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Vocation, Vocation, Vocation

19 April, 2010

One of the many truly biblical themes that Martin Luther brought into the foreground during the Reformation was the theme of Christian vocation. No longer was it the territory of the privileged few closed off in a monastery somewhere, who were truly ‘doing God’s work’ — for Luther, doing work well-pleasing to God was doing whatever God has called us to, and doing it in faith and faithfully. Our ‘vocation’ isn’t to be called out of and away from this world, but to be called into this world, as salt and light witnesses to Jesus Christ.

Whenever anyone asks me to describe what it’s like to be working on a PhD in systematic theology, I most often compare it to the skilled trades. Being a theologian is something like being a doctor or a lawyer, that’s true — but only because being a doctor or lawyer is a lot like being an electrician, a carpenter, or a plumber. Some people find it odd to make this comparison, but I suggest that this is usually the case when we’re not being ‘Lutheran’ enough in our understanding of vocation. Sometimes we think that it’s better to be a doctor, for instance, simply because for most people it’s more prestigious than being a plumber (although a good number of plumbers make more money than a good number of doctors!). That’s not a biblical way to think about it. That’s one of the reasons I like this article, although it’s not purposefully written from a biblical perspective.

There’s nothing intrinsically better or holier to getting a degree in theology. In fact, there’s nothing intrinsically better about getting any degree whatsoever. Remember what ‘vocation’ or ‘calling’ means: whatever God has called us to do in this world for his glory and the good of others. To do this in faith and faithfully requires the Holy Spirit, not a particular job title or certain letters after your name.

  1. Richard permalink
    29 April, 2010 11:15 pm

    Gustaf Wingren’s book, “Luther on Vocation” is an excellent resource on this subject–as is Gene Veith’s book, “God at Work.” The idea that God works our sanctification through our faithfullness at our vocations was a paradigm shifting thought for me.

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