Loss of Transcendence - Lesson 25

Technique in the Modern World (Part 2)

In this lesson, you will delve into the implications of technique on modern society, exploring the loss of transcendence, fragmentation of society, and dehumanization. You will examine the challenges posed by technique, such as its impact on human relationships, loss of privacy, and control of information. Finally, you will learn how to respond to these challenges by developing a biblical perspective, reclaiming transcendence, and strengthening human connections.

James Houston
Loss of Transcendence
Lesson 25
Watching Now
Technique in the Modern World (Part 2)

TH730-25: Technique and the Modern World - Part 2

I. Introduction to the Technique in the Modern World

A. Recap of Part 1

B. Overview of Part 2

II. Implications of Technique on Society

A. Loss of Transcendence

B. Fragmentation of Society

C. Dehumanization

III. Challenges Posed by Technique

A. Impact on Human Relationships

B. Loss of Privacy

C. Control of Information

IV. Responding to the Challenges of Technique

A. Developing a Biblical Perspective

B. Reclaiming Transcendence

C. Strengthening Human Connections

  • Explore the loss of transcendence in modernity, examining its historical and philosophical context, defining transcendence and immanence from biblical and historical perspectives, exploring the impact of various movements on theology, and considering responses to the loss of transcendence.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insight into the Greek world's origins of language and culture, the evolution of Greek history and thought, and the differences between Greek and Roman history. By examining the works of Luke as a Roman historian, you will better understand the cosmic and intimate nature of Christian history.
  • The Christian historiographical revolution redefined history as linear and purposeful, contrasting with ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish approaches and profoundly impacting the study and writing of history.
  • In this lesson, you gain a deep understanding of the Dark Ages, the Reformation, and the factors that led to the loss and eventual restoration of transcendence in Christianity.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insights into the Reformation and Enlightenment's historical contexts, key figures, and events, as well as their impact on society, religion, and the loss of transcendence, ultimately discovering ways to reclaim transcendence in the modern world.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights into the loss of transcendence in modern society, its consequences, the role of Christianity in addressing the issue, and strategies for engaging with secular culture and promoting spiritual renewal.
  • This lesson teaches you about Radical Christianity, its importance, and how to cultivate it through deepening your relationship with God, prioritizing spiritual growth, and practicing radical love and social justice in a world experiencing a loss of transcendence.
  • Through this lesson, you grasp the factors contributing to the loss of biblical authority and learn strategies to reaffirm its importance in Christianity.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insights into contemporary biblical criticism, its methodologies, impact on theology, and learn to appreciate its contributions while recognizing its limitations.
  • By examining biblical criticism and its various forms, you gain insight into how Christians can respond thoughtfully, affirming Scripture's authority while engaging with criticisms and maintaining a commitment to truth.
  • By examining the loss of the soul, you'll understand its diminishing importance in modern life and learn to integrate science and spirituality for a holistic, transcendent perspective.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insights into classical interpretations of the soul and their interaction with Christian theology, while also understanding their modern theological implications.
  • This lesson equips you with a comprehensive understanding of the embodiment of faith, its historical development, theological implications, and practical applications in the Christian life.
  • By studying this lesson on embodiment in community, soul, and culture, you will learn how these concepts impact spiritual formation and shape your understanding of Christian faith and practice.
  • The lesson on embodiment and self-sacrifice offers insights into the New Testament, emphasizing Jesus' incarnation, the human body as the Holy Spirit's temple, and self-sacrifice as a key Christian virtue, while providing theological and practical applications.
  • This lesson equips you to understand the biblical concept of sin, the factors contributing to its loss, and offers practical steps to reintroduce sin in teaching and preaching for a more complete Christian faith.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into the cardinal sins and their contemporary significance, learning how to identify and combat them in modern society for personal and spiritual growth.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights into C.S. Lewis's critique of the loss of transcendence in modern society, his theological perspectives, and his emphasis on imagination in Christianity.
  • This lesson offers an in-depth analysis of the theological differences between Oxford and Cambridge and their impact on the loss of transcendence in modern theology.
  • What then did Lewis write about in The Abolition of Man? The symbol is that the immediate threat is not the abolition of man, but the abolition that there are men without chests. And he means that being without a chest is living two dimensionally and not three dimensionally. It’s not that you just live in space and time, but that you live with space, time and God or, indeed, space, time and morals. And so really it’s simply to live an amoral life. And you begin to lose your emotional life when you live with amorality.

