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Vocation as the Christian Life

Fitting in with my vast conspiracy to take over the secular holiday of “Labor Day” and turn it into a Christian holiday celebrating Vocation, I was asked to write about the subject for a special Labor Day issue of  World Magazine .   I believe full access is for subscribers only, so I will take a point of special privilege and reprint it here, in full.   This essay reflects the fruit of my study of the topic since I published God at Work, so it includes some additional aspects than the ones I explore in that book.  I offer it to you as a Labor Day present (presents being a good way to make a holiday popular):

Arenas of Service

Work & Calling | A return to Luther’s doctrine of vocation would mean a return to God’s priorities for our lives—and a return to being more effective salt and light in the world | Gene Edward Veith

Some early church fathers co-opted pagan holidays and turned them into Christian celebrations. Labor Day is ripe for a Christian takeover. A day that had its origins in the early struggles of the labor union movement is now little more than the last long weekend of summer vacation, a final time to fire up the grill before the fall grind starts up again. But celebrating the human capacity to work is an occasion to recover one of Christianity’s most important, yet nearly forgotten teachings; namely, the doctrine of vocation.

Vocation is nothing less than the theology of the Christian life. It provides the blueprint for how Christians are to live in the world and to influence their cultures. It is the key to strong marriages and effective parenting. According to the classic Protestant theologians, our multiple vocations—in the family, the culture, and the workplace—are where sanctification and discipleship happen.

Today many Christians have become disillusioned with political involvement and are floundering for ways to engage the culture. Christians struggle as much as non-Christians with broken marriages and troubled families. The stumbling economy and the pursuit of prosperity seem like materialistic treadmills.

Rediscovering the doctrine of vocation could energize contemporary Christianity and show Christians how once again they can be the world’s salt and light.

The Reformation brought to the fore three key teachings that would characterize the Protestant movement in all of its variations: the authority of Scripture, justification by faith, and the doctrine of vocation.

Modernists would reject the authority of Scripture and postmodernists are currently questioning justification, but vocation—despite contributing to the vast social changes brought on with the Reformation—was perhaps taken for granted and so faded from the church’s memory.

The word is simply the Latinate term for “calling.” Perhaps the best summation of the concept is in 1 Corinthians 7:17: “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.”

God “assigns” different kinds and places of service for each Christian and then “calls” each Christian to that assignment. The Reformation theologians fleshed out this concept with other biblical teachings about God’s workings in society and the Christian’s life in the world (e.g., Ephesians 5-6, Romans 12-13, 1 Corinthians 7).

The great theologian of vocation was Martin Luther, who developed the teaching in his battles with monasticism—the view that the spiritual life requires withdrawal from secular life—and in defining “the priesthood of all believers.”

For Luther, vocation, like justification, is ultimately God’s work. God gives us our daily bread through the vocations of the farmer, the miller, and the baker. God creates new human beings through the vocations of fathers and mothers. God protects us through lawful magistrates.

Vocation is, first of all, about how God works through human beings. In His providential care and governing of His creation, God chooses to distribute His gifts by means of ordinary people exercising their talents, which themselves are gifts of God.

Thus, God heals by means of doctors, nurses, and other medical vocations. He makes our lives easier by means of inventors, scientists, and engineers. He creates beauty by means of artists, authors, and musicians. He gives us clothing, shelter, and other things we need by means of factory workers, construction contractors, and others who work with their hands. He cleans up after us by means of janitors and garbage collectors.

God thus looms behind everyone who provides us with the goods or services that we need. In one of Luther’s many memorable lines, God milks the cows through the hands of the milkmaid. This means that all work and all workers deserve honor. Whereas the world might look down on milkmaids and garbage collectors, they actually bear the sacred presence of God, who works in and through them.

God created us to be dependent on others—meat processors, manufacturers, journalists, lawyers, bankers, teachers, parents—and, through them, we are ultimately dependent upon God Himself.

Just as God is working through the vocation of others to bless us, He is working through us to bless others. In our vocations, we work side-by-side with God, as it were, taking part in His ceaseless creative activity and laboring with Him as He providentially cares for His creation.

Today the word vocation has become no more than a synonym for “job.” The theological term includes the work that we do, but it includes much more than that. God calls us to many different tasks and relationships. The unemployed still have vocations from God. Every Christian has multiple vocations.

Luther sorted them out into four “estates,” or spheres of life that God has established: the church, the household, the state, and what he called “the common order of Christian love.”

Every Christian has been “called” through the gospel into the life of faith (Romans 8:30), becoming a member of Christ’s body, the church. While God providentially works through nonbelievers as well as believers in their labors, “vocation,” strictly speaking, applies to Christians, those who hear themselves addressed in God’s Word. In response to that Word, Christians recognize their other callings as works of faith. But God also calls people to tasks in His church. Pastors speak rightly of being “called” into the ministry, whereupon God works through them to teach His Word, preside at His sacraments, and give spiritual care to His people. Laypeople too are called to do tasks in the local congregation, singing in the choir, serving on committees, serving meals, and in other ways blessing their fellow members.

Being in a family is also a calling. God established marriage, and being a husband or a wife is a vocation. Being a father or a mother is also a vocation. So is being a son or a daughter. So are being a brother or sister, a nephew or uncle, a grandmother or grandfather. (Notice how one person holds multiple vocations within a family: A woman may be the wife of her husband, the mother of her children, the daughter of her mother, the sister of her brother, and more, with each vocation having its particular dimensions of service.)

For Luther the estate of the “household” includes both the family and the activities by which it supports itself. He had in mind the concept expressed in the Greek word oikonomia, the laws of the household, from which we derive our word economy. For Luther, in his day of family-based labor, economic life is connected with family life.

We also have vocations in the state. We were each born into a particular time, place, and society. The cultural context in which we find ourselves is thus part of the life that God has assigned us.

We thus have responsibilities to our government and to our culture as a whole. Some Christians are called to positions of authority in the government. Americans have the unusual calling of being both subjects and rulers at the same time, since our democratic republic places the governing authorities themselves under the authority of the people who elect them. Christians thus have the vocation of citizenship, which means that politics, civic involvement, and cultural engagement are all realms of Christian service.

Our formal positions in the family, the workplace, the church, and the culture are not the only spheres of service to which God assigns us and to which He calls us. Journalists like to refer to themselves as “the fourth estate,” but Luther’s fourth estate is the “common order of Christian love.” This is the realm where people of different vocations interact informally. In Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite were on the way to serve in their vocations, but they ignored the man bleeding by the side of the road. In the ordinary course of everyday life and in our relationships with our friends and neighbors, God also calls us to service.

In stressing the spiritual significance of these so-called “secular” estates, Luther was challenging the Roman Catholic practice of reserving the terms vocation and calling for religious orders, to an individual’s calling from God to become a priest, a monk, or a nun. To enter into these “spiritual” offices required taking a vow of celibacy (thereby rejecting marriage and parenthood), poverty (thereby rejecting full participation in the economic life of the workplace), and obedience (which involved substituting the authority of the church for that of the state).

The Reformers insisted that the Christian life requires not withdrawal from the world but rather engagement in the world. The Christian faith is to be lived out not primarily in “church work” but in vocation.

What this meant in practice is that the “spiritual disciplines” moved out of the monastery into secular life. Celibacy became faithfulness in marriage. Poverty became thrift and hard work. Obedience became submission to the law. Most importantly, prayer, meditation, and worship—while still central to every Christian’s vocation in the church—also moved into the family and the workplace.

Today even Protestant Christians have often slipped into the assumption that serving God is a matter of “church work” or spiritual exercises. Churches set up programs that can take up every night of the week. Some Christians are so busy doing church activities, making evangelism calls, or going to Bible studies that they neglect their spouses and children. Some Christians are preoccupied with “the Lord’s work” while letting their marriages fall apart, ignoring the needs of their children, and otherwise sinning against the actual responsibilities to which God has called them.

But according to the doctrine of vocation, the church is the place where Christians meet every week to find the forgiveness of Christ, feed on God’s Word, and grow in their faith. Whereupon they are sent out into their vocations—to their spouses, children, jobs, and culture—for that faith to bear fruit.

Faith bears fruit in love (Galatians 5:6;

1 Timothy 1:5). The purpose of every vocation is to love and serve our neighbors.

God doesn’t need our good works, Luther said, but our neighbor does. Our relationship with Him is based completely on His work for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. But just as God is hidden in vocation, Christ is hidden in our neighbors. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers”—feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick and imprisoned—”you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). We love and serve God in our vocations by loving and serving the actual human beings He places into our lives.

