Although Jacques Ellul’s academic training and his teaching at the University of Bordeaux have been in law, sociology, and history, he has long been concerned with the shape of Christian behavior as much as with the shape of the world. Christians are commanded by God to be very much in the world. Yet, by virtue of their relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, they are to be distinctly not of the world. This role demands, on the one hand, realism regarding the character of the world, and on the other hand, knowledge of and obedience to the Word of God.

Over the past thirty years, Ellul’s reputation has been most broadly established through his studies in sociological “realism,” especially The Technological Society, The Political Illusion, and Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (all three available in Vintage paperback editions). At the same time, however, he has published a steady stream of biblical, theological, and ethical studies. His latest, The Ethics of Freedom (Eerdmans, 517 pp., $13.50) is by far the largest and most important Christian “answer” to the situation of the world that Ellul has yet made. It is the first “main volume” of his projected series on Christian ethics.

All of Ellul’s work is interrelated, but four earlier volumes are of particular importance as anticipations of The Ethics of Freedom. Two of these are the early works The Theological Foundation of Law (1946; English translation 1960) and The Presence of the Kingdom (1948; English, 1967). More important, for its discussion of the relation between hope and freedom, is Hope in Time of Abandonment (1972; English, 1973). Finally, there is To Will and To Do: An Ethical Research For Christians (1964; English, 1969).

To Will and To Do ...

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