The Protestant work ethic

Our post in honor of Vocation Day, which used to be called Labor Day. . . .

Max Weber, one of the founders of modern sociology, credited the doctrine of vocation for the rise of  the modern economy in his 1920 book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Now, there are  problems with Weber’s thesis and his approach, as scholars have been noting.  Theologically, he emphasizes Calvin’s doctrine of vocation, which stresses your job, rather than Luther’s, which includes how you make your living but also covers marriage, parenthood, and citizenship.  Weber also says that success at your work was seen as a way to convince yourself of your election (which I’m not sure Calvinists actually believed), while Luther sees the purpose of all vocations as love and service to one’s neighbor.  Luther sees vocation in light of the Gospel, so that such love is a fruit of faith.  Vocation isn’t about the value of your own works, since God is working through you in your calling.

Anyway, Weber popularized the notion of the “Protestant work ethic.” [Read more...]

Books on Faith and Work

The doctrine of vocation, though neglected for a long time, is coming back in force.  Though “vocation” refers to God’s various callings in which we are to love and serve our neighbors and goes far beyond a “job,” it does include what we do to make a living.  Quite a few books have come out recently on what is being called the “Faith and Work conversation.”  Greg Forster has written a useful review essay online with links to the various titles.

I appreciate what he said about my book on vocation:  “Gene Edward Veith’s classic God at Work demonstrates that faith/work integration is indispensable if we wish to uphold the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone.”

A classic already?  Don’t I have to be dead to have a book attain that status?  But I’ll take it.  I’m glad Dr. Forster sees what is so often missed:  That vocation is connected to justification. [Read more...]

The Lutheran Theology of Culture

On the LCMS website, looking for an address, I saw prominently featured an article or an interview or something I didn’t even remember doing in which I very succinctly summarize the Lutheran theology of culture.  It’s rather different from other approaches, but I think it’s broadly applicable and can solve many of the problems Christians have today in figuring out how to relate to their cultures.  This will also shed light on a continual theme of this blog, so I’ll post the thing after the jump. [Read more...]

A great conversation about vocation

A Lutheran, a Calvinist, and  a Baptist walk into a bar. . . and start talking about vocation.  Well, not really.  The Baptist would not go into a bar, and in this case there is no Baptist.  I’d describe the Liberate folks (a ministry of Tullian Tchividjian) as Lutheran-influenced evangelicals.  But this video  is a good example, in light of our recent discussions of those traditions, of how a Lutheran concept can indeed carry over into other traditions.  Here Lutheran Rod Rosenbladt, Calvinist Michael Horton, and Liberate’s Daniel Siedell (a faculty member of Knox Seminary) are all talking about vocation and its relationship to justification.

The point, though, is that this is an EXCELLENT discussion of vocation, and a great introduction to what we keep talking about on this blog.  (I appreciate the shout-outs to my work on the subject and the references to my book God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life.)

 

[Read more...]

Journalism & vocation

Mollie Hemingway, who shamed the mainstream press into covering the Kermit Gosnell abortion mill murder trial, is getting attention for how she pulled that off.  I appreciate her plug for vocation and how that doctrine informs her pursuit of journalism. [Read more...]

“Radical,” “missional” Christianity as the new legalism

The esteemed Anthony Bradley describes a “new legalism” stemming from the vogue of so-called “radical” and “missional” Christianity.  He decries the emphasis on spectacular works, emphasizing instead the role of  good works in the realm of the “ordinary.”  That is, the love of neighbor as carried out in [wait for it] VOCATION!  (See!  I told you, Anthony Sacramone!)  Dr. Bradley goes so far as to link to a talk I gave on that subject at the Evangelical Theological Society convention, which I didn’t even know was online. [Read more...]

Lutherans, Calvinists, & Evangelicals on vocation

Tim Keller, the well-respected pastor of Redeemer Prebyterian Church in New York, City, has written a book about vocation entitled Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work.  I haven’t read it yet, though I’m ordering it, but from what I’ve heard and read on the preview at Amazon (click the link), it looks promising.  Also, he “gets” what Luther is saying and expresses warm appreciation for the Lutheran doctrine of vocation.  What intrigues me is what he says about the different emphases of Lutheran, Calvinist, Evangelical, and Mainline Protestant treatments of vocation and the Christian’s life in the world.  After the jump, see what he says in an interview in Christianity Today. [Read more...]

Easter and Vocation

In the sermon for the third Sunday of Easter, based on John 21:1-19, in which the disciples saw Jesus while they were fishing, Pastor Douthwaite related Easter to vocation:

Jesus has not changed, and Easter does not mean that He is now done all His work and now it’s up to us. No, He is still working. What He did before Easter He now does after Easter. And Jesus is not just now all “spiritual” – He is still working through the physical, through their calling, or vocation, as fishermen. That didn’t change and won’t change. What changed is the disciples. What changed is us. Jesus’ death and resurrection was not to make Jesus new, but to make us new. To raise us from sin, fear, and death to a new life in Him. Not a new super-spiritualized life, but a new life in your callings, or vocations. Not to take us out of this world, but to make us new in this world. And we see that in Peter. He is a changed man. And so are you.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Easter 3 Sermon.

Sanctification and Vocation

The estimable Anthony Sacramone has been carrying on a fascinating and helpful discussion (in two posts here and here on Jonathan Fisk’s  Broken) about the Lutheran view of the Christian life, how it perhaps doesn’t do enough with sanctification.  I think the missing link, so to speak, is the doctrine of vocation.  Here is a somewhat revised version of what I posted as a comment:

The doctrine of vocation is not just about our work.  It really is the Lutheran doctrine of the Christian life.  We are brought to faith through Word and Sacrament and then we live out that faith in love and service to our neighbors.  “Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God  has called him” (1 Corinthians 7:17).  And God assigns us and calls us to various and multiple tasks in the orders that He has created for human beings:  the household (the family plus economic labor), the church, the state, and what Luther called “the general order of Christian love” (the informal relationships of friendship, interactions with others,  as in the Good Samaritan parable, etc.) . Vocation is where sanctification happens, where we exercise our faith, where we battle with sin, where we grow “in faith towards you [God], and in fervent love for one another” (as it says at the end of the liturgy, when we are sent back into our vocations).

I wonder if the problem is the ordinariness of the good works that take place in vocation.  As Einar Billing says in Our Calling, “In all our religious and ethical life, we are given to an incredible overestimation of the extraordinary at the expense of the ordinary.”  [Read more...]

Finding Your Vocation in College

Anthony Sacramone asked me to write something on “How to Find Your Vocation in College” for the I.S.I. website he edits, so I did.  I also took the opportunity to answer the conservative pundits who are saying that college students should all go into technology so they can pay off their student loans and forget about the liberal arts.  Also, Mathew Block at First Thoughts linked to the post and added some perceptive comments of his own. [Read more...]