Theology, Ethics, and Technology in the Work of Jacques Ellul and Paul Virilio examines biographical and textual connections between sociologist-theologian Jacques Ellul and philosopher-phenomenologist Paul Virilio. Through an examination of their embeddedness in the socio-historical context of postwar France, Michael Morelli identifies a relationship between these critics of technology that bears the marks of a nascent theological tradition. He shows from various vantage points how Ellul and Virilio’s nascent tradition exposes technology as modernity’s primary idol; and, how these thinkers use multiple disciplines—including history, sociology, philosophy, phenomenology, theology, and ethics—to resist the perilous consequences of the modern world’s worship of power and the kinds of technologies this misdirected worship produces. Jacques Ellul’s death in 1994 and Paul Virilio’s death in 2018 may have prevented the maturation of this nascent theological tradition, but this book will aid in this tradition’s ripening through the presentation of an illuminating way to read these two unique, prophetic intellectuals.
Michael Morelli is assistant dean of undergraduate studies and assistant professor of theology, culture & ethics at Northwest College and Seminary
Chapter 1: War, Modernity, and Technology
Chapter 2: The Construction of Idols
Chapter 3: Combatting Myth with Myth
Chapter 4: Technology’s Origins
Chapter 5: Power, Powers, and Technology
Chapter 6: Ethics for Modern Thought, Action, and Making
Theology, Ethics, and Technology in the Work of Jacques Ellul and Paul Virilio is a ground-breaking engagement with the stark divergence in Christian assessments of technology after the Second World War. As North Americans revelled in the wealth unleashed by the industrial might that had ended the war, Christians in Europe who had seen its effects first hand found less to celebrate. In excavating the underappreciated tradition of thinking about technology in Ellul and Virilio, Michael Morelli recovers essential resources and insights for Christians desiring to critically engage the brutal efficiency of our technological present.
Technology as a power and a practice is often presented as the modern idol par excellence. Judging it, condemning it is not enough; we still need to build a theology that meets the expectations and challenges of believers and humans of our time. Jacques Ellul and Paul Virilio carried out this task with audacity and intelligence. Michael Morelli, in studying their work, does more than give them the intellectual place they deserve: he provides the foundations for a form of theological thought made necessary today.
Ours is a technological age. Yet critical and reflective, even responsible, thinking about technology is not abundant. Working with and from the writings of Paul Virilio and Jacques Ellul, Michael Morelli offers an incisive and important contribution to such thinking. This is a book worth reading! This is a book that illuminates not only the critical philosophy of technology but also the sociological and theological studies germane to the tradition these thinkers inhabited for their examination and interrogation of our present age—like all other before it, an age in waiting for and still learning to bear witness to Christ.
In the ongoing struggle to come to grips with what technology is doing with us and our societies there is much to be learned from the important work of Virilio and Ellul. Morelli’s fine study insightfully reads these two critics together to excellent effect, illuminating the decisive theological dimension of their work and tracing the contours of an emerging tradition of ethical analysis and critique from which much is to be hoped.
I loved reading this account of two wise French critics of technology. One, a Protestant exposer of idols; the other, a Catholic expositor of the image, both capable of incandescent readings of scripture and razor-sharp insight about our times. Morelli’s work is enough to make you wonder what other surprising theological resources there might be to help unmask our modern idols and free us from the clutches of the little gods in our pockets and the propagandists colonizing our imaginations.
One of our brightest young Jacques Ellul scholars, Michael Morelli, invites us into a philosophicallly deep, biblically critical, historically urgent consideration of how our contemporary world is dominated by not just our technological devices but a narrow technological way valuing, thinking, acting, and making. What makes Morelli's exploration unique is the way he brings into conversation not just Jacques Ellul but Paul Virilio. This volume stretches the mind and then pushes us toward radical, faithful, redemptive response.
In this important book, Michael Morelli brings Jacques Ellul and Paul Virilio in astute dialogue about technologies. As Morelli skillfully explores and connects their works, he also mediates on the promises and propaganda of the technologies Ellul and Virilio encountered. Morelli wonders, with them, "How are our contemporary technologies forming us to believe in their power and promise, even to the point of idolatry?" Morelli's insights suggest to Christians they need careful deliberation in technology use—especially since it is so easy to become blinded to their power and all-too-quickly to succumb to their charms without appropriate consideration for Christian formation. This book is well-worth reading for its scholarly inquiries into Ellul and Virilio as well as for its considered questions about the ways technologies function for us as individuals and as a church.
Jacques Ellul and Paul Virilio were two of the most important French intellectuals dealing with the often exploitative and alienating entailments of contemporary technology, media, and propaganda. In this thoughtful and groundbreaking work, Morelli draws out novel correlations between the two thinkers and affords readers the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the profoundly relevant and prophetic ideas and implications of Ellul and Virilio. A brilliant piece of scholarship.