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The sinister heart of "La Technique"

"He has made everything beautiful in its time..." Ecclesiastes 3.11

The opening chapter of Genesis tells us much about God's method in creation. Such a rich variety of creatures, whose flourishing is both their purpose and their appropriate response in praise of our creator! Yet even before they are made, God prepares the spheres in which they are to flourish: habitats for the inhabitants, from stars and planets to birds, fish and animals. As those with a particular likeness to God and with responsibilities towards our fellow creatures, humankind has been wrestling with our role and identity ever since.

In the Middle Ages, Julian of Norwich illuminated our appreciation of God's creation by pointing out that God not only made all things but he sustains and loves them too. Our faithful response is to work out the place and purpose God has marked out for us. As the apostle Paul reminds us, we are not all hands or eyes or feet; each is different but each is necessary to the functioning of the whole body under the head which is Christ.

Yet the advent of post-modernity has introduced a sinister twist, in its suggestion that we can re-create ourselves as autonomous beings, independent of God and free to negotiate our relationships in light of this recapitulating of our identity. This may sound invigorating, until we heed the warning of Jacques Ellul: rebellious humanity's obsession with rationality and artificiality (which one may trace all the way back to the Tower of Babel story in Genesis 11) has its roots not in independence but in greed. Naked greed fuels our desire to maximise consumption through discovering ever more ingenious ways to rape and pillage the world's resources.

Ellul named this attitude "La technique" because it reduces every process of every creature to mechanisation, thus purging it of personality, spontaneity and - crucially - accountability to anyone or anything other than the god of efficiency. Atomising God's created order into units of production and then manufacturing systems to churn out great quantities of stuff - whether goods or services - not only threatens creatures, it also imposes a huge strain on the environment and ecosystems in which those creatures were designed to blossom and flourish. And yet this greed machine is how the world now works, there is no easy way to avoid it. We are locked into a vehicle which is hurtling us towards destruction...



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