We often talk about how God works through material elements in the sacraments to convey His grace in Christ. But I came across a quotation that adds a dimension I never thought of before. The water of Baptism is certainly a natural substance, but the bread and wine of Holy Communion do not occur from nature alone. As James K. A. Smith points out, they require culture. And I would add, they require vocation. [Read more…]
Patrick J. Deneen writes about the similarities between the current crises in health care and education. He argues that the solutions put forward by both the left and the right will not work. Since both spheres had their origin in the work of the Church, he calls for a rediscovery of the Christian concept of charity that is grounded in (wait for it) the doctrine of vocation–that is, offices of love and service to one’s neighbor.
The essay after the jump. [Read more…]
Reflecting on the beards of the Red Sox made me think about the Victorians and a concept that was a major preoccupation of that era but that is hardly talked about anymore today: Duty. This is not the same as virtue or morality. Rather, it is the obligation associated with a particular vocation.
The duty of a husband is to be faithful to his wife, support her, and protect her. The duty of a soldier is to obey orders, remain at his post, and hazard his life for his country. The duty of a worker is to do a good job, etc., etc.
Significantly, the place in Luther’s Small Catechism that teaches about vocation, giving the Biblical teachings about “the various holy orders”–such as pastors and laity, rulers and citizens, husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and workers–is called the Table of Duties.
After the jump is William Wordsworth’s “Ode to Duty,” in which the pioneering Romantic poet writes about how he is sick of living just for himself and how he craves “the spirit of self sacrifice.” Maybe our culture will get to that point. [Read more…]
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…]
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…]
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…]