Thursday, June 22, 2006


A post HERE by David Field has got me thinking about the subject.

People in Reformed circles like to do lot thinking, talking and writing about ‘callings’. They do love that word. They might go all around the houses but in the end they simply mean ‘what you do for a living mate’.

And they do go on about it theologically as if it was some biblical doctrine. Well if you look at the Bible the only references to being ‘called’ have to do with having or developing faith in Christ or working in the church – what Roman Catholics refer to as ‘vocation’.

Now it’s interesting that I’ve never come across the Reformed use the word ‘vocation’. How curious? Why ever not? Perhaps the word has become anathema tainted as it is by Roman Catholic usage.

Which makes me even more convinced that all this concentrated focus about ‘callings’ has really more to do about Protestant human and historical tradition than the Bible. And yes I do feel the distinction sometimes needs to be made.

Years ago I read a small book called ‘The Callings’. It was, interestingly enough, written by Paul Helm, a philosopher/theologian who usually writes on more esoteric subjects. But, in this booklet he was being very down to earth. It is there that I must have read that it was Luther that got the theological world talking about ‘callings’ in a big way.

And I can understand why.

He was pushing a thing called the “universal priesthood of all believers” in his fight against the church hierarchy of Rome. And it was probably a high agenda item for him and so it has stayed there for over 500 years !

Now Helm’s book has on the cover the picture of a man carving a wooden horse. It instantly makes you think : ‘feudal workshops’.

When earnest appeal to the Bible is made, the only meaty substance of relevance are the Old Testament passages to fathers passing their trade on to their sons.

Now how archaic is that?

How many people today, in the 20th or 21st century, get trained by and carry on the trade of their own fathers? It’s a different world, mate.

Which means that trying to shoehorn a medieval (or older) agenda to today’s world and call it a distinctively Christian and biblical approach is probably going to be contrived and wrong headed.

So is there no distinctively Christian and biblical approach to ‘callings’?

There definitely is.

The first place to start is to stop calling it ‘calling’ and then look up all the New Testament passages which talk about ‘slaves’ and ‘masters’.

While the institution of slavery might also be a thing of the past, these are actual biblical principles which are enduring and applicable to work in our day. The principles there are no way nearly as over-defined as all the ink and paper that has gone into creating the artificial theological edifice known as ‘callings’.

But it may just be the ‘calling’ of theologians and philosophers to do just that: waste a lot of ink and paper creating artificial theological edifices.

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