Presenters and Papers

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Andy Alexis-Baker (Marquette University)

Assessing “Just Policing” from an Ellulian Perspective

Abstract: Appealing to Ellul, some Christian ethicists have put forward a theory of policing to lessen the violence of war, but very little critical work has been done to assess this theory. Drawing on Ellul's thought, this paper will critically assess whether international policing can live up to the hopes its theorists have for it.

Bio: Andy Alexis-Baker is a Ph.D. candidate in systematic theology and theological ethics at Marquette University. He is the co-editor of John Howard Yoder's Christian Attitudes to War, Peace, and Revolution (Brazos, 2009) and Yoder's forthcoming Theology of Missions (IVP Academic), as well general editor of the forthcoming Peaceable Kingdom Series at Cascade Books.

Randy M. Ataide (Point Loma Nazarene)

Ellul, Entrepreneurship and the Illusion of “Godly Economics” (PDF)

Abstract: Prior to the many current voices on economic justice, Ellul cautioned us of macroeconomic systems being superior in all settings in all times, pointing towards the danger of the aristocratic nature of economics where primacy of the expert/aristocrat. This paper will explore the manifestation of economic technique which seeks to construct a belief system that simply justifies popular economic and business trends and philosophies. The entrepreneur will be presented as the primary anti-technique force operating within contemporary economic systems.

Bio:Randy Ataide (MA, JD) is Professor of Entrepreneurship & Executive Director of the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego, one of the leading business and economic voices in Southern California with special emphasis on economic forecasting, innovation, national defense and natural resources.  Ataide was named one of “San Diego’s Top 50 Influentials” for 2010 and is the co-creator of the Da Vinci Index, the first economic measurement of global biomimicry and bio-inspired activity. He teaches, writes and speaks frequently innovation, agriculture, competitive strategy, entrepreneurship and related fields.

Mark Baker (Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary)

The Religious Subversion of Christianity: Jacques Ellul & Paul Hiebert in Conversation (PDF)

Abstract: This paper explores the similarities and differences between Cultural Anthropologist Paul Hiebert’s description of bounded set and centered set Christianity and Ellul’s writings on religious Christianity and revelation.

Bio: Mark D. Baker (PhD  Duke University) is Assoc. Prof. of Mission and Theology, Fresno Pacific  Biblical Seminary.  He first read Ellul in Honduras where he  was a missionary for ten years. Ellul’s writing on the religious distortion of Christianity is central in Baker’s first book, Religious No More: Building Communities of Grace and Freedom.

Stephanie Bennett (Palm Beach Atlantic)

The Presence of the Kingdom Online: Exploring the Virtual Church in Light of Jacques Ellul’s Techno-Religious Discourse (PDF)

Abstract: Online church activity has increased in magnitude and breadth as the Internet has expanded throughout the globe.  Some congregations have morphed into virtual churches that make an attempt to replicate the entire church experience online.  Others baptize, celebrate communion, take prayer requests, receive tithes through PayPal, and allow seekers to customize their own worship experience, completely online. These practices have traditionally been a part of local churches situated in time and place, but as the technological solution continues to abound, more and more people are making use of the digital option as a means to enhance life in the Spirit.  What might this mean for the church as a whole as it proceeds more deeply into the 21st Century?  Applying Ellulian techno-religious discourse to the situation and drawing primarily from The Presence of the Kingdom and The Technological Society, this paper will explore both the efficacy and the danger of virtual church as it emerges as an alternative to grounded Christian community.

Bio: Stephanie Bennett, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida, where she teaches Interpersonal Communication, Communication Ethics, Social Issues in Mass Media, Nonverbal Communication, Advanced Rhetorical Studies, and seminars that explore the connection between technology, interpersonal communication, faith and culture. Her doctoral dissertation was framed by the work of Jacques Ellul, and titled: The Disappearance of Silence:  A Dialectical Exploration of the Interpersonal Implications of Personal Mobile Media as Viewed through the Lens of Jacques Ellul’s la technique. Her recently published book, Communicating Love:Staying Close in a 24/7 Media-Saturated Society, addresses the demands placed on human relationships as the technological mandate becomes more deeply entrenched.      

