Calling All Young People to Vocation
Hilton P. Terrell, Ph.D., M.D.
How on earth would young Christians ever achieve any sense of
God's vocational calling?
Pulpits are utterly silent on this.
Sunday school material contains nothing on this.
"Youth retreats" have no vision for this.
The spirit of our times includes a denigration of any activity
which is done for pay. We are essentially Marxist in our
hypocritical disdain for a calling which provides an income,
The very notion of a young Christian considering a vocational
calling to operate a dry cleaning firm, or to build a business
recapping automobile tires is alien. What you hear,
occasionally, is a vision to establish a Christian law or
medical practice, or to be a teacher, or some kind of
save-the-environment work (forestry, biological research, etc).
In all of these aspirations the financial requirements and
outcomes are suppressed as if they were a serious case of
psoriasis marring the face of a pure enterprise freed from the
evil of money. As a consequence, Christians who do go into
these professions lose what Christian emphasis they had because
it was not founded on sound doctrine but on "emotional pietism."
A few become cynical about their earlier Christian altruism;
others shift their non-working hours to some kind of "ministry"
thought-form, as in church activities.
One's vocation consumes a share of waking hours as large or
larger than anything else one does, yet as far as the church is
concerned it is left to happenstance and empirical information
I consider this problem to be a subset of
the problems which flow from our Christian Freudianism. By
the latter derogatory term, I do not mean psychobabble only.
What I refer to is our fixation with the inner life. James
Alexander was forever urging us to search ourselves for the sin
that does so easily inhabit us, to comb through motives, to
question our salvation, etc. Our present pastor is only a
little better (he can actually smile and tell a joke!) For
sure, without primary attention to the heart all our "righteous"
deeds are worthless. Just as sure, if we
plow the soil in our heart we become navel-gazers not very
distinguishable from Eastern mystics. Sometimes we need to
leave our reverie and plow and sow the south 40. We need
to grasp our connection to what is transpiring in the heavenly
realms, yes. If that is all we grasp, however, all the
tools of the life of Christians will remain rusting in the
I believe that Christians shy away from development of the
ethics of work (and other areas) because we have no instruction
or practice in ethical godliness. The world is complex.
Glib answers come to ruin, as witness the inane things which
sometimes flow from charismatic churches. It requires
practice to discern a godly path through the thickets. It
is so much easier just to nestle down in the catecombs of your
own heart, seeking the "deeper life" of more devotion and
appreciation for the doctrines of grace. While the
catecombs may at times have been foundations of large structures
on the ground above them, we don't choose to build those
above-ground structures, today. We stay underground with
our Christian versions of the id, ego, and superego.
Sunday sermons are like a couch session with a psychiatrist.
Take your archaeologist's trowel and screen and sift
through your heart diggings seeking insight. There surely
is a place for this, and the presuppositions of the pulpit are
far from the godlessness of Freud. But, we have to come up
out of the excavation on Monday and see the rest of the world
outside of ourselves.
Yesterday I began to think (in two cases, aloud with fellow
church members) how much of our Christian culture has been lost
on our watch and the ones just prior to it, our parents'.
Divorce, fornication, greed, lying, aggression, stealing.
It is not the same country into which I was born and not the
same galaxy as the one in which my great grandparents were born.
The church went into its self-examination mode over 150 years
ago and the crops of wickedness are now overflowing. Yes,
judgment must begin with the church, and with the individual
heart. We have the right foundation in the Reformation.
But, we have let it stop there. It has even become
commonplace for Christians to think that bringing any specific
biblical doctrine into the workplace or "public square" is wrong
-- that the world either belongs to the Devil or is some neutral
arena. Reading the autobiography of Clarence Thomas, who
fancies himself a Christian (Catholic, sort of) we run across
the claim that he thinks it proper to divorce his faith from his
work as a jurist. The enemies of God, of course, see that
as a sham -- one's presuppositions are always running in the
background just as Windows XP is running in the background on
this computer. (Of course, the enemies of God want their
faith to determine everything and solve the dilemma by denying
the faith-base of their presuppositions.)
There is a helpless, hopeless apathy among Christians when on
rare occasions we survey the cultural ruins about us. The
"government" is seen as omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.
Our God is too small to achieve any change here, so we abandon a
Ron Paul and vote for a McCain. The economy is so
complicated that we couldn't possibly understand it, so just
keep the lying fiat money and go with the bailouts of the
imprudent and the greedy. The sex-saturation is so
pervasive that all that we can do is to try to get young people
to use condoms and contraceptives. There is so much
knowledge today young people cannot be expected to learn much,
so we'll just teach them how to use computers and then the
devices can think for them. About the time the Reformation
went into seclusion (1800?) we had the rise of the Darbyites and
others, who "solve" their concern over the cultural ruins by
imagining a dispensational fire escape. Let the Devil have
the world (that is, deny the creation mandate) they say.
They re-make the Great Commission into an entirely spiritual
enterprise. Their approach is innately gnostic.
Reformed Christians may claim to be different from the religion
of those who are enraptured with the Rapture, but our retirement
from the material world, from the love of the heart which
extends even to the work of the hands, says otherwise.
Sorry to visit all of this on you. I count it as a kind of
practice in being able to describe these issues efficiently and,
dare I say, winsomely. It worked yesterday for two in
church, at least. Even the pastor (not one of the two) was
chewing on a few of these things - the undesirable passivity
which an exclusive focus on the heart produces.
"Professional" education tracks at some point drop students on
their head, in the which impact we acquire some kind of brain
damage and are thereafter crippled. It happens in law
school when young lawyers lose any sense of the necessary
connection between justice and law. I "discovered" that
first. It happens in medical school when we confuse our
disease models with truth, and confound our good intentions with
good actual overall outcomes. It happens in schools of
education when the wannabe teachers are infused with the
misconception that learning must be undisciplined fun and all
students are eager receptacles for wisdom. Now, I realize
that the head drop also occurs in seminary. I'm still
working on exactly which lobe the seminary fall most damages.
It may have something to do with having a good systematic
theology to usurp actual application in an existential, personal