He also warns about the dangers of moving to the opposite extreme in trying to promote a radically heroic vision that stands in fundamental opposition to the world. Instead Wuthnow suggests that what is needed is critical and collective resistance to save ourselves from the moral decay that goes with obsessive materialism and excessive secular work. We need a new vision of how religious faith can influence the disposition of our work and our money for the better.
What is required is for concerned people to band together with other seekers to share their experiences and read and discuss the sacred texts, to discover principles, values and stories that call for reflection and application; people who are willing to re-think their priorities and reinforce alternative values and hold each other accountable; people who are gaining a new perspective on their work, who will think harder about ethical decisions than many of their co-workers and be less occupied with their own concerns so they can be of greater service to others Wuthnow What Wuthnow seeks, although he does not express it in exactly these terms, is to see Christians working together in community to recover a true sense of their vocation in the world in order that they might be free to live more faithfully their Christian values and less captive to the prevailing culture.
Wuthnow challenges us not to overlook or give away the opportunities we have to influence attitudes toward work, greed, materialism, stewardship and economic structures. He is realistic about the limits we operate under, but nevertheless presses us to rediscover the language of simplicity, social justice and sacrifice in order that we might be able to resist the tendency to put the economic and religious aspects of our lives in different compartments between which there is no meaningful dialogue.
Two helpful analyses of this data from a religious perspective have also been produced by Webster and Perry Some relevant conclusions noted by Webster and Perry are listed below:. It is interesting to compare these results with those of Wuthnow and note some very similar concerns.
This is in spite of the fact that regular church-going in New Zealand is much more of a minority activity.
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The idea of calling is not explored in the New Zealand surveys. This reflects in large part the different approaches to preparing the surveys, but perhaps also the different theological traditions that have shaped each context. And perhaps, the lack of significant religious roots in formulating the New Zealand dream. If so, this presents an even more profound challenge to provide a compelling Christian reinterpretation of vocation in a context where, for most people, sacred and secular activities have never been integrated within a coherent world view.
This is true at least for pakeha New Zealanders. The traditional Maori view would not recognise the same sacred-secular divide. Another recent attempt to reinterpret the concept of vocation comes from popular American writer M. Scott Peck a; Peck argues that God calls each and every human being to civility. This means we are all under the obligation to become more intentionally conscious, to grow in spiritual competence and to strive to be ethical in our behaviour.
Job and Vocation: Discerning the Difference
Building on the concept of community promoted in an earlier work Peck Peck shares his dream of a world in community with a planetary culture of civility. Peck maintains that business is more interested in building community than is the church. Next comes the family. Church comes a poor third or fourth. They want it to be a psuedocommunity - to feel like a happy community without confronting the conflict and chaos involved in real community building.
Many of the minority who do invest voluntary time in the church do so out of their own leadership needs and seek to be influential in ways that promote conflict rather than community. This leads Peck to conclude that it is in business and families that the skills to forge a culture of civility will be learned and tested. And businesses are open to investing in community as a standard mode of operation because it is cost-effective Peck a: Peck refers to the concept of vocation many times.
For Peck the matter of vocation is multi-dimensional Peck a: Most vocations are unconscious. We need to become more conscious of the different ways God communicates with us. Finding our vocation usually results in a sense of fit. While the fulfillment of a vocation does not guarantee happiness - as in the case of the tortured artist Van Gogh - it does often set the stage for the peace of mind that may result from fulfillment. There is pleasure in witnessing a person doing what she or he was meant to do. It demands the development of a more contemplative lifestyle. It means rediscovering God at work in the world, particularly in the process of restoring civility to ourselves and our institutions.
It is built on anecdotal evidence rather than careful theological or ethical reflection. Although this criticism can also be made of some of the other popular American treatments e. Ferguson However Peck is another part of the attempt to see religion applied with more direct relevance to some of the most pressing needs in society. He expresses a desire to rediscover God at work in a supposedly secular world; to rediscover community in the midst of aggressive individualism; to rediscover civility where social conscience is withering; to rediscover a nourishing spirituality in the midst of tired and formal religiosity.
Once again we sense the urgent need for a simple, yet still credible, communication of the Christian vision that will connect theology, ethics and spirituality with everyday concerns. People are searching for reminders of what we have been placed on this earth to be and to do. Peck senses that a rediscovery of vocation is the solution, although his own explanation is inadequate.
Relevance alone is not enough.
A clearer, compelling and more Christian interpretation of vocation is required. It is fascinating to see a variety of writers from quite different contexts advocating the resurrection of the concept of vocation. This would seem to signal both some encouragement and some warnings for our endeavour in this study. Encouragement, for clearly there is a hunger abroad for lives to be rooted in some purpose greater than just self-gratification.