Every vocation has its particular neighbors. Members of a congregation are called to love and serve each other. In marriage, husbands are to love and serve their wives, and wives are to love and serve their husbands. Parents love and serve their children, who, in turn, love and serve their parents. Rulers love and serve their subjects. Workers love and serve their customers.

Certain vocations exercise authority. But authority itself is not just a matter of exercising power over others. “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,” said Jesus. “But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant. . . . For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

Of course, we often sin in and against vocation. Instead of serving, we want to be served. Instead of loving our neighbor, we often use our neighbor for our own selfish purposes.

Vocation clarifies moral issues. Mothers are called to love and serve their children, not abort them or abuse them. Doctors are called to heal their patients, not kill them. Leaders are called to love and serve those under their authority, not exploit and tyrannize them.

Some actions are sinful when done outside of vocation but good works when done within vocation. We have no calling from God that would authorize having sex with someone to whom we are not married. But within the vocation of marriage, sex is not only authorized, it becomes the means by which God creates a one-flesh union, engenders new life, and builds a family.

Vocation has to do with the priesthood of all believers. A priest is someone who performs a sacrifice. We no longer need sacrifices for our sins, since Christ, our great High Priest, offered Himself as our sacrifice once and for all (Hebrews 9:26). But, in light of that sacrifice, God calls us “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

Loving and serving involves an act of self-denial for the sake of someone else. That is, it involves a sacrifice. Again, Mark 10 says that rulers are to serve as Christ did, giving His life as a ransom. Today’s “Gentiles” not only seek to “lord it over” others, they are obsessed with self-fulfillment and self-assertion. Vocation focuses on self-sacrifice.

The Bible instructs wives to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. At the same time, though, the Bible instructs husbands to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). The husband is not to receive the wife’s submission in domination or in “lording it over” her, since that was not how Christ loved the church. Rather, he is to emulate Christ precisely in “giving himself up” for his wife. Thus, both the wife and the husband are called to sacrifice themselves for each other. Both are presenting themselves as living sacrifices.

The father, coming home from work dead tired, has presented his body as a living sacrifice for his family. So has the mother who drives her kids to soccer practice when she has many other things she would rather do. So has the worker who has put in long hours to do the best job possible for the company’s customers.

Christ, who is in vocation and in the neighbor, takes up all of these sacrifices, small or great, into His sacrifice. And He loves and serves His creation by means of our love and service in our vocations.

In all our religious and ethical life,” says Einar Billing in his classic work on vocation, Our Calling, “we are given to an incredible overestimation of the extraordinary at the expense of the ordinary.” We look for miracles, spectacular events , and mountain top experiences. Meanwhile, the spiritual significance of everyday life gets overlooked. Vocation, though, transfigures our ordinary, mundane existence, charging it with spiritual significance and with the very presence of God.

Luther said that changing a baby’s diaper is a holy work. A child doing his chores is outperforming the Carthusian monks in works of holiness. By extension, we can see the office desk, the factory machinery, the computer screen—likewise the voting booth, the marriage bed, the dining room table—as altars upon which we exercise our royal priesthood.

Vocation is where sanctification happens, as Christians grow spiritually in good works and in their relationships. Vocation is where evangelism happens, as Christians teach their children and interact with nonbelievers. Vocation is where cultural influence happens, as Christians take their places and live out their faith in every niche of society.

Vocation changes the quality of what we do. An artist with a sense of vocation will create not just to express himself or to advance his career but to love and serve—not corrupt or ridicule—his audience. A businessman who sees his customers as the objects of his Christian love will serve them with his very best work.

From the outside, the economy has to do with the division of labor, individuals pursuing their own self-interests, laws of supply and demand, and other impersonal forces. And so it is, as part of God’s created order. From the inside, however, the economy can become transfigured into a vast network of mutual dependence and mutual service, and economic activity can become an expression of love.

Christians can celebrate on Labor Day the joining of our work with God’s work.

Copyright © 2010 WORLD Magazine
August 28, 2010, Vol. 25, No. 17

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://bible.postedpost.com/ Macmillan Christianity

    I believe God desires us to live a prosperous life (which includes spirit, soul and body too, not just “things”). Macmillan Christianity

  • http://bible.postedpost.com/ Macmillan Christianity

    I believe God desires us to live a prosperous life (which includes spirit, soul and body too, not just “things”). Macmillan Christianity

  • http://www.mattbredmond.blogspot.com Matt Redmond

    Thank you so much for this.

  • http://www.mattbredmond.blogspot.com Matt Redmond

    Thank you so much for this.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Well said

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Well said

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    I am celebrating Labor Day weekend by laboring over a beautiful brisket and thanking God for the chance to cook for the family. Still struggle with thanking God while changing a diaper.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    I am celebrating Labor Day weekend by laboring over a beautiful brisket and thanking God for the chance to cook for the family. Still struggle with thanking God while changing a diaper.

  • http://webulite.com webulite.com

    Many calvinists/reformed supernaturalists want to create a sort of christian theocracy in the USA. See;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Dominionism

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_reconstructionism

    So your plan fits right in with that.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • http://webulite.com webulite.com

    Many calvinists/reformed supernaturalists want to create a sort of christian theocracy in the USA. See;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Dominionism

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_reconstructionism

    So your plan fits right in with that.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • Winston Smith

    webulite @ 4,

    Wrong.

    If more Christians understood and took seriously the doctrine of vocation as described here, there would not be as much of a need for the reforms promised/threatened by the Dominionists, Rushdoonyites and Theonomists.

  • Winston Smith

    webulite @ 4,

    Wrong.

    If more Christians understood and took seriously the doctrine of vocation as described here, there would not be as much of a need for the reforms promised/threatened by the Dominionists, Rushdoonyites and Theonomists.

  • George A. Marquart

    Dear Dr. Veith: Thank you for sharing this with us, and praise God for your insights. I have but one concern, and it is one that I have had for most of my life when I hear or read the phrase, “We are to love ….” It occurred about a dozen times (directly and by implication) in your essay, reflecting on situations where often there is no love. My concern has always been, “How do we begin to love when we do not?”

    When I was a child, my stepfather once told me, “I love you because it is my duty.” I don’t know whether he really loved me, but even as a child I realized that duty could not possibly be a source of love. As I have grown older, thanks to the vocations into which our dear Father has placed me, I have arrived at a number of answers to my question:

    1. The new creature who rises out of the waters of Baptism, receives the ability to love, together with other gifts from the Holy Spirit.

    2. Our Confessions speak of this in a number of places, but most notably in The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, II. Free Will, or Human Powers: “Reason and free will are able to a certain extent to live an outwardly decent life; but to be born anew, and to obtain inwardly another heart, mind, and disposition, this only the Holy Ghost effects. He opens the understanding and heart to understand the Scriptures and to give heed to the Word…,” and, “He worketh in us both to will and to do of His own good pleasure, Phil. 2:13,” and, “He takes away the hard heart of stone, and gives a new tender heart of flesh, that we may walk in His commands, Ezek. 11:19; Deut. 30:6; Ps. 51:10.”

    3. Our Heavenly Father, as part of our vocations, creates a whole environment that has as its purpose the edification of His children. Among these are faithful parents, godparents, siblings, other family members, teachers, pastors, friends and other fellow members of the Kingdom into which He has graciously placed us. Among the many interactions we have with all of these people is our mutual encouragement to love even in the face of hatred. The child of God, who has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him, is capable of responding to this encouragement.

    4. We have the privilege of praying to our Heavenly Father. He who wants to give gifts to all of His children, will help us to love. That is the promise His Son made, and His promises never fail.

    5. When I feel the burden of not loving as I should, I look forward to the time when I will see Him face to face, and love Him as He loves me.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    Dear Dr. Veith: Thank you for sharing this with us, and praise God for your insights. I have but one concern, and it is one that I have had for most of my life when I hear or read the phrase, “We are to love ….” It occurred about a dozen times (directly and by implication) in your essay, reflecting on situations where often there is no love. My concern has always been, “How do we begin to love when we do not?”

    When I was a child, my stepfather once told me, “I love you because it is my duty.” I don’t know whether he really loved me, but even as a child I realized that duty could not possibly be a source of love. As I have grown older, thanks to the vocations into which our dear Father has placed me, I have arrived at a number of answers to my question:

    1. The new creature who rises out of the waters of Baptism, receives the ability to love, together with other gifts from the Holy Spirit.

