"Western people no longer hear; everything is grasped by sight. They no longer speak; they show." -- Jacques Ellul
Well-known for his many books on sociology and theology, Jacques Ellul creatively braids these two strands together in this provocative examination of how reality (which is visual) has superseded truth (which is verbal) in modern times. Ellul explores biblical texts for distinguishing visual cultural forms from the communicative (divine and human) Word, then
examines how this distinction plays out with the rise of audiovisual media in the 20th-century West. Even in human speech, visual forms dominate contemporary life and devalue the word; this insight informs discussion of the image/word clash in religion, politics, and art. After a scathing critique of present-day idolatry, Ellul places his hope for nonviolent community in the fragile spoken word. Ultimately, Ellul sees the Bible as presenting a hopeful vision of reconciliation--between visual reality and spoken truth.
A new afterword by Jacob Marques Rollison contextualizes Ellul's stance within French postmodern thought, illuminating Humiliation of the Word as an outspokenly "Protestant communication ethic" in contemporary philosophical and theological discussions of language.