In Luther’s mind, the methods and tools of one’s craft—technology—are rightly used when deployed in service to neighbors; needles, thimbles, beer barrels, scales, computers, and smartphones ought to enrich the lives of others instead of hurting, harming, or taking advantage of them. This implies also that those who create these technologies must also consider the ends to which they are being employed—to help or harm others.
Rev. A. Trevor Sutton, the co-writer with me of Authentic Christianity: How Lutheran Theology Speaks to a Postmodern World, is working on a doctorate in which he is studying the relationship between technology and theology. He has written some interesting articles lately that I wanted to pass along.
In Mr. Zuckerberg, Meet Martin Luther, he applies the doctrine of vocation to Silicon Valley. Like the “Robber Barons” of the Gilded Age, the tycoons of Silicon Valley have been both lauded for their economy-and-culture-changing entrepreneurship and condemned for their all-too-human faults. Trevor shows that not only in their influence but in the “digital interfaces” that they rule over, the CEOs of high-tech companies function much like the “rulers” whom Luther exhorts to serve their subjects.
Then Trevor connects technology to what Luther wrote about tools, in the context of vocation. I’ll give you a sampling of that.