    2. Our Confessions speak of this in a number of places, but most notably in The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, II. Free Will, or Human Powers: “Reason and free will are able to a certain extent to live an outwardly decent life; but to be born anew, and to obtain inwardly another heart, mind, and disposition, this only the Holy Ghost effects. He opens the understanding and heart to understand the Scriptures and to give heed to the Word…,” and, “He worketh in us both to will and to do of His own good pleasure, Phil. 2:13,” and, “He takes away the hard heart of stone, and gives a new tender heart of flesh, that we may walk in His commands, Ezek. 11:19; Deut. 30:6; Ps. 51:10.”

    3. Our Heavenly Father, as part of our vocations, creates a whole environment that has as its purpose the edification of His children. Among these are faithful parents, godparents, siblings, other family members, teachers, pastors, friends and other fellow members of the Kingdom into which He has graciously placed us. Among the many interactions we have with all of these people is our mutual encouragement to love even in the face of hatred. The child of God, who has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him, is capable of responding to this encouragement.

    4. We have the privilege of praying to our Heavenly Father. He who wants to give gifts to all of His children, will help us to love. That is the promise His Son made, and His promises never fail.

    5. When I feel the burden of not loving as I should, I look forward to the time when I will see Him face to face, and love Him as He loves me.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • http://webulite.com webulite.com

    Dear Anonymous “Winston Smith”,

    Well, I don’t see any “need” for reforms that you are implying. Supernaturalism no longer has anything to do with nations governments. People should be free have supernaturaistic beliefs, and even practice supernaturalistic rituals in their home, or special places of supernaturalistic worship. But a nations government should not be affected by supernaturalism at all.

    The good news is that in most nations the affect is very slight, and is decreasing since the Enlightenment. A few nations like the USA and some south american nations, and some middle east nations are moving slower than others, but all nations are making the move.

    The good news is the radical folks that are attempting to create some kind of theocratic governments have little to zero influence, so they are not much of a danger.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • http://webulite.com webulite.com

    Dear Anonymous “Winston Smith”,

    Well, I don’t see any “need” for reforms that you are implying. Supernaturalism no longer has anything to do with nations governments. People should be free have supernaturaistic beliefs, and even practice supernaturalistic rituals in their home, or special places of supernaturalistic worship. But a nations government should not be affected by supernaturalism at all.

    The good news is that in most nations the affect is very slight, and is decreasing since the Enlightenment. A few nations like the USA and some south american nations, and some middle east nations are moving slower than others, but all nations are making the move.

    The good news is the radical folks that are attempting to create some kind of theocratic governments have little to zero influence, so they are not much of a danger.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    webulite, what does this have to do with vocation?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    webulite, what does this have to do with vocation?

  • Becky F.

    I enjoyed the article when I read it in World. I always enjoy your World columns, and I miss when you wrote regularly! It’s nice having a non-Calvinist writing for their wonderful magazine. ;-)

    I would much rather see my children (my son specifically) as a successful plumber, or contractor, or electrician, etc. than spending years in an expensive college earning a degree that does not necessarily correspond with any specific occupation/vocation. I have toddlers and babies, so we have many years of watching them grow up, observing their talents and interests, and helping guide them toward the vocation in which they can best serve.

  • Becky F.

    I enjoyed the article when I read it in World. I always enjoy your World columns, and I miss when you wrote regularly! It’s nice having a non-Calvinist writing for their wonderful magazine. ;-)

    I would much rather see my children (my son specifically) as a successful plumber, or contractor, or electrician, etc. than spending years in an expensive college earning a degree that does not necessarily correspond with any specific occupation/vocation. I have toddlers and babies, so we have many years of watching them grow up, observing their talents and interests, and helping guide them toward the vocation in which they can best serve.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I love you because it is my duty.” I don’t know whether he really loved me, but even as a child I realized that duty could not possibly be a source of love.”

    Not so sure. I read the biography of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband.
    http://www.amazon.de/deutscher-Prinz-England-Hans-Joachim-Netzer/dp/3423303115/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1283642218&sr=1-6

    There seemed considerable evidence that he loved not just Victoria, but the English people out of a sense of duty.

    I can honestly say that duty motivates me to love.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I love you because it is my duty.” I don’t know whether he really loved me, but even as a child I realized that duty could not possibly be a source of love.”

    Not so sure. I read the biography of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband.
    http://www.amazon.de/deutscher-Prinz-England-Hans-Joachim-Netzer/dp/3423303115/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1283642218&sr=1-6

    There seemed considerable evidence that he loved not just Victoria, but the English people out of a sense of duty.

    I can honestly say that duty motivates me to love.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I think webulite is confused. Secularism is waning in plenty of countries and no, it has nothing to do with vocation.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I think webulite is confused. Secularism is waning in plenty of countries and no, it has nothing to do with vocation.

  • Brent

    Thank you, Doctor Veith. You serve us in the Church by continuing to teach about vocation.

  • Brent

    Thank you, Doctor Veith. You serve us in the Church by continuing to teach about vocation.

  • http://webulite.com webulite.com

    dear anonymous sq,

    [[quote]]
    Secularism is waning in plenty of countries
    [[/quote]]

    I don’t think so. Since the Enlightenment there has been a steady decline in supernaturalism all throughout the world.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • http://webulite.com webulite.com

    dear anonymous sq,

    [[quote]]
    Secularism is waning in plenty of countries
    [[/quote]]

    I don’t think so. Since the Enlightenment there has been a steady decline in supernaturalism all throughout the world.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ carol-Christian Soldier

    Fabulous- I’ll be sharing this –
    was drawn to ..”In one of Luther’s many memorable lines, God milks the cows through the hands of the milkmaid. This means that all work and all workers deserve honor.”…
    I wonder how many of the Founders – & the Black Regiment among them..had read Luther’s words–and we-thus- have the percepts of Life Liberty – Property- no more alienable (royal) rights and …No More Royals–
    unless one considers some in office of governance who act like and probably believe they are rather ‘royal’…
    Have a grand Labor Day week-end!!
    My U.S.Flag is always flying– !!
    C-CS

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ carol-Christian Soldier

    Fabulous- I’ll be sharing this –
    was drawn to ..”In one of Luther’s many memorable lines, God milks the cows through the hands of the milkmaid. This means that all work and all workers deserve honor.”…
    I wonder how many of the Founders – & the Black Regiment among them..had read Luther’s words–and we-thus- have the percepts of Life Liberty – Property- no more alienable (royal) rights and …No More Royals–
    unless one considers some in office of governance who act like and probably believe they are rather ‘royal’…
    Have a grand Labor Day week-end!!
    My U.S.Flag is always flying– !!
    C-CS

  • http://webulite.com webulite.com

    Dear Gene Veith,

    [[quote]]
    webulite, what does this have to do with vocation?
    [[/quote]]

    If you mean my comment #2, that was in response to anonymous winston smith’s question.

    If you mean my comment #1, that was in response to your original quote; “Fitting in with my vast conspiracy to take over the secular holiday of “Labor Day” and turn it into a Christian holiday…”

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • http://webulite.com webulite.com

    Dear Gene Veith,

    [[quote]]
    webulite, what does this have to do with vocation?
    [[/quote]]

    If you mean my comment #2, that was in response to anonymous winston smith’s question.

    If you mean my comment #1, that was in response to your original quote; “Fitting in with my vast conspiracy to take over the secular holiday of “Labor Day” and turn it into a Christian holiday…”

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Ah, I saw this same article a couple days ago posted at the PHC site, so I guess I got a preview.

    Excellent, by the way. Let’s do the Pinky and the Brain thing and take over the holiday!

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Ah, I saw this same article a couple days ago posted at the PHC site, so I guess I got a preview.

    Excellent, by the way. Let’s do the Pinky and the Brain thing and take over the holiday!

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Oh, and one of my vocations for the next several weeks will be to help my 8 year old daughter do an in depth study of Colossians in preparation for the Shelby Kennedy Foundation National Bible Bee (to be held in Schaumburg, IL in November), a sponsor of which is Patrick Henry College, of which Dr. Veith is provost….

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Oh, and one of my vocations for the next several weeks will be to help my 8 year old daughter do an in depth study of Colossians in preparation for the Shelby Kennedy Foundation National Bible Bee (to be held in Schaumburg, IL in November), a sponsor of which is Patrick Henry College, of which Dr. Veith is provost….