Arthur Boers (Tyndale Seminary, Toronto)

The Lure of Technique in Current Fascinations with “Leadership” (PDF)

Abstract: “Leadership” is a growing priority of congregations, denominations, seminaries, and publishers. Such leadership, often understood as skills and competencies, needs to be analyzed and critiqued by Ellul’s concept of technique.

Bio:  Arthur Boers (DMin, Northern Seminary) is Leadership Chair at Tyndale Seminary (Toronto) and author of several books, including Living into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions (Brazos 2012) and The Way is Made by Walking: A Pilgrimage Along the Camino de Santiago (InterVarsity 2007).

Daniel Cerezuelle (Universite Bordeaux)

Jacques Ellul, Bernard Charbonneau and the Sense of Incarnation (PDF)

Abstract: Bernard Charbonneau, a friend and an acknowledged inspiration of the Christian Jacques Ellul, was an agnostic, but they shared some fundamental values. Their understanding of freedom as incarnation was the common ground of their lifelong companionship in the criticism of technological society and in environmental activism.

Bio: Daniel Cerezuelle, has studied philosophy and social sciences. As a philosopher he has taught philosophy of technology in France and in the United States and, since 1991, served on the board of the Société pour la Philosophie de la technique. As a sociologist he is investigating the social importance of non-monetary economy in modern society. He is currently scientific director of the Programme Autoproduction et Développement Social (PADES).

Patrick T. Chastenet (Université Montesquieu Bordeaux IV)

The Politics of Jacques Ellul

Abstract: Politics must be taken seriously and, at the same time, be kept in perspective. A blissful a-political stance is as reprehensible as the political illusion. Ellul invites us to make our detachment visible in action, not avoiding the struggles of the polis but maintaining a critical distance.  Politics must be desacralized rather than abandoned.

Bio: Patrick Troude Chastenet is Professor of Political Science at the University of Bordeaux.  He was the student assistant to Jacques Ellul during the 1970s.  He has published ten books including Jacques Ellul on Politics, Technology and Christianity (2005), Jacques Ellul penseur sans frontieres (2005), and La Politique (2008). He is the founding president of the Association Internationale Jacques Ellul and director of Cahiers Jacques- Ellul. He is the organizer of an international, multidisciplinary colloquium  in Bordeaux (June 7 – 9, 2012) celebrating the centenary of Ellul’s birth:  “Comment peut-on (encore) être ellulien au XXIème siècle?” (“how can one still be ‘ellulian’ in the 21st century?”).

Cliff Christians (University of Illinois)

Augustine’s Influence on Ellul’s Prophetic Philosophy of Communication (PDF)

Abstract: Ellul's doctoral thesis in 1936 begins with a quotation from Augustine.  Ellul says in What I Believe that he read and re-read the ConfessionsEthics of Freedom cites Augustine to advance Ellul's arguments on agape. Etc. While their relationship is complicated, there are three areas in which Augustine has a pronounced impact:  Ellul's philosophy of language, his ethics, and his work on social structures.

Bio: Clifford Christians is Research Professor of Communications and Professor of Media Studies Emeritus, University of Illinois-Urbana.  He is the editor of the Ellul Forum.  He is collaborating with Calvin Troup on an Ellul entry in Troup's new book, St. Augustine in Continental  Rhetoric and  Philosophy.

Raymond Downing (Moi University School of Medicine, Kenya)

The Problem of Health Care as Technique (PDF)

Abstract: Healthcare is a consummate example of the technological system that Ellul described. Yet popular commentary dwells on the problems that healthcare has – particularly financing in the USA – far more than the problem that it is. Through examining the Hebrew story of the Bronze Serpent, and considering the contemporary focus within healthcare of risk analysis, I will propose that modern healthcare as technique is a problem.

Bio: Raymond Downing  (MD, New York) has spent about 1/3 of his professional career as a medical doctor in the USA and 2/3 in several countries in Africa, currently in the Department of Family Medicine at Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya. His fifth book on healthcare, Biohealth, was published in mid-2011.

