Jacques Ellul’s View Of Scripture -- By: David W. Gill

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 25:4 (Dec 1982)
Article: Jacques Ellul’s View Of Scripture
Author: David W. Gill


Jacques Ellul’s View Of Scripture

David W. Gill*

By almost any standard Jacques Ellul, the recently retired professor of history and sociology at the University of Bordeaux, must be regarded as one of the most important Christian intellectuals of this century. He is best known of course for his sociological analysis of the technological society. Simultaneous with his career as sociologist and historian, Ellul has been an active lay theologian and ethicist. In fact, taken by itself Ellul’s work in theology and ethics is equaled by only a handful of contemporary authors when judged in terms of productivity, creativity and influence.1

The staying power of Ellul’s work in theology and ethics remains to be seen. However, the fact that Ellul resists anything smacking of “trendiness” or accommodation to various spirits of this age and that his work is rooted in and guided by Biblical revelation augurs well for his future continuing importance.

At the opening of To Will and To Do: An Ethical Research for Christians, E1-lul says that in his work

the criterion of my thought is the biblical revelation, the content of my thought is the biblical revelation, the point of departure is supplied by the biblical revelation, the method is the dialectic in accordance with which the biblical revelation is given to us, and the purpose is a search for the significance of the biblical revelation concerning ethics.2

This declaration of the fundamental importance of the Bible for his work is echoed over and over in Ellul’s writings. Basic to this stance is the fact that at “around twenty-two years of age, I was … reading the Bible, and it happened that I was converted—with a certain ‘brutality’.”3 Not the preaching of the Church, not the celebration of the sacraments, not a mystical vision, but the individual reading of the Bible was decisive in Ellul’s own conversion. During the fifty tumultuous years since that conversion it has been the consistent reading and study of Scripture that has sustained Ellul, his family, and the small Reformed Church in which he is a lay leader. While his indebtedness to the Bibli-cally-oriented theology of Karl Barth certainly also pushes him in this direction, it is his ongoing personal encounter with Holy Scripture that finally undergirds his Bible-centeredness.

*David Gill is associate professor of Christian ethics at New College Berkeley in California.

Ellul’s commitment to the importance of Scripture comes through ...

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