  • Abby

    How does vocation relate to “good works?” Are they seperate entities? And why did Luther have such a hard time with the book of James? Your excellent article here made me wonder why Luther wanted to leave the book of James out of the Bible? His own words sound like he was completely reconcilled with James. (unless I’m wrong)

    “Vocation is where sanctification happens, as Christians grow spiritually in good works and in their relationships.” and “Vocation is nothing less than the theology of the Christian life. It provides the blueprint for how Christians are to live in the world and to influence their cultures.”

    As I was reading this I was also thinking how it related to the teaching of Dr. Rosenbladt on “The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church.” In everything I do I feel that I am serving the Lord and strive to do the best work I can. I know I fall far short. I do not believe, nor practice, grace plus works. But I admit, I am very confused. Because the “works” can sometimes develop into a “trap” in my thinking. I think I need to do more and more to please God. I indeed operated under that thinking for a long time and came close to physically breaking. (I was under the influence of Reformed and Baptist bible studies at the time.) The element of doing for “love” was also present, and thereby the confusion.

    So many people and members of my family will not come close to church because they know they are sinners and do not “feel good enough” to associate. Their “works” condemn them. And yet confess to believing in Jesus Christ. Is “believing” enough?

    I thank God for good websites like these that get me straightened out. I have learned much from the internet that I am not taught at church or local bible studies. I love the way you expressed this here, Dr. Veith. Especially the section about christians being too caught up in “church activities.” That was my downfall and I did not recognize it.

    I may not have expressed my thoughts here very well, I apologize. I totally agree with what you have written. Would’nt it be a marvelous world if we christians practiced these words? We would indeed be a shining city on a hill.

  • Abby

    How does vocation relate to “good works?” Are they seperate entities? And why did Luther have such a hard time with the book of James? Your excellent article here made me wonder why Luther wanted to leave the book of James out of the Bible? His own words sound like he was completely reconcilled with James. (unless I’m wrong)

    “Vocation is where sanctification happens, as Christians grow spiritually in good works and in their relationships.” and “Vocation is nothing less than the theology of the Christian life. It provides the blueprint for how Christians are to live in the world and to influence their cultures.”

    As I was reading this I was also thinking how it related to the teaching of Dr. Rosenbladt on “The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church.” In everything I do I feel that I am serving the Lord and strive to do the best work I can. I know I fall far short. I do not believe, nor practice, grace plus works. But I admit, I am very confused. Because the “works” can sometimes develop into a “trap” in my thinking. I think I need to do more and more to please God. I indeed operated under that thinking for a long time and came close to physically breaking. (I was under the influence of Reformed and Baptist bible studies at the time.) The element of doing for “love” was also present, and thereby the confusion.

    So many people and members of my family will not come close to church because they know they are sinners and do not “feel good enough” to associate. Their “works” condemn them. And yet confess to believing in Jesus Christ. Is “believing” enough?

    I thank God for good websites like these that get me straightened out. I have learned much from the internet that I am not taught at church or local bible studies. I love the way you expressed this here, Dr. Veith. Especially the section about christians being too caught up in “church activities.” That was my downfall and I did not recognize it.

    I may not have expressed my thoughts here very well, I apologize. I totally agree with what you have written. Would’nt it be a marvelous world if we christians practiced these words? We would indeed be a shining city on a hill.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    “Vocation as the Christian Life”

    My former pastor (he is so seriously Lutheran.,..) says that the word “christian ” should be reserved only for things that could only be said or could happen specifically because of the fact that the death and resurrection of Jesus has happened.

    Anyone here want to explain to me how anything at all that is about vocation would fit this definition of the word “christian”?

    “Vocation is where sanctification happens.”

    This is what John Calvin would say.
    Luther (and the Lutheran Confessions) would say “Life ( ie vocation?) is Mortification”.

    How would this make the article of the good Dr Veith be understood differently by a Lutheran christian?

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    “Vocation as the Christian Life”

    My former pastor (he is so seriously Lutheran.,..) says that the word “christian ” should be reserved only for things that could only be said or could happen specifically because of the fact that the death and resurrection of Jesus has happened.

    Anyone here want to explain to me how anything at all that is about vocation would fit this definition of the word “christian”?

    “Vocation is where sanctification happens.”

    This is what John Calvin would say.
    Luther (and the Lutheran Confessions) would say “Life ( ie vocation?) is Mortification”.

    How would this make the article of the good Dr Veith be understood differently by a Lutheran christian?

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    George @ 7

    Your stepfather had it right. The Lutheran Confessions would agree with him.

    Pagans are no less capable of love for neighbors than christians are according to the Lutheran Confessions (FC art VI, Ap art XVIII).

    why is it vital to our faith to understand that this is so? It is to preserve this:

    The difference, alone, that makes one a christian is faith in Jesus Christ. Alone dear Marquart. This faith enables us to keep the first commandment. Love for God.

    Love, being the fulfillment of the law, is something we Lutherans confess in our confessions that pagans do every bit as well as christians outwardly in every respect but this inward love/faith in God worked alone by the HS.

    Second table Love is always an action according to the Confessions that results in the production of “daily bread ” for others. Daily bread includes everything we need for body and earthly life. This would fully include parental love and nurture and caring.

    Cf 1st article and 4th petition in the Lutheran Catechisms for more on this.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    George @ 7

    Your stepfather had it right. The Lutheran Confessions would agree with him.

    Pagans are no less capable of love for neighbors than christians are according to the Lutheran Confessions (FC art VI, Ap art XVIII).

    why is it vital to our faith to understand that this is so? It is to preserve this:

    The difference, alone, that makes one a christian is faith in Jesus Christ. Alone dear Marquart. This faith enables us to keep the first commandment. Love for God.

    Love, being the fulfillment of the law, is something we Lutherans confess in our confessions that pagans do every bit as well as christians outwardly in every respect but this inward love/faith in God worked alone by the HS.

    Second table Love is always an action according to the Confessions that results in the production of “daily bread ” for others. Daily bread includes everything we need for body and earthly life. This would fully include parental love and nurture and caring.

    Cf 1st article and 4th petition in the Lutheran Catechisms for more on this.

  • Booklover

    Thank you for your article, Dr. Veith, and for your interview which I heard this morning on Issues, Etc.

    Abby, your questions are all good ones.

  • Booklover

    Thank you for your article, Dr. Veith, and for your interview which I heard this morning on Issues, Etc.

    Abby, your questions are all good ones.

  • Louis

    Gene – regarding the monks – there are still those that do God’s work. I’m thinking of the Trappists, brewing beer, or th Cisterians, making cheese… :)

  • Louis

    Gene – regarding the monks – there are still those that do God’s work. I’m thinking of the Trappists, brewing beer, or th Cisterians, making cheese… :)

  • John

    The danger I see is an application of these precepts without God. Changing a diaper is good, because God who is good makes it so, not because of the relative moral intent of the diaper-changer (or severity of the need). You cannot have such a teaching without faith.

  • John

    The danger I see is an application of these precepts without God. Changing a diaper is good, because God who is good makes it so, not because of the relative moral intent of the diaper-changer (or severity of the need). You cannot have such a teaching without faith.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    john @24

    Lutherans believe , teach and confess that God considers the providing of love in the form of “daily bread” or our creaturely needs to be a good thing. This is independent of faith or motive.

    God makes the rain fall on the believers and pagans alike. on the good and the wicked alike. He does this indeed without our prayers or asking.

    So Lutherans teach that faith is utterly unnecessary for vocation to happen and for it to truly please God.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    john @24

    Lutherans believe , teach and confess that God considers the providing of love in the form of “daily bread” or our creaturely needs to be a good thing. This is independent of faith or motive.

    God makes the rain fall on the believers and pagans alike. on the good and the wicked alike. He does this indeed without our prayers or asking.

    So Lutherans teach that faith is utterly unnecessary for vocation to happen and for it to truly please God.

  • John

    God causes it to rain, so it is not man who through vocation causes rain-much my thought at least. I also think God causes the laws of physics which drive an electronic device to allow me to communicate (even though clever men are credited with inventions), so if I were to claim that I were doing good without God, that would include the whole prior providence that allowed and abled me but I cannot cause or deactivate the laws of physics from their throne in nature-the means by which I might claim to do good are not mine or within my power to execute through my will. God the Father however is not so limited. When I said faith, I didn’t mean it as the ability to do good, but I must have brought it up in a discussion that included that variation and so led to confusion. Sorry. I hope I have been acquitted. I recently read some blurb about Hawking treating laws of physics as if they were uncreated and thus doing away with God. The whole fastness comes from God, and we are just worthless servants.