Darrell Fasching  (University of South Florida)

The Sacred, the Secular & the Holy: The Significance of Ellul's Thought for Global Ethics (PDF)

Abstract: The sacred, Ellul argues, is no longer close to God but part of this world. The sacred gives the social world a sense of stability through its morality. The holy, by contrast, is the manifestation of Divine transcendence in the social realm through a personal ethic which opens a societal morality to transcendence and further transformation (apocalyptic transformation) toward the realization of God's good will. Because Ellul defines the sacred and holy sociologically in functionalist terms, he offers a model by which manifestations of the holy can be recognized in diverse religions and cultures beyond Christianity so that ethical coalitions can be formed. A dramatic example of this is the way Martin Luther King, Jr. embraced Gandhi's ethic of non-violent civil disobedience even as Gandhi had embraced Tolstoy's interpretation of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

Bio:  Darrell Fasching (Ph.D. Syracuse University) is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida, Tampa. He is the author of the first book/monograph ever published on Ellul, The Thought of Jacques Ellul: A Systematic Exposition, (1981) and the founding editor of The Ellul Forum.  His two-volume work on global ethics and public policy, Narrative Theology After Auschwitz: From Alienation to Ethics (1992) and The Ethical Challenge of Auschwitz and Hiroshima: Apocalypse or Utopia?(1993) formed the foundation for his co-authored textbook Comparative Religious Ethics: A Narrative Approach to Global Ethics (2011). His book, No One Left Behind: Is Universal Salvation Biblical? (2011), is dedicated to Ellul and offers a biblical defense of Ellul's vision of universal salvation (see web site >>).  

Scott Francisco,  New York City

Jacques Ellul and the Lightsaber; The Cultural Potential of Inefficient Techniques

Abstract: "Distance learning," "Work-from-home programs," "Skyping" and a litany of "mobile devices" have all become ubiquitous in our current age. New notions of "mobility" are now a persistent theme that our technologies promote and facilitate. This paper explores the notion of mobility in a technical milieu through the examination of two narrative devices - the Death Star and the Lightsaber as used in the Star Wars narrative. Imbedded in these two technological devices we find two radically different value systems, different notions of efficiency that confer radically different mobility and relational demands on their users. Through an examination of these technical "icons" under an Ellulian lens the paper will explore the demands and potential consequences of our own devices and the narratives that may accompany them.

Bio: Scott Francisco is the founder and director of Pilot Projects in New York City and teaches design research methods at Parsons the New School for Design. He is a designer and practicing cultural theorist and consulted for several large architecture firms in New York City. He holds a Masters of Science in Architecture Studies from M.I.T., and a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Toronto. His past clients include: US General Services Administration, Google, NNSA, Government of Alberta, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, The Open Society Institute, Princeton University, Bank Street College, ABC News, Disney, The Gap, Time Warner, GSK, East River Science Park, SUNY Buffalo, and the Smithsonian Institution.

David W. Gill (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Boston)

The Enduring Importance of Jacques Ellul for Business Ethics (PDF)

Abstract: From at least three perspectives, Jacques Ellul’s thought addresses today’s business world and its ethics in a profound and essential way.  First, he challenges the sacralization and worship of money which have come to dominate the thought and practice of today’s business leaders.  Second, he challenges in the name of freedom and vocation the necessity and meaninglessness which dominate today’s workplace.  Third, he challenges us to critical thought and a rediscovery of the individual and the human in a domain enthusiastically and willingly enslaved to technique at every level.

Bio: David Gill earned his PhD at the University of Southern California with a dissertation on “The Word of God in the Ethics of Jacques Ellul,” subsequently published as the first of his seven books on theological or business ethics. He spent a full sabbatical year (1984-85) and several summers in Bordeaux, meeting with Ellul and many Ellul scholars, family, and friends. He is currently Mockler-Phillips Professor of Workplace Theology & Business Ethics and Director of the Mockler Center at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Boston. He is the founding president of the International Jacques Ellul Society.

Jeffrey P. Greenman (Wheaton College)

Prophet in the Hermeneutical Wilderness: Ellul's Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Abstract:  This paper examines Ellul's critique of the standard assumption of the biblical studies guild and positions Ellul in relationship to the contemporary retrieval of the "theological interpretation" of Scripture led by figures such as Stephen Fowl, Kevin Vanhoozer and others.

Bio: Jeffrey Greenman (PhD, University of Virginia) is Associate Dean and Professor of Christian Ethics at Wheaton College.

