A couple of years ago, I wrote a brief article on the doctrine of vocation for Modern Reformation. It explains what the doctrine is, in its different manifestations–including the Four Estates–and why this teaching is so important. The opening paragraphs:
“Justification by faith alone” is surely the most important contribution of the Reformation. The second most important, arguably, is the “doctrine of vocation.”
Whereas the doctrine of justification has wide currency, the doctrine of vocation has been all but forgotten. The word vocation can still be heard sometimes, but the concept is generally misunderstood or incompletely understood. The doctrine of vocation is not “occupationalism,” a particular focus upon one’s job. The term means “calling,” but it does not have to do with God’s voice summoning you to do a great work for him. It does not mean serving God by evangelizing on the job. Nor does the doctrine of vocation mean that everyone is a minister, though it is about the priesthood of all believers. It does not even mean doing everything for God’s glory, or doing our very best as a way to glorify God, though it is about God’s glory, at the expense of our own.
The doctrine of vocation is the theology of the Christian life. It solves the much-vexed problems of the relationship between faith and works, Christ and culture, how Christians are to live in the world. Less theoretically, vocation is the key to strong marriages and successful parenting. It contains the Christian perspective on politics and government. It shows the value, as well as the limits, of the secular world. And it shows Christians the meaning of their lives.