  • John

    God causes it to rain, so it is not man who through vocation causes rain-much my thought at least. I also think God causes the laws of physics which drive an electronic device to allow me to communicate (even though clever men are credited with inventions), so if I were to claim that I were doing good without God, that would include the whole prior providence that allowed and abled me but I cannot cause or deactivate the laws of physics from their throne in nature-the means by which I might claim to do good are not mine or within my power to execute through my will. God the Father however is not so limited. When I said faith, I didn’t mean it as the ability to do good, but I must have brought it up in a discussion that included that variation and so led to confusion. Sorry. I hope I have been acquitted. I recently read some blurb about Hawking treating laws of physics as if they were uncreated and thus doing away with God. The whole fastness comes from God, and we are just worthless servants.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    John, how can vocation be without God when the whole point is that God acts through human beings in their vocations? Yes, He works through the laws of physics to produce rain, makes the crops grow, etc., but this is simply another example that He nearly always works through means. (Air pressure, relative humidity, temperature changes to produce rain; human vocations to bring new life into the world, harvest the crops, etc.)

    FWS, it is true that God works through Christians and non-Christians both to provide His gifts. The farmer who grew the wheat that went into my daily bread may or may not have been a Christians. Theologians sometimes use different words, saying that “vocation” should be reserved for Christians (since the word means “calling” and Christians have been “called” by the Gospel), using “office” or “station” or some such for the non-Christians. But the work that they do and the work that God does through them is the same.

    The difference is that for Christians these works–which are very ordinary, not usually being seen as spectacular works of virtue (having children and taking care of them, going to work, etc.) become the fruit of their faith. They can be done not out of compulsion but out of love. And yet God counts such things as Holy in His sight because of Christ.

    As for “good works,” Abby, the works of vocation are the good works that God commands. But our relation with Him has nothing to do with our good works, just the good works of Christ. But then God sends us out to love and serve, not Him, but our neighbor. “God doesn’t need our good works; our neighbor does.”

    As for how do we love someone we don’t love? I have an idea, but let’s talk about that on Monday!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    John, how can vocation be without God when the whole point is that God acts through human beings in their vocations? Yes, He works through the laws of physics to produce rain, makes the crops grow, etc., but this is simply another example that He nearly always works through means. (Air pressure, relative humidity, temperature changes to produce rain; human vocations to bring new life into the world, harvest the crops, etc.)

    FWS, it is true that God works through Christians and non-Christians both to provide His gifts. The farmer who grew the wheat that went into my daily bread may or may not have been a Christians. Theologians sometimes use different words, saying that “vocation” should be reserved for Christians (since the word means “calling” and Christians have been “called” by the Gospel), using “office” or “station” or some such for the non-Christians. But the work that they do and the work that God does through them is the same.

    The difference is that for Christians these works–which are very ordinary, not usually being seen as spectacular works of virtue (having children and taking care of them, going to work, etc.) become the fruit of their faith. They can be done not out of compulsion but out of love. And yet God counts such things as Holy in His sight because of Christ.

    As for “good works,” Abby, the works of vocation are the good works that God commands. But our relation with Him has nothing to do with our good works, just the good works of Christ. But then God sends us out to love and serve, not Him, but our neighbor. “God doesn’t need our good works; our neighbor does.”

    As for how do we love someone we don’t love? I have an idea, but let’s talk about that on Monday!

  • Guy

    Don’t feed the troll. (referring to webulite.com).

  • Guy

    Don’t feed the troll. (referring to webulite.com).

  • John

    I meant you can apply the precept that your vocation is a good thing from God and unconsciously delete God and then say: I do all these favors for needy people, ergo I am good. But this would not be the accurate, or right. It occurred to me that this would be a form of neighbor-worship, but that seemed uncouth.

  • John

    I meant you can apply the precept that your vocation is a good thing from God and unconsciously delete God and then say: I do all these favors for needy people, ergo I am good. But this would not be the accurate, or right. It occurred to me that this would be a form of neighbor-worship, but that seemed uncouth.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    You can also apply the precept that your vocation is a good thing from God only and unconsciously delete yourself from the equation, thereby making of no effect the commandment of God, “You (yes YOU) shall love your neighbor.”

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    You can also apply the precept that your vocation is a good thing from God only and unconsciously delete yourself from the equation, thereby making of no effect the commandment of God, “You (yes YOU) shall love your neighbor.”

  • Porcell

    FWS: “Vocation is where sanctification happens.”
    This is what John Calvin would say. Luther (and the Lutheran Confessions) would say “Life ( ie vocation?) is Mortification”.

    Neither Luther nor Calvin spoke of vocation as “mortification.” That’s a rather grim view. Both men understood that vocation practiced well is a joyful duty. John Calvin was much influenced by Martin on the subject of vocation; Calvin wrote:

    …the Lord commands every one of us, in all actions of life to regard his vocation…. to prevent universal confusion being produced by our folly and temerity, he has appointed to all their particular duties in different spheres of life. And that no one might rashly transgress the limits prescribed, he has styled such spheres of life vocations, or callings….

    It will also be no small alleviation of his cares, labours, troubles, and other burdens, when a man knows that in all these things he has God for his guide. The magistrate will execute his office with greater pleasure, the father of a family will confine himself to his duty with more satisfaction, and all, in their respective spheres of life, will bear and surmount the inconveniences, cares, disappointments, and anxieties which befall them, when they shall be persuaded that every individual has his burden laid upon him by God. Hence also will arise peculiar consolation, since there will be no employment so mean and sordid (provided we follow our vocation) as not to appear truly respectable, and be deemed h’ghly important in the sight of God.

  • Porcell

    FWS: “Vocation is where sanctification happens.”
    This is what John Calvin would say. Luther (and the Lutheran Confessions) would say “Life ( ie vocation?) is Mortification”.

    Neither Luther nor Calvin spoke of vocation as “mortification.” That’s a rather grim view. Both men understood that vocation practiced well is a joyful duty. John Calvin was much influenced by Martin on the subject of vocation; Calvin wrote:

    …the Lord commands every one of us, in all actions of life to regard his vocation…. to prevent universal confusion being produced by our folly and temerity, he has appointed to all their particular duties in different spheres of life. And that no one might rashly transgress the limits prescribed, he has styled such spheres of life vocations, or callings….

    It will also be no small alleviation of his cares, labours, troubles, and other burdens, when a man knows that in all these things he has God for his guide. The magistrate will execute his office with greater pleasure, the father of a family will confine himself to his duty with more satisfaction, and all, in their respective spheres of life, will bear and surmount the inconveniences, cares, disappointments, and anxieties which befall them, when they shall be persuaded that every individual has his burden laid upon him by God. Hence also will arise peculiar consolation, since there will be no employment so mean and sordid (provided we follow our vocation) as not to appear truly respectable, and be deemed h’ghly important in the sight of God.

  • T. Webb

    Dr. Veith,

    How I wish, oh how I wish that what you are writing were true. I hear of people who have a “dream” of doing something or other people who get up every morning excited to do whatever it is that they do, and I have no context for such things, I just can’t understand it. I have a paper pushing dead-end job, and I have nothing to look forward to. I have no dreams or aspirations. I feel like the living dead.

  • T. Webb

    Dr. Veith,

    How I wish, oh how I wish that what you are writing were true. I hear of people who have a “dream” of doing something or other people who get up every morning excited to do whatever it is that they do, and I have no context for such things, I just can’t understand it. I have a paper pushing dead-end job, and I have nothing to look forward to. I have no dreams or aspirations. I feel like the living dead.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I don’t think so. Since the Enlightenment there has been a steady decline in supernaturalism all throughout the world.”

    Among folks with 1.5 kids, yes. Among the rest with average 3.o kids, no. Do the math. Secularism is waning. It is a cultural suicide program.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I don’t think so. Since the Enlightenment there has been a steady decline in supernaturalism all throughout the world.”