Randolph Haluza-DeLay (Kings University College, Edmonton)

Reimagining Homo Energeticus: An Ellulian Analysis of the Alberta Tar Sands

Abstract:  Ellul’s analysis of the self-perpetuating system of technique helps illuminate Alberta's oil sands industry, especially the extraordinary rhetoric of economic necessity and inevitability used to justify its high environmental and social costs. Other social values – including moral goods, religion/spirituality, environmental sustainability, and present and future generational equity – are subsumed within the efficient mastery of nature. As the technical value which encompasses all others, the efficient extraction of energy resources assumes for itself a sacred character. By contrast, and undermining criticisms of Ellul as a pessimist, Ellul’s work provides resources for reimagining human communities and ecological justice in the 21st century.

Bio:  Randolph Haluza-DeLay earned his PhD at the University of Western Ontario. He is Associate Professor of Sociology at The Kings University College in Edmonton, Alberta. He edited one book (UBC Press, 2009) and several journal issues on environmental justice and cultures of sustainability, and is working on a book on the sociology of religion and climate change. His co-author Nathan Kowalsky earned his PhD at the Catholic University of Louvain and is Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the Science, Technology & Society at St. Joseph’s College and the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He edited the collection Hunting – Philosophy for Everyone: In Search of the Wild Life (from Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).

Paul Heidebrecht (Mennonite Central Committee, Ottawa)

Christian Political Engagement in a New Key? Reading Ellul in Ottawa

Abstract:  Contemporary Canadian politics would seem to demonstrate the triumph of propaganda and technique. How does the church speak and act in the midst of this barren moral landscape? This paper will grapple with this bleak assessment by examining recent efforts of churches and church agencies to relate to governmental structures in the Canadian context. What can be learned from Jacques Ellul’s quest to reconcile anarchism and Christianity? What challenges does this experience pose to Ellul’s appropriation of the biblical concept of principalities and powers?

Bio:  Paul C. Heidebrecht is the Director of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Canada’s advocacy office in Ottawa, Ontario. He holds a B.A.Sc. from the University of Waterloo, an M.A.T.S. from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, and a Ph.D. from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Paul has presented and published several papers on the theme of technology, and has taught courses in theology and ethics in several college and university settings. He is a member of the Society of Christian Ethics.

Virginia Landgraf (American Theological Library Association, Chicago)

Jacques Ellul on Institutions and the Middle Class in Dialogue with Recent U.S. Extra-Partisan Political Rhetoric (PDF)

Abstract:  This paper will analyze Ellul's statements on institutions and the middle class in dialogue with rhetoric surrounding the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (etc.) movements. Descriptively, it will clarify the shape of recent U.S. anti-institutional, pro-institutional, and pro-middle class varieties of civil religion by contrasting them with Ellul's selective anti-individualism and rejection of bourgeois values as nihilism. Constructively, it will stake out a position in theological ethics that eschews certain of Ellul's beliefs about power and abstractions which the author finds theologically untenable yet retains his warnings about the danger of treating people as interchangeable objects and recognizes with Ellul the shallowness of much of what consumerist culture celebrates as progress.

Bio:  Virginia W. Landgraf has been an indexer-analyst at the American Theological Library Association since 2004. She wrote her doctoral dissertation, "Abstract Power and the God of Love: A Critical Assessment of the Place of Institutions in Jacques Ellul's Anthropology of Dialectical Relationships," under Max Stackhouse at Princeton Theological Seminary (2003). She has presented and published on competing Christian interpretations of capitalism, Jacques Ellul's interpretation of the character of Sennacherib in Second Kings, and different readings of the Ten Commandments that can be derived from Ellul's theological and sociological work. She has been a frequent contributor to *The Ellul Forum*. Recently she contributed an essay on the reception of Jacques Ellul in the United States to the French Protestant newspaper *Réforme*.

Ted Lewis (Rice Lake Wisconsin)

Technicity as False Ascendancy: A Review of Ellul’s Treatment of the Tower of Babel Narrative (PDF)

Abstract:  The upward, anti-gravitational force of the Babel project, in contrast to the downward, non-contrived revelation of God, will be discussed in light of Ellul's scattered references to this ancient, archetypal, and even anti-utopian critique of technicity, which operates on four integrative levels: linguistic, technological, social, and spiritual.