  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into Jacques Ellul's critique of technological society, its consequences, theological implications, and the need for a countercultural response in the face of modern challenges.
  • This lesson guides you in understanding the loss of transcendence, seeking understanding, and retaining hope amidst the challenges of modern society.
  • You gain insight into Jacques Ellul's life, his views on the loss of transcendence, and the influence of his work on theology and society.
  • You will learn about the concept of technique in the modern world, its characteristics, societal effects, and the spiritual implications it holds for faith and transcendence.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights into the implications of technique on society, its challenges, and ways to respond from a biblical perspective, ultimately aiming to strengthen human connections and reclaim transcendence.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insights into the Psalms' structure, types, role in ancient worship, and their significance in modern Christian life, prayer, and spiritual growth.
  • In this lesson, you will explore the role of domestic involvement in the Psalter, its significance in Ancient Israel's worship, and the impact of the Psalms on the community, values, and beliefs.
  • Gain insights into the connection between biblical eschatology and secularity, understanding key aspects and themes while learning to reclaim the transcendent in eschatology.
  • This lesson offers insight into the theological tensions between immanence and transcendence, their impact on modern theology and worship, and the practical steps for reintegrating them into the Christian life.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into the concepts of immanence and transcendence, their effects on theology and culture, and the importance of integrating both for a balanced Christian worldview.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into time and eternity, God's relationship with them, and their impact on human experience and theological concepts such as soteriology, eschatology, and Christian living.
  • Gain insight into Old Testament concepts of time, the role of numbers and patterns, the significance of time in biblical prophecy, and the theological implications concerning God's sovereignty and human responsibility.
  • This lesson provides insight into the New Testament's complex understanding of time, addressing concepts such as the Kingdom of God, the present age, and eternal life, and offering guidance for Christian living.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into the loss of transcendence in modern society and learn how to recover and foster a transcendent view within your personal faith and church life.

This course on the loss and recovery of transcendence in our contemporary culture is, of course, appropriate for all Christians, but, I think, especially for us here in North America, for the political prominence of a Christian religious culture that we’ve had in North America that makes us all the more exposed to the secularisation of contemporary Christianity. 

Dr. James Houston

Loss of Transcendence


Technique in the Modern World (Part 2)

Lesson Transcript


We have been saying that Ellul observes five things about [techne 00:00:05]. That it’s total in its comprehension; it’s universal in its globalisation; and now we’re going to see that it’s also automism and what we mean by automism is it’s self-directing. And this is the nature of what we mean by efficiency—that it’s self-directing. What’s the best way of doing it we say? And so personal choice is inhibited because of this technical imperative.

And we find that our manners and behaviour are profoundly affected by this. I remember that when my children were younger and we gave them, say, a graduation gift or something very special, we got a letter of thanks. You get no letters today. You get an email response, or not even an email response. You get a telephone call. And we’ve become very lazy in our social behaviour, all because of efficiency, because it cuts down on time. And this imperative of efficiency means that it reduces the relational quality of our life with other people.

And so technique has to progress relentlessly and values are relativised to efficiency. And so morals, tradition, faith, personal virtue, all these are secondary to technique. And, of course, we find the same thing with our churches, that everything is now put on the computer and the email. And sometimes we get very bogus letters. Dear James, I’ve been thinking about you this last week and I thought that this Biblical verse would be of personal interest to you, or perhaps to comfort you, so I’m sending it to you now. Who is it being sent to? 10,000 others. That’s what’s happening. And so we’ve become fraudulent about our relationships, even within the Christian world. And this letter, which actually was sent to 10,000 other people, was sent by somebody that was supposed to be an intimate friend of mine, but obviously he was a bogus friend. So we don’t realise the tyranny and the distortion of our moral behaviour that efficiency is producing these days with the computer.

Then lastly, there is the total comprehensiveness of everything so that we can never escape from this whole realm. And this is what Ellul considered to be the city of man. The city is the climax like the Tower of Babel was a climax of human existence. And so the urbanisation of the world that is reshaping our whole globe is the impact that technology is having demographically on the future of mankind. We truly see that the city of Cain is the city of the future. It’s all of a piece. So what do you do in living in the city? You compete. You achieve. You make money. Everything becomes increasingly more complex technically. The city is where you don’t talk about the cross or the Resurrection. It’s no place for those kind of things. The Gospel then becomes harder and harder to communicate in the city because it’s totally countercultural to what we’re facing.


Even in my own time, I love going into the countryside for a holiday. It’s not only a relaxation physically, it’s a profound relaxation emotionally and spiritually because I’m with country people. I’m back to peasant life. And I discover that if I want to know who is a real person, I won’t find him in the city. I’ll find him in the countryside. So when the poet in the 18th century Pope said that God made the country, but man made the town, he was dead right.

So that then is the solemn conclusion to this profoundly significant voice of Jacques Ellul. And one of the problems about publishing is it has its fashions. A book is written and then it’s supposed to be forgotten because there are other new books that have come to take its place. But one of the things that the Christian should always have in his consciousness is the importance of the classics, of the prophets who’ve spoken in the past and whose voice still speaks to us, whether it comes from people like Augustine in the 4th and early 5th century—a wonderful classic he is—or whether it comes from later classics, like John Bunyan, or whether it comes from a contemporary classic, like Ellul and Lewis. These books should never be forgotten. They should always remain in our consciousness.