    Among folks with 1.5 kids, yes. Among the rest with average 3.o kids, no. Do the math. Secularism is waning. It is a cultural suicide program.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    T. Webb, the doctrine is true. But vocation means far more than “job.” What you describe is “bearing the cross.” Vocations do not come without trial and suffering. But do you have a family (even if you are single do you have your parents, siblings, cousins, etc.)? Do you have a church? You are part of a culture. As the article says, we have multiple vocations in the family, the church, and the culture. And your deadend job is a calling (one many people would want in this age of unemployment). Sometimes learning about vocation can change how you look at a job. Does it bring neighbors into your life to love and serve? Do you see how God is working through what you do to bless others? (What good or service does your job provide? Can you see that as a blessing from God?) If you hate your work so much, though, perhaps that discontent is part of God calling you to some other line of work. But consider the other points I’ve just raised first. (T.Webb, this is so important and your comment so plaintive that I want to put this before the other readers of this blog in our discussions on Monday.)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    T. Webb, the doctrine is true. But vocation means far more than “job.” What you describe is “bearing the cross.” Vocations do not come without trial and suffering. But do you have a family (even if you are single do you have your parents, siblings, cousins, etc.)? Do you have a church? You are part of a culture. As the article says, we have multiple vocations in the family, the church, and the culture. And your deadend job is a calling (one many people would want in this age of unemployment). Sometimes learning about vocation can change how you look at a job. Does it bring neighbors into your life to love and serve? Do you see how God is working through what you do to bless others? (What good or service does your job provide? Can you see that as a blessing from God?) If you hate your work so much, though, perhaps that discontent is part of God calling you to some other line of work. But consider the other points I’ve just raised first. (T.Webb, this is so important and your comment so plaintive that I want to put this before the other readers of this blog in our discussions on Monday.)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ T. Webb, wow, sorry to hear that. Really. Do you find that you often look outside your vocation for fulfillment? Sometimes our real vocation is a hobby/avocation.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ T. Webb, wow, sorry to hear that. Really. Do you find that you often look outside your vocation for fulfillment? Sometimes our real vocation is a hobby/avocation.

  • Dan Kempin

    From the article:

    “The father, coming home from work dead tired, has presented his body as a living sacrifice for his family. So has the mother who drives her kids to soccer practice when she has many other things she would rather do.”

    While this is certainly true, it also caused me to reflect yet again on the state of our current culture. Is is really a pious and godly state of affairs for father and mother to both knock themselves out so that the children can play? Should the wants of the children outweight the wants of the parents? I’m not suggesting that is your position, Dr. Veith, but it is certainly the de facto position in many families. How do children learn the sacrificial nature of vocation if they don’t learn it when they are children?

    This touches, I think, on some previous discussion we have had here about “handing over” the formation of children to an education system as well as the pandering nature of some youth ministry.

    How different the perspective of Luther, from a bit further in the article:

    “A child doing his chores is outperforming the Carthusian monks in works of holiness.”

    He assumes that a child will be put to work. (And as a farm raised kid, I would venture to propose that the “chores” of a child in Luther’s day were a great deal more burdensome than “clean your room and take out the trash.”)

    What are our children missing because we are too “soft” on them? Am I a hard hearted grinch, or is there something here?

  • Dan Kempin

    From the article:

    “The father, coming home from work dead tired, has presented his body as a living sacrifice for his family. So has the mother who drives her kids to soccer practice when she has many other things she would rather do.”

    While this is certainly true, it also caused me to reflect yet again on the state of our current culture. Is is really a pious and godly state of affairs for father and mother to both knock themselves out so that the children can play? Should the wants of the children outweight the wants of the parents? I’m not suggesting that is your position, Dr. Veith, but it is certainly the de facto position in many families. How do children learn the sacrificial nature of vocation if they don’t learn it when they are children?

    This touches, I think, on some previous discussion we have had here about “handing over” the formation of children to an education system as well as the pandering nature of some youth ministry.

    How different the perspective of Luther, from a bit further in the article:

    “A child doing his chores is outperforming the Carthusian monks in works of holiness.”

    He assumes that a child will be put to work. (And as a farm raised kid, I would venture to propose that the “chores” of a child in Luther’s day were a great deal more burdensome than “clean your room and take out the trash.”)

    What are our children missing because we are too “soft” on them? Am I a hard hearted grinch, or is there something here?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Abby,
    If you are still following this, I wrote this piece a while back on Luther and James. It might help you. http://utah-lutheran.blogspot.com/2010/06/luther-james-canon-and-authority-of.html

    As for the relation of Good Works to Vocation, that is just it. Good works are done in the realm of Vocation, and not very often are they ever done outside vocation.
    It boggles my mind, but often people think they are doing good works when nothing else is being done but them neglecting the good works God has given them to do.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Abby,
    If you are still following this, I wrote this piece a while back on Luther and James. It might help you. http://utah-lutheran.blogspot.com/2010/06/luther-james-canon-and-authority-of.html

    As for the relation of Good Works to Vocation, that is just it. Good works are done in the realm of Vocation, and not very often are they ever done outside vocation.
    It boggles my mind, but often people think they are doing good works when nothing else is being done but them neglecting the good works God has given them to do.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    danb kempin @36

    Luther: “Life is mortification”

    Luther translated aesops fables into german to teach children how to be ethical. The Lutheran confessions say that “nothing can be added to the ethical system of aristotle”

    He is saying that the earthly outward virtue that pleases God and that he demands in his Word, love for neighbor, is acquired not by sanctification, but rather by that same mortification that pagans know often how to exercise better than any christian:

    virtue (love for others) is a habit acquired through practice. We act as someone who is virtuous and by practicing that we become virtuous, our as we say in english, we develop character.

    Lutherans differ from the scholastics of rome and the neo-scholastics of calvin and later Melancthon by saying that none of this is sanctification. That is, none of this is part of the definition of the word “christian.” and so that word “christian” is defined, alone, by invisible faith alone. Works are fully excluded from that word “christian” because they are already fully INcluded in that law word “mortification” that any pagan can do.

    The ONLY difference between christian and pagan then is that Righteousness alone, of faith in christ, alone. This righteousness is useless for moral reform on earth, and so is meaningful only to God and a guilty conscience.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    danb kempin @36

    Luther: “Life is mortification”

    Luther translated aesops fables into german to teach children how to be ethical. The Lutheran confessions say that “nothing can be added to the ethical system of aristotle”

    He is saying that the earthly outward virtue that pleases God and that he demands in his Word, love for neighbor, is acquired not by sanctification, but rather by that same mortification that pagans know often how to exercise better than any christian:

    virtue (love for others) is a habit acquired through practice. We act as someone who is virtuous and by practicing that we become virtuous, our as we say in english, we develop character.

    Lutherans differ from the scholastics of rome and the neo-scholastics of calvin and later Melancthon by saying that none of this is sanctification. That is, none of this is part of the definition of the word “christian.” and so that word “christian” is defined, alone, by invisible faith alone. Works are fully excluded from that word “christian” because they are already fully INcluded in that law word “mortification” that any pagan can do.

    The ONLY difference between christian and pagan then is that Righteousness alone, of faith in christ, alone. This righteousness is useless for moral reform on earth, and so is meaningful only to God and a guilty conscience.

  • Dan Kempin

    Fws, #38,

    I had never heard that Luther translated Aesop. Fascinating. That certainly speaks to the question. The children in those fables were by no means coddled.

  • Dan Kempin

    Fws, #38,

    I had never heard that Luther translated Aesop. Fascinating. That certainly speaks to the question. The children in those fables were by no means coddled.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Purcell @ 31

    congratulations on seeing that what I propose is very very radical.

    To understand what I wrote, which is really just repeating Luther and the Lutheran Confessions, one needs to understand how this is all about baptism.

    Here is an article from a recently deceased Dean of Fuller Seminary that has things exactly right.

    Excerpt:

    “If baptism is a picture of the victory over sin by a [quite literal] death to sin rather than by cleansing from it´s defilement, then it follows that the post-baptismal life will not be , as some anabaptists claimed, a life of freedom from sin, but a life of mortification”

    and..

    “In baptism, a man acknowledges himself to be submerged in sin, butsin itself, the old life of sin with all it´s works , is also submerged. Man sees in baptism what his life must henceforth be, a life in which sin is destroyed, a life of dying to sin, by repentence , by mortification, by self-discipline, by physical affliction”. More, even than that, baptism….is in symbol what the actual phisical end of thl life must be, even for those who are given new life in God, the dissolution of the outward man, in death.”