Bio:  Ted Lewis, Executive Director for Barron County Restorative Justice Programs, is also Acquisitions Editor for Wipf & Stock Publishers, where he oversees the Jacques Ellul Legacy Series (of reprints).  He holds an MA in Religious Studies (University of Minnesota), where he concentrated on the sociology of religious-based conflicts.

David Lovekin (Hastings College, Nebraska)

Technology and the Further Humiliation of the Word (PDF) 

Abstract: This paper will address some apparent fears of philosophy among Ellul scholars and situate his work in the context of eighteenth century professor of Latin Eloquence Giambattista Vico and twentieth century founder of the philosophy of culture Ernst Cassirer.  Vico's notion of two forms of universality--the imaginative universal and the intelligible universal--drive his claim that law, language, and culture spring from the imaginative, which is not the false or fanciful but which is the creator of "true speech."  A culture that declines is lost in intelligible universals, or, in Ellul's sensibility, technical phenomena.  Cassirer had developed the notion of a symbolic form and had included technology in Form und Technik but was unclear how it fit with the other forms of culture.  I contend that it becomes a usurper of the other forms.  The goal of this paper is to dig deeper into the notion of the symbol and the role it plays or could play in Ellul's thought. 

Bio:  David Lovekin received his PhD at the University of Texas at Dallas and is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of Religion and Philosophy at Hastings College in Nebraska. He is the author of Technique, Discourse and Consciousness: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Jacques Ellul and co-editor of Essay in Humanity and Technology.  He has published numerous essays on Ellul and Vico and problems in the Philosophy of Culture.

Randal Marlin, (Carlton University, Ottawa)

Responding to Propaganda in the 21st Century: Thoughts from an Ellulian Perspective

Abstract: Propaganda continues to dominate in the 21st Century, with a proliferation of lobbyists, public relations advisors and media consultants. Ellul warned against the intrusion of the technical into human relations and we see today more than ever the diminution of spontaneity in government and corporate relations with the public. Media conglomerates and cross-ownership add to the problems. The arrival of the Internet has opened up possibilities for new sources of information, as WikiLeaks has demonstrated. But Ellul long ago pointed out that new media enter into a politicized world and dominant actors in that world are likely to use that dominance to marginalize the liberating effects of new media. This article looks at ways of responding to the new challenges, from a particularly Ellulian perspective that includes reference to what he called “total propaganda.” This leads us to consider how pre-propaganda and myths affect even those well-intentioned people who combat the more recognizable forms of propaganda.

Sebastien Morrillon (La Rochelle)

The origins of a critical thinking: Bernard Charbonneau's readings (1920-1940)

Abstract: "Charbonneau m’a appris à penser et il m’a appris à être un homme libre," Jacques Ellul said in an interview with Patrick Chastenet. This is a study of the origins of Charbonneau's avant-gardist approach to modern political ecology. His theories were elaborated instrumentalizing unique hands-on experiences with nature combined with an intellectual inquiry influenced by analytical and critical writings. The study aims to shed a light on Charbonneau's readings and underline their convergences with Jacques Ellul's readings all at the same time.  

Bio: Sebastien Morillon is “agrégé” and PhD student of History. A history teacher at La Rochelle who is working on an intellectual biography of Bernard Charbonneau, he wrote a master's thesis in 2001 on "Bernard Charbonneau and totalitarianism."

Nick Ogle (George Fox University)

The Function of the University in the Technological Society (PDF)

Abstract: What might be the function of the university in the technological society envisioned by Jacques Ellul? In this paper I employ Ellul’s theory of a dialectic between technological determinism and human freedom as I8 address fundamental issues in the philosophy and praxis of higher education, especially with regard to the adoption of emergent educational technologies.

Bio: Nick Ogle recently earned a Bachelor of Arts from George Fox University. He researched Ellul as an undergraduate Richter Scholar, and has since enjoyed reading his theological and sociological texts.

