The “danger” in Luther’s doctrine of vocation?

A few months ago, Covenant Seminary Professor Dan Doriani wrote a post at Gospel Coalition entitled The Power—and Danger—in Luther’s Concept of Work.  It’s a good piece, and the author has a good understanding of the importance of Luther’s doctrine, including love and service to the neighbor.

But at the end, he moves to what he considers the “Danger” of Luther’s teaching.  Briefly, he says that Luther’s understanding of God’s calling sanctifies the status quo.  If you are in a lowly “dehumanizing” job, if you think of it as a calling from God, then you would never leave it.

It took Calvin, he says, to perfect Luther’s doctrine of vocation.

Read the entire post.  I quote part of it after the jump.  Then I try to answer the criticisms. [Read more…]

The purpose for work that we keep forgetting

A Labor Day post at Christianity.com offers “8 Biblical Principles of Work.”  The list, by seminary professor James Eckman, is thoughtful and instructive.  See it after the jump.

But the list is all about serving oneself or serving God.  It  leaves out what Luther taught is the major purpose of all vocations:  To love and serve one’s neighbors.

I see this so often:  Theological reflections about vocation that forget about the neighbor.  You really need to include this dimension.  Otherwise, work loses its moral significance.

You start thinking about your callings as something for your personal satisfaction (so that if you are not feeling satisfied, you must not really be called, an attitude that can wreck, for example, the vocation of marriage).  Or you start thinking about work as a “good work” that you are offering to God, as opposed to His gift and His instrument.

It’s love of neighbor that inspires you to do your best work for your customers.  It’s love of neighbor–your family, your fellow workers–that motivates you to work even though you are exhausted.  It’s love of neighbor–the good you are doing in the goods or services you are providing–that gives work its satisfaction.  And it’s love and service of the neighbor that is the fruit of faith and the way that God desires us to love and serve Him. [Read more…]

My vocation trilogy

I have written three books on vocation.  I just realized that this constitutes a trilogy.  They aren’t The Lord of the Rings, but they are connected  and build into a whole.

(1)  God at Work:  Your Christian Vocation in All of Life.  This sets forth the doctrine of vocation.

(2)  Family Vocation:  Your Christian Callings in Marriage, Parenthood, and Childhood.  Written with my daughter Mary Moerbe, this book explores in depth the various vocations within the family, showing too how the teachings about God’s presence in vocation and loving and serving the neighbor can help solve the problems in family life.  It also delves into other aspects of vocation that I came to after writing God at Work, including cross-bearing, self-sacrifice, and self-denial in vocation.

(3)  Working for Your Neighbor:  A Lutheran Primer on Vocation, Economics, and Ordinary Life.  This book is about the relationship between vocation and economics.  More than that, it explores the social dimension of economics, going into the history of the concept and its cultural impact.  Again, it also includes new insights that I have discovered in researching this rich, rich teaching, drawing on a range of other theologians and writers who have written thoughtfully about the concept.  I also go into more detail about the relationship between vocation and justification. [Read more…]

“Family Vocation” giveaway

GoodReads is giving away five copies of Family Vocation:  God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood.  I wrote that book with my daughter Mary Moerbe.

It goes beyond God at Work, not just in exploring the family vocations in depth–important in itself, if we want to revitalize Christian marriage and parenting–but also in including material on vocation in general that I learned after publishing that earlier book.

All you do is click “Enter Giveaway” on the widget after the jump.  Five entrants will be randomly chosen.  If you are one of them, you will get the book in the mail.  The contest will go through the month of September.

[Read more…]

Scandinavian welfare state reform

As I reported from my recent sojourns in Scandinavia, the vaunted “welfare state” the Nordic states are known for is much more complex than we Americans realize, with the generous government benefits co-existing with extraordinarily free economies and a culture fixated on hard work and personal responsibility. (Might all of this be due to the Lutheran doctrine of vocation?)

Nima Sanandaji, the son of Swedish immigrants, has written a book on this subject, including a treatment of recent attempts to reform some of its dysfunctions, especially in the way it has sapped the initiative of immigrants who do not share the work-and-responsibility culture.  Sanandaji sums up his book in an essay excerpted and linked after the jump. [Read more…]

“Chariots of Fire” and the vocation of athletics

A rabbi writing in the Wall Street Journal offers reflections on Chariots of Fire, the 1981 movie about Olympic runners Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams.  The movie, of course, is about athletics as VOCATION.

Read an excerpt from the column after the jump, whereupon I offer some reflections about it, including the difference between Liddell’s Calvinist understanding of the vocation of an athlete and what a Lutheran view would add.

[Read more…]