    “The man who is baptized and who is a believer, enters into the death and resurrection of Christ, by promise immeditately, by mortification gradually, by physical dissolution finally and eternally.”

    “Baptism is not only the sign of something which takes place in the soul, moral renovation. Luther does not say: ‘ as christ died, so we die spiritually; as he was raised, so we are raised spiritually. He says: ‘ as christ died, so we die, both spiritually and physically; as he was raised, so we shall be raised both in soul and body’ Luther thus gives to baptism an eschatological and cosmic as well as a moral and spiritual significance. We literally die with Christi and are raised in and with him [in the waters of Baptism].”

    And dear Purcell, here now comes the thought that makes “Life is Mortication” not look quite so dismal:

    “Finally, baptism, as thetdeath and resurrection, gives ther clue which enables us to understand suffereing and death in this world, that suffering and death which reached a climas in the passion and the cross of christ. the sufferings of this workd, as mentioned above, are means of mortificatin. Luther can say even that the more hardly we suffer the happer we are, because the more quickly is the meaning of baptism fulfilled [or realized] and deliverance [frin sin] wrought. Times of persecution are the happiest times int eh history of the Church. Death itself is the resut and penalty of sin; but christi has borne the penalty, and in our baptims, when by faith we are identified with Christ, we are forgiven even as we accept the judgement. But death is also, in the mercy and the providence of God, the means whereby sin is destroyed. The believer , although he will not die eternally, because he is forgiven,must still die in the flesh, in order that sin may finally destroy itself .. But for the believer, death has lost it´s true terror. He does not need to fear death,. because he is forgiven. He can welcome death, because it is the climax, a completion of the saving work of God. This does not mean that life on earth is no longer valued: It means that it is set against the background of eternity and the redemptive work of God [in Christ alone]. To the unbeliever, who has hope only in this world, death is an enemy, irrational, causing qualms of conscience, holding the threat of judgement. But for the one who looks [alone] at Christ, there is in death, the promise of Life. The perfect attitude to death is that of Chrsit, who went to his early and cruel death without a qualm, composed, serene, boedient, opening up as the forerunner and as the savior of the way to Life.”

    Now. There is one small but immensely critical error in this paper. I am wondering if perhaps Forde makes the same error. In any case, it is THE error of Calvin that many, if not most Lutherans in practice hold to. It is here and i will cap the words that are the problem:

    “The death to sin is, of course, only one side of the moral and spiritual process which baptism signifies. The other side is the resurrection to the life of righteousness which is the life of eternity. The process of spiritual death is lifelong, SO TOO IS THAT OF SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION. In baptism and by faith the work is done in a moment: the old man is dead, the new raised up. But in experience the work of resurrection, like that of mortification, is not accomplished until the Last Day. For the baptised man earthly life is then a life of mortification, on the one side, and on the other a life of INCREASE in grace and righteousness, of progress in good works, in the power of the Holy Ghost.”

    Mortification is in fact progressive. It is true that the New Man of Baptismal rebirth “increases in wisdom and stature” just as our Lord did in the Blessed Incarnation. Even the catechism states that in baptism “..a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. ” And it is quite true that Luther and Paul and the confessions say everywhere that the work of the believer fully coming into his full self as new man will only be complete on the last day.

    So what is wrong with what the author wrote? It is this , to use a flawed and clumsy analogy: When NASA launches the space shuttle, we say that the space shuttle has been launched. It includes alot of stuff that is not the space shuttle. Booster rockets. When the booster rockets are shucked, the space shuttle does not become any more purely or truly or completely the space shuttle than it was before when the boosters clung to it.

    So Luther and Paul and the confessions mean the believer not yet completely being new man in that sense. Not that becoming new man is a progressive. Like we are 50% new man at our baptism and become more so that and less so old adam as we move towards death. No. On baptism we are new man as completely as we are ever going to be. But the Old Adam still clings to us until death. “progress” “progressive” and such terms then belong alone to mortifcation and death. We have all we will ever have of Christ, completely, in our New Man upon our baptism. There is nothing progressive about that part!

    Here is the link to the complete article. It is a gem:

    http://www.theologicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/eq/luther_bromiley.pdf

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Purcell @ 31

    congratulations on seeing that what I propose is very very radical.

    To understand what I wrote, which is really just repeating Luther and the Lutheran Confessions, one needs to understand how this is all about baptism.

    Here is an article from a recently deceased Dean of Fuller Seminary that has things exactly right.

    Excerpt:

    “If baptism is a picture of the victory over sin by a [quite literal] death to sin rather than by cleansing from it´s defilement, then it follows that the post-baptismal life will not be , as some anabaptists claimed, a life of freedom from sin, but a life of mortification”

    and..

    “In baptism, a man acknowledges himself to be submerged in sin, butsin itself, the old life of sin with all it´s works , is also submerged. Man sees in baptism what his life must henceforth be, a life in which sin is destroyed, a life of dying to sin, by repentence , by mortification, by self-discipline, by physical affliction”. More, even than that, baptism….is in symbol what the actual phisical end of thl life must be, even for those who are given new life in God, the dissolution of the outward man, in death.”

    “The man who is baptized and who is a believer, enters into the death and resurrection of Christ, by promise immeditately, by mortification gradually, by physical dissolution finally and eternally.”

    “Baptism is not only the sign of something which takes place in the soul, moral renovation. Luther does not say: ‘ as christ died, so we die spiritually; as he was raised, so we are raised spiritually. He says: ‘ as christ died, so we die, both spiritually and physically; as he was raised, so we shall be raised both in soul and body’ Luther thus gives to baptism an eschatological and cosmic as well as a moral and spiritual significance. We literally die with Christi and are raised in and with him [in the waters of Baptism].”

    And dear Purcell, here now comes the thought that makes “Life is Mortication” not look quite so dismal:

    “Finally, baptism, as thetdeath and resurrection, gives ther clue which enables us to understand suffereing and death in this world, that suffering and death which reached a climas in the passion and the cross of christ. the sufferings of this workd, as mentioned above, are means of mortificatin. Luther can say even that the more hardly we suffer the happer we are, because the more quickly is the meaning of baptism fulfilled [or realized] and deliverance [frin sin] wrought. Times of persecution are the happiest times int eh history of the Church. Death itself is the resut and penalty of sin; but christi has borne the penalty, and in our baptims, when by faith we are identified with Christ, we are forgiven even as we accept the judgement. But death is also, in the mercy and the providence of God, the means whereby sin is destroyed. The believer , although he will not die eternally, because he is forgiven,must still die in the flesh, in order that sin may finally destroy itself .. But for the believer, death has lost it´s true terror. He does not need to fear death,. because he is forgiven. He can welcome death, because it is the climax, a completion of the saving work of God. This does not mean that life on earth is no longer valued: It means that it is set against the background of eternity and the redemptive work of God [in Christ alone]. To the unbeliever, who has hope only in this world, death is an enemy, irrational, causing qualms of conscience, holding the threat of judgement. But for the one who looks [alone] at Christ, there is in death, the promise of Life. The perfect attitude to death is that of Chrsit, who went to his early and cruel death without a qualm, composed, serene, boedient, opening up as the forerunner and as the savior of the way to Life.”

    Now. There is one small but immensely critical error in this paper. I am wondering if perhaps Forde makes the same error. In any case, it is THE error of Calvin that many, if not most Lutherans in practice hold to. It is here and i will cap the words that are the problem:

    “The death to sin is, of course, only one side of the moral and spiritual process which baptism signifies. The other side is the resurrection to the life of righteousness which is the life of eternity. The process of spiritual death is lifelong, SO TOO IS THAT OF SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION. In baptism and by faith the work is done in a moment: the old man is dead, the new raised up. But in experience the work of resurrection, like that of mortification, is not accomplished until the Last Day. For the baptised man earthly life is then a life of mortification, on the one side, and on the other a life of INCREASE in grace and righteousness, of progress in good works, in the power of the Holy Ghost.”

    Mortification is in fact progressive. It is true that the New Man of Baptismal rebirth “increases in wisdom and stature” just as our Lord did in the Blessed Incarnation. Even the catechism states that in baptism “..a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. ” And it is quite true that Luther and Paul and the confessions say everywhere that the work of the believer fully coming into his full self as new man will only be complete on the last day.

    So what is wrong with what the author wrote? It is this , to use a flawed and clumsy analogy: When NASA launches the space shuttle, we say that the space shuttle has been launched. It includes alot of stuff that is not the space shuttle. Booster rockets. When the booster rockets are shucked, the space shuttle does not become any more purely or truly or completely the space shuttle than it was before when the boosters clung to it.