Read Mercer Schuchardt (Wheaton College)

The Crucifixion of the Word: Ellul and the Anti-Christian Bias of Digital Media (PDF)

Abstract: In Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, Jacques Ellul claimed that “this de-Christianization through the effects of one instrument – propaganda – is much greater than through all the anti-Christian doctrines.”  This paper seeks a.) to understand Ellul’s broad and inclusive definition of propaganda, and b.) to argue how the forms of digital media today create an even stronger anti-Christian bias than their mechanical and electronic counterparts did in Ellul’s lifetime.  

Bio: Read Mercer Schuchardt is Associate Professor of Communication at Wheaton College. He earned his Ph.D. in Media Ecology under Neil Postman at New York University. He is the founder and publisher of Metaphilm (www.metaphilm.com), editor of the collected volume You Do Not Talk About Fight Club, contributing author to a forthcoming Ellul primer (Cascade), and author of the forthcoming Seven Vices of the Virtual Life (IVP)  He lives in Wheaton, IL with his wife and eight children.

Christian Roy

Ecological Personalism: The Bordeaux School of Bernard Charbonneau and Jacques Ellul (PDF)

Noah Toly (Wheaton College)

The Meaning of the Global City

Abstract: In 1970, Jacques Ellul published The Meaning of the City, a treatise on the spiritual meaning and identity of urban settlements and the presence and influence of the city in the world. In a time of renewed passion for the city, Ellul developed his thesis that the city represents a project of human self-assertion and self-realization, and a rejection of faith in God’s promises in favor of faith in the security offered by the city. The book was poorly received and largely misunderstood by the urbanist community, who understood Ellul to be demeaning the city, despite his frequent assertions that the city is the greatest human achievement and the sine qua non of all other cultural accomplishments. From an ethical perspective, urbanists and ethicists alike took Ellul to license disengagement from the city at a time of extraordinary urban plight. Since 1970, due to global demographic and political economic shifts, scholars have taken increasing interest in the presence and influence of cities in the world. Global cities, world cities, megacities, megaslums, cosmopoli, and aerotropoli preoccupy the work of geographers, political scientists, sociologists, and urbanists, alike. These urban communities are perceived as simultaneously the greatest threat and the greatest hope to human life and global ecology, with authors claiming either that our trajectory is bent toward a “planet of slums” or toward “the triumph of the city.” This paper elaborates the significance of Ellul’s argument in The Meaning of the City for the landscape of contemporary urbanism.

Bio:  Noah Toly received his Ph.D. in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware and is Associate Professor of Politics & International Relations and Director of Urban Studies at Wheaton College. His research and teaching interests are at the intersection of urban and global environmental politics. He is co-editor of Transforming Power: Energy, Environment, and Society in Conflict, Keeping God’s Earth, and Cities and Global Governance: New Sites for International Relations.

Gabriel Vahanian (Syracuse University)

Ellul and the Subversion of Christianity: A Theological Appraisal

Abstract: Unlike Marx, the other of the two Karls whose work influenced Ellul, Barth had nothing to say about technology. Unlike Marx who somehow saw religion at least as an ersatz of utopia, Barth entirely evaded the issue. Ellul was never an unconditional Barthian but Barth's influence hinders and chokes Ellul's creative approach to theological reflection. As evidence consider his notion of universal salvation and, even more significantly, his more pregnant if less publicized stance about the problematic status of "prayer" and its crisis.  From the Tower of Babel to Pentecost, it is language itself which, at once universal and parochial (i.e. superfluous and untranslatable), sheds off its traditional skins and turns purveyor par excellence of technique, a technique of the human whose two prongs (if it must call a spade a spade) consist in wording the world and, correspondingly, in worlding the word. No wonder, Ellul  (unlike Barth, seemingly) was interested in the poetics of language, in a subversive Christianity rather than its subversion — a subversion whose culprit is not so much the secular as a religious hangover of the sacred, fanned, moreover, by the general confusion of it with the holy.

Bio: Gabriel Vahanian (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is Emeritus Professor of Religion, Syracuse University and Professor Emeritus of Cultural Theology, Strasbourg. He was a founding member of the American Academy of Religion and the founder and first director of the PhD program in religion at Syracuse University. His 2008 Birks Lectures at McGill University, Montréal, were on Beyond Religious Exclusivism and Cultural Pluralism: The Christic Achievement of Language. Among his many books are The Death of God: The Culture of our Post-Christian Era (1961), God and Utopia: The Church in a Technological Civilization (1977), L’Utopie chrétienne (1992), Anonymous God: An essay on not dreading words (2001), and Praise of the Secular (2008).

