The Importance of Vocation – page 1


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From the Summer 2018 issue of Knowing & Doing:

The Importance of Vocation

by Mark R. Talbot, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy, Wheaton College

[This article is the first in a two-part series that addresses vocation and calling. The series is based on a talk Mark Talbot gave to the Fellows of the C.S. Lewis Institute-Chicago on March 3, 2018. It is adapted from an upcoming book by Dr. Talbot, When the Stars Disappear: Understanding and Coping with Our Suffering (Crossway, forthcoming).]

t is noteworthy – although not unexpected, given the word’s etymology – that the first several senses for vocation in the online Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary all refer explicitly to God or His purposes. Here is the very first one:

1 a : a summons from God to an individual or group to undertake the obligations and perform the duties of a particular task or function in life : a divine call to a place of service to others in accordance with the divine plan.

  This sense doesn’t restrict the concept to religious vocations, although it is immediately qualified in a way that does:

specifically : a divine call to a religious career (as the priesthood or monastic life) as shown by one’s fitness, natural inclinations, and often a conviction of divine summons.

  Avoiding the restriction of vocation to explicitly Christian or religious careers is the main point Jerram Barr makes in the article you read, “Work: A Holy Calling.” It opens like this:

Whatever job you do, it is a holy calling, a sacred calling, a responsibility given to you by God to serve Him there. Too often we think of our work, if we are not working specifically for the church, as being secular, second-class, having nothing to do with true spirituality, and little to do with being a faithful Christian. You can think of all the incorrect expressions we use to mark this division between the sacred and the secular: We speak of people who are in “full-time ministry” as if only they are “full-time Christians.”1


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