Ellul on Islam is crisply theological, and provides some key insights into how Christians should respond to the high moral tone which Islam sometimes takes in the west. . . . It is a very useful addition to the Ellul corpus, enabling us to see how he combined orthodox Protestantism with a rich social engagement.”
–Peter Lineham, Professor of History, School of Humanities, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Massey University Albany, New Zealand
Bruce MacKay was born in South India, the son of Open Brethren missionaries and with his family moved to New Zealand in 1960. He has trained and worked as a landscape architect, recreation planner, and ecologist in New Zealand and the UK. He currently works in New Zealand as an ecologist. He has three adult children also living in New Zealand.
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