Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Technology

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 3 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2004): 67.
“We do not rule; instead we are ruled. The thing, the world, rules humankind; humankind is a prisoner, a slave, of the world, and its dominion is an illusion. Technology is the power with which the earth seizes hold of humankind and masters it. And because we no longer rule, we lose the ground so that the earth no longer remains our earth, and we become estranged from the earth. The reason why we fail to rule, however, is because we do not know the world as God’s creation and do not accept the dominion we have as God-given but seize hold of it for ourselves...There is no dominion without serving God; in losing the one humankind necessarily loses the other. Without God, without their brothers and sisters, human beings lose the earth.”
Wow. It might be worth reflecting on ways in which technology, among other things, takes one's brothers and sisters away, to speak nothing of God.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

God is God. Technology is not God.

Luther Large Catechism, 1rst commandment
What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; (…) that upon which you set your heart and put your trust is properly your god.

Sergi

Tyler Wittman said...

Think about iPhones and how they essentially retard people's social skills. In the middle of conversation and people just start staring at a four inch glass screen...drives me crazy.

That's a small way that technology slowly chips away at our brothers and sisters, but it's paradigmatic of the large-scale effect that social media has on people (ironically making them antisocial).

I know you've got more serious mechanisms in mind, but this is the first one that comes to mind. That quote reminds me of Neil Postman's discussion of clocks.

shackbible said...

"Technology is the power with which the earth seizes hold of humankind and masters it." This makes me think of E.F. Schumacher's ideas about the difference between machines and tools. Machines use people, whereas tools are used BY people. Here I also hear echoes of T.F. Torrance's friend Michael Polanyi, who spoke of how tools (as distinct from machines) help us CONNECT with the world, as we "indwell" the tools and touch reality through them. Good stuff!

Adrian said...

But what if in losing the earth I gain world of warcraft? Even trade right? especially considering all the armor upgrades I can't get in this crummy excuse for a world...

Tyler Wittman said...

Travis,

I currently work in an admissions office and I read an article today that had the following insight:
"Campus visits are down, thanks to high gasoline costs, economic difficulty, and possibly a cultural shift away from the importance of being there in person."

The context of the statement is the observation that "millenials" are increasingly accustomed to mediated forms of communication. The question in my mind is whether they're simply "used to" it or more comfortable with it. Either way, it reminded me of your post.