My new book on vocation is out

My new book on vocation is out March 28, 2016

I have a new book on vocation that has just come out: Working for Our Neighbor: A Lutheran Primer on Vocation, Economics, and Ordinary Life.

The Acton Institute is interested, among other things, in the interplay between faith, work, and economics.  Towards that end, the think tank has been publishing a series of books looking at those issues from the perspective of various religious traditions.  Acton has published “primers,” really monographs (short books), from the Reformed, Wesleyan, Baptist, and Pentecostal point of view.  They needed someone to write a Lutheran primer on the subject, so they asked me.

Lutheran theology and spirituality has a great deal to say about such things, centering in the doctrine of vocation, which I have been writing about (see this and this).  In researching and writing this book, I got into some other facets of vocation that I hadn’t explored before.  

I explore the history of the doctrine, putting it into the context of the transition between the late medieval economy and the rise of modern economies.  I show how Luther changed the medieval notion of “estates”–which established a rigid social and class system–so that everyone exists simultaneously in all of the estates, with profound social consequences.

I critique Max Weber’s “Protestant Ethic” thesis, which showed how vocation was important in the rise of capitalism but who neglected Luther’s doctrine of vocation in favor of the later Calvinist and Puritan versions, which, in his misunderstood version had people working to prove their salvation rather than to serve their neighbors.

I also go into the tensions between Adam Smith’s understanding of the free market, in which individuals pursue their self-interests, and Luther’s doctrine of vocation, in which individuals serve their neighbors, ultimately reconciling them in terms of God’s providential working even in the lives of sinners to serve His purposes.

On top of all of that, I bring in the viewpoints and applications of other Lutheran writers on vocation, from Oswald Bayer to Dag Hammarskjold.  And other stuff.

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