Monday, November 12, 2007

Jacques Ellul find

Even though we could not understand most of the words, Narlin and I regularly attend the evening Burmese worship. This is our church and we commit ourselves with these people. We are trying our best to participate in every activity and help in many ways that we are allowed or requested to do. We are willing to help even though it entails us to do menial work. In return, the Burmese congregation would just express their appreciations for what we are doing. This is a rewarding experience for us.

What they do not know is that when I attend the Burmese worship, I'll always bring a book with me to read while the service is going on. I try to appear as if I am listening intently. But because I don't really understand the sermon, I actually read the time away.

But last Sunday, I panicked because I forgot to bring a book with me. Afraid of spending the hour forcing myself to listen to a long preaching that I could understand, I dashed to the church’s library and looked for an English book that I can grab in no time at all. Ten seconds later, I was sitting comfortably on a monoblock chair and trying my best to look like I was listening intently, I slowly opened the old, yellowish dog-eared book and whoa… it was a book entitled The Judgment of Jonah written by Jacques Ellul.

I didn’t have any idea who is Jacques Ellul but the book is so good that when I came home I googled his name and found out he is indeed an excellent philosopher and theologian. Here is what I found:

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”. 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. 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. For Ellul, "that which desacralizes a given reality, itself in turn becomes the new sacred reality.”

The church library is newly constructed. The construction was sponsored by a friend from Singapore and was named after his father. The library is very small. Shelves are lacking and could not hold all the books. Most of them are still in boxes and would remain there for some time. My pastor has an uncanny ability to discriminate good theological books.

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