Jacob Van Vleet (Diablo Valley College, CA)

Jacques Ellul on Modern Propaganda as Psychological Violence (PDF)

Abstract: Ellul asserts that modern propaganda is often a form of “psychological violence.”  This claim raises many questions, including the following:  How does Ellul define propaganda?  What is his conception of violence?  What constitutes psychological violence?  This paper briefly answers these crucial questions by looking to two of Ellul’s books: Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (1965) and Violence: Reflections from a Christian Perspective (1969).

Bio: Jacob Van Vleet is a PhD candidate at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, just completing his dissertation on Ellul’s understanding of technique and freedom. He teaches philosophy and religion at Diablo Valley College in the San Francisco Bay Area and recently published a chapter on Ellul’s theory of propaganda “A Theoretical Approach to Mass Psychological Manipulation.”  Jacob is primarily interested in Ellul’s dialectical methodology and his philosophy of technology.

Gregory Wagenfuhr (Bristol University, UK)

Will the Gospel Survive? Proclamation and Faith in the Technical Environment (PDF)

Abstract: If we accept Ellul's three-environment metanarrative of "the Human Adventure" found in What I Believe, the proclamation of the revelation of God seemingly becomes an increasing impossibility. The gospel of Jesus Christ was not only delivered in the language and culture of its various ages, it was delivered in the social milieu. In the current technical milieu, does the gospel need much more than linguistic translation? Can it survive translation into the technical milieu?

Bio: Gregory Wagenfuhr (BA, Wheaton, MDiv, Westminster) is anticipating completion of his PhD in Theology from the University of Bristol, UK in June of 2012, studies conducted under the supervision of Andrew Goddard. His PhD concerns the question of ethical justification from the perspective of Christian faith. His thesis centres around Jacques Ellul, especially in his investigation of the sacred and 'X' as desacralisation. Wagenfuhr goes beyond Ellul to suggest that Christian faith entails life without moral justification. He spoke at last year's Ellul conference in Lisbon arguing that Ellul's environmental metanarrative is superior to that of modernity/postmodernity, a paper to be published with that conference's material. Wagenfuhr is currently seeking lectureship following completion of his studies. He has plans for a new systematic theology and other works dealing with the relationship of epistemological, ontological, moral and theological justification.

Sue Wentworth, (Annapolis, MD)

 On the Lookout for the Unexpected: Ellul As Combative Contemplative (PDF)

Abstract: To engage what was for Ellul the "absolutely central" issue of "the style of life," this essay explores his understanding and conveyed experience of prayer, drawing on Christianity's contemplative (apophatic, mystical) tradition to shed light on Ellul, and inviting Ellul to shed light on our contemporary understanding of contemplation.

Bio: Sue F. Wentworth (Ph.D., Emory) is a lay leader and liturgist at St. Mary's Church in Annapolis, Maryland, a companion to the dying, and a grateful reader of Ellul.

Langdon Winner (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York)

Jacques Ellul at the Movies: The "Qatsi" films of Godfrey Reggio and Philip Glass

Abstract: A significant and enduring legacy of Ellul’s philosophy is its influence upon the cinematic trilogy – Koyannisqatsi, Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi – created by director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass. In flowing visual images and provocative musical scores, but with virtually no spoken text, questions about humanity, nature, technology, and ethics central in Ellul’s thinking are vividly posed for a global audience. How were the films created? To what extent does their content mirror Ellul’s fundamental concerns? 

Bio:  Langdon Winner is a political theorist interested in the ways in which technology affects the quality of social and political life. Author of Autonomous Technology, The Whale and the Reactor and other works, he teaches at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he is Thomas Phelan Chair of Humanities and Social Sciences. His long-standing involvement with popular culture includes an earlier life as rock critic for Rolling Stone. His blog, Technopolis, offers day-to-day commentaries on political artifacts in humanity’s uncertain future. At present he is at work on a book, The Revolt Against Technology, a study of post-World War II American social thought.