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The Humiliation of the Word by Jacques Ellul


Jacques Ellul was Professor of Law and Sociology and History of Institutions at the University of Bordeaux. He has published several hundred articles and over thirty books. This book was published by Williams B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1985. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.


Preface
The church indulges our desire to "feel good" instead of responding to our need to be spiritually challenged and fed through solid exposition of the Scriptures. The electronic church in particular panders to our appetite for entertainment rather than authentic discipleship and maturity. The following chapters make this abundantly clear. Each chapter is a gem by itself, therefore there is an entire collection of wisdom here.

Introduction: Back to Basics
The logical sequence of visual images and the coherence of spoken language are the starting point of this study.

Chapter 1: Seeing and Hearing: Prolegomena

Compared to phonetic language, graphic symbolism benefits in a special way from a degree of independence: its content expresses in the three dimensions of space what phonetic language expresses in the single dimension of time. Images enjoy a dimensional freedom that writing lacks. An image can set in motion the verbal process which leads to the telling of a myth, but the image is not attached to the myth. Thus in the case of picture writing we are in the presence of "groups of figures coordinated within a system that is foreign to linear organization and thus foreign to the possibilities of continual speech."

Chapter 2: Idols and the Word
The text that encloses the truth of the Word of God is never so exact that it only bears repeating. This text invites me to retell the myth, and the recreated myth calls me to listen to the ultimate, absolute Word. The Word obliges me to speak implying that the text should never be fixed, reduced to structures, enclosed within itself, or understood as if it were an exact and precise mathematical formula. No valid semiotic diagram exists that can exhaust the text that is a metaphor for the Word of God. Such a text must be spoken rather than dissected.

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