Milkmaids No More: Revisiting Luther’s Doctrine of Vocation from the Perspective of a “Gig” Economy -- By: David Kotter

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 22:1 (Spring 2018)
Article: Milkmaids No More: Revisiting Luther’s Doctrine of Vocation from the Perspective of a “Gig” Economy
Author: David Kotter


Milkmaids No More: Revisiting Luther’s Doctrine of Vocation from the Perspective of a “Gig” Economy

David Kotter

David Kotter is a Professor of New Testament Studies and Dean of the School of Theology at Colorado Christian University, Lakewood, Colorado. He earned his PhD from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, MDiv and MA from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, and MBA from the University of Illinois. Dr. Kotter also serves as the Research Director of the Commonweal Project on Faith, Work and Human Flourishing as well as a Visiting Scholar for the Institute of Faith, Work and Economics. He contributed chapters to For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty (Zondervan, 2015), and Counting the Cost: Christian Perspectives on Capitalism (Abilene Christian University Press, 2017).

Looking back over 500 years, Protestants can be grateful that the Reformation reclaimed for the church three essential truths: justification by grace through faith, the authority of scriptures and the doctrine of vocation.1 The first two have been well-explored by scholars over the centuries, while the doctrine of vocation has gained prominence only in the past few decades. In addition to breaking down any hierarchy between clergy and laity, this focus on vocation has brought dignity to daily employment and encouragement in non-remunerative occupations like motherhood.

Nevertheless, as Dan Doriani noted, “Luther’s view of calling better fits a static society. In his day, economies were simpler and work fell into lines that seem to follow a natural or created order, filled with farmers and carpenters.

But these ideas fit less easily in societies with more flux and innovation.”2 In other words, Luther’s doctrine of vocation comfortably presupposed each individual occupied a certain position in society with a specific type of job, however, many of these jobs no longer exist. For example, almost three quarters of workers in the heart of Europe at the time of the Reformation were farmers, but fewer than three in 100 worked in agriculture in 2016.3 Luther declared in his sermons that God milked cows through milkmaids, but it is unclear how this idea might still apply to the two technicians in a computer-mechanized dairy overseeing a machine capable of milking 72 cows simultaneously.4 Even “tent-making” missionaries rarely make tents as a business anymore. For this reason, the church needs to ...

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