As the sense of separation between sacred and secular pursuits has grown, and with it the sense of separation between our private and public lives, so has the lack of connection between our faith and our work. This has set up a yearning for a sense of connectedness once more and the reintegration of lives that feel like they are falling apart. Many people are expressing a yearning to rediscover the spiritual roots of our existence.
But we must also be warned, that this concept of vocation is somewhat slippery. All sorts of meanings can be read into it. We have seen in earlier chapters how it has been both spiritualised and secularised in Christian history. Those two tendencies still remain. This would seem to be particularly true in America where, as a result of the Puritan influence see Chapter 1.
Not that the American writers cited here all agree. But there is a warning here that certain cultural assumptions may be made which do not transplant easily from one context to another.
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Thus any contemporary reinterpretations of vocation will need to take care to define terms carefully and to root these firmly in the Bible and Christian tradition. The ideas of calling and vocation would seem to be very open to misinterpretation particularly by free marketeers on the one hand and new age gurus on the other. The work of Bellah, Colson and Wuthnow highlights the difficulty of consistently maintaining a broad view of work.
Their discussions tend to major on vocation as employment or occupation. These contributions have helped to clarify some popular American conceptions of the link between vocation, faith and work. Yet at the same time we run the risk of undermining the wider view of work we wish to promote. We seek a re-interpretation of vocation that incorporates this broader conception of work. We have already noted in earlier chapters the struggle that is involved in sustaining such a broad definition of work with consistency.
Another concern, highlighted particularly by the contributions of Fowler and the Whiteheads, is the reminder that we need a view of vocation that will see a person through a variety of different stages of life and faith. Not only because external circumstances change for a person, but also because human development and maturation means different stages of growth involve changes in balancing the different tasks that everyday life involves and changes in the way a person views and understands the meaning of their life and faith.
We must recognise the maturing of a vocation. And more work needs to be done on the relationship between vocation, spiritual formation and developmental and life stages. We are also being challenged to develop patterns of church life to prepare people for, and support them in, their public life.
We cannot begin talking seriously about the reinterpretation of vocation without also being open to reevaluate the shape of church life in response to the challenges we have become aware of. These more practical and less theological explorations of vocation also remind us that the academic quest for an understanding of vocation must be accompanied by attempts to spell out practical implications.
Lee Hardy attempts to do this. He lays some theological foundations, then looks at the process of clarifying the nature of the work we are best equipped to do by discerning our gifts and talents, our passions and concerns. And to investigate how these insights apply to the shaping of human work, to management theory and job design. Overall, the variety of different perspectives proposed by writers examined in this chapter warn us that clarity in defining vocation, both theoretically and practically, is not easy to attain.
And those who attempt to do so need to proceed with care. Nevertheless, the fact that so many have sought to explore this theme from such a variety of different angles does encourage us to think that the doctrine of vocation does represent an integrated understanding of faith and work that is worth pursuing. Having examined the concept of vocation from historical, theological and practical perspectives, we can now identify some of the important components that are required for people to grow a clear sense of vocation for themselves. For a healthy sense of vocation to grow and be sustained a combination of these elements needs to be present.
Many problems related to finding meaning and purpose in our work are the result of the lack of, or confusion about, one or more of the elements above.
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These often correspond with times of transition and change either forced on people by circumstances or as a natural result of maturing. People in transition often need help to understand what is happening to them and to reformulate their understanding and to readjust their lives. At such times, something like the list above may be useful to help us discern the areas in which a person is most needing assistance.
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It is with these needs in mind that we will approach discussion of pastoral implications and resources in Chapter Five. But before that we include a brief discussion in Chapter Four of some theological connections that we have suggested at a number of points without clarifying. If a theological framework that connects faith and life is to be established then we must be clear about how the daily work of the laity is related to the ministry and mission of the church.
Chapter Four seeks to define contemporary Protestant and Catholic understandings of ministry and mission to demonstrate that definitions have been expanding to include the whole church and to embrace the whole of life, including the world of everyday work. Every resource on our site was made possible through the financial support of people like you. By Alistair Mackenzie. According to Hardy: work is a social place where we can employ our gifts in service to others.
God calls us to work because he wants us to love our neighbours in a concrete way Not that our work on the job ought to take up all our time; for we have other callings to attend to as well. Only that our jobs ought to engage us as whole persons, as creatures with high-level capacities for thought, imagination, and responsibile choice as well as motor abilities.
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