Jacques Ellul (1912-1994)
One of the most thoughtful philosophers to approach technology from a deterministic, and some have even argued fatalistic , position is Jacques Ellul. Professor at the University of Bordeaux, Ellul authored some 40 books and hundreds of articles over his lifetime , the dominant theme of which has been, according to Fasching (1981), “the threat to human freedom and Christian faith created by modern technology” (p. 1). Ellul’s constant theme has been one of technological tyranny over humanity. As a philosopher and theologian , Ellul explored the religiosity of the technological society.
Ellul became a Marxist at age 19, and a Christian at 22 (Fasching, p. 2). His religious faith evolved out of the Death of God movement and the response of the neo-orthodox theologians Bultmann, Barth, Niebuhr and Tillich. According to Fasching, the Barthian dialectic, in which the gospel both judges and renews the world, helped to shape Ellul’s theological perspective (p. 7). For Ellul, “that which desacralizes a given reality, itself in turn becomes the new sacred reality” (p. 35).
The sacred is then, as classically defined, 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. (Fasching, p. 34).