Intro and Definitions
In Christian theology, the concept of vocation has been defined in a number of different ways over the centuries. The term itself comes from a latin root word meaning "to call."
Biblically speaking, the dynamic of call and response is echoed throughout the entire story from beginning to end.
Creation and Vocation (Original Call)
The divine creator sends forth His word and His spirit and the universe is created. He forms humankind in his own image and places them in a garden where He was said to "walk [with them] ...in the cool of the day". There He gives them the dignity of sharing in His holy task of tending to and cultivating the divine Shalom (order, beauty, goodness, abundance) of the garden:
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
The divine blessing of Shalom within the garden of Eden was meant to be spread to the ends of the earth. This purpose for humanity could be considered the original calling or purpose for humanity.
Salvation History (Ongoing Call)
Despite the incredible privileges and dignities conferred upon humanity by God, through a series of compromises, humanity forfeited their rights to this divine Shalom by breaking the trust that had been established. In that moment there was a deep fracturing within humanity and the created order suffered the effects of this loss of Shalom.
The rest of the bible traces out the ongoing call of the one who never stops pursuing his fallen image bearers, as seen in Genesis 3:8,
"But the LORD God called to the man, Where are you?.”
Occupations and Vocations (Occupational Calls)
Throughout Church History, the idea of Vocation has often been merged with the idea of one's occupation or career. Unfortunately, in various times and places, the Church has been guilty of celebrating vocational ministers (those employed in full-time Christian service) over and above all other occupations.
During the time of the Protestant Reformation, the theology of the Priesthood of all believers was restored to the Church and was instrumental in breaking down the so-called sacred/secular divide in which all forms of honest labor cam be regarded as holy unto the Lord. Eventually, this led to a phenomenon often referred to as the Protestant work ethic.
A Balanced Perspective (A Threefold Calling)
- See Genesis 3:8
- See Genesis 1:28