    So Luther and Paul and the confessions mean the believer not yet completely being new man in that sense. Not that becoming new man is a progressive. Like we are 50% new man at our baptism and become more so that and less so old adam as we move towards death. No. On baptism we are new man as completely as we are ever going to be. But the Old Adam still clings to us until death. “progress” “progressive” and such terms then belong alone to mortifcation and death. We have all we will ever have of Christ, completely, in our New Man upon our baptism. There is nothing progressive about that part!

    Here is the link to the complete article. It is a gem:

    http://www.theologicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/eq/luther_bromiley.pdf

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Dan @ 38

    Yes. This is why an old Lutheran like JS Bach and a crotchety old lutheran pastor, like the one in the bo giertz book “the hammer of God” can appear to be so “unspiritual” in their approach to morality and virtues and life and building character.

    They do not point a christian to their prayer life or spiritual exercises to become a better person. This is about sweat effort and self denial and the discipline that any good athlete and musician and craftsman is immersed in. Nothing particularly spiritual there. just alot of jock itch.

    Even church attendance and bible study and prayer life and discipline then too are de-spiritualized. it is about practice and self discipline that any pagan can teach us how to do.

    And so being a christian is allowed to be , alone, about invisible faith in christ, nurtured by the word of God, baptism, the Holy Supper and the Holy Absolution. Things imbedded also in things we do that require discipline and stuff that any pagan can do of a good pastor. ut we call those things only “holy” because hidden-in-plain-sight” in those humble earthly things of water and bad bread and cheap wine, and a flawed human with the title “pastor” are the things of eternity.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Dan @ 38

    Yes. This is why an old Lutheran like JS Bach and a crotchety old lutheran pastor, like the one in the bo giertz book “the hammer of God” can appear to be so “unspiritual” in their approach to morality and virtues and life and building character.

    They do not point a christian to their prayer life or spiritual exercises to become a better person. This is about sweat effort and self denial and the discipline that any good athlete and musician and craftsman is immersed in. Nothing particularly spiritual there. just alot of jock itch.

    Even church attendance and bible study and prayer life and discipline then too are de-spiritualized. it is about practice and self discipline that any pagan can teach us how to do.

    And so being a christian is allowed to be , alone, about invisible faith in christ, nurtured by the word of God, baptism, the Holy Supper and the Holy Absolution. Things imbedded also in things we do that require discipline and stuff that any pagan can do of a good pastor. ut we call those things only “holy” because hidden-in-plain-sight” in those humble earthly things of water and bad bread and cheap wine, and a flawed human with the title “pastor” are the things of eternity.

  • Dan Kempin

    Fws, #41,

    Well put. Even poetic. (Well, except for the “jock itch” part, but it got a laugh out of me.)

  • Dan Kempin

    Fws, #41,

    Well put. Even poetic. (Well, except for the “jock itch” part, but it got a laugh out of me.)

  • Abby

    Dear Bror and Dr. Veith: thank you for the clairfications. I reread the article a couple more times now and have understood it better each time. It would be great to establish another Christian holiday. The more the better! Maybe the pastors could get this going in our churches? (Good reason for a big party!)

    Bror: I loved your piece on James/Luther! Thank you for sharing it. It helps explain my own discomfort and confusion when I read it as well. And also reminds me not to worry so much about things I don’t understand.

    Dr. Veith: My first “job” was something I took with much reluctance. In fact, I downright did not want to take it. I wanted to stay at home with my family. I considered that my “vocation.” I was encouraged, and in fact pushed, by my family and friends to accept the position outside of the home. I was happy with the job. It truly did fit my skills and interests and passion. However, something was going to suffer. I could not perform both “vocations” equally as well. Both “jobs/vocations” were filled with both joy and misery. But after all these years, and from the explanation from your article, I can view both as my “calling.” Even though I had viewed the job as a mistake because my home suffered in comparision, in my view.

    It is really good to understand that my relationship with Christ is distinct and separate. I don’t know why, but I forget my “security in Christ” oftentimes. Several years ago I took to the beach all 7 books of the Chronicles of Narnia. After reading them one after the other, I had two distinct thoughts: 1) I couldn’t understand how anyone who was not a christian could read those books and appreciate them. 2) Everytime Aslan outlined to the children exactly what they were to do and the path they should take, they got sidetracked and took their own way. At the end, C.S. Lewis “explained” that the “wrong” path they took, was actually the “right” path after all–and they ended up exactly accomplishing what Aslan wanted them to do in the first place (with Aslan there all the time making it “right.”)! I don’t know if this is correct Lutheran theology or not. But it certainly is a comfort.

    Today, my children are all doing well, and even better than I did. And I can see how the Lord did use my work in the “jobs” that I performed along the way. (The works that I did that served my neighbor.) And I can see that I have ended up where He guided me to be. He has been with me through it all and in His mercy has caused things to turn out “right” even though it didn’t “feel” right at the time.

    Thank you all who post here, for your good insights and teaching!

  • Abby

    Dear Bror and Dr. Veith: thank you for the clairfications. I reread the article a couple more times now and have understood it better each time. It would be great to establish another Christian holiday. The more the better! Maybe the pastors could get this going in our churches? (Good reason for a big party!)

    Bror: I loved your piece on James/Luther! Thank you for sharing it. It helps explain my own discomfort and confusion when I read it as well. And also reminds me not to worry so much about things I don’t understand.

    Dr. Veith: My first “job” was something I took with much reluctance. In fact, I downright did not want to take it. I wanted to stay at home with my family. I considered that my “vocation.” I was encouraged, and in fact pushed, by my family and friends to accept the position outside of the home. I was happy with the job. It truly did fit my skills and interests and passion. However, something was going to suffer. I could not perform both “vocations” equally as well. Both “jobs/vocations” were filled with both joy and misery. But after all these years, and from the explanation from your article, I can view both as my “calling.” Even though I had viewed the job as a mistake because my home suffered in comparision, in my view.

    It is really good to understand that my relationship with Christ is distinct and separate. I don’t know why, but I forget my “security in Christ” oftentimes. Several years ago I took to the beach all 7 books of the Chronicles of Narnia. After reading them one after the other, I had two distinct thoughts: 1) I couldn’t understand how anyone who was not a christian could read those books and appreciate them. 2) Everytime Aslan outlined to the children exactly what they were to do and the path they should take, they got sidetracked and took their own way. At the end, C.S. Lewis “explained” that the “wrong” path they took, was actually the “right” path after all–and they ended up exactly accomplishing what Aslan wanted them to do in the first place (with Aslan there all the time making it “right.”)! I don’t know if this is correct Lutheran theology or not. But it certainly is a comfort.

    Today, my children are all doing well, and even better than I did. And I can see how the Lord did use my work in the “jobs” that I performed along the way. (The works that I did that served my neighbor.) And I can see that I have ended up where He guided me to be. He has been with me through it all and in His mercy has caused things to turn out “right” even though it didn’t “feel” right at the time.

    Thank you all who post here, for your good insights and teaching!

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “It boggles my mind, but often people think they are doing good works when nothing else is being done but them neglecting the good works God has given them to do.”

    This is a good reminder for when I have things to do that need to be done but for which I have limited enthusiasm! :-)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “It boggles my mind, but often people think they are doing good works when nothing else is being done but them neglecting the good works God has given them to do.”

    This is a good reminder for when I have things to do that need to be done but for which I have limited enthusiasm! :-)

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  • Bryan Lindemood

    Just wanted to say that I really appreciated the way you highlighted the Doctrine of Vocation on Labor Day weekend, Dr. Veith. I find it a very comforting way to think about our Christian life given in service to our neighbor. I wish more Christians would embrace it rather than trying to turn their churches and ministries into modern day monastic orders.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Just wanted to say that I really appreciated the way you highlighted the Doctrine of Vocation on Labor Day weekend, Dr. Veith. I find it a very comforting way to think about our Christian life given in service to our neighbor. I wish more Christians would embrace it rather than trying to turn their churches and ministries into modern day monastic orders.

  • bunnycatch3r

    I’ve never really heard of the Doctrine of Vocation before visiting your site.
    Thank you for a very helpful introduction.

  • bunnycatch3r

    I’ve never really heard of the Doctrine of Vocation before visiting your site.
    Thank you for a very helpful introduction.

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