Jacques Ellul on alienation

Quotes are from “The Ethics of Freedom”…

The Bible often talks about the bondage of man…We read of the institution of slavery. We also find bondage to corruption, to the stoicheia of this world….The ending of formal slavery has softened the term. But the situation described remains the same. In our own age the equivalent of slavery is alienation. This is not just a matter of modernizing our vocabulary and changing a word to give better understanding. The reference is to a concrete condition of man today just as the reference in the prophets and Paul is to a concrete situation in their day…

Now don’t zip past this. Paul’s soteriological vocabulary is heavily drawn from the institution of slavery. He got it from the Old Testament as a good rabbinical scholar and he got it from the Roman society around him, as a citizen and traveller. When that institution disappears, as it has in America, then it is natural for the language drawn from it to get transmuted into something else weaker. Today, when we read Paul say something like “slave to sin”, we think something like “bad habits I can’t break”. But Ellul is going to fill the term “slave” back in with the substance it has lost:

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Jacques Ellul on the Frankenstein Phenomenon

Modern technology has become a total phenomenon for civilization, the defining force of a new social order in which efficiency is no longer an option but a necessity imposed on all human activity.

Not even the moral conversion of the technicians could make a difference. At best, they would cease to be good technicians. In the end, technique has only one principle, efficient ordering.

— Probably from The Technological Society

go here if you need an intro to Ellul… there is amazingly little about him on the web.  His books also are strangely valued: his best is “The Ethics of Freedom”, which nobody seems to notice.  It would be among the 10 books I’d want on a desert island.