Will The Real Ellul Please Stand Up? A Bibliographic Survey -- By: Daniel B. Clendenin

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 06:2 (Fall 1985)
Article: Will The Real Ellul Please Stand Up? A Bibliographic Survey
Author: Daniel B. Clendenin


Will The Real Ellul Please Stand Up?
A Bibliographic Survey

Daniel B. Clendenin

William Tyndale College

… l’activité intellectuelle du Pr. Ellul est aujourd’ hui plus intense que jamais et il donne á une échelle plus vaste ce qú il réserva longtemps à quelques privilégiés. Cet hommage ne marque qu’un moment d’une vie parvient à son piein épanouissement.

Dmitri Georges Lavroff
Président de l’ Université de Bordeaux.1

A. Introduction

Gone is the time when scholars such as Clifford Christians and Jay M. VanHook, the Ellul experts who edited Jacques Ellul: Interpretive Essays, could write that “surprisingly little serious analysis, interpretation and criticism of [Ellul’s] work has appeared in print.”2 Equally dated is Waldo Beach’s suggestion that Ellul remains “relatively unknown to American readers,”3 an appraisal of which even Ellul complained as recently as 1982.4

Not a dearth of literature but a near avalanche more accurately characterizes the current state of Ellul research. As one professor recently remarked to me, Ellul’s corpus has spawned a virtual industry of scholarship. Joyce Hank’s newly published Jacques Ellul: A Comprehensive Bibliography (1984) bears this out. In addition to Ellul’s 40 books and 600 articles, she documents over 750 reviews of Ellul’s books, 17 interviews, 20 theses and dissertations, and nearly 300 “books, articles, and notices.”5 The would-be interpreter of Ellul, then, faces not a mole hill but a mountain of secondary literature.

Quantity need not indicate quality, of course, as anyone who has begun to scale the mountain can verify. Some of the work is perceptive, while some of it simply perpetuates misinformation.6 Some scholars exhibit an eye for Ellul’s sophistication and nuance, while others are polemical and partisan. If reading Ellul himself is difficult, as Wilkinson and Outka, for example, lament,7 reading his interpreters may prove even more difficult. This Ellul industry has churned out a bewildering confusion of contradictory and divergent caricatures of the professor from Bordeaux, with the consequence that “he is too easily misunderstood.”8 While Christians and VanHook are wrong to imply a lack of Ellul...

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